Monthly Archives: December 2012

Silver Linings Playbook

I spent a lot of time at the movie theater this weekend. I work at one now and get to see movies for free! Friday and Saturday I was tearing tickets and working with all things popcorn, sweeping it, “slinging” it during busy concession times, and then scrubbing the maker at the end of the night.

Today I ate some while watching “Silver Linings Playbook” with my sis, and did I mention it was free? 
Okay, down to business. With all the buzz about SLP it has been on the top of my list of films to see. It was hard to pick just one, but with the Golden Globes a couple of a weeks away and the Oscars not far behind, I will focus on the films with nominations.
Bradley Cooper, co-starring with Jennifer Lawrence, has nods already for acting that I am sure will carry on to the Oscars. Lawrence, as young widow Tiffany, also is nominated for a best actress Golden Globe. 
The David O. Russell (“The Fighter”) project is also in the running for best picture and screenplay. 
Cooper steps up his acting as Pat Solatano, a school teacher recovering from a betrayal in his marriage and resulting fight with his wife’s lover that sent him on a court-ordered trip to a mental hospital. 
His father is Pat Sr. (Robert DeNiro) and balancing-act mother is Dolores (Jacki Weaver). 
Lawrence’s character is thrown in the mix pretty early in the film after Dolores works out a way for Pat to be released from the hospital and live at their home in Philadelphia again. 
It’s a relatively simple plot, but with complex characters. David O. Russell throws the viewer right into the story and it’s (unnecessarily, I think) fast-moving. 
Because of that and the shift in focus from the Solatano’s family dynamic to sports to romance to Pat’s struggles with his past, I sometimes couldn’t tell what genre the film is supposed to be in. 
It’s not a drama for the most part and Zach Baron on Grantland described it as a “romantic comedy.”
He also says it’s a sports movie, but not really a sports movie. At least it wasn’t another “Moneyball.”
Baron’s statement below put together the missing pieces I needed and made me feel a little bit better about not quite “getting” the film’s messages:

“The ways in which Pat, in his pitiable mix of out-of-control rage and deranged optimism, is a product of his struggling underdog city and the maddening football franchise that it hosts will probably be obvious to most readers of this site and lost on a solid percentage of non-sports fans who go see the movie. You have to know Philly, know the Eagles to really get it, how each of these characters is simultaneously badly scarred and up for more punishment. Silver Linings Playbook is a few different movies at once, but one of those movies is about the complicated interplay between a city’s sports teams and a city’s citizens, the way that over time the two start resembling one another.”

I can see how the average viewer may miss some of the Philadelphia references and connections to the plot, unless they read about the film or the novel in advance, but it’s good to know I wasn’t the only one who saw several movies in one. 
Overall, I enjoyed the scenes where everything and everyone slowed down a bit. Tiffany and Pat had the most heart-to-hearts, and Pat Sr. comes in the mix there too. Chris Tucker, as Pat’s buddy from the hospital, was a key sidekick character. DeNiro and Weaver had good chemistry on-screen and their acting was the most polished. 
Cooper will get there as long as he continues to choose his roles wisely.
I haven’t seen enough of the other award contenders to say if I think “Silver Linings Playbook” is the best movie of the year, but it should be on the list. I also feel like it would be exciting for Cooper and the film to win in their categories now because they may be underdogs when the popularity contest Oscars are on in February.
Next up: “Django Unchained.”
Happy New Year!!!!!



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Safety Not Guaranteed

“Safety Not Guaranteed” is a shining example of why I looooooovee mooooovies. Time travel back to 2001? Why not? Fake ears? Sure. Aubrey Plaza and Mark Duplass as a couple? Yes please.

It’s one of those films that lets you escape from life for 90 minutes and come out of it feeling a whole lot better. No worrying about how I am going to shovel my car out of 15 inches of snow tomorrow in order to drive to the office for at least a 10 hour work day.
But it would all be better if when I got there I came across a classified ad from a man seeking a partner to time travel with and my editor allowed me to go on a road trip with coworkers to get the story. 
That’s the premise of “Safety Not Guaranteed,” written by Derek Connolly and directed by Colin Trevorrow. The cast also includes Jake Johnson (“The New Girl”), Karan Soni, Jeff Garlin, Kristen Bell and Mary Lynn Rajskub.
Darius (Plaza), Jeff (Johnson) and Arnau (Soni) are given the O.K. by their Seattle magazine editor to pursue the time travel story and find out who placed the ad. 
Their journey results in self discovery for everyone, including Kenneth (Duplass) who has the time travel mission. 
Kenneth doesn’t take well to having Jeff as his partner, but Darius connects with him and is chosen to go along after extensive training.
There is something mysterious about Kenneth and Darius and her team can’t figure out if he’s crazy or actually able to build a time machine.
The question also is why does he want to go back in time? Why does Darius want to go with him?
Why would anybody want to go back in time? To do things over again and right the wrongs of your past, of course. Maybe there is someone you would never have the opportunity to see again without hopping in a time machine with a slightly off, but cute and endearing fellow. 
You won’t know unless you try and unless you watch this movie. Like now!
It’s smart, romantic, and unique in its story. If I have to watch a film with any science fiction in it (while I did really like “Looper”) this would be my choice. 
“Safety Not Guaranteed” makes time travel as a metaphor for taking risks in life to find what makes you happy. I like, of course, that everyone wins out in the end and it’s all happy happy happy. 
So the only choice you need to make is to watch this movie, and hopefully I’ve convinced you. 
Now, back to reality. There are at least two cars stuck in the parking lot of my apartment building right now and I’ve been listening to the sounds of tires spinning and shoveling all day. It’s gotten so bad that my neighbors are cursing the landlord for not having the driveway plowed.
I am going to time travel to last year’s winter when this didn’t happen. Over and Out.

