American Sniper

American Sniper

I really had a hard time finding the motivation to see American Sniper. It is the type of movie I avoid as best I can. I do not typically enjoy movies about war. That is especially true of films about any wars that have taken place throughout my lifetime. My first and foremost issue is that I do not find them entertaining. And by entertaining, I mostly mean funny. It is difficult to find very much amusing about the never-ending warfare in the middle east. Beyond that there is just so much beige, and that, in and of itself, is unappealing.

I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this film. I found parts entertaining and even uplifting. Yes, there was plenty that was disturbing and heartbreaking about the film, but I did not leave the theater feeling exhausted and depressed like I often do after movies about modern wars.

Bradley Cooper did a fantastic job in his portrayal of Chris Kyle. He was charming, as expected, but also convincingly expressed the experiences of war from a different perspective than we often see.

I think a tremendous benefit to the film was the casting of Jake McDormand. I did not know that he was in the film before I went to see it. As soon as I saw him, I breathed a sigh of relief because I knew that I would be, at least periodically, entertained. His character, Biggles, was the highlight of the film for me. He brought light to a film about a dark subject matter in the same way, I can only assume, Ryan “Biggles” Job did for these men in real life.

The story is powerful. No matter you opinions on war, on sniping, or on the state of our country in general. A subject matter I do not make a habit of tackling on this blog or in my life in general, but an important one for sure. If you are resisting seeing the film because you think it will be a downer, know that this is not the case. The film was entertaining and uplifting while dealing with issues many of us choose to avoid when it comes to entertainment.

The Theory of Everything

Theory

The Theory of Everything is a biographical look at the life of Stephen and Jane Hawking. The film is based on the book Traveling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen by Jane Wilde Hawking.

This is a movie that I had been wanting to see for a while. I find Stephen Hawking fascinating. I understand very little of the science (I have never put much effort into understanding science), but I think people who can change the world by solving one math equation have to be pretty interesting people. Beyond that, I love his sense of humor. Stephen Hawking will pop up on shows like The Big Bang Theory from time to time and, playing himself, has some of the greatest one-liners of the series.

I thought the film really captured what I know to be true of the physicist, adding the dynamic of Jane, who I knew almost nothing of. The story was both sweet and devastating, triumphant and heartbreaking.

I was blown away by the performances, which is not something that happens to me very often. I am often happy with performances, or even pleasantly surprised, but rarely blown away. Felicity Jones, is as lovely as ever. I think she is truly one of the greatest actresses of my generation. She is wonderful in everything. This is a particularly difficult character, I would say, for reasons I would rather not say to prevent spoiling even the slightest of plot points, but she tackles it with courage and grace. Eddie Redmayne, who won the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Motion Picture Drama, is stunning. I have never been thoroughly impressed with him before, but this role changes that for me. The physicality of the character is truly incredible, but more than that is the fact that he does not speak for almost half of the film, but still brings such personality to the character that I never felt the loss.

Another area is one that I rarely think of when it comes to film. That is music. I rarely think about music unless I am specifically asked to think about it. During this film, I noticed and really felt the addition of the music. It was sweet and simple and reminded me of this mathematical music that I encountered during a production where the musician turned Pi into the most beautiful song I have ever heard. That is what the score to this film sounds like, and it was perfect.

I highly recommend this film and am very excited to see how it fares as the awards season closes this weekend.

My Funny Valentine

We are a mere day away from Valentine’s Day and so in honor of that I asked the group to submit their favorite Romantic Comedies. Some are more romance than comedy, and some more comedy than romance. Some may require a box of tissues because the ending is more heartbreaking than “happily ever after” and some may require a box of tissue because you are laughing so hard that you are crying. So here is the list I have compiled, broken into categories to make it easier to find what you are looking for this year. Each is complete with links to IMDb so you don’t get the 2005 Pride & Prejudice starring Matthew Macfadyen and Keira Knightley confused with the 1995 Pride and Prejudice starring the one and only Mr. Darcy, Colin Firth, and Jennifer Ehle.

Based on a Jane Austen novel:

Pride & Prejudice

Clueless (1995)

Pride and Prejudice (1995)

Sense & Sensibility (1995)

Emma (1996)

Bridget Jones’ Diary (2001)

Based on a Novel:

The Notebook

Anne of Green Gables (1985)

The Princess Bride (1987)

Under the Tuscan Sun (2003)

The Notebook (2004)

P. S. I Love You (2007)

Old School:

Breakfast at Tiffany's

The Shop Around the Corner (1940)

To Catch a Thief (1955)

High Society (1956)

Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)

Charade (1963)

The Essential 80s:

Sixteen Candles

Sixteen Candles (1984)

The Breakfast Club (1985)

The Sure Thing (1985)

Say Anything (1989)

