Mini-Review: Bridge of Spies

Bridge of Spies

PG-13, 141 Minutes, 2015

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About: Lawyer must negotiate for trade of spies with USSR because once upon a time we let civilians do that. There is also a bridge.

Starring: Tom Hanks as Our Generation’s Gary Cooper/Jimmy Stewart

Directed: Steven Spielberg. I am a Spielberg-completist having seen all of his films. It’s been over 10 years since Spielberg made a “fun” film (Terminal to some extent, Catch Me If You Can for sure, The Adventures of Tintin wasn’t fun enough). He’s gotten so serious and self-important.

Bridgeof-Spies-777x437Best Thing About It: Mark Rylance as the Soviet Spy Col. Abel. His dry wit and non-conformist role makes him the most memorable and worthwhile thing in the film. I anticipate an Academy Award Nomination for Best Supporting Actor.

Worst Thing About It: The word I have heard most about this film is “Old-Fashioned.” That’s not a bad thing as the movie is very well made. But it lacks much in terms of surprise, energy, or freshness. It feels very lived in – An old sweater you like, but don’t love.

Notable Thing About It: If anyone other than Tom Hanks was in this part, I think the movie would have failed. He brings such charisma and gravitas to a role that before he’s said a word, you are rooting for his character and trust him.

Overall: Everything about the film is professional. There isn’t anything weak in it. It is certainly the right kind of film for people who prefer more predictable, historical movies. You certainly don’t have to go to the theaters to see it. It is a good film, but forgettable.

Rating: 2 1/2 RaMaKs (out of 4)

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Best Films of 2013

top-10-films-2013I wish I’d seen all of them – all the foreign films, documentaries, independents, even the poorly rated blockbusters. But I’m just an arm chair critic and seeing over 70 films in 2013 is a heck of lot anyway.

Another very good, but not outstanding year. Few of these films will be classics in a decade, but they were plenty enjoyable to watch. Of my top 10, 7 were based on real life stories. My tastes also seem to match up to the Academy more and more. Of the 9 best picture nominees, 7 are in my top 10 and the other 2 in my Top 20.  I chalk this up to not seeing enough independent and foreign films.

I’ll share Oscar predictions closer to the show.

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Best Actor – Oscars 2014

academy-awards-actorI haven’t written in a while. But 2014 is all new. January, however, is a lost month since I’ll be away most of it. Therefore, I have been racing to see films in theaters in anticipation of the Oscar Nominations (January 16).

For the last bunch of years, I have successfully seen all the nominees for the big 8 awards before Oscar night. I have usually been nearly done by the nomination announcement because of good anticipation and because most of the big award nominees come from a cluster of films.

This year, if you can see just 15 films, you’ll cover nearly all of the contenders for the “big” (picture, director, 4 actors, 2 screenwriting) awards. There is always the outlier, but most of these awards come from a cluster of films.

The best picture nominees will almost certainly come from this group (order from Gold Derby)

  • 12 Years a Slave
  • Gravity
  • American Hustle
  • Captain Phillips
  • The Wolf of Wall Street
  • Inside Llewyn Davis
  • Nebraska
  • Saving Mr. Banks
  • Her
  • The Butler
  • Dallas Buyers Club
  • Philomena
  • Blue Jasmine
  • Fruitvale Station
  • August: Osage County

Seeing these 15 will also help take care of most acting awards. In Best Actor, the only legitimate exception is Robert Redford in All Is Lost. (To be totally honest, I must mention also, Idris Elba in Mandela, but that’s not really going to happen – the film has no traction)

For Best Actress, the actual nominees all come from these films. This is unusual as Best Actress usually pulls from a not otherwise nominated film (think Meryl Street in The Iron Lady). But if you want to see all touted candidates, you’d also need to see Blue Is the Warmest Color, Short Term 12, and Enough Said. If you want to use the top candidates at GoldDerby as a benchmark, you’d also need Labor Day, The Past, and Before Midnight, but that’s never never going to happen. No chance.

Supporting actors would need 4 more films for legit contenders (Rush, Spring Breakers, 42, Enough Said). Supporting Actress, this year, very unusually, is covered in the 15 above.

This post is about the Best Actors. Who is going to be nominated and who do I think were the best performances.

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Cloud Atlas: You’ll Keep Meeting Tom Hanks

I know you’re strapped for time. So watching movies comes at premium. And I have the solution for you. If you have 3 hours or so, you can see:

  1. an adventure at sea (with freed slaves!)
  2. a period piece music story (with gay lovers!)
  3. a 70s environmental mystery (with sexy African-American female journalist!)
  4. a contemporary comedy (with old people!)
  5. a sci-fi liberation story (with Korean clones!)
  6. a post-apocalyptic future meets primitives (with unintelligible future folksy dialogue!)

And somehow…it works.

Cloud Atlas is a film that probably benefits from multiple watchings, not to mention frequents readings of the acclaimed book. It intersperses seven different timelines (the 7th is a prologue/epilogue for story telling needs). Do not go in to trying to understand the actual film. It jumps regularly between the time periods and has so many characters that the best choice is just to let it wash over you. Continue reading