Movie Award Season: Golden Globes 2014 Predictions

Blue is the Warmest Color

Blue is the Warmest Color

A scene of falling in love from Blue is the Warmest Color

I enjoyed this movie, but ultimately was not as touched as I’d hoped. That may have been largely due to the fact that the film is three hours long and that is a long time to keep an audience captivated. The story follows two French women, different in age and class, one who is comfortable out as a gay woman and a high school girl who is not, who meet, fall madly in love, live happily, then fight, drift away from each other and endure a painful breakup.

There has been lots of hubbub about the sex scenes in this film, but what I was most captivated by was the masterful way the two actresses captured the experience of first love, and of being hopelessly and passionately obsessed with another person – physically, mentally, intellectually, socially and sexually. The younger actress, Adele Exarchopoulos, is all emotion, all appetite, all openness and vulnerability, all need and messiness. I found it detracting how much the camera lingered on her Bardot-like full lips, and the curves of her body in a nearly obsessive way, but she still managed to portray the ecstasy and the agony of first love, and her performance really carried the film for me, and it was a lovely (if long) ride.

Dallas Buyer’s Club

Jared Leto and Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyer's Club

Jared Leto and Mathhew McConaughey in Dallas Buyer’s Club

I have pretty much always resisted liking anything Matthew McConaughey has done because his performances seemed a long series of egomaniacal poses for an ad he and he alone was starring in. Those days started winding down after I saw him as male strip-club owner Dallas in Magic Mike in one of the freakiest, most fearless, awkward, wild performances I ever imagined. After seeing him play a crude, straight, homophobic, drinker and recreational drug using tough jerk of a electrician who rodeos part time, fight to survive after nearly dying from full-blown AIDS in this film, I am a fan.

I thought this movie was great. The trajectory of this character, based on the true story of Ron Woodroof from bigoted rascal to a dying man driven to survive through education, travel and experimentation with cocktails of drugs and supplements, to ingenious entrepreneur who sells those cocktails to others with HIV/AIDS, to eventually, a man who cares is captivating. There is still the sparkle of the old Matthew in this character, but as we watch him waste away (he lost 30-something pounds for this role and is alarmingly frail and gaunt) and expand his heart to embrace his HIV-positive trans-woman business-partner played by a nearly unrecognizable Jared Leto, it twinkles as an fierce and indomitable will to survive, not preen.

I thought the one weak link in the film was Jennifer Garner’s portrayal of good doctor trying to fight the medical establishment. She is so sickly sweet that is seems she’s appearing in another film that is full of cotton candy and bubbles.

I recommend this movie, for its performances, and for the tragic and shameful but inspiring history.

Inside Llewyn Davis

The Coen Brothers' latest film, Inside Llewyn Davis

The Coen Brothers’ latest film, Inside Llewyn Davis

Don’t go see this movie if you are feeling a bit down and need a lift. It will wallop you down lower than you thought you could go and leave you there, in a landscape of muted dreary colors, in the ice and the slush and the biting winter wind and the poverty and the hopelessness. But, you will enjoy some great music on your way down. OK, it’s not that dreary, and I actually liked it, as I like most Coen Brother’s movies.

The main character, Llewyn, is a young folk singer living in Greenwich Village right before Bob Dylan breaks onto the scene. His singing partner recently killed himself by jumping off the George Washington Bridge and Llewyn is now lost, alone, broke and trying to make it on his own. He sabotages himself at every turn with his cruelty,  bitterness, and anger. Confident in his beautiful voice, and in the pull of the heartbreakingly sad songs he sings, he doesn’t try to charm or win over audiences or agents or anyone, and we see what he probably knows in his heart – that talent alone doesn’t always win.

Saving Mr. Banks

Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson in Saving Mr. Banks

Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson in Saving Mr. Banks

Believe it or not, last night, after watching Inside Llewyn Davis, we stayed and watched another movie just so we got another nominee under our belt in anticipation of tomorrow’s Golden Globes. Saving Mr. Banks is a sweet story, and one I particularly hoped to enjoy, because it tells the story behind the making of Mary Poppins, one of the most beloved childhood movies of my generation.

Emma Thompson plays P.L. Travers, the author of the Mary Poppins books, who for financial reasons is forced to consider accepting Walt Disney’s plan to make them into a movie. She is terrified of losing control over the characters she has created, and for the next few hours, we are shown why. Mrs. Travers had a difficult childhood in Australia and her drunken but loving father who she used as the basis for the father in her books, Mr. Banks, died young, leaving his family in poverty. Between the golden Australian flashbacks, we see how the comically uptight Londoner is won over by the talented, upbeat and sunny folks at Disney, including Walt.

I’m afraid this movie did not really work for me. The Australian flash-backs with Colin Ferrell playing the fun-loving drunkard dad seem to be pasted in from a made-for-TV weeper. I did think Tom Hanks made a terrific Walt Disney. Genial, warm, driven, and magical, he is like the Dad we all loved. Emma Thompson’s character hates California, hates Disneyland, hates the sun and the warmth, hates nice people from California, hates cartoons and stays in that one emotional tone of anxiety, disapproval, persnickety obsession about ridiculous details until she invites herself to the screening and breaks down in tears of relief and joy while watching the film.

We still have many movies to see this season, including Nebraska, Philomena, Rush, the Wolf of Wallstreet (Patrick already saw it, but I haven’t), Labor Day, Long Walk to Freedom, All Is Lost, Before Midnight, Frances Ha, August: Osage County, The Great Beauty, The Past, and The Wind Rises.

Will you be watching the Golden Globes tomorrow night? Do you have any favorites? I clearly haven’t seen all the movies, but with that giant caveat, I am rooting for:

Best Drama – 12 Years a Slave, although I also loved Gravity.

Best Comedy/Musical – American Hustle

Best Director – I honestly never know how to vote on this category, because I feel like you should always vote for the Director of the film you are championing, so I’d go with Steve McQueen.

Best Actress in a Drama – Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine

Best Actor in a Drama – Tough. Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave, but I also really loved Matthew in Dallas Buyers Club.

Best Actor in a Comedy/Musical – Tough again. Christian Bale, American Hustle but I also loved Oscar Isaac from Inside Llewyn Davis.

Best Actress in a Comedy Musical – Amy Adams, but Julia Louis-Dreyfus was so great in Enough Said.

Best Supporting Actress – Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave

Best Supporting Actor – Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips

Best Foreign Language Film – The Hunt

Here’s a link to the post about other Golden Globe nominees I wrote yesterday but didn’t seem to go out as an email for some reason. In it, I gave my two cents on Muscle Shoals, Captain Phillips, The Hunt, Her, and American Hustle.

My take on Gravity, and 12 Years a Slave.

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