Month: February 2014

Nebraska (2013)

*I am going to be very ambitious and try to complete 2 reviews by today. However, my review for 12 Years a Slave will come after I complete a school assignment*

I must admit to being a sucker for family films with colourful personalities, where you basically have members who are a) constantly swearing and acting vulgar but are in fact very loving and tender (Alan Arkin in Little Miss Sunshine) b) the nonchalant one c) overly ambitious (usually some son/daughter who is too busy caring about his or her own career and  wishes to have no forms of association with the family) and d) the neutral member, usually the main character who is usually trying to deal with the family’s shenanigans. The only exception is August: Osage County, where EVERYONE is screwed up, but I enjoyed that film anyway. I feel like I have seen such portrayals (you just have to re-designate the roles) way too many times, like in Little Miss Sunshine or Moonstruck, just applied in different context. Admittedly, such portrayals are clichés but I just can’t help but embrace them, and Nebraska is no different.

Nebraska (2013) tells the story of Woody Grant, an ageing man who has to deal with all of the people of his past after learning that he supposedly won a million dollars. In a way, the film is predictable as hell but I enjoyed every moment of it. The early build up was a bit slow and I can understand why some people find it boring, but the subtle charm in the movie just works so well for me that I didn’t really mind. I just can’t help but smile when I see standard portrayals of old men sitting in front of the TV with basically nothing to say to one another, while all the old women are gathered in the kitchen gossiping away. Sure, it is a cliché but I must add that I don’t think it’s that far off from reality. The whole quirky family description that I mentioned earlier totally fits here. You have Woody the (seemingly) nonchalant father, Kate the swearing matriarch, Ross the successful news anchor and David the neutral member who just wants to do his part in holding the family together.

Like I said, the storytelling isn’t perfect as the first part was a bit slow, but I kinda feel that that was the point, which is to depict life in that town as slow and boring. All these old people sitting together and their small talk, David in his boring job, watching Ross on TV etc…

Things change rapidly, however, when the news of Woody’s winning leaking out. I always love it when movies depict how fast news spread in small towns like this. I just find it very funny, maybe because it was exactly like that when I was living in Khatib. The atmosphere becomes slightly tense, with all these old “friends” and money-grubbing relatives suddenly putting on their fake smiles and talking about how they did the family a favour in the past. I’m not going to divulge details about my personal life but let’s just say I know that feeling. From then on, I really became  interested in the film as the characters’ motives, intentions and past secrets all  started revealing themselves. It really shows how cruel people can be when it comes to their own motives, and how family ties and relations can be destroyed if you do not handle them properly. The film really shows how “money is the root of all evil” in a very natural manner, and I found myself rooting for the family despite them not being them not being a particular likeable bunch of people themselves.

The ending is just wonderfully moving; it is full of sadness, but yet it is strangely uplifiting. You really see the portrait of a man who has pretty much wasted his life and all he wants in the end is just a truck and some money to make amends. Like I said, it’s all very standard and predictable but there is so much quiet charm and bittersweet moments in it that I just enjoyed the film despite it being quite slow. I have very few issues with the film overall, such as the characters being caricatures and the dialogue trying a bit too hard to be smart at times.

Bruce Dern gives a great performance as Woody Grant. I really love all the performances nominated for the best actor Oscar this year, they’re all really deserving of the win. Well, not so much for Christian Bale, whose slot I feel should have gone to Tom Hanks or Joaquin Phoenix but anyway…I just love how the actors added so much layers and energy to their roles despite the fact that their characters aren’t exactly the most complex (maybe only McConaughey). For the majority of the film, Dern plays a very quiet observer role, which is very different from his other nominated performance in Coming Home (1978). You can feel that his character is not slow in the head per se as everyone is assuming (he is in fact quite sharp and knows how to troll his son in one scene). He actually knows what is going on but he chooses to ignore them and live in his own world. He really shows how worn out and regret-filled Woody is without saying much, and how little he really needed just to be content. This quiet intensity is a true testament to the strength of his performance.  His expression towards at the final scene while he was driving through the town is really marvellous. Well what do you expect, you know how crazy I go for subtle performances.

