THE IMPOSSIBLE (2012)

NAOMI WATTS and TOM HOLLAND star in THE IMPOSSIBLE

ACADEMY AWARD NOMINATION:

  • Best Actress – Naomi Watts

Elizabeth

I was both really nervous and really excited about watching The Impossible. Excited because I wanted to see how they filmed a movie about something as huge and devastating as the 2004 tsunami, and nervous because it was such an awful, terrifying thing.

When the tsunami hit in real life, I was morbidly fascinated with it (as I tend to get about disasters of various kinds); I couldn’t stop reading about it or watching news stories about it for days. I eventually stopped after I was getting nightmares, but I had plenty of images in my mind about what it must have been like to see it happen, and the images in The Impossible were about a thousand times worse than anything I had imagined. What makes the whole thing scarier is that María Belón, the real woman that Naomi Watts played, was on set in Thailand during the filming and worked with the screenwriter to make sure everything was portrayed accurately. And with that, any hopes I had that The Impossible overdid it went out the window.

It’s almost hard to find what to say about The Impossible, because I really do think it’s incredible all-around. It was shot so amazingly, and not just because of the way they managed to capture the actual storm. The shots were big when they needed to be, like when Maria and her son, Lucas (Tom Holland) are being swept away by the waves while trying to cling to each other and it’s shot largely from above, to show how fast the water is moving and how high it is. But they were subtle when they needed to be, too, passing without much of a pause over shots of dead bodies piled on top of one another, to give a sense that this was a commonplace thing. The acting was also unbelievable; it takes really skilled actors to bring subtlety to a disaster movie like this. When Maria first emerges from the water after the first wave hits, she clings to a palm tree as the water crashes around her, and just continually screams. The water is so loud that it’s hard to even hear her, but the way she just screams seems so natural it’s almost painful to watch. There are a lot of incredible moments of acting from everyone (is Ewan McGregor one of the most underrated working actors? I think he is): as Maria and Lucas trudge through the mud after the waves have subsided, Lucas starts to notice the extent of his mother’s injuries: a huge flap of skin bleeding and hanging off the back of her thigh, blood coming from her side. When he sees her thigh, he says her name and she stops and turns toward him and he sees that a strap of her tank top has ripped off, not only exposing her breast but exposing her pretty serious wound. He looks away while she reties her shirt to cover herself, but the look on his face shows that he’s much less concerned about his mother’s nakedness and more about what all of her wounds mean for the two of them. Then there is when Henry (Ewan McGregor) is describing to other survivors where his family was when the storm hit, and another survivor, who lost is whole family, offers Henry his cell phone so he can call home. Henry calls his mother for the first time since the storm hit, and breaks down to the point where he can’t speak and just hangs up and sits and sobs. If the acting wasn’t so magnetic, it would be too devastating to watch.

While there’s still two movies to go in the Best Actress category for us to see, I really hope Naomi Watts gets this. I think it’s a real shame that nothing else about the film got recognition, especially the visual effects and performances by Ewan McGregor and Tom Holland, but Naomi Watts really was incredible.

Christopher

This film was an emotional disaster movie that you hope works out for its main characters. This film was definitely good but not really something I enjoy watching. It’s far too stressful. There were a few times where I think the main characters made stupid mistakes but I suppose when you’re in such a stressful situation it can be hard to think clearly.

I wonder if this family still goes on vacations?

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TRUE STORIES (1986)

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Christopher

This blog has been a great deal of fun and I have tried my best to express my feelings about all the films we have watched so far accurately, but no other film has been more important to do that to me than True Stories. This film is in many ways my perfect film. It’s goofy, it’s quiet, it has good music, and it has a young John Goodman. I’m nervous writing about this film because I can see how easily people would hate it. The problem is I know I’m way too judgmental about what other people think is good so I can see many people criticizing me for liking this. I would not really recommend this for anyone but I feel that if you are a Talking Heads fan, you think Texas-themed stories are interesting, or you have to see everything John Goodman is in like me it’s definitely worth checking out.

