george clooney

Gravity (2013) Review | Jamie Daily

Gravity (2013)
86th Academy Awards 2014
5/5 Stars
Nominated for 10 awards, of which it won 7.
Nominated for Best Picture (Alfonso CuarónDavid Heyman), Best Actress (Sandra Bullock), and Best Production Design (Andy Nicholson, Rosie Goodwin, Joanne Woollard).
Won Best Cinematography (Emmanuel Lubezki), Best Director (Alfonso Cuarón), Best Film Editing (Alfonso Cuarón, Mark Sanger), Best Original Score (Steven Price), Best Sound Editing (Gienn Freemantle), Best Sound Mixing (Chris Munro, Christopher Benstead, Niv Adiri, Skip Lievsay), and Best Visual Effects (Chris Lawrence, David Shirk, Neil Corbould, Tim Webber).
Watched April 7, 2014.

  

What was undoubtedly this year’s overall “winner” at awards night, Gravity is a huge accomplishment in all areas of filmmaking.  To get ten nominations is impressive enough, but to walk away at the end of the night with seven wins is a testament to the skills behind this piece.  If that isn’t enough, the movie even lives up to the hype.  From story and casting to visuals and sound, the film is a feast for your senses.

 

Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) is a medical engineer on her first space mission.  While out on a routine space walk making repairs, their shuttle is hit by debris and Ryan finds herself detached from the shuttle and spinning helplessly into space.  Luckily, her colleague Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) who is vastly more experienced, was attached to thruster jets when disaster hit and he is able to tether Ryan to himself and begin a horrifying orbit around the earth towards a space station.  Every breath is terrifying as Ryan’s space suite constantly reminds her how little oxygen she has left.  She has to learn to overcome her fears and must refuse anything but survival as a possibility.

 

We know very little about the characters, but the back story that is revealed about them gives all we need to know.  The story is not simple and predictable, although it has the possibility to be that.  While Clooney’s performance is simple and to the point, his character is exceedingly impressive and calm.  Bullock commands attention, adding to the crescendo of sound and visuals that make Gravity hard to look away from.  Her nomination was extremely well deserved.

 

The film does not make a grand statement.  It revolves around the ideas of “you never know who might be listening” and that space is not able to be conquered–that life in space is impossible.  Almost right away Ryan says, “I hate space,” which sets up her character for what she is about to experience.  You might laugh, you might cry, and you will definitely be sitting at the edge of your seat.  I can only imagine what the film was like in the theatre in 3D, but even on my HD 47inch it was to die for.

 

Director, writer, and editor Alfonso Cuarón paired with cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki are unstoppable.  I cannot rave enough about the imagery and the lighting.  To be fair, there was no weak link.  All of the puzzle pieces fit.

 

Clearly I would highly recommend this film.  It is one of the best films out of Hollywood in a long time.

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Ides of March (2011) Review | Jamie Daily

Ides of March (2011)
84th Academy Awards 2012
4/5 Stars
Nominated for 1 award.
Nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay (Beau WillimonGeorge ClooneyGrant Heslov).
Watched April 20, 2013.

 

“But is it better to win and deliver on half your pledges or retain your purity and achieve nothing?” (The Guardian)

 

I was working in a movie theatre when Ides of March came out and I had a vague interest in seeing it.  It probably had something to do with Ryan Gosling being in the film, but it was 2011, a year before elections, and I was sick of politics already.  It is probably best that I avoided it, but now that I have some political clarity, I actually quite enjoyed the film and for what people my age tend to call “an old person film,” I really appreciated the 102 minute runtime.

 

Governor Mike Morris (George Clooney) is gunning for the presidency and is deep in the trenches of political warfare–the democratic primary campaign.  He claims no religion and always smoothly moves the questions in the direction of the constitution.  His campaign manager is Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a man who has equally made his life about politics as well as loyalty among the ranks.  The Ides of March has its main eye on another character–the right hand man to Zara is the young, dashing idealist Stephen Meyers (Ryan Gosling) who still retains his innocence toward politicians and the campaigning process.  He claims the only reason he works for Morris is because he believes that he is the only solution to the country’s problems.  It is as if he has Morris on a pedestal and the man can do no wrong.