 

While Dern gives a quiet performance, June Squibb on the other hand gives a loud performance as his wife Kate Grant. I’m going to say something absolutely unpopular: while everyone is going Lawrence versus Nyong’o, Squibb’s performance is the one that really stuck with me in this weak supporting actress line-up. I just love swearing old ladies :p But more importantly, she managed to balance the tender moments very well. I was very impressed with the scene where she defended Woody from his family members (“Don’t you DARE think about asking that poor man for money”) and the scene where she kissed Woody and said “You big idiot” or something like that…Anyway, the tender moments were really moving and natural, and it really shows how she still loved her husband despite insulting him all of the time. Of course, her comical moments are dead on too, but I actually liked some of the subtle bitchy expressions she gave, like her “are you fucking kidding me?” expression when the waitress recommended tilapia. Another favourite scene of mine is when she tries to divert the attention of this elderly couple after her sons break into their house, it’s just damn funny (that whole scene was hilarious). Anyway, her character is a cliché and some of her lines come across as a bit try-hard but overall I felt that she gave the most genuine and natural performance.

As Squibb would say to the haters: “You can all just go FUCK yourselves!”

The rest of the supporting players are fine, but I must really give a shout-out to Stacy Keach for his truly remarkable performance as Woody’s slimy “friend” Ed Pegram. The scene in the bathroom alone is so naturally menacing that I got the chills watching him threaten David. I’m biased, but I think I’d have given him a nomination…over Bradley Cooper. Still, no one has a chance of Jared Leto, who will be one of my favourite winners ever in that category. By the way, my admiration for American Hustle has drastically dropped over the past few days as I got to mull over it. Let’s just say that as of now, I only agree with the costume design and production design nominations.

Alexander Payne’s direction is really great here, he really constructed the slow, sleepy atmosphere of the town very well and still maintains it even in the tense dramatic moments. I also like the use of black-and-white because it brings out the mood of the film, along with the very effective score. The cinematography was beautiful as well, I was really taken by all those shots of the scenery despite them having no colour.

Overall, Nebraska is a charming film that may not be everyone, but I enjoyed it greatly. It’s predictable and formulaic but moving and sad at the same time. I might even rank it above Dallas Buyer’s Club actually. 4/5.

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Coal Miner’s Daughter (1980)

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Coal Miner’s Daughter is a film depicting the fascinating life story of country singer Loretta Lynn, right from her childhood days, her early marriage and her rise to fame.

I’m usually not a fan of biopics, but I’ll go ahead and say that Coal Miner’s Daughter is one of the best I’ve seen. I don’t love it, but it think it’s a great film. Although the movie covers a lot, it never feels rushed. Everything portion of Loretta Lynn’s life is sufficiently covered, and I must also commend the director for not steering the film into sentimental, oscar baiting territory. There’s always a kind of honesty to it, like it doesn’t feel self-important or excessively deep (*coughs* A Beautiful Mind), and that made the film very relaxing but entertaining to watch for me. Although the direction is nothing overly special, the storytelling is very engaging and well done, and I was intrigued all the way. Even the emotional scenes were very well-handled and natural, they were heartbreaking and sad in a subtle, realistic manner which made them even more effective.

The were several aspects of the movie that I really liked. One aspect was the extremely realistic depiction of Loretta and Doolittle’s marriage life. It was like watching a real couple interacting with one another because nothing felt forced or unnecessary. Although it’s a very standard depiction (quarrels, patching up, feeling overshadowed by wife etc.), the chemistry between the 2 actors was really exceptional. You could see that they were really comfortable with working with one another, and that they really supported each other instead of trying to steal the limelight from one another. The way they squabbled was really a “I’ve seen that before” moment for me, so I was really pleasantly surprised at this.

Another aspect I’ve really appreciated was the singing: Sissy Spacek and Beverly D’Angelo (who played Patsy Cline) did their own singing and it was really very good. I literally rewatched the “There He Goes” clip again and again because I was so blown away by Spacek there. I especially loved the emotions she injected into the songs; not only did she master the technicals, she even manage to add a kind of bittersweet feeling in them, which was just wonderful.

