Category Archives: Hollywood Film Reviews

Hollywood films are dissected here.

Oscar Nominations

If it were by the number of nominations, the Oscar winners are as well decided. The frontrunners “Gravity” (ten nominations) and “12 Years a Slave” (nine nominations) “American Hustle” (ten nominations) would only have themselves alone to battle with—fairly splitting among themselves fans vote. But it hardly is the case, as demonstrated by Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln” contriving not to win Best Picture award last time.

George Clooney, Gravity
George Clooney, Gravity

There are some anomalies operating this year. First, the most popular movie, the one that is winning the most awards in the ramp up to the Oscar cast as well as global box office dollars, is “Gravity.” But much like 2010, when James Cameron’s blockbuster “Avatar” went into the Oscar race with nine nominations, any sci-fi blockbuster is at a disadvantage. That’s because snobby Academy members are obsessed with prestige. That year low-budget indie “The Hurt Locker” took home six Oscars including Best Picture and Director while “Avatar” won only three tech statues. “Gravity”‘s strength lies in the technical categories.

There was also the Kathryn Bigelow factor; the Academy was inspired to award the first woman a Best Director Oscar. This year both Steve McQueen and Alfonso Cuaron would mark firsts if they won, for a black or Latino filmmaker. Black directors John Singleton and Lee Daniels were nominated for “Boyz ‘n the Hood” and “Precious,” respectively; if “12 Years a Slave” wins Best Picture, McQueen will be the first black producer to accept the award—after five nominations. Two Latin American films have won the foreign Oscar, while Brazilian directors Héctor Babenco (“Kiss of the Spider Woman”) and Fernando Meirelles (“City of God”) and Mexican filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu (“Babel”) were nominated for Best Director.

This year too the Academy will likely go with the smaller more artful socially-conscious movie that they admire for Best Picture—even if they don’t actually like it—over the popular sci-fi tech-driven entertainment. There’s a reason the filmmakers behind “Gravity” keep repeating that the “heart” of the movie is Sandra Bullock. They want to remind voters that more than VFX went into making this movie work. As much as I admire “Blue Jasmine” anointed winner Cate Blanchett (who has artfully dodged the now fading Woody Allen controversy) I don’t think any other actress could have pulled off Bullock’s precise athletic dramatic feat.

But “Gravity”‘s vulnerability is revealed by its lack of an Original Screenplay nomination. Oscar night will likely follow a similar pattern to the Critics’ Choice and Golden Globes (which split drama and comedy) and the BAFTA Awards. “Gravity” will rack up many wins (including Cinematography, VFX, Score, Sound Mixing and Editing, and Best Director for Alfonso Cuaron), while “12 Years a Slave” will not. Adapted Screenplay is the most likely win for “12 Years a Slave”— and Chiwetel Ejiofor and Lupita Nyong’o are still in the running—along with Best Picture.

Golden Globe Award- American Hustle
Golden Globe Award- American Hustle

The annual Oscar nominations are always full of surprises and this round was no exception. It was not a good day for Tom Hanks, who was a no-show in two acting categories. “Captain Phillips,” with six nominations, was revealed as a weaker Best Picture candidate, as it missed not only DGA-nominee Paul Greengrass (although last year’s director snub, Ben Affleck, went on to win Best Picture with “Argo”) but Best Actor Tom Hanks, a shocking omission. Earning nominations were supporting actor Barkhad Abdi, writer Billy Ray and editor Christopher Rouse, usually a sign of Best Picture strength.

“Dallas Buyers Club,” with strong actor support, also scored six nominations including adapted screenplay and editing. It should win three: Best Actor Matthew McConaughey, Supporting Actor Jared Leto, and Hair and Makeup.

Paramount has pushed effectively not only for Best Picture contender “Nebraska” (which scored six nominations, including a director’s nod for Alexander Payne (presumably supplanting Greengrass), Best Actor and Supporting Actress for Bruce Dern and June Squibb, respectively, and original screenplay (Bob Nelson) but late entry “The Wolf of Wall Street” landed five nods for Best Picture, Director (Martin Scorsese), actor (Leonardo DiCaprio), supporting actor (Jonah Hill) and writer (Terence Winter). They slammed those nominations in over the Christmas holiday.

