Monthly Archives: January 2014

The Guest List: Underrated and Overlooked Movies

I hope you’re all ready for another stellar edition of The Guest List! This week, I’m very excited to have Eric from Underrated and Overlooked Movies contributing his top 10 to the segment! If you don’t already follow or subscribe to his site, you better do so, right now! Honestly, this man knows what he’s talking about. I’ve found so many hidden gems through his efforts to bring the best of hidden cinema to the forefront. So, yeah, go and show him some love!

If you’d like to contribute your own top 10 to The Guest List, here’s how…

All you need to do is shoot me an e mail (thecinemamonster@gmail.com) with your name, website info (if you have one), and the topic you have chosen for your top 10. If I like what I see, I’ll give you the all clear and you can begin composing your entry. Make sure to include a descriptive, yet brief introduction and a picture or clip for every entry in your top 10. Use my own top 10s as references. Then, send it back to me and we will discuss a date of publish.

Don’t forget to check out the results for The Cinema Monster’s first ever “Vote!” Also, make sure you cast your vote for the newest poll, “Most Anticipated Films of 2014.”

I’m going to turn things over to Eric now, enjoy!

Top 10 Underrated and Overlooked Movies: by Eric

I love finding underrated movies, overlooked films, and hidden gems. Now I know that there are many different interpretations of the words “underrated” and “overlooked,” and even though I understand that distinctions can be made, for the most part I use the two words interchangeably. I usually think of an underrated or overlooked movie as being one that was generally ignored by large, mainstream audiences.

There are so many movies out there, and I’m sure there are many under-the-radar ones that I still do not know about, but I think it is way too easy to just pick “art house,” “experimental” and/or “avant-garde” movies for a list like this… So part of my philosophy is to pick (for the most part) movies that would appeal to a lot of people, but yet were simply passed over by the masses for one reason or another.

There are many, many underrated/overlooked movies on my personal list (I’m up to #275 on my blog), so it was very tough to narrow it down. And there are different kinds of Top 10 lists that could be made, such as My Top 10 Favorite Underrated Movies, or Top 10 Most-Unknown Underrated Movies, or Top 10 Underrated Thrillers, or Top 10 Overlooked Movies Starring Bill Paxton etc. This time, we’ll just keep it simple and count down a general list of the Top 10 Underrated/Overlooked Movies. Here we go! Punch it, Bishop!

10: Matewan

matewan

This is a story about coal miners in West Virginia and their battle with the “company” to form a union. It is directed by John Sayles, who is known for his independent films. His movies are sometimes “hit-and-miss”, but Matewan is a bullseye. It is amazingly detailed, and it features what might be the two best “bad guys” in movie history. Some movies are overlooked when they are released, but then gain popularity or “cult status” over time, but Matewan has pretty much remained unknown to most people, and it should be known.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VCIoiHf_Lt4

9: The Last of Sheila

last_of_sheila

If you like intricate puzzles and mysteries, then this is your movie. It is about a rich movie mogul who sets up a complex game for a group of “friends” in order to exact revenge for various events in his past. As the movie moves along, the game gets more and more elaborate… So beware: you have to pay attention! There’s a good list stars in this one, including James Coburn, James Mason, Raquel Welch, and Ian McShane. It was actually written by Anthony Perkins (yes, the star of Psycho) and Stephen Sondheim (the Academy Award winning composer and lyricist).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7KB9GodejAE

8: Tucker: The Man and His Dream

tucker

This is one of those movies in which I wonder, “How in the world could this one have gone unnoticed?” It was overlooked when it was released, and it is still mostly unknown to this day. It’s the story of Preston Tucker, who designed and built a brand new car — the Tucker Sedan — in the mid-to-late 1940’s that was set to rival Detroit’s “Big Three.” Everything about this movie is great: it was produced by George Lucas, so it had a big budget… it is directed by Francis Ford Coppola… and it was even nominated for three Oscars, including Martin Landau for best supporting actor, which he should have won.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ty93RYkzYQQ

7: What’s Up Doc?

whats_up_doc

I feel like I need to throw-in a comedy, so here is the funniest comedy of all time. Sometimes I judge whether or not a movie is “overlooked” by the number of user votes the movie has on imdb.com, and What’s Up Doc? has about 11,300, which is not very many. This screwball comedy has big-time laughs and is consistently funny throughout. The plot involves the exchange of three bags that… well, the plot doesn’t really matter… Just watch it! Madeline Kahn and Kenneth Mars are especially hilarious.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WsJZ0LWSAHs

6: Proof

proof

Who doesn’t like movies about math? Proof is an extremely well done movie based on a play about a brilliant mathematician, played by Anthony Hopkins, who discovers an important new mathematical theorem. Or does he? You wouldn’t think that a movie about math could be almost thrilling, but this is, and it’s got some great dialog as well, and great acting by Hopkins, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Hope Davis. It’s also got one of the greatest musical scores to come down the pike in a long time.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DI1vRch4omw

5: House of Games

house_of_games

This movie is written and directed by David Mamet, who is known for his odd and quirky dialog. So I’m telling you to be ready to hear some dialog that might not really sound quite right, but yet in the end, that is what makes it all the more interesting and memorable. Not to mention that this is probably the best con-game movie ever made. It’s about a psychiatrist who decides, arrogantly, that she is going to study and write a book about con men and the games they play. House of Games was hailed by critic Roger Ebert as the best film of the year for 1987.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A0eFfE8oa98

4: The Lookout

lookout

Some movies that I choose as picks for my Underrated Movies List become more popular as time goes on, and this is one of them, probably because of Joseph Gordon Levitt. This kind of sudden “cult status” also happened with another Gordon Levitt movie: 500 Days of Summer, which is now pretty much no longer “overlooked.” My favorite movie genre is the psychological and action thriller, and The Lookout is one of the best. It is about a bank robbery, which has been done many times before, but this is completely different and original. Written and directed by Scott Frank, writer of the Minority Report screenplay.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sTmA_9I3hF8

3: Billy Budd

250px-Billy_budd_poster

How Billy Budd isn’t considered one of the all-time classics in movie history is beyond me. It is based on the short novella by Herman Melville. Peter Ustinov is one of my favorite actors, and he was unbelievable in this high seas adventure set on a British man-o-war in the late 1700’s. Ustinov also directed. This was pretty much Terence Stamp’s (General Zod in Superman: The Movie and Superman II) debut film, and he was nominated for an Oscar. Also starring Melvyn Douglas and Robert Ryan as the evil Master of Arms. This is a virtually unknown classic!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GdHapDSWrFM

2: A Simple Plan

simple_plan

This is another one that is probably more well-known than some of the others on this list, but I consider it maybe the greatest thriller of all time. It’s about a group of “friends” who discover in the woods a crashed plane that contains a bag of money, and their “simple plan” to keep/steal it. This one ratchets up the tension to a high degree, and along the lines of Dostoyevsky’s “Crime and Punishment,” makes the point that “crime doesn’t pay.” Plus, I had to include a Bill Paxton movie… he seems to appear in more underrated movies than anyone else. Directed by Sam Raimi.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wfJtnfG6EMI

1: Breaker Morant

breaker_morant

If there’s such a thing as a “perfect movie,” Breaker Morant might be one of them. The film is about the court martial of three British soldiers who are set up to take the blame for the disastrous Second Boar War in the early 1900’s, which involved the British Empire’s attempt to conquer the world by force. Everything about the movie is top-notch, but especially noteworthy is Jack Thompson’s performance as the not-so-prepared lawyer who is commanded by the British army to defend the prisoners.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q-AKnXMEqhg

There you go. I hope you enjoy these if you ever get to watch them! And feel free to comment on your underrated/overlooked picks. I’m always on the lookout for more hidden gems…

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Best Films of 2013: Poll Results

Well, if I was to say that The Cinema Monster’s first attempt at “Vote!” was an immense success, I’d be putting it lightly. For its inception, I asked you to pick your top three films of 2013. As I monitored your responses, it amazed me how many films actually received a vote. I mean, there were only a handful left out in the cold. Which, as you can probably imagine, made for an exciting finish.

