85th Academy Awards (2013)

Death of a Shadow (2012) Review | Jamie Daily

Death of a Shadow (Dood Van Een Schaduw) (2012)
85th Academy Awards 2013
4/5 Stars
Nominated for 1 award.
Nominated for Best Live Action Short Film (Tom Van Avermaet, Ellen De Waele).

“Death of a Shadow” is an interesting little short that escapes both time and reality.  A deceased World War I soldier, Nathan Rijckx (Matthias Schoenaerts) works for a man, stuck in a limbo between life and death, and photographs the dying to be displayed in a gallery of shadows.  He works to have a second chance at life and is motivated by a woman he met the day he was killed.   Sarah Winters (Laura Verlinden) tried to save his life.

He hates his work, but he is so close to completing it he can hardly stand it.  He peruses his options and tries to find the least repulsive death to photograph, while still trying to satisfy his employer’s taste in art and composition.  His last picture, however, proves to be very difficult and he must make a decision between his own happiness and that of the woman he is smitten with.

The film is both a period piece and something outside of reality.  It is creative and well shot, although it is a lot of story to put into a short.  The production value of the short is really astounding.  It is very artistic and emotional, however they didn’t completely match the communication of that emotion with the production design.  That is a small complaint, however, for such a well made short.

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Henry (2012) Review | Jamie Daily

Henry (2012)
85th Academy Awards 2012
5/5 Stars
Nominated for 1 award.
Nominated for Best Live Action Short Film (Yan England).
Watched September 8, 2014.

“Henry” is an excellent short, but not for the faint at heart.  A French-Canadian addition to the short film category, the dramatic, slightly melodramatic piece explores the effects of alzheimers from the perspective of the sick.

My Grandmother had alzheimers.  It is a devastating disease.  Henry (Gérard Poirier) in this film is trapped by his own memories and unable to reconcile them with reality.  He doesn’t know the people or places surrounding him and instead he is constantly searching for his beloved Maria (Louise Laprade), an exceedingly talented musician whom he met during the war.

What could potentially become an over the top piece that focuses more on the melodrama or injustice is instead a clean, albeit scary representation of the confusion those suffering from alzheimers might face.  If you have someone close to you suffering from the disease, it might not be the best short for you.  Otherwise, I would consider the twenty minutes of my life spent viewing the short well spent.

Moonrise Kingdom (2012) Review | Jamie Daily

Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
85th Academy Awards 2013
4/5 Stars
Nominated for 1 award.
Nominated for Best Writing-Original Screenplay (Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola).

“Anderson’s movies often mark out their own weirdly regressive, faintly dysfunctional space, from which the modern world has been politely excluded, and where the occupants communicate in a kind of modified, private language” (The Guardian).

“Moonrise Kingdom” is both bizarrely weird and fabulous at the same time.  Wes Anderson is well known for his unique, artistic view of the world and way of telling a story through film.  This story of two young lovebirds in a tiny island community with interesting takes on reality is no different.

Sam (Jared Gilman) is an orphan who has been with the island’s scout group for some time.  An outsider with pyrotechnic tendencies, he meets Suzy (Kara Hayward) at a church play and is immediately smitten.  They become pen pals and after much planning decide to “run away” and take a camping trip together.  Sam, after all, is an experienced scout.  Suzy, on the other hand, seems to know nothing about camping but quite a lot about music composition and interesting library books.

The adults are not absent.  On the contrary, they are deeply concerned for the well being of their charges.  They take a break from their own disfunctions to be preoccupied by the young couple’s and spend a good portion of the movie searching for the two, and then trying to keep them apart.  Suzy’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Bishop (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand) are pretty normal, including the untoward relationship between Mrs. Bishop and Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis).  Scout Master Ward (Edward Norton) and his troop are the most unique characters and other-worldly story line of the entire film.  As they search for the twelve-year-old love birds and try to bring them back to reality, a storm brews off shore that will turn the small community upside down.

Each scene and shot is picturesque.  I really enjoyed the cinematography.  It was like watching a photograph come to life.  The presentation itself was a bit awkward and unique, but that is typical of Anderson’s films.  It is all about the emotion and desire.  He makes the ordinary seem magical.

This film isn’t for everyone.  It’s a bit artistic and out there.  Its timing is even unique and takes pauses in awkward places.  There is a constant reminder that you are watching a film and it won’t allow you to get sucked in.  The scenes including the Scout Master and his troop are so out there that the absurdity is comical–in a good way.

If you are in the mood for an artistic film in which you suspend a bit of your own reality to watch the absurdity of this 1965 community, then I would definitely recommend this film.  If it doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, definitely watch something else.

Ted (2012) Review | Jamie Daily

Ted (2012)
85th Academy Awards 2013
2/5 Stars
Nominated for 1 award.
Nominated for Best Song (“Everybody Needs a Best Friend,” Seth MacFarlane, Walter Murphy).
Watched August 8, 2014.

