Posted on | March 5, 2014 | Add Comments
Flick and Flack aren’t just movie critics anymore. We’re filmmakers, too. Our most recent film, Robot and Boy, is a touching 24 minute sci-fi adventure about a robot who lands on earth and the boy who takes care of him.
We were lucky enough to show the film in the Youth Filmaker Show at the 2014 Providence Children’s Film Festival (just a few weeks ago). We loved having the opportunity to share our film with more than 200 people. After the screening, we participated in a Q&A with our cast and other filmmakers. You can read all about the event in the Brown Daily Herald.
So far, Robot and Boy has been a success. But for success to continue…we need your support! That’s why we’re selling a limited edition Robot and Boy T-shirt. The shirt has beautiful artwork on the front and credits on the back. Trust us, it’s awesome. With an affordable price and cool design, how could you miss out? You must order before Wed. March 5th at 9pm ET, so get yours at: teespring.com/robotandboy
Posted on | March 2, 2014 | 1 Comment
For the fifth annual time, Flack and I hosted an Oscar Party. Two films, endless trivia, good food, and speeches. That’s right, Flack and I both read our speeches to add some excitement and opinion to the night. Below, you can read my speech.
The unlikely friendship of a bear and mouse. A woman surviving alone in space. The untold story of backup singers. A dysfunctional father-son duo road trip. All of these stories and more were watched on screens big and small and all of them are up for an Oscar.
This year was an interesting year for film, with directors like Alfonso Cuaron taking bold chances with breakthrough special effects and Morgan Neville taking bold chances in different ways by telling an unknown story with true drama.
Going into this year, critics, industry know-it-alls, and audiences alike were predicting movie theaters to decline and while, yes, Netflix is growing bigger by the second and at home movie-watching technology is also growing at a surprising rate, there were a number of films that were undeniably great “movie theater experiences”. Take “Nebraska” for example, a film that is by no means a 3-D action spectacle, but is, by all means, a great “movie theater experience”. The B&W cinematography showing beatiful vistas was perfect viewing for the theater. Meanwhile, “Gravity” used IMAX and 3-D technology that felt uniquely new and different. After spending 16 minutes watching the camera slowly pan over Earth in one continuous opening shot, you are hurdled into a frightening crash sequence, one that uses sound, visuals, and storytelling to a combined effect of pure horror.
Music was also used to interesting effect this year, with more and more directors opting for pre-existing, well known music, rather than a score of their own. “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” did this well, using songs like David Bowie’s Major Tom prominently. But, orchestra scores were also used well. Mark Orton used strings to interesting effect in “Nebraska” and Randy Newman used horns and drums to create a foot-stompingly energetic score for “Monsters University”. One more notable soundtrack mention would be “Inside Llewyn Davis” in which Oscar Issac and more sang folk ballads with minimal guitar strumming and maximum vocal chords.
With such a diverse year for films, there’s a lot to celebrate, which is what tonight’s all about. In just a few minutes we’ll be treating you to two screenings of Oscar nominated films. In the den: “Frozen”, nominated for Best Animated Film, a chilly musical comedy. And in the living room: “20 Feet From Stardom”, a documentary following multiple backup singers.
So without further ado…The films!
Posted on | March 1, 2014 | 1 Comment
They’re almost here.
After 6 months of obsessive predictions, studio scheming, marketing madness, Red Carpet overload, and one awards show after another, the Oscars (and the end of the awards season) are just a little more than 24 hours away.
Every year, the September-February thrill ride starts with Telluride and Toronto and just keeps on going. From Golden Globes fun and the Oscar nominations, to non-stop campaigns and Academy Q&A’s; through gossipy controversy and endless critique, past last-minute releases and release-date changes, over Oscar bets, shocking interviews, a nominee change (!), and… When does it stop?
