I’ll be watching a few dozen movies in the next few weeks (more of less as time permits). To keep things manageable I’ll be doing small reviews in bulk. Without further blathering here are the first batch in alphabetical order:
Thoughtful story about family, philosophy, and doing what’s best for the ones you love. The ensemble is spectacular- Mortenson and company feel like a real family, and the child actors hold their own to the veterans. It a funny, emotional, and also thought-provoking film on education and social norms. I both envy and pity the family, though I wish I learned to speak six languages by the time I was seventeen. Noam Chomsky day might also make it to my list of favorite fake holidays. In short – highly recommended.
For Fans Of: Quirky family comedy-dramas. Precocious children.
Award Potential: Would love to see an AA Nom for Viggo Mortensen.
This could’ve been your standard cops and robbers bank heist film, but it wasn’t. The story is morally ambiguous, forcing you to root for both the criminals and the law men who chase them. It’s a new twist on an old tale, set amidst the backdrop of a desolate and depressed rural Texas. The dialog is top notch, especially from Jeff Bridges, and the ingeniousness of the bank-robbing brothers creates a plot that leaves you guessing.
For Fans Of: Banter and Moral Ambiguity
Award Potential: Has a good chance at AA nominations for Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actor for Bridges. A Cinematography nom wouldn’t shock me either.
Whiplash was one of my favorite movies of 2014, and now director Damien Chazelle’s follow-up is sitting high on my 2016 list as well. This original, modern day musical doesn’t have the most innovative plot (struggling artists find love in Los Angeles) but the score, the acting, and the beautiful homages to classic movies were an emotional delight. If you’re unfamiliar with Casablanca, Singin‘ in the Rain, or An American in Paris, it might not mean as much, but it is visually stunning none-the-less. It’s the one movie of this group that still hasn’t quite left me, and I feel like I need to go back in for repeat viewing just to capture all of the references. It’s a love letter to the musicals of old, where you didn’t need to be an amazing singer or dancer- you just had to tell your story.
For Fans Of: Gene Kelley and the Broadway Melody sequence. Colors.
Award Potential: It swept the Globes (for what that’s worth). Picture, Director, Actress, Actor, Screenplay, Score, and a handful of technical category nominations are all very likely.
I still have many films to view on this Awards Season stretch, but I’m pretty confident that none will be as bizarre as The Lobster. Here is my best approximation of a synopsis: It’s a dystopian future where you must be in a couple. No single people allowed. Did your wife die? Did you husband leave you for another woman? Sucks to be you, because you have 45 days to find a new partner while at a creepy resort, otherwise you get turned into an animal of your choose (the science on that is left intentionally vague). There are other weird rules and quirks, along with a separatist group that drives home this society’s total lack of gray area. It’s funny, jarring, violent, and strange.
For Fans Of: Wes Anderson combined with absurdist philosophies and violence.
Award Potential: The movie had a strange release schedule so it may have been eligible for last year’s Oscars (and struck out). Farrell was nominated for, but lost, in this year’s Golden Globes though. He’d be a dark horse there.
If you liked Nicholas Cage’s Lord of War, you’ll like this movie as well. It’s the tale of arms dealers who get in over their heads, and like the aforementioned title, has much to say on American involvement in global affairs and in the distribution of weapons and ammunition. Jonah Hill continues to flex his acting chops (though his character does have some Superbad-style immaturity) and Miles Teller effectively narrates the highs and lows of their (mostly) legal gun running partnership.
For Fans Of: The Wolf of Wall Street, though with less quaaludes.
Award Potential: I doubt it will get anything. Hill received a Globe nomination, but that’s the only one I’m finding anywhere.