Getting around to posting to the second part of this blog has been harder than I expected, for a variety of reasons, but we do have more to share from the Rogers' February Best Picture Challenge. As I write this, it is 85 degrees and my head is not exactly on movies. Add unreliable internet service and ... well, how can I complain? Did I mention it is 85 degrees?
It is, however, not good to publish a "part one" and then not publish "part two", so here goes!
GRAVITY is a movie I would not have seen, were it not for our February challenge. I had doubts that George Clooney and Sandra Bullock could be believable as astronauts, and the promise of never-before-seen special effects is not the kind of thing I'm drawn to.
Missing Gravity - especially the 3D version - would have been a mistake. For most of the film's 90 minutes I felt as I were floating in space with Dr. Ryan Stone (Bullock), a medical engineer on her first space shuttle mission. Of course I've never been in space and don't know what it feels like, but the aforementioned special effects were unlike anything I've experienced before and I was ducking for cover (spoiler alert) as pieces of an exploded space station took aim. The whole story was more than a little far-fetched, but by the time I came to that realization I was in space with Dr. Stone and my "reality" had changed.
The best part about our best picture challenge is that many times we discover terrific movies we never would have seen. Gravity is one of them. Make sure you see it. On the big screen. In 3D.
PHILOMENA, on the other hand, is the sort of movie the MMD* would term a "chick flick", just my kind of movie.
It's the true story of a woman's search for her son, a son who was taken from her in a time when young women having children without being married was considered a scandal. A now older woman who has buried a husband, Philomena (Judy Densch) is haunted by the past and the son taken from her long ago. She meets journalist Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan, who also wrote the screenplay) and not-so-gently persuades him to write about and aid with the search. It's funny, heartbreaking, surprising and tender. Much, much more than a chick flick.
In many years a movie like Philomena would win the Oscar for best picture. It's that good. This year, because so many outstanding films are nominated, I don't think it will.
12 YEARS A SLAVE is based on yet another true story, that of Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free black man living in upstate New York who was kidnapped and sold into slavery. At first outraged and determined to prove his free status, Northup is beaten into submission and the next 12 years are a depiction of unspeakable violence, unexpected acts of kindness, survival and the pursuit of understanding in the pre-Civil War era. We see the good in conflicted slave owners, the evil of others, and the tortured paths of slaves who must do the unthinkable to preserve their own lives.
As many have written, it is very difficult to watch. Ejiofor's performance is astonishing and I join those who believe this film should be part of the American high school curriculum. It may not be a lock for the best picture Oscar but it is most definitely worthy.
THE WOLF OF WALL ST. What can I say? I didn't want to like this movie and the first 45 minutes were hard to sit through. The portrayal of 1980s excess, greed and corruption - not to mention the record-setting use of the F-word - is tough to take for this Wisconsin girl brought up with better manners. But as the three-hour true story of New York stockbroker Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) unfolds, the audacity of it all was truly something to behold. And DiCaprio, well, he's my pick for best actor based on what I will call the "Lemmon Quaalude" scene. Unbelievable stuff. If only it weren't true.
HER. Sadly, the MMD and I made a strategic error, selecting Philomena over Her a couple of weeks ago. When we finally had a night to see Her it was gone from our theaters and Philomena was still hanging around. Strategy is part of our game and this year we blew it. So it goes. If you saw Her, please post your thoughts in the comments below. I definitely want to see it when we return to the Frozen Tundra.
Tonight there is an Oscar party at a crazy little Mexican bistro down the beach just a few hundred yards. Can't decide if we'll walk that red carpet or choose room service, but I will be hoping Nebraska pulls off the best picture upset. My gut tells me the winner will be 12 Years a Slave. What do you think? Please post your comments below!
Wish you were here ...
* Man of My Dreams