1 Star

Dirty Wars (2013) Review | Jamie Daily

Dirty Wars (2013)
86th Academy Awards 2014
1/5 Stars
Nominated for 1 award.
Nominated for Best Documentary Feature (Jeremy ScahillRichard Rowley).
Watched April 18, 2014.


I am going to be honest–Dirty Wars is a hard movie to review.  I wasn’t the biggest fan.  This documentary following an investigative journalist, Jeremy Scahill, as he looks into America’s covert war tactics, is dry and boring, despite its subject matter.


The narration is probably what I had the most trouble with.  The unemotional, read off a page with little to no vocal inflection diction was the biggest distraction that this film did not need.  Its subject matter is provocative.  It should be interesting, and either revealing or infuriating, depending on which side of the Us War On Terror fence you are on opinion wise.  Instead, I just found myself being angry with the narrator and so distracted that I could not be pulled into the story.


Objectively, there are some interesting investigations in supposedly some of the most dangerous areas in the middle east.  Before Seal Team 6 became famous for taking out Osama bin Laden, they were almost completely under the radar until Scahill found them.  He speaks about US cover ups, operations gone south, and civilians who should not have been killed.


I wonder, had the narration been up to scratch, would the film be convincing?  I didn’t jump the fence, so to say, but had the narration been less distracting, I may have felt up to researching further.  Paradise Lost: Purgatory 3, for example, was incredibly convincing without further investigation, albeit about a matter I knew nothing about before hand.  A documentary like Dirty Wars needs to be absolutely groundbreaking if it wants to convince the American public, who have probably already made up their minds about the war and the military, one way or the other.


The style of the film is reminiscent of Kony 2012.  It is perhaps geared at a younger audience, but I disliked the doctored images.  Everything together felt extremely amateur and weightless.  Something that should be emotionally charged at the same time as being informative was anything but.


I am pretty unimpressed with this nomination.  If it sounds interesting to you, go for it.  Otherwise I would recommend you find something else to watch tonight.


These are my opinions of the filmmaking itself.  I am not stating anything about the subject matter, but the story telling, filmmaking, and postproduction are what I am reviewing here.


Head Over Heels (2012) Review | Jamie Daily

Head over Heels (2012)
85th Academy Awards 2013
1/5 Stars
Nominated for 1 award.
Nominated for Best Animated Short (Timothy Reckart, Fodhla Cronin O’Reilly).
Watched January 28, 2014.

Head Over Heels  is a claymationstop motion animated short that has a really cute concept.  It is about an older couple who has obviously been together for a long time–so long that they have forgotten what it means to be in love.  The symbolism for this is a little unique and extremely obvious–Walter lives on the floor and Madge lives on the ceiling.  They may share the same fridge, but that is about it.  One day, their house literally falls out of the sky and they are forced to reassess the way they have been viewing their relationship.


While the concept is cute (and solid), the execution is not.  It seems more like an exercise in animation than a success at story telling.  What could have been told in less than five minutes instead is told in eleven and we spend a long time watching the couple fight over a picture, vacuum the floor, fiddle with antennas, and take a walk outside.  It is hard to make their faces communicate their emotions, and after watching ParaNorman (another nominated film that I will be reviewing next week), the animation seems extremely lacking.


I really enjoyed the concept of this film, and it was certainly cute, but it is sad when an eleven minute short is too boring.  Unless you are studying stop motion animation and/or claymation, I would not recommend this film to you.


Speedy (1928) Review | Jamie Daily

Speedy (1928)
1st Academy Awards 1929
1/5 Stars
Nominated for 1 award.
Nominated for Best Director, Comedy (Ted Wilde).
Watched November 21, 2013.


I will be completely honest.  I have watched several silent films so far, some of which I loved, some of which I did not, but one that I feel is no longer relatable is Speedy.


The comedy is just over an hour long and full of slap-stick that Americans would normally love and respect.  The star, who at the time was a bigger crowd pleaser than Charlie Chaplin himself, is none other than Harold Lloyd.  His character is very bad at keeping down a job, partly because he is obsessed with the Yankees, but also because he is probably the most unlucky klutz of all mankind.


