Maddison’s Emmy Breakdown

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Every time any of these awards shows rolls around, I find myself asking, “Why do I care so much? What purpose do these hokey award ceremonies serve? What is the point?”

Last night during the ever-so-acclaimed VMA’s, I saw people ranting on Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, about the great tragedy that was Beyonce getting robbed by Katy Perry. My first reaction to this was to shake my head and say, “who actually cares?” But now I am realizing how incredibly hypocritical that is of me. During the Emmys last year, I tweeted a picture of my friend’s brother’s spear and noted (jokingly [maybe]) that that was the article i was going to commit seppuku with if the Big Bang Theory won in any category it was nominated in.

My attitude towards such things have not changed in the slightest. I don’t have the spear on hand tonight, but I’m sure I’ll think of something.

Earlier in the year I remember driving around Los Angeles and seeing all of the billboards plastered with various series, actors, all with the classic slogan, For Your Consideration. It was almost fascinating, seeing all the shows put themselves out there like that, and I wonder what it’s all for. Critical acclaim in being an Emmy Winning Television Program? The much sought-after reverence it beholds? Because truly, what does an Emmy do? I couldn’t name you one show that one an Emmy five years ago. I could probably hazard a guess that it was like, Mad Men or something, but even so, do I really care?

Again: what is the point?

I really don’t know.

But I have a bet with my friend over 100 dollars in who’s picks are better, so I guess I’ll write this article anyway.

supporting actor comedy

Nominees:

  • Andre Braugher (Brooklyn Nine Nine)
  • Adam Driver (Girls)
  • Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Modern Family)
  • Ty Burrell (Modern Family)
  • Fred Armisen (Portlandia)
  • Tony Hale (Veep)

My Pick: Andre Braugher

Who I’d Like to Win: Andre, Adam Driver, literally anyone exept the nerds from Modern Family

I don’t know about you all but I am absolutely exhausted by the Modern Family sweeps. With such enriching and fascinating comedy programs out there, why do the Emmy’s always pick safe? I’m done. Brooklyn 99 is a refreshing sitcom and Andre deserves it.

supporting actress comedy

Nominees:

  • Mayim Bialik (The Big Bang Theory)
  • Julie Bowen (Modern Family)
  • Allison Janney (Mom)
  • Kate Mulgrew (Orange Is The New Black)
  • Kate McKinnon (SNL)
  • Anna Chlumsky (Veep)

My Pick: Kate Mulgrew

Who I’d Like to Win: Kate Mulgrew

I might be a little biased because as far as comedy this year goes, Orange Is The New Black, Louie, and Girls pack the punch. I’d say Brooklyn Nine Nine does as well, but unfortunately it’s not nominated in half the categories it deserves it, so I’ll go with the next best thing. Kate Mulgrew slays with “Red” on Orange is the New Black, and deserves every bit of recognition. I, in fact, wonder why half the cast of OITNB isn’t nominated here.

supporting actor drama

Nominees:

  • Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad)
  • Jim Carter (Downton Abbey)
  • Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones)
  • Josh Charles (The Good Wife)
  • Mandy Patinkin (Homeland)
  • Jon Voight (Ray Donovan)

My Pick: Aaron Paul. Please.

Who I’d Like to Win: AARON PAUL. PLEASE.

LOOK THE REST OF Y’ALL CAN WIN YOUR EMMY’S NEXT YEAR. THIS IS THE LAST YEAR FOR AARON TO NAB A THIRD ONE AND HE FREAKIN’ DESERVES IT OKAY?! YOU CANNOT LOOK ME IN THE FACE RIGHT NOW AND TELL ME THAT AFTER WATCHING JESSE PINKMAN GET SMASHED INTO THE GROUND TIME AND TIME AGAIN ONLY TO BE RELEASED IN THE MOST LIBERATING AND JOYOUS OF FASHIONS THAT HE DOES NOT DESERVE IT.

DON’T TOUCH ME.

DON’T TOUCH ME!

supporting actress drama

Nominees:

  • Anna Gun (Breaking Bad)
  • Maggie Smith (Downton Abbey)
  • Joanne Froggatt (Downton Abbey)
  • Lena Headey (Game of Thrones)
  • Christine Baranski (The Good Wife)
  • Christina Hendricks (Mad Men)

My Pick: Anna Gun

Who I’d Like to Win: Anna Gun, Christine Baranski

This is a little tougher race because The Good Wife just had arguably it’s best season ever. However it’s hard to beat Anna’s stellar performance in what was a near perfect final season of Breaking Bad. Maggie Smith and Lena Headey also brought the fire as usual, but I don’t think it’s their year.

supporting actor miniseries

Nominees:

  • Colin Hanks (Fargo)
  • Jim Parsons (The Normal Heart)
  • Joe Mantello (The Normal Heart)
  • Alfred Molina (The Normal Heart)
  • Matt Bomer (The Normal Heart)
  • Martin Freeman (Sherlock)

My Pick: Oh. Well. Uh. Matt Bomer, I guess.

Who I’d Like to Win: Uh. I dunno. Whoever.

Wow. I guess we know what’s winning best TV movie.

supporting actress miniseries

Nominees:

  • Frances Conroy (American Horror Story)
  • Kathy Bates (American Horror Story)
  • Angela Bassett (American Horror Story)
  • Allison Tolman (Fargo)
  • Ellen Burstyn (Flowers in the Attic)
  • Julia Roberts (The Normal Heart)

My Pick: Allison Tolman

Who I’d Like to Win: Man, I don’t really care.

It’s funny how AHS is getting nominated out the wazoo when this last season was objectively it’s worst. But I’m not complaining. Allison Tolman did a great job channeling her inner Frances McDormand, so I’ll say the award goes to her.

lead actor miniseries

Nominees:

  • Benadryl Pumpkinpatch (Sherlock)
  • Chiwetel Ejiofor (Dancing on the Edge)
  • Idris Elba (Luther)
  • Martin Freeman (Fargo)
  • Mark Ruffalo (The Normal Heart)
  • Billy Bob Thornton (Fargo)

My Pick: Billy Bob Thornton

Who I’d Like to Win: Martin Freeman

Again, maybe I’m biased because Fargo is one of my favorite movies and the series this year was just a feat of marvelous storytelling. Thornton killed it, and so did Freeman, but I think the Emmy will go to who channeled the most crazy.

lead actress miniseries

Nominees:

  • Helena Bonham Carter (Burton and Taylor)
  • Minnie Driver (Return to Zero)
  • Jessica Lange (American Horror Story)
  • Sarah Paulson (American Horror Story)
  • Cicely Tyson (The Trip to Bountiful)
  • Kristen Wiig (The Spoils of Babylon)

My Pick: Cicely Tyson

Who I’d Like to Win: I don’t care really.