The film is directed by David Byrne and takes place in the fictional town of Virgil, TX. The very loose premise is that David Byrne is meeting the average Joes of this town all while the town is getting ready for a town parade and night concert. So really there isn’t much story at all. I think this would be a big problem for most but for some reason it works so well for me. It’s very similar to indie comics, how there so many talented artists that don’t understand how to construct a story. I think Byrne was the same way but the music, scenery, and Goodman’s GOD-given talent make up for it, at least for me. John Goodman’s character is a single guy looking for love, a big theme throughout the film, and in some ways Byrne’s guide to meeting some of the townsfolk. Throughout the film there are Talking Heads songs all off the album True Stories. This ranges from actual Talking Heads music videos to songs performed by the actors themselves. Unfortunately all the songs aren’t incredible but there are definitely enough great ones, especially “Wild Wild Life.”

My favorite section of this movie is when Byrne wanders around a mall with John Goodman observing the townspeople and eventually comes across a mall fashion show. In this scene the song “Dream Operator” is sung by Kay Culver (Annie McEnroe), the fashion show moderator, while this bizarre fashion show runs. I think that really why I love this film; it’s just weird. Another favorite part is a short 30-second scene which shows a couple proclaiming their love, which just ends in a fart joke. I really do love the Talking Heads but I am a huge John Goodman fan and even though this film was made before I was born I would love to have been on the set while it was filmed. If I ever get a time machine this would be one of my first stops.

SEE IT!!!!!!!!! Or don’t if you think you’ll hate it…

Elizabeth

I was a little nervous about watching True Stories for a few reasons: it’s one of Chris’ favorites, features made by bands can be pretty iffy, and I generally don’t like movies without a real plot, which is what Chris told me True Stories is like. And while there isn’t much of a traditional story arc or plot in True Stories, it certainly wasn’t on the level of this-is-about-nothing as, say, Tree of Life.

While I admittedly found parts of True Stories to be a little boring, it then had scenes like my favorite, in which much of the fictional town of Virgil, Texas goes to a lip-synching club where people take turns lip synching parts of songs, in the scene’s case, The Talking Heads’ “Wild Wild Life,” which is one of my favorites. It made me wish I could live in a small town in which all the residents knew the lyrics to Talking Heads’ songs.

A youngish John Goodman is also in True Stories, and I loved how genuine he is. John Goodman can play a lot of characters really well, but my favorite is when he plays sweethearts. And the fact that he describes himself on a dating video as maintaining “a consistent panda shape,” made me love him even more.

5 BROKEN CAMERAS (2012)

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ACADEMY AWARD NOMINATION:

  • Best Documentary Feature

Elizabeth

I had some problems following 5 Broken Cameras in the beginning, but that is probably more to do with my lack of knowledge on the subject than the documentary itself. I admittedly know little to nothing about the Palestinian/Israeli conflict, and I’m not proud of it. I’ve tried to learn and understand about it, but I think it just might be outside of my realm of understanding. So I’m not sure if the movie could have benefited from a little more backstory (because there is some backstory) or if that would have just bogged it down, considering the average viewer of a documentary like this probably has a basic understanding of what’s going on.

There were a lot of emotions involved in watching 5 Broken Cameras: sometimes it was pretty hopeful, a lot of times it was really sad, and it was always really tense. You never quite knew when a situation was going to be mild or serious. It was a different turn after watching Searching for Sugar Man, which was shot very beautifully and professionally and after the fact, while 5 Broken Cameras was not filmed with fancy cameras and was shot while it was happening. Definitely an interesting watch.

Also, maybe it was just Netflix, but using white as a subtitle color I think was a poor choice. So much of the film is in bright daylight that the subtitles could be hard to read. Yellow would have been a better choice, I think.

Christopher

I really liked it! I think what I enjoyed the most about this film was that it showed how normal all the natives/protesters were. Watching the news and seeing protesters like this, there is always a huge disconnect with the language. It was nice to see people fighting for their cause and being able to understand them through subtitles. It was even better once we became aquatinted with certain characters, my favorite being Adeeb.

