Staff Picks: Movies
Staff-recommended viewing from the KPL catalog.
Another Oscar season has come to a close, and it was quite a successful one at that. There were very few upsets or surprises, which helped this movie geek dominate his Oscar pool, getting 21 out of 24 correct – a tie for my all-time best. The Academy made up for snubbing director Ben Affleck by awarding Best Picture to the well-deserved Argo. The visually-stunning Life of Pi took home the most of the night with four, including one for director Ang Lee, who managed to turn what many felt was an unfilmable book into a crowd-pleaser. Skyfall became the first James Bond film to win an Oscar since 1965’s Thunderball. Lincoln ’s Daniel Day-Lewis became the first person ever to win Best Actor three times. And Pixar’s Brave just beat out the video-game-themed Wreck-It Ralph for Best Animated Feature, which is ironic considering poor Ralph spends his entire movie trying to win a trophy just so people will love him. You’ve earned top score from me, Ralph.
If you’re behind in your Oscar viewing, a handful of these award-winners are available for home viewing now, right here at the Kalamazoo Public Library:
Several of the Oscar winners are coming soon, and you can place a hold on them now:
Check back for the availability of Silver Linings Playbook, winner of Best Actress (Jennifer Lawrence); Les Misérables, winner of Best Supporting Actress (Anne Hathaway), Makeup & Hairstyling, and Sound Mixing; and Amour, winner of Best Foreign Film. The release dates of these films will probably be announced soon.
So what did you think of the Oscars? What were you glad to see win? Which categories would you have preferred to go differently? What was your favorite film of 2012?
The Grey is about a plane crash in the Alaska wilderness and the survivors being hunted by wolves. Ottway (Liam) is hired to protect the pipeline guys. They show him shoot a wolf right in the beginning of the movie, thus establishing him as a good shot with a rifle and their defender. I thought The Grey was going to be all about Liam Neeson protecting the survivors of the plane crash and indeed it was but no gun. I guess if he had a gun it would have been too easy. The movie starts out showing the men working on the pipeline, Ottway shoots the wolf then we are in their bar at the base camp and we get sort of introduced to the characters. Then it’s off to the plane and pretty much right away the plane crashes and the movie gets going with its major thrust of surviving the wolves. I mean the movie is called The Grey. Liam organizes the remaining men, a wolf attacks, Liam tells all the men about wolves and that they will hunt in a certain radius of their den etc. thus setting up the rest of the movie. These wolves are HUGE, more the size of a black bear and they are very organized. There is a scene where the men are sitting around the fire and they hear the noise of two wolves in the trees. They say what was that? Liam tells them that was the Alpha male putting down the challenger. Then Diaz, one of the men around the fire, challenges Liam. Why are you in charge? Diaz pulls a knife and wants to fight. Liam, of course, stomps on a fire log, disorients Diaz and beats him. So just like the alpha wolf putting down the challenger so does our human male. Another time they are all around the camp fire and all the wolves start howling. Apparently it sounded real enough that my little puppy perked up and listened and started growling at the television. In a touching moving emotional part of the movie they are all telling stories and Liam recites a poem his dad wrote: “Once more into the Fray. In to the last good fight I’ll ever know. Live and die on this day. Live and die on this day” Which reflected what was happening, each day the wolves attacked and killed another survivor. This is a good movie to watch when the snow is blowing and it is cold outside.
Can you imagine your wife has a brain injury and does not remember being married to you. That's the premise of the movie "The Vow" and it is based on a real live wife who had a brain injury and forgot her husband. She never did get her memory back, but she is still married and has two children. The movie has a car crash causing the brain injury and then to keep us interested tosses in issues with in-laws, a bit of infidelity, and old flame who she does remember. Rachael McAdams plays Paige the wife of Leo played by Channing Tatum ( and yes he does take off his shirt showing his magnificently sculpted abs) . The movie starts off with the car crash and the hospital scene, then does a flashback to show us how much in love they were. I thought they did a good job with her waking up and seeing Leo for the first time. She assumes he is her doctor, a very reasonable thought. Paige has lost the last 4 years, and in her mind she was still in law school, and engaged to Jeremy, not an artist and married to Leo. The movie unravels for us the tale of why she left law school and ditched her fiancé Jeremy. Leo faced with having a wife who does not remember him at all, tries to spark her memory, failing to make that happen he tries to re woo her and make her fall in love with him all over again. Paige's parents want to control Paige and take her back to their home and try to mold her back into the person they want her to be. This is a good romantic movie, a good one to watch with your special someone.
