Entries tagged with “David O Russell”.


"What did you say?"

“What’d you say? You know I’m a vampire killer…”

Tonight’s the 85th Academy Awards and while 2012 was a pretty terrific year for movies, I hope just one thing–– that Lincoln doesn’t get crowned king.

Yes, Lincoln was a great president but this was not a great movie. It wasn’t bad, mind you, it just didn’t live up to the incessant hype. Let’s just say the emperor has no stovepipe hat and leave it at that.

I still haven’t seen Armour, Beasts of the Southern Wild or Zero Dark Thirty, but have caught all the other nominated films. Of them, I’d pick Silver Linings Playbook for best film. I would also cheer for Argo or Django Unchained as best pic. Just no Lincoln, please!

For best actor, I’d go Joaquin Phoenix in The Master, a desperately under appreciated film. Give me Christoph Waltz for supporting role in Django, and give Quentin his gold statue for writing the original screenplay. For adapted screenplay, David O. Russell deserves the little man for Silver Linings Playbook.

I won’t pick in the other categories since I haven’t seen the majority of the nominees, but please, Academy, let Lincoln be. While this film was not a great moment in cinema, we did have a better time in the theatre than ol’ Abe did.

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Well-told human stories endure longer than special effects.

So many movies live only in the time they take to be projected. They are light, fluffy entertainment that exist only in the moment. When you rise from your seat, they are left behind like the popcorn kernels on the floor.

This isn’t a bad thing, these films are just momentary entertainment. Escapism with little of substance to take away after they’ve run.

Then there are movies that engage, entertain, confound and confuse at times, and toy with your emotions. They don’t give you all the answers–– they demand that you participate and bring your life to them and think about the story being told and why things are the way they are and why people act the way they do.

These movies plant seeds in your brain and give you something to think about long after the final reel has flickered into darkness. They are the movies that explore the human condition, pique curiosity and encourage thought. They’re human stories, not mega-special-effects-driven wonders. They don’t feed, they nourish.

I love these kinds of films, and here are two candidates for your consideration from a pair of the most compelling and interesting directors working today. First is David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook with stellar performances from Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence. It’s a rom-com of a different sort, one that explores characters haunted by fragile mental states and some driven mad through their obsessions. It’s a terrific ride and one that you’ll find yourself thinking about long after the movie has run.

Some pictures and performances live on a long, long time.

Then there is Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master, a film that explores damaged psyches and the art of manipulation. Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams deliver amazing performances worthy of little gold statuettes (as do Cooper and Lawrence).

Russell and Anderson both explore with film for the benefit of self-discovery. No, you won’t always find all the answers, but you will definitely find questions that illuminate.

Both films of these two auteurs (that’s French for ‘artsy-but-not-too-fartsy’) are well worth seeing. Give them a look and see if you don’t agree they’ll be strong Oscar contenders.

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It's hard to become champ with a crackhead in your corner.

2010 was a pretty terrific year for movie lovers.

The Social Network, Winter’s Bone, The King’s Speech, True Grit and The Other Guys were some of my favorites. I recently caught two surefire Oscar favorites– The Fighter and Black Swan. Both are must-sees for any serious film lover.

In The Fighter, we see a tale that’s been told many times: the palooka beating the odds, trusting in himself and succeeding. But, this film based on true events throws in some interesting twists– a family that loves and manipulates so hard it’s crushing, and the perils of being trained by a crackhead.
Christian Bale is phenomenal as the washed-up older brother/trainer to Mark Wahlberg’s battling boxer “Irish” Mickey Ward.

Bale’s “Dickey” lives in his past glory days and deludes himself with dreams of rising again to be a serious fighter and contender. Until then, he has the crack pipe and his little brother to keep him occupied. The boys have an overbearing mother played by Melissa Leo, in a performance sure to get an Oscar nod. Mom is not only the matriarch of the family, she schedules upcoming bouts and manages her brood of fighting boys and doting daughters. Leo and Bale are a potent one-two punch (witness the scene in the car with the two singing).

Throw in killer performances by Amy Adams and Mark Wahlberg, and you have a film best described by our firstborn son as “it’s hard to imagine a better sports movie.” Yes, yes it is.

Director David O. Russell really delivers the goods here; the pacing, camerawork, cinematography and performances are all terrific. That said, I cannot forgive Russell for the wreck that was I Heart Huckabees .

Ballet gets very, very frightening.

The other move that should not be missed is Black Swan, a film just under two hours that will haunt you for a long time to come.

While we’ve all seen many boxing tales, we probably can’t name many gripping ballet flicks. Enter Black Swan, a movie that’s part beauty, part beast, and has the creepy edginess of Psycho throughout.

Oscar, meet Natalie Portman, shake hands and get to know each other. She’s a lock.

Portman shed 20 of her unslightly pounds for the role of Nina Sayers, and she delivers a heavyweight performance as a dedicated-innocent-living-at-home-with-mommie-pursuing-perfection- ballet dancer. Her performance as an actor and dancer are believable, beautiful and incredibly disturbing. Director Darren Aronofsky never lets up with the tension and intrigue of this compelling thiller. No matter how much you think you don’t like ballet, I defy you not to be interested in this film. Of course, some hot sex scenes can spice up any story.

The supporting cast is superb. Barbara Hershey as Nina’s long suffering artistic mom, Mila Kunis as Lily, the back-tatted beauty in the company who is either Nina’s friend, enemy or a frienemy, Winona Ryder as Beth Macintyre, the fading ballerina star and Vincent Cassel as Thomas Leroy, the driven and manipulative ballet company artistic director.

I can say no more about the movie aside from this: Swan Lake scares me. See this film. Here’s a ballet film that keeps you on your toes. (Could I get a rimshot, here? A rimshot, please! Rimshot?!)

The Fighter and Black Swan are two great stories of finding strength from within in decidedly different ways. Between the two films, they’ll easily garner a dozen to a dozen and a half well-deserved Oscar nominations.

See them and see why.

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