Master of None

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Image Source: Netflix.com via Screencrush.com

Aziz Ansari made his name as the stereotype-smashing Tom Haverford from the incomparable Parks and Recreation, as well as a successful stand-up career. Ansari has gone on good number of tours and has recorded a bunch of comedy specials that are currently available for your perusal on Netflix. All of his previous work indicated Ansari had a special knack for pop culture-laden comedy, and his snappy wit showed his intelligent and insightful observations of modern society. So it was only a matter of time before Ansari got his big break to write and star in his own comedy show, which launched in November of 2015 on Netflix, titled: Master of None.

Master of None has received a lot of critical acclaim and significant attention for its commentary on minority representations in Hollywood. Written by Ansari and Alan Yang, the show has a notably more diverse writing team and cast than most cable comedies. The show taps into some issues that are rarely discussed in pop culture, such as the competing factors that come from being first-generation Americans born of immigrant parents. It accomplishes these themes in a very friendly and non-preachy way, making them very accessible to even those without first-hand experiences that relate.

In my opinion, the true brilliance of the show is how genuinely in captured modern, urban, young adult culture. [Editorial disclaimer: it is important to distinguish the “modern, urban young adult” from the broader term “Millenial,” as the latter is a generational divide and should be inclusive of those living in smaller cities or in rural communities. Unfortunately, this distinction is rarely made in media portrayals of our generation, which sells short the diversity of opinion and upbringing among Millenials.] Master of None is spot on from its use of social media apps to drive plot points (the brilliant episode with Yelp! decision paralysis), to Rachel’s (Noel Wells) job as a music promoter, the show really captures a lot of the nuances of a changing social environment. The show is really in touch with the present day and is heavily steeped in the much more diverse and cosmopolitan interests of a new generation of urban young people. Ansari and Yang seem to have a real talent for blending humor with serious topics of identity and a general sense of listlessness that is so often associated with the modern job market. In a world where “career tracks” aren’t as clear and new high-tech or entertainment-focused industries are emerging, Master of None strikes a unique tone that really resonates with the overwhelming indecisiveness of youth.

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Source: Netflix.com

Though nowhere near as wildly popular, it is along the same vein as Friends and How I Met Your Mother, but for a new generation. Friends showed how young people dealt with dating, friendship, and life in NYC during the 1990s, and HIMYM was really the same thing a decade later. Now, ten years (wow) after HIMYM premiered, a Millenial audience has its own version of the classic “life in the big city” comedy in Master of None. In the show, we see a lot of those similar themes, but also highlighted by some deeper more existential and artistic questions than those previous campy sitcoms ever delved into. Dev (Ansari) and the rest of the talented cast spend a lot of the show just talking, which is actually similar in format to Friends and HIMYM, but this is the first show really set in the Information Age. The questions of texting rules and etiquette, the changing dynamics of dating apps, and the moral quandaries of chasing the perfect taco on Yelp! are all new concepts to the TV comedy and really relate to audiences.

I do have a couple of quick criticisms of the show, however, most of which revolve around finances. There is an assumption in all of these types of shows that the main characters have a lot of disposable income. Sure, there are plenty of people living in these big cities that can relate to that, but Dev eats at some fancy restaurants and has a super implausibly nice apartment in New York. Sure, it makes for prettier sets and is probably more in line with how a successful comedic actor and writer like Ansari actually lives, but it cuts into the illusion that this show is about “normal” people. The lack of financial concerns makes for a relatively tone-deaf interpretation of the Millenial experience. It also tended to seem a little too over-scripted at times, as Dev and Rachel’s relationship was so pithy and full of quips that it felt kind of empty at times. Later developments in the characters did show a surprising willingness to veer from comedy and deal with real issues, which is definitely a plus for the show, but the cracks would have been more meaningful if the foundation seemed stronger earlier.

