Thursday, January 15, 2015

American Sniper - Review

American Sniper - Review

Starring Bradley Cooper and with a running time of 2 hours and 15 minutes Director Clint Eastwood tells the story of Navy Seal Sniper Chris Kyle aka "American Sniper," aka “The Legend”, the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history with his roof top mission of protecting his fellow soldiers in Iraq. The film is also about how he and probably many others like him who returned home in spite of an abundance of healing love of family and friends could not help them leave the war behind. War, even for the most honorable, noble and decent men and women still quietly ravages their very being. Sometimes manifested with the more obvious clinical symptoms of PTSD and other times stealthy quietly with the numbers of 110 over 70. Their veins, their minds and their souls get unintentionally twisted and as result even the slightest sound or look or face or noise can all too readily put them back in places they thought they had left behind.

Initially the film starts out with a pace so fast it felt as if Eastwood wanted to tell Chris’s story in leaps, bounds and giant spades. Also, Bradley Texas accent early on seemed at times hard to understand. But around the 60 minute mark the film settles down quite well to create a genuine raw and realistic atmosphere of human tension, human grit and a truly unnerving depiction of all the dirty aspects of war. This films makes it clear war has never been nor will it ever be glamourous work.

In a lot of ways Eastwood draw upon his basic theme in his Best Picture winning film “Unforgiven”. To take a quote from that central character William Munny, “American Sniper reminds us here as well that “It's a hell of a thing, killin' a man. Take away all he's got, and all he's ever gonna have”.

American Sniper is many things. As a theme of war, it is blunt, effective and troubling. From a human perspective it also about confidence, intensity and emotional vulnerability. From Chris Kyle’s personal story it is about family, Texas, gun culture and Christianity. Ultimately, the film is a tribute to his warrior sacrifice and a lament for war.

The politics of the Iraq war in this film are entirely absent, which is a bit of political statement in its own right. No mention of any politicians are ever invoked. But in the end the film is about a man’s life as well a tale of countless many other lives of good people who went to war to do the right thing. 

My one minor issue with the film is with the Iraqi fighters they fought. Eastwood does not make much effort to make them anything beyond just being the bad guys. I get they were the enemy, but a few scenes could have been given to tell their perspective – their story on why they believed they needed to fight against the Americans.

Technically, some of the fire fights chorography were truly haunting and brutal to watch with extended battle scenes that seem to last far longer than anyone could ever imagine that all the while were probably true in every bloody moment.

Bradley Cooper richly deserves his Oscar nomination as best Actor here as he manages to throw away that natural charm of his without suppressing it completely. He rather adroitly manages to be both tough and sweet, a loyal friend and husband and honorable but no saint.

American Sniper is not the very best movie I have seen this year but it certainly felt like one of the better films I have seen nonetheless. And with a level of intimacy of Chris Kyle’s personal story that I really felt, I enjoyed this latest Eastwood effort very, very much.

3 - 3/4 Stars

My Take On Oscar Nominations - January 15, 2015

Thursday - January 15th, 2015 

The Oscar Nominations Today:

The biggest and most noticeable oddity was the film "Foxcatcher". They nominated it's Director Bennett Miller as "Best Director", they nominate both it's actors S. Farrell and M. Ruffalo for Best Actor and Supporting Actor respectfully, they nominate their screen writers for "Best Original Screenplay" and finally they get a nomination for "Best Make Up"..............ALL of these nominations for the exact same film "FOXCATCHER" and yet no nomination for Best Picture. This is especially strange given they had 2 more available slots left of the possible 10  ............I mean what did these people Direct, Act, Write and have Make Up in .............the film "Empty Space".

While it (FXC) is a rather subdued, overly dark and muted true story, to me it still was one of the 10 best films this year.  Apparently the voters thought all these people involved in the making of the movie were simply great, except for the finish product movie itself..............Does that make any sense?  What happened here?

R. Duvall Nomination was a surprise in "The Judge" as this was a below average film. His legacy and the older HW voting members I think played a part (currently there are 6000 Oscar voters - average voter age is 63 - average age is one year older each year -  they vote for life).

The "Grand Budapest Hotel" got in (I think) because Director West Anderson is well liked and because of his previous Avant-garde work & reputation.............While it was good, a bit goofy and endearing, it was far from great as was his previous work "Moonrise Kingdom". I loved that film a lot.

Surprised a bit "Selma" did not get at least both or one of the two as Best Actor and Best Director nominations ............Still it did get a Best Picture Nomination - Well deserved. 

Not surprised at all "Unbroken" was shutout - It was a good but still a one note torture film. It did however get a deserving nomination for "Best Cinematography" which was great.

