FROZEN (2013)

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ACADEMY AWARD NOMINATIONS:

  • Best Animated Feature Film (Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee, and Peter Del Vecho)
  • Best Song (“Let It Go” – Music and Lyric by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez)

Christopher

Frozen was okay, I think the best part about it was the climax. It was probably just the mood I was in but I couldn’t stop making fun of it, especially the music, to Elizabeth. I would definitely recommend this to children but the film up for best animation that I’m most excited to watch is Ernest & Celestine. The snowman was not as annoying as I thought he was going to be which was nice. I think there was just too much of the story that was vague; it was difficult for me to become invested.

Elizabeth (spoilers!)

I hate to say it, but it’s hard to go from watching something like The Wolf of Wall Street or Her and then watch Frozen and not be too critical of it. I know I’m not the target audience, either, so I tried not to be super critical.

So, that being said, while Frozen did suffer from plot holes and songs that didn’t always do anything to help advance the plot, it definitely does have positive things going for it, especially at the end. Toward the beginning of the movie, Princess Anna (Kristen Bell), meets a prince for the first time, Prince Hans (Santino Fontana), and in the span of one day they meet, fall in love, and get engaged, much to the dismay of Anna’s sister, Queen Elsa (Idina Menzel). Then, toward the end of the movie, we find out that Hans is evil. This was annoying to me because we’re given no indication that Hans would be a bad guy before this, so this reveal just seems to conveniently be there for the plot. But at the same time, I like how against the norm that is for most Disney princesses and princes. The message being: maybe don’t get engaged to the first guy you meet? Considering that is the message that a lot of other Disney movies seem to give, this is a nice change.

But the biggest thing that Frozen has going for it is how it treats its ending. Anna ends up with ice in her heart (I’m not going to bother with much plot explanation), which a rock troll (again, the plot is too much) tells her can only be cured with an act of true love, which Anna interprets as a kiss from her true love. When Anna realizes Hans is evil, she then realizes her true love wasn’t Hans, but Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), a man she met along the way. At the film’s climax, Anna and Kristoff are struggling to make it to each other in time for Kristoff to kiss Anna and save her life before she turns to ice. Meanwhile, Elsa and Hans face off, with Hans wanting to kill Elsa. Just as Anna finally sees Kristoff, she also sees Hans raise his sword to a kneeling Elsa (sort of looked like he was going to decapitate her?), so she runs to them and puts herself in front of Hans, just as she turns completely frozen, preventing Hans from killing Elsa. Everyone is immediately distraught that Anna turned to ice, until she slowly starts to melt again. So it wasn’t the same Disney trope of “a true love’s kiss” that saved Anna, but it was Anna’s love for her sister that saved her. So not only did Anna not need a man to save her, she really didn’t need anyone; it wasn’t Elsa’s love for Anna that saved her, but Anna’s love for Elsa. I have to say, the previous 80+ minutes of boredom and eye-rolling I had felt leading up to that was almost immediately replaced with relief to see a Disney princess save the day, all on her own, without needing a man.

So, yeah, Frozen isn’t exactly made for the same audience as The Wolf of Wall Street. But you really have to give the filmmakers credit for the messages the movie gives. Considering the main message behind Beauty and the Beast is basically “Stick around that abusive man long enough and he’ll turn into a prince!,” the message of “You don’t need a man, or anyone else for that matter, to save the day,” is much appreciated and much needed.

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HER (2013)

HER

ACADEMY AWARD NOMINATIONS:

  • Best Picture (Megan Ellison, Spike Jonze, and Vincent Landay – Producers)
  • Best Original Score (William Butler and Owen Pallett)
  • Best Original Song (“The Moon Song” – Music by Karen O, Lyrics by Karen O and Spike Jonze)
  • Best Production Design (Production Design: K.K. Barrett; Set Decoration: Gene Serdena)
  • Best Original Screenplay (Spike Jonze)

Elizabeth

Her was great and not what I thought it would be, but in the best way. I think one of the best choices the Spike Jonze made for Her was having it set in a not-too-distant future, or possibly some kind of alternate current time period. Before seeing it, I thought the plot was more about a guy falling in love with Siri, which, considering Siri does little to nothing for me, I wasn’t sure how that was going to pan out. In reality, Her is about Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) falling in love with an operating system that is unlike any operating systems we know of right now. Samantha (the voice of Scarlett Johansson) is an OS that converses and evolves; she develops feelings and reactions while still maintaining features of a computer (like reading books in milliseconds). Why I think making Samantha not Siri, or really unlike anything we know of now, was such a good choice on Jonze’s part, is because it shifts the conflict.

