All is Lost

All is Lost RedfordA man sleeps peacefully aboard his small yacht when it suddenly bangs into some sea debris, tearing a hole in the side.  This begins a great survival story where one problems piles upon another as he is tossed across the Indian Ocean toward shipping lanes and possible rescue.  But he must first face storms, sharks, and other menaces.  And even when he reaches the shipping lanes, will anyone see him?

Robert Redford gives a dynamic, riveting performance as the man fighting for his life in this 2013 film written and directed by J. C. Chandor.  With virtually no dialogue, the viewer is constantly engaged with the action, watching Redford’s eyes to see what he is feeling, trying to figure out from his actions what he is trying to accomplish in all of the little tasks that he takes on to try to survive.  It creates an inner dialogue that glues the viewer to the story, caught up in this extremely honest, thrilling film.

The cinematography by Frank G. DeMarco is extraordinary, catching all the moods of the sea and the storm.  The music, by Alex Ebert, is restrained, working within the overall sound created by Steve Boeddeker and Richard Hymns of wind, waves, thunder, rain, grunting, and gasping.

Although the movie won various awards worldwide, it was seriously snubbed by the Academy Awards, though I can’t figure out why.  Clearly, it is one of the best movies of 2013, with a brilliant, gut-wrenching performance by Robert Redford, skillful directing, terrific special effects, great sound, and a story that is completely engaging from beginning to end.

This is a great movie that should be seen by everyone!

O

Ordinary Tim Hutton Elizabeteh McGovernOrdinary People

For those who remember what life was like in 1980, Ordinary People will be a real trip to the past.  For those who are too young to know, this movie will give you a brief tutorial in clothing, hair styles, cars, and so on.  For both types of people, this will be an extraordinary family drama, full of terrific performances, raw and deeply moving.

A

 Across_the_Universe_3lgAcross the Universe

Conceived, produced and directed by the eclectic Julie Taymor, this film is a romantic musical that incorporates parts of 34 songs composed by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and the three of them plus Ringo Starr (“Flying”).  Most of the songs are sung on-screen by the characters, though there are some instrumentals.  This places the film in the category of old-style musicals where people seem to burst into song as a part of the story.  To everyone’s credit, it actually seems to work very well indeed.


1-adjustment-bureau-copyThe Adjustment Bureau

The Adjustment Bureau, based on a Phillip K. Dick story, is a far-fetched, but very engaging film.  David Norris (Matt Damon) is a Brooklyn politician who meets a fascinating woman, Elise Sellas (Emily Blunt) on the night that he has just lost the Senate election.  When she runs away, he is motivated to give a galvanizing concession speech that will reenergize his career.


AdventurelandAdventureland

Adventureland is a funny and moving teen romance written and directed by Greg Mattola about a group of teens working at a summer carnival.  The main character, James Brennan, is a student who has just graduated from a small college and is saving up his money to go to the Columbia School of Journalism so he can begin a career in travel writing.  Played with both humor and angst by Jesse Eisenberg, James is trying to find romance, but his own geekiness stands in his way.


All is Lost RedfordAll is Lost

A man sleeps peacefully aboard his small yacht when it suddenly bangs into some sea debris, tearing a hole in the side.  This begins a great survival story where one problems piles upon another as he is tossed across the Indian sea toward shipping lanes and possible rescue.  But he must first face storms, sharks, and other menaces.  And even when he reaches the shipping lanes, will anyone see him?


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Amadeus

A terrible way to triumph over God.  These are the words of 18th Century Italian composer Antonio Salieri (F. Murray Abraham) referring to his murder of the brilliant, meteoric Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart ((Tom Hulce). He tells the story to Father Vogler (Richard Frank) who has come to hear his confession at the insane asylum to which Salieri has been confined following a suicide attempt.


 american-hustle-posters-sonyAmerican Hustle

Loosely based on the FBI ABSCAM sting operation, this 2013 film was written by David O. Russell and Eric Warren Singer and directed by Russell of The Fighter and  Silver Linings Playbook fame.  Bringing along Christian Bale and Amy Adams from The Fighter and Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence from Silver Linings Playbook, he has created a brilliant sting comedy that takes place at the height of disco mania, 1978.


Art of Getting By3The Art of Getting By

In The Art of Getting By (2011), George (Freddie Highmore), a high school senior living in New York City, falls into a fatalistic funk.  Although he is a gifted artist, he realizes that he’s going to die some day and asks himself: What is the point of trying?  Seeing no point, he gives up working on his school assignments, skips class and tests and just skates by as a loner.  Facing this failure, he is placed on academic probation.


