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10 America Movies to watch on July 4th

Happy 4th of July from Moviefellas! Here are ten great movies about America to watch between barbeque and fireworks and shedding a tear to the tune of Proud To Be An American.

Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman as Woodward and Bernstein in ‘All the President’s Men’ (1976)

All The President’s Men
Three cheers for exposing political corruption!

Forrest Gump
Forrest Gump unknowingly wanders into some of the biggest events in 20th century American history.

Born On the Fourth of July
It has ‘Fourth of July’ in the title. Also, Tom Cruise stars as Ron Kovic, a gung-ho marine whose view on war quickly changes when he experiences it and is left paralyzed and scarred.

Lincoln
Daniel Day-Lewis received basically every award available for his portrayal of the 16th President in Steven Spielberg’s historical drama about the passing of the Thirteenth Amendment.

National Treasure
Nic Cage is going to steal the Declaration of Independence.

Jimmy Stewart and Claude Rains in Frank Capra's 'Mr. Smith Goes to Washington' (1939)

Jimmy Stewart and Claude Rains in Frank Capra’s ‘Mr. Smith Goes to Washington’ (1939)

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
An idealistic young Jimmy Stewart goes to Washington and learns a few things about the reality of politics.

American Beauty
The Burnhams are living the American Dream! Only not really. Look closer and everything is not as it appears to be.

Flags Of Our Fathers
Clint Eastwood’s counterpart to Letters from Iwo Jima is based on the book Flags of Our Fathers by James Bradley, which tells the story of the famous flag-raising photo taken by Joe Rosenthal atop Mount Suribachi during the horrifying Battle of Iwo Jima in World War II. Flags of Our Fathers examines war and heroism through the stories of the men pictured in the photograph.

Frost/Nixon
The story behind the historic Nixon interviews in 1977, conducted by British journalist David Frost.

HBO’s John Adams Mini-series
An incredibly well-made series about John Adams’ role in the founding of the United States, starring Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney as John and Abigail Adams. Just set aside like eight and a half hours to watch it.

*BONUS* The West Wing
Not a movie, but if you feel like watching a television show about politics in the White House, your best bet is to stay inside and watch ten episodes of The West Wing.

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Le Cercle Rouge (1970)

Jean-Pierre Melville’s cool, stylish French crime drama Le Cercle Rouge (1970) is the slow-paced but brilliant story of an escaped murderer (Gian Maria Volonté), a high-class moustachioed thief (Alain Delon), and a police superintendent who really loves his cats (Andre Bourvil).

All men are guilty. They’re born innocent, but it doesn’t last.

Corey (Delon) is released from prison the same day Vogel (Volonté) escapes from police commissaire Mattei (Bourvil) while being transported on a train. Road blocks are set up all throughout the area, but Vogel manages to elude capture and ends up stowing away in the trunk of Corey’s car. The two inevitably meet and, along with alcoholic ex-cop Jansen (Yves Montand), set up an intricate plot for a multi-million dollar jewel heist. They carry out the heist, but Mattei, a former colleague of Jandsen who is still searching for the murderer Vogel, is on their trail.

Melville’s deliberately paced thriller unfolds slowly, set to impressive cinematography and a bleak atmosphere that make it well worth the watch. Alain Delon is probably the smoothest criminal in town — everything he does looks super cool. Maybe it’s just the moustache. I’m not sure. But what I am sure of is that the whole film is super cool. Criminals, police commissioners, and potential informants rendezvous in Santi’s nightclub, where cigarettes are inevitably lighted and girls are always there to entertain audiences and provide a glittering backdrop.

Overall, I was deeply impressed by Le Cercle Rouge, and thrilled by every second of it. I couldn’t help but take two hundred screencaps, some of which I put to use in this photoset on tumblr. Also, shoutout to our Star of the Month Alain Delon, who is one kool kat as Corey. Full disclosure: I watched this because I found out Alain Delon has a moustache in it. But whether or not you are a fan of Alain Delon/facial hair, I definitely recommend it. It’s worth the 140 minute running time if you want to watch a moody crime thriller.


