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Out in Theaters: ‘SUICIDE SQUAD’

The corpses have barely cooled from Zack Snyder’s Batman V Superman and we’re already assessing the damage and constructing solutions to the issue superhumans bring to human society. A task force is formed by a no-nonsense Government agent, Dr. Waller, (Viola Davis) to gather the world’s most notorious villains (Smith, Robbie, Courteny, Hernandez, Akinnouye-Agbaje) to tackle any upcoming issues the new generation of metahumans may cause to life in America. Almost immediately after the formation of this league of disposable heroes – this Squadron Of Suicide – an ancient witch (Delevingne) awakens her demigod brother from his three-thousand year nap and the two descend upon Midway City to transform the citizenry into an army of monsters dedicated to usurping the earth. Read More

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2014 Oscar Winners and Prediction Contest Champions

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Alright, alright, alright. After a long-winded Academy Award ceremony, barely held together by a scrambling Ellen Degeneres, we can finally confirm our suspicions that the 2014 Oscars held little surprises. In fact, it was probably the most straight forward year in Oscar prognosticating in a long time. I personally went 22 for 24, missing out on Live Action Short (a miss I hardly lament) and Documentary. I went with The Act of Killing knowing it was the underdog but I also really just didn’t want to put my money on 40 Feet from Stardom as I thought it was the least provocative of all five docs this year and would stand for a very uneventful win. Well, considering the course Ellen chartered the ceremony in, I ought to have seen uneventful in my future.

As expected, the musical numbers dragged their feet and did little more than add valuable time onto an already long-winded ceremony. The addition of Bette Midler and Pink, whose performances seemed better suited for a old folk’s home than a hurried primetime broadcast, hardly helped to distract from the fact that Lana Del Ray was shafted from the event. Just as Ellen never quite managed to have a handle on her material, the shamble from act to act showed the seams of the event coming unfurled, a clear sign of lazy production and careless direction. While the final picks themselves proved uneventful at best, the presentation of them was even more yawn-inducing.

The highlights came in the form of the four acting acceptance awards with Lupita Nyong’o offering up an eloquent speech the likes of which had the world eating from the palm of her hand. J La may be America’s sweetheart but you better believe that Lupita just made sure that no one forgets her name. An earnest and family-dedicating speech from Jared Leto showed a man who, despite all the attention he’s received this year still seems genuinely humbled by such an award. Cate Blanchett, skirting around mention of Woody, took the opportunity of her win to steer her speech into a poignant tidbit on how cinema with a female lead is not niche. For its brevity and pointedness, Blanchett had us all ears and earned our attention. However my favorite bit of the night probably came at the hands of Matthew McConaughey sermonizing about heroes then painting a potrait of his dad sauntering around the afterlife sans pans and slugging a shitty beer. In that speech, he embodied the McConassiance and I think has us all waiting to see what he’ll do next.

When all was said and done, Gravity took home the most with seven awards (mostly on the technical side but a nod to Cuaron for Director is hardly one to balk at) and Dallas Buyers Club and 12 Years a Slave took three each.

As for the contest, in first place we have the lovely Astrea Campbell-Cobb who went 21/21 of the major categories and only missed the Live Action Short. Good on ya! You have a Blu Ray of 12 Years a Slave with your name on it. In second place, we have Preston Nicholson who got 20/21 and 2/3 of the shorts. Although there were a number of other contestants who got the same stats, Preston beat the others too it, posting the second day of the contest. He will receive the Best Picture nominee from last year of his choice. Congratulations guys!

Below you’ll find the winners and nominees of each category and at the bottom of the page you’ll find the actor’s acceptance speeches to revist or watch if you missed them the first time around.