The acting was really the standout in this film. Tommy Lee Jones was excellent as the overshadowed husband. I was quite distracted by his bleached eyebrows at first. I initially didn’t think much of his performance because like Doolittle, I felt that it was a bit overshadowed by Spacek’s performance, which might have been the point. However, the moment where he realized that he couldn’t go on following Loretta everywhere, and that his work in helping her “get there” was done, it made me realize how much we as the audience have been taking him for granted. It was a very sad moment, especially when he told Loretta about how he also needed someone to talk to. It really highlighted how dependent these 2 were with one another, despite their quarrels and his forceful personality. Overall, It’s really strong work, especially considering how the character was not without his flaws. The way he controlled Loretta and hit her were really terrible, but you can’t hate him because you can really feel that his intentions were good.

Beverly D’Angelo was good, but I didn’t exactly think that she was robbed of an Oscar like some people say. It’s a very nice supporting performance, and her role was limited to that of the supportive friend but she really did the best she could. Her presence was very welcoming, and I always felt like Loretta when she was on screen: in good company. Of course, her singing was exceptional as well, but other than that, I felt that her role was a bit too limited and brief to warrant a nomination.

But as most people should know by now, the true powerhouse here is by Sissy Spacek. Sissy Spacek is one of my favorite actress; I wasn’t a fan of hers initially because I only watched 2 of her films, but even those 2 (Carrie and In the Bedroom) were more than sufficient to convince me of her enormous acting talent. Her performance in Carrie White is among my top 20 best performances of all time by the way. However, although Coal Miner’s Daughter is only the third film of hers that I’ve watched, it was really the one that sealed the deal for me and made me declare that she is now one of my favorites. I am now ready to worship her like how I do with Meryl Streep, Glenn Close and Jessica Lange. Ok, maybe that sounded wrong, but you get my point. Further more, she seems like such a nice person in real life, it’s like you can just approach her and discuss her movies with her. I think I’m over-analyzing here but whatever.

Spacek is amazing as Loretta Lynn. In fact, she made the movie for me. Honestly, I doubt I would have even been half as interested if not for her outstanding work here. Although my favorite performance that year is by Ellen Burstyn in Resurrection, I really cannot deny Spacek’s brilliance here. One thing I loved was how natural she was. Playing real life people often results in excessive scenery chewing, but not here. I really like Spacek’s acting style in general, because of how honest she is in her roles, even in the weird and unusual ones like Carrie. She always finds the human side of her character and makes you feel everything they’re going through. She also has a very expressive face that conveys emotions excellently. People usually rave about her later scenes, but I especially loved the earlier parts, when Loretta was still a young girl. She doesn’t overplay the naivety of the character, and she really makes you believe that Loretta is in love (or thinks that she’s in love) with Doolittle despite knowing each other for only a while. I also loved how she used the character’s naivety to show her stubbornness and determination to get what she wants, or how she says whatever that’s in her head. It’s very funny without coming off as excessively sassy.

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The transition of Loretta from a naive girl, to a young mother, to a famous singer then an acclaimed star is very rushed, and I don’t mean that the movie is rushed, but that Loretta’s life in general is like a whirlwind. Towards the end, Spacek’s famous breakdown scene on the stage really highlights her exhaustion and you can totally feel how drained she was. Just the line “but my life’s running me” really sums it all up. In fact, Spacek was very masterful in building up the character’s exhaustion. You get hints of it here and there in a very subtle manner and it just works brilliantly because of how naturally it built up and led to the breakdown scene, which was btw fantastically played. So heartbreaking without being over the top. And then, you realized how right she was; although she was rightfully discovered for her talent, it wasn’t something she really had a say in but forced into by her husband (well, initially anyway). The way she became a wife and mother at the age of fourteen, how she was always traveling non stop, having to deal with the death of a friend, marriage problems in between, giving birth to twins…damn, even that sounds terribly tiring. And you could totally feel it off Spacek. It’s so true to life, the way the we constantly deal with all the work and shit without paying much attention to it until it becomes too much to handle.