Killing Them Softly

Wait a minute, “Killing Them Softly” is based on a novel? I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. I am not saying that is a bad thing, but I wish I would have known this fact before seeing the film.
I am listening to a Grantland Hollywood Prospectus podcast about it now and have at least two bookmarks online to read about the mob caper set in time with Barack Obama’s 2008 election and a financial crisis in the United States.
Writer and director Andrew Dominik uses audio and video of speeches by Obama and George W. Bush talking about the crisis throughout the film. Without reading the book I am not exactly sure what to make of the commentary, but basically the same political dilemmas happening in the United States are playing out in the world of hit men like Brad Pitt and James Gandolfini.
Pitt, as Jackie, is the enforcer sent to take out “kids” who step into business they shouldn’t be in. The “kids” Frankie (Scoot McNairy of “Argo”) and Russell (Ben Mendelsohn) hold up a card game run by Markie (Ray Liotta) thinking he will be blamed for it.
The same thing happened years back at one of Markie’s games and no one ever knew who did it. There was the theory that Markie set up a robbery of his own game thinking he would never get caught.
Honestly, I don’t know if I am spot on with the plot here, but I did get that much from the beginning of the film. Without throwing in any spoilers, it is best to just leave it at that.
While Jackie is the enforcer on the killing side of things Richard Jenkins, known as Driver, seems to be a kingpin on the business end.
Jackie calls in Mickey (James Gandolfini) when he gets a job tied into the robbed card game but it turns out he has to do it all on his own. Mickey is washed up and on probation and more interested in drinking and girls than doing the work.
When it comes down to it, Jackie is working like the rest of America and wants to be paid what he deserves.  It all comes full circle in his end monologue about capitalism with Driver in a bar as yet another Barack Obama snippet airs on the television.
Again I will say I didn’t quite get the purpose of the commentary – not ever thinking it was unnecessary – and  decided just to take it out of the equation when deciding whether I liked the film or not.
It didn’t really matter when I considered factors such as the acting, writing and visuals.
For me, Pitt made the film anyway in his performance as Jackie. As a fan of Jenkins, his role sweetened the deal for me. Overall the cast is well-rounded with Gandolfini, Vincent Curatola (also of”The Sopranos” fame as Johnny Sacramoni), and even Max Casella from none other than “Doogie Howser.”
I’ve also decided to follow Scoot McNairy more closely now. He’s got a long resume, but clearly is in the limelight more now having three big titles out this year. I know I’ll be seeing his next film, “Promised Land” by Gus Van Sant and of course starring Matt Damon.
Okay I think I’ve digressed enough now.
I’ve come to the conclusion that “Killing Them Softly” is a strong film for the acting and I think it’s very unique, love it or hate it.
I think it will definitely be one way or the other for audiences who choose to see it. Just please don’t bring your kids, which happened during the showing I went to. This movie is very violent and I don’t know what about the word “killing” in the title is not clear enough to show that.
Which does bring me to my one definite complaint about the film. I am a bit squeamish about violence so the realistic and tortuous scenes as the victim awaited his unavoidable death were hard for me to watch. There were also scenes where the violence is depicted off screen with hints to the viewer like blood splatter or gunshots. I thought both types of scenes fit in with the film artistically, but then I was lost when effects that looked more like a video game came into play.
I would have preferred the more realistic scenes – even if I had to look away half the time – but the filmmakers should have just picked one way or the other instead of mixing up the effects styles.
I will add “Killing Them Softly” to my list to see again and try to take more away from the meaning.
Heck, maybe I’ll even read that book when I finish the four others I am in the middle of.
Any weekend is a good movie weekend, but with the snowpocalypse rumors flying around again in Minneapolis, maybe you’ll want to stay in.
If you have cable, I see the Ken Burns documentary “Central Park Five” is available now as well as “Beasts of a Southern Wild.”
Both are on my list, but I am going to try to venture out for a ladies night and a few cocktails tonight if the world doesn’t end.
Then tomorrow – MOVIES!