Tag Archives: Jennifer Garner


Ah yes, its that time of the year again, ladies and gentlemen. It’s Oscar time, where forgettable movies to get gold statues, while great movies get ignored.

Calm down, calm down, I’m just kidding. Except not really. People know that I’m openly critical about the Oscars for a number of reasons, mostly because the movies that were nominated were given those nominations by bloviating pundits and not genuine movie lovers. Don’t agree with me? Look at the following movies that weren’t even nominated for best picture: Rush. Harry Potter. The Dark Knight. Pan’s Labyrinth. Black Hawk Down. Fight Club. 2001: A Space Odyssey. Rear Window. Psycho. The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly. 

Don’t get me wrong: I enjoy the majority of the motion pictures that are nominated at the Oscars, and I usually agree with their picks of who wins best picture. I absolutely love The Lord of The Rings trilogy, I love Rocky, The Godfather, Slumdog Millionaire, Titanic, and I uphold that Schindler’s List is the best academy-award winner for best picture of all time. Just because those movies deserved it, however, doesn’t mean those other movies don’t deserve mention, and I find it absolutely despicable that the academy snubs pictures that have made a large impact on society. I mean, everyone’s heard of Oliver! before, right? RIGHT?!

Okay, rant over.  This year is a very interesting awards race, with Gravity, American Hustle, and 12 Years A Slave the frontrunners for the best picture race, not to mention all of the other awards in the ceremony. I’ve already written my top ten list of the year, so I won’t bother you with the details of which I think is better. Let’s begin the predictions.

BEST PICTURE: Since Sundance of last year, 12 Years A Slave has been recieving the most steadfast buzz that lasted all throughout the year into this ceremony. While I agree that Gravity is a great frontrunner, I don’t think that consensus is going to change. Plus, look at the academy’s track record. Based off of previous data, the academy loves to give the best picture Oscar to movies based on real events and that statistically grossed less than 100 million. Not only is 12 Years based on the true story of Solomon Northrup, but it also grossed 96 million dollars. I’m sticking to my gut here. 12 Years A Slave is winning best picture. 

BEST DIRECTOR: Everyone seems convinced that Alfonso Cuaron will win the academy award for best direction with Gravity, and that especially seems the case since he won the DGA award as well. I’m not convinced, however, that he’s the most fit for this award. Gravity, of course, was science-fiction perfection, accurately capturing the physics and dangers of space so perfectly that it could have been filmed in space for all we know. Equally as difficult, however, is capturing the cruelty of the slave era in a relentless, gritty, unhinging fashion, and director Steve McQueen did that masterfully all while maintaing his decorum. I won’t be mad if Cuaron wins and McQueen loses, and to be honest, both are very deserving in this award. All I’m saying is that if Cuaron wins, it will be the equivalent of Steven Spielberg losing for Schindler’s List to Andrew Davis’ The Fugitive.

BEST ACTOR: The battle has been in between actors Matthew McConaughey and Chiwetel Ejiofor, both nominated for their roles in Dallas Buyers Club and 12 Years A Slave.I’m going with McConaughey for three reasons. 1) Since his win at the Golden Globes, he’s had a steady winning streak in many award ceremonies, including the SAG Awards. 2) His performance was stunning, sinking into this role of an aggressive party-hard cowboy turned health advocate, and 3) He’s Matthew freakin’ McConaughey. Do I really need to give a further argument?

BEST ACTRESS: Again, this battle is between Sandra Bullock for Gravity and Cate Blanchett for Blue Jasmine. There are two reasons why Bullock won’t win this year: 1) She won the academy award for best actress a few years ago for her performance in The Blind Side, and 2) I’ve never seen a best actress win for a science-fiction film in any year. So Cate Blanchett is the assumed winner. 