If Her was set in the present time, in our present universe, and Samantha was Siri-like, the conflict would be similar to that of Lars and the Real Girl; how do we get this crazy guy to realize he’s in a fake relationship? But in the universe of Her, these OSes are common, therefore relationships (both friendly and romantic) with them are common. In a great scene, Theodore is introduced to his co-worker Paul (Chris Pratt)’s girlfriend, and they invite Theodore and Samantha on a double date. Theodore tells Paul that Samantha is an OS, and without skipping a beat, Paul says “Cool,” and continues to plan the date. It’s really like if Chris and I asked a friend and the friend’s new girlfriend out and he told us his girlfriend was in a wheelchair, or blind or something. It’s like Paul understands why Theodore is mentioning it, but it’s a non-issue. So, with that, the conflict really becomes about how can Theodore make this relationship work, rather than how can Theodore snap out of it.

Considering most of the movie is Theodore talking to just a voice, Her can be pretty intense and emotional. Joaquin Phoenix is really kind of amazing in it; you really feel how confused and in love he is. And I have to say, I generally don’t notice set design or costumes that much, but I loved all of that in Her. The environment created for the Her universe is just so great: plain, clean, solid colors. It feels very real but futuristic at the same time.

At the end of Her, I was very happy that the person I’m in love with has a body and is human. But now I have the stomach flu and the thought of being without a body sounds awesome. Regardless, Her is probably not as weird as you think, and it’s real good.

Christopher

This movie is pretty intense. I think this movie made it so easy to relate to. I especially relate to Joaquin Phoenix’s character in the way that when he’s angry or upset he just does’t say anything or says it’s okay. This movie really did its job. I was expecting it to be kind of boring and embarrassing but it was so real. And I love that he doesn’t hide the relationship ’cause it’s just a thing that is happening in this world. It’s really beautiful in great ways and in really sad ways. If you have not seen it I would really recommend it, I think it’s in my top five I’ve seen this year (Spring Breakers and A Madea Christmas being at least two others).

THE WOLF WALL STREET (2013)

THE WOLF OF WALL STREET

ACADEMY AWARD NOMINATIONS:

  • Best Picture (Martin Scorsese, Leonardo DiCaprio, Joey McFarland and Emma Tillinger Koskoff – Producers)
  • Best Actor (Leonardo DiCaprio)
  • Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Jonah Hill)
  • Best Director (Martin Scorsese)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay (Terence Winter)

Christopher

I was really glad we got to see this and it was even better than I was expecting. It’s interesting to watch movies with Leonardo DiCaprio now because I think before I met Elizabeth I really thought nothing of him. I remember not being too into him in Titanic and I thought everyone was overreacting to his looks, but ever since he’s been in stuff as an older guy I’ve really enjoyed him, or at least I’ve never hated him. He’s pretty cool, he can be relatable in his acting. But now I look at him as this actor that has obviously touched peoples lives in his acting. I just think that’s interesting. See this movie, but if you’re scared to watch someone shoot coke and take coke out of a woman’s ass with someone, don’t see it with them.

Elizabeth

God, I fucking love Leonardo DiCaprio. And it’s safe to say my love for him is getting close to being 20 years old. And was I one of the ones that wrote an angry letter to the Academy when he didn’t get nominated for Titanic? Maybe (meaning yes). So, of course The Wolf of Wall Street is great.

But really, I did truly enjoy The Wolf of Wall Street. It’s a little long, but Leo totally carries the whole thing. His performance has him do everything: he’s bad, he’s good, he’s creepy, he’s cute, he cries, he laughs, he yells, he’s funny, he’s mean . . . it’s like everything Leo’s ever done in a role, all in one movie. IT’S GREAT.