Below you will find the 10 films that received the most votes in the first ever “Vote!” poll. Instead of boring you with the details and rambling on about each film, I thought I’d just lay out the results and let each of you comment on the films you love, the films you think should’ve made the list, and the films that shouldn’t have.

Keep in mind that the percentages are low due to the overwhelming response received and a vast choice of films. Also, if you missed our post yesterday, it wasn’t your fault, WordPress has been screwing with me lately. So please click here and check out the newest poll and vote!

 

Gravity: 17%

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Mud: 5%

Mud Movie

 

12 Years a Slave: 5%

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The Way Way Back: 5%

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Rush: 5%

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Before Midnight: 4%

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The Hunt: 4%

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Star Trek Into Darkness: 4%

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The Conjuring: 4%

conjuring-trailer-0422013-152106

 

Upstream Color: 3%

Upstream-color

Vote! Most Anticipated Films of 2014

interstellar-logo

Since I had such a blast (as I hope you all did as well) with the first open poll, I’ve decided to make it a running segment here at The Cinema Monster! The first vote determined what you, the viewer, thought the best films of 2013 are, and the results will be posted tomorrow. However, now that it’s 2014, we have a new year filled with an immense number of flicks to look forward to!

So, with that in mind, let me officially welcome you to “Vote: Most Anticipated Films of 2014!”

This poll will run exactly the same as its predecessor. Simply click on “Vote” in the main menu and it will direct you to the voting area. Once there, read over an extensive list of films set for release in 2014 and pick your top 3. If you do not see a film you prefer listed, feel free to write it in! Once you’ve completed your vote, please leave a comment informing me of your participation so I don’t have to hunt you down for contribution.

Before I let you go, make sure to search into the films listed you don’t know about, there’s a good chance they’ll affect your votes and your outlook on the year ahead in film. Also, I’d like to send you all a BIG thank you for participating last time around and I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the poll’s results. To be honest, they surprised me, to say the least. Now, go on over and vote in the new poll!

My Top 10 Films of 2013:

I wasn’t really planning on posting a personal favourites list for 2013, but upon seeing the results of “Vote: Best of 2013” and how greatly they differed from my own, I felt it necessary to share with you all my favourite films from the past year. As for the results themselves, in which you all kindly contributed, they will be posted this Thursday, so keep an eye out for that. I’ll do my very best to keep this list short and sweet. You can find my full review for each film by clicking on the corresponding title, enjoy!

Honourable Mention:

The Place Beyond the Pines:

Earlier on, when this film was released, it was very much at the top of my list. However, as the year progressed and more highly-sought pictures caught my attention, Derek Cianfrance’s lovely epic just couldn’t hold on to a spot. That being said, I truly believe it has a significant amount of staying power and if any of the films listed ahead of it falter with time, “The Place Beyond the Pines” will surely make a jump into the top 10.

PLACE BEYOND THE PINES

 

10: 12 Years a Slave:

Directed by skyrocketing genius Steve McQueen, creator of “Hunger” and “Shame.” “12 Years a Slave” depicts the unbelievable story of Solomon Northup, a free black man abducted and sold into slavery, where he stayed for twelve long years. Featuring a plethora of staggering performances, a tremendous musical score, and stunning, yet disturbing visuals. This flick is sure to be apart of cinema’s canon for a good, long while

12-Years-a-Slave

 

9: The Hunt:

The only foreign film to make my top 10 is Thomas Vinterberg’s “The Hunt.” About a man struggling against the simplistic destruction of a rumour, this film is, without question, one of the most disturbing on the list. Starring the magnificent Mads Mikkelsen, “The Hunt” is a lock for best foreign feature this award season, for me at least.

thehunt_2225422b

 

8: All is Lost (review coming soon):

Having only become aware of this film in the recent months, its power and sheer brilliance knocked me off my feet. Following a man at sea who becomes shipwrecked and discombobulated, “All is Lost” is a magnificent triumph. Starring Robert Redford, and only him. What this film is able to achieve with limited cast, settings, and dialogue is miraculous.

All-Is-Lost-2013

 

7: American Hustle:

My placing of this film may surprise a few as “American Hustle” will undoubtedly be in many cinephiles top 5 films of the year. There isn’t much fault in this flick, the performances are superlative, the direction unparalleled, and its soundtrack timeless. That being said, the film’s shaky story led to its positioning here at number seven.

american-hustle_2756552b

 

6: Gravity:

Up until about November, “Gravity” was very much in play to be in my top 5 films of the year. Unfortunately for Cuaron’s masterpiece however, a slew of infallible films came along and knocked it out of the top tier. Don’t be fooled though, this film is an unrivalled achievement and will be so for many years to come. The imagery, performances, and story are entrancing, not to mention the soothing musical score.

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5: Drinking Buddies:

Okay, here is my shocker, went off the board with this one. All kidding aside however, the truth is “Drinking Buddies” is a masterful character study and one of the most honest, authentic, heartbreaking films you will ever witness. Featuring fantastic performances from the entire cast, Joe Swanberg’s “Drinking Buddies” managed to surprise everyone, me included, and force its way into my top 5.

drinking-buddies03

 

4: Inside Llewyn Davis:

Being a former musician, I can really sympathize with the lead in the Coen brothers masterpiece, “Inside Llewyn Davis.” Tossing that aside, this film is still a towering experience and undoubtedly finds itself amongst the Coen brothers best. Featuring outstanding performances and the best soundtrack of the year, “Inside Llewyn Davis” makes the list without question.

Inside-Llewyn-Davis

 

3: Her

For a little while there, I thought “Her” was going to be number 1 on my list. Carrying the most original story, a breathtaking script, and spectacular performances, Spike Jonze really outdid himself with this one. People will be talking about “Her” long after the film has ended, perhaps even after humankind has ended…

her-trailer

 

2: Mud:

Jeff Nichols “Mud” is a modern-day fable. Conveying a harsh lesson about growing up and love, this impeccable tale starring Matthew McConaughey and Tye Sheridan is my runner-up.

mud-boat

 

1: The Wolf of Wall Street:

Scorsese and DiCaprio, enough said…no, not enough? How about Jonah Hill and stunner Margot Robbie? This flick is absolutely crazy in every sense. I didn’t hesitate for one-second putting “The Wolf of Wall Street” at the top of this list.

The-Wolf-of-Wall-Street-1

The Guest List: MovieRob

oscars

To keep The Guest List chugging along, I am very excited to have my friend Rob from MovieRob contributing his top 10! If you don’t already follow or subscribe to his site, I highly recommend you do so! He’s got some phenomenal content over there and is a blast to converse with. So, yeah, head on over and drop him a like, comment, and follow!

If you’d like to contribute your very own top 10 to The Guest List, here’s how!

All you need to do is shoot me an e mail (thecinemamonster@gmail.com) with your name, website info (if you have one), and the topic you have chosen for your top 10. If I like what I see, I’ll give you the all clear and you can begin composing your entry. Make sure to include a descriptive, yet brief introduction and a picture or clip for every entry in your top 10. Use my own top 10s as references. Then, send it back to me and we will discuss a date of publish.

