Inglourious Basterds (2009)

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Directed and Written By: Quentin Tarantino

Starring: Brad Pitt, Christoph Waltz, Eli Roth, Melanie Laurent, Diane Kruger

Nominated for 8 Academy Awards (Best Picture, Original Screenplay, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing, Film Editing, Directing, Cinematography, and Supporting Actor)

Won 1 Academy Award (Supporting Actor)

In Nazi occupied France, a group of American Jewish soldiers are sent to France to do “one thing and one thing only.. kill Nazi’s.” Is there honestly a better idea for a film than that? Who wouldn’t want to see a revenge thriller that’s about Jews getting revenge on the Nazi’s? Add the Tarantino flare, and Inglourious Basterds is one of the most gut-wrenching and intriguing films of all time.

Writer/Director Quentin Tarantino

Writer/Director Quentin Tarantino

I clicked play on my remote, not knowing that I was about to start the fastest 2 hours and 33 minutes of my life. There is no writer/director like Quentin Tarantino, and I’m beginning to wonder if there ever will be. He has such a driving vision behind each and every one of his films. To appreciate Tarantino’s films, the viewer has to get him. For example, in the beginning scene, the colors in the house are dark and deep to symbolize that something tragic is about to occur. A realist would say that the sun was shining bright outside; therefore, the house should be radiant with sunlight. Well, it’s a good thing that Mr. Tarantino is not a realist because his way of setting the mood is just one of the things that make his films spectacular. Quentin’s audacity to create a film like this mixed with the intelligence to make his vision come to life is what makes the film so fantastic.

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Oscar winner Christoph Waltz in Inglourious Basterds.

The acting in Inglourious Basterds is nothing short of amazing. Brad Pitt’s character is not one that will earn any awards, but Pitt does  what the role calls for. Although the women, Melanie Laurent and Diane Kruger, never actually meet each other, their energy somehow manages to feed off of one another. From scene to scene you are inspired by these women’s performances. The only dull performance is Eli Roth. Sure, he looks tough, but it seems that is the only thing he was put in the movie to do. His lack of dialogue makes “the bear Jew” (Roth’s character) awkward and out of place. Limited dialogue has worked in some films (ex: The Driver in Drive), but “the bear jew” is not one of those characters. I made sure that I saved the best performance for last, now everyone please bow down to Mr. Christoph Waltz. While he is yet to prove that he can be a successful actor outside of Tarantino projects (Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained), he sure is good when he’s with Quentin. His performance  in Inglourious Basterds is capturing, and nothing short of amazing. His performance in this film as well as his performance in Django Unchained are both worthy of the Oscars that they received.

Overall, Quentin Tarantino managed to exceed expectations (even for him) with this timeless, instant classic. The viewer will find  scenes that play over and over again in their head. Inglourious Basterds is a film that all Tarantino fans must see or anyone that just wants to see Nazi’s get their asses kicked. I’m tempted to say that Tarantino has done it again, but I don’t think anyone has ever done or ever will do anything like Inglourious Basterds. A film this audacious will never win best picture, but Inglourious Basterds is more deserving than any other film released in 2009.

IMDb: 8.3/100 (#108 on the top 250)

Rotten Tomatoes: 88/100

Metacritic: 69/100

Best Picture Movie Reviews: 92/100

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District 9 (2009)

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Directed By: Neil Blomkamp 

Written By: Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell 

Starring: Sharlto Copley 

Nominated for 4 (won 0) Academy Awards (Best Picture, Adapted Screenplay, Film Editing, and Visual Effects)

As I was going through the list of every Best Picture nominee, I stumbled upon a film that has been towards the top of my watch list for a long time.. District 9.

20 years ago, an alien ship came to a stop over the city of Johannesburg. Different from most alien related films, District 9 does not take place during the invasion. For a change, the humans are actually in control of the aliens. Just those two points previously mentioned already set District 9 far apart from just about every other alien movie, but just because they like being different, part of the film is done as a mockumentary. I will not go into farther detail about the film because the best thing about District 9 is the constant twists and turns throughout the film.

Chances are that you do not recognize any of the names listed under the poster (neither did I); therefore, one of the key goals of the creator, Neill Blomkamp, was to get a “big name” on board with the project. That “big name” ended up being the one and only Peter Jackson. I am a big fan of just about anything that Mr. Peter Jackson touches, and District 9 is not an exception. Peter Jackson’s name on the poster is an instant money maker, but the person that made this film great was not Jackson himself. It was writer/director Neill Blomkamp. District 9 has apparently been his baby ever since he graduated from film school in 1998, and that reflects clearly in the film. Every detail in District 9 seems like it was clearly thought out. District 9 has established Neill Blomkamp, at least in my opinion, as one of the best new writer/directors.

