Year 2, Day 64
Movie #122~838: Lucky 7 (2003)
This is horrible. He’s perfect. He’s the one.
Plot: Following the advice of her deceased mother, a Seattle lawyer plans to marry her seventh boyfriend. Unfortunately, she falls for the sixth man she dates.
Review: This is a predictable, mindless, fluffy romantic comedy. But it is fun and light and enjoyable. It is obvious how the story is going to end and who Amy (Kimberly Williams-Paisley) is going to end up with but the cheesiness of it all is so delightful that the journey is worth the cliche destination. The film’s biggest strength is the chemistry between the two leads. Williams-Paisley and Patrick Dempsey are adorable, both together and separately and they are the perfect actors for these light, fun roles.
This isn’t the kind of movie that you have to think too hard about and it will put you in a better mood after watching it. It doesn’t have the cheap feel of a typical made-for-TV movie and the talented actors manage to bring the corny and sweet dialogue to life without coming off too fake. Lucky 7 is a great movie to watch during a rom-com marathon, a simple story that serves as a great break from a stressful day.
Year 2, Day 63
Movie #121~837: Lucky Girl (2001)
Luck is bullshit.
Plot: A teenage girl with a gambling problem gets in over her head with loan sharks and unpaid debts.
Review: I could have sworn this was a Lifetime movie but there were far too many ‘shit’ and ‘bullshit’ bombs for that to be. But judging by the strange looking currency and some obvious accents, I would guess this all takes place in Canada so maybe the Lifetime Network is more liberal up north.
Elisha Cuthbert is wonderful as the angsty teen gambler whose exploits quickly escalate from $20 football game bets to online gambling and underground, illegal poker games. She goes from borrowing money from friends to shoplifting and stealing from her parents. Don’t forget the requisite drug abuse and sexual assault to really drive home the message home. I do like the ending scene, however. I’m so used to these made-for-TV, ‘after school special’ type movies leaving on a positive, unrealistic note, this has a refreshingly real ending.
Lucky Girl is a moral-filled, cheesy drama that is fun to watch if you’re in the mood for a fluffy, ultimately meaningless movie. It’s like a glorified Lifetime movie with the added benefit of curse words and Canadian accents.
Year 2, Day 62
Movie #120~836: Lucky (2011)
You know how they say your life totally changes? They’re not lying.
Plot: A wannabe serial killer wins the lottery and pursues his lifelong crush.
Review: This was a wonderful concept that went awry in execution. The story of a serial killer winning the lottery and marrying the girl of his dreams (who just so happens to look a lot like his murder victims) is just ripe with dark comedic moments. And the actors tried their hardest to make the material stick but something just doesn’t click. The material was delivered in a heavy-handed manner when more subtle jokes would have better suited the plot.
I’m a big fan of Ari Graynor and her comedy style. She isn’t afraid to do the physical stuff and look stupid and I can definitely see her shining in screwball comedy type roles. And whenever she was on the screen, I felt like I was watching a screwball comedy. Unfortunately, co-star Colin Hanks (son of Tom) didn’t get the memo and played up the dark comedy aspect. That was the biggest obstacle for the film the overcome - it didn’t know which angle to play up so it played up both, not making for a very coherent story. It isn’t consistent and the tone of the film gets lost around the midpoint.
Lucky could have been a fantastic movie - the story is unique and the acting talent was there (Jeffrey Tambour was wonderful as the police detective investigating a number of local murders), but I think the director’s inexperience showed. With a finer touch and more precise writing, this would have been an hilarious, enjoyable comedy, instead of the lukewarm, average movie it turned out to be.
New month, new theme. Starting off the St. Patrick’s Day theme, I’ll be watching some movies that have to do with luck and being lucky before watching the more traditional St. Paddy’s movies.
Year 2, Day 61
Movie #119~835: And the Oscar Goes to… (2014)
Plot: An original documentary that gives a behind-the-scenes look at the Academy Awards and Oscar-winning films through the eyes of Hollywood insiders.