I’m going to turn things over to Rob now, enjoy!

Top 10 Movies That Stole Oscar Gold From More Deserving Best Pictures: by Rob

Every year, I get up at 3:30am (my time) to watch the Oscars live. I have been doing this for over 20 years and have only missed it once (when my cable went out that night in 2003) and also once watched it live dubbed in a foreign language that I didn’t understand (1995 which made David Letterman less annoying J )

Oscar night has always had its surprises, but usually the biggest ones are in smaller categories. A number of times though, we have been surprised when that final envelope is opened by a big star (Jack Nicholson, Harrison Ford, Michael Douglas or even the First lady of the United States).

In some years, the winner of Best Picture is usually the choice between one of 2 (or sometimes even 3) of the nominees while in other years, it’s a no-brainer who the winner will be.

I have compiled a list here of the biggest Best Picture surprises over the years where the BP Oscar was stolen from a more deserving winner due to politics or any other known or unknown reasoning.

I have tried to rank them in order of least surprising to most surprising, but any order will truly do here.

10: 1952

The Winner

The Greatest Show On Earth

Who should have been the winner

High Noon

Gary Cooper’s movie should have easily clinched BP that year, but the supposed communist undertones of the movie and the fact that everyone loves DeMille gave the golden boy to his movie about the circus instead.  During the McCarthy era, this is not so surprising, but still a travesty since the story of High Noon is clearly better than the one in Greatest Show on Earth.

9: 2005

The Winner

Crash

Who should have been the winner

Munich

Crash only won because the academy members had trouble voting for a movie about Israelis commandos killing Palestinian terrorists (even though it was made by Spielberg).  The other choice was Brokeback Mountain which had it’s own controversy due to it being about gay cowboys.

8: 2002

The Winner

Chicago

Who should have been the winner

The Pianist

Roman Polanski’s outstanding warrant for statutory rape definitely hurt his amazing movie about the survival of a Polish Jew during WWII and caused The Weinstein’s to take home gold with their movie adaptation of the musical about morally deficient men and women in the swing 1920’s.  Surprisingly, Polanski got a best director statue, but his movie’s own gold was not to be even though it was clearly the best movie of the year.

7: 2012

The Winner

Argo

Who should have been the winner

Les Miserables

The academy love to bestow Gold on their favorites and when the director’s branch voters didn’t give a nomination to loved actor Ben Affleck, the whole academy fought back and showered his movie with Gold. Affleck is the 6th actor to direct a movie that won the top prize (Robert Redford for Ordinary People in 1980, Richard Attenborough for Gandhi in 1982, Kevin Costner for Dances With Wolves in 1990, Mel Gibson for Braveheart in 1995 and Clint Eastwood twice – for Unforgiven in 1992 and Million Dollar Baby in 2004 are the others).  IMHO, Les Miserables is one of the best musical adaptations ever done and it was clearly the bets movie all-around of 2012.

6: 1948

The Winner

Hamlet

Who should have been the winner

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

Sir Lawrence Olivier’s depiction of the Danish Prince is quite a boring rendition, but for 1948 it was a breakthrough movie and performance that would open many doors for future Bard movie adaptations.  Story-wise, the movie doesn’t break any new ground, but apparently the thespians in the academy chose to honor it with gold even though the John Huston directed Western-mystery was clearly a better story and movie was left in the cold. Huston won best director and screenplay that year proving that it was probably just a way to appease the Brits into making more movies for American audiences.

5: 1963

The Winner

Tom Jones

Who should have been the winner

Anything else would do…

Tom Jones is such a terrible movie (I think it’s the worst Best Picture ever) that I cannot understand for the life of me why it would be even closely perceived as the best movie of the year.  Any other movie that came out in 1963 was probably better (and if not, we should be happy they still make movies).  Admittedly, I haven’t seen any of the other 4 nominated movie (yet), but if they are all worse than this one, I have 4 really terrible movies to look forward to watching.

4: 1995

The Winner

Braveheart

Who should have been the winner

Apollo 13

This was quite a tricky year for Academy voters since (as I mentioned earlier) they love to bestow awards to former actors turned directors and in this year they had 2 to choose from. Mel Gibson and Ron Howard.  Both movie won there fair amount of awards during the year and the duel went to the wire, but Howard’s snub by the Directing branch helped propel Gibson to Gold.  The problem here is that both movies are excellent movies, but I think the fact that Apollo 13 was based on a more recent true story and the ensemble acting out-acted Braveheart adding to the fact that Apollo 13 was a very red-white-and blue movie, it should’ve been bestowed with Best Picture honors.

3: 1968

The Winner

In the Heat of the Night

Who should have been the winner

Guess who’s Coming to Dinner

Interestingly, both of these movies featured Sidney Poitier in roles defying racism in American society.  The Academy chose to go with the movie that was a murder-mystery where the cop trying to solve the crime was faced with local racism every where he turned and instead of the dramatic one dealing with inter-racial marriage.  The latter was a more poignant movie with a better message which was also capped with an amazing lead cast of Spencer Tracy (in his final role), Kathryn Hepburn, and Poitier himself.  The Academy really screw this one up!

2: 1976

The Winner

Rocky

Who should have been the winner

Network

Anyone who has seen Network can clearly see it was robbed by the epitome of an underdog. Rocky itself tells the story of an underdog and that little movie that could, somehow beat this excellent movie that was able to foresee the correct direction of television.  Rating were always important in TV, but this movie hit upon the idea that in order to get a bigger audience all you have to do is find new ways to shock them with live events.  This was the precursor of reality TV.  Rocky itself is a tale of an everyman getting the chance of a lifetime and it is a good movie, it just isn’t in any way better than Network.  Perhaps Academy members saw themselves in this analogy for the life of struggling actor/writer Sylvester Stallone, who knows what they were thinking?  The only thing that rings true is that they definitely didn’t choose the right movie for Best Picture that year.

1: 1997

The Winner

Shakespeare in Love

Who should have been the winner

Saving Private Ryan

This is definitely the biggest miss IMHO by the Academy.  SPR is by far one of the best war movies ever made and it is a complete shame that the Academy chose SIL instead. I think that Harrison Ford was just as surprised as everyone when he opened that envelope.  Steven Spielberg has always been a great filmmaker and he always raises the bar with each new movie.  After he made Schindler’s List (1993) most people thought he couldn’t top that one, but instead chose to make another powerful WWII picture that is the perfect companion piece for Schindler.  The story and the performances are great.  Shakespeare, on the other hand is also a great movie, cleverly scripted and acted well, but it’s a lighter story and not as powerful as SPR.

There is no question that the Academy dropped the ball here big time and giving Spielberg Best Director wasn’t a big enough consolation prize.

Truly a tragedy!!

Honourable Mention:

The Winner

Slumdog Millionaire

Who should have been the winner

Dark Knight

This one had to be an Honorable Mention since TDK wasn’t even able to lose the gold since The Academy chose The Reader over it as the fifth and final nomination.  This controversy actually led to the re-expansion of the category to “up to 10 nominees” instead of the 5 used since the nid-1940’s.  I think this expansion has diluted the playing field in order to give more movies the honor of being nominated.  They should return to the previous 5 picture maximum of nominees.  Regardless, TDK was clearly the best movie of the year in all aspects and truly topped any other movie made in the genre.  The fact that 2008 itself was a weak BP year (besides Slumdog and The Reader, the other nominees were Nixon/Frost, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Milk) proves that the Academy members need to think more out of the box and allow non- standard drama genres into the fray. They couldn’t ignore The Lord of the Rings Trilogy and there will be a day when a superhero movie done better than TDK will take home that Gold Statuette.

