Monthly Archives: January 2013

Hitman Joseph Gordon-Levitt seemingly has the simplest job in the world.  A crime syndicate in the future sends bound targets back in time to a field, where “loopers” like Gordon-Levitt kill and dispose of them.  The loopers get paid in silver until one day, an older version of a looper is sent back to be killed by his younger self.  Strapped to that older version is a pile of gold, the final reward.  When the older Gordon-Levitt is sent back, he is Bruce Willis, and not unexpectedly, Willis thwarts his own execution, and the fun begins.

A blast of a movie, and upon scrutiny, for a time travel film, it does pretty well from a logic standpoint (though some disagree). What matters, however, is that the logic holds up well enough to allow you to be carried away by writer/director Rian Johnson’s fresh and intricate script and his nifty vision of two futures.  The Terminator, for example, was so riveting, you didn’t have the chance to think, “Hey.  Why didn’t Skynet send the Terminator back in time to the hospital where John Connor was born?  Aren’t babies easier to track down and execute?”

Gordon-Levitt is uncanny as a young Willis (they’ve even altered the contours of his face to cement paternity), Willis is gruff Willis, and Emily Blunt (the Brit fashionista assistant in The Devil Wears Prada) is surprisingly convincing in a tough gal role.  Jeff Daniels is a good choice as an off-beat heavy, and Noah Seegan and Garret Dillahunt impress in small roles as the men tasked to hunt Gordon-Levitt and Willis down.  The standout performance, however, belongs to child actor Pierce Gagnon, who manages to be terrifying and then sympathetic.

Johnson’s 2005 noir high California school flick – Brick – was similarly inventive.  Johnson is not exactly prolifiic, but if Looper is the norm, I can wait.

The Oscar nominations have been announced

Nominations for the 85th Academy Awards

Best Picture
“Amour” Nominees to be determined
“Argo” Grant Heslov, Ben Affleck and George Clooney, Producers
“Beasts of the Southern Wild” Dan Janvey, Josh Penn and Michael Gottwald, Producers
“Django Unchained” Stacey Sher, Reginald Hudlin and Pilar Savone, Producers
“Les Misérables” Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Debra Hayward and Cameron Mackintosh, Producers
“Life of Pi” Gil Netter, Ang Lee and David Womark, Producers
“Lincoln” Steven Spielberg and Kathleen Kennedy, Producers
“Silver Linings Playbook” Donna Gigliotti, Bruce Cohen and Jonathan Gordon, Producers
“Zero Dark Thirty” Mark Boal, Kathryn Bigelow and Megan Ellison, Producers

Best Director
“Amour” Michael Haneke
“Beasts of the Southern Wild” Benh Zeitlin
“Life of Pi” Ang Lee
“Lincoln” Steven Spielberg
“Silver Linings Playbook” David O. Russell

Best Actor
Bradley Cooper in “Silver Linings Playbook”
Daniel Day-Lewis in “Lincoln”
Hugh Jackman in “Les Misérables”
Joaquin Phoenix in “The Master”
Denzel Washington in “Flight”

Best Supporting Actor
Alan Arkin in “Argo”
Robert De Niro in “Silver Linings Playbook”
Philip Seymour Hoffman in “The Master”
Tommy Lee Jones in “Lincoln”
Christoph Waltz in “Django Unchained”

Best Actress
Jessica Chastain in “Zero Dark Thirty”
Jennifer Lawrence in “Silver Linings Playbook”
Emmanuelle Riva in “Amour”
Quvenzhané Wallis in “Beasts of the Southern Wild”
Naomi Watts in “The Impossible”

Best Supporting Actress
Amy Adams in “The Master”
Sally Field in “Lincoln”
Anne Hathaway in “Les Misérables”
Helen Hunt in “The Sessions”
Jacki Weaver in “Silver Linings Playbook”

