Disclaimer: The Vidette Voice blogs are meant to be a forum where ISU students can express their opinions and views on a myriad of subjects. While some posts are meant to be humorous or satirical, and others reflect the real opinions of the author, none of the posts to the blog necessarily reflect the opinions or views of the Daily Vidette as a whole. However, the Daily Vidette does support free speech and encourages students to voice their opinions.
Voice Movies

Hitchcock hits and misses

Written by: Dan Fox - Vidette reporter, blogger, & ISU student

“Good evening,” said Anthony Hopkins in that familiar Hitchcock tone in Sacha Gervasi’s film of the same title. Hitchcock looks at the latter years of the famous film director’s life as he tries to recapture some of his previous success.

            Unsure about the direction his film career is going, Hitchcock decides to do something to revitalize his career – make an adaptation of the novel Psycho. Now, horror movies are a mainstay is in the mainstream of cinema, but it wasn’t always like that. Back in the late 1950s such films were considered under the dignity of directors the stature of Hitchcock. But, he didn’t care. Upon disapproval by his peers and movie studios he decides to finance the film himself.

            The parallel storyline is of his love life. Apparently he was quite fond of and overly controlling of his “fantasy” leading ladies. And his wife Alma Reville (Helen Mirren) wasn’t too fond of that, so she starts a bit of a fantasy relationship of her own with who I believe is a fictional character — Whitfield Cook (Danny Huston).

            I loved the movie without the extra storyline. While I’m sure Alma was very important to the life and career of Hitchcock, I would have rather the story focused more on the main character. To my knowledge, this is one of the first movies to look more closely at the life of Hitchcock. There was no need to bog down the movie with specific details of his personal life. It would have worked better to just stick to some of the more generic details of Hitchcock. Instead of focusing half of the movie on somebody most (at least younger viewers) have probably never heard of. The tone of the film was lighthearted and humorous, which made it hard to care about “Hitch’s” love life. 

            Hopkins was great. It didn’t take the movie very long for me to quit seeing Hannibal Lector and start seeing Hitchcock. If anything Hopkins biggest weakness as an actor is his extremely distinctive looks. It seems no matter how much make-up they put on him he still looks like himself. Oh well, no matter – his acting makes up for that. The other characters in the movie are pretty forgettable. Scarlett Johansson plays Psycho leading lady, Janet Leigh. She and Mirren were alright, but not that memorable, nor should they be. They were there to compliment Hopkins and they did a great job of that.  

            Despite a couple of my gripes about this movie, it is still very good. It received average, at best, reviews. But, I think it is quite a bit above an average movie. It kept my attention, made me laugh and taught me a little bit about an age of movies I really don’t know much about. I would definetly recommend Hitchcock.


Fake Arrested Development Season 4 titles on Netflix Instant

Written by: Brian Reese - Vidette blogger

Fans of the beloved series Arrested Development have been eagerly waiting for the 4th season to arrive on Netflix Instant after a 7 year hiatus from network television. If the promises of a full-length season to be released all at once, followed by a feature length film this summer, hasn’t been torturing enough for die-hard fans, the show and Netflix Instant has heightened the agony by releasing fake titles for episodes that are supposedly intended for season 4. These, of course, are phony titled episodes that are based around inside jokes from the series. The titles are either fake television shows or mail-order videos that in some way relate back to the characters.Playing one of the fake titled episodes will bring the viewer to the corresponding episode that it first appeared in. Listed below are all the twelve “episodes” now available on Netflix Instant. At the very least this will get fans of the series even more reason to be excited for the encroaching summer release. I realize that I too have been impatiently waiting for the new season, even getting a little sad when I think about it not being here. But if I may quote Dr. Tobias Funke, “even if it means me taking a chubby, I will suck it up!”…at least for a couple more months.

Source: Huffington Post

 

Homeless Dad- A street-walking, homeless junkie desperately makes one last bid to win custody of his children. Up against society, his bitter ex, his own personal demons AND a ticking clock, no one expects his secret weapon: Love.

