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The following are each of my choices for Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, from 1985-2012, so far.
John Huston - Prizzi's Honor
Jack Nicholson - Prizzi's Honor
Kathleen Turner - Prizzi's Honor
William Hickey - Prizzi's Honor
Anjelica Huston - Prizzi's Honor
Oliver Stone - Platoon
Paul Newman - The Color of Money
Sigourney Weaver - Aliens
Tom Berenger - Platoon
Dianne Wiest - Hannah and Her Sisters
Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
John Hughes - Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
Steve Martin - Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
Holly Hunter - Broadcast News
John Candy - Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
Barbara Hershey - Tin Men
John McTiernan - Die Hard
Tom Hanks - Big
Jodie Foster - The Accused
Kevin Kline - A Fish Called Wanda
Michelle Pfeiffer - Dangerous Liaisons
Field of Dreams
Phil Alden Robinson - Field of Dreams
Kenneth Branagh - Henry V
Meg Ryan - When Harry Met Sally
Martin Landau - Crimes and Misdemeanors
Dianne Wiest - Parenthood
Martin Scorsese - Goodfellas
Ray Liotta - Goodfellas
Kathy Bates - Misery
Joe Pesci - Goodfellas
Lorraine Bracco - Goodfellas
Silence of the Lambs
Jonathan Demme - Silence of the Lambs
Anthony Hopkins - Silence of the Lambs
Jodie Foster - Silence of the Lambs
Ted Levine - Silence of the Lambs
Juliette Lewis - Cape Fear
Clint Eastwood - Unforgiven
Al Pacino - Scent of a Woman
Geena Davis - A League of Their Own
Gene Hackman - Unforgiven
Marisa Tomei - My Cousin Vinny
Steven Spielberg - Schindler's List
Tom Hanks - Philadelpia
Holly Hunter - The Piano
Ralph Fiennes - Schindler's List
Anna Paquin - The Piano
Robert Zemeckis - Forrest Gump
Tom Hanks - Forrest Gump
Irene Jacob - Red
Gary Sinise - Forrest Gump
Dianne Wiest - Bullets Over Broadway
Ron Howard - Apollo 13
Nicolas Cage - Leaving Las Vegas
Nicole Kidman - To Die For
Ed Harris - Apollo 13
Mira Sorvino - Mighty Aphrodite
The English Patient
Anthony Minghella - The English Patient
Billy Bob Thornton - Sling Blade
Frances McDormand - Fargo
Edward Norton - Primal Fear
Juliette Binoche - The English Patient
Good Will Hunting
Gus Van Sant - Good Will Hunting
Matt Damon - Good Will Hunting
Joey Lauren Adams - Chasing Amy
Robin Williams - Good Will Hunting
Minnie Driver - Good Will Hunting
Saving Private Ryan
Steven Spielberg - Saving Private Ryan
Jim Carrey - The Truman Show
Cate Blanchett - Elizabeth
Bill Murray - Rushmore
Laura Linney - The Truman Show
Sam Mendes - American Beauty
Kevin Spacey - American Beauty
Hilary Swank - Boys Don't Cry
Michael Caine - The Cider House Rules
Angelina Jolie - Girl, Interrupted
Steven Soderbergh - Traffic
George Clooney - O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Julia Roberts - Erin Brockovich
Benicio Del Toro - Traffic
Marcia Gay Harden - Pollock
A Beautiful Mind
Ron Howard - A Beautiful Mind
Russell Crowe - A Beautiful Mind
Naomi Watts - Mulholland Dr.
