What a Long, Strange Trip

Interstellar

by Hope Madden

Christopher Nolan is nothing if not ambitious. He first wowed audiences with Memento, putting us in the shoes of our protagonist by telling his story backwards. Later he singlehandedly revolutionized the super hero film, then did it again, and then again. He also told the headiest tale imaginable about dreamshare technology, and pulled it off like some sort of magician. (He crafted a lovely tale about a magician somewhere in there, too.)

Well, Nolan is out to top all of that with an intergalactic drama that sees Matthew McConaughey heading into a wormhole to save the world.

In the unspecified future, the earth is seeing its last generation.  But Michael Caine (regular Nolan go-to) has concocted a plan to save humanity, and it involves sending McConaughey and a crew in search of a suitable replacement planet.

As perfunctorily SciFi as that all sounds, Nolan (scripting again with his brother Jonathan) can be trusted to spare no expense, establishing the earth’s plight realistically, outlining the likely-doomed mission with little hyperbole, and basically connecting his story to science so it never feels like Armageddon II.

Properly grounded, Nolan then sends us to the heavens.

The balls on this guy!

Wormholes, black holes, relativity, 5th dimensions, the time/space continuum – all of it handled with just enough layman’s terminology to make it palatable but not entirely understandable. It’s a trick he picked up with Inception, one of the cleverest SciFi adventures of modern cinema.

Like all galactic exercises worth their mettle, Interstellar borrows from and celebrates Kubrick, although Nolan’s film certainly never feels stale or derivative – more like the next logical step in SciFi.

The sounds and silence, the mind-bending imagery, the danger and loneliness – all of it impeccably, almost overwhelmingly captured.

It’s hard to watch the film without thinking of Alfonso Cuaron’s 2013 galactic masterpiece Gravity. One of that picture’s greatest strengths was its utter simplicity.

Nolan is not one for simplicity, and that need to complicate has a negative impact on his effort. Earthbound entanglements lose their draw in the face of the travelers’ peril, and Nolan and his terrestrial cast can’t compel attention or interest.

At home and in space, characters sometimes make unlikely yet convenient choices to further the story, which is a disappointment in a film otherwise so well crafted.

It’s also quite long and it feels long, but whatever its faults, you can credit Nolan for creating a genuine epic, and an experience filled with terrified wonder.

Verdict-3-5-Stars

Countdown: Who Wins the Oscars?

 

 

Sunday night, we invite you to join us at the Drexel Theatre, as we are once again pleased to host their annual Red Carpet Oscar Bash! You’ll have a chance to win great prizes if you can correctly pick the most winners, and on that note…here’s how we think the night will go:

Best Film

Will Win: 12 Years a Slave

American Hustle and Gravity are strong contenders, but we think voters will do the right thing and award this magnificent piece of filmmaking with its just due.

Should Win: 12 Years a Slave

Though the year offered a boon of wonderful, imaginative, powerful films, nothing quite compares to the meticulously created, absolutely visceral period piece.

 

Best Actor

Will Win: Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club

McConaughey will be rewarded for turning a career’s worth of lazy rom-com roles into two of the most impressive years in any working actor’s career.

Should Win: Chiwetel Ejiofor in 12 Years a Slave

Unfortunately, McConaughey’s achievement will be at the cost of a phenomenal talent’s most blistering and brilliant performance, and hands down the best lead turn from an actor this year.

 

Best Actress

Will Win: Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine

From her opening moments as Jasmine, the wildly talented and uniquely versatile Blanchett owned the film and the audience.

Should Win: Cate Blanchett

Amy Adams is going to have to take home an Oscar one of these days, and her turn in American Hustle certainly deserves consideration, but Blanchett took a gift of a part and created an unforgettable character.

 

Best Supporting Actor

Will Win: Jared Leto in Dallas Buyers Club

Leto brings tenderness and tragedy to the belt-buckle-and-cowboy-hat tale Dallas Buyers Club with a beautifully dimensional performance, and his win is the second surest bet this awards season.

Should Win: Michael Fassbender in 12 Years a Slave

Fassbender will be ignored again by the Academy (who failed to even notice his devastating turn in 2011’s Shame), and that’s a shame in itself because his performance in 12 Years a Slave was more explosive, fearless and honest than anything he’s done, which is saying a lot.

 

Best Supporting Actress

Hope Says

Will Win: Lupita Nyong’o in 12 Years a Slave

She won the SAG, Golden Globe, and even the coveted Central Ohio Film Critics Association award for her work. Oscar will follow.