Junk- From the directors of Dangerous Cousins comes a bleak portrait of a desperate group of drug addicts who compete in a grueling dance marathon to win a modest cash prize. Brought together by fate, will they chase the dragon … or their dreams?

Boyfights- It’s brother vs. brother in this compilation of adolescent boyfights, featuring “A Day in the Life of American Boys,” “A Boyfights Cookout,”  “Backseat Boyfights,” and “I Don’t Want to Go to Bed.”

Caged Wisdom- Based on his book, “Musings From Prison,” George Bluth presents the latest collection from his ongoing series of life lessons and motivational discourses on the Jewish faith, all while incarcerated at the Orange County Prison.

Girls with Low Self Esteem- Sunshine and self-esteem issues collide as drunken, scantily-clad co-eds with low self-worth and no shame get wild on Spring Break. Cast: George Bluth Jr.

Families with Low Self Esteem- Tobias Funke, the semi-renowned Freudian analyst/therapist and former chief resident of psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital, provides counseling to families deep in crisis in this deeply probing and emotionally uplifting series.

Les Cousins Dangereux- To escape the scorn of their dissaproving families, two cousins flee to a sleepy, provincial town in France but are forced to hide their incestuous affair from the prying eyes of local villagers in this awkward tale of forbidden romance.

Mock Trial with J. Reinhold- All rise for actor Judge Reinhold as he presides over this reality courtroom/variety series, featuring music by American Idol sensation William Hung and his band, Hung Jury, as they take real families and put them through mock trials.

Ready, Aim… Marry Me!- After an acrimonious parting of ways with fellow Nazi hunter, Red McGibbon, Bullet shows he’s nobody’s sidekick by flying solo in search of comedic adventures. But along the way he discovers romance in the arms of a sassy socialite.

Scandlemakers- No stone goes unturned and privacy means nothing in this reality series where sordid secrets and ugly truths come to light. Go behind the scenes of today’s tabloid headlines with re-enactments of real-life incriminating scandals.

World’s Worst Drivers- Classic crashes, funny fender-benders and stupid sideswipes are on all display in this series that tracks down the world’s most terrible drivers on (and off) the road. There is nowhere to hide from these highway horrors. Staring Lucille Bluth

Wrench- When faced with some of the toughest cases the mean streets of Los Angeles has to offer, by-the-books detective Frank Wrench realizes he needs to loosen up, break some rules and maybe even throw out the book entirely, in order to get tough on crime.


Post-Oscar Thoughts

Written by: Daniel Fox - Vidette reporter, blogger, & ISU student

All in all, the 85th annual Academy Awards was a success. Well – as far as awards handed out. The actual show hosted by Seth MacFarlane was rather dull. MacFarlane’s tame jokes and so-so song and dance numbers were a step up from the James Franco/Anne Hathaway disaster a couple of years ago, but a far cry away from classic hosts like Billy Crystal. The lackluster awards shows of late don’t bother me, because the actual awards are what matters most.

There weren’t any big surprises. I think for the most part the winners were right on. The award for Lead Actor went to Daniel Day Lewis for his role as Abraham Lincoln in Lincoln. If ever there was a shoe-in it was this. In my honest opinion, Lewis is the gold standard for other actors to follow. When he takes on a roll he is possessed by it. When I am watching him act I forget who the actor is and I am completely entranced by the performance itself. If anything, he makes me realize how hard it is to be a great actor. Most of the most iconic actors of our age are simply typecast. It’s like with most actors, especially some of the biggest names, the studios don’t want its multi-million/billion stars to be unrecognizable. If the audience forgets who the actor is, the movie won’t make as much – so they make sure to keep the stars likeness and mannerisms intact. Which is why I was pleased that crowd favorite Robert DeNiro didn’t get his first Oscar in over 20 years for Supporting Actor.