Every year Awards Season feels a little bit…predictable. Yes, there’s the acting category surprises and the films that came out of nowhere to be claimed as “frontrunners” and the ballyhoo-causing cast and crew disputes that threaten to change everything (and normally change nothing). But, through all the nonsense, there’s always one film that gets called a Best Picture lock, gets called an “also-ran”, has a surprise comeback, gets rejected again, and ends up winning.
That’s exactly why this year’s Oscar race feels genuinely refreshing. When was the last time a nerve-wracking three-way-race for Best Picture had everyone biting their nails off? That’s certainly the case this year, with 12 Years a Slave, Gravity, and American Hustle all vying for the big win. But enough with all this talk…who’s going to win?
Well, I’ll cut to the chase: 12 Years a Slave. Sure, Gravity is as suspenseful and groundbreaking as movies get and American Hustle is the type of crowd-pleasing ensemble period-piece dramedy that seems like a shoo-in. But 50 years from now, voters will want people to look back at 2014 as the year the “Important Movie” won and12 Years a Slave fits that bill. Of course, they’ll also want to recognize a fine cast, careful direction, and a resonant script. But Oscar voters aren’t always known for picking Best Picture based on which is their favorite. Though it sounds (and is) silly, voters sometimes have other agendas. By selecting 12 Years a Slave, voters will be selecting the the indie studio flick, the critical favorite, the hard-to-watch controversy, the predictable-ish frontrunner, and the historical drama. Honestly, none of those descriptions will make the Academy look bad. So when everything boils down, there’s no real suspense for me. Based on everything I know about the Oscars, 12 Years a Slave will win Best picture. Now we just have to see if the Academy agrees with itself.
Here’s my other predictions…
Best Director: Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity
Best Actor: Mathew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club
Best Actress: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Best Supporting Actor: Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club
Best supporting Actress: Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave
Best Original Screenplay: American Hustle
Best Adapted Screenplay: 12 Years a Slave
Best Animated Feature: Frozen
Best Documentary Feature: 20 Feet From Stardom
Best Foreign-Language Film: The Great Beauty
Best Cinematography: Gravity
Best Costume Design: American Hustle
Best Film Editing: Gravity
Best Makeup & Hairstyling: Dallas Buyers Club
Best Original Score: Gravity
Best Original Song: “Let It Go” from Frozen
Best Production Design: Gravity
Best Sound Editing: Gravity
Best Sound Mixing: Gravity
Best Visual Effects: Gravity
Best Animated Short: Get a Horse!
Best Documentary Short: The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life
Best Live Action Short: Just Before Losing Everything
Alright, alright, alright. On with the show…
Posted on | February 12, 2014 | Add Comments
Posted on | February 3, 2014 | Add Comments
Flick and Flack love Shuttercal, the locally created website that allows you to upload a photo every day for 1 year creating a visual document through 365 days worth of photos. We started using Shuttercal this year and have been thoroughly enjoying it. We like being able to capture every day moments, memories, events, and happenings with such an easy, unique tool. When we were asked to star in this ad, we couldn’t resist. We had fun meeting the creators and filmmakers and filming the ad and we hope you have just as much fun watching it! And with just the click of a button you can watch it below.
Posted on | January 16, 2014 | 3 Comments
This past Sunday, 21 million viewers watched the Golden Globes. The show was filled with bad jokes, rambling speeches, and surprise winners (I scored a just-okay 11 out of 24 on my predictions). But while the Globes can be great fun, there’s one awards show that simply towers above the rest: the Oscars. This year, Ellen DeGeneres will host the 86th Academy Awards on March 2. But until then, I’ll be obsessing over one big question: who will win? And before that: Who will be nominated? That’s the question of the day and I’m here to give you the answers. Without further ado, here’re my predictions and thoughts for 10 main categories (all in random, order, except Best Picture)…
Best Picture (Ranked):
1. 12 Years A Slave
2. American Hustle
6. Captain Phillips
7. Saving Mr. Banks
8. The Wolf of Wall Street
9. Inside Llewyn Davis
10. Dallas Buyers Club
Thoughts: There can be 5-10 nominees here but 3 really stand out; 12 Years A Slave, American Hustle, and Gravity are as close to sure-things as possible, while Nebraska and Her should get plenty of votes to round out the top 5. After that, Captain Phillips is a likely 6th nom. But then it gets really murky… Here’s where the 5-10 nominees rule helps: to get nominated, a movie needs 5% of voters to rank a film as their top choice. With that in mind, Saving Mr. Banks, Inside Llewyn Davis, and The Wolf of Wall Street should manage, thanks to a small number of passionate fans. Don’t be surprised if there’s no 10th nom but Dallas Buyers Club can probably make the cut.
