The Mallory Project

"Find something you're passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it." – Julia Child

Oscar Race: Beasts of the Southern Wild

Wow.
I didn’t know anything about this movie going in, except that the star (Quvenzhane Wallis) was only 8 when filming began, and she’s now the youngest actor to be nominated for the Best Actress Academy Award.
As Hush Puppie, Wallis fills the screen with her personality. She was adorable. I just wanted to pick her up, hug her and take her to wherever she wants to go.
As much as I loved Jennifer Lawrence in Silver Linings Playbook and Jessica Chastain in Zero Dark Thirty, I am now rooting for Wallis to win the Oscar. Her depth was incredibly impressive for such a young actor. The world is falling down around Hush Puppie (or more accurately, filling up around her) but she is singularly set on finding her mama. Her mama “swam away” when Hush Puppie was a baby. Her father wasn’t there much (I’m going to spoil why) so she has had to basically raise herself, with some help from her community.
I know this review doesn’t go into much detail, but I can’t really put in words what exactly I feel about this movie. I loved it, that much I know, and it really inspired me to get to writing my own script.
I’m pulling for this small and wonderful film to be recognized by the Academy this year, and I highly recommend it for everyone out there to go see.

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Oscar Race: Zero Dark Thirty

This film was, technically, good. Mark Boal wrote a great script. Even though we all knew the ending, he keeps us at the edge of our seats, waiting to see what exactly is coming up next.
The cinematography was great, making the Middle East look less like a desert than the typical stereotypes we see. There were several scenes that were too shaky and made me slightly motion sick, but that’s a pretty common effect in today’s films.
The acting was marvelous. Jessica Chastain was wonderful as CIA agent Maya, obsessed with catching a mysterious al-Quada member Abu Ahmed, rumored to be Osama bin Laden’s most trusted courier. She brought humanity to the film’s most disturbing scenes, those controversial torture scenes everyone’s up in arms about.
The aforementioned torture scenes were graphic, but hardly the most violent I’ve seen in films lately. From what I understand, most of the controversy comes from director Kathyrn Bigelow’s claim that “the following events are based on first hand accounts of actual events”. I don’t want to take a political turn here, so I won’t go into detail on this. I feel that these scenes served the narrative of the film. They revealed information about the situation, characters, and story world that couldn’t be revealed in other ways.
But if the CIA is correct, and Bigelow did exaggerate these events, she has a responsibility to be open and honest and admit it.
One of my favorite parts of this movie involved Chris Pratt as a member of Seal Team 6. Most of the comedic lines in the film were provided by the Seals. I’ll admit I’m biased; Pratt plays Andy Dwyer on one of my favorite sitcoms, Parks and Recreation (NBC, Thursday nights).
My biggest critique of the film is how Bigelow handled settings. Instead of letting viewers learn the settings in organic ways, Bigelow included redundant supers. Over a shot of a Marriott hotel was the super “Marriott Hotel, Islamabad, Pakistan.” Just one scene before, she’d established we were currently in Pakistan. Several scenes later, a character states “the Marriott is one of the most popular (hotels) in the area for Pakistanis and visitors alike”. Does Bigelow underestimate our intelligence so much that she needs to tell us three, four, or five times where we are?
Bigelow made another odd directing choice. She seemed to split the film into chapters, with such titles as “The Meeting”. These ‘chapter titles’ appeared on dark screens, cut oddly between scenes. It made the editing appear strange, like Bigelow couldn’t find other ways to transition between scenes. They didn’t add much to the movie, giving very little information, if any, about the upcoming scene or change of location. It pulled me out of the movie every time it happened.
Culturally, this is a very important movie. It opens up a dialogue we’ve been having since before 9/11/2001. It portrays real-life examples of American heroism (slightly fictionalized, of course). It already won Chastain a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Drama, and it may win her an Oscar. There is a slight possibility it will win Best Picture, but I think that award is more likely to go to Amour, Beasts of the Southern Wild or Lincoln. Bigelow may win Best Director, but only because of her history (The Hurt Locker), and because Golden Globe winner Ben Affleck wasn’t nominated.

