INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS (2013)

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ACADEMY AWARD NOMINATIONS

  • Best Cinematography (Bruno Delbonnel)
  • Best Sound Mixing (Skip Lievsay, Greg Orloff, and Peter F. Kurland)

Elizabeth

Jesus, what a disappointment this was. I was surprised when the Oscar nominations came out that Inside Llewyn Davis didn’t get nominated for more because it’s a Coen brothers movie. Now I know why: it sucks.

I’m not sure why we’re supposed to care at all about Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac). He’s playing a folk musician in 1961, and even though I did really like Issac’s voice, the character of Llewyn Davis was just mean and uninteresting. He’s homeless, has gotten at least two women pregnant whom later had to get abortions (although one didn’t), and he abandons a cat and a possibly dead person in a car in the cold. Uh, no thanks.

The plot also just didn’t make a ton of sense to me. It just kind of meandered with no real conflict, except for the fact that Llewyn is trying to return a cat to its owners. The best part was hearing a rendition of “500 Miles,” my favorite Kingston Trio song. I also sort of don’t understand why this movie is nominated for Best Cinematography. The whole movie looked hazy and airbrushed, and not in any good way that added anything. I mean, look at this. Watching a movie that looked like that was difficult. It was like staring at a bad magazine airbrush for a couple of hours.

I’m sure the soundtrack to this movie is good, and I feel like I’ve heard of people liking this movie. But I don’t get it. The best character is the cat, but then fucking Llewyn Davis runs over a cat later, so fuck that. Also, is it weird that the Coen brothers had a protagonist named Llewyn and another named Llewelyn (No Country for Old Men)? I think it’s weird, at least.

Christopher

When I first heard about this film being made, I immediately knew it was going to be one of my favorite movies, ever. Then Elizabeth and I watched it and I don’t think I could have disliked it more. What is the story? Why do we care? Why are there so many scenes that seem to have no point? I have no idea and I was actually pretty mad how much I disliked it.

I’m glad I saw this but I’m not going to waste my time again . . .

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NEBRASKA (2013)

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ACADEMY AWARD NOMINATIONS

  • Best Picture (Albert Berger and Ron Yerxa – Producers)
  • Best Actor in a Leading Role (Bruce Dern)
  • Best Actress in a Supporting Role (June Squibb)
  • Best Cinematography (Phedon Papamichael)
  • Best Director (Alexander Payne)
  • Best Original Screenplay (Bob Nelson)

Christopher

This movie might be my favorite of the year, only second to Cutie and The Boxer. (I was saying Spring Breakers but I really had no clue it was from 2012 not 2013. . . ) Every shot in the movie is so beautiful and I want to go to these places and drink beer at these bars. If I made a movie I would hope it would look similar. I feel like I could really relate to Will Forte’s character, not in his relationship with his dad but just in trying to help and legitimately being interested in what other people had to say. I would watch this movie again, multiple times, and hopefully not too far down the road from now. If you have not seen this I would really recommend this being one of the main ones you see before the Oscars. IT’S DA BESS

Elizabeth

I liked Nebraska a lot, and for a number of reasons.

It was shot beautifully, as if instead of establishing shots, there are postcards. Even though it’s filmed in black and white during a dreary Midwestern fall, everything still looked beautiful. Maybe I’m biased because so much of it reminded me of the Illinois town where I graduated high school, but I think that Phedon Papamichael might just be a genius cinematographer.

I also really loved the characters, especially David (Will Forte). He sort of reminded me of Chris, minus the crappy retail job and lack of girlfriend. But David is very sweet without being a doormat; he’s kind and inquisitive and it’s clear that although he’s continually frustrated with his father, Woody (Bruce Dern), he also wants to spend time with him as father and son, and wants to know about Woody’s life and who is he is. I also loved David’s mom/Woody’s wife, Kate (June Squibb). Chris mentioned a couple of times that she reminded him of my mom, which I don’t really see at all except for the fact that she’s protective and won’t take shit from people when it comes to her family. Kate is crass and sometimes mean, but she’s also an older lady from a small Midwestern town who married into a family that clearly didn’t really want anything to do with her. She definitely wasn’t the most pleasant character ever, but the more time the movie spent with her, the more her true colors as a mother really showed. In general, the Grant family (Woody, Kate, David, and David’s brother Ross, played by Bob Odenkirk) had a really great chemistry. They were all nice, but also a little mean when necessary, the sons obviously cared about protecting and helping their parents, and, well, the parents just sort of did their best.

