Reel Voice

Rise of the Guardians

by Jef Cliber. 0 Comments

I wasn’t very enthusiastic about watching this film. I have an issue with writers taking existing fairy tales – or the characters therein – and just re-writing their origins.  I know that may seem silly or even arrogant, but I just don’t like it.  It says to me that someone is not creative enough to come up with an original concept. Instead, they rip off an existing character idea and just embellish it a bit.  That’s usually how these tales go.

Fortunately, “Rise of the Guardians” is actually pretty good.  It’s worthwhile entertainment, more for adults than young children though.  There’s a lot of violence and some pretty heavy issues being presented.  Being ignored because people don’t believe in you does not sound quite right for kids ages 12 and under.  It’s okay though for older ones.  The Sandman is rather lovable, the Easter Bunny is fun, and Jack Frost is charming.  Santa Claus is a little intimidating to say the least, but his elves and yetis are fun.   As far as characters go though, the Tooth Fairy is kind of creepy.  Forget the Boogeyman!  I am more concerned about that creature with gossamer wings that collects your teeth!

The tale focuses on Jack Frost, a fairy tale character that is often overlooked.  Okay, so here he gets a fair treatment.  It’s nice to see Jack as something OTHER than some sort of imp or ice faerie that is somehow associated with Santa.  Jack is voiced by Chris Pine, and he’s likable right away.  “Rise of the Guardians” is more the tale of how Jack Frost became who he is, which of course he must discover in the course of this film.  If the film had just focused on this, it would be easier to take.

Sadly, the film doesn’t do that.  Instead, it has to have the children of the world being threatened by the Boogeyman (wonderfully portrayed by Jude Law).  He’s more of an ego-maniac than a villain, but he looks cool and his nightmares (aka. his horses) are a nice touch.  That’s not why Jack becomes involved though.  No sir – Jack becomes involved because the Man in the moon says he is to become the newest Guardian.  The Guardians are like a elite club of super heroes, comprised of Santa Claus, The Sandman, the Tooth Faerie, and the Easter Bunny.  These Guardians protect the children of the world.  Here’s a question though: what are they protecting the kids from?  The Guardians derive their very existence and magical powers from the belief children have in them. 

This film is entertaining and I found many parts to be in fact well thought out stories.  The only issue I had with this film is that it should have been about Jack Frost only.  I would have found that more agreeable.  Regardless, “Rise of the Guardians” is fun enough to warrant watching.  It’s not very holiday-ish, but it is winter-themed if that matters to you. 

…and that’s it for this edition of THE REEL VOICE

The Life of Pi

by Jef Cliber. 0 Comments

This film has its merits, without question. It is at least worth talking about. It is based on the 2001 novel by the same name. I am unfamiliar with the book, but apparently it was long been sought after as material for a feature film. “Life of Pi” is a narrative told through a middle-aged Indian named Pi to a novelist that is intrigued by his story. The novelist is further intrigued by the cryptic message at the beginning of the tale that by the end of it “you will believe in God”. Like I said, the film has merit.

The story is intriguing and we are pulled right in. There is a lot of CGI and a lot of stunning visuals that simply are breathtaking. There is a lot of artistry at work in the film. Ang Lee won for Best Director for this film, and his talent shows a LOT in this film. I’m not very keen on the over-usage of visual effects in the film, but it is gorgeous to see. There’s a lot of stunning imagery throughout the film and the film literally looks positively splendid.

The acting is odd. It takes you a little while to grow accustomed to the accents used in the film. I really enjoyed the older Pi (played by Irrfan Khan) as he narrates the tale. As for the rest of it, it honestly isn’t much there. We have Pi on a boat with a Bengal Tiger. He talks. The tiger doesn’t. Fortunately, “Life of Pi” takes you backwards in time to flesh out the tale. It isn’t so much an explanation of only how Pi came to survive a shipwreck after several years. It is rather – truly about his life.

As for the ending – no spoilers here, I promise – what I can say is that it was effective. At the end of film, you are presented with a choice as to how you would like to end the film. It is an uncommon way to end a film and I am sure it left a sour taste in many movie-goers mouths. I think it was pretty cool, and certainly thought-provoking. It certainly wasn’t what I was expecting!

