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An interesting view of Divergent

I’m back with another movie related post, although this is about an adaptation of a book.  And it’s just a pointer to someone else’s post.

But it points out something that never occurred to me, and that I think is really important.  It’s about Divergent and it’s anti-rape-culture message.  Go, read it, and let me know what you think.

The “Divergent” Rape Scene: Here’s Why It Matters

(I enjoyed the movie.  I’m rereading the books now, and hoping I like Allegiant better on a straight read-through than I did when I read it when it came out.  I don’t have high hopes, though.)

 
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Posted by on March 27, 2014 in movie

 

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Favorite movies of 2013

moviesNow that I’ve completed my Best Picture Oscar Nominee viewing, I’m ready to sort through my list of favorite movies from 2013.

I watched a lot of movies over the last year.  I count 33 movies that I think would be eligible (date-wise) for the 2014 Oscars, but many of my favorites weren’t nominated for anything.  I’m mostly OK with that.

Here’s my top 10 list:

  1. Hunger Games: Catching Fire
  2. Frozen
  3. Saving Mr. Banks
  4. Austenland
  5. American Hustle
  6. Nebraska
  7. Her
  8. Gravity
  9. Now You See Me
  10. Captain Phillips

Looking at this list, I think I can say I have eclectic taste in movies. Many of these movies appear on everyone else’s lists, but there are a few that aren’t.

I liked Frozen and Saving Mr. Banks for the same reasons everyone else did.  You can look at my Oscar Nominees post to see what I liked about American Hustle, Nebraska, Her, Gravity and Captain Phillips.

For the less usual ones: I found Catching Fire to be emotional, inspiring, thought provoking, visually intriguing, and wonderfully acted.  I loved the books, and I thought this was an excellent adaptation. Austenland never took itself seriously, and was the most fun I’ve had at the movies in ages.  I loved the twists and turns in Now You See Me.

There were only 3 movies on my list that I didn’t like.I’m not claiming these are the worst movies of the year– I generally try to avoid anything I think might qualify for that title, and I think I generally succeed. One was an Oscar nominee I went in expecting to dislike, and it was pretty much what I thought it would be (The Wolf of Wall Street).  One of them (The World’s End), I should have known better, I generally don’t like movies like that, but the trailer got my hopes up more than it should have.  And one (The Hobbit: the Desolation of Smaug) was a straight up disappointment– I didn’t dislike it, but I really wanted and expected to like it.

The other 30 were all enjoyable viewing experiences, some more than others.

I’m quite intrigued to see what 2014 brings in the way of movies.

 
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Posted by on March 2, 2014 in movie

 

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Thoughts on the 2014 Oscars

moviesI’ve abandoned the blog for longer than I care to think about, and now I’m back, I’m talking about movies rather than books.  Sorry about that!

Once again, I’ve made the effort to view all of the Best Picture Nominees.  It was a strong field of nominees, and I enjoyed expanding my horizons with some of them that I wouldn’t have otherwise watched. I thought I’d share my thoughts on the top races.  These aren’t predictions, but are my opinions.

(And yes, this is a little late in posting– I finished watching the nominees at midnight last night.)

BEST PICTURE

(From bottom to top)

9) The Wolf of Wall Street: I just don’t see the redeeming value in this one.

8) Philomena:  In interesting story, competently told.  I enjoyed it, and there was nothing wrong with the production, but it didn’t wow me, and there were many other movies that did.

Positions 7-4 are essentially a tie– the movies are very hard to compare, and they all have specific areas of strength.  I won’t be upset with any movie after this point winning as Best Picture.

7) American Hustle: From an entertainment standpoint, this may be my favorite of the nominees.  It was fun to watch. The cast is fantastic as an ensemble.  And really, that’s all I get from this movie.  Let me know if I’m missing something.

6) Captain Phillips: An incredibly intense experience, and I really think Tom Hanks should have been nominated for best actor.  It was an interesting look at how a situation can fall apart, even under strong leadership.

5) Her:  I found this a highly enjoyable movie, looking at life, love and technology. The visuals were great as well.  I think a little more of an edge might have been interesting, but maybe not as much fun.

4) Dallas Buyers Club:  An emotional and thoughtful look at a situation from the recent past, and one that still hasn’t been entirely solved today.   The acting was very well done.  I didn’t find the movie entertaining, but it was well worth watching.

3) 12 Years a Slave: This movie is incredible.  It’s an important story, very well told. It’s well done enough that it is not a pleasant experience to watch.

2) Gravity:  A visually stunning, incredibly intense experience. I felt the fear of being lost in space.

1) Nebraska This movie had everything, including visual artistry, emotional impact, engaging characters, thought provoking situation, great acting– and it was still entertaining.  Every aspect of Nebraska is well crafted.  The description of this movie doesn’t do it justice, it is really worth seeing.