Tyson won a Tony for this performance so I guess they might as well give her an Emmy too.

lead actor comedy

Nominees:

  • Louis CK (Louie)
  • Don Cheadle (House of Lies)
  • Ricky Gervais (Derek)
  • Matt LeBlanc (Episodes)
  • William H. Macy (Shameless)
  • Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory)

My Pick: Louie

Who I’d Like to Win: Literally anyone but Jim Parsons

I am so over The Big Bang Theory’s existence. I am over the mere idea of it being a show that people watch. Jim Parsons is a good guy and all, but this needs to end. In the year where Louis CK is nominated for almost every comedic award, I guess I’ll pick him. He’s not much of an actor, but I’ll be damned if I don’t love what he does. Ricky Gervais also pulled off a very controversial performance with ease, so it’d be great to see him get it also.

lead actress comedy

Nominees:

  • Lena Dunham (Girls)
  • Edie Falco (Nurse Jackie)
  • Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Veep)
  • Melissa McCarthy (Mike & Molly)
  • Amy Poehler (Parks & Rec)
  • Taylor Schilling (Orange is the New Black)

My Pick: Taylor Schilling

Who I’d Like to Win: Amy Poehler, Taylor Schilling

So Julia Louis-Dreyfus is probably going to win but out of my own stubborn spirit I’m going to pick Taylor Schilling anyway because of her amazingly cognizant and meticulously neurotic characterization in Orange is the New Black. It’d be nice to see Amy Poehler finally win for Parks and Rec, though.

lead actor drama

Nominees:

  • Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad)
  • Jeff Daniels (The Newsroom)
  • Jon Hamm (Mad Men)
  • Woody Harrelson (True Detective)
  • Matthew McConaughey (True Detective)
  • Kevin Spacey (House Of Cards)

My Pick: Oh man. Oh shit. Oh fuck. Uh. Uh. Okay. Okay. Okay. Matthew McConaughey. I’m picking him. Okay.

Who I’d Like to Win: Any and all of these gentleman are extraordinarily deserving of the award. I would be stoked if any one of them won. What a time to be alive.

THIS IS THE CONTROVERSIAL ONE FOR ME. I bet y’all thought I was going to pick B. Cranst, didn’t ya? DIDN’T YA? And hey, man, I’m just as surprised as you are. Last October, I though Cranston was locked in for this year. But alas, the McConaissance is upon us. It’s rolling fast downhill, like a wheel. Or a flat circle. Or something.

lead actress drama

Nominees:

  • Lizzy Caplan (Masters of Sex)
  • Claire Danes (Homeland)
  • Michelle Dockery (Downton Abbey)
  • Julianna Marguelies (The Good Wife)
  • Kerry Washington (Scandal)
  • Robin Wright (House of Cards)

My Pick: Robin Wright

Who I’d Like to Win: Again, any and all of these ladies are incredibly deserving. What a year for dramatic television it’s been.

But where the hell is Tatiana Maslany?!

outstanding variety

Nominees:

  • The Colbert Report
  • The Daily Show
  • Jimmy Kimmel Live
  • Real Time With Bill Maher
  • Saturday Night Live
  • The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon

My Pick: Colbert

Who I’d Like to Win: Colb or Jstew

The circle was broken last year when after a however-many-years-long stretch, The Colbert Report defeated The Daily Show. It was a shock and awe to us all but, c’mon, after that dance montage to Get Lucky, how could Stephen not win? I think that ball’s just gonna keep rolling.

outstnang miniser

Nominees:

  • American Horror STory
  • Bonnie & Clyde
  • Fargo
  • Luther
  • Treme
  • The White Queen

My Pick: Fargo

Who I’d Like to Win: Fargo

Fargo was just so good you guys. Everything else is noise.

oustanding tv movie

Nominees:

  • Killing Kennedy
  • Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight
  • The Normal Heart
  • Sherlock: His Last Vow
  • The Trip To Bountiful

My Pick: The Normal Heart

Who I’d Like to Win: Sherlock, but for S2E1 as opposed to S3E3.

I didn’t watch The Normal Heart. But I know it’s going to win because everyone eats up whatever Ryan Murphy feeds them.

outstanding comedy

Nominees:

  • The Big Bang Theory
  • Louie
  • Modern Family
  • Orange is the New Black
  • Silicon Valley
  • Veep

My Pick: Orange is the New Black

Who I’d Like to Win: OITNB, Louie

Look at this list of nominees. Look at it. How the hell is it that schlock like BBT and Modern fucking Family get nominated alongside Louie? OITNB? Even Veep and Silicon Valley? HOW? HOW?! Furthermore, how were they nominated over other amazing series like Brooklyn Nine-Nine? Girls? Parks & Rec? Seriously? What the heck?!

outstanding drama

Nominees:

  • Breaking Bad
  • Downton Abbey
  • Game of Thrones
  • House of Cards
  • Mad Men
  • True Detective

My Pick: …………………..Breaking Bad

Who I’d Like to Win: BrBa, True Detective

It’s a toss up. True Detective came out of god knows where and blew everyone out of the water in its introductory season. However, in it’s final season, Breaking Bad kept it’s artistic integrity and wowed us all. So I’d be happy if either show won. But let’s give Breaking Bad the farewell it deserves.

Review: James Gunn’s “Guardians of the Galaxy”

Untitled-1When I first heard about one of the newest Marvel enterprises, Guardians of the Galaxy, my first thought was, “well, they’re really scraping the bottom of the barrel, aren’t they?”

Indeed, the film industry has been milking the comic book movie thing for a good long while now. The quality of such movies is a pretty mixed bag–sure you’ve got shining stars, the first Iron Man, The Avengers, Raimi’s Spider-Man 2, The Dark Knight. But there’s more than enough duds as well, and overall, it’s becoming a little tiresome. Though obviously, it’s not going to end any time soon. And so I’ve resigned myself to accept these comic book films as they come, just hoping that some genuinely good pictures will come out.

And no–when shown Guardians of the Galaxy spots and trailers, the only thing positive I could really say about it was, “Well, I really love Chris Pratt.” Other than that–I’d never heard of Guardians in the first place and it really seemed like some sort of cash grabby thing.

Yet as the days got closer and closer to this August 1st release, I felt something bubbling inside me. What could it be? Hype? Impossible. Ever since The Dark Knight Rises partially left me wanting more, my hype for comic book films had pretty much died. Yet this emotion was brewing, inexplicably. Again, I’d never heard of the comic for Guardians of the Galaxy, and the trailers and posters made it look like a rather bizarre choice for a mainstream Marvel film. But I couldn’t quell the insatiable interest that was growing within me. As I watched the catchy, charming trailer… I found myself rethinking my original opinion.

Eventually it all led to yesterday. Sitting in my room in Los Angeles, looking at my almost-empty bank account, and making the executive decision to spend my last few dollars on a movie ticket for Guardians at the cineramadome. And, quite honestly, I will never regret spending those sixteen dollars plus-three-for-parking.

Guardians of the Galaxy was utterly charming, hilarious, and indeed, one of the most (dare I say it) meta superhero flicks I’ve seen. Chock full of winks and nods to the audience about the ridiculousness of the situation, it’s a movie that doesn’t take itself too seriously. And god do I respect it for that, my main issue with Iron Man 3 was that it took itself far too seriously. But Guardians of the Galaxy knows what it is, and that’s just honest to god summer fun. Which, I think, between all the gritty reboots, is something much-needed.