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I think it’s fair to say that this top 10 is one of the best the segment has ever seen! I’m sure it’ll stir up tons of debate, so feel free to leave all questions and comments below. Another big thank you to Rob for contributing! Everyone has a stellar weekend…

71st Golden Globe Awards: Nominations and Predictions:

2014-golden-globe-nominations-announced

Hi all, below you’ll find the full list of nominations for the 71st Golden Globe Awards, which will be on this Sunday, January 12, 2014. I didn’t include the nominees for Television, seeing as I don’t watch enough shows to warrant a meaningful opinion. Although, I do love some of the shows that were fortunate enough to garner a nomination. You’ll find my prediction for each category written beside the corresponding film, actor, composer, director. Keep in mind that my predictions are merely guesses based on the film and the people picking the winners, not on my personal preference. Be sure to let me know your predictions in the comment section below!

 BEST MOTION PICTURE – DRAMA

12 YEARS A SLAVE (Prediction, Winner)

Plan B Entertainment, New Regency Productions and River

Road Entertainment; Fox Searchlight Pictures

CAPTAIN PHILLIPS

Columbia Pictures; Sony Pictures Releasing

GRAVITY 

Warner Bros. Pictures / Esperanto Filmoj / Heyday Films;

Warner Bros. Pictures

PHILOMENA

Pathe, BBC Films, BFI, Canal+, Cine+, Baby Cow/Magnolia

Mae; The Weinstein Company

RUSH

Universal Pictures, Cross Creek Pictures, Exclusive Media,

Imagine Entertainment, Working Title, Revolution Films;

Universal Pictures

BEST MOTION PICTURE – COMEDY OR MUSICAL

AMERICAN HUSTLE (Winner)

Columbia Pictures and Annapurna Pictures; Sony Pictures

Releasing

HER (Prediction)

Warner Bros. Pictures / Annapurna Pictures; Warner Bros.

Pictures

INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS

Mike Zoss Productions, Scott Rudin Productions, Studio

Canal; CBS Films

NEBRASKA

Paramount Vantage; Paramount Pictures

THE WOLF OF WALL STREET

Paramount Pictures and Red Granite Pictures; Paramount

Pictures

 BEST SCREENPLAY – MOTION PICTURE

SPIKE JONZE, “HER” (Prediction, Winner)

BOB NELSON, “NEBRASKA”

JEFF POPE, STEVE COOGAN, “PHILOMENA”

JOHN RIDLEY, “12 YEARS A SLAVE”

ERIC WARREN SINGER, DAVID O. RUSSELL, “AMERICAN HUSTLE”

 BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A MOTION PICTURE – DRAMA

CHIWETEL EJIOFOR, “12 YEARS A SLAVE”

IDRIS ELBA, “MANDELA: LONG WALK TO FREEDOM”

TOM HANKS, “CAPTAIN PHILLIPS”

MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY, “DALLAS BUYERS CLUB” (Prediction, Winner)

ROBERT REDFORD, “ALL IS LOST”

 BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A MOTION PICTURE – DRAMA

CATE BLANCHETT, “BLUE JASMINE” (Winner)

SANDRA BULLOCK, “GRAVITY”

JUDI DENCH, “PHILOMENA” (Prediction)

EMMA THOMPSON, “SAVING MR. BANKS”

KATE WINSLET, “LABOR DAY”

 BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A MOTION PICTURE – COMEDY OR MUSICAL

AMY ADAMS, “AMERICAN HUSTLE” (Prediction, Winner)

JULIE DELPY, “BEFORE MIDNIGHT”

GRETA GERWIG, “FRANCES HA”

JULIA LOUIS-DREYFUS, “ENOUGH SAID”

MERYL STREEP, “AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY”

 BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A MOTION PICTURE – COMEDY OR MUSICAL

CHRISTIAN BALE, “AMERICAN HUSTLE”

BRUCE DERN, “NEBRASKA”

LEONARDO DICAPRIO, “THE WOLF OF WALL STREET” (Winner)

OSCAR ISAAC, “INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS”

JOAQUIN PHOENIX, “HER” (Prediction)

 BEST DIRECTOR – MOTION PICTURE

ALFONSO CUARÓN, “GRAVITY” (Prediction, Winner)

PAUL GREENGRASS, “CAPTAIN PHILLIPS”

STEVE MCQUEEN, “12 YEARS A SLAVE”

ALEXANDER PAYNE, “NEBRASKA”

DAVID O. RUSSELL, “AMERICAN HUSTLE”

 BEST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM

THE CROODS

DreamWorks Animation LLC; Twentieth Century Fox

DESPICABLE ME 2

Universal Pictures, A Chris Meledandri Production; Universal Pictures

FROZEN (Prediction, Winner)

Walt Disney Animation Studios; Walt Disney Pictures

 BEST ORIGINAL SCORE – MOTION PICTURE

ALEX EBERT, “ALL IS LOST” (Winner)

ALEX HEFFES, “MANDELA: LONG WALK TO FREEDOM”

STEVEN PRICE, “GRAVITY” (Prediction)

JOHN WILLIAMS, “THE BOOK THIEF”

HANS ZIMMER, “12 YEARS A SLAVE”

 BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR (FRANCE)

(La vie d’Adele, chapitres 1 et 2)

Quat’sous Films; IFC Films

THE GREAT BEAUTY (ITALY) (Winner)

(La Grande Bellezza)

Indigo Film, Medusa Film, BABE Films; Janus Films

THE HUNT (DENMARK) (Prediction)

(Jagten)

Zentropa Entertainment; Magnolia Pictures

THE PAST (IRAN)

(Le passé)

Memento Films Production, France 3 Cinema, BIM

Distribuzione;

Sony Pictures Classics

THE WIND RISES (JAPAN)

(Kaze tachinu)

Studio Ghibli; Touchstone Pictures

 BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A MOTION PICTURE

SALLY HAWKINS, “BLUE JASMINE”

JENNIFER LAWRENCE, “AMERICAN HUSTLE” (Prediction, Winner)

LUPITA NYONG’O, “12 YEARS A SLAVE”

JULIA ROBERTS, “AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY”

JUNE SQUIBB, “NEBRASKA”

 BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A MOTION PICTURE

BARKHAD ABDI, “CAPTAIN PHILLIPS”

DANIEL BRÜHL, “RUSH”

BRADLEY COOPER, “AMERICAN HUSTLE”

MICHAEL FASSBENDER, “12 YEARS A SLAVE” (Prediction)

JARED LETO, “DALLAS BUYERS CLUB” (Winner)

 BEST ORIGINAL SONG –MOTION PICTURE

“ATLAS” — THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE

Music by: Chris Martin, Guy Berryman, Jonny Buckland, Will Champion

Lyrics by: Chris Martin, Guy Berryman, Jonny Buckland, Will Champion

“LET IT GO” — FROZEN

Music by: Kristen Anderson Lopez, Robert Lopez

Lyrics by: Kristen Anderson Lopez, Robert Lopez

“ORDINARY LOVE” — MANDELA: LONG WALK TO FREEDOM (Winner)

Music by: Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton, Larry Mullen, Jr, Brian Burton

Lyrics by: Bono

“PLEASE MR. KENNEDY” — INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS (Prediction)

Music by: Ed Rush, George Cromarty, T Bone Burnett, Justin Timberlake, Joel Coen, Ethan Coen