Snubs: But the Academy snubbed Oprah Winfrey and Weinstein Co.’s “The Butler.” It was not such a big surprise for Robert Redford to lose a Best Actor slot, as “All is Lost” was not widely seen and was perceived as a silent film. Despite Fox Searchlight’s best efforts, Nicole Holofcener’s “Enough Said” did not score on the board, as the late James Gandolfini did not land in supporting actor. Neither did “Rush” star Daniel Bruhl.

SOME OF THE NOMINATIONS FOR FEATURE FILMS:

“American Hustle” Sony Pictures Releasing 10

“Gravity” Warner Bros. 10

“12 Years a Slave” Fox Searchlight 9

“Captain Phillips” Sony Pictures Releasing 6

“Dallas Buyers Club” Focus Features 6

“Nebraska” Paramount 6

“Her” Warner Bros. 5

“The Wolf of Wall Street” Paramount 5

“Philomena” The Weinstein Company 4

“Blue Jasmine” Sony Pictures Classics 3

“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” Warner Bros. 3

“August: Osage County” The Weinstein Company 2

“Despicable Me 2” Universal 2

“Frozen” Walt Disney 2

“The Grandmaster” The Weinstein Company 2

“The Great Gatsby” Warner Bros. 2

“Inside Llewyn Davis” CBS Films 2

“The Lone Ranger” Walt Disney 2

“Lone Survivor” Universal 2

Advertisements

Why You Shouldn’t See 12 Years a Slave

12 years a slave1

I have seen this movie thrice! I can hear you murmuring—yes, I heard that! But wait, seeing it thrice should tilt this argument in my favour, no? At least, people should speak of what they know, right?
The plot is brilliant. A loving husband and caring father of two gets cajoled, gets abducted, and winds up in a plantation for 12 years. Another tale of black slavery/ white domination. Solomon Northup, played by Chiwetel Ejiofor, who by the way bagged the acclaimed BAFTAs award for Best Actor, lit the scenes alongside Lupita Nyong’o, toying with our emotions, keeping us from wandering off the cinema hall. A class art! The film scooped the Golden Globe Award, BAFTAs, and has nine Academy Awards nomination. Phew!

Chiwetel Ejiofor
Chiwetel Ejiofor

When I saw Chiwetel in the bizarre movie “2012”, I thought he wasn’t so commanding. Here, here, in 12 Years a Slave, he grabbed the spotlight by the ball.
Steve McQueen, the director, kept the scenes long enough to evoke pity, empathy and whatever else it’s called. Like when Chiwetel was noosed as punishment for attacking a white racist, and Lupita’s heart-rending lashing. A few other scenes were swift—like Chiwetel’s fingers between a female slave’s thighs. Mind you, no CGI was employed here, unlike most other 2013 movies. So, Steve sold no stunts, he sold feelings. A fair trade. Less expenses, more grossing. A way to go!
The movie was not dull in anyway, yet it left us waiting for one ending—where Chiwetel gets rescued. It was a matter of when, and not if. And it happened just as I thought: a re-union with his family. Can we sing Amazing Grace now?

Lupita, Chiwetel
Lupita, Chiwetel

Now, seriously, don’t see this movie!
At ten or thereabout, I watched this slave film where blacks were grossly maltreated. One of them, one day, got brave and tried to escape. He was chased down with horses and a net was cast around him. Like a fish in the days of Simon Peter, son of Zebedee, he was caught. The punishment he endured afterwards still haunts me now. Many years down the line, the slave story is still being told, to evoke nothing but pity. Not bravery! And for Africans, the past isn’t about slavery.
20 million dollars was spent to make 12 Years a Slave. How about same amount being spent to recapture the bravery of the great kings of Africa? Were there never glory-days before the whites came with their large boats? Was Egypt not feared by all…even from across Europe? How about Timbuktu? Shouldn’t more films be made to revere African kings and queens of note? Some pride needs to be recaptured. Some dignity. We aren’t pathetic at the exclusion of everything else illustrious!
And what does the slave films intend to peddle? Hatred? Blame? Complacency? The healing process? Ah, like someone cared if ‘someone’ was hurting! The man of the century, Mandela, (yes, I said it!) towered high above white dominance, and we want to see a film of him, played perhaps by Mr. Chiwetel Ejiofor, win an Oscar. And if there would be another slave story, it had better be told like Django Unchained (by Quentin Tarantino) where a black man is not only lashed at.

