Category Archives: Oscar buzz

I like Steve Jobs and Surprises

 

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I listened to Marc Maron interview Danny Boyle (director of Steve Jobs) on WTF this week and their conversation made me think more about some of my favorite aspects of the film.

It is becoming more of a front runner for me as far as one of my favorite films of the year and it’s largely due to the acting by Michael Fassbender and Kate Winslet.

In my last, short, commentary on Steve Jobs I did not focus on Jobs’ relationship with his daughter portrayed in the film. Boyle and Maron talk some about the relationship and how its one of the key components in the story that bring what flaws and weaknesses Jobs has to the surface.

They also talk a lot about Aaron Sorkin’s work on the script and the process to hone it to balance Jobs’ professional and personal life without actually going overboard with the dialogue.

I remember very heated, sometimes lengthy, conversations between Jobs (Fassbender) and Joanna Hoffman (Winslet) as Jobs prepared to launch various Apple product throughout the film but Boyle and Sorkin built in effective pauses to let the moments sink in and show the impact of what can be said without words.

It’s an interesting reflection to have on a Sorkin script (I am still scarred by the verbose Social Network – or maybe just Jesse Eisenberg) but he and Boyle achieved a healthy balance in Steve Jobs.

The film, while still not getting the attention it deserves, has acting nominations for Fassbender and Winslet between the Screen Actors Guild and Golden Globes lists released in the last week.

Strong acting seems to be a common thread among many of the top films whose studios are pushing for a spot on the Academy Awards nomination list.

For example, Johnny Depp made the SAG cut for his performance as Whitey Bulger in Black Mass. I didn’t like the film as much as I thought I would and, despite the incredibly distracting and unnecessary makeup, Depp did shine through.

I’ll leave it to Eric Kohn from Indiewire and Anne Thompson from Thompson on Hollywood  on Screen Talk to better explain the unpredictability of which films will make the Academy’s final cut.

The Screen Actors Guild and Golden Globes lists  have some consistency – but more surprises – which makes me think (or at least hope) that could influence the final word from the Academy. The Academy Award nominees are usually easy to predict by the end of the year, but I’m happy with the unknown for now and how many great films  are on the way to theaters before the home stretch of award season.

In other news, for the first time in a many years I am going to see a movie on Christmas Day. Our selection depends on what is showing at the theater in up nort’ Wisconsin, but I am pretty, pretty excited about it and getting out of town to spend a week with my family.

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It’s Far From The Madding Crowd, people

maddingI worked last night at our premiere of “Far From The Madding Crowd” and easily nine out of 10 customers kept calling the film “Maddening Crowd.” They wouldn’t even say the full title or the right word! Show some respect to Carey Mulligan and one of the most epic romantic stories to ever hit the big screen! Don’t you know that Mulligan is likely to be nominated for an Oscar for her role as Bathsheba Everdene???

Okay, I feel better now. I needed to get that out before I work another eight hours today and have to listen to people say that all over again. I am a big fan of Carey Mulligan and saw the movie Thursday pretty much because she is in it. I knew the plot focused on Everdene’s dilemma to pick from three suitors, but I guess I wasn’t prepared for the emotional roller coaster ride the story would present.

I also worked during a free screening of the film a few weeks ago and now I know why one woman was in line three hours before it started. Two words: Matthias Schoenaerts, otherwise known as Everdene’s most loyal suitor of the three, Gabriel Oak.

As Everdene navigates her way through operating a farm her uncle left to her and going back and forth between the two other men interested in her, Sgt. Francis Troy (the deceptive soldier) and William Boldwood (the eccentric millionaire) Farmer Oak patiently waits for her to make the right decision.

All I will say is I was Team Oak from the beginning. The power surged during the screening we had a few weeks ago and caused the sound to be out for probably the last two minutes of the film. People were pretty upset and now I know why. I was sure that the woman who waited three hours to see the film would complain, but she probably spontaneously com busted in her seat when the sound went out.