Ian McKellen - Fellowship of the Ring
Jennifer Connelly - A Beautiful Mind
Gangs of New York
Martin Scorsese - Gangs of New York
Adrien Brody - The Pianist
Julianne Moore - Far from Heaven
Chris Cooper - Adaptation
Catherine Zeta-Jones - Chicago
Lord of the Rings: Return of the King
Peter Jackson - Lord of the Rings: Return of the King
Sean Penn - Mystic River
Charlize Theron - Monster
Tim Robbins - Mystic River
Renee Zellweger - Cold Mountain
Michael Mann - Collateral
Jamie Foxx - Ray
Hilary Swank - Million Dollar Baby
Clive Owen - Closer
Natalie Portman - Closer
Ron Howard - Cinderella Man
Joaquin Phoenix - Walk the Line
Reese Witherspoon - Walk the Line
Matt Dillon - Crash
Rachel Weisz - The Constant Gardener
Martin Scorsese - The Departed
Leonardo DiCaprio - The Departed
Kate Winslet - Little Children
Mark Wahlberg - The Departed
Abigail Breslin - Little Miss Sunshine
No Country for Old Men
Joel Coen & Ethan Coen - No Country for Old Men
Daniel Day-Lewis - There Will Be Blood
Marion Cotillard - La Vie En Rose
Javier Bardem - No Country for Old Men
Amy Ryan - Gone Baby Gone
Ron Howard - Frost/Nixon
Frank Langella - Frost/Nixon
Anne Hathaway - Rachel Getting Married
Robert Downey Jr. - Tropic Thunder
Penelope Cruz - Vicky Cristina Barcelona
The Hurt Locker
Kathryn Bigelow - The Hurt Locker
Jeff Bridges - Crazy Heart
Sandra Bullock - The Blind Side
Anthony Mackie - The Hurt Locker
Marion Cotillard - Public Enemies
Ben Affleck - The Town
Ben Stiller - Greenberg
Diane Lane - Secretariat
Jon Hamm - The Town
Michelle Williams - Shutter Island
X-Men: First Class
Matthew Vaughn - X-Men: First Class
Brad Pitt - Moneyball
Keira Knightley - A Dangerous Method
Kevin Bacon - X-Men: First Class
Hayley Atwell - Captain America: The First Avenger
Sam Mendes - Skyfall
Hugh Jackman - Les Miserables
Jessica Chastain - Zero Dark Thirty
Jude Law - Anna Karenina
Anne Hathaway - Les Miserables
Alfonso Cuaron - Gravity
Bruce Dern - Nebraska
Sandra Bullock - Gravity
Bradley Cooper - American Hustle
Amy Adams - Her
My Best Picture Winners from 1960-1984
1960: Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock)
1961: The Hustler (Robert Rossen)
1962: The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (John Ford)
1963: The Birds (Alfred Hitchcock)
1964: Dr. Strangelove (Stanley Kubrick)
1965: Doctor Zhivago (David Lean)
1966: Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (Mike Nichols)
1967: Bonnie and Clyde (Arthur Penn)
1968: The Producers (Mel Brooks)
1969: Midnight Cowboy (John Schlesinger)
1970: The Twelve Chairs (Mel Brooks)
1971: The French Connection (William Friedkin)
1972: The Godfather (Francis Ford Coppola)
1973: The Sting (George Roy Hill)
1974: The Godfather Part II (Francis Ford Coppola)
1975: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (Milos Forman)
1976: Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese)
1977: Annie Hall (Woody Allen)
1978: The Deer Hunter (Michael Cimino)
1979: ...And Justice for All. (Norman Jewison)
1980: Raging Bull (Martin Scorsese)
1981: Reds (Warren Beatty)
1982: Gandhi (Richard Attenborough)
1983: Terms of Endearment (James L. Brooks)
1984: The Natural (Barry Levinson)
Nicholas Stoller Continues to Show His Filmmaking Talent
Nicholas Stoller has already achieved a feat of hitting a comedy trifecta with Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Get Him to the Greek, and The Five Year Engagement. He has now turned that trifecta into a quadrifecta with his newest comedy Neighbors.
Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly Radner (Rose Byrne) are a married couple with a new home and an infant daughter. Their lives revolve around caring for their kid. One day, they noticed that a college fraternity has moved in next door to them. Realizing what the fraternity will be doing, Mac and Kelly go over to introduce themselves and nicely ask fraternity president Teddy (Zac Efron) and vice president Pete (Dave Franco) to keep the volume down. The fraternity doesn't listen, so Mac and Kelly go over and party with them and form a friendship. However, Mac breaks their trust by calling the cops, and all hell breaks loose between the Radners and the fraternity guys. The only one who is not willing the tolerate the nonsense is the college's Dean (Lisa Kudrow).
Nicholas Stoller has done another awesome job as a director, with this story of older couple vs. college fraternity. Stoller continues to show his talents behind the camera with making the film feel like a breeze, getting good performances out of his actors, and continuing to go for the laughs at just the right time.
Seth Rogen still shows some of the same stuff he's done in past performances, but this time he shows us a guy who is more grown up and mature compared to past characters like Ben Stone or Zack Brown. Rose Byrne is hilarious as the wife who is just as much clever as she is attractive. Byrne gives another one of her best performances. Efron shows that he wants to shed his younger image and gives us a interesting role as a guy who will stop at nothing until he proves his dominance over the Radners. Dave Franco is also interesting as a smart guy who puts his wants in life over his fraternity. The surprise to me is Ike Barinholtz as Mac's best friend Jimmy, a divorcée who wants nothing to do with his friend's plans until he realizes a frat guy named Scoonie (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) is having sex with the ex-wife Paula (Carla Gallo).