As for a recommendation, I can say that it is a worthwhile watch. It deserved its place among the Oscar nominees for this past year, surely. I am happy that Ang won, but I am equally confused as I am happy. If the Academy wanted to acknowledge his work, they did so, but why then did they go for “Argo” for Best Picture? Between these two films, “Life of Pi” is without question the superior film.

…and that’s it for this edition of THE REEL VOICE

Argo

by Jef Cliber. 0 Comments

I can’t believe this won Best Picture. There. I said it. I stand by my opinion as well. Comparing this film to the others that were nominated, especially “Lincoln”, it just doesn’t measure up. The story of “Argo” follows Tony Mendez a CIA agent that “gets people out” (of what, I don’t want to know) as he concocts a wild cover story to get 6 Americans out of Iran when the US Embassy was overrun back in the 70s. That resulted in the worst US hostage crisis in modern history.

Here’s the thing about “Argo”: it is a film of two parts. The first part is about Mendez getting his plan together. This plan has to do with a fake Hollywood science fiction movie being filmed in an exotic locale. Basically, Tony (played by Ben Affleck) has to get his plan the green light from the higher-ups at the CIA, fly to Hollywood, act like a producer, hire a director, get a script, thrown a press junket, fly to Iran, get to the Canadian Embassy (where the Americans are hiding), act like a scouting unit for a day, and then fly out. The second part of the film is all about the Americans in hiding in the Canadian Embassy. People are getting tortured elsewhere in the city, while some Iranians are even hung publicly. It’s all very stressful.

Or so we are lead to believe.

My problem with “Argo” is that the film never connects with the audience. I was interested in seeing more of the events in Hollywood, but things there were rushed. A large portion of that part of the film was also interrupted with updates on what was happening back in Washington. That created a very disjointed feeling in me. Couple this with the lack of any connection with the Americans hiding out in the Canadian Embassy. I honestly could have cared less what happened to them. Don’t get me wrong, I am sure it was a very harrowing ordeal in real life. I’m just talking about the movie. In the film, I wasn’t overwhelmed – or underwhelmed for that matter – by any of those characters or the actors portraying them. I felt nothing for them.

The film has a boring pace to it, clopping around DC, LA, or the Middle East with the same lack-luster feeling. The film has no grit to it, and it makes me ache for something more dynamic. It has Alan Arkin in it, which is always good, and he delivers up the only memorable bit to this film with a great catchphrase. Beyond this though, “Argo” simply is not a contender in a Best Picture race. It makes me wonder who had to bribe whom to get this Oscar!

Therefore, it is my opinion – be it ever so humble – to NOT recommend “Argo”. It simply holds no appeal what so ever, for any audience. Don’t waste your time on this one.

…and that’s it for this edition of THE REEL VOICE

“The Perks of Being a Wallflower”

by Jef Cliber. 0 Comments

I love films that harken back to the ‘80s, and this one does it extremely well. In a way, “Perks” is reminiscent of “St. Elmo’s Fire” which is more about about self-centered brats trying to become adults, but there’s a lot of familiar feeling between the two films. But a better and more direct comparison is “It’s Kind of a Funny Story”. Adolescent kids with some serious mental and emotional problems, just trying to live their lives – it may not be all that original, but it sure is fun to watch!

Anyway, “Perks” is fairly incredible. It’s mostly the acting. Logan Lerman plays main character Charlie who is having problems entering into his Freshman year in High School. Who hasn’t been there? There’s a wealth of reasons why Charlie is pretty nervous about High School, and none of them are easy for any teenager to handle. He does the best he can, but alas he is becoming a wallflower. However, Charlie bravely befriends Patrick (played masterfully by Ezra Miller) at a football game. Miraculously, Patrick and his stepsister Sam (Emma Watson, a.k.a. Hermoine from “Harry Potter”) accept Charlie into their fold.

This is perhaps the greatest thing about people. Some people are wonderful because they don’t judge you; they look at you, smile, and invite you to join in the game of life that we all must play. In high school, that sensation is magnified a hundredfold. Call it teenage angst or whatever, but it’s very real and very, very powerful. Does anyone NOT remember high school? Some of us were lucky, entering as Freshmen with older siblings ahead of us. Some of us see old friends who no longer wish to talk to us. Some of us know people that are friends with our cool older siblings and we think that might work in our favor. And some of us are unlucky enough to have all of this pass us by, and we are left standing against a wall at a high school dance, too socially inept to do much of anything except watch life pass us by. “Perks” captures this brilliantly and amazingly well.