It’s not that I don’t like Bobby D, I like his actor persona and usually like the movies he is in. Especially his earlier roles like in “Mean Streets” and “Taxi Driver”… But, that doesn’t mean that he is a great actor. It means that he has mastered the role of DeNiro, and knows how to make different versions of DeNiro pop on screen. His role in Silver Linings Playbook, was good but all I could see was DeNiro playing a superstitious, overly obsessed Philadelphia Eagles fan, not a real one. I haven’t seen enough of Christopher Waltz, Best Supporting Actor winner for Django Unchained, to know if he has typecast himself yet, but maybe that is a good thing, because he isn’t overly recognizable to me. In other words, his acting is priority over his actor persona. DeNiro’s co-star Jennifer Lawrence made me forget she was Katniss from the Hunger Games, and made me believe her as a mentally unstable match with Bradley Cooper’s equally unstable character. She didn’t remind me of her earlier roles, but she did remind me of one of her co-stars, Jennifer Stiles. It wasn’t the best performance I’ve ever seen, but comparatively speaking, she deserved her first Lead Actress Oscar.

Argo won Best Picture, and I am not entirely disappointed. Though, I would rather have seen Life of Pi win, it is hard to argue that right now Argo was the best choice. Ben Affleck is shedding the thought that he is the inferior to buddy Matt Damon. With his direction of The Town and now Argo (he was snubbed for a Best Director nod), he has cemented his reputation as one of the big players in Hollywood. The only question I have is, how the film will be viewed ten years from now? I think it will be a kind-of afterthought, while Pi will still be in the discussions. But, we don’t have a time machine so kudos, for now, to Affleck and Argo.

Pi might not have taken home the top-prize, but director Ang Lee did take home his second award for Best Director. Some said that the movie looked too fake, but I beg to differ. I knew that the tiger and much (most) of the movie was done digitally, but the CGI wasn’t a distraction – it melded the piece together nicely. Just look at some of the atrocities of cinema that have occurred over the last 15-plus-years of digital filmmaking. Remember Attack of the Clones, Van Helsing, The Brothers Grimm and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen? I try to forget. Compared to those disasters and too many others to mention here, Pi is an elegant work of art.  

Rounding out the top awards is Anne Hathaway for Best Actress. I tried to watch all of the movies this year, but never got to Les Miserables or Amour. From the clips I did see of the movie, it seems Hathaway deserved the award.

No big surprises or disappointments this year. I would have liked to see Beasts of the Southern Wild win something, but the young star and director have their whole careers ahead of them, and just to be nominated was probably a victory in itself. The actors of The Master, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Joaquin Phoenix and Amy Adams were all great but drew goose-eggs. Finally, I was pleased to see propaganda film Zero Dark Thirty go home relatively empty handed Other than those examples, all of the biggest movies got a piece of the pie. Unlike many years when one film takes away most of the awards, this year was pretty even.


Netflix ‘flips off’ their competition with access to The Hunger Games

Written by: Brian Reese - Vidette blogger

Netflix has won the fierce streaming battle for the exclusive rights to last summer’s blockbuster film The Hunger Games, based on author Suzanne Collins best-selling novel. As it stands now, the company will be the only subscription-based streaming service to provide the film to loyal viewers, beating our competitors such as Hulu Plus, Amazon, and Redbox. 

"We are thrilled to be the exclusive online home for The Hunger Games in the UK and Ireland," stated Ted Sarandos, Netflix Chief Content Officer. "Since launching in the UK and Ireland in January 2012, we have continued to expand our offering of great movies and TV programs, and we think our members are going to love the latest addition to the service." 

Now as of this past weekend, the film is officially available for subscribers in most parts of the UK, but the film is expected to hit our U.S instant queue shelves later this month. This only intensifies the battle for online-streaming supremacy, which in a lot of ways is starting to emulate the barbaric clashes seen in the film (the competition is, after all, played out in front of our eyes for all to see). This is unlikely to be a detrimental blow to the competition, but instead helps signify Netflix dominance in the online community, at least for now.  The Hunger Games is directed by Gary Ross and stars recent Oscar Winning Best Actress, Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook), pictured above telling Netflix competition how she really feels. 

(Source of quote: TheNextWeb.com)


New on Netflix Instant Queue: New February Releases and Beyond!

Written by: Brian Reese - Vidette blogger

With an almost infinite stockpile of films and programing to select from, each month means a new shipment of goods to Netflix Instant queue. It’s looking as though even with the companies shift to new original programing, such the already widely acclaimed House of Cards and Lilyhammer series, Netflix plans to continue to reshape their Instant queue library throughout the month by adding new and dropping old material. 

Listed below is just a taste of new programing that has slowly unraveled onto our Instant queue menus throughout the month. This is, of course, a list of some of my favorites to have recently come out, but there are certainly more to this list. Highlighting this month’s inventory is the always hysterical Naked Gun series starring the late, yet extraordinarily funny, Leslie Nielsen as bumbling L.A Detective Frank Drebin. Some other films from of our youth to make this month’s cut is the Adam Sandler classic Happy Gilmore and my favorite film to watch when I’m home “sick,” the 1986 beloved Ferris Bueller’s Day Off staring a much younger and debonair Matthew Broderick. Check back to the Vidette Voice soon to get a full preview of new release to hit the fast approaching March Instant queue and to see which programs are soon to be cut from Netflix ever-changing arsenal.

 

New Releases for February on Instant Queue

Bad Boys (1995)

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)

The Gift (2000)

Go Said, Ha! (1999)

Happy Gilmore (1996)

Holy Smoke (2000)

House of Cards (2013)

In The Cut (2003)

Jingle All the Way (1996)

Keeping Up with the Steins (2006)

Liar Liar (1997)

Love Story (1970)

Mobsters (1991)

Mona Lisa Smile (2003)

Nacho Libre (2006)

The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! (1988)

The Naked Gun 2 ½: The Smell of Fear (1991)

Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult (1994)

Next Stop Wonderland (1998)

Once Upon a Time in Mexico (2003)

Ordinary People (1980)

Scrooged (1998)

The Sea Inside (2004)

The Secret of My Success (1987)

Shakedown (1988)

Shaolin Soccer (2001)

Stardust Memories (1980)

Terms of Endearment (1983)

Top Gun (1986)

Trading Places (1983)

Tremors (1990)

True Confessions (1981)

United 93 (2006)


Oscar Preview pt. 5 Argo & Beasts of the Southern Wild

Written by: Daniel Fox - Vidette reporter, blogger, & ISU student

This year many thought Ben Affleck would get a long-awaited nomination for an Oscar for Best Director. He will have to wait – he was snubbed again.  But the movie he directed and co-produced, “Argo” is a top candidate to take home Best Picture.

The real-life dramatization of events that took place during the seizure of the U.S. embassy in Tehran, Iran, focuses on six American diplomats who were in-hiding from Iranian militants, in the home of the Canadian Ambassador. The militants are on the heels of the diplomats and it is only a matter of time before they catch them. Having considered all possible solutions, the CIA along with the Canadian and U.S. governments decide on what Ben Affleck’s character CIA agent Tony Mendez says “is the best bad plan we have, sir.” They decide to stage a fake movie production, and sneak the diplomats out of the country under the guise of a production team scouting locations for their “fake” movie.

Some of the best scenes of the movie are the cuts from the Iranian Revolution to the extravagant goings-on of 1970’s Hollywood, and back again. It really puts the seriousness of the situation into perspective. It makes you think about how different the two worlds really are, and the ludicrousness of the proposed plan. How can a fake-movie-production-plot to enter a hostile area and extract the most wanted people in the country be overlooked by the entire Iranian military?

Well, the answer to that is what makes “Argo” such a good movie. Real-life is often stranger than fiction, and the fictitious accounts of real events are even better. While anything that is reported to have happened by the CIA must be taken with a grain of salt, just to say the event is based on real events adds a certain amount of wonder and intrigue to the story.

