Posts Tagged ‘oscar’

Ezra’s Top Ten Favorite Movies Of 2013

Posted 01 Mar 2014 — by Ezra Stead
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Didn't Get, Movies I Got

By Ezra Stead

Behind the Candelabra is a delightfully decadent look at the life of Liberace, brilliantly played by Michael Douglas in one of his very best performances. Every year, I struggle with the relatively arbitrary process of ranking movies, so this year I’ve decided to do something a little different. Instead of a traditional Top Ten list, I’m grouping two thematically connected films together for each place on the list, resulting in a hopefully more interesting Top 20 list. I’ve also included a more traditional Top Ten below that, for all you “too long, didn’t read” folks. One final note before we get to the list: it should tell you a lot about my credibility as a film critic that I liked Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa more than most of the Academy Award Best Picture nominees for 2013.

10. THE WICKER MAN: FINAL CUT / JURASSIC PARK 3-D – BEST RE-RELEASES. Obviously, this category doesn’t really count, as both of these films were originally released decades ago, but I can’t deny that each of them provided one of the most enjoyable experiences I had in a movie theater in 2013. This new cut of the original 1973 classic The Wicker Man adds some nuance and more musical numbers to an already great film. Most crucially, it opens with a scene of Sergeant Howie (Edward Woodward) praying in church, emphasizing his piousness from the very start, which enriches the events to follow. Jurassic Park, on the other hand, is quite simply my favorite movie (it has the most dinosaurs in it – I rest my case), and seeing it on a big screen again, in 3-D no less, made me fall in love with it all over again.  Read More

No Country For Old Men – An Argument

By Jason A. Hill & Ezra Stead

No Country for Old Men, USA, 2007

Written and Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen

Based on the Novel No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy

No Country for Old Men is full of excitement, suspense, and action, but I got the feeling that there was something deeper going on under the surface and I was expecting some revelation at the end. [Note: “An Argument” is a new feature on Movies I Didn’t Get, in which the site’s founder and owner, Jason A. Hill, and head editor, Ezra Stead, debate the relative merits (or lack thereof) of various beloved movies on which they disagree. Please feel free to get in on the argument in the comments section below.]

No Country for Old Men - An ArgumentJASON’S ORIGINAL REVIEW: I didn’t get this movie. I wanted to, and I was fully engaged as I watched the film. However, by the “end” of this film, the only way I knew it was over was by lights in the cinema coming up, and for a film that wins Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actor, I really expected a lot more. Of course, I saw the movie before all of that.

No Country for Old Men is full of excitement, suspense, and action, but I got the feeling that there was something deeper going on under the surface and I was expecting some revelation at the end. What I got instead was that feeling you get when you’re at a big concert and the headlining band comes out on stage two hours late then leaves the stage after one song as the lead singer throws the mic down and flips off the crowd. At first, everyone thinks it’s a great gesture, but after a while they start to feel conned.  Read More

10 Sequels That Are (Arguably) Better Than The Original

Posted 27 Nov 2013 — by Ezra Stead
Category Essay, Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Ezra Stead

The Bride of Frankenstein is not only better than the original Frankenstein, but also the best of all Universal monster movies.We’re used to movie franchises being victim to diminishing returns, with the sequels to classic films generally lackluster at best (Ghostbusters II, Halloween II), and at worst, utter travesties that threaten to tarnish the legacy of the original (the Matrix sequels, The Godfather: Part III). On rare occasions, though, the second film in a trilogy or franchise (which I consider to be any series with more than three movies) actually surpasses the original in some way. Here are ten sequels that are, in some circles at least, considered better than the films that spawned them, and my thoughts on each.

10 Sequels That Are (Arguably) Better Than The Original1. THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935) – this is the one that got me thinking about the topic in the first place, and it’s also the oldest of the films discussed herein. James Whale’s follow-up to his 1931 hit, Frankenstein, ties up the loose end of Victor Frankenstein (Colin Clive) promising his monster (Boris Karloff) a bride to quell his loneliness. It also features most of the iconic images and dialogue associated with Universal Studios’ most famous monster, including Frank learning to smoke in the hut of the blind man he befriends (which was cemented in the public consciousness by Mel Brooks’ spoof of it in 1974’s Young Frankenstein). Bride’s expert blend of humor and pathos, as well as truly chilling moments such as Frank’s hollow, soulless intonation of the classic line, “I love dead,” make it not only better than the original Frankenstein, but also the best of all Universal monster movies. Read More

Six Months On A Regimen Of Woman Filmmakers – Sarah Polley

Posted 21 Jul 2012 — by contributor
Category Essay, Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Alice Shindelar