It’s your bar mitzvah times a million.
Review: To wrap up my 2014 award show theme, I figured this Turner Classic Movies documentary would be a wonderful prelude to the big show tonight. All in all, this was an interesting film that spanned decades of Oscar award shows, movies, and nominees but when the credits rolled, I was left wanting more. The vintage clips were great to see and I always love getting a glimpse at the backstage goings-on but I felt like too much was left out to justify this being a real quality documentary.
I understand that 86 years is a lot to cover, especially when talking about most of the major awards, hosts, famous snubs, the importance of the more technical aspects of filmmaking, and most memorable speeches. But there was a lot of repetition and it seemed like there was special treatment and coverage awarded to whichever celebrities showed up to give interviews. The film’s biggest downfall was trying to incorporate too much. I would have much preferred to see this as a mini-series, with an hour dedicated to each topic instead of the ten or so minutes that were allotted here.
I truly enjoyed the various montages of past shows and I learned more about the history of the show and the more unsavory times of the Academy’s history but this documentary could have been so much more than what it was. It’s not entirely the directors’ faults - there were probably time constraints that held them back from including more footage and interviews - but I would have liked to have seen more, maybe in a more coherent timeline or in better organized categories.
Year 2, Day 61
Movie #118~834: Philomena (2013)
I forgive you because I don’t want to remain angry.
Plot: A journalist picks up the story of a woman’s search for her son, who was taken away from her decades ago after she became pregnant and was forced to live in a convent.
Review: Like Her, I really didn’t expect this film to live up to its surrounding hype. But also like Her, I ended up loving it. There is wonderful balance between emotional drama and dry comedy and the fact that this heart-wrenching tale is based on a true story makes it that much more powerful.
Judi Dench owns her role as the Irish mother who holds an immense amount of guilt regarding her illegitimate son that was adopted against her will after she gave birth in a convent in the 1950’s. She is equal parts wise, charming Irish grandma and sympathetic, naive woman. She doesn’t have much momentum in terms of award show buzz but she is the most deserving winner in my eyes.
But as fabulous as Dench is, she is equally matched with Steve Coogan, a recently fired journalist who sees her story as a not-to-be missed human interest piece. Unlike Dench, he is cynical about religion and the world in general and has his own approach to getting information regarding Dench’s long lost son. The two have a great chemistry, with lovable barbs exchanged with an entertaining blend of sarcasm and compassion.
The direction, cinematography, and (most impressive to me) the screenplay are all top notch and it is easy to understand why Philomena has garnered four Oscar nominations (Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Writing Adapted Screenplay, and Best Original Score). I would not hesitate to give the award to Dench for acting and Coogen for writing. The film is touching and poignant and doesn’t take the easy melodramatic route to get there. Easily one of my favorites of the award season, although I don’t know how well it will stand up against its tough competition.
Year 2, Day 61
Movie #117~833: Her (2013)
Sometimes I think I have felt everything I’m ever gonna feel. And from here on out, I’m not gonna feel anything new. Just lesser versions of what I’ve already felt.
Plot: A lonely writer develops an unlikely relationship with his newly purchased operating system that’s designed to meet his every need.
Review: This is an engaging film that is entertaining and deep and surprisingly relateable. I wasn’t really expecting to enjoy this movie that much - I’m not a huge Joaquin Phoenix fan and I didn’t know how believable the premise was. But by the end, I got what all the hype was about.
The screenplay is nothing short of genius, a wonderful commentary on human interactions, communication, and the impact of technology on society. The story is compelling and between the natural dialogue and authentic acting performances, there isn’t one aspect of this film that I didn’t enjoy (yes, even Amy Adams).
Even though all of actors do a fantastic job, the main character of Theodore (Phoenix) is the biggest draw. He is lonely and desperate to reconnect with his ex-wife but he never veers into the typical cliche traps. He is simply an isolated man, able to remain so because he lives in a society where technology is more accessible than actual human contact. This raises the question of whether computers can take the place of actual humans when it comes to love and relationships and fulfilling the basic human needs of intimacy.