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: I want every single molecule and fiber of my being to give the award to Michael Fassbender as a hateful slave driver in 12 Years A Slave. His performance was cruel, relentless and teeth-grinding all at once, and was so despicable as a villain that he surpassed Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance in Django Unchained. He won’t win it. The dominant opinion has been swayed towards Jared Leto in his transformative performance as a transgender AIDS victim in Dallas Buyers Club. While I commend his bravery and his ability to slip so effectively into this role, it doesn’t change the fact that his performance didn’t shake me as much as Fassbender’s did. Fassbender played the more striking character: he’s the one that’s more deserving in the award.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: This is the only acting category where a consensus is generally already made. Besides Ejiofor, Lupita Nyongo stood out both as a character, as an actress, and as a spiritually broken slave who lost all hope at life and at happiness in 12 Years A Slave. Her performance truly broke my heart, and she deserves no less than the academy award for best supporting actress. 

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: This battle is between writer-director David O’Russell and Spike Jonze, both responsible for their respective films American Hustle and HerBecause it takes a lot more ambition to write about a middle-aged man falling in love with a computer than it does to write a historically based crime-comedy-drama, my best is on Spike Jonze’s Her. Just because its a smarter story, however, doesn’t necessarily mean that it is a better one.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: If 12 Years A Slave is going to have any chance in the best picture race, it needs more of a push than best supporting actress. It’s going to get that extra push in this category. Not only is it among the year’s best, but it is one of the most spellbinding stories of the year, only barely straying from the original text that Solomon Northup wrote all those years ago. Not only will John Ridley win for 12 Years A Slave: he deserves it. 

BEST ANIMATED FILM: I’m one of the relative few that did not enjoy Disney’s newest feature Frozen, a story based on the “Snow Queen” fairy tale about two sisters trying to save each other in a crumbling kingdom. While the characters were fun and energetic, they were equally annoying and ditzy, especially whenever the stupid trolls were on the screen. While I’m less enthusiastic about it, however, it obviously hasn’t disappointed its mainstream audience, garnering a 90% on rotten tomatoes and a rare A+ on cinema score. There’s no question on who’s winning this: Frozen will win the best animated feature award.

BEST ORIGINAL SONG: I’ll give Frozen this: it had wonderful music. It deserves no less, then, to win the academy award for best song for their brilliant track titled “Let it go.”

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE: A few years ago, The Social Network won best original score for its energetic beats and its fluid synthesized sounds. For these reasons will Steven Price not only win the Oscar for Gravity, but deserve it because his music added tension, edginess and paranoia to Gravity’s already heart-pounding premise. 

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: Emmanuel Lubewski lost years ago with The Tree Of Life against Robert Richardson for Hugo. The Academy will make that up to him this year for giving him the academy award for best cinematography for Gravity, although I’m still sad that Roger Deakins is getting left behind for Prisoners. 

BEST FILM EDITING: Let me say something here: great visual effects doesn’t make for great editing. Likewise, a masterful editor knows not only when to cut away from a shot, but also on how long to stay on one as well. Although Joe Walker is more that deserving to win for capturing the tragic essence of 12 Years A Slave, I believe it will go to Alfonso Cuaron and Mark Sanger for Gravity due to its technical achievements. 

BEST SOUND EDITING: “In space, no one can hear you scream?” Yeah right. I heard a mother in mourning screaming in space for 120 minutes and I was absolutely petrified.There’s no question on which movie this award deserves to go to: Gravity. 

BEST SOUND MIXING: Gravity for the same reasons as above. 

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS: Gravity. End of discussion.

BEST MAKEUP: Dallas Buyers Club is going to win. If the academy dares to give the award to either Jackass: Bad Grandpa or The Lone Ranger, I’m going to invite them inside my personal port-a-potty and wait for them to realize that its the poo cocktail from Jackass 3.

BEST COSTUME DESIGN: I’ve flipped sides on this one a few times now. First I thought The Great Gatsby’s flashy and colorful costumes were going to take home the award. Then I considered American Hustle for its stylish, contemporary costumes. Now, after giving it a second look, my mind is made up: 12 Years A Slave is going to win for best costume design.
BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN: I was hesitant to name this at first, because honestly anyone can take this one home. The set pieces and designs for all of the film were spectacular in the least, ranging from the financially corrupt society that American Hustle portrayed, to the bleak, barren landscapes of 12 Years A Slave, all the way to the surreal, futuristic Stanley Kubrick-style buildings in Her. I’m ultimately going to guess that The Great Gatsby wins best production design only because it is excellent at displaying the roaring twenties as well as being the most diverse out of any other nominee. 