I really don’t know what to say cause I don’t know too much about the politics but I think people really should watch this. I mean it’s on Netflix, just turn it on.

TED (2012)

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ACADEMY AWARD NOMINATION:

  • Best Song

Christopher

I really didn’t like watching this movie. Everyone should avoid.

Elizabeth

Poor Chris. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him so unhappy watching a movie before. But we both trudged through this one, and it wasn’t easy.

Ted is up for Best Song, and I’m not sure where the song was (in the beginning? I think?) but sitting through this just because of the song’s Oscar nomination made me question our quest to see every nominated movie. Because Ted is not a good movie.

Seth MacFarlane takes a similar approach to Ted as he does to Family Guy: if you pack in as many jokes as you can, surely some of them will land occasionally. And yes, there are some funny parts. I chuckled a few times. But those times were vastly outnumbered by feelings of discomfort, offense, and boredom. Ted is the first non-Tyler Perry movie I’ve seen in a long time that has so many homophobic, racist, and sexist jokes that are played for actual humor rather than horror. Examples: A.) John (Mark Wahlberg), while hugging Ted (voiced by Seth MacFarlane) accidentally presses a button that makes a recorded “I love you” come from Ted. They both back away, continually explaining to each other that they’re not gay. B.) When describing his new Chinese neighbors, Ted says “They don’t have a gong or nothin’, so it’s not that bad.” C.) After one of the breakups between John and Lori (Mila Kunis), Ted explains to John that she’ll be okay after she watches Bridget Jones’ Diary.

The only decent thing in Ted were the pretty seamless visual effects, to the point where I’m almost surprised it didn’t get an Oscar nomination for that. I never thought the character of Ted looked fake and his interactions with the human actors were kind of amazing. Now if only it had been funny and not awful!

Also, I think it’s worth noting that during the night after we watched Ted, I woke up with a horribly painful ear infection. Was it because of fluid in my ears from two recent colds? Or was it Seth MacFarlane’s Peter Griffin-esque voice as Ted clawing against my eardrums that caused this intense pain? You be the judge.

SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN (2012)

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ACADEMY AWARD NOMINATION:

  • Best Documentary Feature

Elizabeth (spoilers!)

Searching for Sugar Man has pretty much everything I want in a documentary: it’s on a subject I knew nothing about, it’s shot incredibly beautifully, it’s the perfect length, it’s interesting, it’s surprising, and it has really good music.

The story of Searching for Sugar Man is pretty incredible: a presumed-dead folk artist from the 70s gains massive success in South Africa, while being a musical failure in the United States. No one in the United States, including the musician (Rodriguez), knows about the hundreds of thousands of copies his albums sold in South Africa and neither he or his family ever received any royalties. The documentary is about two super fans who set out to find out how Rodriguez died, only to discover not only is he not dead, but in perfectly good health and living in Detroit.

Rodriguez’s discovery of his fame in South Africa (several people say he’s bigger than Elvis and The Rolling Stones there) is like someone discovering they’re the heir to the throne of a small, unheard of country. It’s pretty amazing, and if it were a fictional feature, it would be almost too far-fetched. But as a documentary, it’s incredible.

Christopher

I had no idea what this documentary was about before we watched it but it truly is a great movie. I had never heard of the musician, Rodriguez, before but I really wish I had a lot sooner. He is definitely someone my high school self would have been obsessed with. I’ll have to look for his albums at End of an Ear next time I’m there.

The first thing I thought about this movie was how well it is shot. The filmmakers make Detroit look absolutely beautiful. The mix of snow shots in Detroit and sunny landscapes in Cape Town, South Africa played well together. The film also has a few animated sections which I enjoyed and didn’t expect. I think thats really what I liked most about this documentary, it has a lot of elements that work together. If I had stayed with making movies this is the kind of thing I would have wanted to do.

I really hope Sixto Rodriguez is at the Oscars cause I want to see him sitting with the stars in those cool sunglasses.