Lovely Still. Robert Malone (Martin Landau) meets Mary (Ellen Burstyn), who looks great for being 76 years old at the time this movie was made. Robert comes home from working at the grocery store to find Mary in his house. She says she was checking on him, to make sure he was all right as his car was crashed into his garage. Mary then asks him out on a date. Robert is ecstatic and in love. They go on horse drawn carriage rides, romantic walks, and even sled riding. There is also an undercurrent. Mary’s daughter Alex (Elizabeth Banks) keeps cautioning her mother to not get hurt emotionally. We see Mary with a pill bottle that she drops in the sink. Every morning just before Roberts alarm goes off we see his dreams, multi colored dreams with vague shapes in the background. When he is with Mary these dreams go away. At times I was wondering is Mary real? Her name is Mary and it is a Christmas tale. Will Mary die? This is what appears to be a Hallmark story of love for old people and is named as such Lovely Still but it has something else going on. I was thinking this was going to be just a Hallmark love story when it took a twist and I have said too much already. Watch this when you are feeling a need for a heart tug, an emotional warming, a tale of true love.
Most filmgoers know Christopher Nolan from his work as the director behind the recent Batman films and Inception but it was the film Memento that unleashed Nolan’s talent for sinister and suspensful movies that underscore his interest in the darker elements of human nature. Nolan’s work is also interested in exploring the elasticity of narrative and how the various constituents of a story fragmented and detached from a linear unfolding, impact the viewer’s experience and expectations. Fans of his films should definitely see his first film, the playful thrillerFollowing, a Paul Auster-like nightmare where identities are swapped and nothing is as it seems. One can see in this early attempt at disorienting the viewer’s grasp of time and plot, a precursor to the brilliant Memento.
In Richard Linklater’s Bernie, a surprise hit released in 2012, Jack Black delivers a dialed down performance worthy of award recognition. Black belts out Gospel standards, dances to show tunes and brings a dramatic depth and sympathy to the role that one rarely finds in his oeuvre of slapstick comedies. Bernie is based on a true crime set in East Texas. Black plays the lovable but quirky Bernie, the assistant funeral director who when not comforting his beloved widows, befriends the town matriarch, a mean spirited woman made of money, played by legend Shirley MacLaine. From there, Bernie’s life of piety and service spins out of control when he deviates from his saintly deeds and finds himself confronted with the truth and consequences of his actions.
Director Michael Cimino’s The Deer Hunter brought him huge commercial success and an Oscar Award for Best Picture in 1978. His follow-up movie, the epic Western Heaven’s Gate, became known as a major flop of a film that almost financially ruined its studio (United Artists) and led to the label of Cimino as overbearing, obsessive and overly ambitious. For those interested in the behind the scenes drama of the making of Heaven’s Gate, see Steven Bach’s book Final Cut: dreams and disaster in the making of Heaven’s Gatefor an excellent summary. The Criterion Collection has recently released the director’s cut of this notorious film and it clocks in at over 200 minutes long.
Starring an excellent group of actors like Kris Kristofferson, Christopher Walken, Jeff Bridges, and Isabelle Huppert, Heaven’s Gate is a fictionalized story about the class and cultural conflict between the big money interests of the Wyoming Stock Grower’s Association and European immigrants who were accused of poaching cattle and land in the faraway outpost of rural Wyoming. Cimino’s vision is grand and evocative of the vast, beautiful American West, warts and all. While neither a perfectly misunderstood masterpiece nor as terrible a film as its detractors have suggested, Heaven’s Gate is worthy of a viewing but be prepared for the long haul.