And another thing I loved was how not devastating Nebraska is. After The Hunt and Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death, I haven’t really been in the mood for a movie that just makes you want to kill yourself. I hadn’t really known what Nebraska was about before I saw it, I just knew that it had Bruce Dern and Will Forte. Had I known it was about a father and son traveling together as the father becomes senile, I would have really resisted seeing it because that sounds terrible. The main plot of the movie is that Woody has received a letter from a Publisher’s Clearinghouse-type of place that has made him convinced he won a million dollars and needs to go to Lincoln, Nebraska to pick it up. Instead they wind up in Hawthorne, Nebraska, where Woody grew up and where his family still lives. Rumor travels fast through the small town that Woody is a millionaire, making all kinds of people come out and ask for repayment for past debts. So, normally, I would have no interest in seeing a movie about a confused old man thinking he’s won a ton of money. It just sounds too sad. But somehow, the whole cast (especially Bruce Dern and Will Forte), along with the script, just makes it not that sad. I don’t really know how, maybe because Woody’s senility is not a new development for his characters. But whatever it is, it makes Nebraska go from possibly unwatchable to great.

20 FEET FROM STARDOM (2013)

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ACADEMY AWARD NOMINATION:

  • Best Documentary Feature

Elizabeth

I didn’t think 20 Feet From Stardom was that great, mostly because it seemed to suffer from a lack of direction, which I feel like might be one of the hardest parts of constructing a documentary in the first place.

It’s about the history of back-up singers in pop and rock music, but it loses focus pretty quickly. It follows certain singers particularly closely and others not so much, which made it hard to follow who was whom. It jumps around a bit from older back-up singers to current back-up singers, which also made it hard to follow. The tone was also sort of confusing; it never seemed clear to me how we were supposed to feel about the state of back-up singers. Are we supposed to feel sorry for them that they’re in the background? Happy for them that they can make a career doing what they love? No clue!

There was a lot of cool archival performance footage and some of the stories were interesting, but in general this movie wasn’t very compelling.

Christopher

I had really wanted this to be a cool documentary about these women who brought so much life and power to famous songs thought the 20th century, but unfortunately this documentary is a complete mess. The subject of this film is way too broad and because of this it made this movie feel all over the place. I think it would have been beneficial if they had only focused on Darlene Love.  The best part about this movie is the archival footage and interesting stories some of the women have. Like one of the women, who is now a Spanish teacher in some small town, used to sleep around with Mick Jagger?!?1 That’s incredible and I wonder if her students knew that before this film.

This movie was not good but there is interesting stuff in it. I just really dislike documentaries with no real narrative. Cutie and the Boxer was so great because there was a clear climax. This documentary just didn’t really know what it was doing, which is disappointing.

BLUE JASMINE (2013)

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ACADEMY AWARD NOMINATIONS

  • Best Actress (Cate Blanchett)
  • Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Sally Hawkins)
  • Best Original Screenplay (Woody Allen)

Christopher

I liked this movie a lot more than I thought I was going to but most of that is solely based off Cate Blanchett’s performance. She’s always so incredible and I constantly love seeing her, especially since I’m Not There. I can’t say I liked this more than any other Woody Allen film, I have to say I still really like Midnight In Paris, even though I know people really criticize it, it’s still a movie I wish I could walk into. Blue Jasmine is not that; it’s really sad and you feel bad for the protagonist. I’m glad we watched it but I’m not going to search this out in the future but I would watch it again.

Elizabeth (spoilers!)

I feel like we watch a lot of movies where all the female characters are boring or stereotypes or sex objects and that gets really boring. Blue Jasmine has a sort of similar thing going on, except it’s all the male characters who are awful.

A few things really stuck out for me in Blue Jasmine. First of all, the aforementioned terribleness of all the male characters. No matter their age, wealth, or background, all the male characters end up being some combination of untrustworthy, liars, insensitive, brutish assholes. That kind of got old. Second of all, so many of the characters that surround Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) have managed to distill all of their problems into being 100% her fault, which isn’t true and is really frustrating and sad. Third of all, Cate Blanchett was really amazing. Everything pretty much revolves around Jasmine and she carries the movie without a problem and while all the time seeming like she’s on the verge of something terrible. Fourth of all, and probably the most over-arching thing I took away, is just how similar Blue Jasmine is to A Streetcar Named Desire.