On the plus side, “Perks” will also let you believe in the camaraderie that exists between wallflowers. In the ‘80s, we were freaks, geeks, social outcasts, misfits, etc. Whatever we were, we found strength in each other. That is the message behind “Perks”. As messed up as you might think you are, you can find solace in the kindred spirits around you. They are always there. You just have to be brave enough to try to be a friend. “Perks” highlights this is an elegant and delightful manner. Maybe Patrick and Sam didn’t go to your school, but I bet if you reach back inside your mind, you will find them there. The characters are sweet to the point of maybe being a little too good to be true, but I bought the performances easily.

There are the stereotypes to be found in this film ALL OVER the place. There’s the punk rock girl that is bossy. The kleptomaniac does it out of spite to her rich parents. There’s the gay jock trying to hide who he really is from his own father. There’s even the artsy & cool English teacher. The crazy goofball who is actually the wonderful best friend you never knew you had. Of course, there’s the innocent boy and the quirky girl trying NOT to be a couple but are actually perfect for each other. However, the serious side of this movie is that dark and ugly horrors existed in seemingly every high school back in the ‘80s. I won’t even go into them, but we all knew they were there. Maybe that was just the way the ‘80s were: a time when those secrets and horrors were seemingly everywhere. Truth is, there have always been there, but in the ‘80s, they were coming out in to the light. For some reason, high school seemed to be the catalyst in unleashing the “other” side of life. It was the life we were really living, but society didn’t seem to want to hear it. Now, I am sure that is true for how all high school students feel regardless of what decade I am talking about, so maybe that was not limited to the ‘80s. The bottom-line: “Perks” brought up a lot of the social feel of the ‘80s to me and it seemed pretty authentic.

There’s a lot of “oh I remember that stuff” moments in “Perks”, mostly nostalgic feelings for the music. The film is set in the ‘80s, in case you hadn’t guessed. The artistic style of its direction felt Cameron Crowe-like at some points in the film, too. The film is based on a book and honestly I do not know if it was biographical or not. All I can say is that as a high schooler from the ‘80s, it seemed pretty accurate. I enjoyed the way it was filmed, and in particular I loved the absence of sound during some of the flashbacks – save for dialogue. That created a wonderful sort of spotlight on the moment.

All in all, “Perks” is a cool film set in an era that is no more, filled with cool music and recognizable stereotypes. Underneath all of that though, there is a rather depressing story to be told. So, be warned about this film: it is not all happiness and light. The mature themes of this depressive tale mark this as what I would deem a Rated R film. There’s sex, drugs, language, violence, and sexual themes abound in this. Fortunately, “Perks” stays on point with the story of Charlie and doesn’t get lost in the miasma of the debauchery of teenage life. The message of the film stays strong and comes out on top with its realistic ending. Here’s to life in the ‘80s and here’s to “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” for reminding us how messed up our lives were or were not back then. A good movie!

…and that’s it for this edition of THE REEL VOICE

“Seeking a Friend for the End of the World”

by Jef Cliber. 0 Comments

“Seeking a Friend for the End of the World”

Not all love stories are comprised of sexy stars and witty banter and clever storylines.  This one felt much more simple, plain, and honest.  “Seeking” stars Steve Carell as Dodge & Keira Knightley as Penny.  The premise of the story is this: an asteroid is headed for Earth and it will kill us all, a quiet man with a boring job watches as his wife runs away from him when they both hear the news that the Earth is doomed.  Dodge is so shocked by his wife’s clear disappointment with him as a choice for a husband that he simply goes about his life while society falls apart around him.  Penny is the girlfriend of a neighbor of Dodge’s that tries to reclaim her albums form his apartment and instead meets up with Dodge.  Thanks to some loose-lips truth-telling, Penny delivers to Dodge a letter from his long-lost love that gives Dodge hope that she may be the one he is supposed to end his life with.  Desperate to reconnect with her, Dodge goes on a road trip to find this woman while Penny feels an obligation to tag along.

Basically, this is a road trip movie with a really unusual backdrop.  That backdrop is sometimes frightening to behold.  Fortunately, the filmmakers decided to not dwell upon the more horrific side of society falling apart.  Instead, they focused on telling the story based on a simple question: if you knew the end of the world was about to happen, how would you like to go out?  Maybe you never found true love, like Dodge, and you set off to find what you THINK is the real answer to your love life’s woes. 