When Harry Met Sally (1989)

The Golden Age of Rom-Com:

You've Got Mail

Pretty Woman (1990)

My Girl (1991)

Sleepless in Seattle (1993)

While You Were Sleeping (1995)

The American President (1995)

My Best Friend’s Wedding (1997)

The Wedding Singer (1998)

You’ve Got Mail (1998)

10 Things I Hate About You (1999)

Never Been Kissed (1999)

21st Century Classics:

How to Lose A Guy in 10

Sweet Home Alabama (2002)

How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (2003)

Love, Actually (2003)

13 Going on 30 (2004)

The Holiday (2006)

Sydney White (2007)

Definitely, Maybe (2008)

Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008)

He’s Just Not That Into You (2009)

Bridesmaids (2011)

A Little Quirky

Moonrise Kingdom

Benny & Joon (1993)

Amelie (2001)

Just Friends (2005)

Lars and the Real Girl (2007)

Juno (2007)

WALL-E (2008)

(500) Days of Summer (2009)

Midnight in Paris (2011)

Moonrise Kingdom (2012)

Academy Award Winners:

Shakespeare in Love

The Philadelphia Story (1940)

Annie Hall (1977)

Forrest Gump (1994)

Shakespeare in Love (1998)

Brokeback Mountain (2005)

And now for something completely different:

Jennifer's Body

Chasing Amy (1997)

High Fidelity (2000)

Jeux d’Enfants (2003)

Jennifer’s Body (2009)

Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

And there you have it. Hope you all have a fantastic Valentine’s Day!

I’d like to thank the Academy…

Academy Awards 2015

In case you have not yet figured this out, I am a huge movie fan. From the date the Academy Awards nominees are announced until the evening of the show, I am doing my best to see as many of the nominees as possible. This year, I am going to post about each of them I am able to see. I have a list narrowed down at this point that includes that include the movies that swept the nominations as well as films from the specific categories that are the most important to me. Included in this post, will be the links to all of the posts about nominated films I have seen so far this year.

And the Nominees are:

Best Picture

Lead Actor

Lead Actress

  • Two Days One Night (Marion Cotillard)
  • The Theory of Everything (Felicity Jones)
  • Still Alice (Julianne Moore)
  • Gone Girl (Rosamund Pike)
  • Wild (Reese Witherspoon)

Best Supporting Actor

  • The Judge (Robert Duvall)
  • Boyhood (Ethan Hawke)
  • Birdman (Edward Norton)
  • Foxcatcher (Mark Ruffalo)
  • Whiplash (J.K. Simmons)

Best Supporting Actress

  • Boyhood (Patricia Arquette)
  • Wild (Laura Dern)
  • The Imitation Game (Keira Knightley)
  • Birdman (Emma Stone)
  • Into the Woods (Meryl Streep)

Best Cinematography

  • Birdman (Emmanuel Lubezki)
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel (Robert Yeoman)
  • Ida (Lukasz Zal and Ryszard Lenczewski)
  • Mr. Turner (Dick Pope)
  • Unbroken (Roger Deakins)

Best Costume Design

  • The Grand Budapest Hotel (Milena Canonero)
  • Inherent Vice (Mark Bridges)
  • Into the Woods (Colleen Atwood)
  • Maleficent (Anna B. Sheppard and Jane Clive)
  • Mr. Turner (Jacqueline Durran)

Best Director

  • Birdman (Alexandro G. Iñárritu)
  • Boyhood (Richard Linklater)
  • Foxcatcher (Bennett Miller)
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel (Wes Anderson)
  • The Imitation Game (Morten Tyldum)

Best Film Editing

  • American Sniper (Joel Cox and Gary D. Roach)
  • Boyhood (Sandra Adair)
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel (Barney Pilling)
  • The Imitation Game (William Goldenberg)
  • Whiplash (Tom Cross)

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

  • Foxcatcher (Bill Corso and Dennis Liddiard)
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel (Frances Hannon and Mark Coulier)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy (Elizabeth Yianni-Georgiou and David White)

Best Production Design

  • The Grand Budapest Hotel (Production Design: Adam Stockhausen; Set Decoration: Anna Pinnock)
  • The Imitation Game (Production Design: Maria Djurkovic; Set Decoration: Tatiana Macdonald)
  • Interstellar (Production Design: Nathan Crowley; Set Decoration: Gary Fettis)
  • Into the Woods (Production Design: Dennis Gassner; Set Decoration: Anna Pinnock)
  • Mr. Turner (Production Design: Suzie Davies; Set Decoration: Charlotte Watts)

Best Adapted Screenplay

Best Original Screenplay

  • Birdman (Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr. & Armando Bo)
  • Boyhood (Richard Linklater)
  • Foxcatcher (E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman)
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel (Wes Anderson & Hugo Guinness)
  • Nightcrawler (Dan Gilroy)

Best Visual Effects

  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier (Dan DeLeeuw, Russell Earl, Bryan Grill and Dan Sudick)
  • Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, Daniel Barrett and Erik Winquist)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy (Stephane Ceretti, Nicolas Aithadi, Jonathan Fawkner and Paul Corbould)
  • Interstellar (Paul Franklin, Andrew Lockley, Ian Hunter and Scott Fisher)
  • X-Men: Days of Future Past (Richard Stammers, Lou Pecora, Tim Crosbie and Cameron Waldbauer)

This is not a complete list of the nominees, just a list of the films I intend to see and the categories for which the are nominated.

