It's awards season and that also means annual lists. Crosswalk, another excellent resource for Christ-centered movie reviews, today released their list of top 10 films of 2013. At the top of the list are:
12 Years a Slave
Check out the full list, and read their reviews while you are at it! My review of 12 Years a Slave comes out over the weekend.
Two women sitting together in first class chat as the plane
jets from New York to San Francisco. One pours out her life story as the other
wonders why she has to listen to the drivel. The talker is Jasmine (Cate
Blanchett), en route to her sister’s apartment in California. And the small,
scruffy apartment is a far cry from the spacious luxury home she has vacated and the life she has left behind in Manhattan. So begins Woody Allen’s
latest movie, one in which surprisingly justice seems to prevail.
Woody has assembled a stellar cast once more.Alec Baldwin plays Hal, Jasmine’s husband.
Sally Hawkins is Ginger, Jasmine’s sister (by adoption). Andrew Dice Clay is
Ginger’s ex-hudband Augie, while Bobby Cannacale plays Chili, her current
greasy lover. Throw in Louis CK and Peter Saarsgard as two men after the two
sisters and you round out an excellent ensemble. However, the two women
stand-out. This is the first time Allen has used non-American actors in the
leading roles as Americans, and they pull it off. Blanchett, in particular, is
superb as a mentally imbalanced woman deluding herself throughout. She is
rightfully nominated for Best Actress Oscar, and should win this easily.
Hawkins gets an Oscar nod herself, in Best Supporting Actress category.
The movie cuts back and forth between Jasmine’s life in New
York and her life in San Francisco. Where she had money and time before, now
she has neither. Though she flies first class carrying Louis Vitton luggage,
she is kidding herself. She is broke and needs a place to stay and job to bring
in money.Though she won’t tell the
truth to herself, she speaks freely to her sister. When Ginger meets Al (Louis
C.K.) at a party that the two sisters go to, Ginger asks: “You think Al is a
step up from Chili?”, to which Jasmine replies, “Anybody is a step up from
As her husband, Hal is a man who plays fast and loose with
other people’s money in questionable real estate deals. Although the greed of
white collar crime is a sub-theme here, it functions to propel Jasmine in her
journey of decline. But she has a part to play, as she chooses to ignore Hal’s
marital philanderings and financial dealings. Even when he causes suffering and
grief to Ginger and Augie, Jasmine will not see it.
Some, such as Alissa Wilkinson in her review for Christianity Today, have compared this movie to Tennessee Williams’ play,“A Streetcar Named Desire”. Indeed, Cate
Blanchett played Blanche in that play in New York in 2009. And Jasmine, like
Blanche, is a woman whose fortunes have fallen but cannot face reality.
Here is the main theme of the film: denial and avoidance of
reality. Jasmine turns a blind eye to what is going on right in front of her.
She does this for so long, she cannot see what is real and falls into mental
delusion. But Ginger falls into this, too, when Al seems to be her knight in
shining armor. And Dwight (Peter Saarsgard), a diplomat and aspiring
politician, accepts at face value Jasmine’s background. He does no checking and
denies the obvious until almost too late.
The Bible warns of the folly of pride and self-deception.
The prophet Obadiah said, “The pride of your heart has deceived you” (Obad.
1:3). When we fall prey to pride, when we turn a blind eye to what is going
around us because we don’t want our lifestyle compromised, we become deluded.
Eventually, this delusion will be found out. And then will come the great fall.
Woody Allen’s films rarely
end with the wicked getting their just desserts. But here justice prevails and
those who sinned end up suffering the consequences of their sins.
Today the nominations for the 86th Oscars were announced. Three movies dominate the nominations: American Hustle and Gravity both earned 10 nominations while 12 Years a Slave garnered 9. Just two weeks ago American Hustle and 12 Years a Slave picked up the top movie honors at the Golden Globe Awards and they seem to be the two main contenders for top film here.
Here are the nominations in the top six award categories:
Dallas Buyer's Club
12 Years a Slave
The Wolf of Wall Street
David O. Russell (American Hustle)
Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity)
Alexander Payne (Nebraska)
Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave)
Martin Scorsese (The Wolf of Wall Street)
Christian Bale (American Hustle)
Bruce Dern (Nebraska)
Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street)
Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave)
Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyer's Club)
Amy Adams (American Hustle)
Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)
Sandra Bullock (Gravity)
Judi Dench (Philomena)
Meryl Streep (August: Osage County)
Best Supporting Actor
Barkhad Abdl (Captain Phillips)
Bradley Cooper (American Hustle)
Jonah Hill (The Wolf of Wall Street)
Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave)
Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)
Best Supporting Actress
Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine)
Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle)
Lupita Nyong'o (12 Years a Slave)
Julia Roberts (August Osage County)
June Squibb (Nebraska)
Some fun facts:
In the acting nominations, Matthew McConaughey, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbinder, 84 year-old June Squibb, Jared Leto and Barkhad Abdl all earned their first ever nomination. As for Leto, he had devoted himself to his musical career and had not been in a film for 4 years. Most surprising is that Abdl was a limo driver before being cast as the leader of the Somali pirates in Captain Phillips. Not surprising is Meryl Streep's nomination. Her total now stands at 18. Blanchett has her sixth nomination (and should be favorite to take home the golden trophy), and Dench has her 5th nomination. American Hustle is the only film to have nominations in all four acting categories.
In screenwriting, Woody Allen scored his 16th nomination for Blue Jasmine, but will likely not be present at the event, just as he missed the Golden Globes despite being honored for lifetime achievement.
You can find the full list of Oscar nominations on the Oscars site.
When Brandon (a young-looking Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Looperwhich was also directed by Johnson) finds his ex-girlfriend Emily dead on the concrete bank of a sewer tunnel, he wants to find out who did it and why. He remembers a mysterious phone call he received from her two days prior in which the words "pin," "brick," "tug," and "poor frisco" occurred and seem to carry the key to his problem.
Brick has all the elements of a noir mystery but with a twist. There is hardly an adult among the cast. This is a high-school mystery, with all the main characters being teens, either in school or drop-outs. Their world is a microcosm of the real world, but with a criminal underbelly that juxtaposes with literature class.
Brandon is an outsider. He eats lunch alone, does not mix with the typical high school groups. Not a jock nor a nerd, he survives on his wits not his friends. His lone buddy is Brain (Matt O'Leary), who acts as his side-kick while avoiding any of the violence. But to get to the bottom of Em's disappearance and subsequent murder, Brandon must navigate the murky waters of high school society. From exclusive parties to jaded junkies, Brandon puts his body in the way and his life on the line to solve the mystery.
Along the way he encounters a femme fatale who wants to help him, but who might be a player working him, a teenage gang leader whose chief lieutenant wants to run his own gang, and a drug scheme gone bad.
As a noir, there seems little of redeemable value her. Yet, Brandon's motivation holds the answer. "You're the only thing I love," he tells Emily." And in another scene, the femme fatale tells Brandon that she recognizes the love that is driving him (and wants it). Love can make a loner join a gang, can turn a loser into a winner, can make a man turn the other cheek (Matt. 5:39) or keep coming back when punched in the face (one scene highlights this with Brandon repeatedly being hit to the ground but getting up to take another one until the fighter accepts what Brandon wants). Love may not be kind to Brandon (1 Cor. 13:4), but it never fails (1 Cor. 13:8). Love conquers all and comes up with the answers to the mystery. Love is indeed the best motivation.