Maybe I should be more serious in my comments about this film, but I feel the screen adaptation is a bit more light-hearted than the literary classic by Thomas Hardy it is based on.

That said, I haven’t read the book and the film version certainly does tackle the issues of infidelity, deception and some gender and class struggles. But in the end it’s just all about love with a beautiful French landscape, costumes (I want all of the dresses Mulligan wore) and solid acting performances by her, Schoenaerts and Michael Sheen as Boldwood at the backdrop.

It’s surprising there is any mention of the Oscar race at this point in the year, but Mulligan is certainly deserving to be in the running for her performance.

It’s nice to be back on my blog. I have some catching up to do with my thoughts on “While We’re Young” and “Avengers: Age of Ultron” and tomorrow I’m seeing “Ex Machina” starring my guy Oscar Isaac.

But for now I have to go sell tickets and popcorn to the masses. It’s pretty maddening.

That is all.

I didn’t watch The Oscars …

Heyyyyyyyyyy berriesI I need a new word to call my buddies and I like fruit, so let’s make this catch on.

That is if you’ll still talk to me after I reveal I didn’t watch the Oscars last night.

Believe it or not, I enjoy a good deep dive on Twitter and coverage from The New York Times and Grantland more than the show itself.

birdmanI was actually surprised Birdman won over Boyhood in the best picture category, even though there was solid buzz about Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s film. Iñárritu also won for best director and original screenplay and the film was recognized for its cinematography. Micheal Keaton should have walked away with recognition for his performance too, but he lost to Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything. I still haven’t seen that film, but Keaton’s performance was one of the positives of Birdman for me and he deserves payback from when he wasn’t nominated for Mr. Mom years ago.

There wasn’t a huge sweep by one of the winners this year, which is rare. Whiplash did prevail in the sound editing and supporting actor categories so I am happy about that and hope that even more people see the film now. i think comedian wonder Daniel Van Kirk said it best on Twitter last night, “J.K. Simmons is my tempo.”

Now that the Oscars are over, I still do want to take some time to catch up on seeing the animated films and documentaries that were nominated.

I have to be in a certain mood to watch documentaries and really take in the subject at hand. I never would have expected it, but yesterday my mood was one where I felt I could make it through Blackfish and not have a total breakdown.

blackfishThe documentary (released in 2013) was showing at the movie theater I work at, but I just couldn’t bring myself to see it. I saw parts here and there while I was working, but I just knew it was going to be a sad and a frustrating story without a positive outcome.

At just under an hour-and-a-half, the film effectively covers details about the Killer Whale species, their captivity and treatment at theme parks like Sea World as well as what it’s like to be a trainer there.

It also focuses on one whale, Tilikum, who was treated maybe the worst of all the whales at Sea World and some trainers lost their lives or were injured as a result. I am appreciative the film shed light on a story a lot of people may not know about, but I am also frustrated it is a story that even needed to be told.

I do recommend the film if you can somehow prepare yourself for that feeling and being reminded about all the bad things that are going on in this world every day.

I wish I had something positive to turn to now, but last week I heard one of my favorite comedians, Harris Wittels, died. He was a writer and producer for Parks and Recreation (which just ended as a series) and a regular guest on many podcasts I listen to.

wittelsI never got to see Wittels perform as a stand-up comedian but, as I’ve heard many people say, I feel like I did know him from listening to his improv bits and interviews. Most of my exposure to Wittels’ work was through Comedy Bang! Bang! Scott Aukerman just released the latest episode, which happened to be recorded with Wittels, Adam Scott and Chelsea Peretti about a week before Wittels passed away. I definitely recommend visiting the Earwolf site for more archives of Wittels’ podcast appearances.

Marc Maron and Alison Rosen posted their most recent interviews with Wittels for listeners to hear again or for the first time. Even though Wittels died too young, at age 30, and clearly had a wonderful career ahead of him, listening to these interviews did make me laugh. It’s very bittersweet.

Well, this is just getting more and more somber. How can I pick things up?