Muppets Most Wanted (2014)
Just As Good As the First Film
I highly enjoyed The Muppets back in 2011. However, their sequel, Muppets Most Wanted, was one of those films that I'd like to see, but was not a high priority. Luckily for me, I had an opportunity to see it, and I found myself enjoying it just as much as the first one.
The film begins where the first ended with their musical number. The Muppets are all gathered around the set where during the opening musical number "We're Doing a Sequel", they are not quite sure what to do next until Dominic (Ricky Gervais) suggests that The Muppets go on a world tour. Dominic is managing The Muppets, while Constantine, a criminal frog who looks identical to Kermit, has escaped a Siberian Gulag. The Muppets go to Europe and everyone has an idea of what they want to do for the show, but Kermit is not wild about their suggestions. After getting frustrated, Kermit takes a walk where he runs into Constantine, who in disguise, glues a fake mole to Kermit's face and runs off, making Kermit be mistaken for Constantine. Kermit is then taken to the Gulag, while Constantine bosses around Dominic and lets the other Muppets do whatever they want. Animal is the only one who is suspicious of "Kermit".
While the Muppets are performing, Constantine and Dominic are stealing different things at museums near the venues the Muppets are performing at. The detectives on the case are Interpol agent Jean Pierre Napoleon (Ty Burrell) and CIA Agent Sam Eagle. While Dominic is managing the Muppets and assisting Constantine, Kermit's attempts to escape are thwarted by the intelligent guard Nadya (Tina Fey). Nadya subsequently orders for Kermit to organize the prison's talent show, and ultimately has a secret of her own.
The film is just as much funny and clever as the first film was. James Bobin, who directed the first film, returns here and has put together another entertaining Muppet musical. The musical numbers are all lively and fun. The standout number and song was "The Big House", which is played when Kermit arrives to the Gulag.
The standout in this film is Tina Fey as Gulag guard Nadya. She is a hoot as the guard who is too smart for Kermit. Burrell and Gervais are fun in their parts as well. Of course with all Muppet films, there are a lot of cameos that are fun to see including (but not limited to) Tony Bennett, Frank Langella, Soairse Ronan, Toby Jones, Sean Combs, Usher, Josh Groban, Salma Hayek, Zach Galifianakis, Stanley Tucci, and Ray Liotta.
The film is fun for both kids and adults. The songs are great. I also say, that this film is equal with the 2011 hit in terms of quality.
Draft Day (2014)
Excellent Look Into the Biggest Day of the NFL Offseason
I'm always up for a good football movie and I'm pretty sure that hasn't been one since 2009 when The Blind Side came out. Now, we have a new story from director Ivan Reitman about that one day in the NFL offseason everyone anticipates, Draft Day.
The film begins hours before the NFL Draft begins, and Sonny Weaver Jr. (Kevin Costner) is just getting ready for the day that may make or break his tenure as the General Manager of the Cleveland Browns. Sonny knows everything that is going on even before getting to the office. He has ESPN on his TV at home, and listens to all the sports radio talk. Early in the day, Sonny makes a deal with the Seattle Seahawks, who have the #1 pick and are expected to take hotshot quarterback Bo Callahan. The deal involved the Browns getting the #1 pick from the Seahawks in exchange for their first round picks for the next three seasons. Everyone is expecting Sonny to pick Callahan, but there are two other prospects Sonny is interested in: a linebacker with a good heart but a mouth on him named Vontae Mack (Chadwick Boseman) and running back Ray Jennings (Current Houston Texans running back Arian Foster), whose father Earl (Terry Crews) was a Browns legend. This move has made Browns fans happy put has angered some Browns personnel, such as head coach Vince Penn (Denis Leary) and starting quarterback Brian Drew (Tom Welling). Ultimately, the choice belongs to Sonny, who is also facing some personal issues with his father, a legendary coach, having passed away a week before the film begins and his girlfriend and fellow co-worker Allie (Jennifer Garner) is pregnant with his child. The film goes through Sonny's day with dealing all the pressure, especially from owner Anthony Molina (Frank Langella).