From that premise, it becomes fairly formulaic.  Yes, we all see it coming: Penny & Dodge will end up together.  But for a little while, at least it is fun to see their love story unfold.  It is interspersed with poignant moments – like Penny reconnecting with an old ex, and Dodge making peace with his estranged father.  Truthfully though, there is this cold …awfulness to the story.  It is sad that Dodge was married to someone that regularly cheated on him.  It is sad that Penny has never been with anyone that really understood her. 

Of course, the end of the world IS coming and the film never backs away from that.  The asteroid is not diverted at the last minute.  Bruce Willis is not coming to save the day.  The end is imminent & inevitable.  So, the story ends with with that sad reality, but it gives the audience at least a pause to question ourselves in those same circumstances.  Ultimately, “Seeking” is fairly tame and charming in its own right, but it is depressing none the less.  Skip this one and peek at something a little more uplifting.

…and that’s it for this edition of THE REEL VOICE.

 

 

“ParaNorman”

by Jef Cliber. 0 Comments

“ParaNorman”

It’s not like we even take things such as children seeing the dead (thanks to “the Sixth Sense”) or films that make fun of zombies (um, “Warm Bodies”) as shocking anymore, but we have grown so bored with the material that we now make them into animated children films!  Greetings once more, fellow movie-aficionados!  This will be my last review before Sunday’s Oscars, but I figured that I should try to fit this one in just in time. 

I watched this not 2 weeks ago, and sadly it is utterly forgettable.  This film is done by the creators of “Coraline” which was incredibly creepy, original, and presented a really fresh artistic style.  “ParaNorman” fails at almost every level.  Artistically, it is dull and completely messy.  Coloring was flat and (no pun intended) lifeless.  The characters are stereotypes in all ways, which means they are also boring flat and lifeless.  There’s nothing too original about the tale, given our recently-obsessed-with-zombies culture.  Like I said, the film is utterly forgettable.

It is the story of an 11-year old boy who sees the dead, and because of this ability he is mocked and ridiculed and misunderstood.  Of course, this has not stopped the boy from living in a bedroom filled with zombie posters, clocks, slippers, and bed sheets.  Strange, right?  This ability is shared by another citizen of his fictitious New England town: the local town hobo.  Apparently, in this town someone is born into each generation with this ability.  The reason: why, to keep the evil witch and her curse at bay!  As it turns out, the story tries to deliver a message about being an outsider or a misfit (watch “the Goonies” instead) and rails against bullying (a hot topic of this day & age).  “ParaNorman” though doesn’t convince me of either of these messages and seems to flounder in its delivery of both.  In the end, the audience is left to shrug their shoulders and turn the channel. 

I’m all for being creative in children’s movies, but zombies are not appropriate subject matter.  I think it demonstrates how numb we are as a culture these days.  If your children think this film funny or goofy, it isn’t because this film is making light of the subject matter, I assure you.  Look, just because a zombie isn’t real-looking (whatever that is), it doesn’t mean it is okay to use in a film targeted towards 8 to 12 year old children.  Here lately, I have seen far too much of this in entertainment and it is numbing us as an audience. 

So besides being a pretty dull film, “ParaNorman” should be skipped right over.  (My hope would be of sending the studio a wake-up call, but it’s far too late for that.) Let this one be a dud left unseen and collecting dust in the $5.00 bin of your local super-store.

…and that’s it for this edition of THE REEL VOICE

 

“Beasts of the Southern Wild”

by Jef Cliber. 0 Comments

“Beasts of the Southern Wild”

Okay, here’s another Oscar nominee for 4 Oscars including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actress.  The story is seemingly based around Hurricane Katrina and the flooding of the Louisiana bayou in an area called “the Bathtub”.  The story follows Hushpuppy (played by Quvenzhané Wallis, whom at age 9 is the youngest Oscar nominee ever) and she learns some very strange school lessons, survival tips from her alcoholic father Wink, and ultimately learns to stand for herself and “be the Man”.  It is part fantasy and part reality, which can be odd at times, but at other times it makes this film exceptionally beautiful. 

