Gravity – pretty pictures, little else

I finally watched the much praised film “Gravity”. I didn’t go to see it in the cinema because I took one look at the trailer and thought, “nope, I’m already bored”, but a friend of mine lent it to me so, well, I had to see it to finally have an opinion of my own.

I didn’t see it in 3D but I can imagine that the cinematography will be even more impressive on the big screen. Space is pretty after all.

However, you can summarize the plot in a heartbeat: Astronauts in space, repairing stuff, when debris hits and knocks them off their space station. Weathered astronaut George Clooney saves rookie Sandra Bullock, tells her how to get back but himself floats away into infinity. Sandra Bullock starts her journey back and while she’s cutting it close, we never one doubt she will find gravity again.

Surprise, she survives^^

And while I’m not saying Bullock and Clooney aren’t great actors who can totally carry a movie on their own, I am saying that the plot left much to be desired. I wasn’t pulled into the story, I didn’t really grow emotionally attached to the characters… but what could the screenplay have done differently? There aren’t many potential plot points in space, at least without adding aliens or physically questionable maneuvers.

I haven’t researched the director’s and writer’s intention, but I guess they wanted to make a great 3D picture set in space with stars to draw the crowds. And they did manage that, very well actually. For the first time I really feel like the content has been designed in a way that 3D makes sense and isn’t just a fancy effect. 

Yet pretty pictures aren’t enough to keep me entertained. Maybe for five minutes when I’m generous but not for one and a half hours.

*

Gravity on imdb

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My incredibly biased and selective Oscar predictions

(some categories are missing since I either don’t care or haven’t seen the nominated films) 

Best picture  – Dallas Buyers Club

Close second: Captain Phillips

Why: “12 Years a Slave” was boring, “The Wolf of Wall Street” not funny and chauvinistic, “American Hustle” wasn’t as good as DBC and I haven’t seen “Her”, “Gravity”, “Nebraska” or

 

Best director – no idea. What criteria does the Academy use for this category anyway? Judging by the nominated film, I’d say “12 Years a Slave” because that topic is surely heavy on cast and crew.

Best actor – Leonardo DiCaprio, “Wolf of Wallstreet”

Close second: Matthew Mcconaughey “DBC”

Why: I haven’t seen Bruce Dern in “Nebraska”. Chiwetel Ejiofor was good but not “wow!”, and ditto with Christian Bale.

 

Best actress – Amy Adams, “American Hustle”

Close Second: Cate Blanchett – “Blue Jasmine”
Why: I haven’t seen the other actresses’ movies. Amy Adams was brilliant and according to a psychiatrist I know, Blanchett’s portrayal was psychologically accurate.

 

Best supporting actor – Jared Leto, “DBC”

Why: If you’ve seen DBC, the answer is self-evident. Every other nominee was great, but none of them were extraordinary. (Barkhad Abdi, Bradley Cooper, Jonah Hill, Michael Fassbender)

 

Best supporting actress – Jennifer Lawrence,  “American Hustle”
Why: Her performance was stellar! I only saw Lupita Nyong’o in “12 Years a Slave” and neither June Squibb, Julia Roberts, nor Sally Hawkins but I’m sure JenLaw beats all of them.

 

Best original screenplay – American Hustle

Close second: DBC

Why: I was actively thinking “Wow, what a great script” during American Hustle. Every other argument is invalid^^

 

Best adapted screenplay – Captain Phillips

Why: It’s a thrilling movie with great characterisations. Simply brilliant storytelling whereas “12 Years a Slave” was lengthy and “Wolf of Wall Street” just not my thing.

 

Best animated feature – No idea. Only saw Frozen and as a movie it didn’t excite me much.

Best music (original song) – “Let it go” from “Frozen

Why: It’s catchy, it’s profound, it has a popular tag on tumblr… I can go on!

Best cinematography – unfortunately I have seen neither of the nominated pictures… Shame on me!

Best costume design – American Hustle

Why: The costumes complemented the characters and were both hideous as well as beautiful!