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WINNER: 12 Years a Slave

Nominees: American Hustle; Captain Phillips; Dallas Buyers Club; Gravity; Her; Nebraska; Philomena; The Wolf of Wall Street; 12 Years a Slave

Actor

WINNER: Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club

Nominees: Christian Bale, American Hustle; Bruce Dern, Nebraska; Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street; Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club; Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave

Actress

WINNER: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine

Nominees: Amy Adams, American Hustle; Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine; Sandra Bullock, Gravity; Judi Dench, Philomena; Meryl Streep, August: Osage County

Supporting Actor

WINNER: Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club

Nominees: Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips; Bradley Cooper, American Hustle; Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave; Jonah Hill, The Wolf of Wall Street; Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club

Supporting Actress

WINNER: Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave

Nominees: Sally Hawkins, Blue Jasmine; Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle; Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave; Julia Roberts, August: Osage County; June Squibb, Nebraska

Director

WINNER: Alfonso Cuarón, Gravity

Nominees: Alfonso Cuarón, Gravity; Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave; Alexander Payne, Nebraska; David O. Russell, American Hustle; Martin Scorsese, The Wolf of Wall Street

Animated Feature Film

WINNER: Frozen

Nominees: The Croods; Despicable Me 2; Ernest & Celestine; Frozen; The Wind Rises

Foreign Film

WINNER: The Great Beauty

Nominees: The Broken Circle Breakdown, Belgium; The Great Beauty, Italy; The Hunt, Denmark; The Missing Picture, Cambodia; Omar, Palestine

Original Screenplay

WINNER: Her, Spike Jonze

Nominees: American Hustle, Eric Singer and David O. Russell; Blue Jasmine, Woody Allen; Dallas Buyers Club, Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack; Her, Spike Jonze; Nebraska, Bob Nelson

Adapted Screenplay

WINNER: 12 Years a Slave, John Ridley

Nominees: Before Midnight, Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke; Captain Phillips, Billy Ray; Philomena, Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope; 12 Years a Slave, John Ridley; The Wolf of Wall Street, Terence Winter

Original Score

WINNER: Gravity

Nominees: The Book Thief; Gravity; Her; Philomena; Saving Mr. Banks

Original Song

WINNER: Let It Go, from Frozen

Nominees: Alone Yet Not Alone, from Alone Yet Not Alone; Happy, from Despicable Me 2; Let It Go, from Frozen; The Moon Song, from Her; Ordinary Love, from Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

Cinematography

WINNER: Gravity

Nominees: The Grandmaster; Gravity; Inside Llewyn Davis; Nebraska; Prisoners

Costume Design

WINNER: The Great Gatsby

Nominees: American Hustle; The Grandmaster; The Great Gatsby; The Invisible Woman; 12 Years a Slave

Documentary Feature

WINNER: 20 Feet From Stardom

Nominees: The Act of Killing; Cutie and the Boxer; Dirty Wars; The Square; 20 Feet From Stardom

Documentary Short Subject

WINNER: The Lady in Number 6

Nominees: CaveDigger; Facing Fear; Karama Has No Walls; The Lady in Number 6; Music Saved My Life; Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall

Film Editing

WINNER: Gravity

Nominees: American Hustle; Captain Phillips; Dallas Buyers Club; Gravity; 12 Years a Slave

Make and Hairstyling

WINNER: Dallas Buyers Club

Nominees: Dallas Buyers Club; Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa; The Lone Ranger

Production Design

WINNER: The Great Gatsby

Nominees: American Hustle; Gravity; The Great Gatsby; Her; 12 Years a Slave

Sound Editing

WINNER: Gravity

Nominees: All Is Lost; Captain Phillips; Gravity; The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug; Lone Survivor

Sound Mixing

WINNER: Gravity

Nominees: Captain Phillips; Gravity; The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug; Inside Llewyn Davis; Lone Survivor

Visual Effects

WINNER: Gravity

Nominees: Gravity; The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug; Iron Man 3; The Lone Ranger; Star Trek Into Darkness

Animated Short Film

WINNER: Mr. Hublot

Nominees: Feral; Get a Horse!; Mr. Hublot; Possessions; Room on the Broom

Live-action Short Film

WINNER: Helium

Nominees: Aquel No Era Yo (That Wasn’t Me); Avant Que De Tout Perdre (Just Before Losing Everything); Helium; Pitaako Mun Kaikki Hoitaa? (Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?); The Voorman Problem

