Top 15 Films of the Year, No. 3 – Zero Dark Thirty

Zero Dark

Zero Dark Thirty is a film directed by Kathryn Bigelow, with a screenplay written by Mark Boal.  The film tells the story of Maya, a CIA operative who, for over a decade, is dedicated to a single mission—to find Osama bin Laden.  She spends every waking moment interrogating detainees and doing intense research in order to track down the world’s most wanted man.  After years of devoted work, some clues to the whereabouts of bin Laden emerge, and even though most high-ranking officials in the US government do not fully trust her about his location, Maya remains steadfast in her belief that she has finally found the infamous terrorist.

This is the second collaboration between Bigelow and Boal, the first being their Best Picture-winning film The Hurt Locker (2008).  After seeing their latest partnership at work, it is clearly evident that these two have an uncanny knack for creating spellbinding war-related movies.  Even though there are stark similarities between the two films, Zero Dark Thirty is based around true events of the manhunt for Osama bin Laden.  The movie was met with controversy due to its take on torturing detainees, but I quite enjoyed the veracity of these scenes, and without those, I feel the movie would have been significantly lacking a punch.  I truly believe this was one of the year’s most amazing films, and it will definitely be a top contender for the highest Oscar honors; with that said, it still does not quite meet the standards that The Hurt Locker originally set.

The story behind the creation of this film is fascinating.  Bigelow and Boal had originally written a screenplay about the notorious Battle of Tora Bora, and they had planned to tell the story of the long, but unsuccessful hunt for Osama bin Laden.  They were actually about to begin filming when news of bin Laden’s death broke.  Immediately, they stopped working on their original film and began to work on a brand new original screenplay about the killing of bin Laden.

Just like The Hurt Locker focused most of the movie on one particular character and his life during the war, Zero Dark Thirty concentrates on the emotional and professional growth of a single character, Maya (Jessica Chastain).  Even though there are some key supporting characters, like Dan (Jason Clarke), Patrick (Joel Edgerton), and George (Mark Strong), Maya’s character is the central figure the film uses to develop the plot.

Chastain is an actress who is rapidly gaining immense popularity due to some impressive performances in The Tree of Life (2011), The Help (2011), and Lawless (2012), and in this movie, she shows everyone why she is an Oscar-nominated actress.  She begins the movie as a shy, reluctant character, but quickly she becomes a fiery force to be reckoned with.  I was blown away by her portrayal of Maya, and this striking depiction may just earn her an Academy Award for Best Actress.  Zero Dark Thirty is rated R for strong violence, including brutal disturbing images, and language.

Zero Dark Thirty trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YxC_JNz5Vbg

Academy Award nominations for Zero Dark Thirty:

Best Picture (Mark Boal, Kathryn Bigelow, and Megan Ellison, Producers)

Actress in a Leading Role (Jessica Chastain)

Film Editing (Dylan Tichenor and William Goldenberg)

Sound Editing (Paul N.J. Ottosson)

Best Original Screenplay (Mark Boal)

Previous movies on the countdown of the Top 15 Films of the Year:

4. Skyfall

5. Django Unchained

6. Life of Pi

7. Amour

8. Les Misérables

9. Beasts of the Southern Wild

10. Looper

11. The Perks of Being a Wallflower

12. The Dark Knight Rises

13. Flight

14. The Master

15. Argo

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Top 15 Films of the Year, No. 14 – The Master

The Master

The Master is a film written and directed by acclaimed filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson.  The movie follows Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix), a World War II veteran that returns home and struggles to establish a steady life outside of the military.  He eventually meets Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman), the leader of a philosophical movement, and Dodd, along with his wife Peggy (Amy Adams), accept Freddie into their group to help spread the word of “The Cause.”  Over time, however, the issues Freddie has with alcohol dependency and adapting to a post-war society create significant difficulties for the Dodd family’s advancement of “The Cause,” and Lancaster and Peggy attempt to use the ways of their teachings to help Freddie fix himself to become a disciple for their movement.

I have been a huge fan of P.T. Anderson’s films over the years, specifically Boogie Nights (1997) and There Will Be Blood (2007), so it was a given that I was going to go see this film in theaters shortly after its release during the summer.  Considering it took five years for Anderson to release his follow-up to There Will Be Blood, one of the most amazing movies of our time, I knew it was sure to be well thought out and intricately fascinating.  After the viewing the film, I instantly thought that Anderson had created a movie that was sure to receive some assortment of award nominations, but the over-complication of the plot made it something I, along with most viewers leaving the theater that day, was utterly confused by.