Lyrics by: Ed Rush, George Cromarty, T Bone Burnett, Justin Timberlake, Joel Coen, Ethan Coen

“SWEETER THAN FICTION” — ONE CHANCE

Music by: Taylor Swift, Jack Antonoff

Lyrics by: Taylor Swift, Jack Antonoff

Fine, you caught me, I did mix in a little bit of my bias into the predictions. That being said, if I had my way, “The Wolf of Wall Street” would be taking home its fair share of Globes. I feel however, that it won’t get the respect and recognition it deserves sadly, that goes for the Oscars as well. I still carry hope thought, you never know…

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

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There’s been a few controversies surrounding this film in the media since its release, a little over a week ago. Controversies that range in significance and utter bewilderment, regarding the film’s source material, its author, anti-hero, and inspiration Jordan Belfort, to the film itself “The Wolf of Wall Street” being attacked by critics, labeled as shallow drivel glamorizing a life of criminality and abuse. Now, I can’t comment on behalf of the novel, as I’ve never read it (although I plan to), or defend Mr. Belfort as I have never met him, picked his brain, or researched his life (I must say however, it is very intriguing). That being said, there is one thing clouding my brain that I can shed some light on, debate and hopefully resolve. Something that’s distorting my thoughts with its incoherent, simple, overwhelming stupidity. And that is the irrational, baseless notion that “The Wolf of Wall Street” idealizes and absolves an existence free of morality, accountability, and stable relationships.

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I’m perfectly content to dismiss this critical negativity and deem it as idiotic complaints that pander to the obviousness and cosmetic, depthless aspects of a film that uses these highly-superficial, vivid visuals intentionally to mask, bury the truth of these distractions from the emotionally and intelligently inept. I’m fine in doing that and moving on. I form my own opinions, not base them on the unfulfilled experiences and half-witted conclusions of others. Nonetheless, I don’t think it’s fair that those who have yet to see the film or those that are looking for more from “The Wolf of Wall Street” should be bombarded by the opinions of those who only have a disdain towards it. I created this site to voice my thoughts, to interact with others, and to educate and be educated, so that’s exactly what I intend to do…

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This adaption of Jordan Belfort’s miraculous, unbelievable tale is directed by the illustrious Martin Scorsese and stars Leonardo DiCaprio as the lead character, the aforementioned Jordan Belfort. Containing an excessive amount of nudity, sex, drugs, alcohol, vulgar language, deplorable behaviour, violence, and illegal activity. “The Wolf of Wall Street” is quite the unique cinematic experience, a difficult one to stomach and endure at that. Clocking in at a trying two-hours and fifty-nine minutes, one might argue that it’s near impossible to match the celebratory nature and complete disregard for compassion and equality with vulnerability, depression, and regret for the film’s entirety. To that I say this… After roughly the thirty-minute mark, there wasn’t a moment that went by in which I didn’t ponder the stability, endurance, and humanity of our protagonist that was on display. “What about the first half-hour, you ask?” Well, it’s very simple, our lead was a decent human being for that duration.

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One might look at what he does, listen to what he says and brand his actions and reactions as gutless, inhumane, selfish, and heartless…While this is undeniably true, the way in which it’s portrayed, you know, how the light shines upon it has beencompletely misconstrued. Through every abhorrent movement and despicable word of DiCaprio’s Belfort, there is this nagging, disheartening hint of encompassing sadness and loneliness that radiates through the brash chaos. This is not a happy man, and anyone who arrives at any conclusion that contradicts this, his overall demeanour, has misunderstood.

Listen, it’s totally reasonable to connect Belfort’s outward appearance and emotional surface with happiness, a man who is pleased with himself and the choices he’s made. Hell, even the film’s ending seemingly coincides with this ideal. Conversely however, I implore you to see that there is nothing content about this man. He has lost his family, his privacy, his decency, and himself. DiCaprio’s Belfort has been misconstructed from the get go and every drunken stupor, drug-induced numbness, and orgy coma is an attempt to distract…draw his glazed eyes away from his creeping fears that became a reality all too soon. In the end, like us, he is alone, no matter how high he lived each moment. There will be a time after the present, everything becomes the past. DiCaprio’s Belfort has mistaken living for life and love. I don’t believe for one second that, apart from the time he spent with his lover and children, he was happy.

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Well, that’s enough dissection of this taut character study, on to the technical aspects! Directed by the aforementioned Martin Scorsese, “The Wolf of Wall Street” is a welcomed return to criminal-empire filmmaking for the talented vet. Depicting the life of Jordan Belfort, a kind-hearted family man who gets caught up in the world of Wall Street. Earning a job at a successful firm and passing the Series 7, Belfort is informed by his then boss to adopt a lifestyle of drugs, alcohol, and sexual release to remain atop of the game. Then, having lost his stable job due to Black Monday, Belfort soon starts his own firm, hiring his friends and selling flimsy stocks. Soon, the company is a multi-billion dollar success, with a long list of criminal offences, laundering, fraud, and tampering being a few. Funding lavish parties for his staff, consisting of drugs, alcohol, prostitutes, and obscure events, things begin to spiral out of control. Having divorced his wife, remarried, and becoming a father, Belfort soon begins to crumble under everything.

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It may be misogynistic, abusive, excessive, vulgar, and dirty, but there’s no denying that “The Wolf of Wall Street” is the most entertaining film to come around in a good, long while. Scorsese captures the world of Belfort’s Wall Street in his usual, immaculate form. Feeling like a throwback to Marty’s “Goodfellas,” his use of entrancing visuals, unfathomable character depth, and intoxicating music allows him to achieve feats that no other film has this year. Martin embraces the violent language, sexuality, and craziness of his film’s premise superlatively. It’s not long until you’ve completely forgotten the fictitious feel of everything and simply become another stockbroker at Stratton Oakmont. Very rarely does one notice the handiwork of a director, but with “The Wolf of Wall Street,” it’s impossible not to marvel at Scorsese’s impeccable form. In all fairness, Martin hasn’t been this good since “The Departed” in 2006.

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I’ve mentioned in great depth the brilliance of Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance in “The Wolf of Wall Street” earlier, clamouring over his deliciously heartbreaking and charismatic Jordan Belfort. However, there is more character perfection here besides Leo’s larger-than-life portrayal. Matthew McConaughey, Jonah hill, Margot Robbie, Joe Bernthal, Kyle Chandler, and Jean Dujardin also star in “The Wolf of Wall Street” and their contributions cannot be overlooked. But before we move onto them, I have one final thing to say about Leonardo. This is the year he finally earns that Oscar, or at least, he damn well better. I mean, this guy has been passed over too many times. Is this the performance of his career? Well, that’s up for debate. That being said, is his take on Jordan Belfort the best performance of the year? Hands down! Open the “best actor” envelope blindfolded, because this award is all but official.

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Okay, let’s get this out of the way. Matthew McConaughey won’t be winning any awards or nominations for his performance in “The Wolf of Wall Street.” Besides, with “Mud” and “Dallas Buyers Club,” he’s got more than enough material to earn a ton of accolades this award season. That being said, McConaughey continues his ascent to the top with another memorable, hilarious, potent performance here. Who can forget him beating his chest in the middle of a restaurant, making weird noises, and talking about sex, drugs, alcohol, and money? If Jonah Hill should be nominated for “best supporting actor” because of his character in “The Wolf of Wall Street,” you won’t here me complaining. He’s awkward, both personality and appearance wise, down-right hilarious, and dramatically effective as always. Might not be as worthy as his “Moneyball” performance, but it’s certainly one of the best this year.

