Though I have slightly increased my activity in the blogosphere so far this year, it has been difficult to go through many films. Most of what I’ve watched are blind spots from last year, but I still have a lot of catching up to do. As it has been the case in the last few months, I probably spent more time on a couple of TV shows. First, I went through the first two seasons of BBC’s original series Peaky Blinders and, in the last couple of days of February, I devoured the entire third season of House of Cards (I know…)
I continue what I started last week with a look at all of the television I watched in the past year. Obviously, I will not be talking about the occasional one or two episodes I saw from series I haven’t really followed. My reviews will be on full seasons of anything I managed to watch, whether new or old in the 12 months of 2014.
I also thought it would be good timing to share my thoughts on television right after the Golden Globes telecast which saw excellent newbies get the recognition they definitely deserved.
It’s been just over a month since my last post on this blog of mine. Though my attempt was to continue to keep it flowing with new reviews and monthly round-ups, there was this mammoth-size event looming on the horizon: the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
May and June have now passed. The summer seems to be already on its way out and The Blog of Big Ideas is ready to post a bi-monthly recap of all of the films covered since May 1st. 23 films in total but only three are in the running to the shortlist of the Blog of Big Ideas’ Top 250 Best Films Ever.
Here they are in the order in which they were watched:
IMDB TOP 250: LA CONFIDENTIAL (1997)
One of the most celebrated films of the 1990s is a sophisticated crime thriller reminiscent of the film noir era.
With the help of an excellent cast led by the stand-out performance of Kim Bassinger, LA Confidential is a film about deception, corruption, greed, love and the advent of the sensationalist press that still feels relevant today.
Full of twists and surprises, the film is a lot of fun to watch, inviting for repeat viewing. Perhaps not deserving of such high marks on IMDB, but highly recommended nonetheless.
♦ Candidate to the Blog of Big Ideas’ Top 250 Films Ever ♦
LA VIE EN ROSE (2007)
A great biopic with a wonderful lead performance by Marion Cotillard. Find my full review here
♦ Candidate to the Blog of Big Ideas’ Top 250 Films Ever ♦
GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS (1992)
A one-of-a-kind script brought to life by one hell of a cast. Find my full review here
SMOKIN’ ACES (2006)
There is something about the charicaturesque ensemble of characters and the often ridiculous proportions of the action that make Smoking Aces a satisfying experience, especially if it is seen on a big screen and with the volume turned up.
Occasionally it takes itself a bit too seriously, pausing for dramatic effect to disappointing results. The film does best when it sticks to its over-the-top antics and improbable set of circumstances. Certainly not everyone’s cup of tea.
Cast: Jack Lemmon (Shelley Levene), Al Pacino (Ricky Roma), Alec Baldwin (Blake), Alan Arkin (George), Ed Harris (Dave), Kevin Spacey (John Williamson)
Writer: David Mamet (play & screenplay)
Director: James Foley
With a cast made up by Jack Lemmon, Al Pacino, Alec Baldwin, Kevin Spacey, Ed Harris and Alan Arkin, there is little that can go wrong.
Adapted from a play of the same name, Glengarry Glen Ross feels very much like a theatrical piece, limited to a handful of sets and driven by characters with large personalities, the kind that make for perfect salesmen and convincing theater actors.
With much left to write to update my IMDB TOP 250 film challenge, I give you a few reviews of some of the films I have seen recently.
Moneyball (2011 – Bennett Miller): not being a fan of baseball in any way, I can say it is quite an accomplishment for a film that revolves around the sport to have captured my attention so deeply. In fact, I will go out on a limb and say it is the best performance of Brad Pitt’s career and I would go even further and say he is in my short list in the Best Actor category of 2011. I confidently state it because I could not imagine anyone else playing the part of Billy Bean, the former sporting director of the Oakland Athletics that significantly changed the philosophy on how to manage a major league baseball team.
The film’s script is smart, funny and carefully crafted. It provides a great portrait of Billy as a person, exploring not only his love and devotion for baseball, but his insecurities and deeply personal struggles. The cast around Brad Pitt is equally persuasive, with the great Phillip Seymour Hoffman as a standout in the role of manager of the Oakland A’s. The cinematography is equally impressive. Baseball fields are treated as temples that are to be admired, which also serve as catalysts to people’s hopes and fears.
Props go to Jonah Hill who was convincing as Brad’s geeky sidekick.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 (excellent)
May contain some SPOILERS !!
For most of its running time, Se7en is a non-remarkable crime drama starring a young Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman and Gwyneth Paltrow.
It is only when a great actor by the name of Kevin Spacey comes into the picture, quite dramatically I might add, that Se7en is taken to a level of thrill and excitement that did not seem possible for most of the film.
Spacey plays a psychopath named John Doe who believes he is to set an example about the evils of society by making his severely flawed victims suffer their worst nightmare before they finally die at his hands. He chooses his victims carefully, based on the seven deadly sins, each one being guilty for committing one of them.
What is remarkable about Spacey’s John Doe is not what he has done, but the convincing way in which he portrays a man that is void of any moral compass, of feeling any sort of remorse, who is not able to feel bad for any of his victims because he feels they are not worthy of clemency. At first, John Doe surrenders while covered in blood in the police station. The detectives don’t understand why he would, knowing by then that his plan was not yet complete. John had killed only 5 of his victims, 2 were still missing. Somerset, who is the more inquisitive of the two detectives in charge, challenges this notion, always suspicious that there is certainly more to come. As the audience, we relate to Somerset as we automatically think that a serial killer as grotesque and merciless as John Doe would never give up when he is so close to completing his so-called “masterpiece”.
By the end of the movie we know that his plan was indeed complete and that he left it to the inexperienced and anger-prone detective Mills (Brad Pitt) to have the power in his hands to make it possible. The cleverness of his plan is shocking and we, as the audience, are probably as surprised as the characters in the movie.
At the end, we are secretly in awe of Spacey’s Doe for the precision of his plan. His serial killer is the incarnation of psychopathic behavior. He welcomes death, in fact, he looks forward to it, knowing that once he passes he will probably be immortalized by the media. What is unsettling about Spacey’ performance is that we believe in what he believes. He is so convincing in what he says that we cannot argue against it. We are lost in Spacey’s eyes, devoid of emotion or fear. His voice is malignant yet thrilling, revealing in hints and pieces that we are speaking to someone who cannot be persuaded or coerced.
Spacey’s performance is all the more thrilling and relevant because the film desperately needed it. What the picture lacked for most of its running time, Spacey’s Doe brought it to the fore and exceeded our expectations, delivering a surprising knockout punch to the story.
Spacey’s brief performance in Se7en elevated the film and he was the deserving recipient of several awards for his extremely electrifying portrayal (surprisingly overlooked by the Oscars). His John Doe, in my opinion, rivals even that of Anthony Hopkins’ Dr. Lecter anyday.