In the end, though, Master of None is well worth your time. It’s got some laughs, some depth, and likable characters that will usher in a new generation of TV comedies. Rating: 8 of 10

Ex Machina

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Source: Wikimedia.org

Ex Machina is an engaging new science fiction film that is highly philosophical and surprisingly low on action for the vast majority of its screen time. As a film, it is an interesting exercise in some key philosophical and ethical questions surrounding artificial intelligence, such as freedom, guilt, and love. The amazing thing about this film is that it is highly suspenseful, even though the action is sparse. This beautiful and well-though-out film accomplishes a lot in a relatively short period of time (108 minutes) and with only four actors of note. The tightly-scripted dialogues between these few characters drive the plot as well as any moral or ethical questions surrounding the film. The performances of the three primary characters, Domnhall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac, and Alicia Vikander were all phenomenal. It is truly impressive as a piece of genuinely original material. So often now, the film industry is afraid to create original stories and relies solely upon adapting stories that have proven popular first as a book or graphic novel. However, in this case, Ex Machina is a rare story that feels new and exciting. Written and directed by Alex Garland, it was nominated for two Academy Awards, Best Original Screenplay and Special Effects, and won the latter. Its minuscule $15M production budget was positively dwarfed by its competition in the Special Effects category, but it beat out powerhouse blockbusters like James Bond: Spectre and Star Wars: Force Awakens.

Delving into too much detail is liable to only ruin the carefully crafted and suspenseful story. I recommend watching the film just as I did, with no preconceived notions or expectations as to what might occur. That viewing experience makes it all that much more enjoyable. One very quick negative note, however, is that I find it odd that there is so much of a sexual element to this film, which, to me, doesn’t necessarily seem crucial. Though Isaac’s character (Nathan) does touch on the very subject, suggesting that love/lust is a critical element of life and gives “motivation” for survival and desire. Perhaps that is the case, or perhaps that entire notion lends to the notion that Nathan, himself, is flawed and that they indicate his arrogance or shortcomings as a creator himself. Some of the resolution at the end of the film did feel a little rushed and may not have been sufficiently explained, but the statement made by the film does come through abundantly clear. Nonetheless, I very much enjoyed the film and recommend it to all mature fans of science fiction, especially harder science fiction that delves into the “hows” and “whys” of progress, humanity, and our place as creators. Rating: 8 of 10

Cooked: An Anthropological Look at Food

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Source: Netflix.com

Created and narrated by the famous food writer, Michael Pollan, the new Netflix original show Cooked seeks to provide an in-depth look at the anthropological and nutritious importance of cooking in human history. On the surface, it is a fascinating topic, as Pollan touches on a wide array of topics like cooking meat, fermentation, stews, and, inevitably, the commercialization of the food industry. Pollan seeks to blend science with cultural case studies as well as imbuing a clear streak of social activism into the show, which is very reminiscent of his famous writing and documentary styles. The whole series is rather short and incorporates four hour-long episodes, each of which attempts to follow the theme of one of the classic elements: fire, water, air, and earth.

The show got off to an interesting start in the “Fire” episode, cataloguing biological and anthropological evidence that homo sapiens had evolved to digest cooked food rather than raw food. Even our closely related ape relatives spend a significant portion of their day chewing and have far more extensive jaw muscles, molars, and skull infrastructure to compensate. The interesting observation Pollan made was that cooking allows humans to reduce chewing time, which really liberates us to spend our time doing other things like nurturing young, building tools, and communicating. This makes the use of fire for cooking a crucial step in our social and cultural development, as it is a catalyst for the early development of civilization. Cooked also gives details about the science behind cooking meat, like how the enzymes and fats are changed and what the flavors are caused by. There were also some case study sorts of exposés on the cultural significance of fire in Aboriginal tribes in Australia and in the American barbecue. The parallels were interesting, but Pollan sometimes condescends too much when he talks about people’s cooking choices, making these cultures seem like the last brave bastions to fight against the evil West. But that disregards his own status as a wealthy, intellectual white male from the US, making him about as Western as they come.