I consider myself very lenient when it comes to such performances. Unlike some people, I don’t really expect the actor to totally become the person physically because it is understandably difficult as hell. However, I would still hold that the emotional aspects must be in top form, and that there must be an attempt at characterization, if not it just looks like pure mimicry. I’m not sure how accurate Spacek is in her portrayal, though from what I’ve read, it seems she nailed it. And she totally exceeded my expectations here. Although it’s not a loud role like Charlize Theron in Monster or Marion Cotillard in La Vie en Rose, it’s equally powerful and is a splendid effort by this great actress.

So to conclude, Coal Miner’s Daughter is totally worth watching just for Spacek’s performance alone. Of course, the film has merits too, but if that’s not enough to convince you, well…there’s some great singing and music too anyway.

P.s. I feel like I betrayed Ellen Burstyn, cause I have her performance in Resurrection in my top 20. I feel like comparing these 2 works are so difficult because they’re uniquely brilliant in their own ways. The healing scenes in Resurrection are so brilliantly acted by Burstyn….but to be honest, I’d probably have given the Oscar to Spacek as well.

Random

Hahaha Julia Roberts is so gangsta here. I love how she goes “I AM RUNNING THINGS NOW!!!!”. I’ve never really minded her as an actress unlike the internet community. Personally thought she was great in Erin Brockovich. Yes, I know the Ellen Burstyn was robbed, but I always thought that Roberts was memorable in that role.

Anyway, I’m really busy this week, but my midterm break is coming so I’m glad. Unfortunately, I’m probably going to spend a good deal of that one week studying 😥

Trying to find a movie to watch and review after tomorrow’s presentation. Probably Coal Miner’s Daughter, since I’m HIGHLY interested in Spacek’s performance. It won the Oscar over Ellen Burstyn’s work in Resurrection, which is on my list of personal best performances by an actress ever, so I shall see how great it is. Well, you can always rely on Sissy Spacek, woman is a freaking chameleon.

Rain Man (1988)

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Sighs…this was disappointing. Admittedly, I probably had my expectations too high up, since the movie a) won the best picture Oscar and b) it contains Dustin freaking Hoffman. But ultimately, the whole thing was underwhelming to me. I might even go on and add that this is probably one of the weakest best picture winners that I’ve watched so far (last time I watched Crash was when it was released in 2005, so I can’t really remember it).

If you are unfamiliar with Rain Man, the story is basically about this selfish yuppie, Charlie Babbitt, who learns that he actually has a brother Raymond. The discovery came about when Charlie’s estranged father decided to bequeath his wealth to Raymond and leave Charlie penniless after his death. Things get a little more tricky, however, upon the discovery that Raymond is also an autistic savant.

The first problem I had with this movie was the unlikely premise. Seriously? He couldn’t get the money, so he decided to kidnap his brother from the institution and tries to gain custody over him? Because…why not? If you ask me, the whole set up sounds like a rather lame excuse to make Charlie bring Raymond on a road trip and of course, develop some brotherly love along the way, since movie road trips are like the miracle medicines for all family disputes. I’d love to try that too, except that over here in tiny Singapore, our island is only 42km in length and not to mention we are filled with ERP gantries, traffic lights and traffic congestion all over the place.

Of course, the main strength in the movie lies in how Charlie develops feelings for Raymond. I guess, the idea here was to show that Charlie has transformed from a selfish brat to a loving brother. Feel free to disagree, but I didn’t see that at all. The storytelling of the whole film was fundamentally flawed, if you ask me, and instead of properly developing the relationship between the two, we are thrown with various useless scenes that may have been intended to be humorous (Kmart, uh-ohs, gotta watch wapner, farting in phone booths), but didn’t quite work out for me. The problem is this: For a good, I’d say 85% of their time together, we see Charlie being perpetually annoyed by Raymond’s behavior and mannerisms. Then you get the next 10% where he realized that Raymond is actually a human computer so guess what he did next? Did you say casino? And you’re right! He takes Raymond to the casino, exploits this ability of his and wins a lot of money. Along the way, Raymond, the guy whom the movie has being putting down as someone with zero social skills, suddenly felt an attraction towards some random lady called Iris (must be the magical casino air!), and decided that he wanted to learn dancing. And thus came the final 2.5%, where Charlie’s feelings towards Raymond changes (the power of money love, I guess) and decides to teach him, which turned out to be totally useless by the way. Of course earlier on, there was this 2.5% where they shared a tender moment in the bathroom (ok that sounds wrong) where Charlie discovered the truth behind “Rain Man”. It’s a bit of a lame realization, but if the movie actually focused more on this, I would have liked it a lot more.

