oscar nomination

Asad (2012) Review | Jamie Daily

Asad (2012)
85th Academy Awards 2013
2/5 Stars
Nominated for 1 award.
Nominated for Best Live Action Short Film (Bryan Buckley, Mino Jarjoura).
Watched April 2, 2014.

  

I watched Asad right around the time that I watched Captain Phillips.  Both portray the current climate of Somalia and its violence both on the water in piracy and also on land between its own people.

 

Asad is a short film that takes a different approach than the afore mentioned feature.  Asad is a young boy nearing manhood and anxious to go out on the boats and pirate with the other boys in his community.  He knows the ocean and its currents better than anyone.  Instead, the local fisherman who believes in living a different life is convinced that Asad will one day catch the best catch they have ever seen.

 

Although the film is quite short, it conveys Asad’s conflict, home life, and over all environment extremely well.  I got the measure of his character almost immediately.  In fact, it is very skillful how quickly we understand each character.  Granted, the writers did put in several easy to catch stereotypes that might define the soul of a person, such as Asad’s friend with a limp is all talk but has little courage when it comes down to it.  My favorite moment of the film was between Asad and his mother, where she struggles against the pressures of a society she has known her whole life and tries to raise her son in a war torn environment.

 

The film tries to instill a hope, but it is bleak.  Asad will grow up to be a pirate, a thug with a gun, or a fisherman.  His future is already set.

 

The filmmaking is decent, the acting is sub-par, and the story is one note.  After watching Captain Phillips, I was looking forward to a more in depth look at Somali life, but Asad left a little to be desired.  Although it shows the harder side of life, the film becomes preoccupied with a mediocre plot that stalls the pace and progression of the film.

 

All in all, I wouldn’t consider the film a waste of my time, but I would not suggest it for the a-typical audience.

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Zero Dark Thirty (2012) Review | Jamie Daily

Zero Dark Thirty (2012)
85th Academy Awards 2013
5/5 Stars
Nominated for 5 awards, of which it won 1.
Nominated for Best Picture (Mark BoalKathryn Bigelow, Migan Ellison), Best Actress (Jessica Chastain), Best Original Screenplay (Mark Boal), and Best Film Editing (Dylan Tichenor, William Goldenberg).
Won Best Sound Editing (Paul N. J. Ottosson).
Watched February 20, 2014.

  

Honestly, Zero Dark Thirty is one of my favorite films from the 85th Academy Awards.  The acting, the story, the editing–everything together makes an intense roller coaster of awesomeness.  A lot of people are concerned about the political statements, or are distracted by the scenes depicting torture.  I of course feel the emotional impact of this film like many other Americans.  I feel it positively and for the most part am okay with the past of my country that the narrative portrays.  I like the essence of America that the film depicts (when it comes to the Intelligence behind war), but I can understand those who do not agree politically with what this film represents and how that might cause some to dislike the movie as a whole.  As most reviewers should be able to do, I will separate my personal and political opinions to dissect the film as objectively as possible.

 

Maya (Jessica Chastain) was recruited right out of high school to join the CIA.  After 9/11, she is sent to Pakistan.  Her number one job is to track Osama bin Laden.  It is all she has ever done.  The film opens on an interrogation sequence in which Maya is introduced to water boarding and other techniques that intelligence used on terrorists.  Dan (Jason Clarke) becomes a good friend and support of hers, but is unwavering in his interviews.  He shows no problem with sleep deprivation and other tactics, but has a little more emotional depth outside of the interrogation room.  He and Maya trust each other early on, but he eventually heads state side when their interrogation techniques begin to become a little taboo politically.  This leaves Maya to fend with Josephy Bradley (Kyle Chandler), the head of the CIA Pakistani office, on her own.

