Thursday, February 5, 2015

2015 in Movies, 11-15

"The Hundred-Foot Journey."

11. Cake (dir. Daniel Barnz)

What's with all the hate? Sure, the role--a woman suffering from chronic pain--is pure Oscar bait, but fact is, Jennifer Aniston is terrific in it. I suspect someone from the Angelina camp started it all. We also remember Adriana Barraza as the conflicted nanny in "Babel" (and because I was still relatively innocent back then, her dilemma and actions actually baffled me). Here, she does a pretty good job taming the monster who has visions of a once-suicidal Anna Kendrick. Let me reiterate: "Cake" looks, sounds, reads and feels like it was made to get Aniston that Oscar. And it's because the effort is that obvious that there is all this hate. Me? I had a ball, actually.

12. Force Majeure (dir. Ruben Östlund)

Somewhere between the second and third acts, everything begins to melt into a puddle of cliché. The world is not in need of more traditional, upper-class family drama. "Force Majeure" hits all the right emotional buttons, and hits 'em hard, and that final scene in the bus is just gripping in the oh-no-is-she-gonna-leave-her-family-(though I can hardly care) and not in the oh-my-God-this-is-totally-life-changing sense. It isn't one for the books, though. 

13. The Imitation Game (dir. Morten Tyldum)

Oh boy, where do we even begin? Back in September, right after the Toronto International Film Festival, people were talking about this movie as the one to beat. This year's "The King's Speech," they all said: a crowd-pleasing, uplifting, good ole fashioned drama. And it is all that. It is also a mediocre movie, however, and it's downright baffling how much acclaim it has received. I loved Tyldum's Scandinavian thriller "Headhunters," an infinitely better film than this incoherent piece of heartstring-tugging gimmickry. And Benedict Cumberbatch needs to step up his game now or risk being pigeon-holed into the socially-inept stereotype for the rest of his career. When the dust finally settles in the wake of this terrible, terrible Oscars season, the world will hopefully see "The Imitation Game" for what it really is: a poorly written, lackluster imitation of great drama that does not at all deserve its eight(!) Academy Award nominations. The Academy itself is another topic, but let's be clear on two things: 1) Jake Gyllenhaal ("Nightcrawler") and Ralph Fiennes ("The Grand Budapest Hotel") are a billion times more deserving of Cumberbatch's Best Actor spot; and 2) There is nothing special at all about Keira Knightley's performance (much to do with how bad and one-note the role was written).

14. The Hundred-Foot Journey (dir. Lasse Hallström)

Strange, that I find myself actually missing this not-good movie about an uptight witch-chef (Helen Mirren) and a family of Indian immigrants warring over who can best spice and dice the French countryside. I repeat: It is not a good movie at all. It was probably the most hackneyed quasi-Parisian thing to come out during the year, and the better cooking movie (though by not much) was Jon Favreau's "Chef" (which was so visually effective, I was longing for a plate of those Cuban taco stuff by the time the credits started rolling). There are a lot of hoary scenes in "The Hundred-Foot Journey," which made me wonder how Helen Mirren actually decides which movies to star in. My favorite is up there: Mama Helen and Papa Indian getting all beneath-the-surface flirtatious to fireworks and Edith Piaf's "La Vie en Rose." Brava!

15. A Most Violent Year (dir. J.C. Chandor)

In some way, it's a good thing Jessica Chastain missed out on an Oscar nomination this year. Otherwise, she would have earned her third for this sliver of a role--Chandor's willowy mash-up of Lady Macbeth and the supporting-wife stereotype. Chastain is the most versatile actress of her generation out there, the likeliest heir to Meryl Streep's throne, and she deserves better, bigger roles (not to say that she doesn't knock this one out of the park). Elsewhere, "A Most Violent Year" is an accomplished film, even if the comparisons to "The Godfather" are mostly unearned.

No comments: