Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Oscar Race 2014: A Mom's Review

My love of movies started when I was three. I remember seeing Lady in the Tramp, and I remember the cool, dark, gigantic room, the thick red curtains on either side of the screen, and the prodding anticipation. Oh, and the popcorn.

What little girls' dreams are made of.
My terrifying fear of movies began one year later when, as a four-year-old cinephile, I accompanied my dad to such child-friendly, edge-of-your-seat narratives as The Towering Inferno and Earthquake. The prodding anticipation evolved rather quickly into an intense, piercing petrification of the world as I had known it. Not only did I become convinced that our car was going to be swallowed into the streets of Roanoke, Virginia, at any given moment, but I learned the typical child's life lessons of never taking the elevator in a flaming high rise. As in EVER. To this day, I remember the noise. And I start to sweat if stuck in my car on a bridge, in case the "big one" hits at that very moment. My recurring nightmares of plummeting (and zig zagging, oddly enough) elevators may or may not be related. Luckily, I can still light candles and visit my friends in San Francisco.

But I digress. There's a long period in my early childhood that is empty of movie memories, either because I didn't go to any what with a newborn brother and all, or because my subconscious blacked out further action thrillers. But then came Grease, Star Wars, and a plethora of other movies that were luckily over my head in their contexts but managed to hook me once and for all. I loved the movies then, and I love the movies now. I love their art, their passion, their beautiful way of slowing down life and examining it under a micro- (or macro-) scope. A good movie is heaven. It is painful, it is love, it is real.

This year, I'm on a quest to see as many Oscar-nominated movies as possible before Sunday evening, March 2nd. Sunday afternoon, March 2nd, you will likely find me, popcorn in hand, alone in a theater cramming in that one last flick. Because I've been indulging myself, friends have asked which movies I recommend, what my opinions are, and what's worth seeing. This cracks me up. I'm not a critic. I'm just a forty-four year old mom who is looking to soak into approximately two hours and twenty minutes of another life. Then come back to my own lovely reality.

But since some have asked, I give you my Energetic, Extremely Biased, Unofficial Update (or EEBUU, as they call it in the biz) on the Oscar Race, 2014 Edition. Although I am quite positive there is little to no redeeming value to my opinion, I recognize the preciousness of parents' free time and therefore consider this the (literal) least I can do for my fellow mamas and daddies out there. (Please note: the list is neither inclusive nor educated.)

Have Seen:

Nebraska. Thought I wanted to see it, then didn't. Then did again, then didn't again. Then went with two friends and am SO GLAD I DID. I loved its slow pace (thank you, Alexander Payne, whom I shall beg to direct the movie that I'm working on in my head), its simple beauty, it's real and painful humor, and the acting. The acting! June Squibb with the potty mouth and inappropriateness and negativity--we all know someone like her in our own families. (Except me, family members reading this.) Bruce Dern = quiet brilliance. Fun performances by minor characters, too. And holy moly, Will Forte, where'd you come from? I was so drawn to the way his character would simply look at his father in this film, trying to figure out who the hell he is. I get it. You'll get it. It's funny, beautiful, painful, and just plain great.

What big girls' dreams are made of.
American Hustle. Oh, hell yeah, what a fun movie. Fun is a great word, I promise, because you'll just enjoy being there. It's quirky and odd, it's flashbacky and nostalgic, it's stressful in the best of ways. Great acting. I had a little bit of a hard time following the story at a coupla times, and because I went alone, I couldn't lean over and say "Huh?" when I needed to. Other than that, loved it. Jennifer Lawrence? Yes. Christian Bale? Perfect. Amy Adams. Love. And Bradley Cooper? Oh, Bradley. You are amazing and I heart you. I will forever cherish that scene of you next to the kitchen counter with Amy. Thank you.