Austenland PictureAustenland

The heroine of the movie, Jane Hayes (Keri Russell) is a disheartened Jane Austen fan. Obsessed with the writer, she looks at her own life and sees failed relationships, a dead-end job and no future, so she decides to spend her life savings on a trip to England to resort called Austenland

 

Ordinary People

Ordinary Tim Hutton Elizabeteh McGovernFor those who remember what life was like in 1980, Ordinary People will be a real trip to the past.  For those who are too young to know, this movie will give you a brief tutorial in clothing, hair styles, cars, and so on.  For both types of people, this will be an extraordinary family drama, full of terrific performances, raw and deeply moving.  It won four Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Director for Robert Redford.

Conrad Jarrett (Timothy Hutton) is a high school senior in Lake Forest, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. Plagued with insomnia, he is a loner who shuns his friends and can barely communicate with his father Calvin (Donald Sutherland) and mother Beth (Mary Tyler Moore).  Recently released from a psychiatric hospital following a suicide attempt that was foiled by his father, Conrad has been home now for over a month, but still has not started therapy.  The false happiness and optimism of his parents grates against him as they all attempt to cope with the incident that started everything down this crazy road: the death of Buck, the older son in the family.  Calvin pretends that life can go on without regard to the death, while Beth seems to have retreated into a coldness that allows for no emotion whatsoever.

Finally, Conrad goes to see a therapist, Dr. Berger (Judd Hirsch), but all he can talk about is maintaining control over his life. Berger would like to see the boy experience some emotion, to face his own anger, terror, and remorse, but Conrad tries desperately to hold on.  Remembering how much he liked his time in the hospital, Conrad seeks out a girl that he had been friends with there, Karen (Dinah Manoff), but she seems reluctant to find a relationship with him.  She tells him that she is happy now and that he should be optimistic, too.  “Let’s have the best year of our lives,” she tells him.  At school, he continues on the swim team, which had been previously dominated by his brother, with all of the awards to prove it, but Calvin is, at best, a mediocre swimmer.  He finds it impossible to relate to his old friends, who were all friends of Buck’s, too.

The girl who stands in front of him in choir, Jeannine (Elizabeth McGovern) makes friends with him and a mutual attraction develops. For the first time since the accident that killed his brother, Conrad begins to have a sense of optimism.  But the tension within the family contains more than just Conrad’s angst.  Calvin has serious trouble dealing with Beth’s apparent lack of emotion and he goes to see Dr. Berger himself, discovering that he still has lingering grief over his son’s death and openly questions why his wife didn’t cry at the funeral.

As Christmas approaches, two dynamic incidents explode the plot wide open. Beth discovers that Conrad quit the swim team a month earlier and hadn’t told them, then Conrad finds out that his friend Karen has committed suicide.

Director Robert Redford handles this emotionally charged story very deftly. It could very easily have gone maudlin and mushy, but it always seems real and always completely honest.  There’s no fancy camera work or other tricks to divert us from the story, but Redford has a keen sense of pacing.  Two hours and four minutes of emotionally charged angst could have been way too much, but I never noticed the action dragging for one moment.  To be perfectly honest, I don’t really like dramas, but I couldn’t stop watching this one.  It is superbly crafted and Redford was deserving of the two Academy Awards.

The heartbeat of the story is provided by Timothy Hutton. His performance as Conrad is one of the best dramatic performances ever and he was given an Academy Award for it.  I’m not sure why they gave him Best Supporting Actor, when he is clearly the lead in this movie, but he would have deserved either one.  Donald Sutherland is terrific as Conrad’s father, giving a deep, heartfelt performance.  I felt a little bad for Mary Tyler Moore, because her character was so emotionally in control that she didn’t have the opportunity to really reveal her talents.  Nevertheless, she did an awful lot with very little to go on.  I kept wishing that they could have gotten Beth in to see the psychiatrist, because I felt that she was the one of all three that actually needed therapy more.  Hirsch is very good as the psychiatrist and both McGovern and Manoff are believable as the two girls.

The fourth Academy Award went to Alvin Sargent for his adaptation of the novel by Judith Guest. It is a really good screenplay, very tight, and beautifully crafted.

The title of the movie is enigmatic. On one hand, this really isn’t an ordinary family.  They are quite wealthy.  The parents golf, they are members of the country club, and their friends are all equally rich, if not more so.  But the title isn’t “ordinary family,” it’s Ordinary People and the title rings true on that level.  Stripped of their wealth, these people are just like everyone, struggling with their problems, trying to figure out how to live their lives in the face of adversity, trying to pretend that things are better than they really are so they won’t have to think about them.

One revealing scene occurs on Calvin’s first date with Jeannine. As they sit in McDonald’s eating burgers, she asks him what it was like to commit suicide.  He looks at her and remarks that she is the only person–outside of therapy–who has asked him about it.  That one stretch of dialogue speaks volumes about the level of disconnect that exists in this family, their utter refusal to face Conrad’s problems.

This is a great film and it is certainly one of the best domestic dramas of all time. Everyone should see it!