Sunday, January 19, 2014
"I'm sorry... I know that means little at this point, but I am. I tried, I think you would all agree that I tried. To be true, to be strong, to be kind, to love, to be right. But I wasn't. And I know you knew this. In each of your ways. And I am sorry. All is lost here..." - Our Man
And so begins the story of an unnamed man and his battle against nature. All Is Lost is a harrowing look at eight days in the life of a sailor and all the measures he takes to ensure his survival. Waking up from a nap to find his boat has been struck by a wayward shipping container, Our Man quickly finds himself on the offensive against Mother Nature leading to some of the most intense 100 minutes of 2013.
Robert Redford gives one of the best performances of his long and storied career here, holding your attention with nothing but his presence. This is an actor at the top of his game, given a relatively dialogue free screenplay and commanding the screen through sheer talent. You truly feel for Our Man as one terrible situation after another comes his way; from the wayward shipping container that begins his plight to horrific storms and a malfunctioning radio, Redford is constantly overcoming one horrible situation after another.
J.C. Chandor's work behind the camera is astounding. Directing from his own screenplay, which was only about 30 pages long, Chandor impresses at every point. Though barely any words are spoken throughout the film, it's never boring which is a true credit to his talent as a filmmaker. All Is Lost is only his second film and judging from that we'll be able to enjoy his work for many years to come.
Described by some as Gravity on a boat, All Is Lost is far more effective than Alfonso Cuarón's film mostly because it's more relatable. Very few, if any of us will ever become astronauts but being stranded in the middle of nowhere here on earth is all too real and all too possible. Gravity was a very good film, All Is Lost is a great film, Chandor does more with so much less and the journey is all the more effective for it.
A great story of survival with one of the single best performances of 2013, All Is Lost is a phenomenal experience.
Saturday, January 11, 2014
"The past is just a story we tell ourselves." - Samantha
It was only a matter of time before Her came to be. Go to any public place; a bar, coffee shop, park or even the mall, and you will see a multitude of people staring down at their smartphones. Her asks the question of what happens when our smartphones become intelligent beings who can actually listen to us, give advice and yes, fall in love.
Spike Jonze's Her tells the story of Theodore, played masterfully by Joaquin Phoenix, a writer in the midst of a nasty divorce with Rooney Mara, who on a whim decides to switch to a new Operating System with artificial intelligence. This OS, which he names Samantha is played by Scarlett Johansson in one of the best voice acting performances I've ever heard. Theodore and Samantha make up one of the best film couples in cinematic history which is quite the feat since she isn't ever on screen. This relationship is at once outlandish but terribly believable, there's a real weight to their trials and tribulations that are on display here.
Jonze's vision of a near future Los Angeles is a sight to behold. There are no flying cars or jet packs, this is the future as any rational person would see it. From the clothes to the technology to the architecture on display, Jonze creates a world that is both science fiction and probable fact.
This is a film that will make you look back on every failed relationship you've ever been a part of and perhaps even question your current one as well. People do change, we are not constant images. We evolve in our relationships and in life and that's what Jonze shows with brutal accuracy. Her will be dismissed by many as frivolous and hard to understand but I was floored once the credits rolled. This movie turned me into an emotional wreck like few other have in the past.
Her is one of the best films of 2013 and one of the best romances you'll ever witness. A film that makes you question yourself almost as much as you question the film. I have a feeling that we are heading in the direction that Her presents and it will be an interesting and ultimately heartbreaking time to be alive.
Friday, January 10, 2014
The Coen Brothers have always populated their worlds with awkward people doing awkward things, five minutes into Inside Llewyn Davis our lead is carrying a tabby cat through the streets of New York. So clearly they haven't lost their knack for the awkward.
The tale of a down on his luck folk singer "living" in 1961 Greenwich Village, Llewyn Davis is a man who doesn't seem awful by choice but by his circumstances. The perennial "guy on the couch" at various apartments throughout the city, Davis just can't seem to keep his mouth shut, which is bad since he only seems to spit venom at everyone trying to help him. There are times you're actively rooting for him to just be quiet so maybe something good will come his way but that's not who Llewyn is and this is a Coen Brothers film.
Film critic West Anthony once described the Coen's Fargo as "bad things happening to people at all times," and that's an apt description for this as well. Llewyn Davis just can't seem to catch a break no matter how much he tries. The sad thing is that he's actually a very talented singer with some good material, and I hate to go back to it but this is a Coen film, so that isn't going to get him anywhere.
The cast that's been assembled here is supremely talented and I was constantly impressed with the performances, every character no matter how small seems fleshed out even if they only get a few minutes of screen time. Oscar Issac is a revelation as the lead, bringing a believable sense of defeat and a fantastic singing voice. Carey Mulligan plays a woman scorned with crisp take-downs aimed at Davis. John Goodman on the other hand plays a cantankerous jazz pianist who always has something to say, very little of it nice, but he brings some great comedic levity to the shit-storm that is Davis's life. Also as usual, Justin Timberlake gives a solid performance as one of Davis's friends with a heart of gold.
Inside Llewyn Davis may not be a perfect representation of the early folk scene in New York but it's definitely the Coen's perfect representation. Solid performances, great music and never ending circle of terrible situations, this is the Coen Brothers doing what they do best.