Ivan Reitman has done an awesome job of telling a football story revolving around a big media frenzy every year. I like that he focuses the story on Kevin Costner's sunny and making about the GM of the team, a very tough job indeed. He and director of photography Eric Steelburg (who has shot Reitman's son's films) do a nice job of intertwining the phone conversations between any two characters, usually Sonny and somebody else.
Kevin Costner is just excellent at the front and center of this film. He is great at being the man under pressure from every one and their cousin as his job is on the line. Jennifer Garner is good in her part as girlfriend Allie, but I think any actress could have played that part. Denis Leary is great as the coach who wants to win. Frank Langella was enjoyable as the owner, but my favorite supporting performance was Chadwick Boseman as hothead linebacker Vontae Mack.
Cleveland Browns fans will certainly be happy with this film being about their team. While I am not a Browns fan, I got a football movie I highly enjoyed.
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014)
A Nice New Take on a Popular Character
The late Tom Clancy had a successful career thanks to his novels revolving around Jack Ryan, a character primarily known for his work with the CIA. The latest adaptation of Clancy's work and characters was brought to the big screen by Thor director Kenneth Branagh and actor Chris Pine.
The films begins with the title character Ryan (Pine) attending college in London when he witnesses the September 11 attacks on TV. Shortly after, we see Ryan in military action when he is involved in a helicopter crash. Subsequently, Ryan is finishing his rehab with Dr. Cathy Muller (Keira Knightley) when he is seen by CIA Agent Thomas Harper (Kevin Costner). Harper brings on Ryan to work in the CIA in the business side of things. However, Ryan comes across many private Russian accounts led by businessman Viktor Cherevin (Branagh). While finding this out, he uncovers a plot by Cherevin to have a terrorist attack by crashing the U.S. economy.
From seeing the work Kenneth Branagh did as the director of Thor, it's easy to see why Paramount wanted to have him direct the new Jack Ryan film. Here, Branagh does a nice job of telling the story, making the film fly by, making the payoffs work, and great choices of where to point the camera. The only complaint I have is I felt that there were too many close up shots of the actors' faces. I did enjoy that Branagh's version was its own stand alone story.
Chris Pine is now the fourth actor to portray Jack Ryan on the big screen. What I liked best of Pine's version of the character is how he shows us a new Jack Ryan who is in way over his head but is able to solve his problems quickly. Pine does great at making Ryan keep his cool and using his brains when fighting. Costner is great here as the mentor Harper. He is just right for the part in being the guy guiding Ryan. Knightley is a joy to watch here as Ryan's fiancé Dr. Muller. Cathy is no damsel in distress and Knightley plays her as a smart woman who can call out Jack's lies. Branagh is the supporting standout as the villain Viktor Cherevin. With this , Branagh brings a menace to the big screen, who is very reckless, yet he also has superiors to answer to. I also enjoyed how Branagh made Viktor a sophisticated character too in showing that this man is very smart.
I also quite enjoyed the technical work put in here. There is excellent cinematography and editing. I was also amazed at the work done in the sound department that makes the film work well. I even quite enjoyed the visual effects in the film, which were realistic.
A Beautiful, Touching Comedy-Drama
To this day, I still find it amazing that filmmaker Spike Jonze started his career with doing a lot of work associated with MTV and Jackass. Since that, Jonze has proved himself to be a legitimate feature filmmaker with Bein John Malkovich, Adaptation, and Where the Wild Things Are in his resume. Jonze has now shown himself to be a great filmmaker again with his latest comedy-drama, Her.
Theodore Twombley (Joaquin Phoenix) is a lonely man. He lives in a Los Angeles apartment alone and has a job where he writes letters for others and sends them out at the end of the day. Theodore is sad mainly because of his impending divorce from his wife Catherine (Rooney Mara). Subsquently, Theodore purchases a new operating system with artificial intelligence, which is designed to have a real relationship with him. After the operating system has set up, Theodore begins to talk to it like a regular person. The operating system has taken the name Samantha (Scarlett Johansson). From there on, Theodore and Samantha have a real relationship and Theodore is a lot happier, but not all the time. Theodore has a nice time with a blind date (Olivia Wilde) until she says that she wants a commitment. But, Theodore also has become closer to his neighbor Amy (Amy Adams), who he dated briefly in college.