The film is nominated for seven Academy Awards including Best Supporting Actor, Alan Arkin. He relieves some of the tension of the film with his gritty-horse-voiced quips. “If I’m going to make a fake movie, it’s going to be a fake hit,” he says to Affleck’s Tony. “Argo fuck yourself,” Arkin repeats whenever asked about the movie. He really adds a dimension to an already multi-faceted story.

I think “Argo” has a good chance of taking home the top prize this year. I give it a 3 to 1 chance.

 

Usually independently produced films that are primarily character driven, are stuck in the doldrums of the under-advertised and under-seen world of limited theatrical and straight-to-DVD releases.

People who are really into film might see it eventually – it might gain critical praise and receive an award at the Cannes, Toronto, Sundance or other film festival – but they are generally ignored by a wide-audience. The thrust of “Beasts of the Southern Wild” nomination for Best Picture, at this year’s Oscars, will force the public to pay it its due respect, for the marvelously raw work of art it is.

The lead is played by the youngest ever Oscar nominee for Lead in a Female Role, nine-year-old Quvenzhané Wallis. Her depiction of Hushpuppy, a tough nine-year-old girl who holds it together in the face of adversity better than most adults, is as poignant as it is unsettling. Her poverty stricken Delta life is unraveling too fast for her young mind can handle. While Hushpuppy’s demeanor is always strong, her mind (in my opinion) compensates for the trauma by imagining pre-historic aurochs are being unleashed due to the melting icecaps. She is trying to imagine her reunification with her mother while dealing with her abusive, alcoholic father Wink (Dwight Henry), who is quickly dying of a mysterious disease. As Hushpuppies home and what’s left of her family unravels, she remains composed as she searches for her lost mother.

While Wallis’s Hushpuppy is getting a lot of the attention for her role, she isn’t the only one who deserves it. Henry’s Wink is disturbing and tragically sympathetic. And, Benh Zeitlin gained a nomination for Best Director in his first full-length motion picture. Zeitland began making movies at a young age and prior to “Beasts” he worked as a teacher. His nomination is sure to draw attention for the young director.

Overall, the metaphors melded into fantasy, and the end-result is a highly emotional, entertaining and beautiful take on poverty, family and the deterioration of our world’s both physical and emotional landscape.

Beasts probably won’t beat studio giants like Lincoln and Argo, but I still give it a reasonable chance at 6 to 1.


Netflix Guide: Original Programing Means New Changes to an ever-growing Instant Queue

Written by: Brian Reese - Vidette blogger

The New Year brings big changes to the ever-expanding Netflix Instant Queue menu. 2013 marks the beginning of original programing exclusively on Netflix Instant watch, while at the same time ushering in new content and replacing less popular television shows and films. Making the announcement about a year ago, the streaming giant, which has gained its following by providing a seamlessly endless library of online content, is now set to take on networks such as AMC, Showtime, and HBO with their own programs back with high production value and big name celebrities. Highlighting the ensemble of new programs is the Political-Drama House of Cards.

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The series stars Kevin Spacy as ruthless Washington Politician, Francis “Frank” J. Underwood. Now the term “ruthless” might come off as judgmental and make the lead character out to be villainous before you even see the show, but I warn those of you who watch the show to take the opening scene of the series, where we see Underwood strangle a dog that lay in the street after being hit by a car, as an illustration of the psyche this Democratic congressman from South Carolina has. After ensuring the election of President Garrett Walker (played by Michael Gill) into office, Underwood is in line to become the next Secretary of State in Walker’s cabinet. But as all good political dramas unfold, backstabbing is the name of the game and Underwood fails to ascertain the seat of position. The remained of the season follows Underwood as he seeks out revenge with his environmental activist wife Claire (Robin Wright) and determined to ruin the Presidents name. House of Cards is a gripping drama that captivates anyone that loves a good political drama. And with the entire series having been released all at once, Season One can easily become anyone’s weekend obsession.