The performances in District 9 are decent at best, but this is a film that does not require strong acting. After all, since when do we go see sci-fi movies for the performances? The effects were some of the most convincing that I’ve ever seen, and the beauty of those effects take your mind off of the acting. Sharlto Copley was solid in his role, but the supporting cast was extremely mediocre.

My main issue with District 9 was the dialogue. This is tricky because its writing is both its strength and weakness. The basic premise behind District 9 is fantastic; however, the dialogue is remarkably cliche. I found myself knowing what the character would say before he said it. With that being said, do we really go to see a sci-fi movie if we’re expecting extremely well-written dialogue? The Best Adapted Screenplay nomination must have been for the idea behind the movie, and not the dialogue itself.

The racism undertone that the movie has is a great touch to the film. Also, it was a welcoming change to cinema seeing a film set in Johannesburg and hearing a different accent than we’re used to. Blomkamp does a great job of paying homage to the city that he grew up in. The mockumentary style of filmmaking will be disliked by some viewers, but to me it was once again a pleasant change to the sci-fi genre.

Overall, District 9 is a modern science fiction classic that will not be soon forgotten.

IMDb: 8/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 91/100

Metacritic: 81/100

Best Picture Movie Reviews: 81/100

Later this year will be Elysium starring Matt Damon and directed by Neill Blomkamp. Mark your calendars for August 9th because this is a film that viewers should get very excited about.

United 93 (2006)

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Directed and Written by: Paul Greengrass

Starring: Many Various Actors

Nominated for 2 Academy Awards (Direction and Film Editing)

United 93

On September 11, 2001, four planes were hijacked. The first two planes hit each of the World Trade Center’s. The next plane hit the Pentagon. United 93 tells the heroic story of the fourth plane, which crashed in a field 170 miles away from Washington DC. Passengers on this flight discovered their fate through phone calls to their families that told them details about the fate of the other 3 planes. United 93 does more than just tell the story of the fourth plane, but also takes you inside the control center’s and shows you how chaotic this day really was for everyone involved.

Of course with any film like this, there is a lot of hate surrounding the story. I took the time to find some negative reviews, and the points that these reviewers make are extremely insensible and moronic. The details that they point out are minor and do not present any evidence to disprove what the film discusses. 9/11 is a very difficult topic because no one really knows what happend inside the planes; therefore, forcing film makers to improvise on the events that occurred. United 93 does a great job of keeping the story understated and believable. The main negative comments that I see are, “too soon” and, “no one wants to watch heros die right after performing a life saving act”. Have we as humans become too caught up in the fiction that runs our world? Can we not face the bitter reality of the world that we live in?

Best Director nominee Paul Greengrass

Best Director nominee Paul Greengrass

Congratulations to Paul Greengrass for taking a VERY sensitive topic, and doing it in a way that was muted and, in a sense, relatable. The viewer finds it easy to put himself in the shoes of the passengers, which is very difficult seeming most of us have never been on a hijacked plane before. The academy did a great job of giving Greengrass his nomination, but not nominating the film itself (wasn’t deserving that year).

Greengrass’ use of unknown actors is done so that the film is not full of all the Hollywood crap that we see far too frequently. Just imagine if we had Brad Pitt rebelling against terrorists on United Airlines Flight 93, it simply would not seem right. The performances given by generally unknown actors are a highlight of the film. Every actor has a limited amount of screen time and the characters do a great job of making all 111 minutes count.

While the understatement of the film was necessary due to the time that this film was made (less than 5 years after 9/11), it is the flaw of the movie. You miss out on seeing the true tragedy of 9/11. 9/11 is simply too alive in peoples’ minds for a real film to be made about the subject.

Overall, United 93 was a very difficult film to make, and Paul Greengrass does a very good job of doing so.

IMDb: 7.7/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 91/100

Metacritic: 90/100

Best Picture Movie Reviews: 77/100

Into the Wild (2007)

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Starring: Emile Hirsch (Lead), Brian Dierker, Hal Holbrook, Catherine Keener, Kristen Stewart, Vince Vaughn, William Hurt, and Marcia Gay Harden

Direction and Screenplay by: Sean Penn

Nominated for two Academy Awards in its year (Film Editing and Supporting Actor)

Based on the novel ‘Into the Wild’ by John Krakauer

Into the Wild

‘Into the Wild’ tells the true story of Christopher McCandless, a young man who feels that he has been neglected by his parents. He decides that instead of going on to continue his education, he will donate his $25,000 college fund to charity, and eventually ditch his car, in order to explore the wild. The film takes you through the adventure of the people that Chris meets and the things that he learns.