 

Best film editing – Captain Phillips

Why: Because editing a thrilling movie brilliantly is hard and Christopher Rouse managed it perfectly. “12 Years a Slave”, “American Hustle” and “Dallas Buyers Club” had their moments of Cinematography Porn, but “Captain Phillips” is still better in my opinion.

 

Best makeup and hairstyling – Dallas Buyers Club

Why: Whoever managed to make Jared Leto the most sensual woman I’ve seen in years and make Matthew Mcconaughey unattractive deserves an Oscar!

 

Best visual effects – Star Trek Into Darkness

Close second: Iron Man 3

Why: Personal bias. Pure personal bias. I don’t care about the actual technical know-how.

 

Best sound mixing / Best sound editing (what’s the difference anyway?) – Captain Phillips

Why: only movie I’ve seen of the nominees

12 Years a Slave – as lengthy as the title suggests

Yes, “12 Years A Slave” is a solid movie. It deals with a dark period in American history and thus has cultural significance.

It shows without mercy how utterly bad and inhumane slavery was. It portrays the conditions slaves had to endure in graphic detail. There are a lot of moments where the cruelty made me sick.

It’s a good thing that director Steve McQueen chose to be so explicit, especially in the whipping scene at the end. It serves to remind us that this time of inequality was not even 200 years ago and colonialist issues and the aftereffects of slavery still permeate America and much of the western world to this day.

Yes, the actors did a brilliant job, especially Michael Fassbender. Playing a racist prick like his character? Not an easy challenge. So give my respect to the actors, and the director, and everyone of the cast and crew.

BUT.

But the film has lengths. A lot of things were probably drawn out for emphasis.

Yet I, personally, was rather bored when I wasn’t appalled. The reason behind it is probably that as a viewer you know that this is a Hollywood movie and this is an anti-slavery flick and thus you just know how it ends. The free man illicitly sold into slavery will be free in the end. He will be reunited with his family. He will suffer. The audience will be touched.

So why do I have qualms about openly stating “I didn’t like this movie”? I figure because there is an air of lacking political correctness about this statement. I don’t have a problem saying that I think The Wolf Of Wallstreet sucked, big time. Yet when it comes to films about slavery, I pause.

Isn’t that exactly what’s still wrong in this world? Beside the open racism and misogyny, homophobia and other kinds of hate? I’m referring to the fact that, when it comes to the oppressed, the former oppressed, the minorities, we aka Those Not Oppressed, are too worried about political correctness to actually say anything?

I’m a white European woman and sometimes I hate myself for it because apparently, white Europeans are the arseholes of history. And I believe that every person is the same, just perfect as they are and that hate/discrimination/intolerance for whatever reason is just wrong – but sometimes when I talk about people of colour, minorities, etc (things I can empathize with but never truly understand), I spend a lot of time worrying about what I say for fear of sounding racist/intolerant/too white that I might just say nothing at all.

So all right. I thought “12 Years A Slave” was utterly boring despite a lot of good aspects. I didn’t like the movie. So there.

American Hustle – best screenplay Oscar, please!

After viewing the trailer, I wasn’t really sure what to expect from American Hustle. Well, except maybe great actors.

CAST

And yes, the cast does an amazing job in this film. Christian Bale is great as always, even if the extra pounds on him are fake (at least I think so; didn’t look real in several shots).

Amy Adams just blew me away – she has a real vulnerability about her and her character is rather psychologically unstable, yet she manages to balance it perfectly with the strength Edith nevertheless possesses.

Jennifer Lawrence had fun, I’m sure. She went from one mood to the next with amazing speed and incredible smoothness. Everyone’s nominations are truly well deserved.

Too bad there’s only two actor awards for Bradley Cooper really delivered a stellar performance. And once, he had small pink hair rollers in his hair… omg, I’m still laughing!

Jeremy Renner gave me a lot of feels as Major Carmine Polito. Especially about his hair. Really? Elivis hair? It almost blemishes his looks. Almost.

Cinematography

Several interesting choices, deliberate breaks with continuity editing, some montages with music – it’s all very creative and always serves the story and characters. I might re-watch the movie for this alone!