The universe they create is stunning, with cinematographic moments that truly look like you’re flipping through a comic book. I haven’t really seen moments like that outside of Sin City, but Guardians catches the whole comic book feel perfectly. The title sequence alone is a wonder. The performances and chemistry are perfect. The whole gang is swell, Pratt and Saldana and Batista, with voice work from Bradley Cooper and (a very limited) Vin Diesel.

The plot line obviously sort of falls into cliches–the Five Man Band has to get the MacGuffin to Save The Entire Universe but the script regularly hangs the lampshade on this which makes the whole thing all the more enjoyable. Again, it can get meta–which is another recent trend, but one I can get behind wholeheartedly.

So, if you’re looking for your summer popcorn movie, look no further. Guardians is nothing short of never ending fun, and I shamelessly can’t wait for the sequel.

Also it’s really fun to see Chris Pratt doing flips and kicks and bad ass shit in general when you remember he’s this nerd.

And the after-credits scene is most definitely the best one in Marvel history.

 

Review: Josh Boone’s “The Fault In Our Stars”

 

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About nine months ago my friend Anne told me to read John Green’s book The Fault In Our Stars. I purchased a copy on a whim and while I admit I was a little late to the TFIOS train, I went through the thing in about a week. I remember that unfortunately I was in a rather public area when I finished chapter 20 and started 21 (fellow readers of the novel will understand the weight of such things) and thus was crying pretty terribly in a large room full of my peers. I remember that when I finished the novel I had to call my mom because of how badly the thing had shaken me.

Over dramatic? Perhaps. I have to say that before starting the novel I was somewhat suspicious of its effects on readers. I, indeed, have a tumblr, so I played witness to a lot of preteen and teen girls just raving about it. It made ever-cynical me slightly skeptical of the book, and I thought that it would perhaps just be some adolescent thing packed with “feels.” Not necessarily high literature.

I am glad to say that I was wrong. John Green had crafted one of the most honest stories I’d ever seen. Yes, indeed, aimed at young adults, but written intelligently too. I like John Green because even though he writes for teens, he still at least treats his readers like adults. When I went to one of his Q&A’s, he cited books like David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest as one of his favorites, and though a majority of the people (young teenage girls) around me probably were not familiar with such things, he didn’t feel the need to talk down to the audience. It’s a symbiosis of knowing who you write for and still being able to be yourself, and I respect him a lot for it.

I went into reading TFIOS knowing that they were making a film but just so I was able to craft my own visualizations of the characters in my head. I fell in love with them, I shared a week and a half with them, and then they were gone. And then it was time to wait for the movie.

I think I speak for the majority of TFIOS book lovers when I say I was incredibly nervous for the adaption. The characters are astonishingly complex and I wasn’t sure that was going to translate well to the screen. The trailer alone made me cringe a little bit because I realized that out of context, the pretentious and ridiculous things Augustus Waters would say sounded like they were being played completely straight, which in the context of the novel, are not. The trailer represented something cheesy and trite when TFIOS is anything but. Fans of the book rushed to its aid but to the masses who probably just sat through the trailer at home, it was not represented well.

So I guess what I’m trying to say is, the trailer gets an F. The film itself, I am happy to say, is a different story.

I went into a screening two Thursdays ago aside my friend Daniel, another TFIOS book reader, and was amused to hear that most everyone in the audience had not read the book.

“These people have no idea what they’re getting into,” I confided to Daniel, and he agreed. We were prepared for the onslaught, at least, though even so, I found myself crying just as hard at the film as I did while reading the book.

The entire theater joined me. Rounding to the beginning of the third act, the entire room was filled with sniffles and upon exiting, dampened faces were noted on every single person’s face. For some reason I counted this as a personal victory. Now these people understood the pain I was afflicted with nine months ago.

And the film did the novel, in my eyes, absolute justice. I was off put by Ansel Elgort’s performance as Augustus in the beginning but he eventually charmed me, much like my initial reaction to Gus’ character in the book. Shailene Woodley continues her habit of delivering poignant performances (her character in Alexander Payne’s The Descendants is quite different than Hazel Grace, yet she’s just as convincing) and the supporting cast backs it up even more. The technicalities are indeed far from perfect, with one too many face-framing shots but in the end this is not a movie about the direction, it’s a movie about the characters, and it sold. The perhaps overly-witty (though we wouldn’t have it any other way) dialogue gets an equal amount of laughs as the latter half of the film jerks tears, making for a well-rounded, non-manipulative feature. As opposed to the stereotypical Nicholas Sparks flick where one of the characters gets diagnosed with some tragic disease halfway through to delude the audience into thinking the movie has feelings, The Fault In Our Stars presents an honest depiction of love and sickness. There are some aspects of the book that were annulled for the sake of less screen time but the screenwriters (Scott Neustader and Michael Weber, who penned the equally heartstring-pulling (500) Days of Summer)kept the important bits and crafted a loveable screenplay, and handed it off to a loving director and a genuine cast. Again, Shailene Woodley’s performance alone makes this film worth watching. The chemistry between the two leads is absolutely staggering and again, does the book fantastic justice.

So maybe you don’t get caught up in romance stories or care to see films where you’re made to cry. But I think any person, book-reader or no, cynic or no, would be able to go into this charming, honest story and get something out of it. It’s a story that, on the outside, seems like mush, but in the end, it gets you.

An Open Letter to the Douche Who Told Me to “Shut Up” During the Midnight Premiere of Godzilla

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[Spoilers Ahead]

Have you ever been to the Cineramadome, sir? Have you sat in the hallowed halls of movie history and watched a spectacle unveil before your eyes? Were you there during the premiere of Anchorman 2, where the ticket tearers dressed like the legendary Ron Burgundy? Did you see The Wolf of Wall Street on it’s opening day (Christmas) and laugh yourself to tears alongside everyone else in the theater during the Lemmons scene? Have you ever sat in that theater and watched a movie with an audience and had a good time?

More related to this particular subject however: did you watch Godzilla last night? Were we in the same theater? Were you not sitting directly in front of me as we both witnessed the massive, amazing Godzilla visualize humanity’s worst fears of urban terrorism? Did you not watch a school bus full of children narrowly avoid getting destroyed by massive monsters that put Clover (but not the Kaiju–they’re still bigger) to shame? Were you not totally frightened and totally floored by the badass sound editing and fantastic production design that created one of the best atmospheres I’ve ever seen in a giant monster movie? Were you not amused at the fact that there was no real main character to follow and that nobody besides Bryan Cranston had any actual personality? Were you not shocked that Bryan Cranston himself, who was all over the ads for this film and was a main pull for a lot of the audience, dropped dead after only 40 minutes? Was your heart not pounding as you watched that puppy dog run down the street to avoid a massive tsunami? As Kick Ass/John Lennon/The Mustache Dude In Anna Karenina lied down on the train tracks, keeping as silent as possible as a radioactive-material consuming demon crept around him?

Were you too confused at the logistics of the American military when they just decided to nuke the heck out of San Francisco? Did you not laugh at the ridiculous little Godzilla jokes, like the iguana crawling around? Were you not eagerly and impatiently waiting through the first hour of the movie before they finally showed Godzilla himself in all his building-crushing glory? Were you not amused at the fact that there were two other monsters added to the mix? Furthermore, did you not clap along with the rest of the audience as Godzilla shot lightning out of it’s mouth, triggering a “woo” from me before you turned around and so sternly demanded that I “shut up?”

