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Flash Movie Review: Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Eventually over time all bright objects lose some of their glow. As bright as a high noon sun can be, time’s strength with its constant pull draws out the shadows that were tucked away, freeing them to dance across the landscape of one’s life. A smooth taut face will turn and appear like the flapping jowls of a bounding Shar-Pei dog or a centuries old ravaged canyon. Besides youth not staying long in a person’s life, one’s accomplishments can diminish as future generations with their energy and determination restructure the environment. Within some aspects of my life I am familiar with the fading light of a past moment or if you will a past glory. When I was much younger and taught up to 20 aerobic classes a week, I felt I was on top of the world. With each movement choreographed for all the main muscle groups of the body, beside to each beat of selected songs; I felt I was walking onto a Broadway stage for every class. Having upwards of 50 members in a class, working out truly felt like a high energy theatrical production. At this stage of my life I know I could never keep up with my younger self (though I keep trying) and I am okay with it. I do my best not to judge anyone; but in regards to various celebrities, when I see them trying to perform the same way they did in a movie they starred in 15-20 years ago I have to wonder what motivates them.    DECLINING fame was a hard fact to swallow for action movie star Riggan Thomson, played by Michael Keaton (Batman franchise, White Noise). Trying to recapture the spotlight once again; Riggan was launching a staged production that he wrote, directed and planned on starring in. He would have to deal with past events as he sorted through his true feelings. A film festival winner, this surreal comedic drama was outstanding on every level. The cast which also included Emma Stone (The Amazing Spider-Man franchise, Magic in the Moonlight) as Sam, Edward Norton (The Illusionist, Fight Club) as Mike and Zach Galifianakis (Due Date, The Hangover franchise) as Jake were all amazing to watch as they handled all the twists and turns the script threw at them. From writer and director Alejandro Gonzalez (Babel, 21 Grams), the story dealt with real feelings and fears even when scenes took on a fantasy nature. Having Michael Keaton star in this movie was brilliant casting since in some circles people have said his best work was during the Batman films. I thought he was incredible in this role. In fact, I expect there will be multiple acting nominations for this film during next year’s Oscar race. Original, thought-provoking, stimulating; this movie was a glorious example for the beauty of filmmaking while showing the downfalls of yearning for one’s past glories.

 

4 stars

Flash Movie Review: Spotlight

He would be the perfect candidate for a television game show, where the contestants guess the person’s occupation. The reason being no one would guess what he did for a living. With a physical shape more akin to a fireplug; he smoked cigarettes, drank and had a Napoleon complex. In other words, he was aggressive to compensate for his short stature. I was never comfortable around him; he would simply bark orders at everyone, barely hiding his mean streak that simmered just below the surface. Do you want to take a guess at his job title? He was a gym teacher; I hesitate to use the words physical education because he did not know much about health or the human body. There were classes where he would just throw a bunch of basketballs out into the gymnasium and tell us to shoot baskets. I think he only did this so he could sit in his office that had two windows covered with metal grates. If any students knew what he was doing in there they never shared their information. I never understood how this man kept his job. He would throw basketballs at our heads or body; in fact I know I must have mentioned this before, but he put one student up against the wall and kept throwing balls at his head while a majority of the students in the bleachers sat and laughed. How could a school system keep such a person in a position of authority who acted like this, like a bully.    INVESTIGATIVE reporters from the Boston Globe discovered a pattern of abuse taking place in their city, but no one seemed to be aware of it; or were they just not saying anything? This film festival winning drama was based on a true story. The actors assembled were all so equally terrific that I could not say one of them was the main star. There was Mark Ruffalo (Now You See Me, The Avengers franchise) as Mike Rezendes, Rachel McAdams (The Vow, Midnight in Paris) as Sacha Pfeiffer, Michael Keaton (Batman franchise, White Noise) as Walter “Robby” Robinson and Liev Schreiber (Defiance, Pawn Sacrifice) as Marty Baron. The script being crisply clean without any manipulations played out as a dramatic, suspenseful thriller. There was never a dull moment; every scene mattered and offered a piece to the puzzle the reporters were trying  to put together. I do want to say I was impressed with Michael Keaton’s performance because this role was such a contrast to his role in Birdman, yet he was equally as prominent. Everything worked in this biographical film from the direction to the acting to the action. Too bad it had this true story available to be turned into a movie; but I am glad they made it because not only is it a major topic, this movie version will be a major player during the award ceremonies.