This is my bit.

Drop a comment if you got one.

20 BEST FILMS OF 2013

Thor: The Dark World
Thor: The Dark World
Captain Philips
Captain Philips

In case you missed it while it was hot, it’s still hot. Now drop it like it is! Grab the insight and go grab yourself popcorn!

20. Prisoners (Denis Villeneuve)
19. The Grandmasters (Wong Kar-Wai)
18. Thor: The Dark World (Alan Taylor)
17. Only God Forgives (Nicolas Winding Refn)
16. The Iceman (Ariel Vromen)
15. John Dies At The End (Don Coscarelli)
14. The Great Gatsby (Baz Luhrmann)
13. This Is The End (Seth Gordon, Evan Goldberg)
12. Trance (Danny Boyle)
11. The Power Of Few (Leone Marucci)

Spring Breakers
Spring Breakers
Evil Dead 2
Evil Dead 2

10. The Conjuring (James Wan)
9. Byzantium (Neil Jordan)
8. Evil Dead (Fede Alvarez)
7. Spring Breakers (Harmony Korine)
6. Stoker (Chan-wook Park)
5. Blue Jasmine (Woody Allen)
4. Gravity (Alfonso Cuaron)
3. Mud (Jeff Nichols)
2. Captain Philips (Paul Greengrass)
1. The Wolf of Wall Street (Martin Scorsese)

Now how many of these have you seen? Share, let your friends too have their say.

Another Unique Take of C.J. ‘Fiery’ Obasi
C.J. “Fiery” Obasi is a writer, director and editor. His credits include the art-house surrealistic feature – Jim & Joan, as well as the upcoming thriller- OJUJU.

Is Leonardo DiCaprio Not The Biggest Hollywood Star of 2013?

Leo, Wolf of Wall Street
Leo, Wolf of Wall Street

I do think Leonardo’s career skidded downward from the peak of mount Titanic, well, through no fault of his. Hardly could a buzz that huge be sustained by anyone. Even the man who made the classic possible, James Cameron, went into a vampirish sleep he never woke from till Avatar was birthed.

Leonardo had since remained the decent, albeit big, Hollywood star. Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Tom Cruise, and lately (what’s his name?) Robert Pattinson of The Twilight Saga have all looked more appealing to the paparazzi. Leonardo kept striving. Blood Diamond couldn’t drag him back on the lit podium despite its African appeal.

Now, more closely, many would draw a bold argument from the heights of 2004 when he won the Golden Globe Award for his role in the movie, The Aviators, or even point to The Departed as a great art. Yes, these are valid arguments at worst, but for me, they pale in the height of the past (Titanic) or the floodlight of what was to come. Yes, and it did come! Leonardo joined the Scorsese band and The Wolf of Wall Street was released, a product of alkaloid-induced ejaculation and foul tongue. We all got caught up in the euphoria. You too! No? The buzz is up once again. Need I rant about the Oscar nomination for best actor? That’s what I thought.

gatsby- leo gatsby- leo 2

Now don’t scream Jack yet ’cause The Great Gatsby just rolled up the spool, staring…(you said it!) Leonardo DiCaprio. He was rich. He looked rich. He smelled of it. He was in love. None could have played the role better than Leo (like I like to call him). Director Baz Luhrmann got a great deal— Leo delivered!

And how are these movies doing financially? Pretty awesome, I’d tell you. The figures keep changing, grossing more and more by the week. I dare not declare the numbers, lest I be guilty of false rambling. Well, just forget the figures, enjoy the show— The Leo Show. The Awesomeness of 2013!

Take your seat. Let the euphoria take you.

