The Olympics have come to a close (hence my lack of blog posts lately) and the Oscars are just around the corner. We’ve been doing our best to get caught up on the nominees, so here are a few quick reviews of what we’ve seen lately.
The Hurt Locker
The word for this film about an American military bomb squad in Iraq is “intense.” I was actually grateful that we hadn’t seen this in the theater, because at one point I just had to take a break and go do the dishes. The editing really gives you the sense of what it’s like to be in that place and the kind of mentality it takes to survive. I’m undecided if I feel it’s the best movie of the year, but it’s certainly deserving of accolades, especially for star Jeremy Renner and director Kathryn Bigelow. A-
Up in the Air
I didn’t really have much in the way of expectations for this movie about living life (such as it is) on the road and was pleasantly surprised. It’s charming, witty, and has a message to send about what the most important thing in life is – or should be? The subject matter really makes you think – about what a job means and what it means to lose it. The writing is sharp (that screenplay nomination is àpropos), but the strength is from the trio of actors. George Clooney is, as always, a charmer. Vera Farmiga is smart, sexy, and draws you right in. The ace in the hole is Anna Kendrick who is a pistol that stands up to her co-stars like she’s been doing it for decades. The ending may be too open-ended, but on the whole this movie is one of my favorites from the past year. A
The Last Station
Near the end of Leo Tolstoy’s life he was one of the most celebrated cultural icons in the world. But a battle was raging over what to do with the rights to his work – should they pass to his devoted but off-kilter wife? Or should they live in the public domain in the name of “Tolstoyan ideals?” That’s the paper-thin plot binding the movie together which is really just an excuse to pit two titans of acting against each other – Helen Mirren as the deranged Countess and Christopher Plummer as the gentle author. They are both superb (are you surprised?) and share an affection that carries the film. Unfortunately this movie has problems – the editing is a mess and the directing is often questionable. Why do all the actors have fiercely British accents instead of something more Slavic? At least James McAvoy is pretty to look at. B-
After waiting a lifetime for Netflix to deliver this one, we just went ahead and rented it on demand. I have very mixed feelings about the movie. On the one hand I appreciated the clever plotting – several times I was breathless with anticipation of the danger lurking around the corner or what was coming next. Would the Nazi SS officer know where the Jews were hiding? Can the actress cover for her conspirator? Will the plot to kill the Nazis happen as planned? There is also some tremendous acting particularly from Christopher Waltz (might as well call him Oscar winner now) and Diane Kruger. But on the other hand this felt a bit soft and disjointed which is surprising for a Quentin Tarantino movie. And I can’t believe I’m saying it, but the violence was…not really that violent (for Tarantino). Also Brad Pitt was all caricature and no substance. On the whole this was worth seeing, but it wouldn’t make my top 5 for the year. B
We also have In the Loop and Food, Inc. sitting here at home which may get watched before Sunday. But that’s it for now. What have you been trying to see before the big night?
Stay tuned for my official Oscar predictions – later this week!