Maya is the job.  She spends long days and nights at her desk and we rarely see any sort of social life from her.  She seems to have one friend among her coworkers, Jessica (Jennifer Ehle), in which we see her go out for dinner one time throughout the whole film.  She works for over a decade, doing nothing but tracking bin Laden.  Her coworkers lose focus after London bus bombs and attacks on their home.  Protect the home land becomes the motto, but this statement produces one of the most emotionally charged scenes of the film in which Maya asserts herself to Joseph, insisting that he provide her with the resources that she needs to track the most dangerous wanted man in the world.

 

We know from history what the end result of Maya’s dedication is.  The last third of the film is all about the operation to get bin Laden, and it is eventually Maya who identifies the body.  Over a decade of work to track one man–now what?  I can imagine the surreal weightlessness of the situation, and the imagery of this sequence is spot on.  As she identifies the body, the camera is shot up at her, showing that this is a powerful moment for Maya, and as she leaves Pakistan, the weight of what she has accomplished seems to hit her.

  

There are no weak points, in my opinion, to this film.  The story telling is magnificent, the focus is great, the camera work is acceptable, and the sequence within bin Laden’s compound is so realstic it is impressive.  Despite all of these strengths, Chastain is above and beyond all of them.  Who would think that this is the same actress who played the ditzy blonde Celia Foote in The Help the year before?  She is outstanding.  Her character is emotionally distant and dedicated to the job, but Chastain puts humanity into her.  She has a steely resolve that makes the audience have more confidence in her than her on camera superiors.  She is driven and feisty–the ultimate leading lady with enough gumption for the entire cast.

 

The supporting cast is so sparingly used that when we come to the sequence in bin Laden’s compound and the cut aways to Maya are so few, one might think this would be too much of a change in the narrative.  I actually really liked it.  It is long and quiet and suspenseful.  All Maya is doing is sitting on pins and needles, waiting, which is exactly what we are doing as we watch the film.

 

They never show bin Laden’s face.  They show a trail of blood and some blurry images.  They might show a beard, or a nightgown here and there, but his image is never glorified for memory.  He was and is no more, and it is Maya who should be remembered for her accomplishments, not bin Laden for his terrorism.

 

This film is rated R and is intense.  It is as much a character driven film as it is a narrative driven film.  There is plenty of action, plenty of drama, and plenty of suspense.  I would highly recommend this film, as it is one of my favorites.

Maggie Simpson in “The Longest Daycare” (2012) Review | Jamie Daily

Maggie Simpson in “The Longest Daycare” (2012)
85th Academy Awards 2013
4/5 Stars
Nominated for 1 award.
Nominated for Best Animated Short (David Silverman).
Watched February 13, 2014.

  

Maggie Simpson in “The Longest Daycare” is a very cute animated short that is right up my alley.  I have been a fan of The Simpsons since I was a kid (much to the chagrin of my mother) but have not watched it in a few years.  Watching this short was very nostalgic and wonderful.

 

The short is without dialogue.  Marge brings Maggie to a very Simpsons-like daycare where she goes through airport style security and has a brain scan that labels her as average.  She joins the “nothing special” kids in a dank corner, with the kid who eats paste, and the baby who loves squishing butterflies with a wooden mallet.  Maggie discovers a caterpillar friend and soon realizes that it will shortly turn into a butterfly.  She must save her little friend from the evil baby!

 

The animation is a step up from your average Simpsons.  It was released in theaters in 3D, but even in 2D it captures shadows and colors that are not normally a part of the Simpsons world.  The story is cute and well executed.  It is a very short short, but it takes no time at all to feel a connection with Maggie and a dislike of the evil mallet carrying baby.

 

This short is so cute and, well, short that I find no hesitation in recommending you see it.  It is readily available online and if you like The Simpsons, I see no reason why this animation should evade your attention.

If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front (2011) Review | Jamie Daily

If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front (2011)
84th Academy Awards 2012
3/5 Stars
Nominated for 1 award.
Nominated for Best Documentary Feature (Marshall Curry, Sam Cullman).
Watched February 18, 2013.

