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Discombobulated ‘Serenity’ Nears ‘The Room’ Levels of Unintentional Hilarity

There are bad movies and there are bad movies, the distinction being that the one is purely torturous to watch whereas the other has the alchemic ability to actually bring us great pleasure. To transmute movie-making stool into movie-watching gold. It’s observed in the difference between Michael Bay’s Transformers movies and XXX: The Return of Xander Cage; the line in the sand dividing Yoga Hosers and The Snowman. They’re all bad but some are bad enough to double back and turn sour to sweet.  Read More

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Out in Theaters: ‘KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS’

If there was ever any doubt that the circle of awesome that began with Coraline, Paranorman and The Boxtrolls would be broken, breathe relief. First-time director Travis Knight has led the masterful animators at Laika to victory once more with Kubo and the Two Strings. With the precision and delicacy of a samurai, Knight and his roundtable of figurine tinkerers carved out my heart and left it a fluttering mess, crafting a spellbinding adventure that thrums with wistful soul and spirited poignancy. In an age of skepticism and cynicism, Knight and the Laika wizards prove real alchemy exists. Marrying resplendent visual imagination with potent mature themes, they have made gold. Read More

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Out in Theaters: INTERSTELLAR

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Don’t be fooled, Interstellar is no blockbuster. Nor is it the critical darling think piece so many expected it to be. It seems crafted to engulf the minds of the critical community in nit-picky debates about minute details; destined to conjure up various theories and interpretations (a la Inception) but I don’t see that happening. For all its loopholes, space travel and time relativity, it’s relatively straightforward. Almost shockingly so. That’s not to say that it doesn’t aim for something more; for something meant to transcend your usual theatrical experience. Christopher Nolan reaches for the stars. He comes up short.

There’s no battles, no aliens, no ticking time bomb. Interstellar‘s a film about blackness and bleakness; dust storms and global scarcity; destiny and family. A gun doesn’t once appear on the screen. There’s not even really a villain so much as an antagonist with a competing view of the greater good and a finer tuned sense of self-preservation. The villain is in a sense time itself. And Planet Earth. And dust.

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At a critical juncture, Matthew McConaughey‘s Cooper convinces Anne Hathaway‘s Amelia that time is a precious resource. With a nearly three hour running time and a bulk of scenes this guy deems unnecessary, Nolan tends towards squandering said resource. Establishing shots are at first spent on Earth; Cooper’s a retired NASA pilot and now a farmer. His children Murph (Mackenzie Foy, later Jessica Chastain) and Tom (Timothée Chalamet, later Casey Affleck) have only known a world of ashes and dust. Crops around the world have become infected and extinct. Corn is the last consumable vestige of survival on Earth and its kernelly goodness is fast fading. But as time bends onward, the whole scarcity act is swallowed up by the impending doom of super blustery dust storms; the harbinger of phlegmy coughs; humankind’s asthmatic nemesis. The corn supply isn’t quite in top shape but there’s apparently enough to go around to serve meals of corn fritters, corn on the cob and corn bread. The classic corn triple play.

When a gravitational anomaly sends Cooper and Murph to a top secret NASA base, Cooper is recruited to man a mission into the intergalactic unknown in hopes of discovering new resources and, ultimately, salvation for humankind. About as little time is spent on the logistical rationale behind Cooper showing up and shipping off within what seems like a matter of days as it is on Professor Brand’s (Michael Caine) uncompromising over-reliance on this has-been pilot. It makes about as much sense as Rambo showing up on the White House’s doorstep and being asked to lead the president (who in this case is obviously 1997 Harrison Ford) to the front lines of an ISIS mass beheading assault. I mean it’d be cool and all but what?

Utterly enraptured by the poetry of Dylan Thomas, Brand is all about doing things the “ungentle” way. He’s so Thomas-esque, the man is basically rage against the machine. So after one (1) meeting with ol’ Cooper, Brand’s got him strapped into a (must have been) multi-billion dollar top-secret aircraft set on a world-saving mission. Because anything that’s roughly as logical as Armageddon is apparently good to go for screenwriter bros Christopher and Jonathan Nolan.