“Beasts” comes at you with this sort of whimsical narrative about living free.  It features poverty on an extraordinary level and characters that seem so real that I hardly noticed they were actors.  I suppose my issue with this film is based on exactly that.  With acting this good, why throw in the fantastical elements?  It breaks the flow of the film and casts a net of confusion over the audience.  At one point in the movie, my wife and I looked at each other, put the film on pause, and wondered why giant pigs were wandering the countryside and eating each other? (Watch the movie and see if that part gives you pause as well.)  I dislike films that break the illusion and remind you that it is just a movie.  I also dislike movies where I fail to understand what exactly they are saying.  In this case, giant prehistoric boars apparently must bear witness to Hushpuppy standing up for herself and taking command of her life.  At least, I think so…

It is this confusion that I find odd, namely because it is nominated for such prestigious awards.  3 of the Big 5 nominations does “Beasts” have now.  Of course, “Black Swan” was nominated along those lines as well.  It makes me wonder just how this film will fare on Sunday night.  My prediction: 0 wins.  I don’t understand why it was nominated as such, other than all other films simply failed to live up to the Academy’s expectations.  It certainly will not win against “Lincoln” for Best Picture or against David O. Russell for Best Director. 

As for young Quvenzhané Wallis, she is delightful.  She brings this serious side to an impoverished youth’s tale, and I believed her 100%.  Her capability in this is significant – obviously, since she was nominated for an Oscar!  However, I think she won’t win simply because she is too young.  Giving such an award to someone so young is something I disagree with.  Let her win something less prestigious.  I’m sorry but Oscars are what actors wait their whole life for.  At age 9, she hasn’t had to wait for much.  Oh, and by the by, this is her first movie.  She has a piece of Oscar history to her name now, so let that be enough.  Also, Wallis is going up against some mighty talent (ahem, Jennifer Lawrence wins!) in this category anyway. 

Regardless, I think “Beasts” is an interesting film.  It was a bit confusing and it broke the illusion, but it was still a fascinating story to watch unfold.  Although a kid is featured in this movie, the material is far too adult for any viewers of a similar age.  The film has a slow pace and very little in the way of excitement.  Still, it is oddly entertaining.

…and that’s it for this edition of THE REEL VOICE.

 

“Silver Linings Playbook”

by Jef Cliber. 0 Comments

“Silver Linings Playbook”

This is just a great movie.  Without question, it is no wonder why it has been Oscar-worthy & why so many in Hollywood are talking about David O. Russell.  “Silver Linings Playbook” ranks pretty high on my scale of “quirky romantic comedies that aren’t really rom-coms”.  Too confusing a category?  Well, let me give you a comparison: “Elizabethtown”.  It has that serious side to the story, with all the sentiment and emotion, but it also possesses this quirky off-the-cuff humor that I love.  Truthfully, this is a brilliant bit of acting by just about EVERYBODY in the film.

Let me cut right to it: Bradley Cooper is exceptional in this film.  “Silver Linings” will make him a household name (which I kind of already thought he was, but apparently not in the UK).  It is hands-down his best role that I have ever seen (and to date, I think I have seen all but 4 of his films).  I really liked him in “Limitless” but hated him in “Valentine’s Day” (although that was really the character) – and don’t ask me about “the A-Team” (Yeesh!).  Cooper demolishes this movie from start to finish.  I mean he kills it!  By the way, that’s a total compliment.  Cooper has this raw reality that comes out in this performance that is stunning.  I wish he wasn’t up against Daniel Day-Lewis for the Oscar this year, because he otherwise has a solid shot at it.

Jennifer Lawrence is downright amazing too.  You forget sometimes how good she was in “the Hunger Games”, but then you see her in this and you have to say “she really is a very powerful actress”.  She has this control to what she does that seems effortless.  It’s like the girl was born to be dramatic.  And it’s a subtle kind of dramatic too, not over-the-top.  Great example of what I am talking about: Anne Hathaway in “Les Miserables” is over-the-top dramatic whereas Helena Bonham Carter in “The King’s Speech” was subtle dramatic.  It can be understated and still powerful, ladies.  However you slice it, Lawrence delivers a stellar performance as Tiffany here.  She has a Golden Globe & a SAG Award to prove just how awesome she is in this.

