Tag Archive: Interstellar


My Oscars 2015

The 87th Academy Awards are taking place this Sunday and it’s easily the biggest night of the year that Hollywood has to offer. Some great talent is sure to be honored, but I’m also sure that the Academy will fail to honor some of the more worthy individuals. Since I am not a member of the Academy and can’t actually choose who gets to take home the gold on Sunday, I decided to create my own awards. They may not be quite as prestigious as the Oscars, but maybe some of this year’s nominees will appreciate the praise that I’m giving them. Agree with my choices? What categories would you do differently? Let me know in the comments below!

Best Director

Damien Chazelle – Whiplash

David Fincher – Gone Girl

Richard Linklater – Boyhood

Bennett Miller – Foxcatcher

Denis Villeneuve – Enemy

Best Actor

Steve Carell – Foxcatcher

Jake Gyllenhaal – Nightcrawler

Tom Hardy – Locke

Michael Keaton – Birdman

Eddie Redmayne – The Theory of Everything

Best Actress

Scarlett Johannson – Under the Skin

Felicity Jones – The Theory of Everything

Rosamund Pike – Gone Girl

Reese Witherspoon – Wild

Shailene Woodley – The Fault in our Stars

Best Supporting Actor

Riz Ahmed – Nightcrawler

Ethan Hawke – Boyhood

Edward Norton – Birdman

Mark Ruffalo – Foxcatcher

J.K. Simmons – Whiplash

Best Supporting Actress

Patricia Arquette – Boyhood

Carrie Coon – Gone Girl

Rene Russo – Nightcrawler

Tilda Swinton – Snowpiercer

Naomi Watts – Birdman

Best Original Screenplay

Calvary – John Michael McDonagh

The Grand Budapest Hotel – Wes Anderson and Hugo Guinness

Locke – Steven Knight

Nightcrawler – Dan Gilroy

Whiplash – Damien Chazelle

Best Adapted Screenplay

Enemy – Javier Gullón

Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn

Inherent Vice – Paul Thomas Anderson

Under the Skin – Walter Campbell and Jonathan Glazer

Wild – Nick Hornby

Best Cinematography

Birdman – Emmanuel Lubezki

Enemy – Nicolas Bolduc

Foxcatcher – Greig Fraser

Gone Girl – Jeff Cronenweth

Interstellar – Hoyte Van Hoytema

Best Original Score

Enemy – Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans

Godzilla – Alexandre Desplat

Gone Girl – Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross

Interstellar – Hans Zimmer

The Theory of Everything – Jóhann Jóhannsson

Best Original Song

“Everything is Awesome” from The Lego Movie

“Glory” from Selma

“I’ll get you what you Want (Cockatoo in Malibu)” from Muppets Most Wanted

“Split the Difference” from Boyhood

“Yellow Flicker Beat” from The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1

 

Best Editing

Boyhood – Sandra Adair

Gone Girl – Kirk Baxter

Interstellar – Lee Smith

The Raid 2 – Gareth Evans

Whiplash – Tom Cross

Best Production Design

Exodus: Gods and Kings – Arthur Max

Foxcatcher – Jess Gonchor

The Grand Budapest Hotel – Adam Stockhausen

Interstellar – Nathan Crowley

Snowpiercer – Ondrej Nekvasil

Best Sound

The Babadook – Frank Lipson

Edge of Tomorrow – James Boyle and Dominic Gibbs

Fury – Paul N.J. Ottosson

Godzilla – Erik Aadahl, David Alvarez and Ethan Van der Ryn

Interstellar – Gary Rizzo, Gregg Landaker, Mark Weingarten and Richard King

Best Visual Effects

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Edge of Tomorrow

Godzilla

Guardians of the Galaxy

Interstellar

Advertisements

My Top Ten Films of 2014

Best of 2014

Honorable Mentions (In Alphabetical Order): 22 Jump Street, Calvary, Edge of Tomorrow, Godzilla, Guardians of the Galaxy, Inherent Vice, Interstellar, John Wick, The Lego Movie, The One I Love, The Raid 2, Under the Skin, X-Men Days of Future Past

