The Worst Movie I’ve Ever Seen…

badcowork_introWith the backlash and outrage aimed at mother! this past weekend, my wife casually asked me, “What’s the worst movie you’ve ever seen?” As a movie critic, I was surprised at how I didn’t really have an answer to this question at the ready. I generally try to only see movies that I hope I’ll like, and while I am occasionally disappointed, I usually can find some aspect that salvages the experience from being completely worthless. However, her question prompted me to delve into my cinematic history, parse through the depths, and once and for all recognize one film as the worst one I’ve ever seen.

Now I want to be clear, since I try to avoid the bad ones, I have not seen classically hated movies like Gigli, Troll 2, or Battlefield Earth, so they cannot be the worst movie I’ve seen. Still, I’ve seen a lot of movies, and like any serious undertaking, this decision requires some preparation and a few ground rules. Obviously, when discussing any medium of art and expression, the overall reaction is entirely subjective. Therefore, I need to determine what it is to me that makes a movie terrible. After racking my brain, I’ve determined that the following 4 factors are critical in determining a film’s lack of value.

  1. Story – If the story is contrived, poorly written, implausible, or a combination of these things, then the movie is in trouble. A great story can salvage bad acting, but bad acting cannot save a bad story. Writing and originality factor into this piece of criteria as well.
  2. Acting – Yes, acting does play a major role in determining a movie’s greatness. So much of how we interact, empathize, and respond to a movie has to do with how we project our values and opinions onto the people playing the parts.
  3. Dullness – This is perhaps the most important factor of all. Movies can be good-bad or bad-bad. The difference has to do with dullness. If a movie is dull with poor pacing and extended periods of just nothing going on, then the movie is doomed. Many interior sub-areas influence this category including music, directing and editing.
  4. Technical – Sometimes a bad movie can be saved by its technical achievements or visual aspect. Additionally, sometimes a good movie can be mired in terrible technical blunders, mistakes, and shortcomings. And worst of all, sometimes a bad move can be made dreadful when the technical pieces put the last nail in the coffin.

Additionally, there are a few movies that I hated so much that I turned them off or walked out on them. Ironically, those films will not be considered in my deliberation since I never saw them in their entirety. For the record, this is a rare occurrence with me, as I prefer to see films through regardless of how bad they are, and the films I turned off or walked out on would likely not have displaced my ultimate choice for worst movie I ever saw.

Now that I have my criteria in place, I am ready to reveal the worst movie I’ve ever seen; however, if you know The People’s Critic, then you know I can’t do this without making it a list. So I give to you, The People’s Critic’s Five Worst Movies I’ve Ever Seen (by the way, I’ve seen mother! and it’s nowhere near this list).

5.  A Good Day to Die Hard

Die HardSo what went wrong? First of all, no more catch phrases or cliches. “Yippee Ki-Yay” is grandfathered in, but now we’re reminded that John McClane is “old” and “on vacation” at least ten times. This repetition serves no purpose except to go for a cheap laugh, but you’ll never hear the laughter over most of the theater slapping their hands to their foreheads in disgust. Furthermore, this installment takes place in Russia. In one scene, John is handed a tour book by his daughter, Idiot’s Guide to Russia. Clearly, it was the same book Skip Woods used to write the screenplay because the film exposes Russia’s traffic issues, introduces characters named Viktor, Yuri, and Anton, and its climax seals the cliché deal by taking place at Chernobyl. Oh, did I mention Yuri is introduced playing chess, so we know he’s a smart Russian? Disappointing stuff.

Then there’s the action. Atrocious sound stage garbage. Action confined in one setting for ten minutes with no real danger becomes dull in 30 seconds. The previous four films did not feel so confined to sound-stages as this one does (even though the first two had McClane trapped in a building and an airport respectively), and it ruins any tension or fun.

Finally, if one wants to make a sequel, then make a sequel. What happened to Bonnie Bedelia as McClane’s now ex-wife, Holly? Where’s good ole’ Reginald VelJohnson as Sgt. Powell? Why introduce all of those fun tech-geeks in Live Free or Die Hard only to strand them in that film? Screenwriters, listen up; these character actors will sign up if the story is there!