I know, here’s a funny cat video on Funny or Die.

Bye berries! (Has this caught on yet?)

Whiplash and Selma

Get some popcorn and Raisinets and a drum kit if you have one, because I saw Whiplash for a second time and need to rave about it just a little.

whiplashIt’s a very intense film, centered on the relationship between music teacher Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons – nominated for best supporting actor) and Andrew Neyman (Miles Teller) and what Fletcher will do to push an aspiring musician to realize what he’s really capable of. Neyman is a first-year student at Shaffer Music Conservatory in New York, where Fletcher takes notice of him and invites him to practice with his jazz band.

Practice as in he can turn pages, be ridiculed and abused to tears at the hands of Fletcher and have musical opportunities given and taken away in a second.

It was hard to watch during my first viewing and I think the level of intensity and violence took away from being able to really focus on the dynamics of the two main characters. (Only because I’m a bit squeamish about violence, it’s not a flaw of the film by any means.)

Whether you can handle the violence or not, my advice would be to watch this film twice (I’m almost ready to go a third time.) Fletcher and Neyman are complex characters and the film presents the opportunity to really think about why they act the way they do in their own lives and in contrast to each other with really good jazz music in the background.

Just wait until the final scene, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

As far as the Oscars, I honestly don’t know how much of a contender Whiplash is for best picture but Simmons could get the statue following his win at the Golden Globes.

Teller isn’t nominated, but I hope the role leads him to more of the same and subtle, solid performances like he made in The Spectacular Now. He’s actually got a couple of Fantastic Four movies coming out and others that appear to be more action than drama, so it will be interesting to see that play out on screen after his role as Neyman.

selmaI also saw an equally intense-but for different reasons-  film this week, Selma, starring David Oyelowo as  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as he led a movement for voting rights through a peaceful campaign and marches in Alabama in 1965.

The true story told by Ava DuVernay showcases King as a person through his public mission and private life one in the same. It is a film and story that wouldn’t need artistic technique through cinematography to showcase that but the chosen visuals focusing on Oyelowo as King were one of my favorite aspects of it, second to his performance and again the story overall.

It too is unclear if Selma will be a surprise winner or close second or third for best picture on Sunday, but at the end of the day that doesn’t really matter. It’s a film everyone should see to know more of who Martin Luther King Jr. was and is as an influence in history.

I don’t have the best transition here, so I’ll just move on to a couple of comedies I can’t wait to see as Oscar season winds down and as a break from all the dramas (as amazing as they are.)

The trailers before Whiplash this time around included What We Do In The Shadows from Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi about a group of vampires in modern times. It. Looks. Hilarious. I’ve heard several interviews with Clement and Waititi and cannot wait to see it after hearing about their vision for the project and time they spent perfecting their work.

Last but not least, Amy Schumer, one of my comedy heroes has her film Trainwreck, which she wrote, coming out this summer.

I hope the film is not, well, a trainwreck, but with Judd Apatow at the helm and Schumer as the sole writing credit, I think it has promise to be a comedy to relate to while showing Schumer’s skills in stand-up comedy played out on screen.

Next time I write, most likely, the Oscars will be over and it will be time to start following potential nominees for next year. It’s also my goal to see, and document, more of the movies that should be nominated and win but never will.

Over and out.

Beep boop boop

Hey hey hey!

“Beep boop boop” is the message that comes up while WordPress is opening a new post window. I couldn’t think of a subject for this post, so it will have to do.

I am beyond saying I am behind on my blog because I haven’t posted in so long. I will just consider this, hopefully, a starting over point to keep up with it and move on.

david carrBefore I get to all the movies I’ve seen and want to see and the upcoming Academy Awards, I must touch on sad news in the journalistic world that ended the week. David Carr, a media columnist for The New York Times, died on Thursday in the newsroom at age 58. I got to see him speak at the Minnesota Newspaper Association convention a few years ago and just loved all his commentary and seeing him on assignment in the documentary Page One: Inside The New York Times.

