Sunday, January 20, 2013

Hot Films: Three Mini Reviews

The Golden Globes are over and, with those results, film lovers have an idea of what movies have caught on with the award committees, creative arts guilds and other groups handing out honors this film awards season. (Click HERE for a full report and list of winners from HFPA.)

As a member of the Directors Guild, I get to take part in the voting fun, so I'm paying close attention to the leading contenders. The DGA and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have announced their nominees (see the list in my previous blog), with the DGA Awards on February 2 and the Oscars on February 24.

I'll be reviewing all the films, talking about my favorite performances, raving over my favorite writing and directing and going on and on about nothing - starting with a few mini-reviews of films that made an impression on me. These are the screeners (DVDs sent to me "for your consideration" in voting for industry awards) that I watched over the Christmas holiday (along with "Lincoln" for a second time, "Les Miserables", "Hyde Park on Hudson", "Promised Land" and "Flight" which I'll review later.)

I've seen many of the films in theatres but, as a DGA member, I watched some as DVD screeners, so I've seen all of the contenders. Full reviews will be posted soon, starting with the DGA nominees for directing and then the Academy nominees in all the leading categories. It'll be fun, so hang around.

Adventures in Award Screener DVDs, Part 1: my Christmas Eve movie was Ang Lee's "Life of Pi." A visual feast as well as being mystical, magical, meditative and so very real. The performance of film novice Suraj Sharma as the title character, Pi Patel, was beautifully detailed, so engaging and so vulnerable, so touching and funny and grounded, and Richard Parker was ferocious in an amazing supporting role (ha...) See this film! I plan to check it out again in 3D in a movie theater - the way films are supposed to be experienced.

Adventures in Awards Screeners, Part 2: I have never seen anything that Bradley Cooper has starred in, other than a couple of episodes of "Globe Trekker" he did a decade ago. So it was a very nice surprise to see his complex, heartbreaking and funny performance in "Silver Linings Playbook." I didn't see "Hunger Games," so Jennifer Lawrence was a revelation as well. And Robert De Niro, my favorite actor of the '70s and '80s, doing his most interesting and least self-referential work in years, combined with more strong and distinctive work from director David O. Russell (The Fighter, Three Kings)? Go see this film.

Adventures in Award Screeners, Part 3: by coincidence, we watched "The Impossible" (a story of what happened to one group of people in Thailand during the day after Christmas tsunami) eight years to the day after that cataclysmic event happened, December 26, 2004. The film is based on a true story. It is very difficult to watch and, like all stories of almost unimaginable tragedy, it isn't possible to say it has a "happy ending," but there is a resolution that includes one grand bright spot of redemption among so much despair and loss.

For those who aren't familiar with the central story, no spoilers here: suffice it to say that the acting at all levels, adult and child, was absolutely riveting and achingly real. The special effects of the tsunami itself, on those who were swept away and struggled to survive, are just seamless - I can't see how some of it was done and I started in motion pictures twenty-five years ago. So kudos to actors Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor and Tom Holland, to director J.A. Bayona and all involved. Yes, go see this film.

More next week!

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