The supporting cast is equally brilliant, too!  It was like a breath of fresh air to see Chris Tucker and Julia Stiles again.  I just love Chris Tucker; he has to be one of my favorite comedic actors.  Seeing both of these actors in this film was like icing on the cake.  It was good before, but this just took it to a whole new level!  And Robert DeNiro tackled this quirky role and delivered yet another amazing job!  He was perfect for this part though, and in a way that’s hard to describe.  (See the movie first and then see if you agree with me on this one.)

David O. Russell wrote and directed “Silver Linings Playbook” and he scores a big thumbs-up from me on both of those jobs.  If you look at his resume as both writer and director, there’s a really bizarre collection going on there.  “Three Kings”, “I Heart Huckabees” (a film I absolutely loathe), and “The Fighter” are the big three that jump out at me when I see that list.  How bizarre is that?!?  After his success with “The Fighter”, clearly David O. Russell knows how to direct (even though he did not win, 2 of his actors did!).  I wish him continued success at this year’s Oscars, but I don’t know how he will fair going up against Spielberg and “Lincoln”.

There’s this bright vigor to this film that I can’t quite explain.  Russell has these talented actors and is really bringing their best out on screen, but it’s controlled with a soft touch.  There’s this scene where Cooper is having a meltdown outside of a movie theater…or nearly a meltdown.  The best part of this film is that it takes you sort of inside the character’s mindset and lets you see how they see.  It’s not crazy; it’s just different.  The near-meltdown scene is a prime example.  He starts to lose it, but then he comes back from that edge and the entire scene feels like it could be any one of us watching the film.  You find yourself nodding along and saying to yourself “I can totally see something like that happening”.  It’s not just that it feels believable – it feels like something you’ve already seen in your own life. 

The bottom-line is this: “Silver Linings Playbook” has some quirky humor to it as it tells an unflinchingly real story of two people who are struggling with life, but oddly find their salvation in each other.  It’s not your average feel-good romantic comedy.  In fact, I don’t particularly think it fits into that category.  Regardless, this one is well worth a watch.  If you can, make it out to the theater to check this one out.  It has fresh feel to the entire film that separates this one from the herd, and it deserves all of its Academy Award nominations.

…and that’s it for this edition of THE REEL VOICE

 

“Rock of Ages”

by Jef Cliber. 0 Comments

“Rock of Ages”

Well, musicals are musicals and – aside from the latest version of “Les Miserables” – they are usually the same.  There’s a love story at its heart.  There’s a conflict as a background that pulls the love story apart.  It’s usually a period piece.  There’s usually a stand –out comedic character or two that is highlighted.  “Rock of Ages” is EXACTLY this formula.  But hey, it’s the hair-metal and power ballads of the ‘80s that this one is set in – and it delivers on “nothin’ but a good time”.

The sex element of this tale is pushed a little further than is comfortable – for pretty much all audience members, regardless of age.  I know: sex sells.  But seriously?  I really don’t need so much of it thrown in my face, especially in a musical of all places!  I know a lot of kids today think they know a little something about the ‘80s and the music of that era.  (sigh)  I can assure you, young readers – it wasn’t all quite like that.  Sex was not THAT rampant.  (There were times in “Rock of Ages” that I thought somebody just wanted a musical ABOUT sex.) 

This is what I say about the musical.  Julianne Hough is pretty entertaining, both as singer and as actress.  Tom Cruise really went out on a limb with this role and I think he succeeded in a lot of ways.  His acting is getting better with age, undoubtedly.  Alec Baldwin is pretty awesome in it.  Russell Brand was entertaining.  Catherine Zeta-Jones was okay.  And the main actor in the lead role was fine – and by “fine” I mean his identity is irrelevant. 

It is a decent movie, fairly entertaining.  Nothing spectacular and nothing to jump up and down about and howl at the moon about.  What it did do, was plant a lot of ’80s tunes in my head.  I think there were a lot of great songs from my high school days.  Yep, I remember my jean-jacketed senior year and a lot of fashions that came & went in my high school.  I could name the cliques and the music they all listened to.  I often felt that a musical set in the 1980s in high school would be totally rad.  (Yep, I just went THERE.)  Come on!  Admit it: the 1980s music was MADE for a musical!  Everything from Phil Collin’s “Coming in the Air Tonight” to Twisted Sister’s “We’re not Gonna Take It” to The Cars “Heartbreak City” could be strung together and made into one epic ‘80s musical! 