BEST DOCUMENTARY: This category started off controversial, leaving off one of the most critically-acclaimed documentaries Blackfish off of its list of nominees. Disregarding that, however, look at the other nominees. Out of any of the other selections, which one was talked about the most? Which one is the most controversial? Which one gave a clear, unbiased perspective of a serious issue and let the film show reality as it is?

Filmmaker Joshua Oppenheimer was praised all around for his film The Act Of Killing, a story about a former soldier revisiting his dark past and facing the truth about the lives he took long ago. It ended up taking many number one spots on many top ten lists, including Sight and Sound’s poll for best of the year. It’s no contest for me. The Act Of Killing is taking this Oscar home. 

BEST FOREIGN LANGAUGE FILM: The more I look into this category, the more I notice that The Hunt has been getting more and more buzz with moviegoers about the Oscars, and is the only nominee to be on IMDB’s top 250 films of all time (although, oddly enough, its listed for 2012 instead of 2013). Despite how praising the word of mouth has is, however, I’m convinced that it won’t win. The Great Beauty has been getting the most buzz out of any other nominee, and that buzz usually isn’t wrong. Plus, my ex-film professor loves it. That’s when you know two things: that it’s a bad movie, and that it’s going to be an Oscar-winner.

And here it is, at last, my three (least) favorite awards categories: the short films. Why do I say that? With the exception of one, I haven’t seen any of them. Nobody has seen them. Point me to one normal moviegoer who has seen any of these shorts, and I will pay him $100 to smuggle in DVD-ripped copies of them to my home theater.

Blehhhhhhh. Let’s finish this.

BEST ANIMATED SHORT FILM: The only one I’ve seen out of any of the films in any of these categories is Disney’s Get A Horse, a buoyant and clever combination of classic 1930’s Disney animation with that of today’s three-dimensional standard. I got this category right last year, but that doesn’t mean I will do it again this year.

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT FILM: Cavedigger, because it has the coolest title. 

BEST LIVE-ACTION SHORT FILM: Helium, because I can’t breathe. 

What are your predictions? Do you think Gravity is going to take the big picture home, or am I shortchanging 12 Years too much? Comment below, let me know.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go write the president of AMPAS an angry letter about why Rush wasn’t nominated for anything.

-David Dunn

Correction 2/25: On the “best production design” category, ‘American Hustle’ was inaccurately identified as being “the roaring twenties that American Hustle portrayed”. The description was intended to go towards ‘The Great Gatsby’ and has since been corrected. 

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“DAREDEVIL” Review (✫✫✫)

What is the man without fear afraid of?  

We open on a still, quiet shot, a haunting frame of a rat walking over a pool of blood dripping in front of a church.  As we pan up the window frame, with quick flashbacks cutting in and out as the music crescendos, we reach the top, helicopter spotlights shining on a wounded man in a devil costume grasping onto the holy cross.  This is easily the film’s master shot, and its influence quite possibly lasts throughout the rest of the film, even if nothing else ever comes to live up with this establishing shot.

The man we are looking at is Daredevil, and unless you read the comics, you would never have guessed that he’s blind. Growing up as a young boy in Hell’s Kitchen, Matthew Murdock (Ben Affleck) was the son of former boxer Jack “The Devil” Murdock (David Keith), nicknamed for his brutal fighting style towards his opponents. One day while skating past a construction site, Matt got in the way of a truck carrying barrels of radioactive chemicals when a bar suddenly punctures the metal, spilling the lethal chemical into young Matt’s eyes.

He lost his vision, but what he gained changed him forever. When he woke up in a hospital bed the next day, all of his senses were enhanced to superhuman levels. He could feel the fabrics of his eye bandages without even touching them. He could smell the aroma of bleach permeating off of the tiles in the hallway outside of his room. He could hear the sound of construction work, the cars beeping and the heartbeats of other human beings from miles away. But most impressively, his sense of sound gave him a “radar sense”, allowing him to form images of the people and things that he saw in front of him. He wasn’t just a boy any longer: he became a living sonar.