4.  Only God Forgives

Only God ForgivesNot a lot happens in Only God Forgives as several scenes are composed of people just moving around, albeit moving around slowly and deliberately.  Many scenes are composed of one-shots (one character in the frame) that last 30 seconds or more!  This results in manufacturing the slowest 89 minute film in recent memory.

There is not much good to be said for the film.  Ryan Gosling is practically emotionless, giving the blandest performance of his career, although clearly steered by director, Nicholas Winding Refn.

Winding Refn’s directorial choices are certainly strange from time to time.  With virtually no exposition, his film complicates matters by introducing confusing segments of “dream-like” scenarios (most of which include red dragon wallpaper) that may or may not be real. Furthermore, a major talking point for this film is its use of violence.  Only God Forgives appears to be an instrument for Winding Refn to release his own personal anger against spirituality, against God, against mothers – it’s an angry film.  Much of this anger manifests as violence and while occasionally off screen, two rather brutal scenes do not hold back. These scenes drip of anger but offer little redeeming quality (See No Country for Old Men for a film that accomplishes the task of personifying wrath).

Only God Forgives is a mostly failed attempt at expounding on the undertakings of an angry God.  Instead of making a film that analyzes and examines anger, he has made one that simply exudes his own.

3.  Savages

savaIs Savages pulp? Yes. Is Savages fiction? Oh God I hope so. But Savages is definitely not Pulp Fiction, despite its desperate attempt to be, including casting John Travolta. Savages is a gritty, hard-core examination of the cut-throat high pressure, high stakes game of marijuana cartels. Wait, what? Marijuana cartels? Oliver Stone crafts a screenplay, with help from Don Winslow who penned the source material, that does explain this unorthodox cartel’s extremely violent nature. The story is actually very simple. Young marijuana entrepreneurs gain the attention of a major drug cartel who kidnaps their shared girlfriend in order to force their hand to deal with them. Those entrepreneurs are played by Taylor Kitsch and Aaron Johnson. The shared girlfriend who drags her nails across the chalkboard with flat acting and dreadful voiceover is played lumberingly by Blake Lively. Why they want her back is the film’s biggest mystery. Her character, O, is named after Hamlet’s deranged, suicidal lost love and she hints from the first line of the movie that she may not be alive at the end, providing some powerful wishful thinking. The biggest problem with Savages is the same with most Oliver Stone movies that don’t work, its agenda. Now, this time there is no political agenda; instead it’s a “look how edgy I am” agenda. This agenda is completely fulfilled by putting the viewers out of their misery with one of the worst endings in recent memory.

I could go on about what doesn’t work in this movie, but I feel the point is made. Instead, I’ll quickly mention the things that do work. Benicio Del Toro’s character is introduced with brutal gusto. Also, the film is mostly in focus, even during the ridiculous number of close ups. That’s about it.

2.  Freddy Got Fingered

Freddy90s “comedian” Tom Green wrote and directed this mess, and I fell for it. I was 20 or 21 and Tom Green was kind of still happening, so I went to see it with some friends. Green was known for being a bit of a stunt comedian where he’d play pranks on unsuspecting people. Not bad, not great. However, as his popularity grew, his stunts became more gross-out related; queue Freddy Got Fingered, which demonstrates the rule that when gross-out goes wrong, it goes way, way wrong. Pink Flamingos, There’s Something About Mary, South Park, these films work on a subversive level, but Tom Green went for derivative and there he will sit for eternity. There are no words for the feeling you experience while watching the protagonist of a major studio film cackle wildly while manually stimulating a male elephant. No words. I hated this movie to the point that for a moment when my wife asked me what the worst movie I’ve ever seen was, this sprang to mind and I almost answered definitively, but it did manage to only reach #2. Which is actually perfect in that it achieves nothing, not even the distinction of being the worst.