Even so, this show did have some serious strong points that would be very interesting for anyone interested in food culture, history, or the science of flavor. The third and fourth episodes were the best, focusing on the science behind fermentation and the crucial importance of bread in the history of humanity. Those two episodes were fascinating and enlightening, as Pollan and co. illustrated the difference between commercial and natural yeasts in bread-making, discussed the importance of air bubbles and how the glutens stretch to contain the bread bubbles, and did an in-depth analysis of various foods that require fermentation including chocolate, beer, and even some other surprising foods. The inclusion of insightful experts that explained the importance of covering chocolate for fermentation or how the baking of wheat into bread increases the caloric value of the wheat exponentially, all helped to frame the importance of each topic.

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Richard Bourdon from the Berkshire Mountain Bakery during Ep. 3: “Air” Source: thedailybeast.com via netflix.com

Unfortunately, it did also have some weaknesses. First and foremost, the theme of the “four elements” seemed a bit forced, and only Fire and Air proved to truly be about those concepts. “Earth” was a great episode and all about fermentation, but that wasn’t really about the earth at all. Also, the second episode, “Water,” was by far the weakest, as the whole discussion basically devolved into a lament of the industrialization and commercialization of food. Pollan laments the home-cooked meal and over-simplifies economic forces such as globalization and the tech boom, all while downplaying the political and social importance of women entering the workplace. At times, as I mentioned above, Pollan seems so ingrained in his elite American sense of liberal idealism that he sits on his pedestal and judges the poorer masses who are most often the victims of the ills of commercialized food. Increased fats, sugars, and obesity, coupled with decreases in time spent cooking do paint a pretty clear picture, but simply urging people to take the time to cook seems pretty hopelessly naive, and overestimates the amount of control many people have over their time. While an important issue in society, it is not reasonable to expect that food issues like sustainability and nutrition will take priority in households across the country and the world.

Nevertheless, the show is worthwhile to those interested in food history, sustainability, or any kind of documentarian look at such an important aspect of our daily lives. If you know Michael Pollan or watch these kinds of shows, you may know a lot of it already, but it’s all presented in a fun and engaging style that you’ll enjoy at least most of it. Rating: 7 of 10

 

Hawkeye in the Heroic Age

Hawkeye is one of the most iconic members of the Avengers, and has appeared in more issues than probably anyone but the big three. Nevertheless, he can’t seem to avoid getting the short end of the stick. Whether it’s his brainwashing in the first Avengers film, an inferiority complex driving him to become Goliath, or his string of middling solo series making it hard to sell the idea of Hawkeye having a life outside of the Avengers. He is undoubtedly a fan favorite, but his role in the Marvel Universe is sometimes in flux.

Before reading any of this Heroic Age material, it helps to know what Hawkeye has been up to for the past decade, so here’s a brief recap. Warning, there are definitely some *spoilers* for the 2002-2010 timeframe, beware! Clint Barton had a rough beginning to the 21st Century, he was killed in the Scarlet Witch’s cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs bonanza in Avengers Disassembled, only to be reborn in the House of M alternate reality excursion and find his alias had been taken up by a Young Avenger (Kate Bishop, who’s great btw), forcing him to take up a different identity as Ronin (shmeh). Then, in case that’s not enough, Clint finds Mockingbird in the Secret Invasion storyline, who had been long dead in the Marvel canon, only to find out she was a Skrull impersonator, making the loss fresh all over again. He and Bobbi do eventually reunite at the end of Secret Invasion, but even that reunion isn’t all sunshine and happiness. Bobbi’s traumatized by years of imprisonment and torture by her Skrull captors and she can’t bring herself to trust Clint. They had a weird kind of resolution in the four-issue New Avengers: The Reunion mini-series, which led directly into this time-frame, but the flawed nature of their relationship really comes to a head during this time period.

