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Brian and I closed out our day of movies with Moonrise Kingdom.  But not before cracking open some nice whiskey.  Which I certainly needed, because I really can’t stand Wes Anderson.

Anderson’s distinctive style is omnipresent From the dialogue to the set decoration to the costumes, every single second of the film I was aware I was watching a Wes Anderson film.
Anderson’s distinctive style is omnipresent – From the dialogue to the set decoration to the costumes, every single second of the film I was aware I was watching a friggin’ Wes Anderson film.  Seriously, dude, get over yourself and get out of the way of the story.
Anderson’s distinctive style is omnipresent – I’m not completely uncouth.  Anderson’s tweer-than-thou direction was occasionally effective.  I particularly liked the playful absurdity of the phone calls between Bruce Willis/Ed Norton and both Sam’s adopted father and Social Services.

At its heart, the film’s love story is rather sweet – Not that the tale of two misfit adolescents in love is anything new, but there’s something charming about the somehow both incredibly adult and childlike way the two main characters go off together.
But let’s not go overboard – Obviously, I prefer my Wes Anderson in as a constrained, small dose as possible (assuming “not at all” isn’t an option).  To me, everything after the pair was found in their tent was gratingly messy.
OK, OK, I see the point That said, thinking about the film as I’m doing this write up has made me realize Anderson’s trademark precocious kids were kinda effective here in making an “Up with kids, down with adults” argument (or, if you prefer, lamenting the increasing complexity of issues one faces as one gets older) as each of the kids seemingly had things figured out, while all of the adults had significant problems they couldn’t work out.

The film had a rather impressive cast – I believe they combine for something like 2 Oscar wins for acting and additional 4 nominations.   Plus, I have respect for whoever convinced Bruce Willis to do the film, because he really does have the chops to do more than be an action star.
Were they any good? – Honestly, the Wes Andersoness of it all was too overwhelming for me to get a sense of whether I liked the actors in any of their roles.
It could only be Jared – The actor who played Sam is Jared Gilman.  As a fellow Jared, I gotta represent.

If the movie were a sandwich, it would be: A cucumber sandwich with pastel-colored bread

I saw Rust and Bone as part of an epic movie-watching day with Brian.  I got a head start on my own, watching Mr. Baseball in the morning, and as it turns out, I probably should have stopped there.

Marion Cotillard is fantastic – She’s incredibly beautiful, obviously.  But she’s also a heck of an actress.
Except she keeps starring in terrible movies – Good lord.  I mean, this is no La Vie En Rose, but easily one of my least favorite films of the year.
But she has been part of some great movies – There’s her Christopher Nolan pair (Inception and Dark Knight Rises), Midnight in Paris, and Contagion.  And this definitely not me getting sidetracked because I can’t think of much to compliment in the movie.

 

Marion Cotillard as an underground MMA manager with two artificial legs is like the greatest thing ever No seriously.  I would watch the heck out of that movie.
Unfortunately that’s only one of the film’s dozen different subplots – None of which seem to go anywhere, really.  I just didn’t care about any of the characters or any of the stories.  Other than Marion Cotillard, underground MMA manager.
Did I mention the part where Marion Cotillard is an underground MMA manager for part of the movie? – Because that was awesome.

 

Matthias Schoenaerts wasn’t bad – I haven’t seen Bullhead, but I’m more interested now.  I mean, sure, I’d rather Tom Hardy in the role.  But I’d welcome seeing Schoenaerts in some action movies.  Maybe as one of the main henchmen?
Seriously, what movie are people seeing? – The film matched none of my expectations, based on what I had previously read.  Or maybe I was too distracted by the sheer inanity of the movie to notice anything else.
Um, Marion Cotillard is pretty? – Kinda running out of nice things to say about the movie.  I apparently have stricter classifications than most, because while I agree she gives an Oscar-worthy performance, it is clearly a supporting actress role to me.

If the movie were a sandwich, it would be: One of those deli sandwiches with like six different types of meat, except as served by a school cafeteria.