The Academy Award nominations were announced yesterday, and one of the great joys that I take from Oscar season is that I can get sweet, nerdy revenge on all my Facebook friends who, for months, have cluttered my newsfeed with football jargon and armchair coaching advice (I don't know what "roll tide" means, but it sounds like a new way to help protect my laundry against stains). For a short period of time, all the sports geeks that I know get to hear this ardent movie nut spout off on things like Ben Affleck's snub for directing Argo (seriously, Academy?) or why Supporting Actor front-runner Tommy Lee Jones (from Lincoln) deserves the gold so much less than Django Unchained's Samuel L. Jackson or Leonardo DiCaprio, both of whom were overlooked. But whether you like Oscar pools or fantasy football (which I'm pretty sure is just Dungeons & Dragons for sports fans), you should absolutely check out some of the nominated films, several of which you can get right now at the Kalamazoo Public Library.
Of the nine Best Picture nominees, the only one currently available on DVD is Beasts of the Southern Wild. This must-see film also received nominations for first-time feature-length director Benh Zeitlin, and Quvenzhané Wallis, who was only 6 years old when the film was made and is now the youngest person ever to be nominated for Best Actress. Beasts is also competing for Best Adapted Screenplay, which was written by Lucy Alibar & Benh Zeitlin.
Best Picture nominee Argo will be out on DVD and Blu-ray on February 19th, but KPL patrons can put a hold on a copy of the film now. It received 7 nominations overall, including a Best Supporting Actor nod for previous winner Alan Arkin. And while you wait for the film to come out, you can read the amazing true story upon which it's based, written by real-life CIA agent Antonio Mendez (whom Affleck plays in the film).
Best Picture front-runner Lincoln does not yet have a release date for DVD and Blu-ray, but you can check out John's Williams' music from the film, which received a nomination for Best Original Score. Meanwhile, Tony Kushner received a Best Adapted Screenplay nod, having based the book off a small portion of Doris Kearns Goodwin's book Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln received the most nominations with 12, which include sure-thing Best Actor Daniel Day-Lewis, the aforementioned Tommy Lee Jones for Supporting Actor, Sally Field for Supporting Actress, and Steven Spielberg for Director.
Other Best Picture nominees not yet available on Blu-ray or DVD but based on books you can read now include Yann Martel's Life of Pi (11 nominations), Matthew Quick's Silver Linings Playbook (8 nominations), and Victor Hugo's Les Misérables (8 nominations), which was also adapted from the beloved musical.
Beyond the Best Picture list, there are several films currently available at KPL that received Oscar nominations:
Several more contenders will be available in February: Flight, which received nominations for Best Actor (Denzel Washington) and Original Screenplay (John Gatins); The Sessions, which recognized Helen Hunt for Best Supporting Actress; and Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master, which scored nods for Best Actor (Joaquin Phoenix), Best Supporting Actor (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and Best Supporting Actress (Amy Adams).
So come on down to KPL and check out some of these Oscar-nominated films. In the meantime, tell us what your favorite films were this year. What nominations were you excited about, and what snubs got you riled up? What would you choose as the Best Picture of 2012?
Beasts of the Southern Wild
The Michael Haneke film Amour was nominated for Best Picture this morning in large part because of the amazing performance of 85 year-old French actress Emmanuelle Riva. But did you know that we have Riva’s first film, the brilliant Hiroshima Mon Amour? Released in 1959, the famous French New Wave director Alain Resnais’ beautiful lament for lost love, innocence and peace (both international and personal) introduced the French actress to the world. Set in the recovering city that suffered the explosion of the first atom bomb, Resnais delicately tells the touching story of two lovers, who over the course of a day, search for what it means (if anything) to remember, to forget and to heal from the wounds of war. An affecting masterpiece of both innovation and storytelling, Riva ‘s anguished character (She) attempts to explain to Eiji Okada’s (He) where she came from (the city of Nevers) and how she has arrived in Hiroshima, a city that symbolically parallels her own life’s troubled arch.
Hiroshima mon amour
Polish director Krzysztof Kieślowski’s mysteriously elegant film The Double Life of Veronique explores the supernatural tale of two women, played by the same actress, who never formally meet one another and yet who look exactly the same and who both feel the presence of the other. Set in both France and Kieslowski’s native Poland, the beautiful Irene Jacob stars as both Veronique and Weronika, two women living parallel lives who both sense that they are both ‘here’ and ‘somewhere’ else at the same time. Following Weronika’s death while singing on stage in Poland, Veronique seeks answers to her strange feelings while beginning to stitch together an explanation for the odd events that have begun to culminate, increasing both her unease and her curiosity.
Double life of veronique