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Binge Watching and Alain Delon Movies: A Love Story

Summertime is a time to binge watch tv shows on Netflix and catch up on one’s movie watching. Last week, I decided to banish the various preoccupations keeping me from my one true love (movies) and returned to a rigorous schedule of film consumption. And a bit of crack tv watching.

Le Samouraï (1967)

After realizing that I hadn’t been watching movies regularly for quite awhile (and had been watching far too much Gossip Girl), I decided it was time to begin anew. I’ve seen a disappointingly small amount of foreign films, so I took to twitter and asked the lovely people there for recommendations. Le Samouraï was one of the fifty or more recs I got in return–thanks Monica!
Jean-Pierre Melville’s 1967 film follows French assassin Jef Costello (Alain Delon), whose latest job doesn’t go as smoothly as it should have: Jef is pulled into the police station for questioning, leading to various complications that endanger his safety (naturally, Jef’s boss isn’t happy when he is questioned by the police). Le Samourai is thrilling and iconic. I loved it a whole lot, and also ended up falling in love with Alain Delon, who is memorably cool as the killer in the beige raincoat and hat.


Nights of Cabiria (1957)
Nights of Cabiria, directed by Federico Fellini and starring Giulietta Masina, was recommended to me by the lovely Miranda, who cherishes this film (as I cherish her). Anyway, it was a really great recommendation, because I absolutely loved it.
Cabiria (Masina) is a spunky prostitute who endures misfortune after misfortune, but manages to keep her head up in spite of being screwed over by a series of men. Played beautifully by Giulietta Masina, Cabiria is lovable and easy to feel sympathetic for as she endures humiliation and heartbreak, yet remains resilient. In spite of the many wrongs inflicted upon her, Cabiria ends the film with a smile.

Gossip Girl
I didn’t anticipate getting so thoroughly sucked into this show, but then, what’s summer without a show to binge watch? I started watching Gossip Girl  by accident when I happened to be in the room while my twelve-year-old sister was watching it, and though I poked fun at its melodrama and generally aggravating characters, I found myself going back to watch the show from the beginning.
Set in the landscape of Upper East Side New York City, Gossip Girl is pretty much a show about secrets and backstabbers and a host of characters who seem to have nothing better to do than tear each other down. Unhealthy friendships, relationships, and families abound in this sometimes laughable series. And yet, it’s addicting as hell, and from time to time illustrates a touch of humanity that, speaking completely honestly, has brought tears to my eyes more than a few times. Twisted webs of complicated drama, various takedowns and schemes, a couple of surprisingly dynamic characters that show depth on occasion (Blair Waldorf is my personal favorite), and some kind of a party every episode make this show extremely entertaining and extremely addicting. You know you love me xoxo.


This Is The End (2013)
I’d be lying to myself and everyone else if I tried to hide my genuine enjoyment of this movie. I went into it thinking it was going to be pretty stupid, but This is the End is brilliantly funny, I’m pretty sure I was in hysterics for at least 75% of it. Everyone else in the theater seemed to be having a great time too. Except for the middle-aged couple sitting in front of me and Lauren who got up and left twenty minutes in. This Is the End is probably not for everyone, but I enjoyed it’s brand of crass-yet-well-written, laugh-out-loud-inducing humor. Stars like Jay Baruchel, Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, and James Franco play versions of themselves, trapped at James Franco’s house while the world is engulfed in hellfire. Shenanigans and casualties ensue. Go see it if you like to laugh.

La Piscine (1969)
Like the title might suggest, Jacques Deray’s drama centers around a swimming pool. The significance of this fact is that stars Alain Delon and Romy Schneider spend most of the movie in their swimsuits (A++). Oh yeah, and someone gets drowned in said swimming pool at a lavish villa. When lovers Jean-Paul and Marianne (real life ex-lovers Alain Delon and Romy Schneider) are paid a visit by Marianne’s former lover Harry (Maurice Ronet) and his teenage daughter Penelope (Jane Birkin), a love rhombus ensues, leading to drama and tension that explodes in the second half of the film when murder happens. This movie is mostly worth watching for Alain and Romy.