Should Win: Lupita Nyong’o

At first glance, Nyongo’s performance as field slave Patsy seemed a tad heavy handed, but as the character’s hellish existence is slowly revealed, we realize that this performer has found a way to make the unimaginable a reality.

George Says

Will Win: Jennifer Lawrence in American Hustle

Though it wouldn’t surprise me at all if Nyong’o does win, I just have a hunch that Lawrence (who also won a Golden Globe as American Hustle was in the comedy category) will prevail.

Should Win: Jennifer Lawrence

It really is a toss up, but I give JLaw the edge for stealing the movie right out from under the the best ensemble cast of the year. “Science oven” for the win!

 

Best Director

Will Win: Alfonso Cuaron for Gravity

This is a tough call. Basically, we think the best directing and best film nods will be split between Gravity and 12 Years a Slave. Last year, Ang Lee took the honor mostly for the technical/craftsman merits of his Life of Pi. We think Cuaron will receive the same treatment for the unarguably superior Gravity.

Should Win: Steve McQueen for 12 Years a Slave

It’s McQueen’s first dance with Oscar, and though his efforts in drawing performances, staging an epic, and keeping dusty old history as visceral and present as any other film this year are magnificent, we think the voters might side with Cuaron’s technical mastery.

 

Best Original Screenplay

Will Win: American Hustle

It’s a dazzling work of writing, heartfelt and character driven, funny and touching, full of excitement and spot-on with period. Plus, David O. Russell’s never cashed in on his 5 nominations, so it’s probably time.

Should Win: Her

Spike Jonze’s uncommon voice and vision turned out the year’s loveliest and most original love story, and the sheer uniqueness of the project deserves the Oscar.

 

Best Adapted Screenplay

Will Win: 12 Years a Slave

It’s simply the strongest contender.

Should Win: 12 Years a Slave

The ability to take a text more than a century and a half old, and from it create multi-dimensional characters and achingly relevant conflict, is a talent that needs to be recognized.

 

Enjoy the Oscars!

And the 2013 COFCA Award Winners Are….

Gravity pulls in top prize at 12th annual Central Ohio Film Critics Association awards

 

(Columbus, January 2, 2014) Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity has been named Best Film in the Central Ohio Film Critics Association’s 12th annual awards, which recognize excellence in the film industry for 2013.  The film also claimed two other awards.  Cuarón was honored as Best Director.  Director of Photography Emmanuel Lubezki won for Best Cinematography.

 

Columbus-area critics recognized these screen performers: Best Actor Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave); Best Actress and Breakthrough Film Artist Adèle Exarchopolous [Blue is the Warmest Color (La vie d’Adèle)]; Best Supporting Actor James Franco (Spring Breakers); Best Supporting Actress Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle); and Actor of the Year Matthew McConaughey for his exemplary body of work in Dallas Buyers Club, Mud, and The Wolf of Wall Street.

 

Other winners include: American Hustle for Best Ensemble; The Wolf of Wall Street’s Terence Winter for Best Adapted Screenplay; Her’s Spike Jonze for Best Original Screenplay and Arcade Fire for Best Score; Best Documentary The Act of Killing; Best Foreign Language Film and Best Animated Film The Wind Rises (Kaze tachinu); and Short Term 12 as Best Overlooked Film.

 

Repeat COFCA winners include: Jennifer Lawrence (2012 Best Actress for Silver Linings Playbook); Matthrew McConaughey (2012 Actor of the Year for Bernie, Killer Joe, Magic Mike, and The Paperboy); James Franco (2010 Best Actor for 127 Hours); and Emmanuel Lubezki (2011 Best Cinematography for The Tree of Life).

 

Founded in 2002, the Central Ohio Film Critics Association is comprised of film critics based in Columbus, Ohio and the surrounding areas. Its membership consists of 20 print, radio, television, and internet critics. COFCA’s official website at www.cofca.org contains links to member reviews and past award winners.

 

Winners were announced at a private party on January 2.

 

Complete list of awards:

 

Best Film

1. Gravity

2. Her

3. American Hustle

4. Frances Ha

5. The Wolf of Wall Street

6. 12 Years a Slave

7. Inside Llewyn Davis

8. Before Midnight

9. Upstream Color

10. Nebraska

 

Best Director

-Alfonso Cuarón, Gravity

-Runner-up: Spike Jonze, Her

 

Best Actor

-Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave

-Runner-up: Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club

 

Best Actress

-Adèle Exarchopolous, Blue is the Warmest Color (La vie d’Adèle)

-Runner-up: Brie Larson, Short Term 12

 

Best Supporting Actor

-James Franco, Spring Breakers

-Runner-up: Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club

 