As you can see, the motivation behind Charlie’s change of heart is extremely weak. The movie never even attempted to understand Raymond, but rather portray him as a weirdo human character with weird antics for comic relief. Also, I felt like Charlie never understood Raymond at all, and I didn’t think the chemistry between both actors were very strong in this aspect either. In the end, I just thought that he merely overcame his annoyance towards Raymond and maybe even found his endearing (??), but that’s about it. But love? The guy was still as selfish and self-entitled as before, if you ask me.

The direction is nothing special, and if you ask me the placement of the humorous scenes (the sex scene, the casino scene which was TOTALLY pointless) were questionable choices. The score is fine, but I didn’t think it fitted the tone of the film. Rain Man = Tribal? Hmm.

The female character, whatever her name is, is totally pointless. I have no idea what she was doing in the movie. She only appeared in the beginning and then towards the end. It didn’t help that the actress playing her was rather flat in her performance either. This was really quite a wasted opportunity to me, since I usually love the supportive girlfriend characters in movies. I know some people find them cliched, but I find that they serve as effective moral compasses for the main characters and are usually quite likable (Amy Adams in The Fighter). That was not the case here though. Thanks to the poor writing and acting, the character comes off as unnecessarily preachy, self-righteous and “holier-than-thou”. And of course, her big scene involved teaching Raymond how to kiss, which was awkward as hell. I guess that scene was meant to make me go “awww…”, but I totally went “ew wtf?” instead. She thought that she was doing Raymond a favor, but I totally thought otherwise.

Alright, before I make my next point, allow me to say that I worship Dustin Hoffman. I am by no means a hater, at all. I mean, just watching his performances in The Graduate, Midnight Cowboy (!!), Kramer vs Kramer, Tootsie…goodness. The guy is really one of the greatest film legends to me. However, I feel that how you respond to his performance here ultimately depends on what your own personal preferences are. If you read my previous posts, you know that I totally go for subtle acting, complex emotions, fiery emotions etc…mannerisms, accents, and all the other technical aspects are more of the secondary things that I consider. And that’s pretty much the case here. I was never really a fan of these “slow guys” performances, because usually the movies surrounding them are less than stellar (case in point), and that they totally rely on mannerisms. The characters don’t really have an emotional core to them, since they are pretty much living in their own worlds, and this essentially means that at the end of the day, you will either a) find them endearing or b) be annoyed to hell by them. The challenge here, which is admittedly a great one, is to not make it look like obvious acting. For the most part, Hoffman, being the method actor that he is, really succeeds. I know some people have criticized him as being very self aware here, but I felt like he was totally into it. I mean, just observe that vacant look in his eyes, and how consistent he was in his mannerisms lol. However, I felt like the movie was working against him. To begin with, it was never a very insightful look on how people live with autism and how their friends/families accept them as a part of their lives. Thus, I felt like I never cared about Raymond since he was portrayed as the movie’s idiot (how inoffensive) who is there to merely win us over with his oh-so-endearing mannerisms and super calculator mind. I even felt as annoyed by him as Charlie was…Still, I think Hoffman managed to deal with what was required of him very well, and even won his second Oscar for this performance. I guess I’m just not a fan of this performance, especially when I think about how they could have rewarded him for so many other performances instead of this one. Hmmm.

Tom Cruise was better than expected. I feel like playing such obnoxious characters is his forte LOL (Magnolia, The Color of Money etc). Still, he went much less over the top than I expected him to, and he even tried to add a touch of humanity to his character at the end, but unfortunately, I felt like the whole script just wasn’t working in his favor.