  1. The Guest – Any of my honorable mentions could have made their way into my number 10 slot, but I ended up choosing Adam Wingard’s hugely satisfying thriller, The Guest. It’s a story about a naïve family who open up their home to a total stranger, only to discover that this man is not as innocent as he seems. Like Wingard’s past efforts, it’s nothing more than a genre exercise, but it’s one that feels uniquely fresh and entertaining. With great performances, slick action and an awesome soundtrack, The Guest feels like a throwback to some of the more ridiculous action films of the 80s, while also managing to mix in its own modern sensibilities.
  1. LockeLocke is 85 minutes of Tom Hardy driving a car and talking on a phone. That’s it. Writer/director Steven Knight has somehow taken a gimmicky premise and used it to provide a wholly realized portrait of man who is simply trying to make the right decisions in his life. The character of Locke is forced to deal with the complications of a concrete pour, while also recovering from the confession of his infidelity to his wife. Attempting to supervise a concrete pour over the phone may not sound exciting and when the movie first begins, it isn’t. But as we begin to learn more about who Locke is and why he’s choosing to make these decisions, every aspect of his life becomes more and more fascinating. This is really a film that gets better and better as the film progresses and it’s all because of the slow development of Locke’s character and Tom Hardy’s incredible performance. Locke is a simple story, told in a unique and daring fashion.
  1. Fury – A profile of five men operating a tank in the European Theater of WWII, Fury is thoroughly gripping from start to finish. The action sequences are intense, well-directed and manage to separate themselves from the pack of other WWII movies with their focus on tank warfare. The film is bloody, brutal and none of the characters ever feel safe from the onslaught of enemy fire. A sequence that pits four American tanks against a superior German tank is shocking and exciting, as is the climactic standoff where our squad must battle an entire battalion of SS Nazi soldiers. But the action is worthless if you don’t care about the characters, so director David Ayer makes sure that each tank member has a distinctive personality. A highlight of the film is an extended sequence where Brad Pitt and Logan Lerman’s characters play house with two young German women. It’s a break in the action, but it goes to show how desperate these men are to receive some semblance of normalcy within the consistent chaos that they’re exposed to day after day. By making the war seem legitimately scary, Fury earns its place alongside all the great WWII movies.
  1. The Grand Budapest Hotel – Love him or hate him, it’s impossible to deny that Wes Anderson has developed a style that’s uniquely his own. With The Grand Budapest Hotel, he’s crafted his most beautiful looking film. Thanks to incredible set direction and production design, practically every frame of the film is a visual wonder. You could watch it with the sound off and still be entertained, but then you would be missing out on the engaging story and sharp dialogue that add another layer of beauty to the film. Aided by a great cast, Anderson has crafted a hugely entertaining tale that works as a remembrance for passed down stories and an affinity for days gone by. Viewers willing to check into this film are sure to enjoy their stay.
  1. Enemy – A surreal and provocative mindbender that’s as frightening as any horror film released this year, Enemy is an intricately plotted thriller that demands multiple viewings. From the opening shot to the final frame, it’s a film that will hold its viewers in a near constant state of suspense. Director Denis Villeneuve’s follow-up to last year’s Prisoners proves that he’s a master at holding viewers on the edge. Jake Gyllenhaal delivers a great two-sided performance and the grim cinematography from Nicolas Bolduc effectively provides the feeling that something just isn’t quite right in this world. Speaking of things not being quite right, the ending is a real shocker that ranks up there with the best of this year. Viewers accustomed to having every plot detail spoon fed to them should look elsewhere; this is a film that will lead to questions, interpretations and conversations. Sometimes, that’s the best kind of cinema.
  1. Boyhood – Shot intermittently from May 2002 to October 2013, Boyhood chronicles the life of a young boy named Mason from ages 6 to 18. It’s an incredible production story, but the film transcends this potential gimmick with fully realized characters, heartfelt moments and interesting themes that most coming of age films don’t even attempt to tackle. Never before has a film so expertly captured what it’s like to live in the 21st century. Everything from the clothes, to the hairstyles, to the vernacular feels authentic with the time period because each scene was filmed in its respective year. Decades from now, people will look back on this film as an authentic snapshot of life in the early 21st century. The amount of things that could have gone wrong with director Richard Linklater’s ambitious project are endless, but somehow everything came together to create a true piece of art that is as beautiful and moving as any motion picture can be. Linklater’s naturalistic direction keeps things poetically simple and eleven years of footage leads to an ending that is breathtaking in how it says so much by saying so little. This is surely one of the most realistic films ever made, but it’s also one of the most magical. I’ve never seen anything quite like Boyhood.
  1. Gone Girl – Adapated from Gillian Flynn’s entertaining page-turner of the same name, Gone Girl is a harrowing mystery that’s engrossing from start to finish. Fans of the source material will be pleased at the faithfulness of this adaptation, while new viewers will be absolutely floored by some of the twists and turns that this movie takes. Not only is it a great thriller, but it’s also a great satire of modern relationships and marriages. The extreme, heightened scenario that these characters are placed in may be rare, but the actions that they take while in this strange scenario are simply exaggerations of what many people do while in a marriage. Couples lie to each other, pretend to be someone else and struggle for power. These characters are written as hyperbolic exaggerations for a reason. Director David Fincher once again proves that he’s a master behind the camera, crafting a film that never lets up throughout its extended runtime. Not only does it rank right up there with his best work, but it’s also one of the most wholly satisfying thrillers to come out in years.
  1. Nightcrawler – A brilliant satire of modern news and the cutthroat business world, Nightcrawler is a startlingly accomplished directorial debut from Dan Gilroy. Jake Gyllenhaal delivers the best performance of 2013 and crafts a totally unique and interesting character in the process. Gyllenhaal’s Louis Bloom is a total sociopath, willing to put anybody into danger as long as it will get him further ahead. He wants to achieve success and he absolutely does not care how he gets there. Gyllenhaal reportedly lost 20 pounds for the role and Bloom’s gaunt physique and long hair only add to his uncomfortable persona. The script by Gilroy also offers plenty of dark humor that may catch some viewers off guard. Gyllenhaal’s character is so loathsome that you almost have to laugh at all of the horrible acts he’s willing to commit. All of these acts culminate in a fantastically directed final action sequence, one that continues to shock even after you think it could go no further. It’s a film that’s full of surprises and feels like a breath of fresh air in the occasionally mundane cinematic landscape.
  1. Foxcatcher – If you’re looking for a feel-good film to boost your spirits and morale, then I must warn you to stay far, far away from Foxcatcher. Here is a sports film with all of the happiness sucked out of it, which is then replaced by an ever mounting sense of dread and scenarios so disturbing that they’re borderline horror movie territory. But what makes this film scarier than most is that it’s completely true. In his best film to date, director Bennett Miller has crafted a true-life tale that’s as haunting as a quiet nightmare. Miller is aided by a fascinating script and three transformative performances from Channing Tatum, Steve Carell and Mark Ruffalo. Aided by some extensive makeup work, Carell’s performance as the wealthy John du Pont is a true standout and the character that he embodies lingers long after the film has ended. It’s a thematically rich film about tragedy, loneliness, the obsession to achieve greatness, and the idea that the wealthiest people in America can use their money to buy whatever kind of life they desire. In just his fourth feature film, Bennett Miller has created a true work of art that is nothing short of astounding.
  1. Whiplash – Sometimes the best thing about movies is their ability to surprise you. Before I saw Whiplash, I would have never imagined that it would end up being my favorite film of 2014. Now, over two months since I originally saw it, my love for the film has only continued to grow. This tale of a maniacal jazz conductor and the young student that he chooses to inflict his wrath upon is intense and undeniably powerful. This isn’t a heartfelt story of a teacher encouraging a student to do his best; it’s a story of a harmful relationship between an abuser and an abusee. Director Damien Chazelle’s directing is tight and spot-on, while his script smartly explores the idea of wanting to achieve something regardless of the cost. Miles Teller delivers an extremely physical performance as we watch him bang on the drum set until his hands are bloody, while J.K. Simmons creates one of the most vicious, ruthless, disturbing and downright evil characters to appear in a movie in quite some time. All of this builds to a final sequence that is equal parts shocking and exhilarating. Just as the film appears to veer towards a fairly obvious ending, the rug is pulled out from underneath us with a truly surprising reveal. Chazelle manages to find an ending that is neither completely uplifting nor completely upsetting and entirely avoids the schmaltz that is typically associated with similar films. It’s more frightening that any horror film I’ve seen in years and one of the most uncomfortable viewing experiences that I’ve ever had. With taut direction, amazing performances and an infectiously toe-tapping jazz soundtrack, this is sure to blow away your expectations, just like it did mine. Whiplash is, without a doubt, the best film of the year.

