Posts Tagged ‘oscar nomination predictions’

The Descendants: Good, but Great?

Sunday, December 4th, 2011

The Descendants is getting rave reviews.  Critics claim George Clooney is at his best and will definitely be Oscar-nominated.  I am sure he will and the movie may even be as well.  So it is with high expectations of a real-life type of drama with a touch of comedy (done by the same team as Sideways) that I went to see The Descendants.

George Clooney plays a father who finds himself the sole guardian of his two daughters after his wife has an accident and is in a coma.  He is clueless as to how to deal with his two girls, one 10 and one 17, that he does not know all that well.  They must come together though as Matt King decides whether or not to sell his family’s ancestral lands and learns that his wife had been having an affair.

Do not get me wrong, I like a real-life type of poignant movies as much as the next person but somehow I felt detached from these characters.  I think the problem comes down to George Clooney.  If an actor like Matt Damon had been the lead it might have been different.  Clooney is a little cold in his acting, which works as a politician in The Ides of March but not as a father whose life is unraveling.

Clooney’s eyes look untouched as he goes through the motions but does not seem to register the emotions.  The close-ups of his face show this especially and it is a bit disappointing.  It seems that the movie may have been overhyped by the critics.  It is a good movie, but a great one?  I am not so sure.  The girls are very good, though.  Shailene Woodley shows her acting chops and accomplishes what I wish Clooney could have. We can actually see the pain in her eyes.

An Insidious Menace Haunts Martha Marcy May Marlene

Friday, November 18th, 2011

Martha Marcy May Marlene is one of the most intriguing films this fall.  It is hard to place into a genre, but psychological thriller is probably the most fitting.  A piercing, standout performance by Elizabeth Olsen drives this film.  Olsen, who definitely will become a big star, plays a lost young woman running away from a terrifying cult.  The pain in Olsen’s eyes cut to the bone.  Martha’s demons surface as we question whether she may just be paranoid.  Turns out, she isn’t.  The most chilling aspect of the film is that it is not all in her head (unlike Natalie Portman’s role as Nina in Black Swan last year).  Preying on those who have nowhere else to turn, the cult (led by a frightening John Hawkes, who gives Martha her other names as well) takes young women in and slowly fools them into trusting this new “family.”  Martha tells her sister, who she has not spoken to in two years, that her boyfriend lied to her (and in a way this is true) instead of telling her where she has really been.  The character herself is complex and interesting as she is able to be taken in by the lies of this abusive group of people but also has the strength to finally leave.  The cult is even more terrifying than imaginable as they not only take advantage of people but also are killers.  One could see why Martha is so haunted and scared out of her mind.  The small things of everyday life prove most powerful to show how Martha has lost every sense of common civilities, like jumping in a lake naked.  There are no societal boundaries any more for her as on the farm everything is shared.  This is also why she has so many different names.  Her real name has been changed by the cult leader, stripping her of her own identity.  Everything in this movie escalates, from Martha’s fear to the flashbacks of the cult itself.  Slowly but surely building, you are on the edge of your seat as you wait for what will happen next.  Unfortunately, many that are innocent become victims.  Martha’s sister and she have a Rachel Getting Married type of relationship.  There is a lot of pain there and probably also some blame as Martha was left alone after her sister went to college.  They do not know how to communicate with one another.  Martha’s sister and brother-in-law cannot even fathom what she has been through.  They know something is wrong but would never be able to guess all that has happened to her.  She is more alone than ever and lives in a world all her own with a future that seems less and less certain of even existing.  Her sister on the other hand is very normal, just starting out with a husband and trying to have a baby.  Their worlds do not go hand in hand.  The ending is ambiguous but we know that it is not good, and her sister and brother-in-law do not even see what is coming.  Martha Marcy May Marlene is intense and haunting and something very different and new.  Like Jennifer Lawrence in Winter’s Bone last year, Elizabeth Olsen has made a name for herself with this first role.  She definitely should be nominated for an Oscar.  It is nice to see so many interesting roles for women this year.  There is a lot of variety for the actresses, from Martha Marcy May Marlene to The Iron Lady (Meryl Streep) to The Help to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo to The Debt (Jessica Chastain) to Young Adult (Charlize Theron).

J. Edgar the Movie

Friday, November 18th, 2011

J. Edgar is not perfect.  The movie and the man that the movie is about are both not perfect in fact.  However, J. Edgar the movie is as complex and intense as the man himself.  Clint Eastwood directs in a documentary-style that proves a little long and at time drags.  The narrative is a little confusing at times as like a history lesson we are taken through J. Edgar Hoover’s journey (or his own vision of his journey) through flashbacks from WWII to the Civil Rights Movement.  He arguably made the FBI what it is today, creating the fingerprint system, organizing/cataloguing the Congressional Library, and inventing the creation of a damning confidential file.  In fact, J. Edgar used this file as leverage on many presidents, including Kennedy (and J. Edgar also thought he could stop Martin Luther King Jr. as well).  His work consumes him and is everything to him but at the end we can wonder what does he have to show?  Much of J. Edgar’s self-consciousness stems from his mother (proving that we can indeed blame our parents for everything) played by Judi Dench.  Leonardo DiCaprio is brilliant as J. Edgar, to the point that we forget he is acting.  It also made me realize that DiCaprio chooses difficult roles and is an underrated actor who has actually only played one likable character, Jack in Titanic.  Armie Hammer is simply wonderful, working as the most grounded and sympathetic character.  Hammer plays Clyde, J. Edgar’s right-hand man in the FBI and also J. Edgar’s secret love.  In a time when J. Edgar cannot admit to the world or even his own mother (she tells him she would rather have a dead son) that he is gay, he cannot come to terms himself with his true feelings for Clyde.  Much of their relationship is a guessing game to viewers as the only time the men confront each other is when tension and frustration have reached a climax (lots of glass thrown).  There is love there and a simple gesture like holding hands or when a much older J. Edgar kisses Clyde on the forehead and tells him he needs him shows this.  Speaking of looking older, the makeup is not done well unfortunately.  If everyone looks like that when they are in their sixties or seventies then we do not have a lot to look forward to.  I am sure that DiCaprio and Hammer (who I underestimated even though he was good in The Social Network and made us want there to be two of him) will get Oscar nominations.  I do not think the movie is strong enough to get nominated as a whole.  There are a lot of strong performances but not very many strong movies.  One last note of frustration: it is a shame that the artsy, indie films are never released wide.  It is hard to track them down to see and inevitably they are always the ones nominated.  Give us a chance; I think that more people are interested in films that actually give us something to think about.  Although I could be wrong as it is not the imperfect J. Edgar that was number one this past weekend but Immortals.