Saving Mr. Banks. The family flick that should come with a warning to the effect of the following: If your life has ever slightly been turned to shambles because of alcoholism, please use caution when viewing this film. Mine, like many people's, has. Dramatically. But I thought I was going to see a cute little picture about Mary Poppins's uppity creator, so the hour-long nervous breakdown I had in the middle (how 'bout that Fair scene? Lawdy.) distracted me somewhat. But the acting was good, the scenery awesome, and it was entertaining. Colin Farrell owes me around $375 for therapy bills, by the way.

Dallas Buyers Club. Traditionally, a movie about drug use would be rated NFT (Not For Tracy), but I was compelled by the acting chops of Jared and Matthew. This is the one film that I tell all of my good friends they MUST SEE. It's perfectly acted. You will want to take a hot shower with an entire bottle of Purel afterward (that's one dirty lifestyle. Yick.), but you will leave knowing more about humanity. I will be floored if both Matty and Jared don't win Oscars. They should, in this girl's book. See it.

Animated Shorts. What a great, great night at the movies. These six or so films (with 2 runners up) were so amazing, diverse, intelligent, heartwarming, and (one in particular that started with a cute squirrel and ended with the total annihilation of the planet) just plain bizarre. This is the first year I've seen one of the less-commerical Oscar nom options, and now I can't wait to see more. Take the kids. Go. Explore new art. And let me know how much you cry during the mechanical dog cartoon.

Her. Um. What to say about her? I wanted to like it. I really did. I consider myself fairly artsy, intelligent, open . . . most of the time, at least. And I like Joaquin Phoenix. But I couldn't help but just say to myself, almost constantly, "That is so stooopid." Over and over. Probably out loud. I didn't get it. Sure, I know there's a profound statement being made about humanity and losing touch with each other in both the literal and emotional senses of the word, but. Still. It lacked something that I can't quite put my finger on, and it sorta drove me crazy. And I could've done without all the human-OS sex. I promise I'm not a prude.

Philomena. Lovely. Everything. The scenery, the story (no matter how painful in parts), the stellar acting, the subtle humor, the real-life-ness of it. This is what a movie should be about: transporting you to another place, another time, while pulling your heart along for the journey. Plus, who doesn't love some great British/Irish accents?

Haven't Yet Seen But Will Still Review:

Gravity. (See also: Towering Inferno; Earthquake; years of nightmares) I know Sandy is good in it, and I love looking at George Clooney until my eyes burn, but . . . seems like a lotta stars, loudness, and stress. Will I go? Yes, begrudgingly.

Wolf of Wall Street. Leo is growing on me, slowly, like a really sexy mold on a ten-year-old loaf of bread. Loved him in the movie about J Edgar Hoover, and he creeped me the f*** out in Django Unchained. In an amazingly acted kind of way. Plus, I love me the use of a good F bomb, so yes, I'll see it. Looking forward to the nuttiness. And Jonah Hill.

12 Years a Slave. I know I need to see this. As in, really, really need to see it to be an educated, informed human being. I know it's amazing, and I know the acting is incredible (despite Brad Pitt. Sorry, that was mean.) But it seems like it's going to hurt my heart a whole lot, so I'm putting it off. One day very soon I will get on my big-girl pants (and pack a box of tissues) and go. The film looks stellar. Go see it and tell me if I should.

Captain Phillips. I am torn. Tom Hanks has jumped the shark just by being Tom Hanks. But the Somalian pirates' actors are supposed to do one amazing job, so I think I need to get my butt to the theater to see this one. Not sure how the story will flow (and fill 2 hours), but maybe I'll be surprised.

Other Oscar Nominated Short Films, Documentaries, etc. Similar to how I feel about 12 Years a Slave, I'm scared. Ouchy. Some topics are so intense, so powerful . . . but I really need to suck it up. Want to go and support the movie makers of the world. Documentaries are an amazing art form. Love them so. Will go see them, but only if you go with me and comfort me and buy me Milk Duds.

Well, I hope my years of "experience" have helped you narrow down your list. Remember, these are simply my biased opinions. I wish you successful movie going and zero infernos, always.