Thursday, February 20, 2014

Entertainer Profile - Leonardo DiCaprio

It has been a while since I have done an Entertainer Profile, but judging from the amount of views they get, I need to start doing them more often. They are quite popular.  There is no one more deserving right now of one than a man who is pretty much at the top of my list when it comes to quality of movies and the pure awesomeness of his performances.  I would absolutely love to meet him one day and just pick his brain, not literally of course because that would be wrong.

He was born in Los Angeles, California in 1974 to George and Irmelin.  His father was an artist who worked on comic books and mom was a legal secretary.  He was put into the industry as a child and scored some small television roles, such as a cameo on Roseanne as a classmate of middle child Darlene Conner, which I saw recently and nearly yelled at the t.v. when I saw him.  He did a low-budget, direct-to-video film, Critters 3 and a now infamous stint on the final season of Growing Pains.  Then came This Boy's Life, being picked by Robert DeNiro himself for the role and as you can see below, the rest is history.

This Boy's Life (1993)
Whats Eating Gilbert Grape (1993) - Twenty years later and this film is still a perennial cult classic and the first of his four extremely well-deserved Academy Award nominations.  His breakout role as a mentally challenged teenager and brother to Johnny Depp's Gilbert Grape launched his film career.
The Basketball Diaries (1995)
Romeo + Juliet (1996)
Titanic (1997) -  This movie is and will always be in my Top 5 favorites of all time, even in the top 3.  I still to this day find it to be one of the best written, acted, most enjoyable cinematic experiences ever to grace any screen, any where. The movie was the number 1 box office champion in the world until Avatar in 2009 and was nominated for 14 Academy Awards and won 11.  Titanic catapulted DiCaprio into a worldwide mega-star.
The Man in the Iron Mask (1998) - This was a solid movie with an excellent cast including Jeremy Irons, Gabriel Byrne, Gerard Depardieu, and John Malkovich.
The Beach (2000)
Gangs of New York - (2002)
Catch Me If You Can (2002) - DiCaprio + Tom Hanks + Steven Spielberg = good enough for me!
The Aviator (2004) - One of his best performances.  He was mesmerizing. His second Academy Award nomination.
The Departed (2006) - Lets face it, there is not a damn thing wrong with this movie. It's Scorsese and some of the best actors in the business in a dark, engaging thriller.
Blood Diamond (2006)  - His third Academy Award nomination.
Revolutionary Road (2008) - DiCaprio reunited with his Titanic co-star Kate Winslet was what won me over.  They portrayed Frank and April Wheeler, a married couple plagued with problems while living in 1950's Connecticut.
Shutter Island (2010) - DiCaprio + Scorsese + horror movie set in the 1950's = a damn good time!!!
J. Edgar (2011)
Django Unchained (2012) - see review 1-9-13
The Great Gatsby (2013) - see review 5-9-13
The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) - see review 1-20-14

This profile is being written ten days before the 86th Annual Academy Awards where he is nominated for a very explosive performance in The Wolf of Wall Street.  I am honestly saying that he is who I am rooting for and if you do not know why, then watch the movie.  If you watched it and still do not know why, then watch it again.  As a writer who is working on another book and a movie script, I can safely say that I hope one day, one of my books or scripts for a book lands in his hands.  So Mr. DiCaprio, I don't know if you are even planning your retirement at the moment but all I ask is please wait to at least know my name before you do.

Thank you and see you at the next blog.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

12 Years A Slave

*Nominated for 9 Academy Awards including Best Picture.*

When you sit down to watch certain movies, you know in your heart of hearts that film is going to be extremely emotional and powerful, especially if you watched the trailer a few times beforehand. Then you read the shocking account in a memoir of the same name and it's then and only then, that the power and emotion is as vast and incredible as it is in 12 Years A Slave.

12 Years A Slave tells the incredible story of Solomon Northrop, a born-free black man living in Saratoga, New York.  Northrop is a respected businessman, musician, and father of two.   When Solomon travels to Washington, D.C. with two other men who have offered him a job as a fiddle player, he is kidnapped and sold into slavery.  The film does not hold back on the severity of slavery and the torture he endured. There are even moments when the camera is fixated on some of the acts of violence and some of those moments last minutes.  I thought this made the scenes even more realistic for the viewers, which can almost be difficult to watch.

The is the performance of a lifetime for Chiwetel Ejiofor (2012, Salt, American Gangster).  He is so good and I can only hope to see more of this caliber in the future, even though I am sure the movie shoot was an exhausting and even painful experience for him.  Actually, I know it was hard for him because he made you feel his pain through the screen.  I really want to say that this is one of those as you've never seen him before instances for Paul Giamatti, but looking through his list of movies (and I should have known this already), the man is most definitely a chameleon.  His role as Freeman, the man who first buys Northrup in New Orleans to sell him to wealthy plantation owners, is a short role but a very effective portrayal of a man in the slave trade business in 1841.  The expressions on his face are hardcore and almost haunting.  Michael Fassbender has made my choice for the Best Supporting Actor Academy Award a more difficult decision.  Anyone who knows me and has read my review on Prometheus knows he is definitely one of my favorites in the business right now.  At first I thought his portrayal of Edwin Epps, the second plantation owner Northrup is sold to, could rival DiCaprio's Calvin Candie, but alas, this was a different kind of badass evil.  It is almost like he is troubled by it where Candie enjoyed the hell out of it.  Either way, Fassbender's brooding intensity was splashed all over the 35mm film.

Playing Epps' wife Mary in an awesome stoically chilling performance is Sarah Paulson, who is equally amazing in one of my favorite shows on right now, American Horror Story.  Mistress Epps is a stone cold woman and Paulson's portrayal is damn near freezing. Making her big screen debut is Lupita Nyong'o, portraying Patsey, Epps' "favorite" worker on the plantation.  He showered her often with the only kind of attention his demented mind is able to give, but of course this does not sit well with the mistress of the house.  I can shower her with all kinds of adjectives praising her Academy Award nominated performance but all I am going to say is this actress now has a long, amazing career ahead of her.

The film itself is a fine, very fine American historical drama chronicling a very dark time in our country's history.  But for some people to say the movie is "too much" or "goes too far," you cannot sugar coat anything that happened then.  Also, those people apparently did not read Northrop's 1853 memoir because it does not hold any punches and neither does director Steve McQueen.  Yes, you will be in awe of the performances and the movie itself, shocked and saddened by what you are watching on screen but just remember, at least you are not in the position to write the same kind of memoir.

Thank you and see you at the next blog.