Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is considered to be the worst movie ever nominated for Best Picture. As of 2019, it’s the only nominee with a rotten score on Rotten Tomatoes prior to its nomination. So were the critics right? Well in my opinion, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close had every ingredient for an Oscar film. Yet it wound up being more pretentious than anything. It stars Oscar darlings Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock, the story centers around an uncomfortable period in history (9/11 in this case), it’s way longer than it should be, and it came out in late December. The Academy Awards love movies like this. Practically guaranteeing its Oscar nomination whether the movie was good or not. Leaving far more acclaimed genre movies like Bridesmaids or Deathly Hollows – Part 2 without the same recognition. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is about an autistic kid who lost his father in the 9/11 attacks. He finds a key that his father left and searches the entire city for the person that has the lock. Yes, the 9 year old boy actually walks around New York visiting strangers. Well he is later joined by a mute old man who might be his grandfather. Max Von Sydow’s performance is the only one worthy of Awards recognition. I frankly found the kid to be a little annoying. The mystery wasn’t all that satisfying either. Sure it looks polished on the outside, but Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is just more Oscar bait that the Academy just keeps falling for.
Love & Other Drugs traces the origin of popular sex drug Viagra. Told through the lense of a love story. After sharing a steamy scene together in Brokeback Mountain, Anne Hathaway and Jake Gyllenhaal bring the same chemistry to Love & Other Drugs. Only with a lot more steamy scenes. In fact, this is easily the most sexual role of Anne Hathaway’s career. Her Disney image has definitely been shed by this point. As both she and Gyllenhaal have several nude scenes together. Although Hathaway was in the movie a lot less than I thought she would be. Most of the focus is actually on Jamie. A smooth talking pharmaceutical salesman who’s seduced many women. Until he meets the woman who might be the one. Maggie is a young woman with early onset Parkinson’s. She doesn’t want to get close because of her condition, but being a romantic comedy, you know things will have to work out. One thing I wasn’t expecting was just how strong of a performance Anne Hathaway would give. The Viagra part of the movie is actually not the driving factor. Although it does lead to many funny scenes. Josh Gad being the funniest character. Love & Other Drugs takes advantage of its adult themes, but it doesn’t always know what to focus on.
Dallas Buyers Club made us reexamine Matthew McConaughey as an actor. Before he was merely that dazed and confused stoner guy with a southern drawl. Now he’s a serious Oscar contender. So how did that happen exactly? Well Dallas Buyers Club played through McConaughey’s strengths. He portrays the real life Texas cowboy Ron Woodroof. A man so macho that it comes as a complete shock to him that he’s just been diagnosed with AIDS. This was back when nobody knew anything about HIV. So anyone who had it was treated like a leper with a death sentence. The AIDS epidemic is another point in history I was fortunate to have avoided. Upon learning his diagnosis, Ron is in complete denial. Until he ends up losing everything and his health begins to deteriorate. With the help of his lovely doctor, Ron begins to seek treatment from outside sources. Leading to the smuggling of unapproved drugs from other countries. Realizing he can profit off it, Ron establishes the titular Dallas Buyers Club. In the process Ron partners up with polar opposite Rayon. A trans individual who helps Ron find more AIDS patients. Their performances couldn’t be more different, but Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto both ended up winning Oscars for Best Performance. What they do have in common is all the weight they had to lose for their roles. Looking like very convincing sick people. In the end, Dallas Buyers Club is all about the well being of its patients. Regardless of who they may be on the outside.
The Crucible recounts the horrifying true stories that were the Salem witch trials. In 1692 Salem, Massachusetts no one was safe from being accused of witchcraft. Something that was mainly caused by mass hysteria. Let’s just say I’m thankful not to have been born during this time. Most young people learned about the event in high school when they read Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. A play that my class read during my Sophomore year. We immediately followed it up with the 1996 movie. The Crucible is set in motion by a group of village girls performing rituals and dancing in the woods. Most teachers fast forwarded this part due to one of them being naked. Mine didn’t for some reason. After a reverend witnesses the girls, the town begins to wonder if the Devil was involved. Easily the movie’s most hated character is Abigail. She’s the one who plays up the lie with the help of her mindless followers. Setting in motion the Salem witch trials. Abigail’s primary goal is to get rid of the wife of John Procter. A respected landowner she has known. Daniel Day-Lewis is as good as always and so is Winona Ryder. However it’s Joan Allen’s performance that received the most acclaim. She plays Goody Proctor as a wife trying her hardest to protect her husband from his actions. It’s not enough though to prevent everyone’s eventual hanging. The Crucible should serve as a reminder to never let history repeat itself.