1.  Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

PepperNumber one on this list nearly lost its spot on a technicality, in that this was a film I had previously turned off in disgust, only to reluctantly return to and finish just to say I did it. This film is the ultimate disaster and personal retribution because not only is it a dull, pointless, poorly acted pile of trash, it also does irreversible damage to my previously untarnished images of The Beatles, Alice Cooper, Billy Preston, Peter Frampton, and Steve Martin (The Bee Gees were already kind of ridiculous to me). And that’s what put it over the edge; none of the previous films caused any real long-term damage like this one did. Why did this movie have to happen?

The movie is basically an incomprehensible variety show hoping to capitalize on Beatles covers but failing and collapsing into a gestating puddle of embarrassment and technical misery. I’m pretty sure director Michael Schultz literally put the camera on a tripod, hit record, and just left. I know that sounds like a hyperbole, but if you watch it, you’ll see what I mean – and this is a “concert film,” but the camera doesn’t do anything!

This movie commits the ultimate shame of masquerading a business deal as a film and hoodwinking young people to pay into it. Now it rightfully is dejected as the horrendous dumpster fire that it is, but it did do one thing for me; it gave me a definitive answer to my wife’s question (although I wish it had a different title, so I wouldn’t have to be so specific):

What’s the worst movie you’ve ever seen?

Why, it’s Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – the 1978 movie, not the album. The album is a masterpiece; the movie is complete and utter garbage!

What do you think? What’s the worst movie you’ve ever seen? I’d love to know! Feel free to Tweet me @Peoples_Critic or respond in the comments.

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Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

BirdmanDirector: Alejandro González Iñárritu

Writer: Alejandro González Iñárritu

Cast: Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, Naomi Watts, Emma Stone, Zach Galifinakis

The “critic” is somewhat eviscerated in the new film Birdman. At the risk of seeming gauche, I will review it anyway!

Alejandro González Iñárritu may not be a household name, but the man has had some tremendous success with films like Amores Perros, 21 Grams, and Babel which was nominated for 6 Oscars in 2007. All of those films feature separate events and storylines that entwine to bring multiple unlikely characters together. In his new film, Birdman, Iñárritu takes a sort of departure from that format to follow one central character in his personal search for glory.

Michael Keaton pays Riggan Tompson, a former Hollywood star, famous for playing Birdman in a successful trilogy of superhero films from the 1990s. Tompson’s career has dried up since then, but he hopes that by producing, directing, and starring in a Broadway play of his own adaptation, he will once again feel relevant.

The film follows Tompson seemingly through one uninterrupted shot as he handles the pressures, complications, and stresses of live theater as the production courses its way from rehearsals, to previews, and ultimately to opening night. Whether it’s the battle of egos between himself and co-star Mike Shiner (Edward Norton) or the battle of emotions between Tompson and his assistant/recovering addict/daughter Sam (Emma Stone), Tompson clearly has his hands full. He also has everything riding on this production and Iñárritu communicates this with a frantic energy that results in a film as unpredictable and erratic as the jazzy score that accompanies it.

Fittingly, this film about actors acting happens to have some great acting. Keaton easily surpasses the initial, shallow Batman comparisons and makes Tompson’s struggle relatable. Emma Stone is biting and angsty as Tompson’s daughter, and Zach Galifinakis makes the most of his screentime by downplaying is normal persona. Also great are Edward Norton and Naomi Watts who act as foils to one another in terms of their perspectives on being career actors.

Birdman is a captivating film from start to finish. Stylistically, its long, choreographed shots sweep the viewer into Tompson’s world. Iñárritu expertly uses the medium of film to emphasize the often overlooked majesty and tension of theater, in essence earning the film’s subtitle, “The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance.” We are delighted to be reminded of the pitfalls and trappings of performance art, especially since audiences are often only privy to the final, polished product.