After losing another job, he takes his girlfriend Jane (Ann Christy) out to Coney Island where the slap-stick and ill fortune continues.  They pick up a dog along the way and ruin his new suit in the process.  The whole story climaxes at the end with Jane’s Pop Dillon (Bert Woodruff) who runs the last horse drawn trolley in the city.  As long as he runs the trolley once every twenty-four hours, he keeps his rout, but the big railroad tycoons are trying to take over and offer Pop pennies for his track.


The one thing Speedy seems to do right is recognize that Pop’s rout is worth a lot of money and he will do everything to make sure that the trolley stays running, Pop doesn’t get hurt, and the tycoons pay up.


Speedy has three distinct acts.  In the first, Speedy loses his job and takes Jane out to Coney Island anyways.  There is essentially no dialogue, only slap-stick comedy.  When it comes to films depicting complete idiots who fail at every turn, I have very little patience.  Although others find it amusing, and I could understand how this film could entertain in 1928, I grit my teeth and often leave the room because I can’t stand to watch it.  That is how I felt the entire 71 minutes of this film.  It was extremely uncomfortable.


In the second act, Speedy has a job as a cab driver.  He does everything from having an out-of-order sign on his car (unbeknownst to him), to getting several tickets, to driving the Great Bambino Babe Ruth himself to a Yankees game.  He does absolutely nothing right and loses another job in the same day that he gets it.  Yet again, I could not sit still while watching.


The third act is my favorite.  Speedy finally succeeds at something and he has a goal–protect Pop and save the trolley.  He enlists the help of some old veterans who have their game nights in the trolley and feel fiercely protective of it.  The railroad tycoons have hired some thugs to take it out of commission, but Speedy and his boys will do anything to stop them.


There were a lot of things I could do without in this film, but it did have a few highlights.  Ann Christy does a lovely job and I enjoyed her character as well as her performance.  The shots of Coney Island are exquisite and if you have the opportunity to see this portion of the film, I would recommend it simply so that you can see it.  The lights, the booths, and most especially the rides are so nostalgic and lovely.  Lloyd’s last silent film captures the heart of Coney Island perfectly.  Despite this, however, I could have done without the first two acts entirely.  I wish that the story had more of a focus and got less sidetracked while attempting to make the audience laugh.  Perhaps it is because America had come to expect this sort of comedy from Lloyd; I wouldn’t know.  I wish that they had instead beefed up the third act and made it almost the entire movie.


That being said, I am unfortunately not a fan of Speedy and don’t plan on ever watching it again.  The recommendation to see it is very hesitant, although I would love for you to see some of the Coney Island shots and perhaps Babe Ruth himself looking very uncomfortable in the back of a speeding cab.  Besides that, however, I really disliked most of the rest of the film.

The Other Side of Midnight (1977) Review | Jamie Daily

The Other Side of Midnight (1977)
50th Academy Awards 1978
1/5 Stars
Nominated for 1 award.
Nominated for Best Costume Design (Irene Sharaff).
Watch November 18, 2013.


Have any of you read those famed “romance” novels?  You’ve probably at least seen them on the shelves.  The ones with the half naked men and women in a provocative embrace?  That’s what The Other Side of Midnight is.  Full of plenty of unrequited love, nudity, sex, and passion–not to mention plots of murder–this novel based screenplay is an interesting nomination.


Noelle Page (Marie-France Pisier) is a young French girl whose piggish father tells her that her beauty and body are the only things she has to offer the world.  He essentially sells her off to a shop keeper, where Noelle is expected to do more than tend the cash register.  She escapes to Paris where penniless and possessionless, she is is rescued by a young American pilot named Larry Douglas (John Beck).  He takes her in, feeds her, beds her, and when his orders come in he tells her to buy a wedding dress and he’ll be back for her.