Election is all about the high stakes world of class elections. Something my high school didn’t really do. The closest thing to a class election I’ve had was in my middle school civics class. I was a running mate, but my candidate didn’t win. Although 1999 was loaded with teen movies, hardly any of them were critical darlings. Election is the most critically acclaimed teen movie of 1999. Critics were mostly won over by its smart writing and political satire. Even if the setting was high school. Election centers on the perspective of multiple parties during the big mock election. Each character having their own internal monologue. Reese Witherspoon as Tracy Flick is the worst kind of overachiever who will stop at nothing to become student body president. Matthew Broderick as Mr. McAllister is a respected teacher who sees Tracy as someone who must be stopped. So he makes the clueless but popular Paul Metzler run against her. He’s easily the funniest character in the movie. The only problem is that his rebellious, secretly lesbian sister runs just to spite her former lover. Tracy’s method’s may be extreme (and desperate), but its really Mr. McAllister who ends up looking like the bad guy. He grows increasingly bitter to the point where he loses his wife, job, and sanity. Leaving Tracy Flick as the successful future politician. All because of a silly little class election. Election goes to show that even in high school, politics are a dangerous game.
A Star is Born (2018) is the third remake to the 1937 original. Following the 1954 and 1976 remakes. It wasn’t until the trailer dropped that I decided to do my research. This excessively R rated version managed to take on a life all its own. Since it’s the first one released during the digital age of memes. Little do they know the “Hey, I just wanted to take another look” moment is present in every single version of A Star is Born. As the moment is very important to the relationship of the main characters. Bradley Cooper directors, produces, writes, and stars as Jackson Maine. The alcoholic, drug addicted, hearing impaired country singer who gives the leading lady her big break. While she has acted beforehand, this is Lady Gaga’s big break as well. As Ally, Gaga appears with no makeup or crazy clothing. I didn’t even recognize her before she started singing in the trailer. Jack and Ally also meet in a bar while she’s performing as a drag queen. Since no one will give her a chance because of how she looks. It’s not until after he let’s her sing with him on stage that her rise to fame begins. Where she becomes a 2010’s pop star. Meanwhile Jack’s career starts to spiral. Only it’s a lot more heartbreaking than the other versions. He passes out at the Grammys, goes to rehab, and his final moments are far less accidental. Every performance helps to make it all the more tragic. Sam Elliot was nominated along with the leads. Their natural chemistry is just as good as the music. In keeping with tradition, the signature song “Shallow” won Best Original Song. Officially making Lady Gaga an Oscar winner. A Star is Born (2018) proves some stories will never get old no matter how many times they’re retold.
Remake of: A Star is Born (1976)
A Star is Born (1976) is the second remake to the 1937 original. Following the 1954 remake. In order to avoid repeating themselves, the story was changed a lot more drastically. While still keeping the basic rising fame story in tact. Now rock stars are the focus instead of movie stars. Since traditional musicals weren’t as big anymore, but they still wanted to have original music in the movie. Plus Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson were really big at the time. So they just remade A Star is Born as an excuse to use them both. Because of that, this version is the weakest of the 4 movies. Streisand is of course a wonderful singer and her appearance fits the character perfectly. She plays the newly renamed Esther Hoffman. A small time bar singer who confronts drunk rock n’ roll singer John Norman Howard while performing. Since the 70’s were all about female empowerment, Esther has several moments of this. She’s never a pushover, she refuses a stage name, and keeps her maiden name after marrying John. Although he doesn’t say “Hey, I just wanted to take another look” until after the wedding. Kristofferson’s John Norman has plenty of passionate moments with Esther, but he’s a bit of a jerk. Being R rated, he’s now a drug addict on top of being an alcoholic. He also berates an audience when Esther wins what is now a Grammy Award. And to top it all off, he cheats on her. Their relationship is given far too much focus. Making the music the remakes only saving grace. Still managing to get Oscar attention with a Best Original Song win for “Evergreen.” Recognized by the lyric “Love, soft as an easy chair.” Aside from the songs, A Star is Born (1976) does nothing groundbreaking.
