1. August: Osage County - We all know that Meryl Streep will get nominated for an Oscar for pretty much ANY role nowadays, whether she deserves it or not (ahem...The Iron Lady - it's even more ridiculous that she won). This movie is a nice reminder of why Streep is so lauded in the first place. It's an incredible top-notch performance; if the movie was stronger, her chance of winning last year would have been much higher. My mother and I watched this movie together as part of a "girls weekend", and just like me, the only thing she knew about the movie is that it features an awesome cast (Streep, Julia Roberts, Chris Cooper, Margo Martindale, Julianne Nicholson, Juliette Lewis, Benedict Cumberbatch...the list goes on). We didn't know what the movie is actually about. *spoilers ahead* While it's mostly about a dysfunctional family, something both my mother and I can relate to (it even brought my mother to tears at one point), it's also about incest. At first, I thought I was just misunderstanding the relationships - maybe Violet and Mattie call themselves "sisters" because they are just really close, but no, they are actually sisters - and their children are dating. The story takes an odd stance on incest - because it essentially tackles the taboo by claiming they are consensual adults, who can not physically procreate, therefore there is no harm done. It's hard to argue with, really. But then, the audience finds out the "big twist" - that they are, in fact, siblings; and suddenly their relationship is not okay. I'm not sure I understand; they didn't grow up in the same household, so how exactly does this change their relationship in any way? It's a little unclear; and there is no resolution (not that there needs to be). The other "dysfunctional" situations are all really well done; mostly because of the actors involved. The only real issue I have with the movie is the pace and it also becomes a little repetitive, but I did like the movie much more than I was expecting to.
2. Saving Mr. Banks - Another movie that I liked much more than I was expecting to. Admittedly, I've never seen Mary Poppins in its entirety. I mean, I think I've seen the whole movie - but it's always been in bits and pieces. I've never really had an interest in watching it from beginning to end, until now. This movie made me want to watch itas soon as it ended (unfortunately I didn't; and I still haven't). I think if you have any interest in filmmaking and/or writing, then you will enjoy this movie. It gives focus to the importance of the writer, but also of the collaboration that needs to happen in order to create films. It's sad that P.L Travers had such a devastating childhood, but it's that exact childhood that pushed her into using writing as an outlet. As expected, Emma Thompson is fantastic in the role. What surprised me the most is how funny it is - like when one of the writers hides the word "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious", after she berates him for making up words - "well, un-make it up!". There are quite a few scenes that had me chuckling, but there are also more than a few that had me bored (mostly the flashback scenes - even Colin Farrell couldn't save those scenes).
3. Blindsided - Never heard of it? Me either. It's also called Penthouse North, if that helps; although, I've never heard of that either. It was only after I watched the movie, that I realized it was a Lifetime movie. Why on earth would Michelle Mohaghan and Michael Keaton do a Lifetime movie???? I absolutely love Michelle Monaghan. She is so naturally gorgeous - in this movie, she barely has on any makeup and she is still stunning. The movie is quite atrocious and nonsensical. The whole plot is about a blind woman who has her apartment broken into by some thugs looking for diamonds that her boyfriend may or may not have stolen. It's obviously inspired by Wait Until Dark, but it's too cheesy and underdeveloped to even draw a comparison. Monaghan has a screen presence though, so I didn't get bored. The villains are also great (Keaton and the guy from Revenge). I know it's supposed to take place on New Years Eve (a loud day in NYC), but gunshots and screaming in an upscale high-rise building would surely cause some concern among the neighbors. Also, *spoiler*, she does know where the diamonds are....so she should have just fucking told them! I don't understand her motivation at all. Side-note: that's an excellent place to hide diamonds!
4. Stories We Tell - I'm a big fan of Sarah Polley as a filmmaker, so when I heard she was making a documentary about her family, I was intrigued. I'm not a huge fan of documentary films, but I think Sarah actually nails the exact reason why I feel this way - it's hard to call something "fact" when a story is always told from a certain perspective. Therefore, documentaries always feel like propaganda, to me. The more a story is told, the more it changes and essentially becomes a myth. I am always fascinated by how different my version of parts of my childhood are compared to my mothers version. My mother has always shown interest in writing a story about her family and her life, but I always brushed it off because I thought "who cares?", but after seeing this story - a story that's not all that surprising, or even that interesting - told in such a fascinating way, I think my mother might actually be onto something. When I think about the rough childhood that I endured; I instantly remind myself that my mother had it so much worse. It could be an interesting story for her to tell. Stories We Tell, is basically about Sarah exploring her identity, in relation to the stories that her family tells her. I read there was a "big twist", but if you weren't immediately questioning the video footage, then you weren't paying attention.
5. Philomena - Good movie; not Oscar-worthy at all, in my opinion. It's a pretty straight-forward story. Yes, it's sad and yes, it's even more sad because it's based on truth. The acting is obviously strong, because, well, it's Judi Dench. Surprisingly, I even laughed a few times - like when she describes the novel she is reading. Dench and Steve Coogan have a great chemistry together, which makes it move really quickly. The problem with the movie, for me, is that it all felt a bit familiar. I tried to think of what movie it reminded me of, but it still hasn't come to me. It's definitely the weakest movie among the 2013 Best Picture nominees.