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VVe9bxtH_DI

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fluQ6iyy85g

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=deNAilnDY4I

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s58IWv-pY2Q

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2013 Silver Screen Riot Awards

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With the majority of 2013 awards winding down and the Oscars gearing up for next month, it’s time for me to reflect on the best parts about last year’s films. I’ve already published my top ten list alongside the absolute worst movies of the year but with these awards, I focus on the performances, direction, music, scene work and artistry of 2013.

At first, I tried to pigeonhole five nominees into each category but found that didn’t give me enough leeway to recognize all the talent I wanted to. When I then expanded to ten, it felt like there were times where I would be putting names down to fill up spots and didn’t really work for me either. So, instead of making an arbitrary number of nominees for each category, I opted to just recognize as many people as I saw fit in each category. So while the best actor category has 11 names of note, best foreign film only had 6 nominees and so forth. I know a lot of these may see overlap with other award nominations but I tried to recognize talent from all walks,  the old to the new, and award what stood out as my personal favorites.

Look out for a short breakdown in the actors and directors sections but the other categories speak for themselves.

Best Actor:

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WINNER: Leonardo DiCaprio ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’
Runner Up: Christian Bale ‘Out of the Furance’ & ‘American Hustle’
Honorable Mention: Ethan Hawke ‘Before Midnight’

Also:
Matthew McConaughey ‘Dallas Buyers Club’ & ‘Mud’
Joaquin Phoenix ‘Her’
Mads Mikkelsen ‘The Hunt’
Chiwetel Elijofor ’12 Years a Slave’
Bruce Dern ‘Nebraska’
Tom Hanks ‘Captain Phillips’
Michael B. Jordan ‘Fruitvale Station’

It’s no secret that I’m a big Leonardo DiCaprio fan and it’s performances like his in The Wolf of Wall Street that earns him such a high ranking amongst my favorite working actors. With manic physicality, hypnotizing stage presence and wonderfully potent comedic timing, his take on amoral but lovin’ it Jordan Belfort is a role to remember. Christian Bale did wonders in Out of the Furnace and, even though I wasn’t head over heels for American Hustle, his performance there was nothing to balk at and one of the strongest features of the film. The most underrated performance of the year is Ethan Hawke who embodied humanity and boyish charm in my favorite film of the year Before Midnight. The film rests squarely on his and Julie Delpy‘s compotent shoulders and had their performances been any less, the impact wouldn’t have been nearly what it was. 

Best Supporting Actor:

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WINNER: Jared Leto ‘Dallas Buyers Club’
Runner Up: Jonah Hill ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’

Honorable Mention:  Geoffrey Rush ‘The Book Thief’

Also:
Woody Harrelson ‘Out of the Furnace’
Michael Fassbender ’12 Years a Slave’
Barkhad Abdi ‘Captain Phillips’
Ben Foster ‘Lone Survivor’
Daniel Bruhl ‘Rush’
Matthew McConaughey ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’
Alexander Skaarsgard ‘What Maisie Knew’

Another crowded category, I had to go with a somewhat calculated choice, a man more than likely to win at the Academy Awards this year, Jared Leto. His performance, almost moreso than Matthew McConaughey‘s, grounds the heartbreaking tale of Dallas Buyers Club and brings humanity to those that are too often dehumanized. On the other side of the coin, Jonah Hill was a riot in The Wolf of Wall Street and between his introductory scene and subsequent cousin soliloquy and the unhinged energy he brings to the Lemmons scene, his is one of the most unforgettable performances of the year. Another under-appreciated role takes my honorable mention slot with Geoffrey Rush‘s lovely performance in the otherwise forgettable The Book Thief. Rush is an acting giant and watching him effortlessly capture our sympathy just goes to show his monumental range.

