Tag Archives: movies

WHAT’S ON YOUR BEST MOVIE LIST?

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This week I watched Boyhood, the movie that chronicles a boy’s growing up. It is an extraordinary movie, and it set me to thinking about the upcoming Academy Awards, not only who will take home Oscars, but the interest and art of movies. Enjoying a movie is similar to enjoying a book in that it is a personal thing. What story is any person ready for, interested in, appreciative of ? What about the look of a movie? It is a visual medium.

I offer the following categories for your consideration:

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Creative Outside-the-Box Movies.
In these movies, the filmmakers created something different than the usual.
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Boyhood

Films Not Nominated for Best Picture Worth Watching (for a wide variety of reasons)
Unbroken (nominated for achievement in cinematography)

Best Picture Nominees You May Not Want to Miss
Wild
American Sniper
Boyhood
The Imitation Game

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Outstanding Performances by an Actor or Actress
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Patricia Arquette (Boyhood)
Reese Witherspoon (Wild)
Bradley Cooper (American Sniper)
Robert DuVall (The Judge)
Keira Knightley (The Imitation Game)
Hilary Swank (The Homesman)

Paulette’s Favorites
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Wild
Boyhood

Skip These
Birdman

Movies With Terrific Good Looks
Is this cinematography, production design, art direction, costume design or all of the above?
Grand Budapest Hotel
Unbroken

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Movies Yet To See
Selma
A Most Violent Year
Into the Woods
Still Alice
Gone Girl
St. Vincent

The Best Movie Seen This Past Year
Readers/Viewers Need to Comment for this category. I don’t think I was over the moon for any movie this year. I’m still waiting to be wowed!

There were many good movies released during 2014 I did not see and included them only in Movies Yet To See. So— bring on the comments! What did you like? Who are you rooting for on Oscar Night? Did you think 2014 was a good movie year?

GOING TO THE MOVIES IN DECEMBER

At the end of last month I suggested six book-based movies to see before the end of the year. So far, I’ve seen three. Here’s basic data and my brief impressions.

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MOCKING JAY PART I
Director: Francis Lawrence
Writers: Peter Craig and Others
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman
Awards: Golden Globe nominee for best original Song, Critics Choice Award Nominee for Best Actress in an Action Movie

Given my recollections of Catching Fire, this movie is easily second best. Photography and sound are paramount. Story and character are overshadowed by the noise.

Jennifer Lawrence as our heroine is subdued, performing mostly in one key. Emotions seem to be conveyed by film editing and not by actors. Katniss flounders, and it is painful to watch. Julianne Moore takes center stage; mostly she reads lines with expertise in speaking to large audiences in the underground skyscrapers. Well, they are very tall buildings. I’d best not use the word skyscrapers since they do not touch the sky.

Having said this much, I will say the film held the attention of all my companions, family members of different ages and interests. The film meets that standard. One theater was sold out at 1:00 in the afternoon.

But, even the youngest critic remarked on the slow pacing. I can only agree.

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THE HOMESMAN
Director: Tommy Lee Jones,
Writers: Tommy Lee Jones and others
Actors: Tommy Lee Jones, Hilary Swank, Grace Gummer, Miranda Otto, Sonja Richter
Awards: Palme d’Or
PFCS Award Best Actor in a Leading Role, Best Actress in a Leading role, nominees
And others including nominee for World Soundtrack Award Film composer Marco Beltrami

Disappointing and disjointed best describe this movie for me. It is essentially about a place and about women, but it is titled The Homesman. Tommy Lee Jones, a very capable actor, is the writer and director, but whenever Hilary Swank is not on screen, the movie seems as bland and boring as the scenery. The western plains can be beautiful even as they are dangerous and difficult. I did not see that. Swank gave her character depth, but then, her character surprised viewers and not in a satisfactory way.

The story is strange and surreal, rather than realistic and gritty. It’s not exactly untrue, but stretched and distorted like the mirrors at the carnival. The Tommy Lee Jones character morphs into different personalities at different times. Instead of a realistic gradual change, we think we are seeing, and expecting, at the end he reverts into someone else yet again.

This movie will elicit many different opinions. It’s absence from many award lists testifies to this. Different viewers will see different movies. For me, somehow the excellence of the actors, the beauty of the place and the high interest of the topic, women in the early west, are all lost in the strange incoherence of the story.

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WILD
Director: Jean-Marc Vallee
Writers: Nick Hornby and Cheryl Strayed
Cast: Reese Witherspoon, Laura Dern, Bay Hoffmann, Michael Huisman and Thomas Sadoski
Awards: Golden Globe nominee for Best Actress in a Motion Picture, Drama
Critics Choice Award Nominee Best Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay

This movie scores in many areas: photography, acting, story all come together to make an unforgettable experience for movie-goers. Based on the memoir by Cheryl Strayed, we see her character played in perfect pitch by Reese Witherspoon save herself as she deals with her demons while hiking the Pacific Coast Trail alone.