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Is It Really All That Fun?: A Comparison and Contrast of the Beginning and Ending of “Cabaret”

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It has been at least three months since I first watched Cabaret and the ending of that film still haunts me. It’s such a contrast compared to the opening of the film: light, cheery, carefree, exciting, dazzling, exhilarating. How it got from point A to point B is the rest of the film. I’m so intrigued by the beginning and end of the film that I decided it would be a perfect choice for my first post in my series: A Close Look at a Scene.

THE OPENING SCENE

Let me begin by saying first and foremost: I absolutely love Bob Fosse. Granted the only other film I have seen of his is All That Jazz but personally I think if you’ve seen one film and you love it, that director is for you. That is the case for me with Bob Fosse and Carol Reed. The film opens to a black screen with white font, sans music, introducing the players. Once “CABARET” appears, there is the faint sound of chatter. Eventually the black begins to lighten up to establish the setting of the movie. Even as it lightens it is very disoriented but we can assume from the chatter, the clinking classes, and the reflection of well-dressed people that we are in a bar or a restaurant. The pace of the people’s reflections is very slow, almost dreamlike, blurry, indistinguishable. But then a band starts to warm up; we hear a piano, a saxophone, a trumpet, and drums. The disoriented reflection starts to turn from black to color, fittingly right after the mention of Technicolor. Then a drumroll begins. It starts low but gets louder and louder, hitting its peak once the title: “Berlin 1931” appears. *CLASH!* Popping out from the bottom of the frame in normal speed, our Master of Ceremonies (played by Joel Grey) appears. It is pretty startling if you’re not expecting it.

Slowly smiling, he begins to turn his head away from the reflection and starts to sing right at us. After a few lines he then steers his direction to the audience in the cabaret. We are now spectators of this show and from what we saw it is not all going to be crystal-clear. Fosse further clarifies us being a member of the audience by tilting the camera upward, looking up at the Master of Ceremonies, and by placing the camera in the back of the room. The Master of Ceremonies gives us a very elaborate welcome with flashing lights, a wonderful catchy song, and beautiful girls but asks us to “leave [our] troubles outside.” He establishes the basics of the film, telling us that he will be “our host” and ultimately will guide us throughout with film with a series of skits and songs that will coincide with the happenings in Sally and Brain’s lives. Even this song parallels with Brian’s life as we see through cuts that he is arriving in Berlin.

This world in the cabaret contrasts very much with the real world as Fosse shows with shots of heavily make-up’d people verus the ordinary people on the street. It is only concerned with fun and laughs, and that is about it. The crowd is very interactive with the Master of Ceremonies and seems to enjoy his sense of humor. The rhythm of the cuts and the music creates a very elated mood. The camera quickly pans back and forth while the Master of Ceremonies is introducing all of actors of the cabaret as if it is trying to grasp all the excitement and wonderful chaos of the cabaret. Especially at the end of the opening number, you can’t help feel intoxicated by the dancing and showy glamour of the cabaret. I would say that our host did an excellent job at welcoming us into the world and cabaret of this wonderful film.