Is it me, or does the 80s seem to be a rather weak decade for films? I mean the 60s had Lawrence of Arabia, Doctor Zhivago, The Sound of Music, Hud, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, The Lion in Winter, Bonnie and Clyde and many many more classics. Even the 70s had The Godfather I and II, CHINATOWN, Cabaret, One flew over the cuckoo’s nest, Network, Taxi Driver etc. And then suddenly in the 80s, it’s like the movies suddenly decided to go for the TV-movie styles (thanks a lot, James L. Brooks), with TERMS OF ENDEARMENT even winning best picture over The Year of Living Dangerously, which wasn’t even nominated. Only Amadeus and The Colour Purple were really iconic in my eyes. Then again, I haven’t watched a lot of films from this decade, so it may be too early for me to judge. Ok, I loved Ordinary People. Anyway, I’m not denying that it was, however, a phenomenal era for actresses because it was the period where the many greats like Meryl Streep, GLENN CLOSE, Jessica Lange and Sissy Spacek turned in their strongest works.

So to conclude about Rain Man…basically, I felt exactly like the guy evaluating Raymond at the end of the film, when he was listening to Charlie’s story about how he suddenly loved Raymond over the past 6 days. The film, like Charlie, wanted me to buy that. I couldn’t.

On a side note, weren’t Dangerous Liaisons and Mississippi Burning far worthier picks for best picture that year???

Update: I’m wondering whether I’m being a little too harsh here, because I really wrote nothing positive about the film. But I’d be lying if I say that I want to give it a rewatch though… :/

Updated personal ranking of 2013 films I’ve watched

Hahahahaha I realized that I totally forgot to include The Butler in my original ranking. I’m like that indifferent towards that film. So, the new additions are American Hustle, Dallas Buyers Club and The Butler. I have actually watched Her but I think I need to rewatch because I was really distracted and in a bad mood then so it didn’t really stick in my head (my mind was elsewhere). I think Joaquin Phoenix would have been a worthier nominee than Christian Bale, but anyway…

And yes, I’m still holding back on 12 Years a Slave. I don’t know, it just sounds like a really really really depressing film.

1) Blue is the warmest colour + Gravity ( I decided to go for a tie cause they’re both superlative films in their own ways)
2) The Wolf of Wall Street (this one really grew on me)
3) Captain Phillips
4) Dallas Buyers Club
5) August: Osage County
6) Blue Jasmine
7) The Heat
8) Rush
9) Prisoners
10) American Hustle
11) Ah Boys to Men II (LOL everyone’s telling me that The Lion Men sucks)
12) The Butler
13) Young Detective Dee: Rise of the sea dragon
14) The Grandmaster
15) The Mortal Instruments: City of Blah

Going to watch next: Nebraska

I’m watching this French movie called Stranger by the Lake. It’s supposedly some thriller (there’s a murderer involved anyway), but I feel like I’m watching some gay porno. If you think Hollywood is extreme with their sex scenes, wait till you watch this one (cum shots, penis in mouth O.o). Damn, these French people are so hardcore with their sex scenes (re: Blue is the warmest colour). Having said all that, I find this movie kinda boring tbh. At least Blue is the warmest colour has an emotional core, this one is just about a group of gay men leading empty lives and cruising around and living dangerously. Of course, you can say that that’s the point of the film but ultimately the subject has zero appeal to me. I don’t think I’m going to carry on watching zzz.

Dallas Buyers Club (2013)

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Dallas Buyers Club (2013) tells the story of Ron Woodroof, an electrician and hustler who after being infected by HIV, tries to work his way around existing laws and regulations to gain access to drugs that were not yet approved in USA then. However, as time passes, Woodroof (along with Rayon, a transgender woman also infected by the virus) started making the drugs available to other HIV afflicted people by selling “memberships”. Along the way, he also started to experience a change in attitudes towards the gay community.