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One of the most anticipated reunions in television history will soon be exclusive to Netflix Instant when forth season of Arrested Development hits our queue menus later this spring. Though not a Netflix original, the beloved show comes back from a seven year hiatus after being cancelled by Fox in 2006 after only three seasons, despite being critically acclaimed and loved by a devoted fan base. For those who aren’t familiar with the show, Arrested Development follows the dysfunctional Bluth family and their mostly level headed son, Michael Bluth (Jason Bateman), as he tries to pick up the pieces of the families’ Bluth Company after his father is arrested for fraud. The series follows the hijinks of the family, who are left financially broke and scrambles to keep the family together. The series was renowned for its hilarious plot twists and storylines that continue to resonate throughout each season. It also proved to be career launching show for such actors as Michael Cera, Portia de Rossi, and Will Arrnett. The show picks up with a 14 episode seasons that, like House of Cards, will be released all at once. The fourth season will be a prelude to the upcoming film set to hit theaters this summer and will be formatted with each episode focusing in on one particular character that will help audiences catch up with what each member of the Bluth family had been up to since we last saw them. For those who are intrigued by this dysfunctional family or others, who just want to re-watch the series before the new season, the first 3 seasons are on Instant watch for your viewing pleasure.  

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Another Netflix original series that’s getting a great deal of buzz is the supernatural horror-thriller Hemlock Grove. The series, based on the horror novel of the same title, centers around the brutal murder of a young woman who ends up being found near the former Godfrey steel mill. The title character, 17-year-old Peter Rumancek (played by Landon Liboiron), is not only suspected of being the murderer, but of also being a werewolf. He, and fellow classmate Roman Godfrey (heir to the Godfrey estate and played by Bill Skarsgard), decide to find the killer themselves in lieu of these accusations. Upon reading the description of the show, my first thought was—here comes another Twilight-esque show that features the cool and mysterious male figure…who just happens to be a werewolf? But after watching the trailer and seeing the production value put into the show, along with other critics, who at the very least are curious about the show and Netflix original content as a whole, I find myself more interested than I previously had thought. Additionally, news that Eli Roth (director and producer of the Hostile series) is set to produce the series and direct at least one episode leaves hope for all horror fans that there will be moments in show with overtly grotesque and disturbing scenes. Only time will tell with Hemlock Grove as the series will debut on Instant queue later this year.

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 The final show, and third set to debut as a Netflix original, that caught my attention is the provocative series Orange Is The New Black about a woman correctional facility. The comedy/drama is based on author Piper Kerman’s memoir “Orange Is The New Black: My Year In a Women’s Prison” and follows the author’s character after she is sentenced to and serves 15 months in an all-women’s prison in Danbury, Connecticut. While locked up. Kerman chronicles how she had to learn the rules of prison in order to complete her sentence in one piece. Along the way she learns to adapt—including learning to clean her cell with maxipads and wire a light figure—all the while she meets and connects with women from different backgrounds and walks of life. Actress Taylor Schilling plays roll of Piper Kerman and is surrounded with a familiar cast of supporting characters led by Jason Biggs (Jim from the American Pie series) and Laura Prepon (Donna from That 70’s Show). There is no release date set for the show, but expect the ladies of FCI Danbury to make their way to Netflix Instant sometime this year.

 

This is only the start for what is sure to be a long list of original programs for Netflix as it is becoming apparent the company is making a shift towards television programing while outsourcing their film catalog. But for now the streaming giant will continue to update their library with both new and original series as well as continue stocking their shelves with beloved movies and t.v shows. Be sure to check back for further updates on these programs as well as what is still to come from everyone’s favorite electronic video store.       


Oscar Preview Pt. 4 Zero Dark Thirty

Written by: Daniel Fox - Vidette blogger & ISU student

In order for me to take an objective look at “Zero Dark Thirty” I first need to remove whatever I think about this film’s politics and history, and think of it just like any other film – as a fictitious story. To look at it in any other way could prove misleading. Movies like this really blur that somewhat invisible line where fact ends and Hollywood begins.