Best Actress:

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WINNER: Meryl Streep ‘August: Osage County’
Runner Up: Julie Delpy ‘Before Midnight’
Honorable Mention: Scarlett Johansson ‘Her’

Also:
Cate Blanchett ‘Blue Jasmine’
Brie Larson ‘Short Term 12’
Judi Dench ‘Philomena’
Adele Exarchopoulos ‘Blue is the Warmest Color’
Shailene Woodley ‘The Spectacular Now’
Greta Gerwig ‘Frances Ha’
Emma Thompson ‘Saving Mr. Banks’

I know Cate Blanchett is the name on everyone’s lips right now and there’s no denying that her performance is a showstopper but, for me, was not quite the most impressive of the year. Speaking of cinematic giants, I just couldn’t help but give my top award to Meryl Streep for her poisonous performance in the ensemble drama August: Osage County. Streep is a chameleon and we’re used to seeing her, for the most part, play loveable roles so seeing her transform into an utterly despicable train wreck of a pill popper showcases why she is the monolithic actress she is. Watching Julie Delpy embody the role of Celine for the third (or fourth if you consider Waking Life) time, you can see how much she has sank into this role and it’s simply a beauty to behold. Although deemed ineligible for the Oscars, Scarlett Johansson is able to achieve wonders with just her voice and deserves a pile of praise for that.

Best Supporting Actress:

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WINNER: Julia Roberts “August: Osage County”
Runner Up: Margot Robbie “The Wolf of Wall Street”
Honorable Mention: Kristen Scott Thomas ‘Only God Forgives’

Also:
Octavia Spenser ‘Fruitvale Station’
Jennifer Lawrence ‘American Hustle’
June Squibb ‘Nebraska’
Lupita Nyong’o ’12 Years a Slave’
Emily Watson ‘The Book Thief’
Melissa Leo ‘Prisoners’

Easily the least impressive of the four acting categories, the best supporting actress category just didn’t have quite as much to offer as the rest did this year. Going through my nominees, it was hard to choose a top spot because all were commendable but none were absolutely unforgettable. I would hardly consider Julia Roberts as someone whose films I anticipate so was caught offguard by her fantastic work in August: Osage County. She holds her own against Streep and at times even shows her up. Color me impressed. I gave the second slot to Margot Robbie of The Wolf of Wall Street because of an unforgettable scene she shares with DiCaprio that’s sexy, tortuous and hysterical all at once and would have been nothing without the presence she brings to the scene. And for all the flak Only God Forgives caught for lacking dialogue, Kristen Scott Thomas stood out as the only character with true personality and she absolutely chewed through her deluded sanctimony. She’s menacing, repulsive and commanding and totally owns every scene she’s in. And just to preempt those offended by my lack of pedastalizing Academy darling Jennifer Lawrence, I enjoyed what she did in American Hustle but could never really take her character seriously. It was fun but not near worthy the level of praise being heaped on. And Lupita Nyong’o was certainly stunning in her 12 Years a Slave scenes but remember, this is my favorites and her performance is nothing less than a chore to watch.

Best Director

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WINNER: Spike Jonze ‘Her’
Runner Up: Richard Linklater ‘Before Midnight’
Honorable Mention: Steve McQueen ’12 Years a Slave’

Also:
Martin Scorsese ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’
Jean-Marc Valee ‘Dallas Buyers Club’
Alexander Payne ‘Nebraska’
Denis Villeneuve ‘Prisoners’
Alfonso Cuaron ‘Gravity’
Destin Cretton ’12 Years a Slave’
Coen Bros ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’

I have to give a leg up to the director/writer combos so it’s no surprise that Spike Jonze has secured the top position. The humanity he brings to this technological world and the insight he’s able to provide is simply stunning, aided by his sharp visual style and realistic futurism. Richard Linklater may not be the world’ most hands on director but the palpably freedom he affords his actors gives them the capacity to create the caliber of tender moments we see in Before Midnight. He’s no bleeding heart but he’s not quite a cynic either and I love watching the way he sees the world. On the more difficult side of things, I’ve seen all three of Steve McQueen‘s films and, though this comment may be hotly debated, think 12 Years a Slave is actually his least tortuous. At least to watch. It’s an amazing effort that drags us through hell and yet there is a string of hope that runs throughout the story. I guess that only someone from outside of the states could bring such honesty and power to a distinctly American story.