Best Supporting Actress

-Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle

-Runner-up: Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave

 

Best Ensemble

-American Hustle

-Runner-up: The Wolf of Wall Street

 

Actor of the Year (for an exemplary body of work)

-Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club, Mud, and The Wolf of Wall Street

-Runner-up: Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

 

Breakthrough Film Artist

-Adèle Exarchopolous, Blue is the Warmest Color (La vie d’Adèle) (for acting)

-Runner-up: Brie Larson, Don Jon, Short Term 12, and The Spectacular Now (for acting)

 

Best Cinematography

-Emmanuel Lubezki, Gravity

-Runner-up: Hoyte Van Hoytema, Her

 

Best Adapted Screenplay

-Terence Winter, The Wolf of Wall Street

-Runner-up: John Ridley, 12 Years a Slave

 

Best Original Screenplay

-Spike Jonze, Her

-Runner-up: Destin Daniel Cretton, Short Term 12

 

Best Score

-Arcade Fire, Her

-Runner-up: Steven Price, Gravity

 

Best Documentary

-The Act of Killing

-Runner-up: Stories We Tell

 

Best Foreign Language Film

-The Wind Rises (Kaze tachinu)

-Runner-up: Blue is the Warmest Color (La vie d’Adèle)

 

Best Animated Film

-The Wind Rises (Kaze tachinu)

-Runner-up: Frozen

 

Best Overlooked Film

-Short Term 12

-Runner-up: Mud

 

COFCA offers its congratulations to the winners.

 

Previous Best Film winners:

 

2002:  Punch-Drunk Love

2003:    Lost in Translation

2004:    Million Dollar Baby

2005:    A History of Violence

2006:    Children of Men

2007:  No Country for Old Men

2008:  WALL·E

2009:  Up in the Air

2010:  Inception

2011:  Drive

2012:  Moonrise Kingdom

 

For more information about the Central Ohio Film Critics Association, please visit www.cofca.org or e-mail info@cofca.org.

 

The complete list of members and their affiliations:

 

Richard Ades (Columbus Free Press); Kevin Carr (www.7mpictures.com, FilmSchoolRejects.com); Bill Clark (www.fromthebalcony.com); John DeSando (90.5 WCBE); Frank Gabrenya (The Columbus Dispatch); James Hansen (Out 1 Film Journal); Nicholas Herum (Columbus Underground; Movies Hate You Too); Brad Keefe (Columbus Alive); Kristin Dreyer Kramer (NightsAndWeekends.com, 90.5 WCBE); Joyce Long (Freelance); Rico Long (Freelance); Hope Madden (Columbus Underground and MaddWolf.com); Paul Markoff (WOCC-TV3; Otterbein TV); David Medsker (Bullz-Eye.com); Lori Pearson (Kids-in-Mind.com, critics.com); Mark Pfeiffer (Reel Times: Reflections on Cinema; WOCC-TV3; Otterbein TV); Melissa Starker (Columbus Alive, The Columbus Dispatch); George Wolf (Columbus Radio Group and MaddWolf.com); Jason Zingale (Bullz-Eye.com); Nathan Zoebl (PictureShowPundits.com).

Countdown: Best Films of 2013

10. Blue is the Warmest Color

The engrossing and immersive romantic drama may be best known for its NC-17 rating, but the beauty and heartbreak in this loose narrative make it one of the best films of 2013. Adele Exarchopoulos provides among the strongest performances onscreen this year in a love story that is as emotionally explicit as it is sexually frank.

9. Stories We Tell

Sarah Polley proves her mettle as a documentarian with a private story that becomes universal, entertaining and genuinely moving. Through a profoundly personal investigation, Polley looks at the validity of those comfortable truths that live in every family, and it’s all clever, fascinating, funny stuff. Polley has quickly become a filmmaker you cannot ignore, and it is a testament to her own storytelling skill that even as she turns her focus inward, you can’t help but look at your own world in a different way.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ytq4VZ2Nyxg

 

8. The Wolf of Wall Street

Director Martin Scorcese’s three hour showcase of unchecked hedonism is a terrifically frenzied, wickedly funny ride. Leonardo DiCaprio is electric as Jordan Belfort, the real life Wall Street wizard who made millions before the Feds brought him down for rampant securities fraud. This is no hand-wringing reflection on the wages of sin, just a swaggering, appropriately superficial and completely entertaining lesson in the American dream.