THE AVENGERS (2012)

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ACADEMY AWARD NOMINATION:

  • Best Visual Effects

Christopher

This is my second time watching The Avengers and it is still as badass as it was when I saw the midnight screening of it. We watched this because of its nomination from The Academy Awards for Best Visual Effects and I think this movie definitely deserves the nomination and maybe the win.

The movie as a whole is great but it’s really all about the crazy New York fight at the end. And really even then it’s all about The Hulk’s moments in that. Growing up loving The Hulk it is nice to finally see the best film adaptation of The Hulk the world has ever seen. Of course The Hulk was fully animated as well as the alien invasion and if you watch that scene and not shout a few times with fear or joy, something is wrong.

I am very happy Elizabeth liked this because maybe we should just watch it tomorrow again!

Elizabeth

I haven’t seen a single movie that any of the characters in The Avengers are from, so I really had no idea what to expect. Chris gave me a rundown of all the characters and their powers beforehand; I was particularly excited to find out that Mark Ruffalo played The Hulk, which I had no idea about.  I was less excited to find out that Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) didn’t actually have superpowers but was just a sexy lady assassin. I was pleasantly surprised to see that she wasn’t just a sexy lady assassin, and though I guess she and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) had some kind of thing in the past and she wanted to save him, she had other, less man-centered motivations, too (saving the world).

The Hulk was what surprised me the most. I haven’t seen any of The Hulk movies, or seen any TV shows, or read any comics, so I know little to nothing about The Hulk as a character. But I do know what he’s supposed to look like, and I know what Mark Ruffalo looks like, and I wasn’t really expecting The Hulk to look like anything other than a cartoon character. But I was really surprised at how good The Hulk looked, from its movements  and the way it interacted with the human characters, to the way it actually did sort of look like a giant, green, blown-up Mark Ruffalo (not a spitting image, but better than I was expecting). I also thought The Hulk was the most interesting; maybe it’s because his story is, comparatively, the simplest out of all the characters and because I didn’t know anything about anyone, I liked his the best. Or maybe it’s because I love Mark Ruffalo. But I mostly think it’s because The Hulk seems like such a tragic character, cursed rather than blessed with his powers. I also thought it was cute the way the other characters treated him; they respect Bruce Banner and then when he turns into The Hulk, they’re almost nurturing toward him. Even when he punches Thor just for standing near him.

I generally don’t really give much thought to superhero movies, but this one was much better than I was expecting.

SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK (2012)

SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK

ACADEMY AWARD NOMINATIONS:

  • Best Picture
  • Best Actor – Bradley Cooper
  • Best Actress – Jennifer Lawrence
  • Best Supporting Actor – Robert De Niro
  • Best Supporting Actress – Jacki Weaver
  • Best Director – David O. Russell
  • Best Film Editing
  • Best Adapted Screenplay – David O. Russell

Elizabeth (spoilers!)

There are ideas that seem to get perpetuated in certain media that A.) The only people who understand someone with a mental illness are other people with mental illness and B.) This is regardless of what those illnesses are. Silver Linings Playbook is essentially based on these ideas being true, which from my own experience, never seems to actually be true.

We are told by his therapist that Pat (Bradley Cooper) is “undiagnosed bipolar.” He was in a mental facility and is being medicated, so I’m not sure why he’s “undiagnosed bipolar” instead of just “bipolar.” We know that Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) is also medicated, but we aren’t explicitly told why. We know she’s medicated because Pat and Tiffany have an eyeroll-inducing conversation discussing various medications they’ve both been on, which they bond over, while Tiffany’s sister Veronica (Julia Stiles) and her husband Ronnie (John Ortiz) look on silently. Because Pat and Tiffany are crazy! And Veronica and Ronnie aren’t! Clearly the only people Pat and Tiffany can have a decent conversation with are each other.

Pat’s mother, Dolores (Jacki Weaver), checks Pat out of the mental hospital after he’s completed a court-ordered 8 months, but she does this against the doctors’ wishes. She also does this without telling her husband and Pat’s father, Pat Sr. (Robert De Niro), and despite the fact that Pat is seemingly delusional and definitely volatile. It’s not clear why she does this, except for the fact that she’s his mother and doesn’t want him far away in a mental hospital. But because she seems to genuinely be concerned about his progress and also sort of scared of him, why would she take him out against doctors’ orders?