The film follows CIA operative Maya (Jessica Chastain) as she attempts to, and eventually does, track down terrorist Osama Bin Laden, following the 9/11 attacks. She  has a dilemma – she doesn’t like the interrogation tactics (torture) that the CIA uses on prisoners of war – but she thinks it might be the only way to track down Bin- Laden. Much of the torture is done by Dan (Jason Clarke), an unapologetic interrogator. “Can I be honest with you? I am bad fucking news. I’m not your friend. I’m not gonna help you. I’m gonna break you. Any questions?” he said calmly to a prisoner.

Nobody particularly believes Maya when she says she knows where Bin Laden is located. Some of the best dialog in the film is between Maya and CIA Director (James Gandolfini). “I’m the motherfucker who found this place. Sir,” she said in a deadpan voice, to the CIA director, after he asked her who she is. In general, I think the dialog, whether it is between Dan and prisoners or Maya and whoever she is talking to, is one of the films strongest points.

The film is nominated for five Oscars including Best Picture and Best Actress (Chastain). Chastain might give Jennifer Lawrence (“Silver Linings Playbook”) a run for her money in the actress category. While I didn’t love Maya’s character, Chastain is quite good at playing her. I think Clarke could have very easily been nominated, for supporting actor, for his portrayal of Dan. I mean he was so much more deserving of a nod than De Niro’s football obsessed dad in “Playbook.”

Removing what I think about the film morally or politically, it was a good movie. Not great; but good. Director Kathryn Bigelow is very good at bringing realism to her films. Parts of the movie looked like they could have been pulled from a documentary. Particularly, the parts of the Seal team’s actual invasion were amazingly convincing.  But it’s not a documentary and that might be part of the reason I walked out of the theater vaguely disappointed. It didn’t delve into the characters motives and reasoning enough. The dialog was good, but I never felt a connection with any of the characters or the story itself.

The controversy surrounding this movie could hurt or help its chances of winning Best Picture. I give it a decent shot at 6 to 1.


2013 Oscar’s Pt. 3 – Silver Lining’s Playbook

Written by: Daniel Fox - Vidette blogger & ISU student

 

 

The first thing I thought when I sat down to watch “Silver Lining’s Playbook” was — I hope I can stay awake for another stereotypical rom-com about quirky model-like characters, as they despite their  inadequacies, conquer their imperfections – yawn – and fall in love and live  happily ever after. Well that’s Hollywood; take a formula that works and beat it to death.

Although most of what I said in the first paragraph is true – quirkiness check, model-like characters check, inadequacies and imperfections check, happily ever after check – “Playbook” somehow manages to rise above the obvious stereotypes and become an authentic original.

The story follows Pat Solitano (Bradely Cooper), a recently released mental patient, who is trying to deal with his break-up of his ex-wife. He is released into the custody of his overly obsessed Philadelphia Eagles fan father Pat Sr. (Robert De Niro), who lets superstitions about football direct his life, and his aloof mother, who enables Pat Sr.’s ridiculousness. While hesitantly adjusting to his new life as a single man, he meets a girl with rather unique mental problems of her own, Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence). The rest of the story is somewhat obvious, but it is put together in a way that accomplishes enough spontaneity and creativity to do what few rom-coms do — it stays with you for a while after you leave the theater.

“Playbook” has received numerous Oscar nominations including Best Picture, Actor (Cooper), Actress (Jennifer Lawrence) and Supporting Actor (De Niro). With nine Best Picture nominees this year, I think it deserves a nomination. It might be one of the top nine or ten movies of the year, but I give it virtually zero chance of winning.

As for the acting awards, Lawrence is the only one who deserves the nomination. She steals the screen with her bi-polar-mood-swing un-predictableness.  Cooper was good, but not transcendent in any way, shape or form. De Niro, in his obsessed football fan version of himself, was OK, but I do get annoyed by his lack of versatility. To me, all of his characters are too alike — he has turned into a caricature of himself.

I give “Playbook” a 1 in 25 chance of taking home Best Picture.


