Friday, January 31, 2014

Image = Best of 2013

With the Oscars just about a month away - it's time to declare my favorite films of 2013.  So here they are - in no particular order - except for 12 Years a Slave which is simply the Best Picture of 2013 because it is the most courageous & indelible.  All the films on my Best of list are great for different reasons.  My main criteria are a unique approach to film making (Gravity, Inside Llewyn Davis) and/or storytelling (All is Lost, In a World...), a great script (Philomena), sensational acting (Dallas Buyers Club, Blue Jasmine, Saving Mr. Banks) and a significant emotional impact (Enough Said, Last Vegas).  Most have more than one of these qualities.  2013 was an exceptional year for films - both big & small.   


12 Years a Slave


Before Midnight






Lee Daniels' The Butler


Enough Said


Dallas Buyers Club




All is Lost


Inside Llewyn Davis


Blue Jasmine




In a World...


Last Vegas


Saving Mr. Banks


Thursday, January 23, 2014

Image = All right, All right, All right!

as Ron Woodruff
Here’s the truth about the Academy Awards.  Sometimes awards (especially for acting) are given (as they should be) for a performance because it is far and above THE BEST of the year – as in Helen Mirren for The Queen or Mo’Nique for Precious.  Sometimes it’s for a body of work and the actor has been passed up before and (I hate this) the Academy feels they owe someone an award – as in Denzel Washington when he “won” for Training Day after he lost for his uh-mazing performance in The Hurricane. 

Golden Globe winner
This year is a little different.  It was a fantastic year for movies and there are a bunch of worthy contenders.  Matthew McConaughey – once a punch line – not taken seriously because of his great looks and his resume of romantic comedies – has actually transformed his career and his image in Hollywood.  It was a conscious effort by him and his team to choose more serious and risky roles, beginning with The Lincoln Lawyer in 2011 and followed by Bernie, Killer Joe, Magic Mike, Mud and of course Dallas Buyers Club.  The gamble paid off and we are now looking at McConaughey very differently.  

Matthew has shown his commitment to show business for 22 years.  To put it very simply, it is his time.  First he transformed his career and then he physically altered himself to play unsavory hustler Ron Woodruff.  Dallas Buyers Club is a tour de force and a story about a critical time in American history that will raise awareness about AIDS, American healthcare and being transgender.  I want McConaughey to win the Oscar for Best Actor this year for two reasons.  1 – he deserves it and 2 – the biggest award in the industry will cause more people to see this great independent film. 

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Image = A Great Year for Film & Awards

2013 was a great year for movies and I am excited about the upcoming awards season.  Often there is one behemoth film that towers over the rest and essentially sweeps everything, but this year there is no such animal.  The films of 2013 were very diverse with big studio films and tiny independent films getting equal acknowledgment.   

{The Academy Award nominations will not be announced until January 16 but there are many intriguing nominations among the Golden Globes, Screen Actors Guild and Independent Spirit Awards}.
When I saw the low budget Dallas Buyers Club, I said “I hope this film gets recognition” - and it did.  This is also a sign of social progress.  Films about AIDS don’t often get a mainstream audience but DBC is getting seen in large part due to Matthew McConaughey’s star power.  Respect for McConaughey as an actor has increased tremendously in the past few years and he deserves an Oscar for his transformational performance.  And so does Jared Leto.  If 12 Years a Slave was not an indie, Matthew & Jared would be shoe-ins for their respective Independent Spirit Awards.

It is interesting to note that the Golden Globes forgot all about Lee Daniel’s The Butler.  Forest Whitaker & David Oyelowo were both amazing.  Maybe it’s a result of being released so early in the year? The SAG Awards however, did not forget about Whitaker and also honored Oprah Winfrey with a nomination for Supporting Actress.  Lee Daniel’s The Butler seems like an ideal Oscar film – a period drama about social injustice with a huge Hollywood cast.  It’ll be interesting to see if the Academy bequeaths it with any nods.   

There is some very tough competition in the acting categories this year, in almost every category and every award.  This year we have both newcomers like Lupita Nyong’o & Barkhad Abdi and legends like Bruce Dern & Robert Redford who are exactly the same age and each man has yet to win an Oscar for acting.  As much as I want to root for Jared Leto, Michael Fassbender’s performance was completely breathtaking.  I loved Philomena and Judi Dench is wonderful but Cate Blanchett acted her butt off in Blue Jasmine and I’ve said for a long time that it’s absurd that she doesn’t have a Best Actress statuette yet.  I think this may finally be Cate’s year to be the queen. 
A couple more things…  I am thrilled that Julie Delpy was recognized for her bold & brave performance in Before Midnight.  I’m a huge fan of the incredibly unique Before series.  And again – I hope it’s a positive sign of changing times that a little indie like Before Midnight is getting big industry recognition.  One of my favorite films of the year was Enough Said and I’m glad that Julia Louis-Dreyfus and James Gandolfini have received acclaim for their work.  Last thing – the movie I enjoyed the most last year was Last Vegas.  It’s a big splashy Hollywood film with a huge heart and it was the best time I had in a movie theater in 2013.  No nominations but a great life-affirming movie nonetheless.