Gonna try something new here.  There’s no way I can do a proper write up of all the Oscar and Spirit movies.  Besides, I have no business doing reviews or anything resembling them.  So let’s try out some compliment sandwiches.  First up, Life of Pi.  Mmm…a pie sandwich sounds delicious.  (All pictures from the film’s official photostream)

Look at the pretties – The movie is visually stunning, there’s no denying that.  Certainly worth the extra dollar to see it in 3D.
But were they just a distraction? – I firmly believe the visuals should support the story, quickly getting bored with a beautiful film if it doesn’t go anywhere.  A few times the movie seemed to veer off and be pretty for the sake of being pretty.
No, thanks to confident directing – Ang Lee generally did a great job utilizing the film’s overwhelming strength, the pretty visuals, having them cover for underdeveloped parts of the story.  A flashy movie like this may give its director a leg up for awards consideration, but I’d say it is deserved here.

We love Irrfan Khan  The Grouches have a running joke that whenever there’s a prestige film featuring Indians, Irrfan Khan has a role (e.g. Slumdog Millionaire and The Namesake).  But that’s OK, since he’s pretty great.
The rest of the cast, maybe less so – Rafe Spall wasn’t helped out by the bland writing, but milquetoast much?  (That said, I’m still definitely looking forward to next year’s I Give It a Year.)  Suraj Sharma was put in a thankless situation, having to carry most of the movie on his own, but he just barely acquitted himself.  The comparison, in my mind, is Naomi Watts in King Kong.  There, acting against a CGI monster, Watts was constantly riveting, giving a jolt to the film that Sharma couldn’t provide.
Except for Gerard Depardieu – Who else is dying to see the prequel about the cook’s origin story?

Surprisingly, stuff actually happened – Not having read the book, I was just expecting two hours of a dude on a boat with a tiger, which, frankly, sounded pretty terrible.  I was pleasantly surprised to find the film had an actual plot.
But not that much stuff – Probably wasn’t a good sign that partway through the middle section I kept wondering when we were going to jump back to the rather trite framing device of Irrfan Khan telling his story to Rafe Spall.  I also, frankly, found everything that happened prior to the shipwreck to be more interesting than the story of survival on the boat.  Which…isn’t ideal.
Still, I was never outright bored – Considering the bulk of the movie is just a dude on a boat with a tiger, the story moved along at a generally decent pace.

If the movie were a sandwich, it would be: Something from a recently remodeled Safeway or Giant.

We haven’t done one of these for a while. I’m not entirely sure what that means. On my part, I found it really tough to narrow my list down to 5 because there are 10-15 that are clustered at the top, but nothing has truly grabbed me.

John

1. Looper
2. Headhunters
3. Hope Springs
4. The Queen of Versailles
5. Flight

Adam

1. Marvel’s The Avengers
2. The Dark Knight Rises
3. Lockout
4. 21 Jump Street
5. Total Recall

Brian

1. Lincoln
2. Argo
3. Beasts of the Southern Wild
4. 21 Jump Street
5. Marvel’s The Avengers

Jared

1. The Dark Knight Rises
2. 21 Jump Street
3. Wanderlust
4. Argo
5. Flight

(Descriptions via the Sundance press release)

Afternoon Delight / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Jill Soloway) —  In this sexy, dark comedy, a lost L.A. housewife puts her idyllic hipster life in jeopardy when she tries to rescue a stripper by taking her in as a live-in nanny. Cast: Kathryn Hahn, Juno Temple, Josh Radnor, Jane Lynch.

SPIRIT OUTLOOK: Jill Soloway’s first writing credit is for The Steve Harvey Show, so she’s awesome.  I’m a little skeptical that the Spirit Awards will find their way to a “sexy, dark comedy” from someone who wrote and produced for Dirty Sexy Money (which was a great sexy, dark comedy until it went completely off the rails).  That said, with Soloway’s background and a stellar cast (which, according to imdb, also includes Key & Peele’s Keegan Michael Key), count me in.