I was too shy to introduce myself to him at the convention, and knew I would be. I was comfortable listening to him and admiring him from afar much like I felt reading his work every week. He will have a legacy that lives on in that but he definitely left this world much too soon.

That is all… wait, no, The Oscars are on the way on Feb. 22. Last year they weren’t until March 2. I guess I’ll just have to wear skinny jeans and a hoodie that day because there is definitely not enough time to find a gown appropriate for the red carpet at H&M.  I only have three of the best picture nominees left to see, Selma, The Theory of Everything and The Imitation Game, so I may actually be able to finish that category on my Oscar ballot if I see a couple this weekend.

It seems clear Boyhood will make a sweep at the awards show, and rightfully so. I saw the film when it came out last summer and appreciate the mix of a simple story about a boy growing up and his family life on screen knowing in the back of my mind nothing about how it was made was simple. As many people probably know it was made over 12 years to reflect the actors growing up and aging much like the characters in the film. And, from what I can tell, although certainly there is a lot of buzz about the project now it was done with little fanfare or attention-seeking.

If it weren’t for Boyhood I’d love for Whiplash to take the best picture statue. it was definitely my favorite of the eight nominees and I’m tempted to see it again before the big show and it leaves the theater. I work one of the theaters in the Twin Cities that is showing it right now and get to hear snippets of the jazz music blaring through the halls, especially during the final scene of the film, and it’s fantastic.

The rest of the nominees are a mix of fiction and films based on true stories.

I did not like Birdman as much as I thought I would, and I’m not entirely sure I understood it, but the acting makes up for it and Oscar nods for Michael Keaton and Emma Stone are just.

I saw American Sniper to learn more about the story of Chris Kyle. It’s obvious there is more to it than the movie could tell, or Clint Eastwood chose to focus on, but the film itself didn’t impress me either way. The acting was middle of the road and I don’t think, as a movie, it is deserving of any accolades.

I wonder why Foxcatcher didn’t make the Best Picture nominee list. I enjoyed the film and unlike American Sniper, the acting across the board by Steve Carell, Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo was solid and compelling. Each actor seemed to embody the men they played and the film drew attention to a story that people might not know a lot about. I, for one, did not and I will say Bennett Miller’s depiction of it reminded me a lot of his work in Capote. It was very stripped down and raw and focused in-depth on the characters. Somehow it left me wanting more at the same time, but maybe that’s because the directing and acting was so good I just wanted to watch more of what could be done with the story.

And last but not least, of the best picture nominees I have seen, The Grand Budapest Hotel made the cut. It won’t win and I remember reading there was a divide in feelings about the film from Wes Anderson fans. Maybe I’m not critical enough to delve into Anderson’s work, but he took it up a notch with his visual depiction of the story in The Grand Budapest Hotel and of course it’s always great to see his regular cast of characters like Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzmann have their small roles mixed in with newcomers like Tilda Swinton and Harvey Keitel.

I’m behind, as usual, on seeing the feature-length documentaries among the nominees, but I did catch a showing of the animated short films this week.  My favorite was The Dam Keeper about a young pig charged with operating a windmill dam that needs to run to protect his small town from pollution. He befriends a fox in his school and the story also focuses on their friendship and it was a adorable.

Speaking of adorable, I was recently alerted to a story about how Jimmy Fallon and Nicole Kidman met years ago and she apparently was interested in him. I was smiling and laughing so hard during the video of them talking about it on his show, it made my cheeks hurt. Jimmy Fallon is just all around adorable and this is why.

Bye!

“Frank” and Such

Hello Folks.

I had to pull myself away from binge watching “The Good Wife” and listening to the new Ryan Adams album to finally update my blog. (Guess what? David Letterman really likes Ryan Adams, too.)

I will say that hearing critics like Chris Ryan and Andy Greenwald gush about Adams’ new songs and how awesome he is just makes my day, almost as much as the time my sister and I saw him at Gluek’s bar after a concert many years ago.