I guess one of the main points of Silver Linings Playbook is the well-worn trope that “everyone’s a little crazy.” Though Pat and Tiffany are the only ones medicated, Pat Sr. has supposed OCD tendencies (although he’s mostly just superstitious), Dolores is a pushover, Veronica is a control-freak, Ronnie has unexpressed anger and frustration. But Pat and Tiffany seemingly tell it like it is (“I don’t have a filter when I talk,” says Pat) so we’re supposed to think they’re somehow more evolved instead of just childish and annoying.

Things only seem to look up once Pat finally starts taking his medication and able to control himself more. That’s one thing Silver Linings Playbook seemed to do well; show how hard it can be to get certain people to take their medication and then what an amazing difference it can make. But while Pat seems to be improving, Tiffany continues to lie and be manipulative until the end of the movie, so I’m not sure how we’re supposed to take that.

And despite trying desperately to be unconventional for the whole movie, it still ends in a sappy, conventional way. Pat writes Tiffany a letter declaring his love (love!) for her, despite figuring out all her lies. In fact, Pat has loved Tiffany from the moment he met her! It just bothered me that this is clearly incredibly irrational (two relatively unbalanced people, after lying to each other for a long time, declare their love for each other before they even kiss), the scene is set up to be romantic and not at all irrational. Not to mention that though we never get the characters’ ages, Bradley Cooper is 18 years older than Jennifer Lawrence, and looks like it. Whatever!

None of the acting was bad, per se, (although I would love an explanation for why Chris Tucker’s character existed), but they certainly weren’t anything special. Yelling a lot, speaking fast, and acting unbalanced does not a good performance make, necessarily. Neither Cooper or Lawrence captured the subtlety of mental illness, only the obnoxious, easy-to-see parts. Robert De Niro was fine, and he cried, so I guess that’s enough for an Oscar nomination. The biggest concern I have, in terms of Oscar nominations, is Jacki Weaver getting nominated for Best Supporting Actress. Dolores is mostly in the background looking concerned. Most of her lines seem to be about what snacks she’s making to have during football games. I don’t get it.

Christopher

Cloud 9 Shit List

This was not a horrible movie. Though I thought it was one of the worst I have seen this entire year, it certainly makes no effort to stray away from the conventional movie criteria.  We have our protagonist, he has his problems, a woman shows him the right path, and all ends well. The overly formulaic feel of Silver Linings Playbook is definitely what made this movie difficult to watch.

Chris Tucker’s character served no purpose, why would a psychiatrist hang out with his patient, and having to listen to Eagles fans talking abut the Eagles, were a few of the moments from this film that made me dislike it. I did go into watching this thinking I wasn’t going to like it but from the beginning it was hard keep engaged. I know David O. Russell must love Philadelphia but he certainly doesn’t make it seem like a nice place to live or even visit. I hope he is able to break away from these suburban middle class problem story lines and does something a little more enjoyable like I Heart Huckabees.

The worst part of the movie to me was the scene where Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) informs Patrick’s Dad (Robert De Niro) that she IS in fact not a bad luck charm for the Philadelphia sports teams but exactly the opposite. We find out that this young sweet girl, 22, is not truly bad for this bipolar man, 38, because every time they meet up great things have happened for Philadelphia sports. This is fantastic that this is true because Patrick’s family is bewildered to hear this, including Patrick. Apparently one of the nights she and Patrick went on a date the Phillies even won the World Series!!!! If this is true, then why wouldn’t a room full of hardcore Philadelphia fans, INCLUDING Patrick know this already? Did no one actually watch a game? Did they just wear jerseys and memorabilia all day long for the fun of it? They kept on saying that Patrick was an Eagles fan but he definitely didn’t show traits that this was true. He never once in the movie watched a game. But I guess stuff like this doesn’t really matter as long as the story gets resolved right?