best actor

American Hustle (2013) Review | Jamie Daily

American Hustle (2013)
86th Academy Awards 2014
4/5 Stars
Nominated for 10 awards.
Nominated for Best Picture (Charles Roven, Jonathan Gordon, Megan Ellison, Richard Suckle), Best Actor (Christian Bale), Best Actress (Amy Adams), Best Supporting Actor (Bradley Cooper), Best Supporting Actress (Jennifer Lawrence), Best Costume Design (Michael Wilkinson), Best Director (David O. Russell), Best Film Editing (Jay Cassidy, Alan Baumgarten, Crispin Struthers), Best Production Design (Judy Becker, Heather Loeffler), and Best Original Screenplay (Eric Warren Singer, David O. Russell).
Watched June 5, 2014.

David O. Russell is becoming an unstoppable director in recent years.  From The Fighter to Silver Lining’s Playbook, and now onto American Hustle, he groups his favorite actors together in this film to punch out another excellently made, sharp piece with similar humor that we all loved in Playbook.  Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams, and Jennifer Lawrence are the revisiting dream teams, but their performances are complimented this time by Jeremy Renner, Louis C.K. and other big names in the industry.  The star studded cast combined with the fabulous director should be a recipe for greatness, and although the film took home zero Oscars on awards night, it was certainly a strong contender.

The story is a little unoriginal and one we have seen often.  It is the late 70s and early 80s.  Irving Rosenfeld (Bale) is a small time scammer married to a young woman named Rosalyn (Lawrence).  When he meets vivacious Sydney Prosser (Adams)–if that is her real name–he falls in love and ropes her into his business.  They’re eventually cracked by the feds and ambitious Richie DiMaso (Cooper) offers them a deal to get off the hook.  If they will help him to take town some big time scammers they’ll walk.

Irving is a piece of work, and an excellent character, which is probably what attracted Bale to the part.  The opening scene shows precisely how the man creates his masterpiece of a combover, complete with hair piece.  He knows what he wants and how to get it but he also knows when things aren’t right.  Sydney might turn out to be better than him, but I’ll let you decide on that front.

Despite the fact that Rosalyn knows about Sydney, she comes off as a few crayons short of a set and is constantly setting things on fire or talking about her manicures.  She is surprisingly dangerous and passive aggressive.  In true Lawrence-fan fashion, she was one of my favorite characters in the film.  She brings a different side to the comedy that the other characters don’t, although everyone seems a bit gaudy.  As Christy Lemire  from Roger Ebert says, “Her complexity and unpredictability make her fascinating to watch—she’s just unhinged enough to think she’s the voice of reason—and Lawrence is a radiant scene-stealer.”

The costuming is truly on point.  Sydney is obsessed with the plunging neckline.  Just as distracting is Richie’s head of incredibly curly hair (which he curls every night).  Each character is so delectably unique, and yet somehow the story line doesn’t get bogged down with their loud, semi-insane character arcs and holds things together surprisingly well.

Jeremy Renner plays the mayor, Carmine Polito, who is one of the many they are trying to scam.  He is a big time family man who passionately wants to make a difference in the city, but unfortunately his methods are against the law and Richie is chasing after him.  Irving and Sydney have no choice but to go along.  Rosalyn is the loose cannon that could ruin the entire operation, and everybody knows it.  Instead of keeping her at home, they continue to take her to all of the events and set her free.

The big personalities are a recipe for disaster within the film, but outside of that, everything came together fairly well.  Russell went at the con artist angle with more humor than we typically see.  This is perhaps an attempt to make the plot more unique, but really it’s just a rehash of everything we have all ready seen out of Hollywood.  Everything is executed well, as you can tell from the list of nominations, but what was missing was the twist of originality we typically see from the director and his star studded team.

The film is rated R, but is a great comedy with a lot of wit, laughs, and ridiculous situations.  I can appreciate this type of humor a lot more than something like “Ted.”  If American Hustle sounds like something you would enjoy, I would definitely recommend it.

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Equus (1977) Review | Jamie Daily

Equus (1977)
50th Academy Awards 1978
2/5 Stars
Nominated for 3 awards: Best Actor (Richard Burton), Supporting Actor (Peter Firth), and Writing From/Based on Another Medium (Peter Shaffer).
Watched August 24, 2012.