And a few other races where I have an opinion:

Actor in a Leading Role

(5/5 nominees viewed)

Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club, for his excellent work in a difficult role.

Actress in a Leading Role

(3/5 nominees viewed)

Sandra Bullock in Gravity, she carried most of the weight of the movie.

Actor in A Supporting Role

(5/5 nominees viewed)

Jared Leto in Dallas Buyers Club, another difficult role well played.

Actress in a Supporting Role

(3/5 nominees viewed)

Jennifer Lawrence in American Hustle, for the wrong reasons.  I loved her in American Hustle, but I think she faced many more challenges in her work with The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, and I don’t think she gets enough credit for that.  And I also have something of a crush on her, like much of the rest of America.

Or Lupita Nyong’o for 12 Years a Slave, if I really am picking only based on the listed performance.

ANIMATED FEATURE FILM

(Only 2/5 nominees viewed)

But I’m still picking Frozen, because I think it was a really good movie.

DIRECTING

(5/5 nominees viewed).

Steve McQueen for 12 Years a Slave. Or Alfonso Cuarón for Gravity.  Or Alexander Payne for Nebraska.  Or David O. Russell for American Hustle. I can make an argument for any of the nominees, even Martin Scorsese for The Wolf of Wall Street (I think he did a good job of making the movie he intended to make.  Just because I don’t see the point in the existence of the movie doesn’t mean I don’t recognize that.)

SHORT FILM: Animated

Mr. Hublot gets my nod, for being a movie with heart and character and visual appeal.  Room on the Broom is a close second, for being a children’s book brought to life in a very appealing way.

SHORT FILM: Live Action

I’ll go with Helium.  I loved the whimsy and the emotion.  I actually think in many ways, the best one was Aquel No Era Yo (That Wasn’t Me), which was intense and told an important story and was no fun at all to watch.

I’ll be interested in seeing who wins tonight!

 
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Posted by on March 2, 2014 in movie

 

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My 2012 Oscar thoughts

moviesOnce again, I’ve made the effort to see all 9 Best Picture nominees!  I’m a little late writing this up, with the Oscars being on in a few hours…

Here are my thoughts on what I liked and/or thought should win.  Starting at the end of the list:

9. Django Unchained is clearly my least favorite of the group, and although I can somewhat see what the appeal could be for someone else, I really don’t have any idea why it would be Best Picture material.

I actually wouldn’t be terribly unhappy if any of the rest of the nominees won.  I can understand why each and every one was nominated.  This is a strong field.

8. Life of Pi was visually stunning, and was interesting to think about.  I actually felt the movie worked better than the book, which I was more mixed in my opinion about  But I think the other candidates were stronger.

7. Les Misérables ranks higher on my favorites of the year, and I really do think this production was excellent.

6. Beasts of the Southern Wild was a fascinating look at a life very different from what I (or most viewers) know.  I wouldn’t have seen it if it wasn’t for the Oscar nomination, since it really wouldn’t have crossed my radar, and I’m glad I did.

From here on, I have a difficult time ranking which I think should get the Oscar, so I’m going in the order of how much I liked them.

5. Zero Dark Thirty is a movie I expected to rank back with Django Unchained.  I would not have seen this movie if it wasn’t for the Oscar Nomination, and I expected to dislike it.  I didn’t.  I can’t say I enjoyed it, exactly, but I thought it was extremely well crafted.  I thought it took an interesting and somewhat balanced look at a specific set of issues involved in modern warfare.  I don’t care if it reflects actual events correctly, detail by detail, not for this movie or the other two nominees based in actual events.

4. Lincoln was everything is was reported to be, but somehow I didn’t love it anyway.  Still, I came out of it expecting it to be a leading Oscar contender, and it certainly has the nomination count for that, but it doesn’t have the buzz that leads me to think it is likely to win, and that surprises me a little.  I’m not complaining, though!

3. Amour is another movie that wouldn’t have crossed my radar if it wasn’t for the Best Picture nod.  It’s also another one where I really appreciated it, although I can’t say I enjoyed it.  I found it a deeply disturbing look at the aging process, and I think it hit exactly the notes it meant to.  I absolutely recommend seeing it, but be prepared!

2. Argo is the movie I’m expecting to win, and I’m fine with that.  I think it was very well made, and provides a look into an episode in our past, while telling a quirky story, and showing how thinking outside the box can be very good problem solving.

1. Silver Linings Playbook was my favorite from this list.  I think that providing this insight into the world of mental illness is valuable, and it also was an entertaining movie.  It was able to balance the line between making fun of the mentally ill and pitying them.  The performances were all top notch.  I’ll hope for some awards for it tonight!