After witnessing the death of his father (I guess “hearing” his death if you want to get technical), Matt vows to never be afraid of the things he can’t see. To find the killer and bring him to justice. To seek justice, one way or another. To become Daredevil.

Here is a film that has an irresistible sense of style, a movie that takes us through its lavish stunts, choreography, and fight sequences and makes them exhilarating to sit through. It is really exciting, seeing these characters pulling off these crazy, mind-blowing leaps and bounds over buildings, in bars, and on rooftops as they fight each other with lightning-quick movements, attacks and reflexes. It’s even more fascinating seeing it from Daredevil’s perspective, watching bullets fly past him while he slides on railing, flips over tables, and knocks criminals out with his staff and nunchuks. Most would probably view these scenes as silly or preposterous, with characters flying from building to building as if they were in The Matrix. My response? I don’t really care. The fight scenes are choreographed and filmed in a very specific way to where its enjoyable, almost as if the laws of physics don’t matter in a movie like this. You more or less watch it for the joy of seeing the sensational effects rather than criticizing how preposterous and unrealistic it looks.

Oh yes, the action is excellent. Compared to the action, the performances are… inconsistent. Not bad, mind you, just inconsistent, and not all of it is entirely the actors fault. Affleck at least does a good job to keep us interested in between the sensational fight scenes, and even offers some very nice emotional moments where his character experiences both fear and vulnerability. Michael Clarke Duncan, most known as the pure-hearted and innocent miracle-maker in The Green Mile plays here the antonym of that role, a kingpin so foul and villanous that its shocking to see him make the transition. The highlight performance is in breakout actor Collin Ferrel as a hitman named Bullseye, and his presence on the screen is infectious. He is terrifying, his motions, speech and mannerisms forming this character who is so set on making his jobs perfect that he will kill anyone that makes him do something as simple as missing. He is mortifying, and definitely not the kind of guy you want to sit next to on a plane. The only actress I didn’t care much for in this movie was Jennifer Garner, who played a love interest of Matt’s named Elektra, but we’ll get a more into that in a bit.

For simple entertainment, the movie is acceptable. The fight scenes are great, the actors are fitting in their roles and the story advances in a form of pulpy comic book violence, the kind you expect to see when you open a Frank Miller comic and see two superhuman acrobats fighting all over the page.

The problems don’t start at the fight scenes or in its cast: they start at the hands of writer-director Mark Steven Johnson, and that’s a problem because those are two areas that should be the strongest in any film. Johnson, who directed the critically-favorable Simon Birch before this obviously has his “rookie” cap on because the film is so lopsided. It’s so freakingly inconsistent, so much so to the point where I can name an equal number of scenes that I liked side-by-side with the scenes that I disliked.

Do I really need to write out a list? The script switches from serious to silly. So does the acting. The tone can’t decide whether it wants to be dark and dreary or smirking and tongue-in-cheek. I mentioned early in this review that we were introduced with a dark, mesmerizing shot that hooked our attention to the screen. Would you take this movie just as seriously, however, if I told you that there was scene later in the movie where blind lawyer Matt Murdock was kung-fu-fighting against Elektra at a children’s park in broad daylight in public? Probably not, no.

Look, in the eyes of a critic (and I’m not talking about myself), this movie failed. The tone is off-beat, the acting is off-kilter, the scripting is inconsistent, and on that note, so are the visuals. And yet here I stand, giving this movie a marginal positive rating.  Why?  Because I liked it, that’s why. Because I sat down, looked at the movie, compared the good side-by-side with the bad, and ultimately, the good won me over.

I know that won’t be the same case for other viewers, and others are likely to hate the movie for its silliness, for its half-completed visuals, for its inconsistent scripting, filming, editing, and even acting. That’s fine. Different movies appeal to different tastes, and Daredevil won’t appeal to all of them. In the genre of superhero movies, there are many obviously superior to this one,  including the recently-released Spider-man and X-men movies.  If we are going to admit what it is worse than, however, let’s not be forget that Batman and Robin and Howard The Duck also exists. No, that last one was not a typo.

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