Ain’t Them Bodies Saints / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: David Lowery) — The tale of an outlaw who escapes from prison and sets out across the Texas hills to reunite with his wife and the daughter he has never met. Cast: Rooney Mara, Casey Affleck, Ben Foster, Nate Parker, Keith Carradine.

SPIRIT OUTLOOK: Yes.  It sounds a little maybe a little too adventure-y.

Austenland / U.S.A., United Kingdom (Director: Jerusha Hess, Screenwriters: Jerusha Hess, Shannon Hale) — Thirtysomething, single Jane is obsessed with Mr. Darcy, as played by Colin Firth in Pride and Prejudice. On a trip to an English resort, her fantasies of meeting the perfect Regency-era gentleman become more real than she ever imagined. Cast: Keri Russell, JJ Feild, Bret McKenzie, Jennifer Coolidge, Georgia King, James Callis.

SPIRIT OUTLOOK: Nope.  OK, partially because I’m just not a fan of Hess’s work.  But also because it sounds like Lost in Austen and like a parody of a romantic comedy.

C.O.G. / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Kyle Patrick Alvarez) — In the first ever film adaptation of David Sedaris’ work, a cocky young man travels to Oregon to work on an apple farm. Out of his element, he finds his lifestyle and notions being picked apart by everyone who crosses his path. Cast: Jonathan Groff, Denis O’Hare, Corey Stoll, Dean Stockwell, Casey Wilson, Troian Bellisario.

SPIRIT OUTLOOK:  A David Sedaris adaptation about a guy who goes to work on an apple farm and has his “lifestyle and notions picked apart”?  Sounds like the boring pap the Spirits would eat up.  That said, the combination of Denis O’Hare, Corey Stoll, Dean Stockwell, and Casey Wilson sounds pretty ah-mah-zing great.

Concussion / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Stacie Passon) — After a blow to the head, Abby decides she can’t do it anymore. Her life just can’t be only about the house, the kids and the wife. She needs more: she needs to be Eleanor. Cast: Robin Weigert, Maggie Siff, Johnathan Tchaikovsky, Julie Fain Lawrence, Emily Kinney, Laila Robins.

SPIRIT OUTLOOK:  Seems like it has some actressing potential.

Emanuel and the Truth About Fishes / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Francesca Gregorini) — Emanuel, a troubled girl, becomes preoccupied with her mysterious, new neighbor, who bears a striking resemblance to her dead mother. In offering to babysit her newborn, Emanuel unwittingly enters a fragile, fictional world, of which she becomes the gatekeeper. Cast: Kaya Scodelario, Jessica Biel, Alfred Molina, Frances O’Connor, Jimmi Simpson, Aneurin Barnard.

SPIRIT OUTLOOK: The description isn’t really giving us a ton to work with, is it?  Maybe it is fantastical in the way Beasts of the Southern Wild is.  It more likely sounds like the type of film that could pick up a stray supporting nom, or maybe Kaya Scodelario turns in something special.

Fruitvale / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Ryan Coogler) — The true story of Oscar, a 22-year-old Bay Area resident who crosses paths with friends, enemies, family and strangers on the last day of 2008. Cast: Michael B. Jordan, Octavia Spencer, Melonie Diaz, Ahna O’Reilly, Kevin Durand, Chad Michael Murray.

SPIRIT OUTLOOK:  I know, it is a little weird to see a Chad Michael Murray movie here.  But Michael B. Jordan is something special, and it seems more than a little likely that the Spirit nominators are fans of The Wire and Friday Night Lights.

In a World… / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Lake Bell) — An underachieving vocal coach is motivated by her father, the king of movie-trailer voice-overs, to pursue her aspirations of becoming a voiceover star. Amidst pride, sexism and family dysfunction, she sets out to change the voice of a generation. Cast: Lake Bell, Demetri Martin, Rob Corddry, Michaela Watkins, Ken Marino, Fred Melamed.

SPIRIT OUTLOOK: Chock full of funny people and with an amusing premise, sounds like a movie I’d want to see.  But no one ever went broke betting against awards love for funny movies.