Just like in A Streetcar Named Desire, Jasmine goes to stay with her sister, Ginger (Sally Hawkins), for an indefinite amount of time after Jasmine’s life falls apart. Just like in A Streetcar Named Desire, Ginger/Stella is dating a brutish, insensitive, total asshole, Chili/Stanley (Bobby Cannavale), who is suspicious of Jasmine/Blanche and doesn’t want her there. Just like in A Streetcar Named Desire, Jasmine falls in love with Dwight/Mitch (Peter Sarsgaard), who seems to be the only person on her side, just to be completely dumped and literally left on the side of the road by him. Just like in A Streetcar Named Desire, Ginger/Stella eventually is more on Chili/Stanley’s side rather than Jasmine/Blanche. Although Ginger and Chili don’t have her taken away like Stella and Stanley did, they do announce that they’re moving in together, making Jasmine announce that she’s immediately moving out, even though she has no money and nowhere to go. The closeness of Blue Jasmine‘s plot to A Streetcar Named Desire definitely takes away from the idea that Woody Allen should win an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.

Blue Jasmine can be kind of difficult to watch sometimes, but that’s almost all because Cate Blanchett gives a really incredible performance that makes it hard to look away.

MORTAL KOMBAT (1995)

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Elizabeth

Well, Mortal Kombat was not good. I’ve played the game before, enough to recognize some of the characters, but not enough to recognize anything about the plot.

There are a lot of characters in the video game, but that’s so there’s more options for people when choosing a character. I’m not sure the same amount of characters really works for a movie. Everyone was at this fight-to-the-death-sometimes-but-sometimes-just-regular-fight tournament for different reasons, with different bad guys that they all wanted to fight. It was just sort of hard to keep track of.

There’s also The Highlander in a rice patty hat. Very Lone Ranger.

Christopher

Could a movie be more cool?!?!? Well yea, this movie is terrible, but as a kid I remember thinking that is was the best of the best in terms of movies. But thinking about it, I think I watched the second movie more. Mortal Kombat was never a game I ever owned but it was something I would always play at friends’ houses. I remember always wanting to be Johnny Cage cause I thought the ball punching move was one of the coolest things I had ever seen both on screen and in the game. But doing that move in the game required way too many buttons and would never really work, unless the other person was just standing still.

This movie is bad but I have good memories associated with it. I can only assume Elizabeth’s post is talking about how terrible it is but I’m glad she’s seen it so we can reference it. I might make the Mortal Kombat music her ringtone.

THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY (1999)

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Christopher

After watching Purple Noon I knew we had to watch this and the fact that Elizabeth loves it and that Philip Seymour Hoffman is in it, made us finally watch this film. We did start it a few weeks ago but Elizabeth had trouble keeping her eyes open so we never got around to finishing it. Now that we have, I have to say, it’s a pretty enjoyable movie. I really liked it, and the story is so much more interesting than Purple Noon. Almost everything makes so much more sense in this film. I think the biggest difference is that they imply that the main characters, Matt Damon and Jude Law, definitely have sexual tension between each other. Philip Seymour Hoffman in this movie though, is so fantastic, he’s so weird and funny and not at all what I thought he was going to be like, but it was sad seeing him for the first time since his death.

This movie is better than I thought it was and I’m glad we finally got through it all!

Elizabeth

I’ve probably seen The Talented Mr. Ripley about a million times since it came out. And because it came out when I was about 12, watching it again after not seeing it for a while makes it seem sort of weird that I was that into this movie. Because even though it’s really good, it’s so dark.

In some ways, The Talented Mr. Ripley reminds me a bit of Happiness, mostly because of the choice of protagonists. Tom Ripley (Matt Damon) is clearly insane: he becomes obsessed with Dickie (Jude Law) and his entire lifestyle, which includes his fiance Marge (Gwyneth Paltrow) and his friend Freddie (Philip Seymour Hoffman). Marge is Tom’s #1 fan at first, but Freddie is always suspicious. And he should be, because Tom eventually violently murders Dickie and then assumes his identity. After that, the plot is mostly about Tom balancing his persona as Dickie, his real life as Tom, and not getting caught as Dickie’s murderer, and later, Freddie’s murderer. Marge goes from his biggest supporter to his biggest enemy, because she’s the only one who’s convinced that Tom did it. The way it reminds me of Happiness is because even though Tom is insane, and is a straight-up murderer and liar, any time Tom gets close to getting caught, it’s really stressful to watch. It doesn’t matter that he should get caught, because the story is written well enough that we still, somehow, feel for and support Tom, even if it’s just a little bit. Tom basically murders everyone who gets in the way of him taking over Dickie’s life, except Marge, who barely avoids getting murdered herself. It’s scary shit.