I have not read the book; therefore, giving me no prior knowledge about the story of Christopher McCandless. I will check out the book sometime, and when I do, I’ll be sure to write a follow-up. With that being said, I have heard that this film is one of the cases where the film does the book the justice that it deserves.

Hal Holbrook

Hal Holbrook at the 80th Academy Awards, where he was nominated for his performance in ‘Into the Wild’.

I have been a fan of Emile Hirsch’s work ever since seeing him in The Emperor’s Club (2002). He makes Christopher McCandless his own, and really wins you over with his character. On another acting note, why would they cast Kristen Stewart? In my opinion, she is one of the worst actors in the buisnes, and I can not understand the reasoning behind the decision to cast her. The rest of the extensive supporting cast are all very strong in their roles; however, the stand out performance was given by 82 year-old Hal Holbrook. Even at his advanced age, Holbrook manages to give arguably the best performance of his career. His character’s wisdom is visible through his amazing performance. I very rarely come to tears when watching movies, but Holbrook’s performance did make me shed a tear.

Director and Writer Sean Penn

Director and Writer Sean Penn

While I am not a fan of Sean Penn as a person, there is no denying his genius both infront and behind the camera. ‘Into the WIld’ is no exception. ‘Into the Wild’ would have been a very difficult movie to direct, and Penn does an amazing job at doing so. My one complaint with Penn’s writing was the order that the story was told. Instead of it being told chronologically, you keep getting taken back from the beginning to the end. It was unnecessary to the story, and there was no benefit for the film to be told in this order.

The greatest accomplishment of ‘Into the WIld’ is that it seems real. This is something that can only be accomplished in cinema when everyone involved is passionate about the work that they are doing. Every part of the movie from the relationships to the props seemed relatable and human. This is something that many movies struggle to accomplish, but ‘Into the Wild’ manages to do it perfectly.

Overall, ‘Into the Wild’ is one of the “must sees” in 2013, and it’s a picture that I would recommend to just about everyone.

IMDb: 8.2/10 (#160 on the top 250)

Rotten Tomatoes: 82%

Metacritic: 73/100

Best Picture Movie Reviews: 84

Crash (2005)

Crash poster courtesy of signis.net

Crash poster courtesy of signis.net

Starring: Sandra Bullock, Don Cheadle, Ludacris, Matt Dillon, Brendan Fraser, Thandie Newton, Ryan Phillippe, Terrence Howard, Michael Pena, Larenz Tate, Shaun Toub

Directed By: Paul Haggis

Written By: Robert (Bobby) Moresco and Paul Haggis

Winner of 3 Academy Awards (Best Picture, Original Screenplay, Editing)

I decided that seeming I have predicted an upset at this years Oscars (yes, Lincoln would be an upset over Argo), I should go back and review one movie that was the cause of a huge upset. When Crash beat Brokeback Mountain at the 78th Academy Awards it sparked huge controversy. People said that the only reason it won was because the academy is anti-gay (Brokeback Mountain is the story of homosexual cowboys), and that Crash was in no way deserving of winning Best Picture. This is a different argument for a different time, but I figured that readers should at least know my reasoning behind reviewing the Best Picture winner from 2006.

Crash

Well my first review, and I get the idea that I might be pissing a few people off right from the start, but I guess I’d be doing that whether I liked or disliked Crash. I loved Crash, and do not think that it is, “overrated” or, “messy” or any of the other negative adjectives that I have seen people use to describe it. Being a Los Angeles local it was beautiful to see a movie that is about all of the social classes and races that this diverse city contains. Crash was fantastically written, and was very deserving of its Best Screenplay award.

The acting in Crash is what drives the film, and ultimately is what I believe made it win its’ Best Picture (after all actors are the academy’s largest branch). Seeming there is no “lead” actor in Crash, and everyone receives roughly the same amount of screen time, it was required that every actor puts forth a strong performance. If every actor was not at the top of their game, viewers would have not felt the same level of depth that you do when watching Crash.

The direction was not done in a typical style. It has a very shaky camera at times, and you got a much more artsy feel with this movie compared to most of the nominated movies from that year. Some scenes where done with pure beauty (Westwood robbery scene) and others were brutally real (car crash scene), this created a mixture that displayed the beauty of Paul Haggis’ directing. Also, the character development in Crash was very well done. If the development was not done properly, the viewer could have been very confused by the overwhelming amount of characters in the film; however, the director gave each character a very distinct personality and it made each character memorable.

Overall, Crash is a film that will make you put yourself in the shoes of other people, and teach you the importance of appreciating the situation that you are in. It taught me that no one is immune to tragedy.

  • IMDb: 7.9/10
  • Rotten Tomatoes: 75%
  • Metacritic: 69
  • Best Picture Movie Reviews: 87