I love Indie low budget films a lot and I am especially thrilled big time for "Whiplash" as Best Picture ...............This is the sleeper film of the year in my estimation.  Thrilled for JK Simmons in Whiplash (he formerly from TNT "The Closer) and his Best Supporting Actor Nomination. He can just dust off his mantel space right now............Go to Vegas, put $1K on him - 100% lock for him to win. Also there was some really good modern jazz music in it and a truly well-deserved Best Editing nomination for it also. Everyone I know should see this at some point. A must see.

Noticeable Theme? Just one, all of the Best Actor nominees played characters who were somewhat unique solitary figures that struggled with a combination of personal anguish, demons and or emotional self-doubt or had some combination of these factors. Some of these factors were of their own making and others to no fault of their own with outside negative circumstances being thrust upon them. A therapist's dream category. See below:

Best Actor
Steve Carell, "Foxcatcher"
Bradley Cooper, “American Sniper”
Benedict Cumberbatch, "The Imitation Game"
Michael Keaton, "Birdman"
Eddie Redmayne, "The Theory of Everything"
Toughest 3 Categories? Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography & Best Costume Design. Tough groupings for all three.
Biggest Omissions?

1. Documentary "Life Itself" (Life of Roger Ebert).

2. Best Actor David Oyelowo in "Selma" and;

3. Best Actor Jake Gyllenhaal in "Nightcrawler".  Will see B. Copper tonight in "A. Sniper" to compare.

4. Best Director Ava DuVernay "Selma".

5. Best Picture "Gone Girl". I think the film's attempt to discuss & portray a modern American marriage as something that was both funny and bleak with the worst possible bloody outcome scenarios was just way too much to comprehend or appreciate for some married voters, even if they are some of the perpetually always getting married to someone else new each week jaded HW movie industry types. Ultimately, I think the ending was a little too strange and violently graphic for some to wrap their minds around.

Not a stellar memorable year for films or any of its nominees, but overall, I think the eventual winners from today nominations (in the major categories) will pretty much mirror the same results as they were announced at Sunday's Golden Globes.

I will be seeing "American Sniper" tonight.

And finally, my annual & final 2014 movie list comes out January 31, 2015.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

20th Anniversary of 1995 Films

20th Anniversary of 1995 Films
·         A Little Princess (1995)       
·         A Walk in the Clouds (1995)          
·       Apollo 13 (1995)
·       Babe (1995)
·         Bad Boys (1995)       
·         Before Sunrise (1995)
·         Billy Madison (1995)            
·         Boys on the Side (1995)     
·       Braveheart (1995)      
·         Casino (1995)           
·         Clockers (1995)        
·         Clueless (1995)        
·         Copycat (1995)         
·         Crimson Tide (1995)            
·         Desperado (1995)    
·         Devil in a Blue Dress (1995)          
·         Die Hard: With a Vengeance (1995)         
·         Dolores Claiborne (1995)   
·         Father of the Bride Part II (1995)   
·         First Knight (1995)   
·         Friday (1995)
·         Get Shorty (1995)     
·         Glory Daze (1995)    
·         Golden Eye (1995)   
·         Grumpier Old Men (1995)   
·         Hackers (1995)         
·         Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995)            
·         Heat (1995)    
·       Ill Postino (1995)
·         Jumanji (1995)
·         Kids (1995)    
·         Leaving Las Vegas (1995)  
·         Losing Isaiah (1995)            
·         Mallrats (1995)          
·         Mighty Aphrodite (1995)      
·         Money Train (1995)  
·         Mr. Holland's Opus (1995)  
·         Nixon (1995)
·         Othello (1995)           
·         Outbreak (1995)        
·         Pocahontas (1995)  
·         Restoration (1995)   
·         Richard III (1995)      
·         Rob Roy (1995)        
·         Rumble in the Bronx (1995)           
·         Sabrina (1995)          
·         Se7en (1995)
·       Sense and Sensibility (1995)  
·         Smoke (1995)            
·         Sudden Death (1995)          
·         Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight (1995)        
·         The American President (1995)     
·         The Basketball Diaries (1995)        
·         The Bridges of Madison County (1995)   
·         The Crossing Guard (1995)            
·         The Last Supper (1995)      
·         The Quick and the Dead (1995)    
·         The Usual Suspects (1995)
·         The Walking Dead (1995)
·         To Die For (1995)
·         To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar (1995)    
·         Tommy Boy (1995)   
·         Toy Story (1995)       
·         Twelve Monkeys (1995)      
·         Under Siege 2: Dark Territory (1995)        
·         Vampire in Brooklyn (1995)            
·         Virtuosity (1995)       
·         Waiting to Exhale (1995)    
·         Waterworld (1995)    
·         Welcome to the Dollhouse (1995)
·         While You Were Sleeping (1995) 

BOLD – Oscar Nominated for Best Picture
BOLD BLUE – Oscar Winner for Best Picture