Is Godzilla such a serious film to you that you find that the rest of the theater must enjoy it in total apocalyptic silence, similar to the silence that lead shots of the ravaged San Francisco? Did you consider it a thinker piece? Was Godzilla your 12 Years a Slave? Did we have to examine ourselves as human beings as we watched it? Could we not perhaps say “woo” (along with everyone else in the theater) when our literal hours of waiting for Godzilla to finally kick ass paid off? Did you really find it necessary, when everyone else around you was also celebrating as Godzilla decimated the other monster, to turn around and select only me to say “Shut Up” to? Was it necessary, when there are a million more polite ways to request someone be quieter in a theater, when all of your hipster friends sitting to the right of you were being louder than me, when the entire audience is actually enjoying themselves? Was it appropriate to pick me, when I was quiet during the tense moments, during the moments of exposition, during the moments where it was necessary to be quiet? Was it truly I, sir, that truly deserved you channeling your hateful and loveless attitude towards?

Did you go into it expecting Best Picture Of The Year? Were you confused that I laughed during the ridiculous moments and said “woo” when Godzilla shot lightning out of his mouth? Did you expect everybody to take it seriously? Did we not watch the same movie, wrought with campy references and laugh-out-loud metacisms? Did you honestly expect something deep and meaningful from the remake of freaking Godzilla, one of the most beloved and ridiculous movie monsters of all time? Did you expect anything more or less than a ridiculous crowd-pleaser?

Have you ever been to a midnight premiere at all? Even outside the Cineramadome–have you ever gone to a premiere at your local Harkins or AMC? The Dark Knight? Did you gasp when The Joker took that guy out with a pencil? The Return of the King? Did you clap after Legolas single-handedly took down the oliphant? Do you understand how audiences at midnight premieres for blockbuster films function?

And an even more open rhetorical question: have you ever enjoyed a movie ever? Have you ever felt emotions? Did you cry your eyes out at Marley & Me? Did you fan out when Thor’s hammer hit Captain America’s shield in The Avengers? Did you have an existentialist crisis during The Master? Did you get heart palpitations during the last 30 minutes of Argo?

The way you turned around and very rudely demanded that I “shut up” during Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla which apparently, to you, is the most serious film endeavor of all time, makes me think no, you don’t understand emotions or joy. I truly hope you do, someday, not just for your own sake, but also for your ugly girlfriend’s sake and for your hipster friends’ sake. Otherwise, enjoy dying angry, bitter, and alone.

 

Review: The Russo Brothers’s “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”

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Marvel films, for me, have always been teetering on the edge of lackluster. Occasionally they’d even dip into regions of being genuinely annoying; the first Captain America was stale, Thor was underwhelming, the first Iron Man was great but the franchise quickly fell apart with its consecutive sequels. There was a beacon of hope with The Avengers, though the main issue with Marvel for me is that their films rarely seem to take themselves seriously. That certainly showed with Avengers, which just barely breached the amount of too many gags. No–I’m not looking for every superhero film to go all Dark Knight (because bad things happen when you try to make non-gritty superheroes gritty), but I’ve always longed for superhero movies to not be too campy. Somewhere there has to be a happy medium between fun action, amusing quips, and solemn plots. Somewhere.Who would have thought that the liberation would come from Captain America. I never was a big fan of Steve Rogers, he was nowhere near close to my favorite superhero. I always found him quite bland, too clean-cut and again, I really did not care for the first Captain America film. However, The Winter Soldier has turned all of that around for me.Maybe it’s an overstatement to say it’s my favorite Marvel film but honestly, when I get to thinking about it, it easily was. The characterization was great, the plot made sense, the plot holes were minimal to none, and the movie actually made me feel. Emotions! Yes, ladies and gentleman, the first summer blockbuster of the year, number one at the box office since it’s release, CGI-fest of caped crusaders ACTUALLY MADE ME FEEL THINGS. Like a real movie! I felt for the characters! I was worried and cared about them! This is Captain Fucking America we’re talking about! What a world!

Yeah there were the issues that every film like this is bound to have–just a little too action heavy and a couple moments in the middle that dragged with a plot hole here and there, but overall it was a fast-paced ride that kept my attention. Somehow it found a genuine symbiosis between that campy superhero-ness and almost Jason Bourne-esque twists and turns. The action was interesting (the car chase was a thrill to watch) and the moments of solace were vulnerable and meaningful. This movie worked. And god, is that a relief. The performances were even good and never did I feel like I got a “phoning it in” vibe–not even from the illustrious Robert Redford (who for half of the movie I didn’t even realize was Robert Redford). Sebastian Stan makes a stellar performance in particular, and I hope he continues on that path with the rest of his 9-film deal with Marvel.

I’d like future superhero films to take some notes from Winter Soldier. The fact that you don’t need to revamp a superhero to make him brooding and dark. The fact that you don’t need to shoehorn in some absolutely pointless love story. The fact that yeah, you can throw in some classic campy superhero silliness (i.e. “I’m going to kill you so I might as well tell you my entire plan” or, actually, just that whole scene in the bunker with the villain’s brain run on computers from the 60′s) but still take the movie seriously enough so that you can create genuine tension and emotional stakes. The fact that even if you market it for children, the movie doesn’t have to just run on gags. Furthermore, Winter Soldier is a great standalone film–you don’t need to bother with the first Cap or the Avengers in order to enjoy it.

It still blows my mind that this sort of character depth came from a Captain America movie, though I embrace it wholeheartedly. I’ve even started reading Captain America comic books–that’s how much this movie got out of me. It’s a great movie, accessible and fun to watch, but still takes itself seriously enough to be a real movie. And in this day and age where we’re used to directors talking down to their audiences and stuffing their blockbusters with mass chaos and shiny explosions, it is an anomoly indeed.

Maddison’s Oscar Breakdown

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Well, it’s that time of year again. The time where, as Jimmy Fallon states, celebrities get all dressed up to get judged by people at home in their sweatpants. And how, Jimmy Fallon. It’s a wonder I’m even leaving my room tonight, but my friend Anne promised to make me Mac and Cheese if I watched the Oscars with her. Yes, the glory of the Academy Awards is finally upon us, and by glory, I mean the insatiable, bitterly-burning disappointment that always precedes and proceeds the handing out of completely meaningless statues. Remember a couple years ago when David Fincher lost his well-deserved Best Director to Tom Hooper, whose groundbreaking use of funny wallpapers and the rule of thirds championed him to victory? Remember just last year when Paul Thomas Anderson’s electrically disturbing masterpiece The Master was not only snubbed in the Best Picture territory, but Best Cinematography, Best Score, and both actor categories for Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix? Yes, what lovely times these all were, and the fact that I’m very passive aggressively writing about them now shows a lot about me. So I promised myself, this year, this year, even if Inside Llewyn Davis, Mud, and A Place Beyond the Pines were all unjustly snubbed, that I’m not going to get upset. Even if the media princess Jennifer Lawrence (who I do adore, but again, bitterness at the Academy) is given another Oscar over the incendiary Lupita Nyong’o, even if Gravity wins every single technical award, I’m not going to get upset.