Alfonso Cuarón, Gravity
Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave
David O. Russell, American Hustle
Spike Jonze, Her
Alexander Payne, Nebraska
Last year there were some huge surprises in this category and we could see some more of the same this time around. Cuarón, McQueen, and Russell have as much support as their films, but the Directors Guild (which, like the Screen Actors Guild, has some Oscar overlap) also nominated two surprises: The Wolf of Wall Street‘s Martin Scorsese and Captain Phillips’ Paul Greengrass. That puts them in a crowded field for the final two spots, along with Nebraska’s Alexander Payne and Her‘s Spike Jonze. Scorsese has years of respect and Greengrass’ taut, tense style has many fans but don’t count on either one to garner a nod: Payne and Jonze have distinctive auteur styles that would make them both perfect surprises.
Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave
Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club
Bruce Dern, Nebraska
Tom Hanks, Captain Phillips
Christian Bale, American Hustle
Who will win? Who knows! All Is Lost‘s Robert Redford has been largely absent from important pre-cursors (the SAGs, most notably) so Hustle‘s Bale should make the cut. Otherwise, Ejiofor, McConaughey, Dern, and Hanks have battled tough competition (The Butler‘s Forrest Whitaker still has a shot) to become likely nominees.
Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Sandra Bullock, Gravity
Emma Thompson, Saving Mr. Banks
Judi Dench, Philomena
Amy Adams, American Hustle
The SAGs honored Meryl Streep’s performance in the unloved August: Osage County but she won’t be so lucky here: unlike Streep, these 5 picks have support for their roles and their films.
Best Supporting Actor:
Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club
Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips
Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave
James Gandolfini, Enough Said
Bradley Cooper, American Hustle
Another group that’ll be hard to challenge. The only uncertainty is Gandolfini. Besides his performance, there’s been no awards talk for Enough Said. Daniel Bruhl has been getting a lot of love for his role in Rush, another largely unloved film, and could beat Gandolfini to make the cut. Still, Enough Said‘s late star should claim a spot.
Best Supporting Actress:
Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave
Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle
June Squibb, Nebraska
Oprah Winfrey, Lee Daniels’ The Butler
Julia Roberts, August: Osage County
Some awards analysts have struggled to predict five nominees in this small field of competition. Blue Jasmine‘s Sally Hawkins could land a nod but Julia Roberts is a safer choice.
Best Adapted Screenplay:
John Ridley, 12 Years a Slave
Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope, Philomena
Billy Ray, Captain Phillips
Richard Linklater & Ethan Hawke & Julie Delpy, Before Midnight
Terence Winter, The Wolf of Wall Street
Not much to talk about here: almost everyone agrees on these 5.
Best Original Screenplay:
Spike Jonze, Her
Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell, American Hustle
Woody Allen, Blue Jasmine
Bob Nelson, Nebraska
Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, Inside Llewyn Davis
Each of these films has been getting high acclaim for their sharp dialogue, thoughtfully written characters, and bold originality. Gravity and Enough Said are strong contenders but there’s not much gravity to either one. Enough said.
