So this award season has felt like it has stretched on forever, which is both wonderful (because I love award season) and awful, because I got really burnt out on trying to watch all of the movies. But in the last couple of weeks I have seen a few more of the nominees in various categories (though some of these aren’t actually nominated for Oscars but have already lost other awards but whatever.
When my dad saw the trailer for The Past, he whispered “how very French.” And if by that he meant how artistic and emotionally overwrought, then he was correct. And the premise, a man (Ali Mosaffa) travels from Iran to France to get a divorce from his wife (Berenice Bejo), who is already engaged to another man (Tahar Rahim) whose wife is in a coma, could be the plot summary of Days of Our Lives, but the performances are so wonderful that it somehow becomes relatable. I went to see this at the Landmark on a night when I needed a good cry and I got one, because basically this film examines all the ways people can be terrible to the people that they care about. But it had my favorite child actor performance of the year from the young Elyes Aguis, whose eyes are incredibly expressive.
Anyone who reads this blog knows that I love Steppenwolf, and therefore must worship at the altar of Tracy Letts, but damn he makes it hard to like people. (I’m also a big fan of all of John Wells TV shows that are set in Chicago so it made me happy that he got to direct this.)
Generally I felt like I would like the play better, but this cast was unbeatable as far as film ensembles go. And as good as Meryl Streep was, because she always is, I was actually more impressed by Julia Roberts. But that might have just been because, though I’ve always liked her, I’ve never thought of her as a strong presence before, and she exuded toughness and anger here which was a wonderful surprise. (Side note that I cannot fully explain without ruining the whole plot: Julianne Nicholson and Benedict Cumberbatch are incredibly charming.)
I really don’t care about car racing. As one character in this movie puts it ‘it’s just men driving in circles’ close to death. So I avoided this movie for a long time, because it seemed hyper masculine and car obsessed. And it is, but Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Bruhl were wonderful and Ron Howard has paced the movie really well. It zips along, and managed to actually keep me interested in a long decided Formula 1 season so that’s something. This is one of those movies that had it come out any other year would probably be a Best Picture contender because this year is so stacked. But I will say that the relationship between Bruhl (Alexandra Maria Lara) and the woman who plays his wife is truly beautiful.
I’m not sure why I was reluctant to watch this, I usually love all of the things that it stands for and huge cast movies, but something kept stopping me. After watching it, I felt like it was fine, but I didn’t regret my decision to wait. Oprah was great, and totally deserves the attention she got for this, but my only lasting impression was that David Oyelowo does a wonderful job of going from a young teenager to a middle aged man, without really relying on makeup, which was pretty cool.
Although that cast list is very impressive, I felt like this became and endless round of celebrity presidential impressions at a certain point. Leaving that aside I did like the sensitivity the screenplay had for its titular character, it’s hard to tell a story about a black man who is resistant to the Civil Rights movement, but this does a good job of telling a believable story about why that might happen. This is another one that in any other year would be up for Best Picture, but alas…
This is one of those movies, like Frances Ha, that I knew as I was watching it that I was supposed to be loving it. It’s filled with wonderfully believable human characters (particularly the late Mr. Gandolfini), and the situations felt incredibly real. But it was very hard for me to watch, maybe because of this realism, these people felt very vulnerable to me and I wanted to stop them from making their inevitable mistakes. I didn’t want to watch Julia Louis-Dreyfus break her own heart when it was so preventable. It felt like watching a good friend make a horrible decision, without the ability to even hopelessly tell her to stop.