Remake of: A Star is Born (1954)
A Star is Born (1937) is the timeless tale of rising fame. So timeless in fact that it was remade 3 separate times over the course of 9 decades. I’m probably the only person my age who’s seen every version. It all started in 1937. The original A Star is Born set the template, but it still has its own decade appropriate feel to it. The only constant is that a woman who hasn’t gotten her big break yet is given the opportunity by an alcoholic fading star. The two have a quickie marriage and as her star rises, his fades away. After embarrassing her at an award show, his alcohol abuse takes its toll on their marriage. Until he dies in a possible accident. Leaving her to carry on his legacy. In this version the woman is Esther Blodgett and the man is Norman Maine. Being the 30’s, Esther has dreams of becoming a famous Hollywood actress. So we follow her journey from humble beginnings to when she eventually meets major star Norman Maine at a party. Another constant is when he says “Hey, I just wanted to take another look.” As per the times, Esther is given the stage name Vicki Lester. She’s so successful that she even wins an Oscar. The movies themselves always gain the same attention. She may not be the most recognizable of the four actresses, but Janet Gaynor is perfectly charming as the lead. While Fredric Marsh can be both likable and a little aggressive. It’s their chemistry that sells the whole premise. I definitely wasn’t expecting a movie this old to tackle drinking the way it did. Let alone be in Technicolor. A Star is Born (1937) may not be the flashiest, but it’s an honest picture that deserves just as much admiration.
Argo is the very real hit movie from actor/director Ben Affleck. It details a 1979 dilemma known as the “Canadian Caper.” In which the U.S. embassy was raided by Iranian militants. During the chaos 6 American diplomats managed to escape. Seeking temporary refugee in the house of the Canadian ambassador. Since they were in immediate danger, the only man who could get them out was extractor Tony Mendez. Played by the director himself. Which drew some moderate controversy given Affleck’s lack of Mexican ancestry. There were also a few historical inaccuracies, but that doesn’t hurt too much in the grand scheme of things. Since Argo was one of the best movies released in 2012. So much so that it won Best Picture. Although everyone agrees it made no sense that Ben Affleck wasn’t even nominated for Best Director. Despite the obvious amount of awards and acclaim the movie was getting. Argo is very tense and has you on the edge of your seat until the very end when the diplomats are rescued. It can also be funny because of the solution they came up with. Which is to get them out under the guise of making a fake movie. Because everyone understands the language of film. The titular space fantasy adventure Argo. Since sandy terrain like the ones in Iran are usually found in sci-fi. Alan Arkin gets most of the laughs, but John Goodman and Bryan Cranston have their moments as well. Argo is the best bad idea, by far.
Lost in Translation is the story of strangers in a strange land. After proving to be not much of an actress, Sofia Coppola tried her hand at directing. First with The Virgin Suicides and second with the much more critically acclaimed Lost in Translation. Like I said in my Godfather Part III review, her father is a great director, wouldn’t it be obvious that she’d be a great director too. She even ended up winning an Oscar for Best original Screenplay. Making them the only father-daughter duo to win the same award. Sofia Coppola based the movie on her own experiences in Japan. The idea of two people talking in Tokyo for an hour may not sound all that interesting, but it’s actually quite engaging. Since Coppola cast unconventional actors as the leads. Scarlett Johansson who only did supporting parts at the time and Bill Murray who is mostly known for comedy. Lost in Translation opens with a shot of Johansson’s butt (I’m still not sure why). Then it follows aging actor Bob Harris who is filming Japanese Whiskey commercials in Tokyo. Where he has trouble communicating. Eventually he has a chance encounter with Charlotte. The young wife of a celebrity photographer. You would think two people with such an age difference would have nothing to talk about, but they’re more alike than you think. They explore the bright streets of Tokyo together and just find comfort in one another. The movie is only R because of an out of nowhere strip club scene. Lost in Translation famously ends with the two parting ways, but not before Bob whispers something in Charlotte’s ear. Something that will forever remain a mystery. Lost in Translation is the best kind of midlife crisis.