Best Animated Feature
“Brave” Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman
“Frankenweenie” Tim Burton
“ParaNorman” Sam Fell and Chris Butler
“The Pirates! Band of Misfits” Peter Lord
“Wreck-It Ralph” Rich Moore

“Anna Karenina” Seamus McGarvey
“Django Unchained” Robert Richardson
“Life of Pi” Claudio Miranda
“Lincoln” Janusz Kaminski
“Skyfall” Roger Deakins

Best Adapted Screenplay
“Argo” Screenplay by Chris Terrio
“Beasts of the Southern Wild” Screenplay by Lucy Alibar & Benh Zeitlin
“Life of Pi” Screenplay by David Magee
“Lincoln” Screenplay by Tony Kushner
“Silver Linings Playbook” Screenplay by David O. Russell

Best Original Screenplay
“Amour” Written by Michael Haneke
“Django Unchained” Written by Quentin Tarantino
“Flight” Written by John Gatins
“Moonrise Kingdom” Written by Wes Anderson & Roman Coppola
“Zero Dark Thirty” Written by Mark Boal

Costume Design
“Anna Karenina” Jacqueline Durran
“Les Misérables” Paco Delgado
“Lincoln” Joanna Johnston
“Mirror Mirror” Eiko Ishioka
“Snow White and the Huntsman” Colleen Atwood

Best Documentary Feature
“5 Broken Cameras”
Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi
“The Gatekeepers”
Nominees to be determined
“How to Survive a Plague”
Nominees to be determined
“The Invisible War”
Nominees to be determined
“Searching for Sugar Man”
Nominees to be determined

Best Documentary (Short Subject)
Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine
“Kings Point”
Sari Gilman and Jedd Wider
“Mondays at Racine”
Cynthia Wade and Robin Honan
“Open Heart”
Kief Davidson and Cori Shepherd Stern
Jon Alpert and Matthew O’Neill

Film Editing
“Argo” William Goldenberg
“Life of Pi” Tim Squyres
“Lincoln” Michael Kahn
“Silver Linings Playbook” Jay Cassidy and Crispin Struthers
“Zero Dark Thirty” Dylan Tichenor and William Goldenberg

Best Foreign Language Film
“Amour” Austria
“Kon-Tiki” Norway
“No” Chile
“A Royal Affair” Denmark
“War Witch” Canada

Howard Berger, Peter Montagna and Martin Samuel
“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”
Peter Swords King, Rick Findlater and Tami Lane
“Les Misérables”
Lisa Westcott and Julie Dartnell

Best Original Score
“Anna Karenina” Dario Marianelli
“Argo” Alexandre Desplat
“Life of Pi” Mychael Danna
“Lincoln” John Williams
“Skyfall” Thomas Newman

Best Original Song
“Before My Time” from “Chasing Ice”
Music and Lyric by J. Ralph
“Everybody Needs A Best Friend” from “Ted”
Music by Walter Murphy; Lyric by Seth MacFarlane
“Pi’s Lullaby” from “Life of Pi”
Music by Mychael Danna; Lyric by Bombay Jayashri
“Skyfall” from “Skyfall”
Music and Lyric by Adele Adkins and Paul Epworth
“Suddenly” from “Les Misérables”
Music by Claude-Michel Schönberg; Lyric by Herbert Kretzmer and Alain Boublil

Production Design
“Anna Karenina”
Production Design: Sarah Greenwood; Set Decoration: Katie Spencer
“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”
Production Design: Dan Hennah; Set Decoration: Ra Vincent and Simon Bright
“Les Misérables”
Production Design: Eve Stewart; Set Decoration: Anna Lynch-Robinson
“Life of Pi”
Production Design: David Gropman; Set Decoration: Anna Pinnock
Production Design: Rick Carter; Set Decoration: Jim Erickson

Best Animated Short Film
“Adam and Dog” Minkyu Lee
“Fresh Guacamole” PES
“Head over Heels” Timothy Reckart and Fodhla Cronin O’Reilly
“Maggie Simpson in “The Longest Daycare”” David Silverman
“Paperman” John Kahrs