Ryan and Greenwald also happen to be fans of “The Good Wife” and give regular shout-outs to homegirl Christine Baranski for some reason. I like it. Unfortunately before I realized what an addicting gem the show is I listened to a spoiler episode of their Hollywood Prospectus podcast that revealed a huge plot point from the finale of last season. Maybe it will make it a little bit easier now that I am prepared for the devastating news that caused fans to flood (Spoiler Alert!) Twitter with their 140-character reactions.

For those of you who are current on “The Good Wife” (anyone, anyone?) the season premiere is Sept. 21.

That’s right, it’s fall TV and movie season!

I may or may not have a Google doc saved to keep track of all the premiere dates of my favorite shows and a few new ones I want to watch (if you need a copy, let me know.) There are a lot of great shows airing soon, but I am really here to dish about what I did see during the past few months, fall movies I am so so so excited about and my recent viewing of “Frank.”

This summer was reportedly the worst at the box office since 1997 and not even “Guardians of Galaxy” (which is amazing) could save the day.

I guess I’m not helping because I work at a movie theater and therefore didn’t pay for any of the movies I saw this summer, except “22 Jump Street” (worth it.)

Most recently I saw “Frank,” starring Michael Fassbender, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Domhnall Gleeson and my boy Scoot McNairy.

I was hooked on what I thought was a completely fictional movie just from the trailer, only to find out at the end that it’s based on a true story documented in a newspaper article by Jon Ronson.

Ronson is the inspiration for one of the main characters, Jon Burroughs, an aspiring musician who stumbles upon an opportunity to play a gig with a mysterious band, the Soronprfbs.

The band leader is Frank Sidebottom, who always wears a paper mache head with a face painted on it.

The role of Frank Sidebottom is a departure for Fassbender, I think, but he masters the performance and the musical talent of the main character. Fassbender’s voice is key in the film as he performed many of the songs by the Soronprfbs and had to act, for the most part, without using any facial expressions.

After Burroughs lands a gig with the band Don (McNairy), the manager, invites him to record an album at a remote cabin in the woods. He immediately agrees and after a lengthy stay there sets his sights for the band on performing at the South By Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas. The rest of the band isn’t aware of Burroughs’ goals for some time, much less the fact he is promoting the band on Twitter and YouTube.

In their time together the Soronprfbs experience conflict, tragedy and happiness, which are themes displayed throughout the film. On the surface the theatrical telling of this true story is portrayed with quirk and humor, but the filmmakers reveal the true persona of Frank, and all the characters for that matter, by the end.

Frank is still in theaters, including the Lagoon in Minneapolis and is coming soon to St. Anthony Main. It will be on DVD on Dec. 8, 2014.

Wow this is getting long, I guess that’s what happens when I don’t work on my blog for a really long time.

I have plans to go to brunch and play Bingo, yes at the same time, soon so I better wrap this up.

Looking back on what else I saw this summer, “Obvious Child” starring Jenny Slate was by far my favorite film. I chose wisely with the aforementioned blockbusters “22 Jump Street” and “Guardians of the Galaxy”and I enjoyed “Happy Christmas” and “Boyhood” as well.

As for what’s to come I’m pretty excited about “Nightcrawler,” starring Jake Gyllenhaal as a freelance crime journalist in Los Angeles.

Bennett Miller’s “Foxcatcher” starring Channing Tatum and Steve Carrell is top on my list as well and David Fincher’s “Gone Girl” is looking better and better. The first trailers make the film look pretty cheesy, for lack of a better word, but I actually think the on-screen version of the story will be better than the book. Author Gillian Flynn is also the screenwriter, so it will be interesting to see how she turns around her own novel.

if you didn’t know the film is especially creating excitement in Cape Girardeau, Mo., where the story takes place and the cast and crew spent time filming during the last year. My aunt lives there and said the local movie theater will show the film on every screen during its opening weekend and a lot of other events are planned around the premiere. Maybe Ben Affleck will be there, in which case I will be too.