Sarah Polley has a knack for symbolism that would seem superfluous in dialogue, too on-the-nose, but which plays out beautifully in her imagesAway from Her, Canada / UK / USA, 2006

Written and Directed by Sarah Polley

Based on the Story The Bear Came Over the Mountain by Alice Munro

Take This Waltz, Canada / Spain / Japan, 2011

Written and Directed by Sarah Polley

Once in a while, an artist comes along who gives voice to your world, to your experience of life, better than you can imagine ever being capable of, and you’re left exposed. Young writer-director Sarah Polley did this to me with her second film, Take This Waltz, and then again when I subsequently saw her first film, Away from Her.

Away from Her, Polley’s faithful adaptation of Alice Munro’s short story The Bear Came Over the Mountain, follows Grant (Gordon Pinsent) as he watches Fiona (Julie Christie), to whom he’s been married since their twenties, descend into the throes of Alzheimer’s Disease. Forgotten, Grant travels through memories of their marriage as he stands by and watches his wife love a fellow patient at the nursing home, Aubrey (Michael Murphy). Like all marriages, Grant and Fiona’s wasn’t a perfect one, but the moments we spend with them in their home before she’s checked into the hospital, their quiet hours, the spark of lust between them that doesn’t need to lead to sex before they sleep, provides witness to the survival of their love – a weathered love. Amongst many other awards, Julie Christie (Darling, Dr. Zhivago) was nominated for an Oscar for her role as Fiona. She nails the role in her ability to let Fiona’s memories fall away with a grace that appears so effortless one cannot doubt the fear and pain she must feel. When you witness the maturity and insight with which this story is told, it’s next to impossible to believe that Polley was only 26 when she made it, and to top it off, it was her first feature.  Read More

Midnight In Paris – Casts A Weak Spell

Posted 01 Jul 2012 — by Ezra Stead
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Didn't Get

By Ezra Stead

Midnight in Paris, Spain / USA, 2011

Written and Directed by Woody Allen

Midnight in Paris is the epitome of a lowbrow-highbrow movie, a film that makes its audience feel smart without ever actually being challenging or unpredictable. Woody Allen’s latest love letter to his favorite European city is the epitome of a lowbrow-highbrow movie, a film that makes its audience feel smart without ever actually being challenging or unpredictable. It starts out promisingly enough, with a gorgeous montage of Paris locales courtesy of the great cinematographer Darius Khondji (The City of Lost Children, Se7en) and a whimsical, mood-setting score by Stephane Wrembel, who previously contributed music to Allen’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008). Then, over the trademark Woody Allen credits on a black screen, the talking begins, and the film’s problems along with it.  Read More

Ezra’s Top 10 Favorite Films Of 2011

Posted 01 Jul 2012 — by Ezra Stead
Category Essay, Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Ezra Stead

The Artist is a relentlessly entertaining love letter to silent film and cinema in general. Well, it’s that time once again, and as always, I didn’t get around to a lot of the films I would have liked to see – as I write this, a DVD of Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris sits on my desk, glaring at me – but there comes a time when every movie lover has to call it a year. I have somewhat arbitrarily picked today as that time, so here now are my top 10 favorite films of 2011:

 

# 10) MELANCHOLIAanyone with whom I talk movies already knows how much I love Lars von Trier, and though this is definitely not my favorite of his films (2003’s Dogville still takes that honor), it is nonetheless a striking and powerful depiction of the nature of depression, as well as a highly unusual and compelling look at what the impending apocalypse might feel like. The stunning opening and closing sequences alone make this film impossible to ignore, or to forget.  Read More

The Help – Hooray For Heroic White People!

Posted 24 Jun 2012 — by Ezra Stead
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Ezra Stead

The Help, USA / India / United Arab Emirates, 2011

Written and Directed by Tate Taylor

Based on the Book The Help by Kathryn Stockett

The Help hits all the proper notes and manipulates all the right emotions, but is ultimately rather slight and forgettable. Tate Taylor’s film version of The Help is basically 2011’s answer to The Blind Side (2009); however you felt about that movie – whether indifferent, aggressively hateful, grudgingly appreciative or tearful and inspired – is undoubtedly how you will feel about this one. Both are well-made, well-acted films that are also, at their heart, about noble white people who take a stand against the appalling racism of their friends in order to help strong, stoic, oppressed black people. In other words, like The Blind Side, The Last Samurai (2003) or Dances with Wolves (1990), it is a film about non-white people told almost exclusively from the point-of-view of white people.  Read More