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Cover Artist: Paul Renaud; Source: Marvel.com

Hawkeye and Mockingbird: Average arc overall. The writing has some decent humor and the relationship between Hawkeye and Mockingbird, which is the central focus of the title, is done fairly well. The author (Jim McCann) references their past pretty well, bringing back baddies that have haunted the two in earlier arcs. The art, primarily penciled by David Lopez, was solid, but not spectacular. The supporting cast was pretty underdeveloped and the rationale justifying their involvement in these arcs was thin. Just inventing a tiny quasi-governmental agency with five people in it just seems kind of lazy in order to enable hi-tech gear and bad guy chasing, but I guess that’s not really the point. I think the plot was average at best, but it’s slightly better than that because of the character interactions which sow the seeds for future stories involving the two. The complicated relationship is basically made into a mutually-detrimental spiral that made both of them into worse versions of themselves. The resolution to end their highly flawed romance is a reasonable conclusion that McCann builds to pretty well. It makes the six-issue arc an important read for fans of either title character, though it’s still probably not good enough to buy the book. Rating: 6 of 10

Widowmaker: A weird, four-issue follow-up to the Hawkeye and Mockingbird series. This arc can’t make up it’s mind whether Hawkeye or Black Widow is the main character. The first-person narrative jumps between the two of them. It’s really abrupt and felt like a rushed, half-developed story. I’m not entirely sure what the writer, Duane Swierczynski, was thinking here, and the artist team of David Lopez and Manuel Garcia did an okay job, but the result is just average fare. I didn’t like the bags drawn under Black Widow’s eyes. It made her look like she was always half asleep, it’s an odd look for a superhero. I think that the whole purpose was to set up a situation for Hawkeye to get hit in the back of the head, which sets up for the following arc, which is far superior to this one. Black Widow is a great character, but her team up with Mockingbird and Hawkeye here seemed like a stretch. And her character had no personality. She just seemed really flat. The new team up of Hawkeye and Mockingbird so soon after their “conscious uncoupling” was just kind of awkward. It undid some of the character development of the previous arc, which was its whole selling point. I’d say Widowmaker is worth skipping, as there aren’t really any other plot lines that ripple through later beyond Hawkeye’s one bonk to the head. Rating: 4 of 10

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Issue #4; Cover Artist: Mike Perkins; Source: Marvel.com

Blind Spot: This four-issue arc is a little hit and miss (pun very much intended). With writing duties back with Jim McCann, and art by a team of David Lopez and Paco Diaz, the series regains some of McCann’s earlier tone in the Hawkeye and Mockingbird series. Conceptually, Blind Spot is pretty interesting: what if Hawkeye went blind? How does the world’s best marksman deal with not being able to see his targets? It’s a pretty cool examination of Clint Barton’s character as he struggles to do without his greatest asset and deals with some long-repressed family issues at the same time. The problem is that while this arc is intriguing, it’s not really all that innovative. It basically riffs on Ed Brubaker’s inventive run on Captain America almost a decade earlier, except it swaps out Bucky for Barney. The whole brainwashed vengeance using a childhood best friend/brother to become the evil version of the hero themselves isn’t particularly original, but in McCann’s defense, it does allow for an interesting look into Clint Barton’s past and his strength of character. Barney acts as a Baron Zemo and Barney’s interactions were all pretty well done. The only problem I had was that with Tony Stark’s tech, Clint never really went blind. It would have been much better to see him fight unassisted than to have the hi-tech bailout. It seemed like a cheap way to deal with the culmination of the blindness problem. Otherwise, this arc did accomplish a lot in a relatively short period of time. Rating: 7 of 10

During this gap, there’s a wonderful, incredible series by Matt Fraction, David Aja, and Annie Wu that covers both Clint Barton and Kate Bishop in a 22-issue instant classic. Go read it now! Or check out the review here.

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Cover Artist: Ramon Perez; Source: Marvel.com