I know the movie has been criticized for glorifying Jordan Belfort and his life, but now that I’ve seen it I sort of think anyone who thinks that maybe didn’t watch the whole movie? By the end, Belfort is so obviously pathetic and unlikeable. Because the story doesn’t end at the height of Belfort’s wealth and power, I don’t see how anyone can watch this movie and come away thinking he was cool or had a great life. But that’s why Leo is so good here; if he played Belfort has a horrible, totally unlikeable person from minute 1, no one would want to keep watching. But he’s charming, he’s cute, and he sucks you in.

I was also really pleasantly surprised with how good Jonah Hill was here. With Moneyball, he proved he could act in more things than Apatow-esque comedies. But with The Wolf of Wall Street, he really proves that he can just straight up act. And he and Leo have such great chemistry that you wholly believe that of course these two terrible men are also best friends. It’s really interesting. 

I was really happy at how funny The Wolf of Wall Street is, because Leo in particular is so funny in it. And he’s always been funny, he just so rarely gets to show it. But his knack for physical comedy here, with an underlying sense of badness, is so engaging. He manages to make you feel sorry for Belfort one second, and in the next you can’t stand him. It’s really sort of amazing.

Yeah, there’s a lot of drugs, nudity, and cursing. But it’s a fucking Martin Scorsese movie! Anyone who sees this and is offended by all of that had no business seeing a Scorsese movie in the first place. A good test: if you can’t handle the drugs, nudity, or language of Goodfellas, don’t even walk near a screening of The Wolf of Wall Street. And if you do, don’t complain about it.

As someone who thinks Leonardo DiCaprio should have already won about 10 Oscars, I’m biased when I say I really want him to win the Oscar for The Wolf of Wall Street. But God, this movie was good, and he should win. 

I’M NOT THERE (2007)

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Elizabeth

I purposefully waited a long time to see I’m Not There because of Heath Ledger. When he died, there were just a handful of his movies I hadn’t seen already, including I’m Not There, and I’ve mostly kept it that way so that there are always movies of his that are new to me. This is flawed logic, and eventually it’ll end, but his death hit me hard and this was a way of dealing with it.

But whoa, am I glad that I waited to see I’m Not There until after No Direction Home. Before the documentary, I really knew next to nothing about Bob Dylan’s career as a whole. I think it would be difficult to get through I’m Not There without knowing anything about Bob Dylan. I’m Not There is going to be fractured and experimental no matter how much you know about Bob Dylan, but having some kind of background definitely gives it a bigger impact.

I’m Not There is really unlike any other movie I’ve seen; it follows interpretations of different stages of Bob Dylan’s life and career, all with different actors playing different characters that aren’t Bob Dylan but are representations of him. The most striking was Cate Blanchett as Jude Quinn, whose story takes the most from No Direction Home. When I first heard Cate Blanchett was going to play Bob Dylan, I thought it was insane. BUT HOLY SHIT. The fact that Bob Dylan, at that time, looked soooo young and sounded so young, paired with the fact that Cate Blanchett is not super curvy and has a fairly strong chin actually made her portrayal make so much sense. Give Blanchett the right hair and costumes and she does all the rest; after watching No Direction Home so recently, it was eery how similar she was to the real Bob Dylan of that time.

Of course, Heath Ledger’s section (as actor Robbie Clark) also particularly struck me. Not because of his character’s connections to Bob Dylan, but just because the story and performances were so good. Charlotte Gainsbourg plays Clark’s eventual ex-wife and their breakup scene nearly made me cry (it really would have if it had gone on maybe 30 seconds longer). God, it chokes me up just thinking about it. It’s intense.

Really, all of I’m Not There is intense. I honestly don’t know much someone would like this if they don’t like or have no knowledge of Bob Dylan. But I still think it’s worth it, if for no other reason to see so many good actors be so good.