THE ENDING SCENE

It begins right after Liza gives her fabulous performance of “Cabaret.” Again, we are greeted by the Master of Ceremonies through the reflection of the wall expect this time there is a bold, blood red reflecting in the background rather than people in the cabaret. He asks, “Where are your troubles now? Forgotten! I told you so.” and so on with his usual clamor. Expect that our troubles are not forgotten. The Master of Ceremonies voices lacks that quality of excitement that made us so elated in the beginning. The drum is dull and the band sounds like it can’t keep the same bounce as before. There are no flashy lights this time, no shots from the crowd; it’s like we’ve woken up from a bad hangover and now are just surveying the reality. But we realize that even the girls are moving slowly, just like the beginning. The music begins to dim and we hear the ping of a tinny piano while recapping different performances from the film. Then it stops and we see the Master of Ceremonies once again. He says goodbye in two different languages, each time sneaking closer and closer to the curtained door. Then he quickly bows and runs through the door. The bright lights instantly dim and then we are left with a dim light left on the curtain. The light and camera begin to glide to the right and a drumroll begins, however its meaning is completely opposite from that of the beginning. The spotlight dies once it hits the reflecting wall, leaving us with the reflection. There is no more flashy, showy fun; we must face reality. And our Master of Ceremonies, the one who said he would guide us, skipped out on us as if saying, “Well this is your problem; see ya.” What we see in the reflection is reality: the inescapability of Nazi Germany. The drumroll continues until the camera ends at a space on the wall where it isn’t completely warped. We see more than clearly a Nazi solider and even more so the red Nazi armband on his shoulder. *CLASH!* Freeze frame. Credits begin to role. No exit music. The end.


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‘Before Midnight’: Reviewed

Richard Linklater’s new film, ‘Before Midnight’

Now in theaters and receiving widespread critical praise, Before Midnight is the third in Richard Linklater’s Before series, previously consisting of Before Sunrise and Before Sunset. Each film is set nine years apart from the last, and offers us a glimpse into the day (or night) in the interconnected lives of Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy).

The pair first meet on a train in Europe in the first film, Before Sunrise (released in 1995), and soon fall in love after American Jesse convinces the French Celine to spend the night walking around Vienna with him before he boards a plane home the next morning. Before Sunrise is a film that I will forever hold dear–I don’t know of any other movie that could so beautifully make two people walking around and talking so engrossing and insightful. Watching it, you fall in love with Jesse and Celine as they fall in love, and are left with a question at the end: will they ever meet up again? 

Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) in ‘Before Sunrise’

In Before Sunset, (spoiler alert) they do, though not under the circumstances they had originally planned. It’s nine years later, and Jesse has written a novel about that night in Vienna with Celine. While on a book tour in Paris, Celine finds him, and the two long-lost lovers are reunited. The reunion isn’t without its complications, however–Jesse is caught in a troubled marriage, and Celine in a long-distance relationship.

I was so excited to learn that the third movie in the series, Before Midnight, was coming out, and even more excited when it finally expanded to wide release. Naturally, I rushed to the nearest theater to see it as soon as possible, and I was not disappointed.

This time, Jesse and Celine are in Greece, on holiday with their twin daughters. As always, the dialogue is what drives the whole thing and, as always, it’s a beautiful, natural-sounding balance of wittiness, realness, and depth. The screenplay by Richard Linklater and the film’s stars is brilliant, tackling a wealth of issues unexplored by the previous two films. As aging adults and parents, Jesse and Celine face new challenges and a changing relationship in a changing world.

Their relationship is not untroubled or as simple as it was when they were only two strangers who met on a train; this becomes especially evident in the second half of the film, which is pretty much just Jesse and Celine arguing in a hotel room. In spite of the back-and-forth jabs and obvious unrest, Before Midnight contains the underlying sweetness and deep, undeniable love that marks Jesse and Celine’s relationship throughout all three films.

Before Midnight is, overall, darker than the first two films (although, at parts, also a lot funnier). It tackles real, timely issues through performances that are so natural that the actors don’t seem to be acting at all. It’s easy to believe that Jesse and Celine are real people, in spite of their almost fairytale-like beginnings. But if true love ever existed, it’s here, and it’s not difficult to feel reassured that there is hope for them.

I would rank Before Midnight as my second favorite of the series. I found it to be a bit more dynamic and engaging than Before Sunset (though they’re all great and I love them all a whole lot), but nothing beats Before Sunrise. If you’re a fan of the first two films, rest assured that Before Midnight definitely stands up to them. If you haven’t seen any of the films… GO GO GO!


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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

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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.