Spike Jonze has always directed scripts written by others or ones that he co-wrote. Her marks the first time Jonze is directing a feature he wrote by himself. As a director, Jonze shows his skill with showing us where to look and what's important to his story. Jonze also does some very brilliant work as a writer in setting up the blueprints to this film and creating a world in the not too distant future where technology has made many advancements. As a writer and director, Spike Jonze tells a story that made me feel happy, sad, and emotionally invested in these characters.
Joaquin Phoenix is the heart and soul of Spike Jonze's Her. Phoenix gives his best performance since Walk the Line. With the role of Theodore Twombley, Phoenix gives us a raw and emotional performance. Phoenix makes Theodore into somebody who is lonely, funny, romantic, and heartbreaking at the same time. Phoenix carries this film on his shoulders and makes us feel for Theodore and relate to him.
The ladies surrounding Phoenix all do great jobs with their part. Scarlett Johansson makes herself stand out using only her voice as Theodore's operating system, Samantha. Johansson makes us also interested in knowing about Samantha the same way Theodore does. Amy Adams also makes herself stand out as neighbor Amy. Adams shows her raw side here too as her husband leaves her and she finds herself in a situation just like Theodore's. Rooney Mara is nice to see as ex-wife Catherine. While her character isn't fully fleshed out, Mara does fine with her role of Catherine, moreso showing her frustration and irritation with her ex-husband. Olivia Wilde was also nice to see as the blind date who was trying to start something too fast. Even though he's no lady, Chris Pratt also has a nice brief role as Theodore's co-worker and friend Paul. While this role wasn't a stretch, Pratt is nice comic relief for the film.
Along with the hard work and efforts of Jonze, Phoenix, and the cast, the crew does some beautiful work from a technical standpoint. Director of Photography Hoyte van Hoytema does very beautiful camera work and lighting here with capturing Los Angeles at day and night. K.K. Barrett, who has worked as production designer on Spike Jonze's previous features, does his best work here at bringing Los Angeles in the near future to life. I enjoyed the collaboration here as Jonze and Barrett do a nice job with the possibilities of how much technology could advance, but making the look feel that it's still a world we as and audience can still relate to. Arcade Fire provided the score and do a lovely job with the piano music. I also highly enjoyed "The Moon Song", which plays when Theodore goes on vacation to the mountains.
Her is a beautiful, wonderful comedy-drama with many laugh out loud moments. It also is an interesting look into what the future may hold.
Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)
Coen Brothers Continue Their Excellence with Oscar Isaac Anchoring
It goes without saying that Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, a.k.a. The Coen Brothers, are among the top working filmmakers today. They keep showing us repeatedly why they are among the best and proved it again with their latest flick, Inside Llewyn Davis.
The title character, Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) is a folk singer who is not living an ideal life. Llewyn gets himself gigs every once in a while, he lives in New York City, but his records are not selling, his former singing partner has killed himself, and he is crashing on the couches of his friends since he does not have a home. With all of the troubles Llewyn has going on in his life, he cannot catch a break. His friend Jim (Justin Timberlake) cannot give him money without his wife Jean (Carey Mulligan) finding out. Jean is also pregnant and thinks that the child is Llewyn's. She wants an abortion and for Llewyn to pay for it. Inside Llewyn Davis focuses on one week of the title character's life as he does whatever he can to change his life.
The Coen Brothers are still among the true auteurs out there and still have been doing what they've been doing for 30 years and produce excellent results. Inside Llewyn Davis shows us the Coens have a keen interest in showing us a character who is a loser and make us be interested in this character. As writers, the Coens have crafted a unique story in 1960's New York with quirky characters.
At the front and center of the film is Oscar Isaac as Llewyn Davis. Isaac is very interesting here in becoming this guy who is having no success as a folk singer. Isaac's strong points in his performance are in making us feel sympathy for a guy who is a loser that can't catch a break. Isaac proves that he can make a great leading man.
The rest of the cast do their contributions nicely. Carey Mulligan is the best of the supporting cast as Jean, Jim's wife and a woman who thinks Llewyn is a scumbag but cares for him too. Justin Timberlake is good here as a Jim, a fellow folk singer who brings on Llewyn for a song he wrote. Garrett Hedlund and John Goodman are also fun in their roles as fellow musicians who are travelling to Chicago and let Llewyn ride with them. F. Murray Abraham even has a nice cameo as the owner of a Chicago venue who gives Llewyn an audition.