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Demolition Man

Oh, Demolition Man. You are so bad, you’re good.
Times were simpler in 1993, I guess. Or maybe it’s just that movies were simpler?
When I’m deciding whether or not I like a movie (and this isn’t a conscious thing. I don’t sit there and say “well, this happened, and this happened, therefore I like the movie”. There are, let’s say categories I use later to justify why I like or dislike a movie) I ask myself “would I watch this again?” And if the answer is yes, then that pretty much means I liked the movie. But that doesn’t mean the movie is good.
There are a lot of objectively good movies that I’d never watch again. 2001: A Space Odyssey. Citizen Kane. And there are a lot of bad movies I’ve watched over and over, Spice World for one example.
A lot of the movies in the latter category can be described as “so bad it’s good”. The latest thing the media is calling it is “hate-watching”. That might be why I’ve stuck with Glee for so long.
Demolition Man might not qualify for hate-watching, but it certainly is not a quality movie. The dialogue is awkward and pulls you out of the movie, especially the witty banter during the fight scenes. There were continuity breaks and some unbelievable choices made by characters. One of my biggest issues is the lack of a character arc for John Slater (Sylvester Stallone). The resolution also happened too quickly, leaving me a little unsatisfied.
That being said, the acting was really good for a B-level action/sci-fi flick. The leading actors are both Oscar winners (though Stallone won for best movie [Rocky], not acting, and Sandra Bullock didn’t win until almost 20 years later [The Blind Side]), but this script didn’t need that level of acting.
If Demolition Man was intended to be a comedic take on the action/sci-fi genre, it did a great job. I laughed all the way through.

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Oscar Race: Django Unchained

Awesome. Just pure awesome. Two and a half hours of awesome.
What else can I say about Django? You take Tarantino, add spaghetti westerns, throw in Leonardo DiCaprio and you get awesome.
And I mean awesome in the literal sense. Django Unchained left me in awe.
I have only seen two of Tarantino’s other movies (Pulp Fiction and Inglorious Basterds) because I don’t like blood and guts and gore. I have to look away from the TV screen during surgery scenes on Grey’s Anatomy. But except for the gory nature of Tarantino’s movies, I love him as a film maker. I admire him in so many ways and I look up to him as if I was Luke Skywalker and he was Yoda..

But I do have to say…this was a great movie, but I don’t think it has much chance at the Oscars. If it wins anything, it will be Christophe Waltz for Best Supporting Actor (he won previously for Inglorious Basterds). But Tarantino didn’t get a director nom, which is the only other category I could have seen this movie winning.

But for Best Picture… it just doesn’t seem like a movie the Academy would vote for, at least not against indie darlings Beasts of the Southern Wild and Silver Linings Playbook, “patriotic” fare like Lincoln, Argo and Zero Dark Thirty, or the majorly buzzed-about Les Mis and Life of Pi. (My money is on Lincoln, though I think Beasts has a fighting chance.)

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The Hobbit

I will readily admit it. I am a nerd. I’m proud of my nerd status. So of course I wanted to see The Hobbit. More than wanted, really. I had to see it.
I saw all three of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings in theaters, and loved them, without having read the books first. But I’ve read The Hobbit at least six times in the last ten years, if not more. My paperback copy is starting to fall apart.
Obviously there’s no way for me to review this film objectively. I went in already knowing the characters and the story world, already with expectations. But I rarely directly compare films with the books they’re based on. They’re two completely different mediums. It’s like comparing apples to apple pie. They’re both delicious, but in different ways.
I found a quote about this that I love: (I wish I could remember who said it. Can anyone help me out here?) “Film is in your face, fiction is in your head.” Books are more complex. They have space for more subplots, more nuances. You can get inside character’s heads, see things from their point of view. Movies don’t have space for that. Some numbers to better illustrate this: the average novel is 70,000 words (about 250-300 pages), the average screenplay is about 12,000 words (about 90-110 pages).
So I’m not going to be the person who complains that the movie wasn’t as good as the book. Because it wasn’t. It never is. (I even have a t-shirt that says “The Book Was Better”.)
But it was a good movie. It was entertaining, a lot of fun. The acting was fantastic. (Ian McKellen is always wonderful.) And Martin Freeman was the absolute perfect Bilbo.
I wasn’t too crazy about the increased frame-rate in some parts. The action and fight sequences were difficult to follow. But in long shots, it made the scenery even more beautiful. As soon as I stepped out of the theater I started making plans to visit New Zealand.
And like all Peter Jackson movies, it was too long. The opening sequence with old Bilbo and Frodo was fun, but not narratively necessary. The same with all the dwarfs’ songs. Half an hour of the movie could have been knocked off by eliminating or shortening those scenes and nothing would have been lost. As much as I was enjoying the movie, I kept wondering “how much longer? When is this going to be over? I wonder what time it is.” And that always takes away a little bit of the enjoyment for me.

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