Laura Dern is excellent in the role of Cheryl’s mother. Other actors do well with their roles. Witherspoon holds us mesmerized in every frame. Clarity is a feature of both acting and story. As we watch we are not confused, but entertained, interested and thoughtful.

For my money, this movie is clearly the best of the ones on the list, I’ve been able to see so far.

I’ll add another movie to my list: Into the Woods. So along with Unbroken, Gone Girl, and Still Alice, I hope to see more movies.

Do tell us what holiday movies you like, whether they are based on a book, or are filmed from an original screenplay. It seems movie genres span a wide range of interests this year. Let us know what you like! Maybe you are off to see The Hobbit, Intersteller, or a biography. Keep the conversation going, in many directions. Thanks.

SIX BOOK-BASED MOVIES TO SEE BEFORE THE END OF THE YEAR

I listed these movies in no particular order. All scripts are adapted screenplays predicted by some sources to be under watch for an Oscar in the adapted screenplay category. You can expect a good story, well-told. All of them have something special to offer in addition to a good script.
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Mockingjay Part I
Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen is not to be missed! There are endless articles about this movie. You can easily find more info. Jennifer Lawrence is the outstanding young actress of this or any generation. The movie also stars Philip Seymour Hoffman and Juliette Moore, both usually give outstanding performances. Woody Harrelson gave a riveting performance in the first two movies of this series.

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Wild
Yes, I am a Reese Witherspoon fan, and I loved the book by Cheryl Strayed. Reese is receiving plenty of Oscar buzz. I can’t wait to see this movie. I expect the cinematography to be stunning.

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Unbroken
Another terrific book, a classic of this century. The word is that Angelina Jolie has done a fine job directing. Any way you slice it, it is a fabulous story. The adapted script credits list Joel and Ethan Coen, well-known and extremely able movie writers, producers and directors.

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The Homesman
Another outstanding performance or so we are told, by Hilary Swank. Admittedly this movie gets my nod because I am a fan of westerns. Here we have Mary Bee Cuddy, a Nebraska pioneer woman in the years before the Civil War, and a look at the cost to women of immigration and the life on the plains with only the wind to keep them company. The movie also stars Tommy Lee Jones. It is based on a novel by Glendon Swarthout.

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Gone Girl
This script continues to be talked about. Rosamund Pike is being touted for a best actress Oscar nomination. The movie also stars Ben Affleck. Need I say more?

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Still Alice
Several friends have recommended this book. I have yet to read it. The subject matter of early-onset dementia is a tough one. Juliette Moore’s outstanding performance draws raves from the critics and the script is in the running for an Oscar nomination.

I like the IMDb website or the app for more information about a movie or TV show. I have the app on my ipad. (How else would I understand some of the crazy TV I watch?) www.IMDb.com

Do tell us what movies you plan to see or have seen and what you think. You pay your money. You are a movie critic. Your opinion counts.

AN UNCONVENTIONAL MOVIE REVIEW

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Why Not A Movie Like This One?

The Hundred-Foot Journey
Starring: Helen Mirren, Om Puri, Manish Dayal, and Charlotte Le Bon
Written by Steven Knight
Directed by Lassee Hallstrom
Based on the book The Hundred Foot Journey by Richard C. Morais

Audiences love this movie about a young Indian chef and his family forced to leave their home country, who arrive in France and open a restaurant in the countryside a mere 100 feet across the street from a Michelin starred establishment owned by the character Helen Mirren plays. We loved it too, my friend and I. The critics did not.

What follows is my two cents worth directed to potential movie-goers, the movie industry and the print and online movie critics.

Why not a movie about a smart family displaced from their home country and making their way successfully in a new home country?

Why not a story about creating food, even if every detail is not perfect?

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Why not a cheerful upbeat tale with a happy ending?

Why not excellent writing: clear storyline, crisp dialogue, brief scenes filled with information to move the story forward?

Why not excellent acting? The newcomers held their own in scenes with pros like Mirren and Puri. Director Hallstrom gets the most from his actors.

Why not a movie with gorgeous scenery and beautifully composed frames? Viewers see the characters at the market, in the countryside, cooking, fishing, loving and arguing, solving problems, and examining their feelings. If the lighting was distracting (as one critic complained), I did not notice.

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Why not a movie in which the characters solve problems by taking a hard look at their actions and goals? There was no time for useless handwringing, nor were impulsive actions used to drive plot.

Critics complained (among other things): no heat between characters, forgettable story, contrived and melodramatic. NO!

The movie was a feast for the eyes and the heart, great fun and left my friend and I ready to try Indian food.