Kill Your Darlings / U.S.A. (Director: John Krokidas, Screenwriters: Austin Bunn, John Krokidas) — An untold story of murder that brought together a young Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs at Columbia University in 1944, providing the spark that led to the birth of an entire generation – their Beat revolution. Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Dane DeHann, Ben Foster, Michael C. Hall, Jack Huston, Elizabeth Olsen.

SPIRIT OUTLOOK:  Just like any movie, this one has the potential to miss, but come on.  It is too easy.  I don’t get any points if this one gets award love and I won’t deduct any points if it doesn’t.

The Lifeguard / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Liz W. Garcia) — A former valedictorian quits her reporter job in New York and returns to the place she last felt happy: her childhood home in Connecticut. She gets work as a lifeguard and starts a dangerous relationship with a troubled teenager. Cast: Kristen Bell, Mamie Gummer, Martin Starr, Alex Shaffer, Amy Madigan, David Lambert.

SPIRIT OUTLOOK:  I may have come across this movie a few months ago for reasons entirely unrelated to me imdb-stalking Kristen Bell.  I’ll all for some Spirit love here, but I don’t see it happening.

May in the Summer / U.S.A., Qatar, Jordan (Director and screenwriter: Cherien Dabis) — A bride-to-be is forced to reevaluate her life when she reunites with her family in Jordan and finds herself confronted with the aftermath of her parents’ divorce. Cast: Cherien Dabis, Hiam Abbass, Bill Pullman, Alia Shawkat, Nadine Malouf, Alexander SiddigDAY ONE FILM

SPIRIT OUTLOOK: Has potential, unless it runs afoul of the mysterious eligibility requirements.

Mother of George / U.S.A. (Director: Andrew Dosunmu, Screenwriter: Darci Picoult) — A story about a woman willing to do anything and risk everything for her marriage. Cast: Isaach De Bankolé, Danai Gurira, Anthony Okungbowa, Yaya Alafia, Bukky Ajayi.

SPIRIT OUTLOOK:  Geez, could that description be any more generic?  You gotta give me a little more to go on.  Could be a sleeper pick for writing and acting.

The Spectacular Now / U.S.A. (Director: James Ponsoldt, Screenwriters: Scott Neustadter, Michael H. Weber) — Sutter is a high school senior who lives for the moment; Aimee is the introvert he attempts to “save.” As their relationship deepens, the lines between right and wrong, friendship and love, and “saving” and corrupting become inextricably blurred. Cast: Miles Teller, Shailene Woodley, Brie Larson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Kyle Chandler.

SPIRIT OUTLOOK:  I’m so torn.  Given that the film is written by the guys who did (500) Days of Summer and stars Coach, Envy Adams, and Ramona Flowers, it has the inside track on my favorite 2013 movie.  But it is directed by the guy who did Smashed, and The Perks of Being a Wallflower found its way to a Spirit Award.  Still, I’m going to say this misses.

Touchy Feely / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Lynn Shelton) — A massage therapist is unable to do her job when stricken with a mysterious and sudden aversion to bodily contact. Meanwhile, her uptight brother’s foundering dental practice receives new life when clients seek out his “healing touch.” Cast: Rosemarie DeWitt, Allison Janney, Ron Livingston, Scoot McNairy, Ellen Page, Josh Pais.

SPIRIT OUTLOOK:  I just haven’t been able to get into mumblecore.  Which probably means this will win all the awards.  Though, honestly, I’m not sure the Spirits have really jumped on the bandwagon.  Your Sister’s Sister did manage a nomination for DeWitt, I guess.  Heck of a cast, though.

Toy’s House / U.S.A. (Director: Jordan Vogt-Roberts, Screenwriter: Chris Galletta) — Three unhappy teenage boys flee to the wilderness where they build a makeshift house and live off the land as masters of their own destiny. Or at least that’s the plan. Cast: Nick Robinson, Gabriel Basso, Moises Arias, Nick Offerman, Megan Mullally, Alison Brie.

SPIRIT OUTLOOK:  Anyone mind if we skip the part about three unhappy boys and move along to the bit with Nick Offerman, Megan Mullally, and Alison Brie?  This one seems like a no to me.