The technical aspects of this film are well done, like all Coen Brother films. Oscar winner T-Bone Burnett is the music producer and does a nice job with having the music all fit the film. There is beautiful cinematography by Bruno Delbonnel. Frequent Coen collaborator Jess Gonchor does a nice job with the production design and making the sets feel authentic to the time period. Also involved is another frequent Coen collaborator is costume designer Mary Zophres who does not disappoint here. The other major highlight is "Please Mr. Kennedy", a song in the film that Llewyn contributes to recording.
The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
For Martin Scorsese Fans
Needless to say, but Martin Scorsese is one of the best living directors, and has kept the consistency. He has brought us classics such as Taxi Driver and Raging Bull to Goodfellas, Gangs of New York, and my favorite, The Departed. But now Mr. Scorsese has brought us another great film that is a must see for all Scorsese fans, The Wolf of Wall Street.
With this film, Scorsese is collaborating with star Leonardo DiCaprio for the fifth time. Here, DiCaprio stars as Jordan Belfort, a Wall Street stock broker who never knew when to say quit. The film begins with him starting out at a Wall Street firm manning phones. Shortly after beginning work, his boss Mark Hanna (Matthew McConaughey) takes him out for lunch and coaches him on how to survive on Wall Street by recommending to Jordan to take up his lifestyle of drugs and prostitutes. After a the firm goes out of business, Jordan's wife Teresa (Christin Milioti) finds a job in the want ads that will fit him. His new boss Dwayne (Spike Jonze) gives him new information about the stocks his place sells and offers an unusual reward if he sells ten thousand dollars worth of stock. Jordan's selling strategy hugely impresses all of his coworkers and earns him a fortune.
At a diner, Jordan meets Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill), a salesman who coincidentally is a neighbor of Jordan's who wants in on his business. Shortly after, they have their own firm and recruit some of Jordan's old coworkers to join in. Standing out among them is Jordan's friend Brad (Jon Bernthal), who also deals drugs. However, the firm has become wild and crazy, which causes Jordan to hire his dad Max (Rob Reiner) to handle the finances. Jordan also throws many wild and crazy parties involving drugs and sex. At one of his parties, Jordan meets Naomi (Margot Robbie), and they hit it off leading to a divorce from Teresa and a new marriage to Naomi. Jordan's actions lead to an investigation of him and his firm Stratton Oakmont by FBI agent Patrick Denham (Kyle Chandler).
In the three hour run time Martin Scorsese has put on this film, he gives his audience a wild and crazy ride through the life of Jordan Belfort. As a storyteller, Scorsese doesn't hold anything back. He is not afraid to show us the sex these characters have or have us witness these people doing drugs. I do think that some parts of the film could have been trimmed down, but Scorsese keeps everything in that is important to Jordan's story. The times does fly by quickly. Terence Winter wrote the script and does a great job of making the story run smoothly. Winter does a great job at writing out the dialogue for each of the characters, but the cast also does excellent at bringing Winter's script to life.
Leonardo DiCaprio continues to show why he keeps starring in Scorsese's films, and shows a lot of greatness here as Jordan Belfort. With this role, DiCaprio brings confidence, craziness, determination, and a lot more. DiCaprio fleshes out this character and makes him into somebody who is living his dream, but doesn't know when to say quit. The rest of the cast is great too. I truly enjoyed Margot Robbie as Jordan's second wife Naomi. She takes this role of the wife and makes her into a strong and attractive who knows how to stand up to her husband. Rob Reiner is great as Jordan's dad Max who is there for his son and goes nuts at times but can turn the craziness off at the right time. Jon Bernthal is also great as Jordan's drug dealing friend Brad. Jonah Hill is good as Jordan's right hand man Donnie Azoff, but excessively over the top. The standout of the supporting cast is Kyle Chandler as FBI agent Patrick Denham. Chandler is excellent as the agent who was assigned to the case. With his scenes, Chandler makes some great acting choices with his eyes that indicate Denham's intelligence.
Like all of Scorsese's films, there are some great things that stand out technically too. The cinematography by Rodrigo Prieto is nice with the lighting in each scene. Thelma Schoonmaker, who has been editing Scorsese's films since Raging Bull, does a lot of great work with making each scene dramatic or exciting and putting the whole thing together.
While I highly enjoyed The Wolf of Wall Street, I must say that this is not for everyone. I recommend this for Martin Scorsese fans and those who enjoy great acting.
For the Adventurer in All of Us
Ben Stiller has shown himself to be one of the hardest working and most dedicated actor-directors in today's cinema. He again proves himself here with his latest directed film, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.