Christopher Nolan is a hugely gifted filmmaker and it’s difficult to imagine him making a truly bad movie. The guy simply has too much filmmaking talent. While I would hesitate to call him the best director of our generation like some people have, I’ve enjoyed every single one of his films and several of his films rank as some of the best of the 21st century to date. Nolan’s winning streak continues this week with the release of Interstellar, a huge sci-fi epic that has just as much heart as it does brains. Comparisons to last year’s Gravity are bound to happen, but Nolan’s film is actually much more similar to Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. This is a film that’s much more interested in raising ideas and thought-provoking questions than it is in delivering nonstop thrills. It’s a very dense film that may be filled with too much ambition, but one simply can’t ignore the beautiful visuals and the touching emotional core at its center.

Matthew McConaughey stars as Cooper, a former pilot who is now working as a farmer in Texas. The film opens on an unspecified year in the future, where humanity is running out of natural resources and food to survive. Cooper and his young daughter Murph (Mackenzie Foy) stumble upon NASA’s hidden headquarters and learn that they are planning to launch an expedition into space, in the hopes that they will be able to find another hospitable planet. The brain behind the operation is Professor Brand (Michael Caine) and he wants Cooper to join his daughter Amelia (Anne Hathaway) on their expedition into space. Their goal is to travel through a wormhole near Saturn and hope that when they exit through the other side they will find a planet suitable for human life. Cooper agrees to go on this expedition to save humanity, knowing full well that it may be years before he’s able to see his family again.