All-New Hawkeye (2015): After making his name with Marvel’s Distinguished Competition writing for another swashbuckling archer, Jeff Lemire came to Marvel to try a turn on Clint Barton. Partnering with Eisner Award winning artist, Ramon Perez, this series seemed like a good choice to follow up on Fraction’s run. A quick five-issue series here tried to tell two different stories simultaneously. One was a retelling of Clint’s origin story through some beautiful, purple-hued flashbacks, and the other was an odd arc involving Clint and Kate breaking into a Hydra base for a secret weapon. The flashback sequences were clever and helped to showcase more of Hawkeye’s origin story. Perez’s artist style in these memory sequences was absolutely beautiful, all washed purples and sketched in a really wonderful way. The cover art, especially in Issue #1 (to the left) was also stunning. The interior art outside of the flashbacks was also good, but Perez’s flashbacks scenes were definitely the highlight. The banter between the two Hawkeyes was also pretty good (though nothing like Fraction’s in the preceding Hawkeye run). Unfortunately, the primary arc (at least the present day one) was nothing special. I never really understood what Barton or Bishop’s relationship to SHIELD was and what the whole point of those weird kids was. The resolution seemed even more bizarre, as they were about to allow Hydra to just take them back, until the kids went all Raiders of the Lost Ark on the Hydra agents. This arc is a decent read, but I was not really impressed with the plot development in Lemire’s primary story line. There is hope for future runs, but this is worth flipping through for Perez’s art, though I’m not sure if I would buy it. Rating: 6 of 10

2016 Oscars: Spotlight

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Source: Wikipedia

Spotlight was this year’s surprise winner of the Best Picture Oscar, and though very few thought it would actually win the award, I would be surprised to hear many people say it was not deserving. The film was actually rather unique in the modern era – it was entirely dialogue-driven and featured no action sequences. The only suspenseful moments had to do with the information these brave journalists were unraveling and the sensitivity of the subject matter. The premise of Spotlight is that a small group of investigative journalists for the Boston Globe stumble across some old press clippings and case files that lead them to dig deeper into the, now famous, Catholic Church sexual abuse scandal. The movie shows these intrepid reporters’ journey to unravel decades of cover-ups, misinformation, and even outright collusion between church officials, Boston area lawyers, law enforcement, and even media executives. As the truth comes together, it becomes enormously clear just how horrible and how rampant the abuses were, making the cover-up that much more horrific. Plot-wise, the subject is certainly worthy of a film and makes for an important topic to be reminded of today. It is a timeless lesson in the importance of standing up against abuse and protecting our neighbors from systemic problems; a message that certainly resonates in today’s world, where media outlets, political agents, and corporations are becoming increasingly intermingle.

Regarding the film’s stylistic choices, the director, Tom McCarthy, deserves a lot of credit. The film is perfectly cast, and undoubtedly features the strongest ensemble cast of any film this year. The performances of Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Stanley Tucci, and everyone else were incredible. If there is any doubt that Mark Ruffalo is much more than just the Hulk, look no further. The format is also very enjoyable, with minimal film effects or dramatic lighting, it feels much more like a documentary in tone and feel. This makes the information being relayed and the heartfelt acting feel incredibly real and important. The content of the story is very upsetting, but the tone of the film is relies on dialogue and portrays the story’s development much more how it would have felt to the reporters who uncovered it. The result is that Spotlight is a must-see film and one of the most important stories of the year. Though it tells a very specific story in great detail, the film’s importance is much more far-reaching and its message is timeless. An unexpected, but well-deserved win for Best Picture. Academy Pick: Best Picture

 

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2016 Oscars: Creed

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Source: Wikipedia

First, let me say that Creed is a good film. It starts off kind of weak, but after the first 40ish minutes, it really picks up and the whole middle and end are quite good. If it hadn’t been for the initial under-development of Adonis (played by Michael B. Jordan), I would say it should have been nominated for Best Picture. Some have called it a snub, but I’m not so sure. It’s better than the two weakest Best Picture nominees (The Martian, and The Revenant) in both story development and cultural significance, but it struggles to find itself up front and that may have cost it. In my opinion, the movie did not sufficiently set the stage for Adonis in California before he moved to Philadelphia. The foster care scenes worked and added a deep dimension to the film, but I think they should have done more to show the white-collar life Adonis walked away from. Audiences were told he was a successful employee and a smart, go-getter, but I would have rather seen 2-3 additional minutes of him cutting deals in a board room and making a splash at the office or something. That would make his decision to quit mean a lot more. Without it, Adonis seems like a rich kid with a chip on his shoulder instead of the natural fighter destined for greatness that Director Ryan Coogler intended. The film did certainly regain its footing and strong acting from Jordan and Stallone along with a well-written script by Coogler delivered a modern and relevant reinvention of the classic boxing genre. It’s very good. I recommend it for sure. Side note: I am very excited to see Coogler take on the Black Panther in the MCU!