Stiller stars as the title character. Right away, we see who Walter is as a person. Stiller shows us what Walter's life is like as he is somebody who is conscientious with his money spending, cares about his mother, and lives a lonely life. Walter has begun to set up an account with eHarmony, but cannot come up with anything creative to put in it. But he continues to look at the profile of one Cheryl Melhoff (Kristen Wiig). He tries to send her a wink on the site, but it doesn't work. Walter then enlists the help of an eHarmony employee named Todd (Patton Oswalt), but still can't provide him with much information. At the same time, Walter has a habit of zoning out at various times during his day and ends up missing out on a lot, as he is one who can use lessons from Ferris Bueller.
We then see Walter show up for work at Life magazine, where he looks at the negatives for photos. When he arrives to work at the beginning of the film, he finds out that the current issue will be the last one publish and Walter has to look at the latest negatives sent in by photographer Sean O'Connell (Sean Penn). Walter gets a message from Sean saying that negative #25 of the bunch is the best of the set and thinks that one should be the final cover. Trouble brews when Walter looks at the negative and notices 25 is gone. This prompts Walter to go out into the world more and look for clues to find Sean and retrieve the missing negative.
Ben Stiller's previous two directorial efforts, Zoolander and Tropic Thunder, were both entertaining with a lot of slapstick humor. With The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Stiller as a director toned down the slapstick, but still has plenty of humor in the film and does a nice job of putting heart into the story. Stiller also makes some great choices in making us know when Walter is zoning out and making us interested in figuring out the clues too. I also highly enjoyed how Stiller put in the message of going out there, living life, and showing what can be accomplished. Stiller has made a film here for the adventurer in all of us.
Stiller even does an excellent job of carrying this film on his shoulders as the lead actor. Stiller is great at making us like Walter and want him to succeed on his quest. The strongest part of Stiller's performance is that he makes Walter an ordinary guy who we can relate to. The entire ensemble does their part too. Kristen Wiig plays Cheryl, Walter's love interest. Wiig does a nice job of being Walter's motivation to go out there and do what he would not think about doing. Adam Scott plays Ted, Walter's new boss. Scott has shown before his capability of playing jerks like he did in Step Brothers, and brings that same kind of nastiness to his character here. Patton Oswalt is hilarious in his cameo as Todd, the eHarmony employee. Kathryn Hahn has a brief part as Walter's sister. Shirley MacLaine was also fun to see appear here as Walter's mother who gives him even more motivation and support. Sean Penn was the best of the supporting cast as the famed photographer Sean O'Connell. Penn has a great scene with Walter with a great monologue.
Steve Conrad wrote the screenplay based off of the short story and does a nice job of making the blueprints to this story about an ordinary man who does some amazing things. The cinematography by Stuart Dryburgh is very breathtaking. His capturing of the scenery made we want to go out there and see it for myself in person. There is also some inspiring music by longtime Ben Stiller collaborator Theodore Shapiro.
American Hustle (2013)
An Excellent Goodfellas Vibe, But Something Different
Wow, filmmaker David O. Russell has come a long way to becoming one of the most popular filmmakers today. Recently having impressed audiences with The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook, Russell has struck gold a third time in a row with his latest flick, American Hustle.
Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) is a man from the Bronx who sports a comb over hairstyle. He works in running cons with his lover Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams). They have been doing successful in conning people to giving them money thanks to Sydney's fake British persona Edith Greensley. Even though they are succeeding, they're lives are complicated by Irving's wife Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence) who he refuses to divorce out of fear of not being allowed to see his son. It isn't until FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper) tricks them by being a customer and then arresting Sydney. Feeling attracted to Sydney, Richie will release them on the condition that they help him arrest four other con artists.
In order to set this up, Irving has one of his friends pose as an Arab Sheik looking to invest in American business. An associate suggests doing business with Camden, NJ mayor Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner), who is looking to legalize gambling. David O. Russell's film is one of mystery, craziness, and you don't really know who is conning who until it is all revealed at the end.
David O. Russell continue to show his excellence in directing. Russell does just right at pointing the camera at what is important to the story and how what is happening pays off. Another way Russell shows his skill as a story teller is keeping us interested in these characters, who are not really likable.
Eric Warren Singer and Russell co-wrote the script, which gives the film a nice Goodfellas vibe. With the majority of their screenplay focused on Irving and Sydney, it gives us a nice insight into what is in it for each of these characters and how they are all developed.