Kyle Chandler never seems to get the recognition he deserves and it’s starting to really tick me off. Countless films this man has appeared in and has given tremendous performances in each of them. At least Scorsese took notice of this man’s talent and gave him a fairly significant role. Jean Dujardin, who you’ll know as the Oscar-winning actor for his performance in “The Artist,” is used sparsely, but uses each moment to excruciating effectiveness. Whether it’s his invincible mindset or untouchable attitude, Dujardin will make you laugh while you simultaneously beg those around to let you punch him in the face. Jon Bernthal, or Shane from “The Walking Dead,” continues to make a career for himself post zombie apocalypse. His appearance, personality, demeanour, and narcissism will leave you gasping for breaths between laughs.

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Lastly, my favourite female performer of 2013, up-and-comer Margot Robbie. She’s got the “supporting actress” award all wrapped up in my books. I would like to inform her to start clearing off shelf space or at least get someone, perhaps myself, to build her a case for it. She’s sexy, poignant, ruthless, funny, and seductive as Leo’s ambitious, take-no-shit trophy wife. There has not been a better performance by a female this year. I know that in reality she’ll be lucky to receive a nomination at the very least, but in all honesty, there’s no denying her charm, talent, and beauty here.

Well, here we are, 2013 is now officially over. So I thought it fitting to present you with my favourite film of the year, so here it is. “The Wolf of Wall Street” takes the cake for me and I’m sure it’ll win a few of you over as well.

The Wolf of Wall Street: 10 out of 10.

Dead Man’s Shoes (2004)

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I’ve seen a fair amount of messed up flicks in my day, and at their most unrestrained and ruthless, I’ve been forced to wash my eyes and brain for a good long while just to rid myself of the imagery. You know, the deformed bodies, a woman being skinned alive, inhumane harm to children and pregnant women, all of it, and what I’ve listed isn’t even the half of it. So, as a fan of this material, a few friends and fellow site-runners urged me for quite some time to watch “Dead Man’s Shoes.” A film I’ve heard in passing that supposedly is extremely difficult to watch, while remaining fairly potent and eerily memorable. Sounds like it’s right up my alley, don’t you think? Yet for some reason, I never, ever got around to watching it. So, I continued along with my life as usual, until The Cinematic Katzenjammer‘s Secret Santa Swap popped up again and I, of course, signed up for a second helping. And wouldn’t you know it, “Dead Man’s Shoes” was the film selected for me!

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What did I think of it, you ask? Well, it’s certainly not an easy flick to sit through, that’s for sure, but for significantly different reasons then the aforementioned brutality. “Dead Man’s Shoes” follows Richard (Considine) and his mentally impaired brother Anthony (Kebbell) as they move around the countryside, taking refuge in abandoned farms and places of this nature. Richard, a respectable war-vet, has returned to his hometown after completing his service. Through a series of flashbacks, the reason for Richard’s return is revealed. His brother Anthony, had been continuously abused, taken advantage of, and forced to perform unspeakable acts of inhumanity by a group of drug-dealers, who were supposedly his friends. Richard has vowed to take revenge against anyone who has caused his brother any harm, using any means necessary. The assailants arm themselves to defend against Richard’s onslaught, and soon a war of wits and ferocity unfolds.

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I mentioned briefly that “Dead Man’s Shoes” is an uncomfortable film to undertake, and I stand by that statement. That being said, the limits differ greatly than those of pure violence and brutality. What makes this film so cringe-inducing is its disconcerting nature. From the moment it begins, there’s this overwhelming feeling that something bad has happened, a constant calm before the storm. As this hums persistently in the background, the despicable actions of those with no morals, compassion, and humanity slowly unveils itself. The crud, this dirt crawls in between ever crack on your skin and under your nails and is hard to dismiss. Then there’s this gloomy atmosphere that’s impossible to shake that overhangs the entirety of this film. This is due in large part to director Shane Meadows wonderful use of the serene, shady countryside, troubling skies, and contrasting characters that are at one moment merciless, then endearing.

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As impressive as the effect created and reactions provoked by this film and it’s makers on such an ultra-low budget is, the real stunner is the performances. “Dead Man’s Shoes” features the tragically underused and under appreciated Paddy Considine in the lead role and a remarkable turn by Toby Kebbell as Anthony. Everything Considine does is authentic, scarily genuine. The camerawork is always panning his eyes and for good reason. When you gaze into his, everything his character feels is transferred through his simple squints, tears, and deathly cold stares. As for Kebbell, his portrayal is anything but textbook. I’m not really sure how to word this. Kebbell acting as a mentally handicapped, sweet, real, compassionate being is one of the most sublime I’ve ever witnessed. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a more uncanny, driven portrayal.

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The impression left and mindset gained from “Dead Man’s Shoes” are permanent and irreplaceable. The performances are something to marvel and the premise is unique and something that has never been this effectively used previously, at least to my knowledge. All this being said, the story is quite predictable, for me anyway, and the visuals, camerawork a little shaky from time to time. However, these flaws are minuscule when compared to the grand scale of the film.

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Dead Man’s Shoes: 7.5 out of 10.

The Guest List: The Sporadic Chronicles of a Beginner Blogger

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It’s time for another stellar edition of The Guest List! This week features my dear friend Zoe from The Sporadic Chronicles of a Beginner Blogger! If you don’t already subscribe to or follow her amazing site, I highly suggest you head over there immediately following this incredible top 10 and do so! Her website spans the wonderful world of film, literature, and so much more. She recently completed the “Potter Perceptions” with Eric over at theipc and we’ve started an awesome book club that’s very exclusive ;).

If you want to submit your very own top 10 to The Guest List, here’s how!

All you need to do is shoot me an e mail (thecinemamonster@gmail.com) with your name, website info (if you have one), and the topic you have chosen for your top 10. If I like what I see, I’ll give you the all clear and you can begin composing your entry. Make sure to include a descriptive, yet brief introduction and a picture or clip for every entry in your top 10. Use my own top 10s as references. Then, send it back to me and we will discuss a date of publish.

Also, please don’t forget to vote for the best films of 2013 by clicking on “Vote” in the main menu above. I believe today is the last day to partake, but I need to double check. If it’s closed, I’ll still be accepting votes via the email above, so you have no excuse.

I’m going to turn things over to Zoe now, enjoy!

Top 10 Leonardo DiCaprio Roles: by Zoe

So Joseph has been on me for a while now for a Top Ten list and I have been floundering. What could I do? What was I going to put on a Top Ten list? Before I knew it, I gave myself way too many options, and then had to spend time narrowing down the list. It took a while, but I think that this one could be rather suiting seeing as The Wolf Of Wall Street is to hit cinemas soon (and by cinemas, I hope that we here in South Africa are lumped in with everyone else for a change). Today I want to talk about my Top Ten Leonardo DiCaprio Roles.

First off I want it known that I am a ridiculously huge fan of Leonardo DiCaprio (if you haven’t picked up this already, well, let’s just put it out there). He is the kind of actor that when I see his name attached to a project I am there to check it out, for better or worse. I think it is scandalous that he does not have an Oscar yet, and think the Academy is blind, rigged, or stupid to have overlooked him for so long. Never mind that, what does the Academy really know anyway? Leonardo DiCaprio is a truly phenomenal actor with immense amounts of talents and a thrilling persona the moment he appears on screen. Yes, I am gushing, but whatever. He deserves the praise, and is honestly one of the best actors out there today, and one of my favourites (if you happened to miss that so far :P).

So let us begin looking at the candidates and why.