Best Animated Feature:
The Wind Rises
Ernest & Celestine
Despicable Me 2
This normally predictable field of big-budget CGI kiddie comedies has found some surprising resistance in recent years by hand-drawn foreign fare. Expect the trend to continue here, with The Wind Rises especially likely to give the popular Frozen a run for its frontrunner status.
Best Original Score:
Steven Price, Gravity
Hans Zimmer, 12 Years a Slave
John Williams, The Book Thief
Alex Ebert, All Is Lost
Arcade Fire, Her
Steven Price and Hans Zimmer are probable predictions but Thomas Newman’s score for Saving Mr. Banks might beat out Arcade Fire, Alex Ebert, and the beloved John Williams for a spot.
Those are all my predictions for the main nominees but you can tune in tomorrow morning to hear the new Academy president Cheryl Boones Isaac announce the nominees, along with Thor star Chris Hemsworth. Expect more Oscar coverage to come!
Posted on | January 12, 2014 | Add Comments
The Golden Globes are like the Oscars’ funnier, more relaxed younger brother and they’re back for their 71st year. Tina Fey and Amy Poehler (hosting for the second time) are sure to have plenty of offensive jokes up their sleeves and there’ll probably be an hour more Red-Carpet coverage than really necessary. But how about the nominees? Who’s going to walk away with all the gold? Who’ll be snubbed? What will be the big surprise of the night? I’m here to give you my in-depth predictions on all the Film categories (probable winners are in bold). Let’s get started!
Best Motion Picture, Drama:
12 Years a Slave
Analysis: It’s basically a two way fight here: 12 Years a Slave vs Gravity. The Globes often pick the lighter film (Gravity, in this case) and are known for surprises. Still, though Slave has been criticized by some voters it has greater awards momentum. Either could win but expect 12 Years A Slave to come out on top.
Best Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy:
Inside Llewyn Davis
The Wolf of Wall Street
Analysis: Plain and simple: there’s no way American Hustle won’t win.
Best Director – Motion Picture:
Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity)
Paul Greengrass (Captain Phillips)
Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave)
Alexander Payne (Nebraska)
David O. Russell (American Hustle)
Analysis: An almost impossible category to predict. Cuaron, McQueen, and Russell are all gunning for the big prize. If 12 Years A Slave wins Best Drama voters may want to spread some Gravity love (the film is also more of a technical achievement). So, assuming it comes down to Cuaron and Russell, American Hustle will probably champion. The film has more nominations and a likely Best Comedy win can’t hurt.
Best Actress in a Motion Picture, Drama:
Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)
Sandra Bullock (Gravity)
Judi Dench (Philomena)
Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks)
Kate Winslet (Labor Day)
Analysis: Blanchett seems to be a universal favorite (though her film isn’t getting much attention) but I’m predicting a surprise that could through the category on it’s head: Sandra Bullock.
Best Actress In A Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy:
Amy Adams (American Hustle)
Julie Delpy (Before Midnight)
Greta Gerwig (Frances Ha)
Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Enough Said)
Meryl Streep (August: Osage County)
Analysis: Every awards show loves Meryl Streep but she’s won a lot and her new film isn’t getting much praise. As long as Hustle wins Best Comedy, Amy Adams is a sure thing.
Best Actor in a Motion Picture, Drama:
Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave)
Idris Elba (Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom)
Tom Hanks (Captain Phillips)
Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club)
Robert Redford (All is Lost)
Analysis: This is easily the toughest category to call. Many are predicting a surprise win for McConaughey but the Globes seem to prefer 12 Years a Slave over Dallas Buyers Club, which would position Ejiofor as winner.
Best Actor in a Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy:
Christian Bale (American Hustle)
Bruce Dern (Nebraska)
Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street)
Oscar Isaac (Inside Llewyn Davis)
Joaquin Phoenix (Her)
Analysis: If voters really love American Hustle, Christian Bale could win. But awards shows like showing respect to film legends and Bruce Dern gave the performance of a lifetime.
Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture:
Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine)
Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle)
Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave)
Julia Roberts (August: Osage County)
June Squibb (Nebraska)
Analysis: Nyong’o and Squibb have earned a lot of support for star-making turns. But the Globes loves mega-star celebrities and Lawrence certainly fits that category. It doesn’t hurt that American Hustle has support from almost every major category.
Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture:
Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips)
Daniel Brühl (Rush)
Bradley Cooper (American Hustle)
Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave)
Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)
Analysis: Jared Leto has been sweeping the critics awards for this category and many are calling him the undeniable frontrunner. Though his film doesn’t have much support outside of it’s actors, it’s safe to say Leto will win.
Best Screenplay – Motion Picture:
Spike Jonze (Her)
Bob Nelson (Nebraska)
Jeff Pope and Steve Coogan (Philomena)
John Ridley (12 Years a Slave)
Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell (American Hustle)
Analysis: Another tough one to predict. Hustle has comedy and Her has cleverness but John Ridley’s 12 Years A Slave script has the emotional power to crown a winner.
Best Animated Feature Film:
Despicable Me 2
Analysis: In a surprise move, Monsters University was left out cold (as were smaller foreign favorites that doesn’t qualify for this category). Despicable Me 2 may be the most successful nominee but Frozen has been getting an abundance of support from critics and early award groups.
Best Foreign Language Film:
Blue is the Warmest Color
The Great Beauty
The Wind Rises
Analysis: There’s many big-name foreign films here but none have attracted more acclaim or controversy than Blue Is The Warmest Color.
Best Original Score – Motion Picture:
Alex Ebert (All is Lost)
Alex Heffes (Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom)
Steven Price (Gravity)
John Williams (The Book Thief)
Hans Zimmer (12 Years a Slave)
Analysis: Hans Zimmer is one of the most respected film composers on the planet but Steven Price’s score for Gravity is eerie, pounding, and, best of all, in your face. Plus, it’s often the only noise in the film.
Best Original Song – Motion Picture:
Atlas (Hunger Games Catching Fire)
Let It Go (Frozen)
Ordinary Love (Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom)
Please Mr. Kennedy (Inside Llewyn Davis)
Sweeter Than Fiction (One Chance)
Analysis: U2′s Ordinary Love could benefit from celebrity-status and Frozen‘s Let It Go is a true musical number. Nonetheless, Please Mr. Kennedy is witty, infectious, fun, and a likely winner.
And that’s all until The Golden Globes begin tonight at 8 ET/5 PT on ABC. Don’t forget to print out your own ballots and see how many categories you predict correctly!
Posted on | January 8, 2014 | Add Comments
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty 3 1/2 Stars
This was a great year for movies, but have any films made you laugh out loud from beginning to end? Ben Stiller’s The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is one of those films. Stiller is excellent as director and actor, and the film is as bizarrely funny as it is cheerfully delightful. It’s not perfect but it’s still one of the most enjoyable films of the year.
Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller) lives his quiet life daydreaming about romance, adventure, and co-worker crush Cheryl Melhoff (Kristen Wiig). He works as a Negative Assets Manager in LIFE Magazine’s photography department. But as LIFE moves online, and prepares for it’s final issue, Walter’s job is threatened. Legendary photographer Sean O’ Connell (Sean Penn) sends in some possible cover photos for Walter to look at. Negative 25 (which Sean declares to depict “the quintessence of life”) is immediately selected for the cover. But when Walter can’t find the photo, he flees his job and flies to Iceland, to search the world for Sean. As he tussles with sharks, scales the Himalayas, and falls in love with Cheryl, Walter discovers living is a lot more thrilling than dreaming.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is a fine achievement for Ben Stiller, both as actor and director. As actor, he’s absolutely hilarious playing Walter. Stiller portrays Mitty as a hardworking daydreamer in search of excitement and gives the character soul and meaning. His performance is thoughtful and moving, and yet his deadpan delivery and quirky physical humor will make you burst out laughing. Even in the dramatic scenes, he’s wonderful. The supporting cast is solid too: Kristen Wiig, Patton Oswalt, Sean Penn (in a 5 minute role), and Adam Scott, as Walter’s obnoxious boss Ted, are all fine. But this is Stiller’s show and he’s subtly hysterical in a great role.