7. Nebraska

The great Alexander Payne exceeds admittedly high expectations with this gracefully restrained father/son journey. The Oscar favorite will no doubt pull in a nomination for its lead, an unforgettable Bruce Dern, but the entire ensemble – June Squibb as Dern’s spitfire of a wife, in particular – beautifully convey the spite, regret, hilarity and insanity of family. Wistful and rambunctious, the film packs a dramatic punch but still leaves you smiling.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UT5tqPojMtg

6. Gravity

Alfonso Cuaron redefines SciFi with a jaw-dropping interstellar adventure – undoubtedly this year’s most surprisingly tense action flick. He untethers a novice astronaut in outer space, and his audience with her, in the most intimate and epic journey of the year. His stunning directorial achievement reminds us of why people started making movies in the first place.

5. Her

Though it won’t hit many theaters until January, this film is too magnificent to be relegated to the category of afterthought. Spike Jonze has written and directed this year’s most poignant love story, cast it impeccably and set it just far enough into the future to let breathe. The eternally underappreciated Joaquin Phoenix breaks your heart as the lonesome lover in a world that encourages isolation, while Scarlett Johannson – in her second excellent turn this year, following Don Jon – delivers an award worthy performance with just her voice. It’s a beautiful, imaginative, relevant image of love in the modern world.

4. Inside Llewyn Davis

The Brothers Coen offer just another nearly flawless film, this time immersing us in the tribulations of a struggling musician in the 1961 Greenwich Village folk scene. Boasting a beautifully nuanced lead performance from Oscar Isaac and populated with hilarious and touching supporting turns, the film is the brothers’ most impeccably crafted character study. It’s also another great exploration of the artistic connections possible between cinema and music, reminding us again of that Coen genius.

3. The Act of Killing

Those responsible for exterminating more than a million Indonesians during the 1965 government overthrow re-enact their savagery for Joshua Oppenheimer’s camera in the most surreal and riveting documentary of this year, or perhaps any other. You simply cannot believe what you are seeing. The film is absolutely not what you expect it to be, regardless of what those expectations may be. It is essential viewing.

2. American Hustle

With a dream ensemble, wickedly sharp writing and an explosive pace, director David O. Russell gives us a con movie that explodes with heart and humor. Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper erupt while Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner anchor a very human, impossibly captivating comedy/drama.

1. 12 Years a Slave

Intimate storytelling and flawless acting come together to eliminate the distance of time and create a powerful, visceral, unforgettable cinematic and human experience. Director Steve McQueen has created a film that makes all others set during the shameful American history of slavery seem almost precious. His film is a profound and brutal experience, and an awe-inspiring feat of moviemaking. There is no close second in a list of the best films of 2013.

SciFi of Significance

by Hope Madden

The wondrous galactic epic Gravity delivers an unmatched cinematic achievement. Co-writer/director Alfonso Cuarón sets you adrift in space, and for 90 minutes he leaves you breathless at the glory of the universe, and wrung out at the drama of attempted survival.

His work will make you remember why you go to movies – to the dark auditorium with the big, big screen. It will make you remember a time when a trip to the cinema utterly dwarfed the experience of movie night at home.

To create this magnificent beast, Cuarón created tools and technology that simply did not exist prior to this film. He created what he needed to authentically craft the sense of zero gravity, utter silence, cosmic lighting – all in 3D, no less.

When it comes to the vehicle for all this gadgetry, Cuarón, along with co-writer and son Jonás, seems to understand that simplicity is his friend. He refuses to complicate the tale, and the paired down narrative allows the primal terror and exhilaration of the space adventure to take hold.

Cuarón’s camera takes us to the outer reaches, and then crawls inside the space suit, allowing us to hurl unmoored through space along with Sandra Bullock’s novice astronaut. She is a medical researcher on her first space voyage, and she is in over her head, unprepared for all that she will experience. Just like us.

A playful George Clooney tags along for camaraderie, helping Cuarón create a joyous calm before the crisis. They’re astronauts. Look how cool that is! No wonder they risk almost unimaginable peril to do it.

Though the narrative makes a misstep here and there with emotional trickery and melodrama, what errors Cuarón makes with words he more than compensates for with the overwhelming visual experience.

The action will wring you out as you curse the clumsy suits, rail against the unpredictability of gravity, strain with heroes desperate to rush in a silent calm that will not allow it. Gravity doesn’t just deliver a magnificent view of space; it also offers perhaps the most breathlessly exciting action adventure of the year.

Visually glorious does not begin to describe Cuarón’s film. More than that, Gravity is realistic – jaw droppingly so. And this is why people began making movies in the first place – to transport you someplace magical, someplace otherworldly. Few if any have succeeded in this quest quite as Cuarón has with Gravity.

 

Verdict-4-5-Stars