Dominic Cobb – Inception (2010)

I want to start with Inception. I think this is the best movie of the decade so far and that was determined through a lot of serious deliberation, a huge list and a showdown of note. I had a lot of people involved and the battle rages, but Inception won. It is a great flick with a great cast and a great story – so it really could only be great, right? Exactly. But not only that, Leonardo DiCaprio was our lead, and he was amazing to say the very least. Leonardo was the tortured soul, the pained man who misses his family, carries deep regrets and suffers from a terrible past. He is mysterious and slightly unapproachable on a certain level, and gives off the air of a man who wants to ache alone, and for the most part he does. He portrays a man that is in control and knows what he is doing, yet on the edges he is so frayed that he is barely keeping it together. Mal is stalking him in his heart and in his mind and in his dreams, and his paranoia later manifests itself. Dom needs to live his life, but he has chosen to walk on the fringe of it – both in his waking world and his dream world. His performance gives me goosebumps every time, and how he reveals parts about himself and his past seem to bring him great pain. DiCaprio simply becomes Dom Cobb, and it is difficult to separate from the idea that this was just a role for him.

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Calvin Candie – Django Unchained (2012)

I was so excited for Django Unchained. I probably damn near drove half my fellow bloggers, my friends, and the internet up the wall with my anticipation for this film. Then I got to it. Not only was it a Tarantino film that had me all excited, there was also Christoph Waltz to look forward to. But for me, most of all, I was looking forward to seeing Leonardo DiCaprio as Calvin Candie, whoever and whatever that character was supposed to be. I was loving the movie, but on the edge of my seat for something like an hour before DiCaprio finally made his appearance, and a damn fine one it was at that. Candie is a crackpot loony I tell you. Smart, wealthy, a despicable racist and a flourishing businessman, DiCaprio brings the goods to the table here. He shone in here, and was bloody mindblowing. He was despicable, his teeth needed some serious work, he was sly and underhanded and intelligent as hell, he was unforgiving and cruel and he just plain down worked every aspect of Calvin Candie. The moment DiCaprio appeared on the screen he demanded every inch of your attention; he commanded it. It was well-deserving, too. He had the audience fluctuate between fascination and repulsion. Simply spectacular.

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Billy Costigan – The Departed (2006)

This is a role that I go back to time and time again to check out. Alright, for one I am a massively huge fan (I want to get that in there and understood haha) of this film, and think it is damn near perfect. For me it is a lovely long movie with a great story and fantastic cast, but this isn’t about the movie. This is about DiCaprio, and how much I appreciated what did for this character – for me, he really nailed the role of the rat in the Costello’s Irish Mafia. To watch him, hopeful and excited to graduate a police officer was pretty cool, but then to see him shot down and taken for a fool by Queenan and Dignam was pretty rough. His whole life story was ripped apart, and then he was made the offer to go into the system and come out to infiltrate Costello’s gang. Naturally, to prove he can, Billy goes undercover. DiCaprio manages to capture how Costigan’s hope fades, how his fear sets in, how he manages to keep his discomfort and terror to himself, and how he was a damn fine infiltrator, but also how his secret life was bleeding out into his real life, and how much of a problem it was becoming for him. DiCaprio never loses sight of the fact that Costigan is living an incredibly dangerous job and an intricate lie, and that it poses threats to his life and wellbeing all the time but that he manages to hang in there by the skin of his teeth. His hope, determination, anger, fear and resentment are all real emotions for DiCaprio, hence making the experience of watching Costigan such a joy.

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Frank Abagnale Jr – Catch Me If You Can (2002)

This is one of DiCaprio’s most enjoyable roles for me. There was enough drama in here for it to be serious, because it was, at the end of the day, but enough humour in it to not let it become overly serious and lose sight of what made this film work. DiCaprio was brilliant – he gave Frank Abagnale Jr life that otherwise could have been forgotten or overlooked. He gave him zeal. I don’t think that anyone could have done it quite the same as DiCaprio. He was the right age, he was the right amount of cocky, he waltzed around there like a sly conman and had everyone convinced of all the things that he was doing – even he was convinced half the time he was who he said he was. You could identify with a scared young man who reinvented himself, and the reasons that he did so. DiCaprio played the role like it was his childhood he was re-enacting, and the feeling was authentic. He delivered his lines with fervour, and was just so well suited to tackle the role of a hunted young man. I loved the way DiCaprio strutted his stuff in a pilot’s uniform, but all the laughter and games runs out when soon his fear and desperation, his loneliness sets in and takes over. Frank’s life is falling apart, his real one that he has buried underneath his lies, as well as his fake little one he has put together. His uncertainty reins, and DiCaprio is simply brilliant in conveying Frank.

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Teddy Daniels – Shutter Island (2010)

DiCaprio had this role worked out down to a tee. There were some gripes about this flick that people had but whatever, but I thought it was a great piece of film. Teddy Daniels was brooding, moody, sharp as a tack, intent on figuring things out and serious about his job. He was so immersed in what he had to do, what he had to work out, how he had to prove himself, and DiCaprio managed to realise each and every one of those things about his character. Following Teddy, the story is new to you, and I have to give DiCaprio respect for never letting on about where the story would progress to and how it would end. A lot of actors that know where the twist in a movie comes manage to spoil it earlier on, whether by accident or whatever the case, the cat hops the bag. DiCaprio really is one of those actors that is able to separate where the character is now and where the character will be later on, and you can take the journey with him. It is a natural progression, as though he, too, has no idea where anything is going. I thoroughly enjoyed him in here, and felt his fire, confusion, anger, fear and resignation in this flick.

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Howard Hughes – The Aviator (2004)

I feel that this was truly one of Leonardo DiCaprio’s defining roles. It was a good one, and the one role that a lot of people are familiar with and feel very strongly about. I thought it was a stand up part that he played, and DiCaprio shows you how Hughes was a regular guy, albeit a little whimsical and with a different type of zeal to life, and then takes you down the path of mental instability and the total breakdown that came. He portrayed Howard Hughes like he had lived the life of the aviator, the producer, the director, the rich man. He played it as though it was simple, even the mental decline and disturbing state we found DiCaprio to be on later. It was a good performance that cannot really be faulted in my opinion. DiCaprio was strong, constant and steady. It had a definite sense of both magic and realism, which can only be expected to be felt in a life like that led by Howard Hughes, and DiCaprio shows us that. He delivered a strong character and a believable man. I enjoy this movie, and every second that DiCaprio is on the screen is truly well worth it to me.

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Jay Gatsby – The Great Gatsby (2013)

You know, there were so many mixed views on The Great Gastby, and some issues were well-founded (and here I am specifically talking about that silly soundtrack), but overall I thought the movie was actually pretty good. But Leonardo DiCaprio truly carried a lot of the movie for me with his portrayal of Jay Gatsby, the mysterious millionaire with a heart that yearns for nobody other than Daisy. DiCaprio showed us the mystery, the wonder, the excitement, the hope and the depression. He was Jay Gatsby, caught up in his dream, building his life on one woman, someone he simply had to have. He showed how Gatsby was supposed to be regal but fell short of the mark a little bit, making his character and the origins he speaks of seem slightly questionable. He was enigmatic and powerful, but also lost and confused, and you can see this when DiCaprio plays him. I thought he was very well cast for the role.