 

If a Tree Falls is a very light handed documentary film.  It doesn’t preach, but instead does its job.  It documents and uses the interviews and stories from others to tell a story.  From someone who is not an environmentalist (as much as I love nature and would love to keep it around), I found this very effective in keeping me interested and keeping my bias out of my final opinion of the film.

 

The film follows one main character–Daniel McGowan–who got caught up in the ELF in the 90s after seeing a film documenting the efforts of environmentalists in Eugene, Oregon, where the police were being particularly unforgiving.  The ELF is an extremist group known to the United States government as the number one domestic terrorist threat.  When it began, it was more tame.  Normal protests were not being acknowledged, except maybe with tear gas and pepper spray.  The ELF decided to take things into their own hands, although they said their interests were the preservation of all life and most of the instances in the film were against companies and organizations that were jeopardizing the lives of trees, etc.

 

When marches, protests, and petty vandalization were still not being heard, they stepped it up and began utilizing arson.  In one instance, Daniel was only a lookout, and in another he helped set fire to a tree farm.  They destroyed millions of dollars in property, including a multi-million dollar lodge in Colorado.  Once Daniel realized that they still weren’t being heard, he stepped away from the ELF, but years later was brought in by the FBI.  His sister put up everything she had to bail him out and he was put on house arrest.

 

The biggest underlying tone of the documentary is whether or not Daniel and his cohorts should be considered terrorists.  After the events of 9/11, the term “terrorist” took on a drastic meaning–one who seeks out and kills innocents.  The US government, on the other hand, sees terrorists differently.  Daniel and his lawyer fought against it so that Daniel would not get 300 to life in prison and be labeled a terrorist for the rest of his days.

 

There are brief moments of genuine emotion that make the film painful.  Daniel’s sister and his wife are in tears over what he is going through, and the prospect of saying goodbye to him.  The other environmentalists, some whom were involved in ELF, and a documentary filmmaker who was not, are also very emotionally passionate about their beliefs.  They are genuine and honest about their actions, all saying that they were not the wisest decisions.  However, they wish there was a way they could get through to people and stop deforestation.

 

I thought this would be an excellent documentary to show on television.  It was well done and tells quite the story.  It was not the most astounding work or caft, but perhaps I have this opinion because I am less fond of the interview style documentaries.  That being said, I thought the execution held up, and was glad that it was both about the ELF and about Daniel’s personal struggles against the label of terrorist.  If you have a taste for documentaries, this is one that I would recommend.

Sources:  North Of CenterIMDBRotten TomatoesNY TimesJohn Likes Movies

La Luna (2011) Review | Jamie Daily

La Luna (2011)
84th Academy Awards 2012
1/5 Stars
Nominated for 1 award.
Nominated for Best Short Film–Animated (Enrico Casarosa).
Watched January 4, 2013.

La Luna was an interesting short, but not one of my favorites from Pixar.  Quite the contrary, actually.  There was very little plot or development, very little attachment to the characters, and was more of an exercise in animation than something that should have been up for an Academy Award.

 

Written and directed by Enrico Casarosa, the creator of Up, La Luna is a coming of age story about Bambino, who is being introduced to the family business for the first time.  He is rowed out to sea with his father and grandpa, who anchor themselves to the moon instead of the ocean floor.  They then climb a ladder and Bambino finds himself on the moon’s surface, where it is covered with golden, glowing stars.  His father and grandpa, who seem to always be at odds, teach him that they must sweep, rake, or mop up the stars, depending on their tool of choice.

 

This is essentially the entire plot.  There was zero depth and although the animation was gorgeous and Bambino was cute, there was nothing else to endear me to the story and therefore I am pretty unimpressed with the seven minutes I spent watching it.  The next time I want to watch a short from Pixar, I can guarantee you I will be watching something else.

 

Unless you can find this one for free (I suppose it will accompany Brave, because this is the film it was released with in theaters), I would not suggest searching it out.

 

Sources: Whoa, This Is Heavy!IMDBRotten Tomatoes411maniaPaste MagazineReeling Reviews