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Look at Rocky training Adonis, doesn’t that remind you of something? Source: thelegacyofthejedi.tumblr.com

I also want to mention something odd I noticed about Creed: there are a weird number of similarities with Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back. Hear me out. Adonis is obviously Luke, orphaned and rash, and his whole shtick is about overcoming his father’s legacy. But the even better case is that Rocky is Yoda. An anachronistic old guy who makes Luke, er, Adonis, go through a series of weird and cryptic training regimens: jumping ropes, balancing acts, and chasing a chicken (no that is not a euphemism). I’m surprised Rocky didn’t make Adonis carry him on his back. Mild *Spoilers* the illness and futility of the quest (“you have not yet finished your training”), not to mention Stallone’s cryptic style of speech, are also very Yoda-y. Plus *SPOILER* Adonis doesn’t even win, the message is that he’ll be back to fight another day. That’s sooo Empire.

 

 

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2016 Oscars: Mad Max: Fury Road

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Source: Wikipedia

Mad Max: Fury Road: is a crazy, relentless action movie blockbuster about a post-apocalyptic world decimated by atomic war, drought, and lawlessness. Plus, it’s a reboot of an ’80s cult classic action series. Despite all of that, it was not only nominated for Best Picture, but considered by many to be a front-runner to actually win the award. On awards day, it cleaned house in a lot of the smaller, secondary awards categories such as Film Editing, Costume Design, Set Design, etc. But the truly amazing thing about this movie was just how complete it was. The artistic touch and authenticity under George Miller’s directorship were phenomenal. Many scenes were sped up slightly to create a visual representation of the stress and adrenaline-fueled action sequences. The make-up and costumes made the world feel dirty and hellish; characters are disfigured by radiation and a horrible, unforgiving landscape. And the society, if you can even call it that, is brutal and barbaric. The result was an almost overwhelming and psychotic world view that the audiences felt a part of. Mad Max also looked REAL — from the costumes and makeup to the series of actual explosions, the film presented a nice relief from the standard summer blockbusters that rely so heavily on CGI landscapes and characters. This seemed to learn from Peter Jackson’s ridiculous Hobbit trilogy (ugh I can’t believe it’s a trilogy): orc makeup in LOTR = awesome; CGI orcs in Hobbit = stupid.

Another impressive thing about Mad Max: Fury Road is that it could have easily been another cheap ’80s action movie reboot. The original starred a pre-crazy Mel Gibson and the special effects were a lot cheesier. Most of these reboots focus on improving special effects and replacing characters with CGI monstrosities, but Mad Max instead focused on creating a truly good film instead of following the failed formula of Terminator, Robocop, and Total Recall. It is the rare summer blockbuster that impresses the Academy’s voters, and Mad Max sure did impress. Rumors were even floating around that it had a chance to take Best Picture. It retained all of the weirdness and artistry of an Oscar film, while showcasing enough violence and explosions to earn the money of a summer action flick.

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Source: wiccan92.tumblr.com via giphy.com

Though Mad Max is such a coherent film experience, it does have one weakness that affects its rewatch-ability. Much like the classic interview question, its weakness and its strengths are kind of intertwined. The lack of exposition, the relentless action sequences, and sparse dialogue, especially between main characters, adds a touch of realism to the world Miller created. However, it also gives the audience less time to really get to know the characters and see them develop. The result is that the movie is highly enjoyable, but it’s less engrossing and personal because we lack those connections to developed characters. Charlize Theron, Tom Hardy, and Nicholas Hoult are certainly compelling, but I didn’t feel like I really knew anyone’s motivations. This is no fault of the movie, but more of a style choice. All in all, this is definitely a unique action film and is tremendously well-made and a lot of that credit goes to Miller’s direction. Go see it. Blorg! Pick: Best Director

 

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2016 Oscars: Bridge of Spies