Guys, I am going to be completely honest.  I was dreading this movie.  It is one of the last films on my list to watch from the 85th Academy Awards.  Let’s just say that Seth MacFarlane and I do not see eye to eye on what constitutes “humor.”  By the end of the film, I wasn’t hating my life, although I felt like I had just wasted a little of it.  Let’s stop dwelling, though, and jump into the review.

The film starts brilliantly like an old classic Christmas film, complete with snow and a deep voiced narrator, although he tends to swear.  The neighborhood kids all hate John Bennett, even the bullied Jewish kid.  Everything changes when John receives a giant teddy bear on Christmas morning.  That night, he wishes that his bear was alive and that they would be best friends forever.  When morning dawns, he discovers a walking, talking bear named Ted who wants nothing more than to be BFFs.  Once John’s parents get over their shock a little, Ted becomes a national sensation, appearing all over the news and becoming famous.  But, as the film explains, just like everything that becomes famous, Ted is eventually old news, and just like that, Seth MacFarlane and his team made the situation–an alive teddy bear being an accepted member of society–believable.

We come back into their lives several years later.  John (Mark Wahlberg) is 35, has a fruitless job at a rental car agency, smokes weed whenever he can, and has been dating his ridiculously gorgeous girlfriend Lori (Mila Kunis) for four years without a proposal in sight.  Ted (Seth MacFarlane) lives with them and frequently brings home hookers or has outrageous parties.  Lori is losing her patience, and it seems like Ted is at the root of their relationship woes.  After all, will a guy ever grow up if his best friend is a teddy bear?

Perhaps it is because Ted is a toy, but his humor is the most inappropriate and outrageous  out of anyone in the film.  This cruel irony supposedly makes it even more fun but again, it isn’t my cup of tea and actually makes me dislike the film more.  The characters were all right.  Watching a grown man child learn to adult (yes, it is a verb) isn’t usually this painful, but John takes an outrageously long time to figure it out.  Lori gives him a lot of leash after dating him for four years, but perhaps that’s because her other prospect is her sleazy, arrogant boss.

One thing is for sure, though–anyone who makes a walking, talking teddy bear a believable character in an every-man type of film deserves some credit.  I have had friends rave about this film.  Some people think it is the funniest thing they have ever seen.  I will say that it is outrageous, and yet its level of believability is astounding.  The acting is so-so, the humor oddly timed and inappropriate at best, and its story line is, for the most part, predictable.  I don’t even remember the song it was nominated for.  The believability is the one and only reason I gave this film two stars instead of one.

In reality, this film doesn’t truly stand up to semi-recent classics such as Knocked Up and 21 Jump Street.  It is crass, uncultured, unartistic, and really just a waste of my time.  However, if you like MacFarlane and Family Guy, Ted might be something you need to add to your watch list.

Curfew (2012) Review | Jamie Daily

Curfew (2012)
85th Academy Awards 2013
5/5 Stars
Nominated for 1 award, which it won.
Won Best Live Action Short Subject (Shawn Christensen).
Watched July 22, 2014.

I adored this short film.  In my opinion, it is everything that a short film should be.  There is symbolism, experimental and artistic cinematography, strong story telling, solid acting, and a cohesive whole that definitely deserved to win the Oscar for Best Live Action Short Subject in 2013.

This film does not need to be longer.  It is complete in and of itself.  Sometimes full length features are left too open to sequels, as is all the rage in Hollywood.  Once you find a formula that sells, you just keep selling it.  Curfew stays out of that trap and is phenomenal on its own.  Just the opening shots scream “this is a winner.”

Richie (Shawn Christensen) is in his bathtub, clearly in the middle of committing suicide by razor blade, when his phone rings.  It is Maggie (Kim Allen), and apparently Richie is the last person she would ever call but she needs his help.  Richie gives in, cleans himself up a little, and heads out to meet his niece whom he hasn’t seen in years.  Sophia (Fatima Ptacek) is a force to be reckoned with, just like her mother.  Strong, and independent, she knows how to stick up for herself, which may be because she grew up in New York, or maybe it’s because of her mother’s example.  She thinks very little of her Uncle Richie who supposedly messed up really badly when she was little and has been cut out of their lives since.

He is a mess.  He has huge circles under his eyes, his wrists are bandaged, and a cigarette hangs from his mouth.  He takes Sophia to the only approved place (the bowling alley), where things get a little weird and people start dancing, but it actually works incredibly well with the story line and character arc.  It is night time in new york, therefore the lighting stays pretty dark, but the filmmakers use a strong contrast that works well for the film.  He forms a tentative relationship with Sophia who is slow to let down her guard, but she seems to get the measure of him pretty quickly (which is good since this is a short film).

The short uses the landscape of New York City nightlife very well.  It follows the growth of their one-night relationship and makes you root for everyone, even the mom.  Christensen wrote, directed, and acted in the piece, which surprisingly works out pretty well for him.  Honestly, Curfew is the type of piece I would have adored in my intellectual, artistic filmmaker university days, but at a level that the more consumeristic side of myself can enjoy just as much.  It is a great film.

If you have twenty minutes, or even if you don’t, this is a short I would definitely recommend that you watch.  If you have never really sat down just to watch a short film, I would suggest that you start here.  It is that good.