If you want the gravy…

…You've got to get the biscuits!


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KNIGHT OF CUPS Trailer

Taking a quick break from the deluge of awards news to bring you what will probably be one of my top films of next year.

Malick will always have a weakness for pretty people taking long slow walks in fields or beaches or wherever, but it looks like he’s adding a nice little dose of crazy to the mix this time. Bring it on, Terrence.

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BIRDMAN, or THE UNEXPECTED VIRTUE OF IGNORANCE Review – ****

"You're scared to death, like the rest of us, that you don't matter! And you know what? You're right. You don't." ()

“You’re scared to death, like the rest of us, that you don’t matter! And you know what? You’re right. You don’t.” (Source)

To what degree can a few seconds impact an entire film? In his review of Thelma and Louise, Roger Ebert argues that the climactic shot ends a few seconds too soon, and as such robs the film as a whole of just enough power that it doesn’t get **** from him. And in the case of Birdman, there are a few moments, which add up to less than a minute of the film’s two hours, which haunt me enough that I cannot rank it higher (as of this writing, I put it at #8 for the year). (Addendum: after further meditation, I’ve decided that these elements are not quite as damaging as I first surmised, so I’m bumping my score up a point, and the film up to #6.)

But at the same time, so much of the film is so good–so well directed and so richly acted–that even considering those troubling moments, I cannot rank it less than ****. One could fairly dispute whether it says anything truly new about the nature of acting and about role-playing in general, but it whatever it says, it says it in a tremendously entertaining fashion.

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Oscar Wrap-Up

The moment of triumph.

Well, let’s look and see what went down, shall we?

Best Picture – 12 Years a Slave

Absolutely spot-on. The best of the nominees, basically the best film of the year, an important milestone in Academy history…there was some speculation that Gravity might take this at the last minute, and reports of Academy members who found the film too painful to watch gave cause for concern, but really…doesn’t this feel like the best choice? It does to me. It did to them. Plus, I got to see Steve McQueen literally jump with joy. Perfection.

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Some last-minute Oscar thoughts:

You can get this one right, Academy. Don’t be foolish, now.

Best Picture:

  • American Hustle: Not a bad movie–a pretty good one, to be honest–but it’s “edgy” and “wacky” only by the most white-bread metrics. This winning might be worse than Argo winning, and that was a ridiculous choice.
  • Captain Phillips: A fine thriller. Would’ve actually been a decent contender had they given Greengrass the nomination. But I’m glad it got in.
  • Dallas Buyers Club: Easily the weak link in this category for me. I wasn’t in love with Inside Llewyn Davis, but it should’ve gotten this slot instead.
  • Gravity: I still say it’s basically a theme-park ride classed up a little, but I won’t deny how well-made it was. So I can let it slide.
  • Her: There was actually some concern this wouldn’t make it on. But thankfully, this was one of those years where the best films were so obvious even the Academy couldn’t fuck it up too badly. So they gave this lovely film some attention. Already, with two **** films in the lineup, this year is as good as 2011 and 2012 put together.
  • Nebraska: And baby makes three. After a rough start, it becomes a funny, deeply touching allegory for the death of the small-town Midwest, and a fine showcase for Bruce Dern.
  • Philomena: What seemed on the outside to be a trifle meant to showcase a cutesy Judi Dench performance instead was an effective true story of a woman trying to right a long-buried wrong. It should never win, but I’m cool with it being here.
  • 12 Years a Slave: This is the film that should win. Why? Because it’s the best.
  • The Wolf of Wall Street: Another film that some people thought wouldn’t make it, because it was “too much” for the older members of the Academy (or, really, anyone who liked American Hustle). Thank God it did, though, because it’s vintage Scorsese–and, if you ask me, much better than Hugo. I just wish it had a little more of a chance to win.

5 **** films in one lineup. That’s pretty damn good. And really, as long as American Hustle doesn’t win (or Dallas Buyers Club, but that’s incredibly unlikely), I could live with any outcome. But they really should take 12 Years.

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Longlists to Nominees: Cinematography

It’s time to look at some pretty pictures.

  • All is Lost
  • Computer Chess
  • 47 Ronin
  • The Great Beauty
  • Her
  • Inside Llewyn Davis
  • Prisoners
  • The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
  • Spring Breakers
  • To the Wonder
  • A Touch of Sin
  • 12 Years a Slave
  • Upstream Color

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