This Is Where I Leave You

This Is Where I Leave You

This weekend, the film version of Jonathan Tropper’s This is Where I Leave You (read my previous post on the book here) was released in theaters. The film stars Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Jane Fonda, Corey Stoll, and Adam Driver as the Altman family. The patriarch of the Altman family has just died and he last request was that his family sit Shiva to mourn his death. For those of you who do not know, Shiva is a Jewish custom where the immediate family members of the deceased gather in one home to observe a seven day period of mourning. To honor the death of their father, these four adult siblings gather in their childhood home for one week.

The film version is a notably condensed version of the book. There were things that I noticed that were cut or changed for time, and a few that were surely changed because of the difficulty of filming. There was one scene in particular that I wondered how they would film, and the answer was that the would skip it all together, which I felt was unfortunate, but understandable. There were some semi-major plot points that were changed, explantations that I felt were missed, but most of all, I missed the voice of the narrator. The book is entirely narrated by the Jud Altman (Bateman) and I really missed his commentary on what all was happening.

I still enjoyed the movie, but I mostly just made me want to re-read the book. On the other hand, I saw the film with my mother who felt the movie was even better than the book. I thought that was interesting, but this is the reason I think she felt that way. When I read the book, I heard the voices of Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, and all of the rest of the cast who were all so exquisitely cast. My mother did not. Therefore she missed out on the characterization that only these actors could have brought to these roles. When I read the book, I basically saw the extended version of the film in my head. I would be interested in hearing what someone who has not read the book at all thought of the film.

Overall, the film was great. It was really well made and was exactly what it needed to be. If you did not read the book at all, or did not hear the story told with Bateman’s voice in your head, I am sure the movie will be everything you are hoping it will be.

The Return of Television

Network Television’s Fall Premieres start to roll out this week. As if fall wasn’t amazing enough on its own, it coincides with one of my favorite events, fall television. Every year, I go through all of the new shows to determine which ones I will be giving a shot. This year, I will be passing that info onto you. So, here is a list of the shows I am most excited about this fall. New shows, olds favorites, and shows that I had initially written of, but decided to give a second chance to. Continue reading

If I Stay

If I Stay...

If I Stay is a film based on a book by the same name which was written by Gayle Forman (read my review of the book here). It is a Young Adult novel about a teenage girl deciding whether to live or die following a car accident that leaves her in a comatose state. I loved the book. It is definitely a tear-jerker, but it is a quick and easy read.

As far as the film version goes, I thought it was really faithful to the book. I absolutely loved the casting. Chloe Grace Moretz was a perfect Mia. She is an actress who I am always impressed with. She has great emotional depth, but she can still pull off a believable teenage girl, which is not always the case with young starlets. It was really nice to see Mireille Enos, who played Sarah Linden on The Killing, in such a fun role as Mia’s rocker chick mother. The rest of the cast was equally as wonderful.

I don’t really have that much to say about this one. If you have read the book, then you know what you are getting yourself into. If you haven’t, only see this one if you like this sort of thing. It is a lovely story, and the film truly does a great job of telling that story both visually and audibly (almost everyone in the book is a musician in some capacity, so music is a very important factor). My recommendation is that you do not see the film one morning before work or before you have to be anywhere really. I spent almost two hours crying in the theater and then had to sell clothes to soccer moms and was maybe not at the top of my game. It was a poor choice.

There is a sequel novel entitled Where She Went which I am more interested in reading now than I was after I read the book. I think I needed more time to process the novel and was just so excited about the film that I did not want to spoil it. They have not announced whether or not they will be filming the second book. I am sure that will be determined after the box office numbers are analyzed.

Here is the trailer again, in case you missed it:

The Giver

Giver

For some reason that I have still yet to figure out, I read several reviews of this film prior to writing my own. I got caught up with an attention grabbing headline and then continued to open the next one out of sheer curiousity. For most of the reviews I read, I found myself wondering if the critics so much as saw the film, much less read the book before they started in with the critical analysis.