Gosh, I haven’t even covered all the movies I wanted to (including “St. Vincent,” and “Birdman,”) but if I do I will be late for Bingo.

As John Hodgman says, “That is all.”

Bye!

I’m dressed, but not ready, for the Oscars.

dress 2 001I’m not ready for the Oscars. It happens every year. I think I am going to at least see all the best picture nominees and I end up spending my free evenings leading up to the big show binge watching Brooklyn 99 or House of Cards. Fail.

After I see “Her” today I will have made it through six of the nine nominees, also including “Dallas Buyers Club,” “American Hustle,” “Nebraska,” “The Wolf of Wall Street,” and “Gravity.”

Of what I’ve seen so far I think “Nebraska” or “Dallas Buyers Club” should win, but “Gravity” will. But it could all be rigged anyway. Someone with power stopped “Don Jon” from being nominated, so what does that tell you? I also learned today that the best picture decision is based on the voters ranking their favorites compared to just picking one, which they do with the other categories.

Clearly I’ve been awake for a while working on my Oscars pregame, so here are some things you can do to get ready and pass the time:

1. There is a lot of buzz about the contest between Matthew McConaughey and Leonardo DiCaprio for best actor. McConaughey is having his moment, but DiCaprio has been in it for a long time. If you haven’t seen McConaughey’s recent work, try “Mud” and just watch something, anything, with Leonardo DiCaprio in it. I am team Leo.

2. Go to Grantland.com and stay there. I enjoy their critics’ reviews and podcasts and please, if you finish everything about the Oscars, try the reality tv offerings. You won’t be disappointed.

3. Watch old movies that won an Oscar.

4. Five words: Independent Spirit Awards. Patton Oswalt.

5. Put on something fancy and fill out your Oscar ballot.

Happy Sunday, and as my favorite lady Grace Helbig says, “I don’t know.”

Oscars, bitch.

Oh Happy day! The Oscar nominations are out!

untitledIt actually doesn’t seem that daunting that I still need to see six of the nine films nominated for best picture. I was going to see “Dallas Buyers Club” tonight but it’s too cold outside to leave the house again and I may or may not be wearing my pajamas at 6:30 p.m.

After I do see “Dallas Buyers Club” all I’ll have left is “Her,” “Captain Phillips,” “Philomena” and “12 Years a Slave.”

I am done with “Gravity,” “The Wolf of Wall Street,” “American Hustle” and “Nebraska,” which I am thrilled made the cut.

As is the case in most years, there is consistency in nominees throughout the best picture, acting, directing and screenplay categories.

The cast in “Blue Jasmine,” “August: Osage County,” and “Captain Phillips” are some exceptions there.

It’s considered an upset that Tom Hanks didn’t get nominated for “Captain Phillips,” but Barkhad Abdi is certainly making up for it with his supporting actor recognition at both the Golden Globes and the upcoming Academy Awards.

Back to best picture, I really don’t think “The Wolf of Wall Street” is deserving of the nod and “Inside Llewyn Davis” could easily replace it on the list given the Coen Brothers’ past success at the big show. It could be Leonardo DiCaprio’s year for the coveted best acting award.

untitledIf I ruled the world of film awards one of my favorites from last year, “Frances Ha,” should really be in the mix.

The project from indie power couple Greta Gerwig (who did get a nomination for her role as Frances at the Golden Globes) and Noah Baumbach just needs more attention.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s “Don Jon” is also an admirable piece of art by the first time director and writer (and major heartthrob.)

So you have two options, stay home tonight like me and watch something (might I once again suggest “Frances Ha”) on Netflix or bundle up and go to the movie theater.

I do, as always, plan to see all the nominated films before the Oscars. The nice thing is a film’s nomination often means it will be in the theater longer or, with the Oscars airing on March 2, more of the titles may be available to watch at home by then.

“American Hustle,” for example, could be one you don’t have to leave the couch to see.