That being said, I’m still going to write a very strongly-worded post about the Oscars, and break down my personal opinions for each category (except for the short films because I don’t care). But I’m not gonna get mad. Nope.

Nominees: American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Dallas Buyers Club, Gravity, Her, Nebraska, Philomena, 12 Years A Slave, The Wolf Of Wall Street

My Pick: 12 Years A Slave

What I’d Like To Win: The Wolf of Wall Street, or a write-in win for Inside Llewyn Davis

So there’s been a lot of discussion this year for what’s going to take Best Picture, and a lot of people have been saying American Hustle. Now, and I’m being mild when I say this, if American Hustle does indeed win, I will probably flip a desk. In my personal opinion, American Hustle was the Lincoln of this year. You get a director with a lot of buzz, an incredible production design (i.e. lots of money), a cast on top of their game, and you’re going to get a Good Movie, but in such a by-the-book way that I find it almost offensive the people would think it would win. Gravity also has a lot of talk, and I wouldn’t be so mad if Gravity won, because it’s not nominated for best screenplay, which is good because the dialogue in that movie was pretty much trash. It would be sort of odd if Gravity won because I don’t think it was half as well rounded as some of the others nominated. My pick to win is 12 Years A Slave, which is actually a movie I really loved and enjoyed and would be happy to see win. Again, it’s more well rounded, and for some reason, seems a lot less bait-y than American Hustle. However, seeing as The Wolf of Wall Street is in the running for my favorite film of last year for a number of reasons, I would love to see Marty get one here.

And of course, if a write-in win for Inside Llewyn Davis occurred, I would be pretty stoked. I’m not going to launch into my confused rant about why it wasn’t nominated (there are only nine nominees in this category, when there are usually ten…. leaving one blank spot… where they just decided not to nominate it? I guess?), but the fact that it wasn’t is genuinely offensive to me. The Academy has an opportunity to rectify that–though obviously I doubt it’s actually going to happen.

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Nominees: American Hustle, Gravity, Nebraska, 12 Years A Slave, The Wolf of Wall Street

My Pick: Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity

What I’d Like To Win: Alfonso, or maybe a write-in for Spike Jonze? No?

One thing that is absolutely inarguable about this year as far as I’m concerned, is that Gravity absolutely killed it as far as technicalities go. The opening shot of that film was one of the most glorious one-takes I’ve ever seen. It was impeccable. Writing and other shenanigans aside, it was beautifully crafted and deserves most of the awards it gets this year. Even though it’s sort of unfair to the other great directors who did impeccable work (Marty kills it every time, 12YAS is probably Steve McQueen’s masterpiece), Alfonso blew it out of the water. There’s really not much more to be said. I’m putting in a little nod to Spike Jonze here though, because Her was probably also one of his most beautifully shot films so I would’ve liked for him to at least have been nominated (Take out David O. Russell for American Hustle? Yes? No?) but I guess it just wasn’t in the cards for him this year.

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Nominees: Christian Bale, Bruce Dern, Leonardo Dicaprio, Echiwetel Ejiofor, Matthew McConaughey

My Pick: McConaughey

Who I’d Like To Win: Literally anyone but Christian Bale

This category is a little tough for me and if you’d asked me before the SAG’s and the Globes who was going to win, I would have easily picked Chiwetel. However, after McConaughey got both the awards I mentioned and I actually went to go see Dallas Buyers Club for myself, I was convinced that McConaughey was gonna take it. Can we just talk about for one second how awesome McConaughey became this past year? Seriously–when did he start being an actor who actually did actor-y stuff? Mud, Wolf of Wall Street, Dallas Buyer’s Club, and recently True Detective… the guy’s on fire. I’d like to see him get the Oscar. If his acceptance speech isn’t the chest pumping thing form Wolf of Wall Street though, they should probably take the award away from him.

There were a lot of really excellent performances this  year. Bruce Dern in Nebraska was fantastic. Leonardo, again, kills it–and I am sorry that he’s not going to get it. I’d be extremely happy if he did, but I just don’t see it. Honestly, I’d be happy if anyone won, just not Christian Bale. Because while I really like Christian Bale, when the most you did for a role was get fat… sorry, but no.

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Nominees:  Amy Adams, Cate Blanchett, Sandra Bullock, Judi Dench, Meryl Streep

My Pick: Cate Blanchett

Who I’d Like To Win: Cate Blanchett

This category isn’t even a competition. Sorry everyone else. Sorry folks boycotting Woody Allen now. Cate’s got this in the bag. No arguments.

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Nominees: Barkhad Abdi, Bradley Cooper, Michael Fassbender, Jonah Hill, Jared Leto

My Pick: Jared Leto

What I’d Like To Win: Jonah Hill

Okay, okay, okay–I know Jonah’s not going to win, all right? But can you imagine how excellent it would be if Jonah Hill won an Oscar for The Wolf of Wall Street? That would be so, so, so, awesome. I might even like the Oscars again if that happened. I might even forgive them for snubbing Raging Bull back in 1980. Anyway, yeah, Jared Leto was amazing in Dallas Buyer’s Club. I know a lot of people are giving him smack because acting faintly LGBTQ on film shouldn’t be Oscar Worthy, but I urge those people to actually go see the movie because they clearly didn’t. Fassbender would also be an excellent winner though, his performance in 12YAS was the most frighteningly beautiful visage of cognitive dissonance on film this year.

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Nominees: Sally Hawkins, Jennifer Lawrence, Lupita Nyong’o, Julia Roberts, June Squibb

My Pick: Lupita Nyong’o

Who I’d Like To Win: Lupita Nyong’o

I swear to god. If the Academy gives Jennifer Lawrence the Oscar over Lupita Nyong’o….

Wait, no. I said I’m not going to get upset.

Okay.

Okay. Not upset.

It’s gonna be fine. They’re gonna give it to Lupita. Right?

…Right?

RIGHT?!

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Nominees: The Act of Killing, Cutie and the Boxer, Dirty Wars, The Square, 20 Feet From Stardom

My Pick: The Act of Killing

What I’d Like To Win: The Act of Killing

Okay so I might not be the scholar on documentaries this year since I only saw The Act of Killing and Dirty Wars, but honestly, after reading up on the other nominees, I’m pretty convinced that The Act of Killing is going to take it. It was honestly one of the most disturbing films I have ever seen. And I sat through Cannibal Holocaust. It shook me to my absolute core and absolutely deserves recognition for that. It’s not for the faint of heart.

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Nominees: The Croods, Despicable Me 2, Ernest & Celestine, Frozen, The Wind Rises

My Pick: Frozen

What I’d Like To Win: Is it too early for The Lego Movie? #LegoMovie2015

Maybe I should care more about the Best Animated Picture category. But I don’t that much. I saw Frozen and watched The Croods while I was babysitting. I’m sure The Wind Rises is beautiful because Hayao always makes beautiful things, but let’s be real. It’s not going to win over the Disney/Pixar darling of the year.