 

There is so much to say about this film, and yet so little.  It leaves me speechless, both in the incredible skill of the actors, but most notably in the bizarreness of the story itself.  I know this is a classic, and I can certainly recognize it as an incredibly deep, probing, philosophical piece that any artist in their right mind would want to tackle.  It is a piece that actors should flock to because of its depth and difficulty.  However, beyond these attributes, it was an incredibly long two hours for me, full of way too much nudity and not enough horses.  Women apparently find horses sexy, according to the film Equus, and I am no different.

 

If you have been living under a rock or are completely out of touch with Broadway, you don’t know what Equus is.  For those of my generation, you might recognize it as the play in which Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter) bares all.  It is a philosophical study of a boy’s psyche as well as his worship–the dissection of what normal is and whether or not doctors have the right to define it and then restore it.

 

Dysart: “Passion, you see, can be destroyed by a doctor. It cannot be created…The normal is the good smile in a child’s eyes. There’s also the dead stare in a million adults. It both sustains and kills, like a god. It is the ordinary made beautiful, it is also the average made lethal. Normal is the indispensable murderous god of health and I, am his priest.”

 

Richard Burton plays Martin Dysart, who is the doctor in this case.  He is brilliant.  From his monologues to his dialogues, he is an emotional being completely wrapped up in his character.  Peter Firth, who plays the mentally disturbed youth Alan Strang, on the other hand, is equally talented as he struggles between his shy tendencies and the doctor’s tricks to get him to reveal his secrets.  He is obnoxious, endearing, and terrifying all at the same time.

 

Alan Strang is a seventeen year old boy who is brought to Doctor Dysart after he blinds six horses at the stable he had been working at.  Dysart sets out to discover why Strang did what he did so that he can attempt to cure him.  He investigates Strang’s home life, where his parents are very forthcoming, but as the film progresses, they show their devastation more and more.  At the stable, the owner is indignant – furious that his animals had to endure such cruelty, and equally angry that Strang didn’t get the chair.  Jill, the love interest, won’t show her face to the doctor – she is the last person Strang was with before the incident.

 

Through days and weeks, Dysart uses different tricks to, in a sense, hypnotize Strang so that he will discuss things openly with him.  It is in these circumstances that we as the audience discover the truth, right alongside the doctor.  Strang has created a sort of religion, and the horses, whom he calls Equus, are his god, running parallel to Jesus.  The chains and the bit in the mouth of the horse represent the chains that Christ wore on His wrists, and the thorns on his brow.  In one revealing scene, we see Strang riding bareback (and naked) through a field.  His relationship and his worship of Equus is very sensual, which is why when he experiences the opportunity of love with Jill, it terrifies him – as if he has sinned against his god.  Not only that, but it is as if Strang believes himself to BE a horse.

 

If you love the play or have a morbid curiosity toward it, I would highly suggest seeing this film.  If you are an art lover and want to stretch your mind a bit, I would also recommend it.  For the rest of us, however, you might want to watch something a little more tame.

 

Sources: MGM, ToutLeCineIMDBRotten TomatoesPicturenoseChandler Swain ReviewsI Love PhilosophyDave’s Movie Reviews

The Way Of All Flesh (1927) Review | Jamie Daily

The Way of All Flesh (1927)
1st Academy Awards 1929
Won Best Actor (Emil Jannings)

 

“The Way of All Flesh” is considered a lost film.  I was wondering if this was going to happen, but more in the sense that would be unable to locate a film, not that no one would be able to locate a film, especially an award winner.  Apparently, there are only a few minutes of footage in existence, and I could not locate those either.  If anyone can find them or knows where I can find them, I would greatly appreciate it.

 

The protocol for this, I suppose, is for me to research the film and describe what is known about it, although obviously I will now never be able to watch every film ever nominated.

 

From the reviews that I have read, the synopsis is very sad.  Jannings plays a character who is a bank clerk who gets caught up in an incredible amount of unfortunate happenings.  He is transporting money to Chicago when a gorgeous blonde woman seduces him and brings him to a saloon.  When he wakes, the money is gone.  The woman and the owner of the saloon drag him to the train station and mug him.  Jannings, however, fights  back and pushes the saloon owner in front of an oncoming train.  In fear, he flees, but later finds out the saloon owner’s body was mistaken as his own.  He continues living for twenty years as a trash collector, but eventually finds his way back to his family.  His son is a talented musician who never knows that the bedraggled man is his father.

According to Wikipedia, “The movie was remade in 1940” but was not very faithful to the original.

 

Hopefully I won’t run into too many more lost films.

 

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