The film is surprisingly good. I must admit, I had my initial reservations because, let’s face it, the movie sounds like pure oscar bait. And in a way, it is. Transgender woman with HIV? Check. Homophobic asshole with HIV? Check. Unlikely friendship? Check. Sensitive topic? Check. Drastic weight loss by actors? Check. And the list can go on and on…

The story, no doubt, is formulaic and predictable. However, I’d say that the film manages to overcome the typical traps of such movies, which include either a) turning it into an over sentimental, over melodramatic weep-fest or b) making into some hyper pretentious movie about the meaning of life and the value of friendship. The film does neither and portrays it as it is. The result is a fairly thought provoking, realistic and even heartbreaking story about the development of a man and his unlikely friendship. I thought this was exceptionally well-done, given how Rayon is actually a fictional character. The film doesn’t make Ron’s change in attitude towards Rayon obvious and manipulative, like in a “revelation” sort of way. In fact, the scenes where they joke with one another felt so natural that I thought it was extremely believable, which is particularly remarkable because such scenes involving unlikely friendships tend to feel a little forced and unconvincing in other films. You can see both actors are extremely comfortable working with one another, and that they are not trying to “sell” the authenticity of their friendship to the viewer, but to play it as it is. In fact, everything about the film feels natural despite the fact that the director Jean-Marc Vallee could have gone for the smaltzy or obvious humor routes. For example, the scenes where Woodroof disguises himself in order to bring the drugs over could have been made to be purely comedic, but it was instead portrayed in a toned down, naturalistic manner, which made the humor behind it stand out even more. The other symptoms involving Woodroof suffering from the symptoms could have also been played out in an over dramatic way but interesting directing choices such as the high-pitched ringing sound made the scenes more intense and believable.

The only minor issue I have with the film is the portion portraying the relationship between Jennifer Garner’s character (can’t even remember her name. I think it’s Eve) and Woodroof. I felt like their brief romance was there just for the sake of it, but it was a little contrived and this was the part that unfortunately didn’t escape the whole “oh, so predictable” feeling like the other scenes. The relationship between the two wasn’t really well built up, I thought, and I wasn’t at all surprised to learn that it did not happen in real life (her character is fictional too). Still, it was a really small scene that didn’t really have much of an impact so I didn’t mind that much. The other issue that I thought was interesting, but I’ll reserve my judgment on, was how the medical industry and the FDA were portrayed as pure villains.

The acting, I’ll admit, was immaculate. There you go, I said it. I was also quite doubtful at first because I’m not really familiar with Matthew McConaughey as an actor. Only movie of his I’ve watched before this was Tropic Thunder…so yeah. Besides, the part sounded like pure Oscar bait so I was very scared that I was going to watch a manipulative, overly eager to impress, young Tom Hanks style performance that basically screamed “Give me an Oscar!”. However, this was not the case here. McConaughey’s performance is very honest, and I daresay subtle. Sure, there’s the usual excessive swearing and crying scenes, but I thought he portrayed the man’s development so naturally and realistically that I was totally sold. He could have had a big, Oscar-ish revelation scene to show his change of attitude, such as the supermarket scene where he forced the guy to shake hands with Rayon. However every single action and line was performed so naturally that it just as though it was already a part of the character rather than an actor trying to show off his acting chops. The character is very complex, especially when it comes to his true intentions behind setting up the club. He might seem a villain since only those who could afford the membership could have access to the drugs, but McConaughey managed to make us understand where the character is coming from, until the end where he decided to sell his car (not going to go into details about what happened).

Jared Leto is also receiving a lot of recognition for his performance, and he really deserves it. In a way, I think he had the more difficult part than McConaughey. The character is kinda like a ghostly presence, to be honest. He doesn’t really have a lot of lines, and in fact the male lead steals away the spotlight from him in their scenes together. Leto could have gone for the typical approach; making the character loud, flashy, over the top but ultimately tragic. Instead, he went for a more subtle approach where the character chooses to internalize his pain, but it ended up feeling a lot more realistic and heartbreaking. I mean, just the scene where he held the dress in front of him while looking at the mirror would have been worthy of an Oscar. The scene where he begged his father for money could also have been a typical Oscar clip moment with the tears and all, but he chose the more toned down, natural approach which made the scene much more effective. Sure, there are the usual jokes about getting boobs and all, but Leto never delivers them in a cliche manner. I must also add, his expression of gratitude towards Woodroof in the supermarket scene was fantastic. There were no words said at all, but I was totally moved by it. I’m not gonna lie, if he wins the Oscar for this performance I think it’s going to be one of my favorite winners in a while.

