Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Beasts of the Southern Wild

**This is part of my 2013 Academy Award Best Picture nominee series.  Also nominated for Best Actress,  Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay.**


"An almost apocalyptic tale set right in our back yard, and yes, in this century. Poignant, original, heartbreaking, and worst of all, it is all really happening."

Beasts of the Southern Wild seemingly came out of nowhere this awards season.  For a few months last year, I had heard about it on news shows and saw its title pop up in articles online.  It may have been some time in December of 2012 when I finally saw the trailer.  I was still under the impression this was some National Geographic documentary taking place somewhere in Africa and then when I found out this amazing story is set less than 5 hours east of where I am sitting right now in Southeast Texas, I was stunned.  I am still stunned at the utter brilliance of how this movie is laid out.

Beasts of the Southern Wild is a movie set in the southern most part of Louisiana in an area of the bayous called the Bathtub.  It focuses on a small group of people who still call the small island home.  I know now that it was the intention of the movie makers to make us, the audience, think we were going into a NatGeo documentary about a family on another continent, but it was so subtle and so sly that I have to give them a standing ovation.  The main human character would be Hushpuppy (played by, as of now, the youngest actress ever nominated for the Best Actress Academy Award, Quvenzhane Wallis) who also narrates the story of how she, her father, and a band of Bathtubians (my own choice word) are surviving extreme poverty and flooding of their low lying area.  Her father, known as Wink, is in failing health but refuses to leave the Bathtub and tries to encourage others to stay even when a major storm is about to hit their shanty town.

During all of this plight, more extreme than most of us can only imagine sitting in our warm (or cool) comfortable homes, Hushpuppy is learning, far too early, about courage and how far the human spirit, and human imagination, can take you in this life.  Quvenzhane Wallis is way ahead of her time in actual life also.    The nine-year old Houma, Louisiana native shines in this powerful role.  Much of the cast are, in fact, Louisiana residents.  Hushpuppy's father, Wink, is portrayed in a haunting performance by Dwight Henry, who owns a bakery in New Orleans's seventh ward. Now, the movie does get a little wabbly in the middle.  It seems to not know where it wants to go. However, it does quickly get back on track and ends up leaving you speechless.  The performances are powerful, the plot is uber original, yet frightening.  When you finally see Beasts of the Southern Wild, hopefully you will see Hushpuppy and her gang as less beast and more beauty.

Thank you and see you at the next blog.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Once Upon A Time (TV series)

Once upon a time, something brilliant came to television.
Once upon a time, something smart came to television.
Once upon a time, something energetic came to television.
Once upon a time, something........fantastical came to television.

This is so audacious for a network, but lets face it, networks have to put their balls to the wall these days to compete with all the original series on the cable networks, who can do, say, and be as naked as they want.  The actors and actresses on cable can take their characters anywhere they want, be as extreme, as daring, as....well......audacious as they want.

ABC seemed to have told themselves they needed to bring something to our living rooms that was completely different, and they did.   Now in its second season, Once Upon A Time is set in the fictional town of Storybrooke, Maine where it turns out all the residents are under the curse of an evil queen.  Actually, they are all the characters from the fairy tales we all grew up reading (and from the Disney movies we watched) who, because of the curse, were transported from their world to ours.  Half of each episode takes place in present day in the town of Storybrooke and the other half shows them all as their fairy tale character in their own world.  As far as I am concerned, it is an ingenious plot oozing with originality. 

Leading this amazing ensemble is Mary Margaret Blanchard (played beautifully and innocently by Ginnifer Goodwin, Walk the Line) who is also Snow White from the fairy tale world.  There is also Prince Charming/David Nolan, The Evil Queen/Mayor Regina Mills, Rumpelstiltskin/Mr. Gold (in a, as far as I am concerned, constant award worthy performance by Robert Carlyle), Ruby/Little Red Riding Hood,and so on and so forth.  Another great aspect of the show is the constant introduction of more and more intriguing characters.  Season 2 has seen the introduction of Sleeping Beauty, Mulan, and Captain Hook (played by the dashing Colin O'Donoghue).  The special effects are also pretty impressive especially for network television.  Even though the characters come from stories we already know, the story lines are extremely fresh and original for these times of every subject known to man being portrayed on television now.  I absolutely love the originality, and everyone who reads my blogs knows I devour originality.