 

Things take a turn pretty quickly.  The competition’s campaign manager, a Mr. Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti), sees something brilliant in Stephen and asks him to meet him at a bar.  It is here that he offers the young visionary a job and claims that he has caused another politician to jump ship with a promise of Secretary of State.  Stephen is confused and reeling, not sure whether or not he should tell Zara about his meeting and not sure why Duffy would come to him with these stories.

 

Stephen learns pretty quickly about the value of loyalty, but he also learns that no one is perfect.  If you want to survive in this career path, you have to make the tough decisions and sometimes you might even have to compromise your beliefs for a man you once thought a saint.  His innocence is shattered and he has to choose whether or not to let others trample all over him or to use the many weapons in his arsenal to get what he wants.

 

Ides of March is a slow, dialogue driven, political thriller directed by George Clooney that uses its short run-time very effectively.  Gosling’s character reminded me a lot of his character in Drive, although this time he is much more talkative.  All of the actors did a good job–they were all believable in their roles and the people who you might love in the beginning prove to fool the audience just like they are fooling the American public.  Politics can be a dirty game, and this film only shows a part of that.

 

There is very little bias toward democrats or republicans, although there are shorts snippets of Morris discussing his liberal ideals.  It isn’t a film to convince you to become democrat, but more of an insight into a world that we all know is full of liars and manipulation.  They all want to get to the top, even the interns.

 

If this sounds like your kind of movie, I would definitely recommend it.  It’s not something I would watch all the time, but it is well made and the scripting, of course, is very well done.

 

The Descendants (2011) Review | Jamie Daily

The Descendants” (2011)
84th Academy Awards (2012)
5/5 Stars
Nominated for 5 awards, of which it won 1.
Nominated for Best Picture (Jim Burke, Alexander Payne, and Jim Taylor), Best Actor (George Clooney), Directing (Alexander Payne), and Film Editing (Kevin Tent).
Won Writing–Adapted Screenplay (Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, and Jim Rash).
Watched August 19, 2012.

 

“George Clooney gives the performance of his life as a man in search of a moral compass on a Hawaii that is no paradise” (Guardian).

 

 

I LOVE this film.  I saw it last year with my mom (back when I worked at a movie theatre and saw almost every movie known to mankind) and couldn’t take my eyes off the screen.  The cinematography, coupled with the writing and acting create something beautiful, raw, and captivating.

 

The Descendants is an Alexander Payne genius adaptation from the original book by Kaui Hart Hemmings.  It follows Matt King (George Clooney), the direct descendant of a Polynesian Princess who married an American missionary’s businessman son.  He and his cousins are temporarily still owners of an impressive piece of untouched Hawaiian paradise, but due to certain laws toward trusts, the land must be sold, which would make the family multimillionaires–again.  Matt alone holds all the cards because he is the trustee.

 

This isn’t the only trick life has handed him.  His wife (Patricia Hastie) was recently in a boating accident where she hit her head and is now in a coma.  Matt must take the driver’s seat in parenting for his sassy 10 year old daughter Sammie (Amara Miller) and alcoholic, 17 year old daughter Alexandra (Shailene Woodley).  One life punch after another, Payne travels the fine line between comedy and drama, leading Clooney to his best performance to date.

 

The ironic and distinctive character types come together in a brilliant clash in this character driven exploration of life, love, and the messiest parts of existence.  Enhanced by the incredible cinematography and classic hawaiian soundtrack, it is easy to lose one’s self in this hilarious, devastating, island-hopping road to self discovery.  The only thing I could find wrong with “The Descendants” in the Oscars were its limited nominations, single win, and that Woodley didn’t manage to score herself a nomination.

 

It isn’t a light hearted chick flick, or an action packed Die Hard film.  Nor is it a comedy in comparison with today’s favorites of “Ted” and “21 Jump Street.”  Despite all of this, do yourself a favor and see this film to experience Clooney’s stellar performance, Woodley’s exquisite characterization, and Payne’s untouchable genius.

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