But Birdman is not just a film about ignorance, nor is it just a film about reclaiming glory. Birdman is mostly about perception. In one scene, an ego-maniacal Edward Norton says to Keaton, “popularity is the slutty little cousin of prestige.” This resonates with Keaton as his dilemma seems to be between those two very things – the popularity he experienced in his past and the prestige that comes with being viewed as relevant in the eyes of those he cares for. This quest for relevance is truly where the movie excels, and it is the key to unlocking the truth of the film’s final scene. Birdman is a triumph of the art form and is certainly one of the most ambitious movies of the year.  A

Birdman is rated R and has a running time of 1 hour and 59 minutes.

Interstellar

interstellar2A Christopher Nolan film release is event movie territory. Interstellar, Nolan’s first film since 2012’s The Dark Knight Rises, has far more in common with his 2010 mind-bender Inception than with the “Caped Crusader,” however. First, they are both one-word titles that begin with “I” and second both deal with the complex nature of time’s relativity to the dimension of space and the time that one’s consciousness is inhabiting combined with the levels of both of those times’ relativity within the separate levels of that dimension. Call it a director trademark. All that aside, Interstellar is a phenomenal film.

Interstellar is set in an undetermined future where blight and dust have decimated most of the food supply on Earth. Modern industrial society has ceased to exist and a “caretaker” generation has taken over, where most children will be raised to be farmers and few will see education beyond secondary school. Matthew McConaughey takes the McConnaissance to an epic level as Joseph Cooper, a former NASA test-pilot turned farmer living with his two children and father-in-law, Donald (John Lithgow). Frequent dust storms have eliminated virtually every crop but corn, and corn is likely not far from extinction as well. When some strange gravitational pulses begin influencing some of Cooper’s farm equipment, his daughter Murph (Mackenzie Foy) notices some patterns left behind that reveal coordinates to a secret NASA lab operating underground. Professor Brand (Michael Caine) heads the operation and when Cooper stumbles upon the lab, Brand presents Cooper with an interstellar mission that has the potential to save humanity from extinction but also requires that he leave his family with no guarantee of return. Cooper reluctantly accepts and with a crew including Brand’s daughter Amelia (Anne Hathaway), and scientists Doyle (Wes Bentley) and Romilly (David Gyasi), Cooper leads a space mission to explore a series of potentially promising alternatives to Earth.

Now if you’re in that group of  people who only take their dystopia with a side of Jennifer Lawrence, hear me out. Interstellar is the most immersive film of the year, eclipsing even last year’s Gravity in terms of cinematic experience. Nolan does not treat the audience with kid gloves and allows us to observe and appreciate the film without needless exposition or over-explanation. Clocking in at 3 hours in running time, the film actually moves with a deliberate and intrepid pace. Like successful cinematic space operas of the past such as 2001: A Space Odyssey or even Star Wars, Interstellar is enriched with thoughtfulness, theoretical rhetoric, and intensity! The film is also quite beautiful and awe-inspiring. Nolan, one of the last filmmakers still shooting on 35mm film, uses the technique to his stunning advantage. Darkness, color, perspective, and beauty are all heightened by Nolan’s camera work, and the film resonates with a voracity that feels appropriate for a quality depiction of interplanetary space travel. Like Steven Price’s Oscar winning score from Gravity, the score in this film, composed by Has Zimmer, plays an equally pivotal role. Swells and crescendos of synthesizers and pipe organs counter-balance equally ominous moments of complete silence, all of which emphasize the overall mood.

The cast is adequate, but what actor is playing which role in this film is actually quite inconsequential. McConaughey is the only actor who has to carry any substantial weight and his performance is best categorized as “alright.” In fact, the film boasts a parade of cameos, which work to draw attention away from the film’s principal actors. At one point, you may have to check your ticket stub to make sure you didn’t accidentally walk into a screening of Ocean’s Eleven. But like most Christopher Nolan films, the true strength of Interstellar is not in its cast but in its atmosphere and ambition. For a science-fiction film, Interstellar feels very authentic and while the film’s final act may challenge some viewers, everything works. This is a big movie, so see it on a big screen! A

Interstellar is rated PG-13 and has a running time of 2 hours and 49 minutes.