So, for all of you Netflixers who have been skipping over Season 1, stop and start watching now then go onto abc.com and get on board with Season 2.  Once upon a time, you will be happy you did.

Thank you and see you at the next blog.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Django Unchained

**Now nominated for the 2012 Best Picture Academy Award.**


"One of the rawest and most unhinged movies of 2012. Tarantino nailed it and gathered up a group of the best performances ever!"

Well 2012 is over and we are only a few days into 2013.  However, we are dealing with the slough of movies that come out before the end of the physical year to make the deadline for awards season.  Yes, you know all the serious, dramatic fare that comes in the fall after all the explosions from the summer have wined down.  It's those movies that make the people on the award panels salivate profusely. In the middle of all the nominations for Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook, Zero Dark Thirty, and Argo, there's Django Unchained.

"The new film by Quentin Tarantino" is raw American movie making at it's most primal, and at it's finest.  Django Unchained is set three years before the beginning of the American Civil War and almost immediately we are introduced to Dr. King Shultz (Christopher Waltz, Inglorious Bastards), a very colorful character throughout the movie who comes upon our hero Django (Jamie Foxx), a slave chained together with some other slaves on their way to a plantation.  Dr. Shulz, who is a bounty hunter, buys Django his freedom and they become partners in the bounty hunting business.  However, Django has another agenda.  He is on a journey to find his wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington), who was  taken from him and sold as a house slave to evil plantation owner Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio).

So, the paragraph above is the gist of the story and if you haven not seen it yet, that is all you need to know.  I am now going to get to the performances and the movie itself.  Django Unchained is violent and in your face bloody.  I mean, it is splattering everywhere, but lets face it, after you see it, you will realize and know that it needed to be that way.  It was a very violent time in American History.  As of the writing of this review, the Academy Award nominations come out tomorrow.  No doubt, there should be nominations for Jamie Foxx, Christopher Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Samuel L. Jackson, and Kerry Washington.  However, I have come back down to Earth and know that could not happen because I also think a few people here and there in Lincoln need to be nominated and win too.   All these people were so good, so intense, so unbelievable.  Jamie Foxx as the hero and lead character has all the emotional cues down, he needed to be hardcore and angry as hell of course but I saw, in the scenes where the anger had to turn, his face would make this gradual change, but you could see the angst when he just wanted to cry. He almost looked like a sad little boy and I thought that was better than spilling the tears.

Oh, what to say about Leo's Calvin Candie?  This movie was released Christmas Day and this character has already been billed as the, I guess you could say, most villainous villain of 2012, even beating The Dark Knight Rises Bane.  This man is nasty but if you go into the theater without knowing a thing, at first you are going to think, wow this is a real fun guy.  Lets face it people, Leonardo DiCaprio is one the greats of our time, I mean, the man is an artist and Calvin Candie is  sprayed all over the canvas like muck from a barn floor.  I had only seen Christopher Waltz in Inglorious Bastards and he was of course, phenomenal in that but I am not familiar with any of his other work.  Comparing his phenomenal Bastards performance to this one, this one is a juggernaut.  You literally have to see the character of Dr. Shulz to believe it. We all know Samuel L. Jackson and his very wide range of work, but this role just expands his range to the size of the Grand Canyon.  His role as Stephen, the head of the house slaves for Calvin Candie, is part grouchy old man, part wiseass, part sociopath.  Honestly, I don't know if he would have been my first choice to play the character but he turned out to be utter perfection.

Django Unchained is awe-inspiring original story telling by one of the great screenwriters and directors of our time.  Quentin Tarantino weaves a story so compelling and raw, yet comedic, it is very reminiscent of his other great movies like Pulp Fiction.  It is also reminiscent of the westerns from the past with Tarantino's awesome modern twists of graphic violence mixed in.  I also loved the music in the movie.  I definitely plan on buying the soundtrack.  This movie is so raw and unhinged, it could also be described as, well, unchained.

Thank you and see you at the next blog.