Christopher

As I’m writing this I’m listening to The Basement Tapes, a recording done by Bob Dylan and The Band in 1967. Ever since Elizabeth said that she would be down to sit through a few minutes of No Direction Home, I’ve been into this super Bob Dylan mindset. It’s been a few years since I’ve really listened to his stuff, like I did in high school or college, and I kind of forgot how amazing he is and the kinds of emotions I get from listening to his songs. I was thinking about this last night. In many ways now I would say Joanna Newsom would be the number one person I would ever want to see, but I feel like most of that is because I know I will see it (If she ever performs in Texas I will be there) but I’ll never be able to really see Bob Dylan at his prime when I would have liked to see him. I went to see him once with a friend of mine from high school, Todd, but he didn’t really do much and it was kind of more of a concet or his band. But anyway, if I could somehow go back in time when Bob Dylan was first performing his own material in New York or be a the concert where he first played his electric stuff. I think I would just burst into tears, it would be insane. I would imagine I would be in a state that I propably wouldn’t evn be able to enjoy it. I went to see Brian Regan live when I was in high school and I was scared that he would make me laugh so hard that that’s all I would have been doing the whole time and they would have had to kick me out of the place; luckily I was able to contain myself. In regards to this film. I can’t love it enough. It’s essentially an essay on Bob Dylan. Some of it is goofy, I’ve never been a big fan of the covers, but if I ever made a movie I think it would be pretty weird in the same ways. I saw this film twice in theaters. I think the first time was with my mom and the second time a really good friend of mine, Justin, and I went to see some other movie and when we were leaving we noticed that the theater I’m Not There was playing was about to end so we just snuck in, watched the very end of the movie, and then stayed and watched it all the way through. ‘Cause it’s that good! But if you know nothing about Bob Dylan I don’t think I would recommend this to you. I really wanted to watch it with Elizabeth, becuase I love it and I know she loved Heath Ledger, but I knew we needed to watch No Direction Home beforehand. It just makes everything make so much sense in such a fantastic way because everything in I’m Not There is there for a reason and it has so much history and stories behind it. This film is so well researched and molds together in a way that just makes it flow seamlessly. I love Bob Dylan. I contribute much of my personality and my interests in general to him. I feel like before I found his music I didn’t really like listening to music in general. When I think back it was all the generic stuff people my age liked back then. I was kind of into Bob Marley for a while but once I started listening to Dylan he was immedialty my favorite. We really need to watch all of Todd Haynes’ movies.

THE LONE RANGER (2013)

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ACADEMY AWARD NOMINATIONS:

  • Best Makeup and Hairstyling
  • Best Visual Effects

BONUS! RAZZIE AWARD NOMINATIONS:

  • Worst Picture
  • Worst Actor (Johnny Depp)
  • Worst Prequel, Remake, Rip-Off, or Sequel
  • Worst Director (Gore Verbinski)
  • Worst Screenplay (Justin Haythe, Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio)

Christopher

I thought when we sat down to watch this, that it was going to be a boring friendly family film. After watching this over two hour film, it was everything but that. This movie is insane and at times scary. But the worst to me was the casting of William Fichtner, whom I really dislike, always.

The main bad guy, played by William Fichtner, eats people. Johnny Depp repeatedly talks about other people as “The White Man,” and tons of people are murdered. If I saw this a kid I would have lost my mind. It would have instantly been banned from our house. So part of the movie is pretty horrifying, and some intense shit goes down, but on the other side, it’s just kind of boring. I love westerns and this movie never feels like it to me. Some of the shots look nice and I wish I could hang out there, but it just felt uncomfortable to me.

If this movie was an hour shorter I would recommend it cause it’s so weird and insane but it’s pretty hard to get through.

Elizabeth

When it comes to Oscar nominated movies that I did not want to see, The Lone Ranger was right at the top of the list. The Razzie nominations are much more telling than the Oscar nominations.

First of all, The Lone Ranger is 149 minutes long. That’s just at around 2 and a half hours long. Why does The Lone Ranger need to be 2 and a half hours long? TRICK QUESTION IT DOESN’T AT ALL. Second of all, my first taste of The Lone Ranger was when Desiree and Juan Pablo saw a private screening of it for a date on The Bachelorette. While they did the same on an earlier season of The Bachelorette for Brave, this did not make The Lone Ranger seem like a viable good movie prospect. Third of all, even while watching the actual movie, I could not believe I was really seeing Johnny Depp play Tonto. Could the filmmakers have made a more obvious plea for the box office by casting Johnny Depp as an iconic-to-American-pop-culture Native American figure? I doubt it.