300: Rise of an Empire

ImageLike most people, when I walked out of the theater in 2007 after seeing 300, I immediately asked, “Well, the Spartans were sure amazing, but what were the Athenians doing during all of this?”  Who knew that in seven short years, my answer would arrive in the form of 300: Rise of an Empire!

Now, all of you clamoring for a sequel to 300, hold your helmets.  300: Rise of an Empire is more of a companion to its predecessor than a sequel.  The vengeful and honorable Queen Gorgo (Leny Headey) after having lost her king and husband Leonidas in a tragic battle against the massive Persian army at Thermopylae now looks to protect her City-State of Sparta by laying low and fortifying the city.  In preparation, she begins to tell the story of the God-King Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) and his evolution from child to deity.  The film transitions to “spin-off” as we are introduced to Thermistocles (Sullivan Stapleton), an Athenian general who in a calculated attack against the Persian army at Marathon succeeded in killing Persian King Darius paving the way for his son Xerxes to take over.  Xerxes’s ascension to a God-like status, however is thanks to King Darius’s trusted commander of the Persian navy, Artemisia (Eva Green).  Thermistocles’s plan against Xerxes involves getting all of the city-states in Greece to mobilize and join forces against the Persians, but he is struggling to get any support.

What follows is a warmed over retread of the original 300 plotline, but from an Athenian point of view.  You’ll see Thermistocles give impassioned speeches to his out numbered yet capable army.  In fact, in one scene, Thermistocoles explains how Athenian soldiers work as a unit and protect the man to their left.  This is virtually lifted word for word from a similar speech delivered by Leonidas to hunchback, Ephialtes, in the original film.  You will also see many scenes of fast-paced action with sudden slowed down shots of brutality and buckets of 3-D rendered blood spatter.  What you won’t see is anything reminiscent of the innovative and groundbreaking brilliance of the first film.  The acting is appropriate for its genre, however, and the scene where Thermistocoles meets Artemisia for the first time is compellingly campy, if not borderline pornographic.

The change of scenery from ground war to naval battle is a welcomed change.  The brilliance of ancient sea battles is on full display and does hold your attention.  But it also comes at a loss of some of the greatest stylistic achievements of the original 300.  It is quite clear that most if not all of the sea battle scenes are filmed on a sound-stage.  While the same was true for 300’s epic battle scenes, director Zack Snyder was able to play with shadow, perspective, and light to produce a visually stunning look never before seen on film.  300: Rise of an Empire director Noam Murro’s film is too dark and conventional and at times comes off more as a joke than anywhere near spectacular.  In once scene, Thermistocoles while on board an Athenian ship, suddenly jumps on a horse (that’s right a horse!) and rides across several sinking and/or flaming ships while slaughtering every Persian in his path to arrive face to face with Artemisia for the climactic battle.  #PersianAttackOnHorseback!  Never did 300 reach this level of self-indulgence, which is what helped make it so effective.

300: Rise of an Empire is not a complete failure, but it is another entry in a long line of sub-par second installments.  The franchise is certainly open for more installments and perhaps with the right mixture of writing and creativity, the ship can still be righted.  C+

300: Rise of an Empire is rated R and has a running time of 1 hour and 42 minutes. 

Captain Phillips

ImageIn the opening scene of Captain Phillips, Tom Hanks’ character, Rich Phillips, has a frank conversation with his wife Andrea (Catherine Keener) while they drive to the airport.  As a teacher, I took special note of this conversation, as it pertained to Phillips’ concern regarding his son’s performance in school.  He tells his wife that he’s worried that the world is far more competitive than it used to be and that even putting in the minimum is not enough to rise above and have a chance at success.  I’ve delivered various versions of this message to my high school students and while this conversation stood out to me for a different reason than it will to many other theatergoers, this seemingly innocuous scene sets the tone for a far more substantial and contextual film than I had expected. 