Stiller’s work as director, however, is even more impressive. From the gorgeous visuals to the layered script, his mark is all over the movie. He’s plenty experienced at making audiences laugh, and that’s quite evident here: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is easily one of the funniest movie of the year. But it’s not the jokes that surprise; it’s the fact that Stiller proves himself as a truly talented director. The movie is equal parts comedy, romance, and adventure and Stiller is equally adept at all three. The film is beautiful, moving, and enthralling, not least because of Stiller’s direction.
Ben Stiller’s directorial voice is eccentric, funny, and and adventurous, and his unique style often works…but not always. Stiller occasionally indulges in his comedy roots a bit too hard, as if he’s as afraid of the unknown, like Mitty. Some of the broader slapstick humor just isn’t funny and a few scenes feel weird for the sake of it (a Benjamin Button spoof, for example, is amusingly strange but has no reason being in the movie). As the film tries to wrap up, some scenes meander and drag. Though the poignant ending is perfect, Stiller takes too long getting there.
Despite its flaws, the film’s technical side is flawless. Stuart Dryburgh’s cinematography is ravishingly expansive, while the special effects are remarkably effective. The soundtrack is a soulful compilation of catchy tracks including Of Monsters and Men, Jack Johnson, and others. Best of all, the appropriation of David Bowie’s Space Oddity in a key scene is perfectly hummable. Only Greg Hayden’s editing needs a little work; the film, as previously mentioned, is overlong at 114 minutes.
Steve Conrad’s script is also terrific. It feels timeless and topical at the same time, and the characters are well developed. The story is captivating and surprising, and I found the LIFE magazine and photography story-lines engrossing. Still, plot points like these often get jumbled around. Conrad and Stiller sometimes have more food than they can chew, with all the one-liners, characters, locations, set-pieces, and product placements. Though most of this is entertaining, some scenes could’ve been expanded.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is a funny, enthralling adventure that marks the arrival of Ben Stiller as a true director. Stiller is also hilarious in the title role, leading a fantastic cast. While it sometimes drags and Stiller’s directing skills still need a bit of work, Walter Mitty is as inspiring, hilarious, and heart-warming as any other film this year. There’s no need to dream. This is one of the most entertaining films of 2013.
Posted on | January 3, 2014 | 1 Comment
3 1/2 stars
Walter Mitty, a middle-aged man, works at LIFE magazine as a negative asset manager and he daydreams…A lot. Over his 16 years at the magazine, Walter has worked on many of famous photographer Sean O’Connel’s photographs and yet Walter has never met him. The magazine’s final issue is to be released and the front cover photo by Sean supposedly reveals “the quintessence of life”. But, when Walter can’t find the photo he must travel to find it and in doing so hope to meet Sean, get the girl, and figure out what the quintessence is.
And so is the plot of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Ben Stiller’s new film which he directs and stars in. The film, which was released Christmas Day, is a serious drama, a ridiculously fun adventure, and a witty comedy. It’s tough to master these three genres in the same film, but Stiller does a fair job. This is his directorial debut and 26 years after his first film, you can see he’s taken some insight into the many directors he’s seen at work. His performance of Mitty is great and he gets the wacky/witty comedy down pat: the film is at times very goofy thanks largely to Stiller’s Mitty. He also does a good job with the drama which there is a lot of. Stiller surrounds himself with an only mediocre cast: Kristen Wiig doesn’t have much to do as Mitty’s love interest, Adam Scott misses his mark as the film’s antagonist, and Sean Penn’s brief appearance doesn’t quite live up to the anticipation of his mysterious character that builds throughout the film.