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Nominees: The Broken Circle Breakdown, The Great Beauty, The Hunt, The Missing Picture, Omar

My Pick: What do you mean Blue is the Warmest Color wasn’t nominated?

What I’d Like To Win: What?

But it won the Palme D’or? I’m so confused? I don’t know. Roeper says The Great Beauty is going to win so I guess I’ll go with him on this one?

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Nominees:  American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Dallas Buyer’s Club, Gravity, 12 Years A Slave

My Pick: Gravity

What I’d Like To Win: I don’t care, Gravity I guess.

The editing in The Wolf of Wall Street was weirdly off par for a Martin Scorsese movie. That’s the only thing that blew my mind when it comes to editing this year. Anyway, yeah, Gravity. Whatever.

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Nominees: American Hustle, Gravity, The Great Gatsby (why?), Her, 12 Years A Slave

My Pick: American Hustle.

What I’d Like To Win: Please god, anything but The Great Gatsby. Her, if the gods are good.

This is the only award I’d be okay with American Hustle winning, only because it means it would beat out The Great Gatsby, which is a film that made me so mad on so many different levels. Go David O! You got this! Screw Baz Luhrmann! Woo!

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Nominees: The Grandmaster, Gravity, Inside Llewyn Davis, Nebraska, Prisoners

My Pick: Gravity

What I’d Like To Win: INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS OH MY GOD

Because this is one of the few categories Inside Llewyn Davis is actually nominated for, I would love for it to win. It deserves everything this year. It was so perfect. I don’t know why it got snubbed. Please, someone explain it to me. Somebody, please. PLEASE. IT WAS SO GOOD. IT WAS SO GOOD. 

Along a similar vein, if the Cinematography category is apparently the “here let’s throw the snubbed best picture guy sin here” category this year, then why wasn’t Cianfrance nominated for The Place Beyond The Pines? And even though the movie itself was sort of terrible, Refn’s Only God Forgives was pretty beautiful. And Jeff Nichols’ Mud was gorgeous too.

Also, the cinematography in 12 Years a Slave was absolutely impeccable. Did the Academy just… forget? Or something?

Whatever. Who knows.

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Nominees: Gravity, The Hobbit, Iron Man 3, The Lone Ranger, Star Trek: Into Darkness

My Pick: Gravity

What I’d Like To Win: Gravity

I liked how this category just sort of forgot that Pacific Rim existed this summer as well.

The Lone Ranger now gets to put “Oscar Nominee” on the dvd box. Let that sink in.

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Nominees: Dallas Buyers Club, Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa, The Lone Ranger

My Pick: Wha… Dallas Buyers Club, obviously.

What I’d Like To Win: I mean… obviously.

I am so confused.

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Nominees: American Hustle, The Grandmaster, The Great Gatsby, The Invisible Woman, 12 Years A Slave

My Pick: The Great Gatsby

What I’d Like To Win: Literally anything but The Great Gatsby

I don’t care if the costumes were pretty, I hated that stupid movie.

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Nominees: The Book Thief, Gravity, Her, Philomena, Saving Mr. Banks

My Pick: Stephen Brice, Gravity

What I’d Like To Win: HER PLEASE PLEASE

My favorite thing about the Best Original Score category is that no matter what movie he’s scoring, John Williams will, without fail, be nominated. He could score the next Transformers film and they’d put him in here. He won’t always win, but he’ll always be nominated. Anyway, Gravity is going to take it, but I would cry out of joy if Owen Pallett & William Butler got their recognition for their Her score because it was absolutely gorgeous. Not just because I’m a crazy Arcade Fire fan and not only because I fangirl over Owen Pallett’s other work, but because it actually is genuinely one of the prettiest scores I’ve heard in a long time. But oh well.

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Nominees: Despicable Me 2, Frozen, Her, Mandela

My Pick: Let It Go, Frozen

What I’d Like To Win: Anybody but U2

I am championing for Pharrell to get a start on his EGOT this year. The Moon Song from Her is beautiful as well. Frozen is going to win, because duh, but it’s all all right, because as long as I don’t have to look at Bono’s dumb sunglasses as he gets an Oscar, I’ll be contented.

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Nominees: All Is Lost, Captain Phillips, Grabity, The Hobbit, Lone Survivor

My Pick: Gravity

What I’d Like To Win: Gravity

Let’s not pretend any of the films mentioned this year are better than Gravity in terms of sound, when the sound editing in Gravity was pretty much what made the movie. 

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Nominees: Captain Phillips, Gravity, The Hobbit, Inside Llewyn Davis, Lone Survivor

My Pick:  Sigh. Gravity.

What I’d Like To Win: ………Inside Llewyn Davis….?

There’s a joke to be made about gravity belts here. Like, one more win for Gravity to put under it’s Belt?

Haha?

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Nominees: Before Midnight, Captain Phillips, Philomena, 12 Years A Slave, The Wolf of Wall Steet

My Pick: 12 Years a Slave

What I’d Like To Win:  The Wolf of Wall Street

Finally, a category that actually has some competition. So I’m pretty sure that 12 Years is going to get it because it was an impeccable script. It was written really theatrically and I loved it for that, the language was just as beautiful as the performances and the cinematography. It was amazing.

That being said, if the Wolf of Wall Street’s record-breaking curse parade of a script won a bloody Oscar for best screenplay… well that would just be great, wouldn’t it?

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Nominees: American Hustle, Blue Jasmine, Dallas Buyers Club, Her, Nebraska

My Pick: Her

What I’d Like To Win: Please, please, please, please Her. Just, not American Hustle. Not for best original screenplay. This is my category. David, you can have the rest of the Oscars. You can have best picture if you want, I don’t care. Just please, don’t take this away from me. It’s all I have.

I believe in you, Spike. I believe in you. 

Well that was fun. I don’t know why I’m putting in this last little bit to talk about snubbed films since I pretty much covered it in the breakdown, but whatever. Doin’ it anyway.

So, yeah, Mud was an amazing movie that came out this year. And it came out the same day as The Great Gatsby so I don’t know why Gatsby is getting some nods while Mud is getting left behind. I think that was McConaughey’s performance of the year–real talk–better than Dallas Buyers Club, even. And the cinematography was absolutely beautiful.

A Place Beyond The Pines is sort of a polarizing film, but I think Bradley Cooper’s performance in that far surpassed his in American Hustle. The screenplay was also fantastic, and yet, nothing.

Pacific Rim, I know, is not exactly what comes to mind when you think of an Oscar Worthy Film, but heck. Not even for Visual Effects? The Oscars threw a nod at Michael Bay for visual effects, and they can’t give one to Guillermo? Come on.

There was a lot of controversy in regards to the french film Blue Is The Warmest Color. I think it was something having to do with the timing of it’s release that didn’t allow it to get thrown into the Oscar pool which is why it wasn’t nominated for the respective categories it should’ve been (Best lead/supporting actress, best foreign film, probably best picture even) but I’m going to mention it here anyway just because I can.

I really don’t think I need to mention Inside Llewyn Davis again. What was the Academy thinking. What were they thinking?! Not even just for Best Picture, but Oscar Isaac’s performance was so out of this world I can’t believe he wasn’t recognized for it. I guess he has to change his name to Golden Globe Isaac now.