Adapted from Richard Phillips’ memoir, Captain Phillips tells the somewhat well-known true story of an American cargo ship hijacked by Somali pirates in the Spring of 2009.  The surprisingly rapid turnaround between original incident and major film production speaks volumes to the merits of the story.  The film presents a form of “bio-pic” that forgoes the melodramatic retelling of fact, and instead uses real life to make a statement, in this case about globalization.  Director Paul Greengrass (The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum), aims his “shaky” camera not only at the heroic protagonist, but also at what leads these Somali pirates to take such risky action.  By the time the pirates board Phillips’ ship, we are thoroughly disturbed and authentically frightened for what they may be capable of doing to take over the vessel.  The four pirates are meticulously realized through some menacing bilingual performances by a group of first-time Somali actors.  As the film unfolds, their story and motivations are every bit as fascinating and gripping as those of Phillips and his crew.  Phillips’ opening conversation with his wife about the stresses of competition and the vanishing opportunities for those less fortunate becomes realized as we see this despair front and center.    

Tom Hanks is sure to earn an Oscar nomination for his performance in this film.  In fact, this may be the performance of his career, certainly his best since Philadelphia.  His pragmatic performance is captivating, and he is never over-the-top.  In a scene where Muse, the lead pirate, invades the cargo ship’s control room, Phillips squares off with the pirates for the first time.  Hanks responds to this scenario so well and so realistically that it is easy to forget that this is a movie and not real life.  As the film goes on, Hanks tempers his performance for every new development culminating in a scene towards the end that is nothing short of brilliant, heartbreaking, and stirring.

Captain Phillips is another great movie for 2013.  While the story is still relatively current and many film-goers will be aware of its outcome, Greengrass, Hanks, and the supporting cast ensure a thrilling experience.  The film also works on a deeper level by examining the motives of the pirates and theorizing about some of the policies that should, perhaps, be revisited regarding freighter security measures and the “acceptable” risks that are taken for the sake of transporting goods overseas.  The film resonates with vivacity but Hanks’ performance is the film’s true strength.  A-

Captain Phillips is rated PG-13 and has a running time of 2 hours and 14 minutes. 

The Great Gatsby

ImageMay 10th, 2013 marked the highly anticipated release of Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby. This film marks the fourth time F. Scott Fitzgerald’s glitzy classic has seen the big-screen treatment. It seems that in an almost poetic piece of truth, filmmakers have been reaching for their own ‘elusive green light’ in that no one has been able to cinematically capture the full power and prestige of the classic novel. It’s unusual for a book to be adapted to film every 25 years or so, but that is precisely what has happened. Alan Ladd played the mysterious Jay Gatsby in 1949, Robert Redford in 1974, Toby Stephens in the deplorable A&E TV movie in 2000, and now Leonardo Dicaprio steps into that legendary yellow car’s driver’s seat. Is the fourth time a charm?

It’s the roaring 20s in America and in the midst of America’s strongest economic boom in history, Nick Caraway (Toby Maguire) puts his writing career on hold and leaves the Midwest for the magic of New York as a bond salesman. Caraway becomes fascinated with his mysterious neighbor (Gatsby) as rumors about the man and his wealth circulate all around him. Nick is drawn into Gatsby’s lavish world and through him, the audience is presented Fitzgerald’s cautionary fable of excess, greed, and moral decay that lies beneath the surface of social luxury.

Fourth time a charm? The answer to this question is a complex one. The appeal to this film rests in the impeccable casting of Dicaprio as Gatsby and the choice of such a distinctive director in Luhrmann. Luhrmann and Dicaprio have, of course, successfully updated a classic once before with 1996’s Romeo + Juliet. While The People’s Critic was not that impressed with that film, it can be admired for its style and individuality. The Great Gatsby does not disappoint in terms of its style, which is no surprise given Luhrmann’s reputation.

The film chooses to introduce Caraway slightly differently from the novel, and in that commits its first mistake. The tone of the film is altered right from the start, and Caraway’s character is strangely identified as a flawed and beaten down man; he is introduced as a man clinging to sanity. Fans of the book will also be incredibly disappointed in some glaringly missing elements from the film’s final act. These changes result in a sacrifice of some major complexities within a major character’s past. Nonetheless, the middle section of the film is faithful to the novel and develops very well.