 

4 stars

 

 

 

Oscar Telecast

There once was a little boy who was not very little. A majority of the people around him all looked the same which made him more self-concsious about his size. Not finding many places to fit in, to be like one of the others around him, he found a safe place in a palace. It looked like a palace to him with stained glass windows, smooth white colored brick walls, aged statues and a massive awning filled with colored lights perched above sets of pure glass doors with brass oversized handles. He not only felt safe inside but found a whole different world to the one he was living in. The first spot he would stop at once inside was the glass cases that were pieced together like a kid’s fort. Walking around he saw more types of candy than he had ever seen before. From there he would walk through a set of polished black doors that opened into a huge auditorium filled with row upon row of red velvet seats. He spent as much time as he could in this place because he discovered different worlds and experienced things he only saw in his imagination. Every week there would be a new movie that proved to him there were all types of people from all different places. He laughed, he cried, he yearned, he wished; and most importantly discovered he was okay just the way he was.    FROM that point in time he has paid his respects to the magic of movies by watching the Oscar telecast every year. This year the show started out on a high note with the host Neil Patrick Harris doing what he does best, being a song and dance man. With the special effects around him that placed him into classic movie clips, things took a fun turn with Anna Kendrick and Jack Black. As the evening progressed Neil had more misses than hits as a host. The schtick with Octavia Spencer got old fast, though I give him points for honoring the film Birdman by walking out on stage in his underwear. One of my favorite moments was Lady Gaga’s tribute to the 50th anniversary of the movie The Sound of Music. Having seen her in concert where she sang live, she already had extra points in my book. Using a higher register of voice without losing her power; she did the movie proud. And if that was not enough to have Julie Andrews walk on stage was perfect for me. I wanted Mary Poppins to come to my house when I was a kid. For the best song from the movie Selma I thought the staging, the message and the vocals all contributed to the power a song has not only in a movie but in our hearts.    THIS year the speeches took on a more personal aspect. The one everyone is talking about and deservedly so was the one given by Graham Moore for best adapted screenplay for The Imitation Game. Coming from the heart, his speech was the most inspiring in my opinion. Julianne Moore and Patricia Arquette both had strong speeches delivered in two distinctly different styles, yet each had potency in their words. Reese Witherspoon may not have given an acceptance speech but her #askhermore campaign is a wonderful idea. I understand all the designers are expecting shout outs for their handy work with the gowns the actresses are wearing, but is that all people want to hear about? Reese’s idea is for journalists to start asking more questions besides, “Who are you wearing?”    OVERALL I am pleased with who received the Oscar award. To tell you the truth on one level I find it odd to place movies into a race with each other. My thing has always been if a movie can move you then it did its job. Just like there has to be someone who graduates at the top of their class and others from the bottom, some movies are phenomenal and others are awful. No matter what movie I am seeing, to this day there is a certain comfort and safety that comes over me when I sit down in a movie theater seat.  So with the Oscars now given out the past year of movies has come to a close.  May the new year of films stir something in our hearts and give us something to talk about.

Oscar Predictions

For the past year I have spent my time in a variety of movie theaters. Some had floors so sticky that my shoes refused to go with me when I tried to leave my seat. There were numerous occasions I had to ask people around me to shut off their phones; some did so obediently while others had to first glare at me. I did not care for I had a movie to watch and review. And what a year it has been; we learned there was a theory for everything and we had new guardians of the galaxy. The Chicago Bears finally caught a Fox and a man bonded with the avian world. There was another lesson on how to train your dragon while a woman went wild and another was just gone. We saw a boy grow up to be a mature young man and discovered a new hotel in Budapest. Such an eclectic group of films the past year; just the way I like it. As we come to an end this weekend during the high holiday of the Oscar awards, I want to thank each and every one of you for joining me on this journey that was filled with discovery, disappointment, joy, amazement, anger and love. Wow, doesn’t that sound just like an intimate relationship? Without further ado, here are my thoughts and predictions for who will take home the Oscar.

 

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:    Patricia Arquette (Boyhood)

I would be very surprised if the academy awards this to Meryl. Personally my other choice would have been Emma Stone.

 

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR:    J.K. Simmons (Whiplash)

This was my easiest decision; I felt he deserved it from the moment I saw him in this movie.

 

BEST DIRECTOR:    Alejandro G. Inarritu (Birdman)

I believe the academy will choose Richard Linklater for Boyhood because the film was novel. However, I thought Alejandro with his seamless filming was extraordinary.

 

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE:    CitizenFour

Though I did not see all the nominees in this category I thought this film played out like an exciting thriller. My other choice would be Finding Vivian Maier.

 

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM:    How to Train Your Dragon 2

Once again I did not see all the entries in this category but I felt this picture was the most well-rounded out of the group.

 

BEST ACTRESS:    Julianne Moore

It is not only her time now but out of the group I thought she really stood out.

 

BEST ACTOR:   Eddie Redmayne

This was my toughest decision and I feel there is a good chance the Academy will choose Michael Keaton based on his body of work. I would be okay with that decision. He was excellent but I felt Eddie’s detailed transformation made for a brilliant performance. My other choice would be Benedict Cumberbatch.

 

BEST MOTION PICTURE:    Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Here again I feel the Academy might reward Boyhood though if I did not choose Birdman first I would choose The Grand Budapest Hotel.

 

BEST ORIGINAL SONG:    Glory

If for nothing else this movie deserved more nominations so the Academy will vote to give this the best song Oscar and I agree on the choice; it was the most memorable to me.

 

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY:    The Grand Budapest Hotel

I normally do not include this category in my predictions but because the movie was so different and fun, I wanted to list it as my 1st choice.

 

There you have it, this year’s predictions. No matter who wins, I had a great time watching all of these films.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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