My two favorite movies of the year are not on this list.  I was hoping my top pick would make it, but Moonrise Kingdom was only nominated under Best Original Screenplay. I never thought my second favorite movie would make the list, The Hunger Games just wasn’t that sort of movie, but I enjoyed it anyway.

Which movies did you see?  Which did you like best?

 
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Posted by on February 24, 2013 in movie, Uncategorized

 

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And the best picture of 2011 is…

I’ve now succeeded in my goal to see all nine of this year’s Oscar Best Picture nominees!

I’m happy to have been able to see so many good movies this past year.  It was fun to make the effort to see all the nominees.  The AMC Best Picture Showcase was a big help, allowing me to pick one day to see four of the movies (three of which I hadn’t yet seen), and concentrate on catching the rest.

I thought I’d share my thoughts (no spoilers) on the nominees. I actually think most of them were somewhere between pretty good and very good, and I’d be OK with most of them being chosen for Best Picture. Here are my choices, ranked from last to first.

9. The Tree of Life
.  (viewed Saturday) This may or may not be good Art (Capital A intended), but I don’t think it made a particularly good movie.  There were some amazingly stunning visual sequences, and a few of these even made sense.  There were a few emotionally effective scenes.  I can see college students staying up late debating the meaning of this movie, in parts and as a whole.  But overall, this is the movie (of the nominees)  that I would be the least likely to pick for Best Picture.  I really don’t think this one should win.

8.  I have a tie:  Does a not-quite-successful ambitious movie or a well executed, fairly lightweight one rate higher?

Warhorse:  (viewed Saturday) It wasn’t a bad movie, but I don’t think it quite made Best Picture material.  What it came down to for me was too much war for a feel good movie, to many unlikely events for a war movie.   It was very ambitious in what it tried to do, and it didn’t quite succeed.

Midnight In Paris:  (viewed in June) This is one of my favorite movies out of the nominees.   That doesn’t mean I think it deserves to win.  It was fun and fluffy, and I adored the literary references.

I’d actually be OK with any of the movies after this winning for Best Picture.  Positions 6 through 2 are fairly close to tied, as far as my vote goes.

6. The Artist: (viewed Feb. 2)  I doubt I would have gone to see this if it wasn’t for its Best Picture nomination. I enjoyed and appreciated it much more than expected. The story of a silent movie star left behind by changing technology was both interesting and relevant. The use of the silent movie model, with the occasional use of sound was very well done, pulling attention exactly where it was wanted.  Emotionally, the dog was the key to the movie.  The main characters were somewhat inaccessible, largely due to their silence, but the dog bridged this gap.  All in all, it was an interesting viewing experience, which I very much enjoyed.

5.  Hugo: (Viewed in late December) Before seeing Tree of Life, my thought was that this was by far the most visually stunning nominee.  Now I’ll say that it is the best looking movie where the visuals actually make sense.  Every aspect of this movie is brilliantly crafted, from the script to the performances to all the details of the set.  This is one of my personal favorites out of the nominees.

4. The Descendants: (Viewed Saturday)  My book club is reading the novel this is based on, and I’m eager to see how much it is like the movie (or rather, the movie is like it).  This is one of the most character based of the nominees, dealing with a man whose family is in crisis. I found it to be emotionally engaging, and I enjoyed the gorgeous scenery along the way.

3. The Help: (Viewed twice in August)  I loved the book (and recommend the audiobook) and I think this was an excellent job of adapting it for the screen. These actresses were wonderful as they told the story of a small piece of the struggle for civil rights.

2. Moneyball: (Viewed in September, last Saturday)  I’m not a baseball fan, but I love math!  This movie shows what can happen when you think outside the box.

1.  Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close: (Viewed in late January)  This movie just blew me away.  I went in knowing very little about it, and was astounded at how well I was able to see the world through the eyes of this very quirky young boy, staggering from the death of his father in the World Trade Center.

Again, any of my top 6 would be fine with me– they each have different strengths.  Each is worth seeing, if you have the chance.

Which movie gets your vote?

 
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Posted by on February 21, 2012 in movie

 

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Everything Austen: Emma (movie) (mini-review)

EmmaI recently watched the 1996 movie version of Jane Austen’s Emma, featuring Gwynneth Paltrow.

I had three reasons for doing this now.  This first is that I like the book and this movie, and it sounded like a fun way to spend the evening.   The second was curiosity as to whether my 11 year old daughter would enjoy it. The third was to fill this month’s Everything Austen challenge slot.

I’d seen this movie several times before, and I knew I like it. I settled right into watching it, and frankly, I didn’t feel like being critical (hence the mini-review).

I find this movie true to the spirit of the book.  It makes changes as necessary to translate into a decent movie.  I like all of the casting, from Mr. Knightly (yum), to Mr. Woodhouse and Miss Bates (very funny) to Emma herself– far from perfect, but just appealing enough to have me rooting for her.