The cast is rounded out nicely with Carey Mulligan as Daisy Buchanan and Joel Edgerton as her husband Tom. Isla Fisher plays Tom’s mistress Myrtle and newcomer Elizabeth Debicki plays the vapid vamp, Jordan Baker. Luhrmann is guilty of rushing the pace a bit too much when it comes to developing these characters, but this is likely because he knows the story swings on the hinge of Gatsby and Caraway’s relationship. Unfortunately the pacing does affect the film’s effectiveness. This and some astonishingly poor editing reduces the film’s overall impact. Consequently, Maguire effectively sets up awe and majesty for the appearance of Dicaprio, although the anticipated reveal of his character is not quite as satisfying as it should be.

The Great Gatsby is a story of mood. A successful adaptation must transcend regurgitation of plotpoints and allow the viewer to feel and experience the raw nature of desire and time’s fleeting nature. It is here that Luhrmann does succeed. The major victory for this film is in its capturing of the essence of the novel, the time, and the message. Bold choices from contemporary music, effective use of slow motion, and inventive camera placement make the movie exciting and at times, well…Great. I do, however, question the decision for executive producer Jay-Z to use four songs by himself or Beyonce in a film that so urgently attacks bravado, audacity, and arrogance. The Great Gatsby is the best adaptation of Fitzgerald’s material, and Dicaprio adds another iconic role to his ever impressive career. While the film is not perfect and will certainly provide some disappointments for fans of the book, the film does stand on its own as a determined, flashy, show-piece of entertainment. B

The Great Gatsby is rated PG-13 and has a running time of 2 hours and 23 minutes. It is released in 3D, but it offers nothing by artificiality. Learn a lesson from the film and enjoy it in modest 2D.

Oscar Predictions: Part 4 – The Big Ones

OscarsOscar Predictions: Part4 – The Big Ones

The final installment of The People’s Critic’s Oscar prediction series lists my picks for the six major film awards: Directing, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Actor, Actress, and Picture.  These are the categories decided by the largest blocks of voters and, thus reveal the academy’s consensus feelings on the great films of the year.  Readers are invited to continue to weigh in with their own opinions by submitting to the public polls following each category’s predictions.

Best Director:

Nominated directors are Michael Haneke for Amour, Benh Zeitlin for Beasts of the Southern Wild, Ang Lee for Life of Pi, Steven Spielberg for Lincoln, and David O. Russell for Silver Linings Playbook.

The Best Director Oscar is basically the Cinematography Oscar crown jewel.  The director oversees every chosen element on set to ensure his/her vision is secure and successful.  In the Classic Hollywood Cinema days, this award was a bit easier to come by as directors like William Wyler, John Ford, and Frank Capra were nominated often and won more than any other directors in history.  Over the years, the award has become much more aloof; very few directors earn more than one Best Directing Oscar.  The award is closely associated with the Best Picture winner as well, however these awards are becoming more independent of one another now that the Best Picture field of nominees has been increased to up to ten films.  This year will be an upset year no matter which way it goes.  Not since the 1930s has it been more likely that the Best Picture will go to a film who’s director was not nominated.  Additionally, it is quite likely that the Best Director will go to a film that does not win Best Picture.  Therefore, it is critical to look at each of the nominated films for director’s merit alone. Haneke and Zeitlin turned out two emotionally charged human dramas that are deserving of immense appreciation.  In terms of directing, Zeitlin is the better choice between the two, but these small films rarely make a dent in the voting pool.  Spielberg does not deserve to be nominated for this award this year.  Russell has once again made a great film that would have won last year, but he will find himself beaten this year.  The award is between Russell and Lee.  The Peoples Critic Selection: Ang Lee for Life of Pi


Best Supporting Actor:

Nominees are Tommy Lee Jones for Lincoln, Christoph Waltz for Django Unchained, Robert DeNiro for Silver Linings Playbook, Philip Seymour Hoffman for The Master, and Alan Arkin for Argo.

