Mobi’s Moscars – Part 1
Last February I started what I hoped might turn into an annual Mobi-event – namely, a review of all the Oscar nominated films together with my own suggested winners in the main Oscar categories.
I think that my efforts last year worked quite well, (you can find them: HERE), so I’ve decided to repeat the exercise for 2014.
This year, instead of having one marathon ‘review blog’ as on the day of the Oscars, I’ve decided to write two reviews per week leading up the awards ceremony itself on 1st March.
I’m still working my way through the movies and out of the 9 nominations for best picture, to date, I have watched 6, namely: American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Dallas Buyers Club, 12 Years a Slave, her, & The Wolf of Wall Street.
Still to be seen are: Gravity, Nebraska and Philomena.
I have also seen August-Osage County which has two nominations in the Actress categories.
To start the ball rolling, this week I will review American Hustle and Captain Phillips.
I was looking forward to seeing American Hustle, as it had received very good reviews and has already garnered a number of prestigious awards, leading up to the Oscars.
It sounded like a star-studded caper that would provide an enjoyable 2 hours viewing.
With stars like Christian Bale and Amy Adams, together with the pair that I loved in ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ – Jenifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper – and to top it all, being directed by ‘The Silver Linings’ Director of the moment, David. O Russell – how could it fail?
Well, the answer to this question, according to box office receipts and a vast majority of professional critics is that it didn’t fail – fact you could call it an unqualified success.
After all, most reviewers gave it at least a 4 out of five stars, using such gushing language as:
“The bizarre and hilarious situation rattles along, never entirely diverted or derailed, with plenty of comic set pieces….”
“It’s all rangy and loose, with scenes that look as if they could be re-cut and re-edited every which way. It could easily be two or three times as long, and there is enormous pleasure in Russell’s sustained riffing….”
And at the end, we feel dizzy and disorientated, like marks who don’t know we’ve been had. It is pure style from David O Russell…..
It all left me wondering if I was watching the same movie.
Maybe I was simply in a very bad mood, but whatever it was, I remained unamused, totally confused, but most of all, thoroughly bored.
The characters did absolutely nothing for me and I completely lost interest in what they were trying to do – all that I did feel was a total lack of empathy for these silly con-people.
I confess that I became so bored that not only did I find difficulty in following the gibberish plot-lines, but in moments of sheer tedium, I actually fast forwarded through some of the over-long, verbose dialogue. I cannot recall another occasion when watching a movie when I have resorted to doing this.
It was almost ‘wall-to-wall’ talk, talk and more talk, which I found neither fascinating, nor amusing – just ‘west-coast-speak’ diatribe.
I couldn’t even begin to tell you what the plot was about as it is several weeks since I have seen the movie and it was so forgettable, that nothing – not even the parts that I was able to follow – has stuck in my ageing memory.
If the movies should be judged by the sum of its parts, then by rights, American Hustle should be right up there, as there is much good acting, clever cinematography and stylish direction, but to what ends?
Even if I am the only person who didn’t get the jokes and was bored by the stupid capers and unlikely twists in the plots, does this film about a group of American con artists who lead glib, clever lives deserve to be crowned as the finest film made in the English language in 2013?
I think not.
Strangely, the professional reviewers seem to be totally out of touch with the cinema going public. Sure, their rave reviews have meant that millions have flocked to see it, but what did they think of it?
In many years of reading about movies on the Internet Movie Data Base, (IMDB), I have never seen such a litany of negative public reviews.
Usually, the punters will rave about movies on IMDB, even when the critics have panned them, but this time it is the other way around.
I am talking of review-headlines such as:-
‘Just not understanding the hype’,
‘Looks Like I’m the Only One Who Didn’t Like It’,
‘Don’t be “Hustled” by the reviews’.
‘”American Hustle” is okay and nothing more’,
‘Disappointed beyond belief!’,
‘No plot, no acting, no drama, no fun’,
‘Bells and Whistles but Nothing to Care About’,
‘Do not get ensnared in the hype surrounding this hustle...’
Believe it or not, these are the first 10 headlines that I copied – in order – from the IMBD ‘user-review’ section.
Looks like it’s not only me after all…
But in spite of all this, as at 30th January, 2014, it has grossed a whopping 129 million dollars in the USA alone, thanks, no doubt, to the rave reviews from the critics and the early garnering of 44 awards plus, of course, no less than 10 Oscar nominations.
The Oscar-Hustle, the biggest hustle of all…
I wasn’t particularly looking forward to watching Captain Phillips as the subject matter didn’t really appeal to me, but almost from the opening credits I was completely hooked.
It is a masterful, towering movie of excitement, drama, suspense, shock and ultimately intense emotion. In my humble opinion, it is far and away finest performance by Tom Hanks. He is certainly a serious contender for the best actor Oscar.
Based on a true story, the film is about a gigantic, ocean-going container vessel being hi-jacked by a tiny band of desperate Somalis, and the immediate aftermath of this daring but utterly criminal act.
We get to know the two main protagonists: Captain Phillips, (Tom Hanks), who is the strong, silent and incredibly brave master of the vessel, and the Somali hi-jack gang leader, Muse, (Barkhad Abdi).
I cannot write much about the plot without spoiling the story for those of you who haven’t yet seen it, but suffice to say that it romps along at quite a pace and things develop in dramatic and unexpected ways.
Unlike ‘American Hustle’, I can guarantee that you will never become bored for one millisecond while watching this exciting and brilliantly acted movie. All the cast are totally believable in their roles, and there are no one-dimensional or ‘plastic characters’ – not even in the US Navy.
The cinematography and direction (by Paul Greengrass) is so realistic that sometimes you think you are watching footage of the actual event.
Even though we in the west deplore these hijackings and hostage taking, the film manages to perform an incredible task – it actually succeeds in evoking a measure of sympathy for the plight of the Somali perpetrators, and in particular, their leader, Muse.
In the end, few watching can fail to be moved by the physical and emotional torment of Captain Phillips and if you leave the cinema dry eyed and also without a feeling of being uplifted by the turnout of events, then you are not human.
Again, unlike ‘American Hustle’ the user reviews on IMDB are almost 100% unanimous in their high praise of this very worthwhile and must-see piece of entertainment.
Next week: Dallas Buyers Club, and 12 Years a Slave.