The thing is, everything about Tonto in The Lone Ranger could be historically accurate, for all I know. Maybe Native Americans did have dead crows on their heads that they compulsively feed? Maybe Native Americans did speak English as if they were Tarzan? Even if alllllll of that was 100% true, it would still seem super racist because it’s FUCKING JOHNNY DEPP. As if there are no working Native American actors that could play that character. It’s sort of disgusting. When I was in college I wrote a long paper and gave a presentation on the evolution of the story of The Last of the Mohicans, focusing, naturally, on the 1992 film version. When I took questions at the end of my presentation, a girl I hated asked me how I felt about them casting a white man (Daniel Day-Lewis) to play a famous Native American character. I told her I had no feelings on that, because Daniel Day-Lewis does not play a Native American character, he plays a white man adopted by Native Americans. I hope The Lone Ranger made her head explode.

All of that aside, the plot is still stupid and unnecessarily gruesome. Even though it’s PG-13, I couldn’t believe this was a Disney movie. The man bad guy is a fucking cannibal for God’s sakes! And there are so many choices that contributed to this movie being unnecessarily long, like the framing of the story being that Tonto is telling the story as an old man to a child in a circus. What?

Yeah, the effects and makeup and stuff were good. So I’m glad someone was able to succeed at something in this movie. But really . . . this is not worth it.

UPCOMING SUPER SPECIAL ACADEMY AWARD POSTS – 2014 EDITION!

Last year we attempted to watch all of the Oscar nominated movies for 2013. We got really far, but didn’t quite make it – the only ones we missed were single-nomination movies, mostly for smaller categories.

Well, we’re doing it again! The 2014 Academy Awards are on March 2, a little over a month away. We’ve already seen a few nominated movies, but so many more are coming.

Again, GODSPEED (to us)!

ARLINGTON ROAD (1999)

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Elizabeth (spoilers!)

Arlington Road was not what I thought it was going to be, and unfortunately I don’t mean that in a good way. I used to get this movie confused with Lost Highway for some reason (which I’ve also never seen), and since I know that movie is really crazy and weird, I guess I thought this movie was, too. And it’s a little crazy, but not weird, and sort of boring.

I think I had a similar problem with Arlington Road as I did with The Game. For pretty much all of the movie, Michael (Jeff Bridges) suspects his neighbors Oliver (Tim Robbins) and Cheryl (Joan Cusack) are domestic terrorists. He has ups and downs with his theory; sometimes thinking he’s right and sometimes thinking he’s overreacting. Eventually though, it’s clear that they are terrorists and Michael tries to stop them. Instead of succeeding at that, though, he ends up being the fall guy for the terrorists’ plot, which is to blow up the FBI building in D.C., and the whole thing ends up being blamed on Michael after the bomb kills him. I just wasn’t really surprised by that at all. Just like The Game, I found no real reason to not go along with the main character and think that they were terrorists. And when it was clear that they were, I assumed they were going to rope Michael in on it, because why else would they even be engaging with him? So when that really was the end, I was sort of disappointed.

I also thought it was distracting how the movie references fake events that are clearly based on real events. Michael’s wife dies before the movie begins, as an FBI agent in the field, and when the scene of her death is played back it’s extremely similar to Ruby Ridge, which I think is pretty famous. Michael is a professor, and he teaches about a domestic terrorist attack on a building that included a large daycare center . . . so that’s obviously the Oklahoma City Bombing. It’s just weird to incorporate obviously real things and say they’re not real.

Christopher

I remember seeing this in middle or high school and being very scared of this film. Watching it now it was mostly boring but seeing it as a kid, after September 11th and living in the same area that this took place, I wanted nothing to do with it and I kind of remember being angry that I saw it. Maybe I was watching it because of some class I was in or something.

I will not be watching this again but I’m glad Elizabeth saw this, too, so we can talk about it, but with both this and Narc we kind of had a lot of duds this weekend.