Best Supporting Actress:

Nominees are Anne Hathaway for Les Misérables, Helen Hunt for The Sessions, Sally Field for Lincoln, Amy Adams for The Master, and Jackie Weaver for Silver Linings Playbook.

Acting categories need the least amount of explanation.  The supporting role awards are traditionally a bit more exciting.  These Oscars have gone to some surprising upsets over the years and is more likely to go to an edgier or younger performer than the awards for Best Actor/Actress.  On the men’s side, this year’s field has two performances that are practically lead roles (Waltz and Hoffman), and this will most likely work in one of their favors.  On the ladies’ side, there is a clear winner, so I’ll simply explain why she wins.  Much has been made of the fact that Anne Hathaway is only in Les Misérables for a short period of time.  However, this award has gone to many recipients whose screen-time is limited.  The Oscar for Supporting Role is designed to recognize superior support, regardless of screen time.  What Anne Hathaway does with her segment of an otherwise dull film is give a Hugh Jackman quality performance and then leave you wanting more.  What worked for her will unfortunately not work for Jackman since his Best Actor field also has a clear winner who accomplishes a similar feat in that category.  The People’s Critic Selection for Best Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz for Django UnchainedThe People’s Critic Selection for Best Supporting Actress: Anne Hathaway for Les Misérables.  

 

Best Actor:

Nominees are Daniel Day-Lewis for Lincoln, Hugh Jackman for Les Misérables, Bradley Cooper for Silver Linings Playbook, Joaquin Phoenix for The Master, and Denzel Washington for Flight.

Best Actress

Nominees are Jennifer Lawrence for Silver Linings Playbook, Emmanuelle Riva for Amour, Jessica Chastain for Zero Dark Thirty, Naomi Watts for The Impossible, and Quvenzhané Wallis for Beasts of the Southern Wild.

Hugh Jackman picked the wrong year to turn out his best performance of his career.  What he does as Jean Val Jean in Les Misérables is raw and spectacular.  However, it will be the one-two punch of excellent writing by Kushner and flawless delivery by Day-Lewis that will allow him to make history as the first to win three Best Actor Academy Awards.  Meanwhile, the Best Actress category has already made history by nominating both the youngest and oldest nominees ever considered for the Best Actress Oscar with Riva and Wallis.  Unlike the men’s race, no clear winner exists here.  Riva has enjoyed a surge as of late given her heart wrenching performance in Amour along with the fact that Oscar night just happens to be her 86th birthday.  However, it seems that the “girl on fire” this year will come away with her first trophy, solidifying what will likely be a long and dynamic career.   The People’s Critic Selection for Best Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis for Lincoln.  The People’s Critic Selection for Best Actress: Jennifer Lawrence for Silver Linings Playbook. 


 Best Picture:

Nominated Films are Amour, Argo, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Django Unchained, Les Misérables, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook, and Zero Dark Thirty.

Nine films were deemed worthy of Best Picture honors this year.  The jury is still out on this callback to the olden days where ten (even twelve!) films could be nominated for this award.  In 2009, the Academy expanded the limit of nominees from five to ten, but finding that there are not always ten worth-while nominees, the rule currently allows the list to vary between five and ten nominees.  This year’s collection of nominees would all have beaten last year’s winner, The Artist substantiating what an excellent year at the movies 2012 was.  As stated earlier, this award is often tied closely together with the winner for Best Director; however, no year in recent history has provided a lower likelihood of this happening than this year.  Therefore, how does one judge a film on its merits alone without necessarily taking the director’s choices into strong consideration?  How much does one weigh the writing, the cinematography, the set design, the acting, etc.?  These are tough questions.  One major element is to examine the editing.  Best Picture is more about conveying a message, entertainment, structure, and overall effect than anything else.  Editing (along with direction) is the key to all of those characteristics that make a movie great.  Therefore, if direction becomes a lowered value in the equation for determining greatness, the vacuum will be filled with editing.  The result is an upset that has only happened three times in history and not at all since 1989 – a Best Picture winner where the director was not even nominated.  The People’s Critic Selection: Argo