Have a great Oscar Sunday, everyone.

Review: John Krokidas’s “Kill Your Darlings”

As a noted fan of the beat-era poets, I was phenomenally excited when I first heard word of Kill Your Darlings. Anything about Ginsberg or Kerouac and I will most certainly be there. Furthermore, when I discovered that the ever-infamous Daniel Radcliffe would be playing Allen Ginsberg I was more excited. It was an interesting casting choice. Having seen other adaptions of Ginsberg (notably James Franco in the film Howlit was going to be fascinating to see how Radcliffe would expunge the vision I had in my mind of Ginsy and interpret the eccentric poet himself. Furthermore, upon discovering that the film would be depicting the enigmatic Pre-Howl Ginsberg, my excitement grew and grew.

Radcliffe delivered with force, representing an awkward, teenaged Allen who was yet to come into himself, and his performance, along with the fascinating script was captivating.

Indeed, the script itself was a marvel, and it was easy to tell that a lot of passion went into this project. Everyone involved was enthralled in the work they were doing and it shows, from the shots to the performances to the way the characters were written. It was enjoyable to watch with an intriguing as well: I had no previous knowledge of the events depicted in the films (surprisingly enough) and thus was fascinated by the retelling. The coming of age themes paired with the electirc poetry of the script and the murderous plot melded together in an edgy yet incredibly sincere form.

Perhaps the true star of the film, however, was not Radcliffe’s Ginsberg, but rather, the entirely romantic and feverishly disturbed Lucien Carr, played by up-and-comer Dane DeHaan. I was already swept with Dane from witnessing his prior feats: his tragic depictions of the ADHD-ridden Jesse in HBO’s acclaimed series In Treatment, Andrew in the edgy, superhero-sleeper Chronicle, or more recently Jason in notoriously-gritty Derek Cianfrance’s The Place Beyond The Pines. DeHaan seems the type to fall into typecast territory of angsty adolescent, and while Lucien doesn’t do much to quell that, the role is flipped on its head by the fact that Carr is incredibly skilled at getting people to fall at his feet. And DeHaan does so without fail, bearing an intense portrayal of the poet-turned-killer that draws a love-hate response from the audience. His performance was, in a word, incendiary.

The supporting cast were magnificent as well, including Michael C. Hall as the predatory-yet-mournful David Kammerer, Ben Foster as the ever-odd Burroughs and Jack Huston as our lovely Kerouac, and again, it was easy to tell that everybody involved in the project was fully committed to what they did. With such a small budget and a brief shooting schedule (the entire film was shot over just 24 days), I figure it was hard not to be.

Despite the film’s quandaries in that it seems to break structure here and there, Kill Your Darlings was a persuasive tale. To any lover of the beat generation, it provides fascinating insight to the writers so loved and to those less familiar, is a gripping and mysterious introduction. The loving script and the dedicated performances make it shine.

Guest Review: Nicolas Winding Refn’s “Drive”

[By Ott Lindstrom]

Drive is…

Well.

Drive is a 2011 arthouse crime movie, directed by Nicholas Winding Refn. It stars Ryan Gosling, Ryan Gosling’s sweet-ass scorpion jacket, Carey Mulligan, Albert Brooks, Bryan Cranston, Ron Perlman and a whole lot of fake gore. The story revolves around the unnamed Ryan Gosling character, a stunt driver by day/getaway driver by night who befriends and ultimately falls in love with his neighbor Irene, whose husband is in prison. One thing leads to another and the unnamed driver ends up on the run from a bunch of pissed-off gangsters with a million dirty dollars in his possession. Refn won the Best Director award at the Cannes festival and the film was nominated for a number of B-tier honors, while being notably snubbed at the Oscars. Drive grossed over 77 million dollars at the worldwide box office on a 13 million budget, for a modest profit of $64 million. Drive clocks in at 100 minutes and is availablah blah blah blah.

It’s a movie, capiche? It was shot on a movie camera and it was shown in theaters. You can watch it on Netflix, torrent it off Pirate Bay and buy it on DVD and BluRay on Amazon if you feel so inclined.

But to simply characterize Drive as a film would be unfair, if not downright doing it a disservice; Drive is just as much an art installment as a movie, a medium-transcending feast of color and sound. The variety is simply flabbergasting: from the harrowing opening scene dripping with shadow and tension to the sundrenched ethereality of a joyride down the Los Angeles spillway, Refn jumps between a cadre of moods and styles with the dexterity of a circus juggler. Every frame is executed with more aesthetic care and craftsmanship than most films can muster in their entire runtimes. The music is equally superb, an eclectic mix of deep, grimy synths and eerie vocals. Somewhat unfortunately, the musical highlight of the film comes rather early on, where the contrast of the Driver’s ascetic apartment and a neighbor’s party is accompanied by a poppy dance number, which worms its way in and out of being diegetic as the camera hops between the two rooms. It’s a fun trick, one that is sadly never topped.

However, Drive’s art gallery veneer and acoustic expertise belies that, at its core, Driveis also a video game. Certainly, it’s the most scripted and the least interactive one since Heavy Rain, but apart from the lack of quick time events and obnoxious ads for DLC and microtransactions, Drive is a perfect embodiment of everything that’s wrong with the current gaming paradigm. It is an adolescent power fantasy spiced up with visual flourish and excellent packaging, brimming with brutality for the sake of brutality (and, in one notable scene, breasts for the sake of breasts). It tells a rote crime story, its simple twists telegraphed miles away, populated by two-dimensional mannequins, vacuous husks with the masks of pretty actors grafted across the voids within. Nowhere is this inherent emptiness more apparent than when the lazy camera focuses on the Driver himself. A monosyllabic murder machine, the Driver’s binary smirk-to-straight range of facial expressions makes the internet’s memetic stereotype of Kristen Stewart look downright expressive. It’s telling of how limited Gosling’s portrayal is that the movie would have lost very little if the rubber mask the Driver dons as part of his stunt driver ensemble in the first ten minutes had remained in place for the remaining hour and a half. But it’s not just Gosling; with the exception of Albert Brook’s viciously energetic Bernie, the other characters are little better; Bryan Cranston is crotchety, gruff and not much else, Ron Perlman stands around and says “fuck” a lot, and Carey Mulligan spends a good 70% of her screen time staring silently, tearfully into the middle distance.

But here’s the weird thing: this universal shallowness works. When all the simplistic elements are working together, when the soundtrack is pounding a decadent beat and the lights and the shadows are tearing into each other like rabid beasts, Drive is a visual symphony, a dreamy exercise in art house experimentation acted out by soulless, blood spattered automatons. Logically, the whole thing should fall apart, but it doesn’t. It should collapse under its own pretension and weirdness, but it doesn’t…it’s just all the stronger for it.

Drive is truly something to behold.