That’s the sad part about “Rock of Ages” – it just wasn’t awesome enough.  No parachute pants?  What about the classic bandanas tied over your high-tops?  Where were the Mohawks?  And Quiet Riot “Cum on Feel the Noize” is only played over the credits?  COME ONE!  That was like my high school’s anthem the year it came out!  No Dire Straits either?  Sheeeesh.  Obviously, my take on the ‘80s differs vastly from the creators of “Rock of Ages”.  Regardless, it wasn’t like gag me with a spoon.  It just wasn’t totally tubular.  I mean, I can sum it up for you in one perfect sentence: for a ‘80s rock song extravaganza, there wasn’t one Van Halen song to be found therein.  ‘Nuff said.

…and that’s it for this edition of THE REEL VOICE.

 

The 2013 Academy Awards

by Jef Cliber. 0 Comments

The 2013 Academy Awards (aka. The Oscars)

This year I have decided to post a summary of the Oscars and my predictions for everyone who might want to throw an Oscar party.  What?  You never heard of such a thing?  Really???  I feel like I have been part of such such I was 10 years old!  Seriously though, everyone that loves movies should love the Oscars.  I know a lot of cynical people out there will fuss and say that award shows like the Oscars is excessive.  You know what: it’s Hollywood!  This is not some art noveau fest in the south of France.  This is not a rustic town in the Pacific north-west overrun with skiers and celebrities.  This is (in a word) GLAMOROUS.  Hollywood throws a party each year to honor the greatest achievement in film of that year, which I think it the grandest award show of all.  The Golden Globes are nice, but this is the crème de la crème.   I can tell you some fine memories of mine of the past years and who my favorite hosts have been, but alas there is NOT enough room here for that!   I even love trivia about the Oscars!  I am THAT kind of a fan!  (I just did a count, honey: Bob Hope was host 17 times!  Johnny Carson did it 5 times, while Billy Crystal did it 9 times (so far).) So, with all that said, I sincerely hope that all of you movie-lovers are gearing up for the most glamorous night in America while I provide you with a little insight of this cinema hound.  Maybe it will help you with your Oscar picks come the night of the party?  Here’s to the best of 2013!

BEST PICTURE

This award is always the last of the night, and this year we have some real heavy-weights.  The largest of these contenders are “Les Miserables” and “Lincoln” (both of which I have now reviewed).  “Argo” is here as well – that’s the Ben Affleck picture about a CIA scheme to fake a sci-fi film to rescue people out of the Middle East when some terrorist regime has taken over the country.  If you cannot tell, I don’t really care about “Argo”.  I’m sure it is a worthwhile film, and I hear that Affleck is pretty darned good as a Director, but if the Director wasn’t nominated then my feeling is that the film doesn’t stand a chance in this category.  Along those lines we also have “Zero Dark Thirty” – the Kathryn Bigelow directed tale of the decade-long man hunt for Osama Bin Laden.  Again, while it may be a great movie, Bigelow wasn’t nominated which means this one is DOA.  Now, “Les Mis” falls into this category as well since Tom Hooper was left out of the Director race.  However, it is a powerhouse of a film and Oscar likes the musicals.  “Life of Pi” found its way here and Ang Lee got a Director nomination.  Unfortunately, Oscar doesn’t like Ang very much (see here “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”).  Therefore, hedge your bets on “Lincoln”. 

BEST DIRECTOR

“Beasts of the Southern Wild” – the Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans flick – may be the favorite here.  The director is Benh Zeitlin.  As I said, Ang Lee is nominated for “Life of Pi” but Oscar has snubbed him before and I see no reason why it should not be the case once more.  “Silver Linings Playbook” director David O. Russell gets a nod here, but that will be all.  He may be respected and very much liked in the community but the Academy will look right by him this year for certain.  Why?  That would be because of Speilberg waiting in the wings with “Lincoln”.  This film is too big and Oscar looks so good in his hands!  Hands down – Spielberg wins.