I would revisit this one, if I didn’t have so many other films on my list, to hear Jennifer Lawrence talk more about “flowers and garbage” and “science ovens” in her role as Rosalyn Rosenfeld

Lawrence secured a Golden Globe for her performance in the David O. Russell picture. Amy Adams has a Globe now too and there is buzz about repeat wins for both actresses at the Academy Awards.

Russell and his cast (which includes some surprises) deliver a solid con-artist film on all levels through the writing, costumes and the music.

Well my hands hurt, a lot, from typing this and articles all day at my job as an independent communications consultant (okay take out independent and add specialist, just see the “Father of the Bride” remake and you’ll know what I’m talking about.)

Here is another gem from Ms. Rosenfeld:

“You know, I read that it takes all of the nutrition out of our food! It’s empty, just like your deals. Empty! Empty!”

Byeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.

“Inside Llewyn Davis” and “Nebraska”

Editor’s (Me) note: I wrote this yesterday, but I didn’t want to change the introduction. I’m too cold. (Which is also probably why WordPress isn’t allowing me to upload photos with this post.)

I’m on my third cup of tea for the day and I have seen the ending of “Nebraska” three times now. Too much? I don’t think so.

untitledOne of the (only) perks of an usher shift at the movie theater, especially right now, is escaping for a few minutes to watch Woody Grant (Bruce Dern) have a moment to drive down the street in his son’s truck and pretend it is his own.

Taking in this scene in exchange for having to sweep up popcorn and pick up boxes of Cracker Jack (which we don’t sell) several times in an evening will suffice until I can see the whole film again.

As I said, Dern plays Woody Grant in the black-and-white film about a man who thinks he has won a million-dollar prize and wants to go to Nebraska to claim it.

He’ll even walk there, from Montana. While his wife Kate (June Squibb) and son Ross (Bob Odenkirk) are a bit fed up with Woody, his other son David (Will Forte) comes in to pick up the pieces.

David hasn’t had the best relationship with his father either, but ensures he gets home safely after repeated attempts to walk across state lines.

Clearly Woody is seeking something more than the million dollars. He needs to get away and perhaps wants something more in his life as he ages.

The result is a chance for Woody and David to bond more on a father-and-son road trip to Nebraska.

David’s girlfriend just moved out of their apartment and his job at an electronics store is not his life’s dream by any means.

The trip ultimately becomes a time for the whole Grant family to come together again and for Woody to revisit his past, including the town in Nebraska where he was born.

David is able to learn more than he ever knew about his father from the local people in town, my favorite being Woody’s high school sweetheart, Peg.

It’s a sad story just as much as it is uplifting and the script, with Payne’s direction, lets the viewer in to connect with the characters.

I think a repeat viewing of “Nebraska” would reveal even more of the characters and the meaning of the story.

At the same time, it can be taken at face value to be about the importance of family.

The film has been criticized for being negative in its portrayal of an elderly character and the state of life in the Midwest, but I just didn’t see it that way. Payne is from Nebraska, so I can’t imagine his intention was to tell a negative story – just the truth.

The visuals and music add to the theme of “Nebraska,” but like any story very centered on its characters, the actors’ performances are key.

Dern, Squibb and Odenkirk all fit well in their roles and my favorite performance was by Forte.

“Nebraska” certainly has its share of award nominations and wins as does the Coen Brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis, another film centered on the ups and downs in the lives of its characters.

untitledOscar Isaac, who plays Llewyn Davis, has the most screen time compared to the supporting cast of Justin Timberlake, Carey Mulligan and John Goodman.

Davis is a struggling folk singer trying to find a niche for his music during the early 1960s in Greenwich Village.

He moves from couch to couch at his friends’ apartments and is as much navigating his personal life as his career.

Characters like Jean (Mulligan), Jim (Timberlake) and Roland Turner (John Goodman) are there to exemplify Davis’ struggles and show that he is really on his own.

His character can best be mirrored in that of an orange tabby cat who he is paired with for a good part of the film.

The cat – maybe this is too literal – is lost and sometimes hurt during its screen time, much like Llewyn.