Best Ensemble:

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WINNER: American Hustle
Runner Up: The Wolf of Wall Street
Honorable Mention: August: Osage County

Also:
12 Years a Slave
This is the End
The Counselor

Best Cinematography

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WINNER: Sean Bobbitt ’12 Years A Slave’
Runner Up: Emmanuel Lubezki ‘Gravity’
Honorable Mention: Roger Deakins ‘Prisoners’

Also:
Phedon Papamichael ‘Nebraska’
Hoyte Van Hoytema ‘Her’
Bruno Delbonnel ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’
John R. Leonetti ‘The Conjuring’
Yves Bélanger ‘Lawrence Anyways’

Best Foreign Film

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WINNER: The Hunt
Runner Up: Laurence Anyways
Honorable Mention: Populaire

Also:
Wajdja
Blue is the Warmest Color
Crystal Fairy and the Magical Cactus

Best Documentary:

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WINNER: The Act of Killing
Runner Up: Cutie and the Boxer
Honorable Mention: Dirty Wars

Also:
The Crash Reel
Blackfish
The Square
Somm

Best Song

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WINNER: “Fare Thee Well” – Inside Llewyn Davis
Runner Up: “Young and Beautiful” – Great Gatsby
Honorable Mention: “Doby” – Anchorman 2: The Journey Continues

Also:
“Please Mr. Kennedy – Inside Llewy6n Davis
“The Moon Song – Inside Llewyn Davis
“In Summer – Frozen
“Oblivion” – Oblivion

Best Scene:

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WINNER: Her ‘When it All Goes Dark’
Runner Up: The Wolf of Wall Street “Lemmons 714”
Honorable Mention: Before Midnight ‘Letter from the Future’

Also:
Captain Phillips “Check Up”
August: Osage “Family Dinner”
Nebraska “Mt. Rushmore”
This is the End “Backstreets Back”
Gravity ‘Opening Sequence’
Out of the Furnace ‘Hot Dog’
Inside Llewyn Davis ‘Please Mr. Kennedy’
The Conjuring “Basement Exorcism”
Lawrence Anyways “It’s Raining Clothes”

I’d love to hear where you guys agree and disagree and would encourage you to share your own lists in the comments section below.

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Out in Theaters: DALLAS BUYERS CLUB

“Dallas Buyers Club”
Directed by Jean-Marc Vallée
Starring Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto, Jennifer Garner, Dallas Roberts, Denis O’Hare, Steve Zahn, Kevin Rankin, Jane McNeill
Drama
117 Mins
R

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Imagine being sat down and told that you’ve just tested positive for HIV. Now imagine that you’ve only ever been told that this is a “gay disease” – an impossible horror reserved only for the darkest corner of “queerness.” Then picture this whopper: you’ve got six weeks to live. Six weeks. 42 days. 1000 hours…and that’s not accounting for time spent sleeping. The rest of your life needs to fit within the confines of a 1000-hour window. Welcome to AIDS in the 80s.

This true life horror story is a too commonly known in 2013, a time when we have a semi-solution to the problem – even though the living stigma attached to the HIV-positive is as lecherous and potent as ever – but in the live-free-die-young time of Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey), doctors couldn’t finger transmission causes, barely knew the symptoms, and failed to charter a road to recovery just as they failed to grasp the desperation of those afflicted.  

It was a time of widespread panic, a near-modernization of the Black Plague that ripped apart communities and savaged its victims. If there was anything that HIV wasn’t, it was good. That is, except for Woodroof. His disease catalyzed him to become a man of action, a fighter with a rock-solid purpose, and most of all, a business juggernaut who built a small empire.