BAFTAs: Chiwetel Ejiofor and 12 Years a Slave claim top spot

bafta trophy chiwetel- 12 years a slave

Best Film: 12 Years a Slave
Best Director: Alfonso Cuarón, Gravity
Best Actor: Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave
Best Actress: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Best Supporting Actor: Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips
Best Supporting Actress: Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle
Best British Film: Gravity
Best Debut By a British Writer, Director or Producer: Kieran Evans
Best Original Screenplay: American Hustle
Best Adapted Screenplay: Philomena
Best Film Not In The English Language: The Great Beauty
Best Documentary: The Act of Killing
Best Original Film Score: Gravity
Best Cinematography: Gravity
Best Editing: Rush
Best Sound: Gravity
Best Animated Film: Frozen
Best Visual Effects: Gravity
Best Makeup and Hair: American Hustle
Best Production Design: The Great Gatsby
Best Costumes: The Great Gatsby
Best Short Film: Room 8
Best Animated Short: Sleeping With The Fishes
BAFTA Rising Star Award: Will Poulter

THE MASTER NAMED MARTIN SCORSESE – The Wolf of Wall Street in Highlight

Director C.J. Fiery’s Unique Take: This is not a review.

First, let me kick this off real nice and sweet by saying this one thing – Martin Scorsese is a Master. Did you read that right? Yes, No? Here it goes again – Martin Scorsese is a Master. And here’s one special quality unique to Masters…

Masters can’t do wrong! It’s that simple.

Martin Scorsese, Master Filmmaker
Martin Scorsese, Master Filmmaker

I don’t care much for how many Scorsese films critics have bashed, it really doesn’t make any difference. Because the way I see it, If anyone can attain some kind of apotheosis by sheer reason of making awesome motion pictures, then be rest assured Martin Scorsese would attain apotheosis seven times over in one life time!

Okay, okay, did I hear you say “enough with the Scorsese praise already”? Did I hear you say “Get on with it already”? Well, here’s what I have to say to you – Did you make Goodfellas? I bet not. Did you direct Taxi Driver by any chance? I bet not, too. I mean, is there any way in the world you were involved in the inspiration and birthing of a destined-to-be masterpiece such as “The Wolf of Wall Street”? I guarantee NOT! So shut up and read! Any and whoever who has not in any way made or inspired a masterpiece as equally perfect as any of the ones I have afore mentioned should all just SHUT UP!

Phew!

(Intermission to catch my breath)

Martin Scorsese, Leonardo DiCaprio
Martin Scorsese, Leonardo DiCaprio

Alright, I was asked to talk about why I think Scorsese is a genius with “Wolf” in perspective. So first off, this isn’t a review. I don’t do reviews. Being a filmmaker myself, I have much too much respect for the art-form, and it kind of makes me feel phony and funny to be on one end making art and on another end bashing art. I don’t know, shout out to all the critics, and by that I mean those who actually love film and know what the hell they’re talking about. Not the pretentious ones who just like to have something to say and sound smart, just for the sake. Don’t even get me started on those phonies.

The first time I saw The Wolf of Wall Street I was blown away. Like almost every other Scorsese flick I have ever seen since I was a kid. From brutal dramas like The Raging Bull to the subtle Taxi Driver, and rollercoasters like Goodfellas and Casino, to even the surrealistic Bringing out the Dead. They all meant something to me. They all changed me. I have been wowed, amazed and influenced from tender age to adulthood by many a filmmaker, from Lars von Trier, Sam Raimi, Terrence Mallick, David Lynch, Gus van Sant, David Cronenberg, Stanley Kubrick, Alfred Hitchcock, to mention only a few. But very few have I grown to respect as much as Mr. Scorsese, till date.

Scorsese, the class art.
Scorsese, the class art.

The Wolf of Wall Street as a motion picture is well on its way to becoming a masterpiece. Years from now it’s going to be so iconic that everyone is gonna be copying off scenes and styles from it. I included. Of course I unabashedly admit. Pay no heed to all the hypocritical bashers who call the film immoral and excessive and what not. They have absolutely nothing to say. Question is, how do you make a film that’s about people who live immoral and excessive, if you don’t well, make it immoral and excessive? How do you do that huh? I’ll tell you how…you do it the Scorsese way…you let all the actors talk dirty and curse at each other in almost every sentence, being that in real life they speak that way to each other. Also you film the actors getting high and having indiscriminate sex, and crashing their vehicles into stone walls. That’s how you do it!

And what’s so amazing about watching an excessive Scorsese flick like The Wolf of Wall Street. After watching almost 3hrs of Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill shoot up drugs, have orgies, and see cocaine float through the air in slow motion (which by the way was too cool), you either end up having two feelings…hating rich people or wanting to get rich. Or maybe both. But then that’s three, so any how! Point is, the film makes you feel something. Which is what motion pictures are about isn’t it? Otherwise, what’s the point?

I walk in, to watch a Scorsese flick, I wanna be blown away. And I know he always delivers. I expect to be shocked, I expect to be intrigued. I expect to laugh like a madman. Scorsese delivers on all fronts. No money back!

wolf- leo n wifey wolf- leo crazy

From the beginning scene (a commercial skit) to the last scene, you’re hanging on to every degenerate part of it. What does that say of your primal nature eh? You like it, you really do, ‘cause I sure don’t see you walking out. And that right there is why Scorsese is a master. He keeps you seated! And when you’re done with the entire experience, ‘cause that’s what seeing a Scorsese flick is – an experience, it sticks with you. The scenes really stick with you. I mean, you watch a big blockbuster film with special effects and all, and you go “cool” “nice” but you forget it. It doesn’t stick. Scorsese films stick! I can practically recite every line from Goodfellas and Casino for you off the top of my head, and not because I made any conscious effort to remember them. I just do.

Scorsese is such a master. The way he would take an ordinary scene and make it into something so purely special, it’s something that never ceases to amaze me. Take for instance the scene where Jordan shows his new wife the yatch he bought her as a wedding present. Suddenly we cut away to another scene that’s in a mini-commercial format, with a falsetto narrative, showing the yatch and its features in and out. Less than 10 seconds. Other filmmakers would probably take you through the boring scenes where Jordan shows his wife around the yatch and she screams ecstatically and hugs him and they make love, blah blah blah. Not Scorsese! Also like the scene where Jordan goes to Switzerland and they have a discussion with the Swiss banker Jean Jacques played by Jean Dujardin (The Artist) and what Jordan really wants to know is if the Swiss bank will turn him over to the American Justice system if and when they come calling. How Scorsese played out this scene is so good, in that for a moment the two just stare at each other eye to eye and then have a mind-speak communication between them, like they can read what the other person is saying without actually talking! Brilliant! There’s also the scene where Jordan, Donnie and both their wives are in the storm and the yatch’s about to sink. Jordan wants Donnie to go get the cocaine, and Donnie goes to get the cocaine, amidst a sinking boat. When he eventually finds the cocaine, the look of pure joy on Donnie’s face, in spite of being terrified of dying, just epic! Scorsese is a master of dark humour, make no mistake about it! I also like how, after they were rescued from the storm by the Italians and all, that Jordan was looking through the window on the rescue ship and right outside, the plane that was supposed to come rescue them crashed, killing 3 rescuers, by reason of a sea gull. I like how it was only Jordan who saw that, while everyone else was dancing, drinking and laughing. I like how Scorsese was able to both trivialize and yet make important such an obviously heavy and turning point event in the life of Jordan Belfort. He did something similar with the scene where his wife tells him she is leaving him, after letting him make love to her for the last time. She informs him that she is leaving him with his kids and Jordan goes crazy, and desperately reaches for his coke, which he has conveniently stashed inside a pillow (‘cause the Feds are watching him, details, details!). He sniffs the coke, gets high and goes for his kid. By now he is not thinking clearly. He is angry, confused, and coked-up high. He is facing 20 years in prison if convicted, losing his money, company, friends, and everything he has worked for. And his wife now lays this on him. So he goes for the kid, puts her into the car, in a seatbelt, Thank God! And drives all the way out……..into a fence. If that’s not pathetic I don’t know what is. The Wolf of Wall Street is a cool-fest. What I mean is…it is a festival of cool scenes. I can’t possibly highlight every single one of them. But each proving the stellar Mastery of the Man behind the picture – Martin Scorsese.

So you have all these crazy fast-paced scenes, and these really dramatic, hilarious scenes, mixed up with these really witty and smoothly crafted dialogue (by Terrence Winter, nonetheless). Scorsese wins me over every time. And Scorsese is able to mix all these elements together like a Master he is, to make for a crazily, tempestuous ride into an almost 3hr masterpiece!

So who’s got something negative to say about Martin Scorsese again?

Someone in the crowd stands up to say something.

Shut up and sit down!

C.J. ‘Fiery’ Obasi is a Writer, Director and Editor. His credits include the surrealistic art house feature JIM & JOAN, and the upcoming thriller OJUJU.