My daughter attempted to watch the 1970s BBC production with me, but just couldn’t quite hang in there.  She did stick around for all 2 hours of this one, losing track of the characters at times.  I don’t think it is going to become a favorite any time soon, but she’s still interested in watching Sense and Sensibility and maybe in reading one of the books.  I don’t see a hurry on those, but I certainly won’t stop her.

everythingausten3Me?  I’ve heard good things about the more recent BBC production, and so I may add a 3rd movie version of Emma to my challenge list. :-)

I’ve now completed 3 of the 6 things I need to complete the Everything Austen challenge at Stephanie’s Written Word.    The deadline is the end of the year, so I’m still on track.  There are so many books I’d like to read and movies I’d like to watch, I may keep this as a regular event– one Austen a month!

 
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Posted by on September 24, 2009 in challenge, movie, Uncategorized

 

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Movie Review: Julie & Julia

Julie JuliaI enjoyed this movie.  As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not terribly critical when it comes to movies– I tend to kick back and enjoy.

In this case, I can’t help but compare it to the book it was based on.

The “Julia” portions were completely different from the book.  The movie covered a different portion of Julia Child’s life.  I think the movie version was much stronger.  I really enjoyed seeing Meryl Streep as Julia Child, and watching Julia’s determination as she went through cooking school and the writing of her cookbook was just wonderful.

The “Julie” segments suffered in the same way almost every book adapted to a movie does– there is so much left out!  I think the decisions made were good ones, but I missed some of the secondary characters, I missed the saga of the couch, the ongoing search for ingredients, the edge to Julie’s character, and so on.

Comparisons to the book aside, I think the Julia story told a complete and entertaining story.

I liked the interplay between the two stories, how they wove together.  The Julia story really reinforced the events in Julie’s life.

I’m glad I went to see this one.

 
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Posted by on August 25, 2009 in movie

 

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Review: BBC production of Emma

Emma-BBCA few weeks ago, I bought the BBC Video Jane Austen Collection at Costco.  I love Costco finds, and this time I even had a coupon.

I picked out Emma to watch first.  This production is a miniseries from 1972, and is 270 minutes long (6 45 minute episodes).

On the one hand, I think it was quite faithful to the novel.  I like the book, and so I enjoyed this production. All of the performers did a fine job with their parts.  The casting for Harriet Smith and Mr. Woodhouse was particularly good– they were just as I imagined the characters.

On the other hand, I don’t think this production brought anything new to the story for me.

I feel somewhat shallow saying that I found this production dry.  It didn’t have a soundtrack, and I missed that.  The actors were relatively ordinary looking– I expect a fairly dashing Mr. Knightly, and a good looking (although not necessarily beautiful) Emma.   The whole series felt like it had the same (slow) pace.

Jane Austen fans will probably enjoy this version (although perhaps not find it a favorite), but I wouldn’t try to bring anyone new into the fold by watching it.

everythingausten2I viewed this as part of the Everything Austen Challenge. This is the first item (out of 6) that I’ve completed– I’m a little behind schedule, but I’m sure I’ll catch up at some point! I’m currently listening to An Assembly Such as This: A Novel of Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentlemanfor my next item. Thank you to Stephanie at Stephanie’s Written Word for organizing this challenge.

 
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Posted by on August 13, 2009 in challenge, movie

 

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Movie Review: My Sister’s Keeper

I read My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult for my book club L in January 2007.  I liked the book, and we had a good discussion of it.  Many times since then, I’ve thought I should read another one of her books.  I’ve picked up one or another, read the back, and thought it sounded interesting.  I’ve been almost ready to buy it, and then asked myself “Do I really want to read that?”.  So far, the answer has been “No, not right now”.

mysisterskeeper_smallposterI asked the same question when I heard that there was going to be a movie of My Sister’s Keeper.   This time, the answer was yes, assuming I could find friends to see it with.  I did, and I saw the movie last week.

I liked the movie.  But then again, I usually do.  In my post on book ratings yesterday, I said that if I think I’m going to like a book, I usually do, but that doesn’t preclude me being critical of it.  With movies, I’m even more likely to like a movie, and even less likely to be critical.  I find a movie really pulls me into its world, and it takes a lot to push me out.

That said:  I think the acting was wonderful.  I liked most of the choices that were made in what to keep and what to change from the book.  Jesse (the brother) got the raw deal in the process, having the parts that were actually about him removed entirely, but these decisions have to be made.

I was somewhat disappointed about the change to the ending, but I understand why it was done.  There were those in my book club that hated the original ending as well, and I can see their point!  The four of us that saw it together couldn’t come up with a completely satisfying ending, although wiping out the entire city with a giant meteor had its appeal.

I’ll recommend this movie for a girls night out (or in, when it is on DVD).

 
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Posted by on July 19, 2009 in movie

 

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