BEST ACTOR

Have you ever seen a category filled with ALL previous Oscar winners?  That’s like Meryl Streep going up against herself in 5 different roles!  Well, believe it or not, that’s what we have this year.  Hoffman, De Niro, Waltz, Arkin, and Jones are all worthy of their nominations (proven by their previous wins if nothing else).  However, Philip Seymour Hoffman is here form a film that I am completely unfamiliar with:  “The Master”.  That hurts his chances right there.  Waltz may be good in “Django Unchained” but I am not sure that the Academy will lean towards the violence of the film in light of the current air of the country.  Guns are a very bad subject these days, and I think the Academy will vote down anything that celebrates/features them.  Arkin may sneak in here with “Argo” – I haven’t seen the film but come on!  Who doesn’t love Alan Arkin?  However, my bet is on Tommy Lee Jones from “Lincoln”.  Not only does he look the part incredibly well, but he was at his Tommy Lee Jones best in that film!

BEST ACTRESS

Anne Hathaway for her awesome portrayal of Fantine in “Les Miserables” is my pick here.  It’s a tough call though – because Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln in “Lincoln” was pretty phenomenal too.    Anne went through a great transformation to become the innocent-turned-prostitute in one of the most tragic roles an actress could ever play.  It’s heartbreaking.  Sally Field also underwent a transformation to play the outspoken-if-imbalanced First Lady.  Let’s not forget – as if we could – the Academy likes her! (They really, really like her!)  The rest of the nominations I cannot speak to, but I can say that it doesn’t matter.  These are the ONLY two choices here.  Their performances are too great to be overlooked, and with the number of nominations these two films have in other categories, it increases their odds of winning. 

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM

Yeesh!  “Brave” is up against “Wreck-It Ralph”, while “Para-Norman” is up against “Frankenweenie”.  Okay, so what does this mean?  Well, Tim Burton brings us “Frankenweenie” and he won for “The Nightmare Before Christmas” (justly so).  “Para-Norman” is brought to us by the same animators who brought us “Coraline” which won in 2010.  Meanwhile, “Brave” is by Pixar, which is owed by Disney, who produced “Wreck-It Ralph”.  I don’t have to explain how many Oscars are represented by these companies, do I?  I have no idea who will win this category!!!  All I can say is that if the Academy goes for artistic merit, then “Brave” will win. 

OTHER CATEGORIES

I cannot speak to all the nominees (yet) but I can say from my lengthy experience of watching the Oscars, here are my predictions of wins.  BEST MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING: “Les Miserables” goes up against “The Hobbit”.  It will be a close call but Lisa Westcott and Julie Dartnell will win for “Les Mis”.  What happened to “Lincoln” here?  BEST COSTUME DESIGN: “Les Misérables” designer Paco Delgado will edge out Joanna Johnston (“Lincoln”) for the win here.  BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: “Life of Pi” gets it here with Claudio Miranda – although it is up against the work of esteemed Janusz Kaminski (“Lincoln”).  Tough call, but I still say “Life of Pi”.  BEST FILM EDITING: Michael Kahn may take this one for “Lincoln”, just because I KNOW there were 6 other hours of film shot that now lies on the editing room floor!  BEST MUSIC (Original Score): I don’t know about this one so much, but I normally go with John Williams (“Lincoln”)…because he’s John Williams…and he normally wins. 

(Lastly) BEST MUSIC (Original Song)

Yikes!  This is a difficult choice.  Here’s what I know: Oscar goes to either a heavy favorite in this category or is something VERY eclectic.  From what I have heard, "Skyfall" (“Skyfall”) Music and Lyric by Adele Adkins and Paul Epworth has a lot of hype going for it.  I specifically heard one critic say that Adele has brought back the glory of the Bond theme song.  That’s big…because those Bond songs have won SEVERAL Oscars.  For the eclectic choice, there is "Everybody Needs a Best Friend" (“Ted”) by Walter Murphy and Seth MacFarlane.  If the Bond song doesn’t get it, this one easily could.  Then again, this year is different because of one other song: "Suddenly" (“Les Misérables”) by Claude-Michel Schönberg, Herbert Kretzmer, and Alain Boublil.  Those are the brilliant minds behind the musical of “ Les Mis ” in the first place!  So, I don’t know if I would count them out.  Do I think it is a ringer?  Nope, not even close.  I just don’t want to overlook it as a potential winner. 

So, that’s it for my picks for the major categories.  I hope you all enjoy some caviar and spray cheese on the couch, toast with Moet in a plastic flute, and keep the dog hair off your gowns.  Enjoy the Academy Awards however you can!  And I now have the “Oscar” song by Billy Crystal now stuck firmly in my head.  “Oscar, Oscar….”

..and that’s it for this edition of THE REEL VOICE