Upstream Color / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Shane Carruth) — A man and woman are drawn together, entangled in the life cycle of an ageless organism. Identity becomes an illusion as they struggle to assemble the loose fragments of wrecked lives. Cast: Amy Seimetz, Shane Carruth, Andrew Sensenig, Thiago Martins.

SPIRIT OUTLOOK:  I’ve read that description half a dozen times and I still have no idea what this movie is about.  So, yeah, Spirit Awards aplenty.  Especially since Carruth’s prior effort, Primer (which sadly has not yet bubbled up to the top of my Netflix queue), pulled down four Spirit nominations.

Well, kinda.  Last year I predicted how the films picked for Sundance Dramatic Competition would fare at the Spirit Awards, based solely on the summary, cast, and crew provided.  Let’s see how I did on some of them.

Beasts of the Southern Wild

SPIRIT OUTLOOK: I have absolutely no idea what that description means, but I’m in.  And also considering naming my first-born Quvenzhane.  But sounds a little too out there for the Spirits.

GRADE:  F.  I kinda missed a little here, huh?

For Ellen

SPIRIT OUTLOOK: Has to be a favorite.  So Yong Kim has a directing credit on Spirit nominee The Exploding Girl, and Dano, Heder, Malone, and Levieva are chock full of indie cred.  Plus the description has “struggling”, “estranged”, and “custody” in it.

GRADE:  F.  Has received mixed reviews and zero traction.

Hello I Must Be Going

SPIRIT OUTLOOK: I’m smelling an Actress and/or Supporting Actress nomination.  Lynskey seems due (and deserving) and who doesn’t like Blythe Danner?  Louiso, if you don’t know, is the non-Jack Black guy from High Fidelity.  He also directed The Mark Pease Experience which was underwhelming but also about a teenager’s relationship with an adult, so that’s a creepy pattern.

GRADE:  C.  Lynskey was one of the biggest snubs this year, so I wasn’t too off the mark.

Keep the Lights On

SPIRIT OUTLOOK: Yes.  Even if they have to make up a new category, this film seems a shoo-in.  Savane already had a Spirit nomination, for Goodbye Solo.

GRADE: A+.  Good job, past Jared!

Middle Of Nowhere

SPIRIT OUTLOOK: Seems like a pretty good shot for something.

GRADE: B.  I didn’t quite call how well it would resonate, but this counts as a win.

Nobody Walks

SPIRIT OUTLOOK: Seems like it’d be silly to bet against anything Lena Dunham at this point.  Heck of a cast, by the way.  Two Grouch favorites in Thirlby and DeWitt probably means it’ll get shafted, though.

GRADE: B-.

Safety Not Guaranteed

SPIRIT OUTLOOK: Nope.  Well, I would have said that about Another Earth, but nope.  That said, I’m already in line for the movie.

GRADE: F.  Spirit Awards like this film a lot more than I did.  A lot.

Save the Date

SPIRIT OUTLOOK: Not a chance, but ladies and gentleman, your front-runner for Jared’s favorite movie of 2012.

GRADE: B-.  I guessed right with the Spirits, but I found the film to be just OK.

Smashed

SPIRIT OUTLOOK: This film sounds so good, right?  It isn’t just me?  I’m already excited.  If the film isn’t too funny, I could see it happening.  That’s a really talented cast right there.

GRADE: B.  I haven’t seen the film yet, but not being too funny doesn’t sound to be a problem.

The Surrogate

SPIRIT OUTLOOK: Is there somewhere I can put a bet on this movie winning the 2013 Spirit Awards?  I mean, come on.  This one has to be a joke, right?  I dare you to put together a more likely contender.

GRADE:  B-.  The film did pick up a few nominations, but didn’t quite make the splash I expected it to.

 

Not too shabby overall, especially considering the other Sundance selections I didn’t mention above that I correctly dismissed from Sundance consideration.  Anyone know a bookie that accepts Spirit Award bets?  If so, you can look forward to my 2014 picks coming up shortly.

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