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Source: Wikipedia

Bridge of Spies is a classic political historical drama under the proven directorship of Steven Spielberg and led by Tom Hanks’ dependable acting. Bridge of Spies is a beautifully crafted movie about an important, but dark time in our nation’s history: a prisoner exchange with the USSR during the early years of the Cold War. The US is in the grips of the Red Scare, as anti-communists like Senator McCarthy incited fears of anti-Americanism and paranoia. The lighting throughout the film is dark and shrouded in shadow, which lends itself well to the elements of mystery, espionage, and subterfuge that underlie the movie’s plot. The film follows a controlled, linear plot that successfully built suspense and set the stage for the internal conflicts of its characters. The depiction of occupied Berlin in the late 1950s as the wall is being built was jarring and made more real than any history book could achieve.

The true strength of the Bridge of Spies lies in the acting talents of its two main characters: Tom Hanks and Mark Rylance (who actually won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor). The relationship between Hanks’ character, the lawyer who becomes the unlikely catalyst for a prisoner exchange, and Rylance, the accused Soviet spy, show the complicated political and emotional factors at play, while still relaying the story in a very personal way. The mutual respect of Hanks and Rylance crosses the Cold War and guides the plot through an empathetic lens. Though hardly groundbreaking, with its period piece style and classic dialogue-driven format, Bridge of Spies is a well-executed film that is very worthy of a nomination and well-worth the time to watch. Academy Pick: Best Supporting Actor

 

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2016 Oscars: Brooklyn

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Source: Wikipedia

Brooklyn is a personal story about a young girl’s journey to find her place in early 1960s Brooklyn. It is a very compelling story about the emotional ups and downs the main character, Eilis (prounounced Ay-lish) experiences as she uproots her life in small-town Ireland to move to Brooklyn in pursuit of opportunity. Saorise Ronan as Eilis is very believable and endearing, bringing the emotions of homesickness, hope, and desperation into the fore. Brooklyn is also a love story, depicting a cute and timeless romance blossoming out of Eilis’ loneliness, as she meets Tony (Emory Cohen) and quickly the two become inseparable. Though the film has no action sequences, the plot certainly drives the story, and key events in Eilis’ life do create a sort of emotional suspense. The whole cast and the direction by John Crowley make Brooklyn a wonderful and enjoyable film, and Cohen’s performance as Tony could easily have won himself a nomination as well.

This is the kind of story that is difficult to describe, since it is truly a personal story about a character evolving and finding herself in a new place, and the few plot points that could be outlined may give away too much of the story. Also, like Bridge of Spies, Brooklyn is not really a groundbreaking story or style so much as it is a nearly flawless execution of a classic format, making it definitely worthy of the Best Picture nomination, but not unique enough to win the actual Oscar. I feel that a film should win the Best Picture Oscar for taking a few risks and executing properly, without any real risk, a well-crafted film doesn’t really push any boundaries. Nevertheless, I definitely recommend it for anyone who enjoys a classic dialogue-driven, emotional story of love, loss, and personal growth.

 

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2016 Oscars: The Hateful Eight

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Source: Wikipedia

Do you like Tarantino? If the answer is yes, go ahead and watch it. This movie, like all of his other stuff is not for those of weak constitution. Buckets of blood and way more “N” words than I would prefer to ever hear. My personal opinion is that Tarantino should use that word less. I don’t think that it’s helping anything and is most definitely gratuitous. His style is consistent and the plot is very engaging with a fun twist, but the acting is really the reason to watch. Samuel L. Jackson is awesome. Kurt Russell, Tim Roth, and the other cast members are also very strong. Jennifer Jason Leigh was great and, without having watched about half of the Best Supporting Actress nominee films, she seemed like a deserving choice to have won. Her sputtering crazy violence drove a lot of the plot and definitely kept audiences engaged. It’s kind of like a Pulp Fiction plus Little House on the Prairie in a disturbed hyper violent alternate history. I’m glad I watched it, but it’s definitely not for everyone. Blorg! and Academy Pick: Best Supporting Actress

 

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