Costumes & Make-up

I’m not fashion-savvy when it comes to the 70s and 80s but by the look of it, I’d say they nailed it. Especially the hair. It might be because I’m a 90s kid, but the hair was it’s own character in this movie. Irving had a really bad comb-over, Carmine Polito suffers from Elvis hair…

Oh, but the clothes! I have no fashion sense, really, but those dresses, wow. Where did they go? Especially Amy Adams as Edith often wears dresses with a big cleavage sans bra which I find to be a very sensual look. Can we bring that back? In the spirit of retro? Please?

Story & Script

We start somewhere in the middle and then, when Irving Rosenfeld (Bale) leaves the scene, a voice over leads us back in time to when he met Edith (Adams) and we progress back to the present. I love non-chronological narration and American Hustle did it beautifully!

We follow the characters further through intrigue and mischief, lies and deceit and it’s all very exciting though sometimes I found they were trying too hard. Wanted to turn this into a mind blow for which it lacked the necessary components. You do have a big “Ohhhh” moment at the end, but I had the impression they wanted to turn it into something epic. That might just be me, but still, it bugged me.

This did affect the characters as well – they’re all broken and/or a tad insane yet at some points I felt like they were overemphasizing it. Like putting up a big neon arrow pointing at Edith (or Cooper’s character Richie, or Bale’s) that reads “S/HE HAS ISSUES”.

Other than that, the script was brilliant. Real, life-like conversations, every character has their own language and I often thought to myself “Wow, I’d love to be able to write like that.”

Summary

So yes. It’s a great movie that sometimes tries to hard. I doubt it’s enough for best picture, but if Amy Adams or Jennifer Lawrence doesn’t win as best actress, I don’t know what the world is coming to.

And please, dear Academy, please: Give eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell the Oscar for best original screenplay. They deserve it!

*

American Hustle

D: David O. Russel

Cast: Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Renner, Amy Adams, Jennifer Lawrence (and Robert deNiro – hi!)

Captain Phillips – thrilling to the end (review)

Just like every year, I resolve – sometime in January – to watch all the movies nominated for best picture. Of course I fail every time.

I did watch Captain Phillips, though. For one, Tom Hanks is always worth watching and for another, the trailer really enticed me.

And oh boy, let me tell you, the trailer keeps its promise!

(the following review contains a few spoilers but nothing major)

We follow Captain Rich Phillips and his crew as they take cargo to Africa and pass past Somalia. They are moving through international waters, yet there is a risk of contact with pirates.

When two dots appear on the sonar (is it sonar? the round thingy showing positions of ships… I know why I’m not on ships more often…) the Captain immediately knows – Pirates. They manage to outrun them (and rather cleverly, I dare say) but Muse, Captain of the second smaller boat, is set on returning and finishing his mission.

He and his three man crew attempt to take over the ship and while the Captain and his crew do everything they can think of to resolve the situation as quickly and peacefully as possible, the pirates are fickle and thus unpredictable. They want money and won’t stop until they have it, ensuring a thrilling ride that kept me on the edge of my seat, biting my nails and pulling my hair.

I have to compliment the writer on his portrayal of the pirates. Billy Ray didn’t only show their criminal nature, he also showed WHY they are doing what they are doing. For when big ships come and exploit international waters, leaving no fish for Somali fishermen, thus threatening their existence, how can anyone not partly understand their anger and why they opt to highjack ships instead?

Barkhad Abdi, who played Muse, the pirate Captain, delivered a solid performance and Tom Hanks… He just blew me away in the end as his character was in shock, dealing with the fallout of the pirate incident.

Barkhad Abdi might not be my favourite for the Supporting Role Oscar (because how can he be after Jared Leto’s performance in Dallas Buyers Club), but “Captain Phillips” is definitely a contender for best picture.

Slightly superficial side note: 

OMG the Navy Seals. Hot men in uniform. Hot, very competent men in uniform. They even get to change in one (too brief) shot and oh yes, they can save me any day.

On a more serious note, if Navy Seals are anywhere near as competent as in this film, I bow my head to them!

*

Captain Phillips

D: Paul Greengrass

Cast: Tom Hanks, Barkhad Abdi

Nominated for Best Picture, Best Actor in a Supporting Role, Best Film Editing, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Editing, Best Adapted Screenplay