And I have to admit something, too: I was so obsessed with Marge’s wardrobe when I first saw this movie. To the point that I pasted pictures of all of her outfits in one of my notebooks and tried my best to find and wear clothes similar to her’s. Weird? Maybe, but the costumes are pretty awesome.

The Talented Mr. Ripley is a much better version of the story than Purple Noon was; it sticks closer to the book, which, in this case, is a good thing. Tom is more sinister, his homosexuality is more prominent, and the whole movie is weirder and more stressful. I also discovered that even though he was 29, Matt Damon in The Talented Mr. Ripley sort of looks like bizarro Taylor Lautner. It’s unfortunate. Also, it’s nice to know that I’m able to watch Philip Seymour Hoffman without crying. Always a good thing!

THE BIRDCAGE (1996)

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Elizabeth

After the depressing horrible-ness that came on Sunday, I felt like I was in a movie funk. I just wasn’t really in the mood to watch anything. Luckily, weeks before we got tickets to a special screening of The Birdcage in honor of Nathan Lane’s birthday. It was a much-needed pick me up.

I had never seen it before, and while I knew The Birdcage would be funny, I had no idea just how funny it was. What I love most is the way the characters contrast. You have the two main characters, Armand (Robin Williams) and Albert (Nathan Lane), flamboyantly gay partners. Armand’s son, Val (Dan Futterman) is getting married to Barbara (Calista Flockhart), the daughter of an ultra conservative senator, Kevin (Gene Hackman) and his extremely mild-mannered wife, Louise (Dianne Wiest). It might seem obvious to have the antagonist be a Republican senator when the protagonists are gay men, but it’s not that simple. Armand and Albert might be a bit stereotypical (Armand owns the drag club, The Birdcage, where Albert performs), but they’re not really an average gay couple. They’re way overboard, between where they live and what they wear and how they talk, it’s all totally over the top. But on the flip side, you have Kevin, who is so comically conservative that he’s way overboard, too, almost a caricature. It’s not about having contrast to create conflict, it’s also about showing these characters as equally ridiculous. Is it ridiculous that Albert meets Kevin and his family in drag, pretending to be Val’s mother (whom Val has never met)? Completely. Is it ridiculous that Kevin would say that he doesn’t agree with killing abortion doctors, but he agrees with the outcome it brings? Totally! This movie just makes everyone look insane, which makes all the interactions that crazier, that funnier.

I need to make a special point to talk about how incredible Hank Azaria is in this, too. Robin Williams and Nathan Lane are totally on top of their game, comedy-wise. Gene Hackman is his usual amazing self, and is really particularly funny and perfect for his role. Hank Azaria plays Agador, Armand and Albert’s “houseboy.” I sort of love that they don’t really explain Agador; we first see him trying to help Armand get Albert to go on stage for a show, and he acts as their sort of maid for the rest of the movie. He’s apparently Guatemalan with the most absurd accent that no one questions. He has this one line . . . one line that made both Chris and I die laughing. Val tells Agador that he needs to get ready and put his shoes on because Barbara and her family are almost there, and Agador is dressed but barefoot. Agador very matter of factly explains to Val that he does not wear shoes because they make him fall down. What is that?? That was the last thing I expected him to say, and I know it doesn’t translate all that well to text, but it was so fucking funny. And of course, so was the inevitable shot of Agador falling on his face because of his shoes.

The Birdcage is great because its sensitive. Armand and Albert are overwhelming, but they’re also obviously in love and have quiet, sweet moments together. I never got the impression that this film is supposed to be some kind of commentary on homosexuality, mostly because it focuses so tightly on just a few characters. I also never got that impression because if you do think that this movie is a critique on homosexuality, then it’s just as much of a critique (if not more) of conservative Americans. It is so great.

Christopher

I remember watching this a few times as a kid and thinking it was one of the funniest movies I had ever seen. It was a good feeling when we went to see this and it was still great! I think I got most of it as a kid but as an adult I definitely got a lot more of the jokes. For example, as a kid, I don’t think I got the craziness of Gene Hackman’s character. I think I just always thought of him as a normal adult? But looking at that now, that kind of makes me look like I thought all adults were insane. This movie is so funny and if you have not seen it, please do it now! I don’t think I’ve ever seen the original but based off of Elizabeth’s reaction to the film I think we might be seeing that soon.