Best Live Action Short Film
“Asad” Bryan Buckley and Mino Jarjoura
“Buzkashi Boys” Sam French and Ariel Nasr
“Curfew” Shawn Christensen
“Death of a Shadow (Dood van een Schaduw)” Tom Van Avermaet and Ellen De Waele
“Henry” Yan England

Sound Editing
“Argo” Erik Aadahl and Ethan Van der Ryn
“Django Unchained” Wylie Stateman
“Life of Pi” Eugene Gearty and Philip Stockton
“Skyfall” Per Hallberg and Karen Baker Landers
“Zero Dark Thirty” Paul N.J. Ottosson

Sound Mixing
John Reitz, Gregg Rudloff and Jose Antonio Garcia
“Les Misérables”
Andy Nelson, Mark Paterson and Simon Hayes
“Life of Pi”
Ron Bartlett, D.M. Hemphill and Drew Kunin
Andy Nelson, Gary Rydstrom and Ronald Judkins
Scott Millan, Greg P. Russell and Stuart Wilson
Achievement in visual effects
“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”
Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton and R. Christopher White
“Life of Pi”
Bill Westenhofer, Guillaume Rocheron, Erik-Jan De Boer and Donald R. Elliott
“Marvel’s The Avengers”
Janek Sirrs, Jeff White, Guy Williams and Dan Sudick
Richard Stammers, Trevor Wood, Charley Henley and Martin Hill
“Snow White and the Huntsman”
Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, Philip Brennan, Neil Corbould and Michael Dawson


Christopher Nolan’s last entry to his Batman trilogy closes the story out in satisfying fashion and even leaves room for the rise of Robin (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) should Warner Brothers need a fiscal stimulus in the future. The story is the same as the prior two pictures. A reluctant Bruce Wayne/Batman (Christian Bale) is drawn back into the fray when his beloved Gotham City is threatened. This time, the threat comes from Bane (Tom Hardy), a muscular beast who wears a mask not unlike a greyhound. Much like The Joker, Bane seeks to test the mettle and morals of Gotham.  Bane’s appeal is Occupy Wall Street on steroids. The city is shut down and isolated by a moving nuclear device controlled by Bane, and as its time runs out, the new masters judge the rich and powerful (the villain Scarecrow plays Robespierre) while Bane’s henchmen and at least a certain portion of the citizenry pillage their apartments.

This is actually the most interesting part of the movie, begging the question, “Why does Batman dig this fickle town so much?” Unfortunately, less time is devoted to the occupation’s class warfare and the internal de-evolution of Gotham and too much to Batman’s angst, Alfred’s (Michael Caine) regret that Bruce did not have a normal life, and some corporate skullduggery that is . . . eh. The movie is also a bit too solemn. I applaud the darker, starker vision of Batman and his story, but we are, in the end, talking about a man who dresses up like a bat. With the exception of a few smart quips from Catwoman (a lithe Ann Hathaway), the movie is largely humorless.

Still, the action is first-rate and the big finish does not disappoint.

I could only bear 20 or so minutes of this student picture.  Written and directed by Mark and Jay Duplass, this is a movie that represents the dark side of “independent” film.  Jason Segal plays a 30 year old stoner who . . . lives at home. Ed Helms plays his brother in exactly the same style as his Andy character on The Office. Their mother, Susan Sarandon, suffers them both as they are tasked to buy her wood glue.

Alas, she suffered them longer than I. The script is pretentious, the set-up uninviting, the direction (the Duplasses are addicted to an ostentatious jump zoom) self-indulgent and the plot random, all sins that cannot be expiated by deeming it “quirky.”

Image result for The Perfect Storm crew

A Gloucester fishing boat captained by George Clooney goes out to get some fish and is soon in “the perfect storm.” Based on Sebastian Junger’s best-selling book about the fate of the Andrea Gail, the visuals are occasionally impressive but this is no Captain’s Courageous. The characters have a working class look but not the feel, and Clooney, who normally chooses well, is too damn dreamy to be the salty sea dog (he would have been better as the telegenic and wide-eyed meteorologist who captures the storm on his Doppler).