The standout here is the cinematography and score. Stuart Dryburgh’s perfectly framed shots bring to mind photographs. All of the meticulous framing goes out the window, however, when Walter starts to daydream: Dryburgh captures the out-of-this-world adventure with handheld shots that manage the same amount of spirit and meaning as the perfectly framed shots. All of the visuals are aided by Theodore Shaipro, José González, and Mark Graham’s soulful score which is aided further by a variety of artists’ other songs (David Bowie, Of Monsters & Men, and Jack Johnson).
The film isn’t perfect, but it stands out in a season of teenage adventure films, adult dramas, and terrible animated kids films. Through it’s hit-and-miss moments, it always manages to shine through with’s it’s optimistic plot and good hearted moral. If The Scret Life of Walter Mitty is one thing, it’s original and I hope that doesn’t stay secret for long.
Posted on | January 2, 2014 | 2 Comments
Nebraska 5 Stars
Nebraska, Alexander Payne’s latest, is a poignantly hilarious, deeply moving film about life, loss, love, and a million dollars. Featuring two astounding lead performances, it’s truly one of the must-sees of the year.
Bruce Dern stars as Woody Grant, an aging, former-alcoholic grouch who thinks he’s won a million dollars from a magazine sweepstakes competition. He’s so convinced, he’s ready to walk from Billings, Montana to Lincoln, Nebraska in order to claim his prize. Woody’s older son Ross (Bob Odenkirk) and wife Kate (June Squibb) are desperate to stop him from falling for this scam. But Woody’s younger son, David (Will Forte), agrees to drive him, just so he can “have his fantasy for a couple more days”. Along the way, Woody and Dave meet up with their eccentric family. They even stop at bars, walk through a graveyard, and try to steal back an old air compressor.
Nebraska feels refreshingly unlike the recent crop of longer, louder blockbusters. Director Payne does an excellent job with the film and his voice lends some quirky originality to the film that is all his own. The script, by debut screenwriter Bob Nelson, is packed with droll jokes and delicate characters. And the story is both a comedic road-trip adventure and a nuanced, complex portrait of everyday people in everyday America.
Pheron Papamichael’s cinematography also stands out, with his subtly sweeping panoramas of rural America. More noticeable is the lush black-and-white beauty. Why is the film shot in black-and-white? I don’t know but, for some reason, it adds to the small, intimate feel of the film. By the way, when was the last time a film’s cinematography stood out? There’s also a wonderful score by Mark Orton and even the length of the film is just right (at 115 minutes), thanks to Kevin Tent’s editing.
At the heart of the movie is an astoundingly good performance by Bruce Dern. As Woody, he’s mostly silent but he coneys so much visually, in a way only the best actors can. It’s a note-perfect yet beautifully understated role. Equally good is Will Forte as Dave. He’s perfect playing the Everyman trying to make his dad happy, thanks to his fine comic-timing and some surprising dramatic chops. June Squibb is just right as Woody’s wife, Kate. Squibb both hysterical and touching in a delightful scene-stealing performance. The supporting cast is also filled with top-notch character actors. Bob Odenkirk, Stacy Keach, and Angela McEwan make the most of their small but vital parts, while Tim Driscoll and Devin Ratray (real-life siblings) are laugh-out-loud funny as Dave’s obnoxious cousins.
Alexander Payne’s Nebraska is undeniably one of the best films of the year. The film is sometimes hysterically funny and sometimes pensively sorrowful, but its tale of family relationships in a lived-in America is always riveting. Bruce Dern, Will Forte, and June Squibb highlight a phenomenal cast, while the screenwriting, cinematography, editing, and music departments are nothing short of extraordinary. Nebraska had some truly interesting things to say. And it’sdefinitely worth listening to.keep looking »