All in all, Dallas Buyers Club is a very good film. It’s bothering on great, but for some reason something is holding me back from calling it that. It could be the predictable storyline and the lack of the surprise element which admittedly influences my opinions quite a great deal. Still, I don’t want to sound too critical because it’s a really, really good film that I would easily give 4/5.

Favorite performances, and what on earth is Forrest Gump about?

I swear, I’m just typing whatever that’s coming into my head now.

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NO MORE WORK! Please!!!! I have one presentation next week, 2 presentations the following week, one test the following Saturday and a hell lot of assignments/projects to do. I’m so tired! The things we do for our future careers…sighs

    My personal favorite performances of all time (Based on the limited number of films that I’ve watched)

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Alright, I’m just going to say this: this, my friends, is the greatest female performance ever to me. I don’t even know why I suddenly thought about it (Maybe I’m turning into Blanche from all the stress) but yes, I’ve been deciding between this work and Vivien Leigh’s other legendary work in Gone With The Wind, Diane Keaton in Annie Hall, Meryl Streep in Sophie’s Choice, Ellen Burstyn in Resurrection (yes, I’m serious here too)…but I go with this. Fantastic. The right balance between theatrical and natural, tragic and comic, realistic and fictional, flirty and vulnerable….I can go on but her performance here just joins up all these dichotomies so well that I simply cannot not embrace it. I feel like I’m in the minority who preferred this to her Scarlett O’Hara (which was equally fantastic of course).

updated on 15 February: Add Anne Bancroft in The Graduate to the list. My god, that was one marvelous performance. I’ve been trying to figure out over the past few weeks what was the missing performance that I forgot to include. Well, glad I figured it out. Charlize Theron in Monster and Marion Cotillard in La Vie en Rose comes very close too.

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…and this, is probably my personal best male performance of all time. I’m not saying this just because Philip Seymour Hoffman recently passed away. But his work here itself is so brilliant, chilling, manipulative (not the performance, but the character, and in an excellent way) and every single moment is so unpredictable, so balanced between the dramatic/comedic, technical/emotional aspects…I can’t. I mean, simply can’t help but love it so much :D. Surprisingly underrated work too, I might add. It was really tough choice between Peter O’Toole in Lawrence of Arabia, Marlon Brando in The Godfather, Al Pacino in The Godfather I and II, F.Murray Abraham in Amadeus, Robert De Niro in Raging Bull, Tony Leung in Lust, Caution and Daniel Day-Lewis in There Will Be Blood. It’s just my personal preference for the more restrained works (F.Murray Abraham comes next) as compared to the powerhouse performances that ultimately became the tipping point. I’m definitely not denying the brilliance of Al Pacino and Robert De Niro though. They both deservedly earned their legendary statuses for The Godfather and Raging Bull…it’s just more of a respect vs love kind of thing. I’m not afraid to admit that there have been times I love a performance that is admittedly weaker than the other…sometimes, it’s just a connection thingy 😀

It’s like although I think that Cate Blanchett not winning the Oscar for Blue Jasmine would be a crime, I secretly (not anymore, I guess) love Sandra Bullock’s powerful work in Gravity more.

Moving on to….

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Can someone please explain this movie to me? I’m not hating, I swear, but I honestly don’t know what to feel or what the film is trying to say after I finished watching it. It’s like, my bitter heart and cynical soul just cannot see things from Gump’s over simplistic perspectives of the Vietnam war (ice cream and ping pong), his mama’s life theories 101, a clearly messed up Jenny, a clearly messed up Jenny’s family, Lieutenant Dan’s plight…

I didn’t hate the film like most people do, because technically, it is certainly watchable and engaging. So moments are very well acted by Tom Hanks, although I didn’t love his work here. It’s just the way Forrest runs through life that leaves me more puzzled… I find it hard to buy that Gump’s an important figure in American politics and history, symbolically or realistically. However, I do think that there’s a deeper meaning/metaphor/message that the writer is intending to convey behind it all but it probably slipped past my admittedly hardened mind. I guess that when it comes to appreciating deep movies, I personally prefer realistic depiction to the whole “miracles”, and all…