I kept coming across headlines stating things like “Taylor Swift’s movie The Giver bombs at box office” (Taylor Swift is in all of about 10 minutes of the entire film via flashbacks)” Why ‘The Giver’ Movie Will Disappoint the Book’s Fans”, and even “The Giver: Pseduo-Rebellion for Conservative Sheep”. so I kept reading to figure out why all these people seemed to hate this movie that I thought was a really great interpretation of a novel I have loved since it was published in 1993.

First off, the book is always going to be better than the movie. There are a few exceptions to this, but we all know this to be relatively true. Books are not constrained to a time limit. They can have as many characters and they see fit without having to worry about paying each for their time. Also, a book is open to the interpretation of the reader. The scenery, the costumes, the faces of the characters; these are all open to whatever the audience can dream up. If I want Leighton Meester to play the mean girl in every YA novel I read throughout my entire life, I can make that happen (and, thus far, I pretty much have). I can cast the book the way I want it cast, I can add scenes or skip scenes, I can do whatever I please. A movie is not open to that kind of freedom for the audience. For that matter, it is not open to that kind of freedom for the directors or producers either. Everyone is going to be a little disappointed by something as a beloved book is turned into a film. It is not going to be the same book you read. Scenes will be cut for time, scenes with be added for continuity, characters will be combined for a myriad of reasons, characters will be flushed out to give the actors something more to work with or to get a bigger name in a particular role. Film production is a business, and as an audience, I think we have to respect that. Business decisions are made for the benefit of the production as a whole.

The second issue I had with a number of reviews I read was about the conservative nature of the film. I, by no means, consider myself a conservative. I think the story is allegorical in nature and could be taken in various ways. They film could be seen as very Pro-Life, as it is anti-infanticide, but no Pro-Choice supporter that I have ever met is for killing infants. It could be argued that the film shows the dangers of the government involvement in society. I saw it as a testament to what closed minded people can do in positions of power. They are literally making everyone the same, only recognizing traditional nuclear families, and eliminating anyone who is different by either medically suppressing their differences or by death. I see this as more liberal than conservative. The powers of interpretation…

My third issue with these reviews was the blatant lack of information that the reviewers seemed to have. Take this quote from Armond White of The National Review, “And no wonder: This film’s premise is embarrassingly similar to that of The Adjustment Bureau, The Hunger Games, Divergent, and others ad nauseum.” Except that this book was written in 1993, long before The Hunger Games or Divergent were so much as a pitch to a publisher. This is the book that arguably paved the way for these novel to be written. I am pretty certain this critic had no clue The Giver was originally a book. He also claimed that in the film you see “Meryl Streep doing an Anjelica Huston impersonation”. I completely disagree. To quote Modern Family on the matter: “Excuse me. Meryl Streep could play Batman and be the right choice. She is perfection.”

As far as my opinion goes, the movie is great. Is it the exact version I saw in my head when I read the book? No. But I am not paying to see the version I already saw in my head. When I see a film interpretation of a book I love, I want to see someone else’s version of the story. I want to see what I may have missed, what other got from it, what I can learn from their interpretation.

It can be said that I do not tend to be overly critical when it comes to film. Mostly because I do not see the point. Were there things I would have done differently, sure. Do I feel the overwhelming need to tear apart someone else’s art to feel, I don’t know: justified, validated, smug? No. This is a lovely film based on a beautiful book intended for children. I loved it as a child and I love it now. It is a starter novel that introduces children to Distopian literature. That is not a criticism in any way, that is what it is. This is affected in the film because the main characters are aged from 12 to 16. Though I am not sure why that has everyone up in arms as it does not affect the children seeing as how they are incredible sheltered and their hormones are being suppressed. They are not the sixteen year olds of our world with MTV, their own cars, and over-exposure to everything, they are very much still children. I would argue they are more innocent and certainly more naive that most modern 12 year olds.

The cast of this film is phenomenal. Jeff Bridges was born for this role and has owned the rights to the film for over a decade (he originally planned for his father, Lloyd Bridges to play the titular role before he died in 1998). Meryl Streep is, as always, perfection. Alexander Skarsgård is the perfect balance of endearing and sociopathic (not in a homicidal way, just void of empathy as everyone in this society is) that we have come to love and expect from him. Katie Holmes brings the deeply suppressed emotional life that she does so well, reminding me why we loved her so much and why I miss seeing her in more. The young adult cast is fairly unknown, but spectacular. Taylor Swift, is great, in a very small role, that you can ignore if you are one of the many who dislike her (I; however, am a big fan).

The production design is awesome. The color for the film is very well done. The music is chosen well and effectively. It feels stark when needed and not when not. You can feel the coldness of the society in the architecture as well as in the stiff polyester (guessing) of the clothing.

I recommend this film to anyone who loved the book when they were younger. Forget the critical reviews. Form your own opinion. This is mine.