If you’re planning on seeing Interstellar at all, you should try to see it on the largest screen possible. This is a true theater experience and I’m not sure how well it will hold up on home viewings. Nolan is able to make viewers feel a true sense of wonder and discovery as we bear witness to foreign planets and galaxies. Some of the visuals in the film are truly stunning, thanks in large part to the gorgeous cinematography from Hoyte Van Hoytema. This is his first collaboration with Nolan and his outer space visuals are so beautiful that you’ll be moving your eyes over every inch of the frame. Also aiding the film’s beauty is the great visual effects work. Nolan is a huge proponent for practical effects over CGI and the real sets, costumes and locations make the special effects feel more genuine than a computer ever could.

Nolan is known for making films with long runtimes and Interstellar is his longest film yet, clocking in at nearly three hours in length. But, like his previous efforts, the film never seems to drag or become dull. The 169 minutes coast by at an excellent pace. This is partly due to some great editing from Lee Smith, but it’s Nolan’s ability to truly wrap viewers up in the moment that allows his films to justify their runtimes. This certainly isn’t an action oriented film, so the fact that he can keep viewers so enraptured is a true compliment. But when the action does hit, it hits hard. Take, for instance, a sequence on a planet that appears to be covered in water. It starts simple, but a single discovery turns the entire mission upside down and leads to a truly suspenseful escape attempt.

But this is a science-fiction film that cares less about action and more about ideas. It’s difficult to say how most audience members will feel about this, but I loved how Nolan chose to take his time in developing the story. In the film’s 45 minutes, he’s able to create a future that feels truly unique and raise some timely issues, without ever becoming preachy. It’s hard to ignore the environmental message at the center of the film, but it’s worked so well into the main story that it never becomes distracting or over the top. What if our planet begins to run out of resources? What will we do when Earth is no longer our home? How do we survive on a planet that is dying faster than we are? These are just a few of the questions that are raised in the film’s script, written by Nolan and his brother Jonathan. It’s also interesting that we’re never given an exact year that the film takes place and it’s up to the audience to infer how far into the future we really are. This is a society that encourages people to become farmers, believes the moon landings were faked and thrives on corn and little else. Learning about this strange society is one of the things that make the film’s first act so intriguing and effective.

One of the biggest criticisms that Nolan has faced is his inability to develop truly interesting characters. This weakness carries into his most recent film; aside from Cooper and Murph, all of the major characters are pretty uninspired, but solid performances from the entire cast prevent this from being a huge issue. What makes Cooper and Murph great characters is their relationship between one another. Murph is truly devastated when she finds out that her father will be leaving her and watching Cooper attempt to say goodbye is nothing short of heartbreaking. A scene where Cooper finally receives several messages from his family back on Earth is also tough to watch and McConaughey nails his scenes. Cooper uses his tough exterior to try to mask what he’s really feeling, but he can’t hold it in forever and when he finally breaks down, McConaughey shows a true sense of vulnerability. Also great is Mackenzie Foy as his young daughter Murph. Child actors tend to stand out as weak compared to their adult counterparts, but Foy successfully develops her character into someone that we can care about and her relationship with McConaughey is one of the highlights of the film. Also adding emotion to the film is the fantastic score by Hans Zimmer. Zimmer uses less heavy strings than he’s become accustomed to and opts for a more subtle score with a gentle touch. It may not sound as exciting as his invigorating work on Inception and The Dark Knight, but it’s equally as effective.

Nolan’s always been a better writer than director and Interstellar’s script has just enough problems to hold the film back from true greatness. Oftentimes there’s so much going on that the script resorts to exposition to explain things and even then it’s still confusing. This problem will likely lessen on a rewatch, but on an initial viewing, the film feels way too dense. And despite the fantastic setup, Cooper’s discovery of NASA’s headquarters feels far too convenient and his decision to join the expedition happens too quickly. I also thought that some of the reveals in the film’s third act were slightly predictable, even though the way that they were revealed was extremely interesting.

Similar to the final act of 2001: A Space Odyssey, the climactic moments of this film transport viewers to unforeseen and transcendental locations. And while the film’s setup and conclusion may be fantastic, some of the initial space scenes lack the interesting ideas of the previous scenes and the excitement of the later scenes. But in spite of all the flaws, Nolan once again delivers a truly engrossing and exhilarating movie-going experience. What’s most impressive is that even though the script is filled to the brim with scientific dialogue, it never loses sight of the heart and emotion that make these characters worth rooting for. Interstellar may be a flawed ride, but oh what a ride it is.

Interstellar receives 3.5/4