But he never comes back.  Noelle, still pursuing fashion as a career, soon finds herself modeling and then acting.  Knowing that men only want one thing, she takes her father’s advice and uses her body to get the roles she wants.  She rises to fame quickly and once one of the wealthiest men in the world takes an interest in her, she leaves her director beau fairly quickly for a life of luxury with the Greek Constantin Demeris (Raf Vallone).


Larry, in the meantime, has married and is finding it hard to hold down a job since in the end of the war.  Noelle discovers this and offers him a job as her personal pilot in Greece.  Not knowing she is the girl he once ditched, Larry and his wife Catherine (Susan Sarandon) move overseas.


Of course Larry will eventually find out who Noelle is.  She has loved him ever since the beginning and no money or spouse can stand in her way.


The movie is outlandishly long.  The story begins during World War II but you hardly know it.  Occasionally there are swastikas, but that’s as close to the action as we get.  This may be because Noelle is distinctly indifferent to anyone else’s suffering than her own, or it may just be an awful choice from the original author.  You decide.


Although Noelle was indeed slighted, once she begins to see herself as little more than sex, she loses all strength and is no longer a powerhouse woman.  She is presented as someone intelligent who only takes care of herself, however she comes across as easily used and lacking in a lot of things, most importantly self respect.


Catherine is everything that Noelle should have been.  She is strong, intelligent, supportive.  She has an amazing job in the city but moves to Greece to support her husband.  Although she will do anything to keep their relationship strong, I do not see this as a weakness.  She has a drinking problem but leaves it before she would leave Larry.


Larry is the most unattractive, weak, and grating character the movie can produce.  He is amazing in the beginning, but he seems to lose everything with the war, and in my opinion he never gets it back.


The  movie is too long, the ending makes the entire film pointless, and the third act is so different from the first two that I almost stopped watching entirely.  The cinematography is boring, the editing isn’t much, and the story line is far from special.  I do not recommend it.

The Master (2012) Review | Jamie Daily

The Master (2012)
85th Academy Awards 2013
1/5 Stars
Nominated for 3 awards.
Nominated for Best Actor (Joaquin Phoenix), Best Supporting Actor (Philip Seymour Hoffman), and Best Supporting Actress (Amy Adams).
Watched April 25, 2013.

Everywhere I look, the world of reviewers is raving about The Master.  Hardly anyone has anything negative to say.  To be quite honest, there have only been two films I have watched so far that have driven my writing on this blog to a complete standstill, and this is one of them.  It was all I could do to sit through the first half hour of this film, let alone the remaining 100 plus minutes.


While the acting was all well and good and those embodying their characters gave intense commitment to their character arc, the story itself was lackluster and slow moving.  The emotional depth was so one note that it was hard to keep my eyes open.  When the story attempted to get deep and perplexing, there was so little explanation and so much left to the audience to discover and decide that I lost interest immediately.  I am a big fan of films that make you think, but this film made me so uncomfortable that I had to walk away from it several times.


In the most simple of terms, the film is about a cult.  A man named Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix) returns home from World War II a broken man.  He spends his nights making and pushing his moonshine (generally made out of soap and paint thinner, among other things), and his days searching for his next job, because he can’t seem to hold down anything.  His world changes drastically when he happens upon a storybook ship adorned with lights and laughter.  He hops aboard and finds himself the new pet of The Master, Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman).


Author and thinker, Dodd leads around a gaggle of ex-wives and family as he teaches about past lives and healing faults and hurts of the past.  He argues that the earth is trillions of years old and that by healing our past wounds we can become a more perfect species.


Despite how interesting and soul searching this might sound, that’s really all there is to this film.  There are some awkward experiences and a few fists are thrown here and there, but the film really stays at a standstill and by the end there is very little growth seen in any of the characters.  Freddie maybe has the most change, but the rest are determinedly still.


While there are some winning scenes of impeccable performances, the scenes together do not combine into anything moving or resolved.  I would not recommend this film, and will likely avoid it from now on at all costs.