Google+ Cinema Viewfinder: February 2014

Friday, February 28, 2014

Movie Reviews: Kids for Cash (2014) and The Wind Rises (2013)

by Tony Dayoub

A first glance at Oscar weekend's new theatrical releases might be misleading. Though most of the movies look like they lack any kind of heft—whether we're talking about substance or even just plain, old entertainment value—here are two films worth your time.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Movie Review: In Secret (2014)

by Tony Dayoub

Think The Postman Always Rings Twice in period costume and you'll instantly get what In Secret is all about. It is based on Émile Zola's novel, Thérèse Raquin, a kind of proto-noir. Elizabeth Olsen stars as Thérèse, an illegitimate cousin to the sickly Camille Raquin (Harry Potter's Tom Felton), who earns her keep as his sort of nurse. Camille's overprotective mother, Madame Raquin (played by the 1981 Postman's femme fatale, Jessica Lange) thinks she is doing all a favor by proposing a marriage between the two cousins. But Camille comes up short in the sexual heat department. Enter Laurent (Oscar Isaac), Camille's horny, hunky, childhood pal. It's not hard to figure where this is going from there.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Catching Up with Unseen Best Picture Oscar Winners

by Tony Dayoub

If you follow me on Facebook, you might have read most of the following reflections already. Earlier this month, the Online Film Critics Society began sending me a string of ballots for a vote we were taking in order to rank every Best Picture Academy Award-winner from best to worst. I haven't put much stock in the Oscars since I was a kid. But, like all lists, the list of Best Picture winners serves as a great introduction to amateur film buffs who might want a sampler of some of the best films ever. It turns out there were a slew of these I still hadn't seen. Maybe most of these viewings confirmed why I had skipped a lot of these in the first place. But a good number were also reminders that even film critics haven't seen all the great works of cinema.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

RIP Shirley Temple Black

by Tony Dayoub

"I class myself with Rin Tin Tin... At the end of the Depression, people were perhaps looking for something to cheer themselves up. They fell in love with a dog and a little girl. It won't happen again."
-Shirley Temple Black, modestly summing up her legacy.

Recommended Films - Little Miss Marker, Bright Eyes, Curly Top, Wee Willie Winkie, Heidi, The Little Princess, Kiss and Tell, The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer, Fort Apache

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Philip Seymour Hoffman

by Tony Dayoub

"Actors are responsible to the people we play. I don't label or judge. I just play them as honestly and expressively and creatively as I can, in the hope that people who ordinarily turn their heads in disgust instead think, 'What I thought I'd feel about that guy, I don't totally feel right now.'"
- in hindsight, a revelatory quote by Philip Seymour Hoffman

It's now been nearly a week since Philip Seymour Hoffman passed. A surprising number of writings since then have focused on the circumstances of his death, shaming the actor, diminishing the monumental scale of his work... over 60 roles performed in just under 25 years. I was (and may still be) too floored by the untimely loss to really say anything coherent about the talented actor so soon after. But one thing I was determined not to do is judge the manner in which he departed. No one knows the personal pain of another. And he certainly gave enough of himself—both onstage and on screen—to influence colleagues and admirers alike. Whether the parts were big or small, the films significant or not, one always knew that an appearance by Philip Seymour Hoffman was sure to be captivating.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Movie Review: The Monuments Men (2014)

by Tony Dayoub

Not long after the start of The Monuments Men, George Clooney's elegiac tribute to the dwindling Greatest Generation, it becomes clear why its release date was changed from 2013's exceptionally busy awards season. Spare, subdued and not the least bit flashy, The Monuments Men is a classically structured World War II drama about a group of middle-aged art historians enlisted by Lt. Frank Stokes (Clooney) to reclaim a fortune in looted art from the Nazis. Adding some urgency to the matter at this stage of the war is Hitler's inevitable defeat and his "Nero Decree" calling for the destruction of all of the Reich's property before the Allies acquire it. As critical as this might sound, the crux of The Monuments Men is whether the destruction of some of the world's greatest works of art justifies even one life lost in preventing it. It's a philosophical dilemma that, by its very nature, makes Clooney's film a contemplative exercise more than a thrilling dramatic one.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

RIP Maximilian Schell

by Tony Dayoub

"Now, when you have my letter in your hand, a beautiful day is coming for you. I will be with you, proud, because I knew such recognition would come one day, leading to something even greater and better... not only because you are close to me but because I count you among the truly great actors, and it is wonderful that besides that you are my brother."
- a letter from the actor's equally talented sister, actress Maria Schell, after he won the New York Film Critics Circle award for his Oscar-winning performance in Judgment at Nuremberg

Recommended Films - Judgment at Nuremberg, Topkapi, The Deadly Affair, The Black Hole, The Freshman, Deep Impact

And an even better list of movies I haven't seen but should: The Young Lions, The Odessa File, Cross of Iron, Julia, Little Odessa, John Carpenter's Vampires
As director: First Love, The Pedestrian, Marlene, My Sister Maria