I think this film is worth a second viewing, too. The music and cinematography choices by the Coen Brothers are as much of a character in the story as Llewyn Davis and they all deserve more study.

Now if I only had more time. I’d venture out today if the temperature wasn’t approaching -50.

I’ll probably catch “American Hustle” this weekend and in the meantime I know I can always pop in to work and watch the end of “Nebraska.”

WAIT, I’m not done.

Here are some fun facts I found while researching these films:

* Today (Jan. 5) is Oscar Isaac’s birthday.
* He also worked with Carey Mulligan by playing her husband in “Drive.”
* Bryan Cranston auditioned for the role of David in “Nebraska” and Jack Nicholson was considered for the role of Woody.
WAIT, I’m still not done.
Being that winter has no end in sight, I am sure you could use a recommendation of a movie to watch at home. I definitely suggest “The To Do List” with Aubrey Plaza, Bill Hader and Rachel Bilson.
Brandy Klark (Plaza) decides to live it up during the summer before she goes to college by exploring a whole list of sexual escapades instead of buying shower shoes and extra long bed sheets for the dorms.
The film takes place in 1993 so it was fun to see a throwback to the era of mix tapes, Trapper Keepers and scrunchies.
Plus this movie is hilarious and Plaza steps up her comedic ability, which is already pretty strong (see “Parks and Recreation.)”
OK, now I am really done.
Stay warm, bitches.

The Wolf of Wall Street

untitled “The Wolf of Wall Street” will hook you just like Jordan Belfort was hooked on the high of selling stocks to desperate people and drugs and alcohol.

But Martin Scorsese’s film with screenwriter Terence Winter (“The Sopranos”) is a little difficult to stay focused on after hour number two.

The length of the film (three hours in all) is its main downfall.

Leonardo DiCaprio is the lead as Belfort, a stockbroker coming up in New York in the 1980s and 1990s with his own firm serving as a hub of investment fraud.

Scorsese and Winter’s telling of the story focuses on Belfort’s rise up and his demise sought by FBI agent Patrick Denham (Kyle Chandler.)

The visuals and script, filled with monologues and motivational speeches by DiCaprio, are enticing but again a bit much after the two-hour mark.

Many of the scenes that showcase Belfort’s lifestyle and addictions could have been cut or transformed to further reveal the man behind the suit — that is if there is more to him than the need for money and his ability to take advantage of anyone to keep it intact.

Either way DiCaprio’s perfection as Belfort is not marred by the fact that there are one too many scenes allowing (or at times forcing) the viewer to peek into his greed.

The performance actually reminded me of DiCaprio’s role as Jay Gatsby in “The Great Gatsby” earlier this year. Both characters are the focus of the films and present monologues for the viewer to take in and decipher.

Overall I wouldn’t let knowing the length of “The Wolf of Wall Street” deter you from seeing the film, especially if you’re a regular Scorsese or DiCaprio fan.

I am glad I stayed through the film (some people in the theater did not) but I am also curious why Scorsese made it his longest feature to date.

Maybe it was just to give DiCaprio the screen time he clearly excels at when developing a character or to top some of his other lengthy films (“The Aviator” or “Casino.”)

The end result for critics and DiCaprio fans to watch for is if he will earn the accolade of an Oscar in 2014. He’s already nominated for a Golden Globe, which could be one ticket to a win at the big show.

It’s fun to watch the race, especially with the sense that DiCaprio isn’t as much in tune to it as his fans and critics.

I hope he wins for his performance as Belfort, his library of work, and for the opportunity to see DiCaprio in the role as himself giving an acceptance speech.

The Oscars are not on until March 2, which leaves more time to see the work of the nominees.

I am planning to cross American Hustle and Inside Llewlyn Davis off my list with a double feature on New Year’s Day.

There are certainly plenty of titles from 2013 to check out if you should want to ring in (and recover from Dec. 31) the new year on the couch.

If you’re in the mood for some oldies but goodies, check out “The Black Stallion,” or “Almost Famous,” which I revisited over my holiday break.