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And this comes down to the main issue of Interstellar: the Nolan Bro’s screenplay. For a usually straight-laced, sober duo, their scribemanship here has a prevailing feeling of being one bong rip too deep. It’s hard – if not entirely impossible – to defend some of the Nolans’ more hokey moments – the “love connection” speech, obviously telegraphed dialogue, the debatable “fifth dimension” scene, that ending… –  and it all winds up feeling like a mixture of trying too hard and not trying hard enough. It’s at once Nolan’s most shamelessly sentimental film, but also his most emotionally honest. Only when it tips into a wholly saccharine realm, it turns entirely unbecoming. Once those thematically iffy moments bind themselves to the finale and become inextricably germane to the larger themes at play, Interstellar shows itself for being a half-baked, if fully beautiful, failed experiment in synthesizing the inimitable success of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

That’s because Interstellar is an exercise in blue balls. It keeps getting so close to giving us what we wants and then shies away at the last moment; revealing a much less sexy underbelly as it goes. It’s an intimate human voyage through time and space, beset with little to no set pieces and made picture perfect with a massive budget and technical wizards hammering out intergalactic spacescapes the likes of none other. The pieces are all right; the whole just doesn’t come together as it should. You can almost smell its desire to be something more. The sting of it letting you down is palpable as it closes up shop and that’s partially what makes it the laudable misfire it is.

Seeing the film in one of seventy-one 70mm IMAX screening around the world imbued me with a great sense of privilege until I saw the actual picture. On Earth, it’s dusty. Grainy. Sometimes inexplicably unfocused. In space, it’s unreal. Otherworldly. Wormholes have never looked so sexy. The one hour of full-blown, in-your-face, pants-pissin’ IMAX shots does come around to save the day – justifying the costly asking price – though Hans Zimmer‘s theater-rumbling score often crosses the threshold into full blown audio assault if experienced in the large-picture, super-duper loud format. His low throbbing Gothic bass notes declare all out war on your eardrums as they crescendo and decrescendo. Turned down a notch lower, it’s one of the finest aspects of the film (a film that is more often than not a visual treat.) But like candy, the FX-heavy landscape doesn’t nourish a greater sense of thought-provoking reflection so much as sheer awe; nonetheless, it’s a thing to enjoy in all its savory nutritionlessness.  

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Nolan swings for the rafters and ends up splicing it just at the perfect angle where you can’t quite tell if it’s gonna be a home run or a foul ball. You hang in anticipation. And right at that moment of truth – in that prevailing reverent silence – the ball disappears into a wormhole. It’s hard to confirm whether Nolan’s latest is really an instance of Casey at Bat or, like 2001, his sci-fi opus will take years to fully digest, appreciate and understand. But I would tend towards the later not being the case. It is just heady and barely open-ended enough to stomach an argument for the other side. Though I’d have to likely also be offered corn bread.

The success and/or failure of Interstellar is hard to quantify. It’s grand and self-aggrandizing. It’s often more numb than it is smart. It’s a visual feast to behold with the emotional stakes to match. The talent both in front of and behind the camera (visual effects teams in particular) is rapturous and almost entirely engrossing. Though the “who’s who” of talent doesn’t ever pretend that Interstellar is a true actor’s film, McConaughey has a few scene where he dusts off his Oscar and lets it all hang out. When he does, hearts will break. But like a kid who ate too much candy and puked on a Picasso, Interstellar is only truly beautiful once you wipe all the muck off.

One thing seems certain: this will likely be the last time the studio system cuts Nolan a blank check to do with as he will. His directorial carte blanche will expire when it inevitably disappoints at the international box office. His license to kill will all but be revoked. It’s almost tragic but, time being a flat circle and all, it’s also inevitable. If only the Nolans bros had let Rust Cohle free to wax on time and stuff when they do decide to unleash their philosophical digressions. Apparently that’s just too much to ask.

With Interstellar, Nolan rages against the dying of the light, but like a theater minor without the proper know-how, he rages just a little too hard.

C+

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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.