Oscar Preview Pt. 2 - Django Unchained & Life of Pi

Written by: Daniel Fox - Vidette blogger & ISU student

“Django: The D is silent,” is what the title character (Jamie Foxx) said when asked what his name was in Quentin Tarantino’s Oscar nominated film “Django Unchained.”

The story follows Django, a recently freed slave, as he seeks to find and rescue his wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) from a sinister plantation owner (Leonardo Dicaprio). Django is freed and assisted by German bounty hunter Dr. King Shultz (Christoph Waltz).

Shultz (who is the only non-repulsive white person in the entire movie) is a wide-grinnin, quik-witted German with a strong disregard for slavery, and a high regard for bagging bounties. He takes Django on as a partner and after a successful year bagging WANTED: DEAD OR ALIVE criminals, he agrees to assist Django in finding his love.

The movie is a strange mix of old-western, comedy, exploitation-film, action, romance and drama. I suppose it shouldn’t be a surprise. All Tarantino films are unique to say the least. While I’m not always his biggest fan, his way of mashing genres and styles is original, even if his core ideas usually aren’t. Even this film’s name is taken from an old western and the ultraviolent-revenge-porn idea is stolen from his 2009 film “Inglorious Bastards.” Insert group of people from history that people want to see shattered here – execute — repeat.

It was still a very stylish and entertaining movie, highlighted by strong performances by Foxx, Dicaprio and Waltz who is nominated for supporting actor. Waltz was good, but he isn’t the one who deserved the nomination. It was Samuel L. Jackson’s portrayal of conniving house slave Stephen who really stole the screen. I think the controversial and rather taboo nature of the role ultimately led to the snub. In my opinion, this will go down as one of, if not THE defining role of Jackson’s career. I mean for a while I was thinking – who is that – that is a completely possessed performance.

“Django” is a good movie, but I feel it was helped by the widening of the Best Picture category to include up-to 10 films. Its box-office success and popularity might give it a small chance, but ultimately I don’t believe this is the year for a Tarantino film to take home the grand prize. I give it a one-in-eight chance of pulling an upset.

 

 

When I went into the theater to see “Life of Pi” I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. All I knew is it was a story about a boy on a boat with a tiger. Sure enough – it was a story about a boy on a boat with a tiger.  Not much more to it than that, but it was delivered with such vibrant imagery, near-flawless direction and engaging narrative it is one of the most visually pleasing movies of 2012.
            

The story, as told by a grown up Pi (Suraj Sharma) to writer (Rafe Spall), focuses on Pi and his epic Cast-Away-esque voyage across the ocean on a lifeboat accompanied only by an ape, hyena, zebra and  tiger.
            

Pi’s family decides to move from India to Canada in search of prosperity, and bring their animals from the family owned zoo with them to sell in North America. The sea voyage is cut short by a storm that sinks the boat mid-journey. None of the passengers survive except for Pi and the aforementioned animals. The rest of the movie is one without many words. Only the thoughts of Pi are ever heard, but the lack of dialogue is welcome.The striking cinematographic storytelling does more than fill the senses with all of the emotion and stimuli needed for a rewarding trip to the movies.

Director Ang Lee delves into the fantasy with so much gusto you forget you are in the theater, and for a few moments feel the struggle of Pi, as well as the connection between him and his carnivorous friend. Just when you think you know how the story will end, a wrench-of-sentiment is thrown into mix. And the movie ends with a twist that will make the most alpha-male fight back and compose themselves.

“Life of Pi” has received nine nominations including Best Picture and Best Director.  While I loved the movie, I do not like the chances of “Pi” winning the Best Picture Academy Award at this year’s Oscars. Going against the likes of favorite “Lincoln”, “Argo” that has been receiving Oscar-talk for months now and the controversial “Zero Dark Thirty”, “Pi” probably will not beat out this year’s top-dogs and take home the top prize.  I give it a punchers chance of 12-1 at taking home Best Picture.

Director Ang Lee is looking to win his second Academy Award for best director following his win for “Brokeback Mountain” in 2006. Lee was also nominated in for “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon” in 2001.