Given that the plot centers on the teachings of a post-war cult, it is no wonder that the film seemed rather disconnected and uninviting.  The beginning of the film started out strong—it truly seemed like P.T. Anderson’s latest film was going to be gloriously masterful, pun intended.  However, as the storyline fully came into focus, it only proceeded to drag on with exaggerated repetition.  Anderson created some downright complex characters, but by the end of the film, I did not feel like they had grown very much—it was like they all ended up right back where they began.

With all that being said, The Master is still a solid film.  In my opinion, the film is wholly carried by three stellar acting performances from the main characters.  In Phoenix’s first feature film since his fake retirement from acting a few years ago, he reminds us all why he has always been heralded as one of the best actors of his generation.  Philip Seymour Hoffman also turns in a fantastic performance in his role as the leader of the cult.  However, the brightest display of sheer acting ability came from Amy Adams as Peggy Dodd.  While she seems like an innocent and docile wife, the film, coupled with Adams’ amazing performance, reveals Peggy to be much more of a woman that pulls the strings from afar—I would argue that her character is the actual “master” that the title of the film implies.  If this film does not sound like it’s for you, at least give it a shot just to take in an astounding representation of acting by a stellar ensemble.  The Master is rated R for sexual content, graphic nudity, and language.

Academy Award nominations for The Master:

Actor in a Leading Role (Joaquin Phoenix)

Actor in a Supporting Role (Philip Seymour Hoffman)

Actress in a Supporting Role (Amy Adams)

The Master trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fJ1O1vb9AUU

And the Oscar goes to…

83rd Academy Awards, Oscar Envelope

Hey everyone!  The Oscars are only 19 days away, and this blog is about to heat up starting tomorrow.  Over the next 16 days, I will be updating this page with posts nearly every singe day.  Below I have provided a schedule of dates when I will post and the content that will be included each day.  This way, you can make sure to visit this page on any day that provides a topic that you are interested in.  These topics will include categories from my Oscars ballot and a countdown of my “Top 15 Films of the Year.”  After my Oscars ballot and list of “Top 15 Films of the Year” have been revealed, I will provide additional commentary leading up to the actual ceremony.  Feel free to comment and leave me any of your thoughts or suggestions.  Check out the schedule and make sure to follow all of the updates.

SCHEDULE OF POSTS:

2/6: #15 on the list of Top Films, Best Supporting Actress

2/7: #14 on the list of Top Films, Best Supporting Actor

2/8: #13 on the list of Top Films

2/9: #12 on the list of Top Films, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing

2/10: #11 on the list of Top Films, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing

2/11: #10 on the list of Top Films

2/12: #9 on the list of Top Films, Best Adapted Screenplay

2/13: #8 on the list of Top Films, Best Original Screenplay

2/14: NO POSTS

2/15: #7 on the list of Top Films, Best Original Score

2/16: #6 on the list of Top Films, Best Actress

2/17: #5 on the list of Top Films, Best Actor

2/18: #4 on the list of Top Films

2/19: #3 on the list of Top Films

2/20: #2 on the list of Top Films, Best Director

2/21: #1 on the list of Top Films, Best Picture

Rolling out the red carpet!

academy-awards

Welcome to my blog: “Countdown to the Oscars…from the mind of a film aficionado.” I’m Gaylan, the aforementioned film enthusiast whose mind serves as the basis for all of the cinematic content that will be included on this site for the next few weeks. For those of you that know me, I am a huge fan of the film-award season, specifically the Oscars.

I have always been into movies, but my true obsession with the silver screen developed during the spring semester of my freshman year at Oklahoma State when I took an “Introduction to Film Theory” course. Ever since then, I have viewed films in a completely different light and have learned to appreciate these moving pictures as a compelling form of art.

Subsequently, over the past four years, I have tried to see as many Oscar-nominated movies as possible before the broadcast so that I can feel more connected and engaged while watching the Academy Awards. In fact, of the past four Oscar ceremonies, I have watched 33 of the 34 total films that have been nominated for Best Picture (the only one I missed was District 9, which I still haven’t even attempted to see).

Each year when the Oscar nominations come out, I print off the nominees and essentially cast my own (unofficial) ballot. This has been a ritual I have always kept within the boundaries of my own home, but this year I have decided to create this blog and share my ballot with each of you.

Over the next few weeks leading up to the awards, I will be posting categories from my Academy Awards ballot on this blog with commentary on my winner choices, and I will be releasing a list of my “Top 15 Films of the Year.” I will only vote on categories in which I have seen every film or performance that is nominated in that respective category.

My goal for this blog is to provide as much detailed information about the Oscar-nominated films and performances this year as possible and to provide you with my own opinions and commentary about these movies. I look forward to any comments you might have about my ballot and my “Top 15 Films of the Year” list. Enjoy, and make sure to watch the 85th Academy Awards on Sunday, February 24, 2013, live from the Dolby Theater in Hollywood, CA.