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For a small town electrician with a seventh grade education, Woodroof essentially transformed himself into an amateur scientist and one of the leading experts on HIV/AIDS treatments. While hanging on for his life in Mexico after blasting his body with an unregulated trial version of AZT, Ron becomes a champion of the “cocktail” – a pill regiment that has become a regular staple of modern HIV treatment. Transfixed with saving his own life while making a few bucks, he soon starts smuggling boxes of the non-FDA approved medicine into the US for sale.

Never a man seeking a Nobel Prize, Woodroof was in drug business for himself and himself alone. He saw demand and a gross lack of supply and tactfully worked out a marketplace in the periphery of the drug administration’s reach. His actions couldn’t have been further from philanthropy and this is what makes the tale so entirely captivating. This is no hero’s story, this is the ballad of a charismatic anti-hero; a man profiteering off of his deadly disease, who just so happens to have made a positive mark in his community.

Amazingly, this is not the sob story that it so easily could have been. The absolute restraint on full display elevates Dallas Buyers Club from a powerful biopic into an elegant stunner. On many occasions, director Jean-Marc Vallée brings you to the brink of tears and quickly yanks away, allowing the melodramatic teat to go un-milked. In such, Dallas is the anti Nick Sparks. While this tragedy could have easily been swaddled in a waterfall of tears, Vallée and McConaughey harvest the comic aspects while maintaining a strong foothold in respectful execution. Like any true story, there is no black-and-white, just various shades of gray.

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For the past two years, Matthew McConaughey has pushed against his former image – a shiftless Southerner, the heartthrob focal point of many a failed rom-com  –  and embraced his career like a man reborn. His work in Dallas Buyers Club is entirely stunning – unquestionably the greatest work of his career – the final stage of a prodigious transformation. Bubbling behind his eyes is a well of emotion, a characteristic that gives layers of depth to what he says, inferring that the true meaning of his homophobic, brash choice of words are always hidden behind a few layers of his callous former self. For as much of a strong-headed bastard as he is, Ron is as scared as a kid at a clown convention. But he’d rather die than ever say it.

Coming out of a semi-retirement, Jared Leto offers strong evidence that he should have never been allowed to step out of the spotlight. As Ron’s transvestite business partner, also stricken with HIV, Leto is gold and nearly threatens in upstage McConaughey in a number of scenes. Brimming with heart, Rayon offers a softer-edge to balance out Ron’s calculated apathy. Underneath the layers of overindulgent makeup, fire-red wig, and shabby drag garb, there is a real person – one who has suffered being the butt of countless gay jokes and has crawled nail-by-manicured-nail out of the disapproval of a conservative, waspy family. He isn’t some wacky transvestite; he is a human of hardship whose only reward for free expression is a case of full-blown AIDS. Ron may be the centerpiece of the film but Rayon is the timely beating heart.

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As a piece of cultural import, Dallas Buyers Club works so well because it is just as poignant look at drug administration as corporate bully and the monumental failings of the U.S. health care system today as it was then. Just look at the similar origin story of Walter White in Breaking Bad – another tale of a man with a clinical death sentence forced to function outside the law to pay for treatment – to upend parallels between the 80s and now. We may have waged unpopular wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and yet the U.S. government continues to wage an invisible war on the sick with their defunct health care policies. Canadian Vallée wrangles the issue close and holds it up to the camera. “Is this acceptable America?” he asks. Of course not. And yet, around and around we go.

For the swing-for-the-fences success, major credit is due to the editing department under Vallée and Martin Pensa‘s guidance, making the most difficult calls of all – not overstaying. Debunking the belief that over-dramatization leads to more emotional impact, Vallée guides Dallas into near-perfect territory with the craft of someone who’s been doing this his whole life. Lingering long after the lights draw up, Dallas passes on an invaluable lesson: everything we have can be taken from us in an instant and, as life deteriorates around you, you can be footed with the bill. As an American living without health care, what can be more terrifying than that?

A+

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