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Jim Carroll – The Basketball Diaries (1995)

So I got to this after I was waxing lyrical about DiCaprio over on Mark’s site, and he asked if I had seen The Basketball Diaries. I had not and put it on my list quickly to watch, and I finally got around to it. I am shocked that it took me so long to see it! DiCaprio was actually just brilliant in this (not that I really expected anything else), and took us on the journey of a cheeky young boy who loses his life, soul and opportunities in the world to the evil that is heroin. He started out fairly enough, a naughty boy but still with a life of promise, somewhat shy but all over the show, and his character changes and grows as he admits how he dabbled with heroin, felt like a hero and a rockstar because he had control of it then the gradual slip and decline into drug dependency. He was really young when he did this, twenty one if I am correct, but he plays the part as though he has far more years’ experience to speak of. His desperation and addiction are disgusting to watch, and you cannot even really pity someone that would do that to themselves, though DiCaprio still manages to have you root for him the entire way through, demonstrating that he is not all bad.

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Frank Wheeler – Revolutionary Road (2008)

Then there is Frank Wheeler. This is also a movie that I only watched recently but that I must say I thoroughly enjoyed. I went in knowing nothing about it but got worried when it started that it would be some soppy romance. Yes, I am going to come right out and hate on it, I am not a fan of romance films. However, this proved to be a pretty decent drama, though I suspect one of the biggest reasons it worked out so well was the life and fire that DiCaprio gave Frank. He was the loving husband and father, and then soon he was the dejected man who hated his job and despised his life, who was crushed out and blown off by his wife. That, too, soon spun around and he was the excitable man with his little dreams, but doubt was disseminated early on when offered a promotion. He is in an uncomfortable and unsure position, and DiCaprio lets you know that. He revels in his dream a while longer, but when reality comes crashing in around his ears, he makes the decision on his own, and must live with it. The heartache he goes through, the uncertainty, is laid bare for all viewers. His anger that gushes out at the best of times, as well as how loving and caring a person Frank is is demonstrated by DiCaprio effortlessly.

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Amsterdam Vallon – Gangs of New York (2002)

I know there are a lot of complaints about DiCaprio in Gangs of New York and I must say that I find it rather unfounded. I thought he was just fine in here. Granted, it may not be my favourite film of all time, but it was a long way from a bad one. He played the gangster, the wronged orphan rather well. He was the man on a revenge mission, who wished to avenge his father, the man who would not be the overlooked boy that he once was. I thought that he and Daniel Day-Lewis played off of each other very well, and worked nicely. DiCaprio was good at playing the leader of the gangs that rose up and competed against The Butcher, and Vallon was a decent character. Though he was not the biggest draw of the film, DiCaprio and Day-Lewis were just amazing together, lending a lot to one another’s characters. DiCaprio is worth checking out in here, I really thought that it was a good one to check out and an enjoyable to watch, to see the angsty boy put in his place, but rise up and fight back, to find himself, learning lessons about respect and honour throughout his personal course.

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Honourable Mentions:

Richard – The Beach (2000)

Arnie Grape – What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993)

Danny Archer – Blood Diamond (2006)

Romeo Montague – Romeo + Juliet (1996)

Roger Ferris – Body of Lies (2008).

That’ll do it for this week’s edition of The Guest List. Another BIG thank you to Zoe for contributing! Don’t forget to vote and submit your very own top 10 to The Guest List. Everyone have a great weekend!

American Hustle (2013)

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It’s been quite a while since a film’s come along and moseyed its way on in to the lore of cinema. You know, the type of film you can watch over and over again…that plays on TV every other weekend. A film you’ve seen so many times over you can catch it midway, watch till the end, and still enjoy each and every part. A movie that plays in the background of gatherings, parties, or while you’re performing other tasks without taking away from these other primary distractions. These are the flicks we quote day in, day out to no end. Now, these pictures may not always the best of what cinema has to offer, they might not have even garnered many awards or much critical acclaim, but still we love them more than most things we’d care to admit.

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On the other hand however, these timeless movies do pertain to our greatest cinematic achievements and have been acknowledged as such by critics and cinephiles. And of course the odd award or two has been bestowed upon them. Nonetheless, what’s so special, enduring about these films is that they’re so appealing and appeasing. They’re fun, entertaining, and most importantly, they never seem to get old. “American Hustle” fits somewhere in this criteria, I’m just not quite sure where exactly. It’ll win its fair share of accolades come award season 2014, it’s endlessly entertaining, and full of quote-able dialogue. Wherever it finds itself, expect this flick to be on television in the near future and in your hearts after the initial viewing.

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Directed by the aforementioned David O. Russell, “American Hustle,” is the much anticipated follow-up to his Best Picture nominee “Silver Linings Playbook.” Glamorizing the lives of a couple of con-artists and corrupt politicians until they are dealt a harsh reality check by a power-hungry detective. I think it’s safe to say O. Russell went in a completely new direction with this one. Using a magnificent soundtrack, the trademark styles and imagery of the late 70s and early 80s, and extremely potent, masterful performances from his entire ensemble to conjure up a mafioso-like thriller with moments of overwhelming drama and an array of diverse comedy. O. Russell has truly created a unique cinematic experience with “American Hustle.” Although, it is one that feels vaguely familiar, even Scorsese-esque. Yet, it remains so original and genuine that Marty himself would be proud.

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There is so much that makes O. Russell’s “American Hustle” this instant classic, a modern masterpiece. The first thing to hit you is this obscure, dated, penetrative humour executed flawlessly by the film’s cast. Speaking of which, has an undeniable, limitless chemistry that bursts forth from the screen and roots in their bones. It’s this bizarre, surprising nature that spawns so many instances in which you’ll find yourself asking, was that just said? Did that just happen? It’s content and characters are fresh and honest, the “what you see is what you get” type that refrains from being bland and predictable. O. Russell’s camerawork is the most stellar I’ve seen in recent memory, reminiscent of the aforementioned Scorsese, albeit younger. It’s a concoction of all these facets mixed with impeccable timing, immense, boundless talent, and extraordinary vision by all involved that makes “American Hustle” shine so bright.

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Fine, you got me, it’s not all sunshine and roses. The story definitely takes a bit of a backseat to the characters, which isn’t necessarily a big deal. That being said, with “American Hustle,” the stakes don’t ever appear or feel as high as they actually are, or at least should be. I mean, I never really feared that the lifestyle or the lives of those who’ve been chosen to lead us through this picture were ever compromised. They just never seemed to be in as much danger or trouble as they should have been, if that makes any sense? It’s plot is as captivating, enthralling as can be and the characters are some of the most well-written and developed of the year. The end however, the last thirty minutes give or take, is a tad anticlimactic. That being said, the fact that the film’s ensemble and spectacular, utter enchantment can overcome this slight blemish should speak to its almost fully realized immaculacy.

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The cast, the ensemble, that’s all I keep blabbering on about. I supposed it’d make sense to inform you of who comprises this plethora of talent and achievements. Returning are O. Russell vets Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, and Jennifer Lawrence, with new faces Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner rounding out the unit. Now, I could go on and on about the superlativeness of each and every member and how it wouldn’t surprise me at all if each individual got a nomination come award season, but I’m a realist. If I had to stake my life, I’d say Christian Bale is the front-runner to take home some hardware. The rest, I feel are too up in the air. There’s been a surplus of solid flicks with tremendous portrayal this year, so it’ll be tough to break through. Cooper, Adams, and Lawrence bring their predictable flair and still manage to stun. Renner is the only one who comes close to rivalling Bale’s brilliance and already his outstanding performance is being overlooked. Oddly enough however, is that funny man Louis C. K somehow steals every scene he’s in. Figure that one out and let me know.

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Hilarious, intoxicating, and bloody brilliant, “American Hustle” is, without question, one of the best films of the year.

American Hustle: 9.5 out of 10.