Christian Bale does an excellent job leading this ensemble as the con man who wants business. Bale dedicates himself to this performance by having gained weight and giving Irving an interesting looking comb over hairstyle. With this role, Bale shows us a guy who does his best to keep his cool despite what he's going through. Amy Adams is knocks her role out of the park as Bale's co-lead and Irving's lover Sydney Prosser. Adams does some impressive work not just as a con artist tricking people with her British accent, but also keeping us on our toes in making us unsure if she is loyal to Irving or Richie. Bradley Cooper is the best in show here as FBI agent Richie DiMaso. As Richie, Cooper showed us how much he has grown as an actor. I liked the choices Cooper made in showing us how much charge Richie is taking and keeping things in order, while trying to please his unhappy boss. Jennifer Lawrence is a riot as she pulls off the role of a 1970's New York housewife. Lawrence engulfs herself into looking the part to a tee, with the hairstyle and dresses she wears. Lawrence does so by using the mannerisms used then and how she gets nosy into her husband's business. Jeremy Renner does some nice work as the mayor who wants to do what he can to bring business to Camden and be able to get the economy going. I even enjoyed the cameo by Robert De Niro as Victor Tellegio, a mob boss who is also looking to do business in Atlantic City.
I also quite enjoyed some of the technical aspects to it. The production design of the film done by Judy Becker was so well done, I felt like I was right there in 1970's New York. The costumes designed by Michael Wilkinson felt authentic to the time period depicted in the film. The soundtrack also had a lot of great tunes that also contributed to the Goodfellas vibe I was getting.
Alexander Payne Adds Another Excellent Film to His Resume
With his first five films, director Alexander Payne has put us with the main characters as they go through their lives. Going from seeing Ruth caught up in a war between pro life and pro choice in Citizen Ruth, to seeing Miles spend a week with his best friend Jack before Jack gets married in Sideways, to witnessing Matt King decide on the fate of his land after finding out about his wife's infidelity in The Descendants. This time, Payne has put us with through a journey with a geriatric in his latest comedy-drama, Nebraska.
Woody Grant (Bruce Dern) is an old man who lives in Billings, Montana. Woody has won a prize containing a million dollars. There's a catch: Woody has to go Lincoln, Nebraska and turn in his confirmation letter to claim his prize. He is determined to get there, even if he has to walk. He has even been stopped numerous times and it has driven his wife Kate (June Squibb) crazy. Woody's son David (Will Forte) reluctantly agrees to take him there, even though he thinks there is no million dollar prize. Payne has his film focused on Woody and David and their journey to Lincoln. Primarily, the film takes place in the small town of Hawthorne, Nebraska, where Woody is from and where his relatives live.
Alexander Payne has been an excellent director and continues to show his excellence with Nebraska. Payne does a great job of having what is important to each scene and pointing the camera to what is crucial to the film. Payne does some nice work with shot selection and keeping the story interesting, funny, and having a nice pace.
Bruce Dern stands out in every way possible. With the role of Woody Grant, Dern makes him more than a geriatric who is determined to claim his prize. Dern shows us a man who has lived a long life, who can be very funny, but there are times where we don't know if Woody is even listening to anyone else. Dern takes this role of Woody and makes him into a likable, three dimensional character. Will Forte plays Woody's son David. David takes time off his job to spend time with his father. Forte is primarily known for laugh out loud comedy films such as The Watch and That's My Boy. With this role, Forte trades some of that comedy and shows us that he is capable of doing drama. Forte also gives us a guy who is frustrated at his father's actions, but at the same time cares about his old man. June Squibb knocks the role of Kate Grant out of the park. She plays Woody's annoyed and frustrated wife, and plays the role of a crabby old lady who is annoyed at her husband's actions and always speaks her mind. I like how Dern, Forte, and Squibb let all of their emotions out there and not hold back.
The rest of the cast all do fine jobs in their parts. From a technical standpoint, the best aspect is the beautiful cinematography by the Director of Photography, Phedon Papamichael. Papamichael captures very beautiful shots of the scenery when Woody and David are on the road and also does great work with the camera in capturing the small town and making me feel like I am there. Mark Orton does a nice job with putting in a country score that fits with the atmosphere Papamichael captured on camera. Kevin Tent does a nice job of putting the film together and getting the cuts just right. Bob Nelson wrote the script and does a nice job of making Nebraska as more than a father and son road trip movie. Nelson also does a great job of writing the characters so the actors can develop them and show their talents. The rest of the ensemble cast does a nice job of fitting their roles just right as Payne has an eye for having the right people play each character.