A better skipper would have been John Hawkes, the crewman furthest to the right above, who was nominated for an Oscar for Winter’s Bone and should be nominated again this year for The Sessions.

Junger’s book delved deeply into the precarious, brutal and chancy world of commercial fishing, but the script elects to show hard drinkin’, hard lovin’, misunderstood men of the sea while on land, and on the water, a boring band of brothers. The screenplay is either hackneyed or just plain dull.

Here’s a taste.

This is the the moment of truth”

“Billy, you’re not gonna’ like this but I’m gonna’ say it anyway.  You be careful.”

“I always find the fish.  Always.”

“Last night was worth it. There’s nothin like sleepin’ with you… just sleepin’… lyin next to you… all warm and sweet… Me wishin’ the mornin’ would never end.”

“You just caught me on a good night. I’m doing what I was made to do – and I’ve got a feeling I’m going to do it even better this time.”

And when crew member John C. Reilly is about to drown, he doesn’t scream or panic. Instead,  being a man of the sea, he says to no one in particular, “This is gonna be hard on my little boy.”

Hard on the audience as well, John.

There’s also a lot of forlorn women looking out the window for these good men of the sea (Diane Lane is completely wasted). Old Spice commercials are filled with greater verisimilitude.

Director Wolfgang Peterson made it to Hollywood on the strength of his gripping U boat drama Das Boot, but since then, he’s gone to sea twice, with The Perfect Storm and the even worse Poseidon.

He needs to stay on land.


This is the most un-Tarantinoesque of Quentin Tarantino’s pictures, faithfully adapted by the director from an Elmore Leonard book. A flight attendant (Pam Grier) gets caught shuttling money and drugs for a gun seller (Samuel L. Jackson) and caught in between the ATF (represented by Michael Keaton) and Jackson, she devises her own scheme to steal all of the latter’s funds while extricating herself from prosecution, enlisting the help of a bail bondsman (Robert Forster) in the process.

Tarantino’s pace is languid, his body count minimal, and the film features long stretches of sharp dialogue and silent character reflection. As Jackson’s scheming girlfriend and dim accomplice, Bridget Fonda and Robert DeNiro shine in a cast of apt, funny secondary characters. This is a clever and straightforward crime story.

Like the two Tarantino pictures that preceded it, Jackie Brown utlizes the seedy environs of Los Angeles to great effect (the bar and nightclub locales are particularly well-chosen). In an interview, Tarantino explained his changing of the locale from Miami to LA:

I don’t really know anything about Miami. I had never been to Miami before. One of the things Elmore Leonard has to offer in his novels, is an expert sense of both Miami and Detroit. He has got his Detroit novels and he has got his Miami novels. I can’t compete with that, and Miami is very hot! You don’t want to got there to shoot! One of the things I do have to offer is that same kind of knowledge about Los Angeles; partly in the area that the area is shot in, in the South Bay. It is not used that often. Tequila Sunrise used it a little bit, and a few other movies have touched on it a little bit. I am very familiar with that area because I grew up around that area. It is one of the things I could bring to the piece; an expert knowledge of that area, the way he brings an expert knowledge to Miami.

While Jackson uses the “n” word with his usual vigor, the script is refreshingly shorn of the showy pop culture references found in Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction. It’s also a lot moodier than those pictures.

The plot, however, is not wildly intricate and certainly doesn’t justify a 2 and a half hour running time. Also, while Tarantino loves reclamation projects like John Travolta and David Carradine, Pam Grier and Robert Forster are bridges too far. Neither are particularly good actors, and while Forster’s wooden approach isn’t terrible given his role, Grier is key, and she cannot convey the emotions necessary to really bring the character home.

She was a B picture star in the 70s for a reason other than acting.