Perhaps local readers of this blog will have recommendations for good Indian food. Please send them along.

My final words: Go and see this movie.

All comments are welcome. Did you agree with the critics? Are you a fan of Indian food?

FOOD FLICKS COMING THIS SUMMER

Are you hungry for a good food flick? Reading advance notices and listening as I research basics, it sounds like these films are a feast for the eyes. Laughter, relaxation and maybe some thought-provoking moments are in store for food movie buffs. Enjoy.

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Chef. This one is a comedy written and directed by Jon Favreau and is winner of 2014 Tribeca Film Festival Audience Award. It stars Jon Favreau, Sofia Vergara, John Leguizamo, Scarlett Johannsson, Oliver Platt, Bobby Cannavale, Dustin Hoffman and Robert Downey Jr. That’s quite a cast. Summaries sound like Follow the Food Truck Meets Four-Star Food. Coming soon.

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Farmland. Directed by Oscar winner James Moll, this documentary takes a look at the lives of the people who grow our food. It tells stories from across the county about folks in the farming business. It premiered at the Atlanta Film Festival and is an official selection at a number of other festivals. Opening soon.

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Fed Up. A documentary narrated by Katie Couric, written and directed by Stephanie Solchtig with Laurie David as producer. Do we get sick from the food we eat? Why are so many American children obese? Food for thought on these issues. Pun intended. Opening in theaters now.

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Land Ho. Two retirees road-trip through Iceland. What will they eat there? According to advance word, this comedy travelogue-type movie boasts excellent performances by Paul Einhoorn and Earl Lynn Nelson and is directed by Martha Stephens and Aaron Katz. The film was a pick at the Tribeca and Los Angeles Film Festivals. It opens July 11.

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Le Chef. This French comedy stars Jean Reno. In a crisis, folks head for the kitchen. This movie is set to open in June. Advance reviews call it essentially light-weight but fun.

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The Hundred Foot Journey. In this movie by noted director Lasse Hallstrom, the story is about restaurant wars in the South of France. Helen Mirren stars. The release date is sometime in August. The film was shot in France and India; the production company is Dreamworks Studios. We are bound to hear more about this one.

Would you rather cook food, read about food, or see a food movie? All three can be fun. Let us know which movie you might choose.

READEATLIVE LIST: TEN THINGS TO DO BEFORE FEBRUARY DISAPPEARS

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1. It’s Black History Month. Read a selection to celebrate African Americans, their history and contributions to society. What about Twelve Years A Slave, the book that inspired the award winning movie? Author Rachel Kushner calls it an incredible document. I also recommend The Warmth of Other Suns, Isabel Wilkinson’s sweeping, readable history of migration of African-Americans from the South to the North and West. If you wish to listen to a more recent voice, Men We Reap by Jesmyn West is an emotional and riveting memoir. (See readeatlive.com posted January 2, 2014 and accessed through the January archives or search by title for Missing Mississippi.)

2. Honor the work of the late, acclaimed actor Philip Seymour Hoffman by seeing one of his movies: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013), Capote (2005), Moneyball (2011) Doubt (2008) or your personal favorite.

3. Read a good romance, perhaps Anna Quindlen’s new book Still Life With Bread Crumbs. This may be the one for you.

4. Enjoy a pizza! Here are few suggestions: Mellow Mushroom, found all over the south and a few are showing up in the West, Pizzalley in St. Augustine, Buddy’s Pizza, numerous locations in the Detroit area, Rastrelli’s in Clinton Iowa or try the latest light pizza in your neighborhood.

5. House of Cards is available Feb. 14 from Netflix. Watch one of the hottest shows on television as much and as fast as you can. Robin Wright is unforgettable.

6. See an Oscar nominated movie you have missed so far: Philomena, Dallas Buyers’s Club, Captain Phillips, Nebraska, American Hustle or the one you most want to see.

7. Read a new book from the bestseller list. What about Sycamore Row by John Grisham or The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt?

8. Give a gift to your Valentine: flowers, chocolate, a Starbucks date, a romantic dinner, a trip to your favorite museum or a couple’s workout. A bottle of your sweetheart’s favorite wine and a trip to the beach to watch the stars sounds like an exceptional gift for the occasion.

9. Walk a winter trail or a beach. Climb an Arizona Mountain Trail or hike Saguaro National Park. Try the Riverwalk in Detroit or Tulsa’s River Trail along the Arkansas River. Hit the nearest State Park in Kentucky, Illinois, Florida or wherever you are.

10. Learn more about our February presidents: Washington and Lincoln. These recommended books will be well worth your time. 1776 by David McCullough, George Washington: The Crossing by Mark Levin, Writing the Gettysburg Address by Martin P. Johnson, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin.