Something to Watch: “Wild” Review

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“Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” – Confucius

The above quote might as well be the tagline for Wild, directed by Jean-Marc Vallée. It’s an adaptation of Wild: From Lost to Found, a memoir by Cheryl Strayed. It’s also the most emotionally powerful film I’ve seen this year.

In the film, Cheryl (played on-screen by Reese Witherspoon,) finds her life in shambles and as a result, has been on a streak of self-destructive behavior. Desperate times call for desperate measures, so Cheryl chooses to go on an 1,100 mile hike on the Pacific Crest Trail. What follows is a long and dif9:Ificult journey of self-discovery, as Cheryl searches to heal from the various traumatic events in her life. Said traumatic events are explored in a series of flashbacks, which are given about as much screentime as the hike itself.

The first thing that struck me about this movie is the cinematography. Vallée takes full advantage of the story’s setting to capture some beautiful landscapes of many kinds from an up-close, personal perspective. A near-constant combination of medium and close-up shots allows the film to maintain a poignant and breathtakingly intimate atmosphere.

That atmosphere is helped immensely by great performances from all involved, most notably from Witherspoon herself. With so much of the movie being spent with Witherspoon alone, it’s a great thing that her determined-yet-vulnerable performance kept me completely engaged throughout. By the end of the movie, I felt a very particular emotion I hadn’t yet felt in a theater. That’s an accomplishment.

When all is said and done, I would definitely recommend that you go see Wild. The powerful lead performance and intimate atmosphere make for one of the most moving cinematic experiences I’ve seen in a long time. Another contender for best picture, for sure.

You can learn more about Wild at it’s official site.

Something to Watch: “2014 Movie Trailer Mashup”

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Wow… You guys need to see this.

A YouTuber by the name of The Sleepy Skunk has just put out his latest mash-up, cobbling together clips from literally hundreds of movie trailers that came out this year. I haven’t taken the time to confirm, but this video takes probably has a clip from every studio release of 2014! Take a look!

See what I mean?! If there’s a movie from this year that you loved, it’s probably in here. If there’s a movie from this year that you hated, it’s probably in here, too. Either way, this is one of those things that makes me take a step back and think about the big picture.

Because, no matter what you enjoyed or despised this year, this compilation shows me just how far we’ve come in filmmaking. And the fact that we, the audience, get to observe and celebrate this powerful art form at it’s strongest point yet is pretty incredible. So whether you’ve seen one movie this year, or too many to count, stand tall and stand proud. We’re moviegoers and this is our time!

If you want to see more videos from The Sleepy Skunk, you can find him here.

Something to Watch: “The Theory of Everything”

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Oscar season is well underway and some of the most interesting movies of the year are gracing the screens. Case in point: The Theory of Everything. A biopic about Stephen Hawking? Where do i sign up?

Based on Jane Wilde Hawking’s novel Traveling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen, the James Marsh-directed picture tells the decades-long tale of Stephen (Eddie Redmayne), his relationship with his first wife, Jane Wilde (Felicity Jones), his fight with motor neuron disease and his rise to fame as a theoretical physicist. The film has several fascinating visual sequences that represent Hawking’s thought process. And though the relationships receive the most attention and the science is simplified for us everyday people, It’s still a very well thought out film.

The whole cast gives heartfelt performances throughout, but the single most impressive performance in the movie is Redmayne’s take on Hawking himself. As Hawking’s muscle control slowly deteriorates over the coarse of the film, Redmayne spares no expense in his interpretation. Every muscle in his body is actively at work showing every once of Hawking’s physical struggle, making his path to figuring out how to live with his condition all the more satisfying.

Those who have studied Hawking’s work might not find any new insight in his brilliant mind. But as a piece about love and the will to live conquering the darkest of fates, The Theory of Everything is a well-executed experience. One that’s definitely worth checking out.

By the by, a fun side-note: the theater I went to see this at decided the best coarse of action is to show Intersteller in the screen next door. Imagine this, a very loud movie with lots of rocket ships, right on the other side of the wall from a very quiet movie with lots of talking. Needless to say, that made for a few entertaining moments.

You can find out more about The Theory of Everything by visiting the official site.

Something to Watch: “Birdman”

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Oscar season is officially upon us, and it’s time for some of the biggest names in the business to get in on the independent film game. Among these efforts, one of the most notable entries is an ambitious tragicomedy directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu. Enter the dizzying world of Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), a darkly-humorous satire of show business in the 21st century.

(Note: The clips embedded in this post contain some vulgar language. NSFW)

We’re introduced to Riggan Thomson (played by Michael Keaton, of Batman fame), a washed-up actor once known for playing a popular superhero, the titular Birdman, in a series of Hollywood blockbusters. Having left the role quite some time ago, with a slow decline in fame ever since, Riggan hopes to get his career back on track by starring in a Broadway adaptation of Raymond Carver’s short story What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. In the days leading up to opening night, Riggan wrestles with a strained relationship with his daughter Sam (Emma Stone), the renegade actions of lead actor Mike (Edward Norton) and, above and beyond all else, his own ego.

The first thing you’ll notice about this film is the cinematography. There are only a couple of standard “cuts” in this movie, as every scene in the movie will go on for 10 to 20 minutes at a time on a single take. The camera bobs and weaves from room to room, always focusing on a close-up shot. And most of the scene transitions are handled so smoothly, you may not even notice when they happen. It all comes together to create an environment of blissful confusion and spiraling delirium.

(Note: The clips embedded in this post contain some vulgar language. NSFW)

That’s all to say nothing of the performances from the actors, which are all exemplary. The film employs an all-star cast which includes, in addition to the above listed, Zach Galifianakis, Andrea Riseborough and Amy Ryan among others. Each turning in strong comedic and dramatic performances. In particular, Keaton provides one of the most fascinating and entertaining performances of his carer, balancing his ego and arrogance with the a genuine desire to impress and leave his mark on the world.

I was entranced by this movie from beginning to end. I enjoyed the laughs (and there are plenty), while contemplating the film’s questions about dramatic ambition, the importance of social media and the ideas of where you stand in the grand scheme of things. It’s a technical achievement filled with grade-A performances and challenging ideas. I have a feeling we’ll be hearing a lot about this one, come February.

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) is now playing in select theaters. For more info, you can visit the official site at BirdmanTheMovie.com.