*/5 “Defies a numeric summary”

Available on Netflix Instant Streaming

Review: Steve McQueen’s “12 Years A Slave”

There’s something to be said for our society when, upon viewing a trailer for a film that deals with the topic of slavery in the United States, it is immediately dismissed as “Oscar Bait.” I myself am no stranger to jumping to that particular conclusion (sometimes faster than I thought possible). It is something that comes almost naturally. In fact, a lot of period pieces in general, of any kind, tend to bring about this response in audiences. And, upon watching the film, do not do anything to quell said response. War Films, Biopics, et cetera, all share an emotionally-stirring idiosyncrasy that just seems to scream “well that director wants an award.” In a way it has almost trivialized the events that they are covering. That is not to say that these types of films are bad films, because they aren’t—more often than not they are without a doubt what anyoone would consider a Good Film, but in such a by-the-book way that it can almost reduce the film going experience entirely. Something too wrought with swelling scores and emotive speeches breaches cliché territory, indeed, breaches “Oscar Bait” territory, and quickly. It is—and I say this only for hyperbolic purposes—almost a little insulting that studios can produce these almost manipulative and sometimes seemingly passionless films in search of a buck or perhaps an award for the mantle.

However, there are times when a period piece film comes along that makes me realize that those kinds of films do not always fall into Oscar Bait territory. Take, for example, Steve McQueen’s recent monument, 12 Years a Slave.

I wasn’t familiar with the book the film was based off, but I knew more or less what to expect with the subject matter, considering the title. However, I knew not to expect the run of the mill Civil-War-era period piece from Steve McQueen, who had demonstrated his incredibly poignant and subtle direction through his past works (Shame and Hunger), and thus I was pretty excited for the film beforehand. Taking into account the cast too, I  had a feeling that this wasn’t going to be just “another one of those.” And, lo and behold, it gloriously wasn’t.

In fact, 12 Years A Slave is potentially one of the most fulfilling, endearing, and painful films in this particular genre to watch. I say painful not in that it is bad, because it certainly is not, but in that it is agonizingly realistic. And beautifully so–disturbingly long sequences depicting the mistreatment of humans in pre-13th Amendment days so gloriously shot by McQueen’s visionary eye stirs the viewer in the most honest of ways. The performances in the film are standout, specifically in the newcomer Lupita Nyong’o, who is for sure due for an award or two this season. She is electric, and the same can be said for the rest of the cast; Michael Fassbender, a McQueen favorite, shakes the screen with a terrifying portrayal of cognitive dissonance. And of course there is the star of the show, Chiwetel Ejiofor, who truly comes into his own, with longing expressions lighting up the screen every moment. Everyone else, from Benedict Cumberbatch who is very rapidly climbing his way to the top of the A List, to the classic Paul Dano, really put on their war faces for this film, and it shows. It is a perfect storm of cinematography and performance.

In sum, 12 Years A Slave, though with a mere glance at the title seems to be Oscar Bait, is most certainly not: it is honest, it is heart-throbbing, it is both a pain and a joy to watch, and it is a capital-c Classic. If no other antebellum-era picture, all must at least witness this.

Guest Review: Michael Gondry’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

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[By Ott Lindstrom]

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’s prologue is, at first glance, the set up for an uninspired romantic comedy: against the backdrop of a frigid New York Valentine’s Day, Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet spend seventeen minutes make puppy eyes at each other, exchange playful dialogue and do their very best to be adorkable. Out of context, it’s a damning first impression, coming across as a sort of twee understated indie thing where copious amounts of mumbling and awkwardness attempt to stand in for actual wit or humor. Then the seventeen minutes is over and the mood changes with the brutal swiftness of a bullet to the head as the titles drop, accompanied by a shot of Jim Carrey sobbing alone in a dark car.

There is something oddly compelling about watching Jim Carrey cry, a morbid satisfaction akin to sticking a thumbtack into a child’s balloon or popping the head off a dandelion. When the man’s famous rubbery visage, so adept at pulling off wacky expressions in accompaniment to funny noises, is scrunched into a tear drenched cascade of wrinkles, you can’t help but be enthralled. So it is with many aspects of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Michael Gondry’s examination of failed romance wearing the guise of a low concept science fiction film. This is not a “feel good” movie by any means; Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is to romantic comedies what Spec Ops: The Line is to modern shooter video games, an assumption-manipulating, cliché-eviscerating exercise in subversion and indictment that still manages to engage and fulfill despite its many layers of grim cynicism.

The majority of this engagement is embodied in Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet. Both actors are in top form here, as ex-lovers Joel and Clementine who opt to undergo a procedure to erase all their memories of their relationship. Carrey is marvelously low key, turning in a quiet and nuanced performance at odds to his usual over-the-top comedic shenanigans. If it weren’t for the few rough patches where Carrey’s broad comic chops are given the opportunity to manifest (mostly in the form of almost cringe-worthy tone-breaking displays of facial muscle acrobatics), one could nearly be convinced he had been dealing in empathetic, dramatic roles his entire career. Sadly, it is perhaps this abstracted triumph of Carrey’s acting that is the biggest tragedy in a film full of heartbreaks: it is closing in on a decade since the film’s debut and Mr. Carrey hasn’t set foot near any project with even a fraction of Eternal Sunshine’s depth since.

Kate Winslet is equally great as Clementine, a brilliantly constructed corruption of the manic pixie dream girl romantic archetype. To paraphrase her catchphrase, Clem is a very fucked-up girl, whose litany of eccentricities comes off as more sad and petulant than endearing. The brash impulsiveness Winslet brings to the role is a perfect foil to Carrey’s quiet uncertainty. While their romantic chemistry feels a touch lacking (as it should, considering the context), the interplay between the two is nevertheless extraordinarily pleasurable to watch.

The background cast, while solid, feels more like a collective means to an end than an actual roster of fleshed out characters. Mark Ruffalo and Elijah Wood provide flashes of comic relief (far more seamlessly than Carrey does) and Kirsten Dunst and Tom Wilkinson provide a moderately interesting subplot that channels into the main twist of the third act. The actors are all good at what they are doing, but many of them feel one note and they are all completely overshadowed by the main duo.

Gondry’s directing and Charlie Kaufman’s writing are all but impeccable. Apart from the clunky way in which the script brings Joel and Clementine back together at the end of the film and the supremely awkward way in which the title’s source quote is worked in, Eternal Sunshine is fantastically constructed and presented, taking joy in toying with the viewers’ preconceived notions and slamming them in the face with jarring juxtaposition. The sci-fi aspects of the movie are nicely minimalistic, with no bloated technobabble to bog down the excellent dialogue (this is one of the most eminently quotable films I have seen in a good long while). The nonlinearity that stems from the science fiction elements is easy to grasp and follow, managing to be clever without confusing. The special effects, few and far between, are pleasant in their subtlety; an image of Joel’s storybook childhood home transforming into a bleak, tumbledown wraith as his memory is scrubbed is beautiful and melancholy.

And that is the best way to describe Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind: a beautiful melancholy. By the time the film has come to its inexorable conclusion, there isn’t a scrap of hope left for the characters, only the putrescent stench of dead love lying thick over the chilly streets of a New York February. And yet, despite the frustrating futility of Joel and Clem’s love life, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is still extraordinarily satisfying; the creativity and craft of the creators and the talent of the leads is more than enough to justify letting a little heartbreak into your life.

4.5/5 “You should probably check this out. Now.”

Available on Netflix Instant Streaming