Her is a thought provoking film that also delivers in terms of entertainment value. In recent years, the topic of lack of human interactions in favor of phones and computers has often been discussed and I believe the world that exists within this film is certainly within the realm of possibility. Everyone will have their own opinion of the relationship between Theodore and his operating system (voiced by Scarlett Johansson) and that is the beauty of this film. It will stick with you long after you watch it and is certain to bring about a lot of discussion.
Year 2, Day 60
Movie #116~832: Nebraska (2013)
I never knew the son of a bitch even wanted to be a millionaire. He should have thought about that years ago and worked for it.
Plot: An aging, booze-addled father makes the trip from Montana to Nebraska with his estranged son in order to claim a million-dollar Mega Sweepstakes Marketing prize.
Review: There is an undeniable feeling of melancholy throughout this whole film. Even when there are hints of nostalgia, which would be otherwise uplifting, the mood is consistently dull and foggy. I’m not sure if the choice to utilize black and white cinematography was to amplify this tone but it certainly helped. There are some funny moments sprinkled in but for the most part, Nebraska is a slow moving, character driven drama. The audience easily gets immersed in the action and sucked into the characters’ lives.
Will Forte is really hitting his stride with the more dramatic roles, playing the reserved son of Bruce Dern, a man who is convinced he won a million dollar prize. He escorts his father to collect his prize even though he knows there is nothing waiting for them. Along the way, they get sidelined and end up staying with relatives in the small, dusty farm town where Dern grew up. They are eventually joined by his mother (played by the effervescent, award-worthy June Squibb) and older brother (Bob Odenkirk), who each have their own strong opinions on the lottery situation.
Nebraska is a slow burner and really is so impactful because it is so simple. In visiting his father’s hometown and reconnecting with relatives, Forte gets the opportunity to learn more about his father and better understand why he is like he is. Everyone seems so unhappy and snippy with each other but there is an undeniable family bond between them and you look at Dern’s character in a different light as you learn more and more about his past.
In terms of awards, I think this understated film will get lost in the shuffle of the bigger blockbusters. However, each of its six nominations (Best Picture, Actor, Supporting Actress, Director, Cinematography, and Writing) are certainly deserved and I would love to see an upset regarding June Squibb winning over the younger nominees.
Year 2, Day 60
Movie #115~831: 25th Hour (2002)
What do we say to him? ~ We say nothing. The guy’s going to hell for seven years. What are going do, wish him luck?
Plot: Convicted New York drug dealer Montgomery Brogan reevaluates his life in the 24 remaining hours before facing a seven-year jail term.
Review: This is a very angry movie that manages to be both a love letter to and a scathing review of New York City. Edward Norton’s tirade, in which he insults practically every racial, ethnic, and religious group in each of the five boroughs, is both intriguing and uncomfortable to watch. And it is thanks to both Spike Lee’s competent directing and the wonderful acting of the majority of the star studded cast (not you, Anna Paquin) that this film is so successful getting its message across.
Edward Norton is fantastic as always as the drug dealer who is making his rounds to say good-bye to all his friends and family members the day before he is sent to prison for seven years. He is equal parts aggressive and vulnerable and has great chemistry with every other actor he comes in contact with. Barry Pepper and the late, great Phillip Seymour Hoffman play two of his friends and as a Wall Street sleazeball and a teacher with a trust fund, respectively, the two men couldn’t be more different. But the scenes between them are some of the most enjoyable of the film. And while Rosario Dawson isn’t given as much to do in terms of heavy emotional lifting, she looks great and is believable as Norton’s young girlfriend, who he suspects turned him into the police.
25th Hour really is a story about survival. There are several allusions to the September 11 attacks and the ending scene between Norton and his father (Brian Cox) is both moving and haunting. You can’t help but imagine what your attitude would be the day before you head off to a maximum security prison for the better part of a decade - Lee captures the mood perfectly. This isn’t a perfect film but it is one that will resonate with most who view it.