Picture

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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Out in Theaters: THE WOLF OF WALL STREET

“The Wolf of Wall Street”
Directed by Martin Scorsese
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Jean Dujardin, Matthew McConaughey, Kyle Chandler, Rob Reiner, Jon Bernthal, Jon Favreau, Cristin Milioti 
Biography, Comedy, Crime
180 Mins
R

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Martin Scorsese
‘s The Wolf of Wall Street is a bombastic raunchfest spilling over with feverish humor and held in place by vibrant direction from Martin Scorsese and unhinged performances from its gifted cast. Sprawling and episodic, this “greed is great” epic is not only the funniest movie of the year, not only has one of the most outstanding performances in recent history, and not only is one of the most explicit films to hit the theaters under the guise of an R-rating, but, like icing on the proverbial cake, it offers a colossally poignant and timely cultural deconstruction of the financial institutions on which our country depends. And though it runs for exactly three hours, I’d watch this strung-out saga again in a second. A messy masterpiece on all fronts, The Wolf of Wall Street is a towering achievement.

We know that reality is often stranger than fiction but Scorsese’s encapsulation of the world of Jordan Belfort and his scurrying dervishes is like lifting a rock to find a thriving hive of ants equipped with Tony Montana-worthy piles of cocaine and strippers decked out in ever-fashionable neon beneath. Their iniquitous ways the stuff of adolescent male fantasies and their drug-fueled, deranged shenanigans straight from a Hunter S. Thompson memoir, Belfort is a modern day Dionysus. Taking the mantle of this larger-than-life imp of an investment banker, Leonardo DiCaprio is unholy goodness.

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It’s no secret that I’m a massive fan of DiCaprio’s and a performance like this proves my continued faith in the multifarious thespian. Ranging from manic to disturbed, possessed to contemptible, his commanding performance scraps subtly for an off-the-walls buffet of theatrics. And though he never quite swallows the pill of reality, Belfort’s arc is splattered in sober doubt and drug-fueled confidence, always anchored by a megalomaniac’s grip on the destiny of those in his company. Twisting what it means to be generous, he takes from the rich and poor alike and distributes the riches amongst his legions of fanboy-like employees.

But for his however ethically corrupt he is, he’s got his own twisted sense of morality, at once misanthropic towards the world at large and a gentle guardian of his own flock of flunky stock pushers. His minions, led by a brilliantly toothy Jonah Hill, see him as the God he wants so badly to be.

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Around the workplace, they call Belfort Wolfie; a nickname derived from his bullying brokering and his pick-up-the-scraps mentality. And as penny-stock pushers, Belfort and his henchmen turn scraps into millions, spinning gold from floss. Their office a carousal, Wolfie and Co.’s imperious rise to power is just too heinous to make up.

Beneath DiCaprio’s frantic and telescopic work as Belfort is a man feeding off his own energy. No matter how deluded Belfort can be, he’s a guy caught up in the moment, too high to not ride the waves of his own self-invented success. As an audience, we feed off the surge of energy too and let it drive us from scene to scene, always the intrigued voyeur.

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And like a pitch-perfect backup singer, Hill’s Donnie Azoff (based on over-the-counter stock broker Danny Porush, who threatened to sue if they didn’t change his name) is the wind beneath DiCaprio’s wings. From the first time he steps onscreen, he demands our attention with his mammoth chompers and sleazy Long Island accent. He’s got sidekick so down pat that he may as well be the piggy Robin to Belfort’s wicked Batman. And no matter how brief his appearance is here, Matthew McConaughey is once again on fire. As a steadfast FBI agent, Kyle Chandler also breaks out of his comfort zone and puts in a performance worthy of such an accomplished cast.

Though lots of names have been tossed around for award recognition, Hill will assuredly be seeing his second (and here, more deserved) nomination for his work. His unique blend of drama and comedy is a staggering success and has knocked any skeptics off the fence in one fell, chompy swoop. And while DiCaprio’s performance here is a show for the ages, it may again go overlooked by the notoriously antiquated Academy. Regardless, he is the king of Hollywood and has proved it in spades with his astonishing work in Wolf.

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But it’s not the performances alone that shine, as the movie flows smooth as butter. Looking at it as a whole, I wouldn’t want a single scene cut and that’s a testament to the seductive power of Scorsese’s film. With well over 500 counts of the f-bomb and enough female and male genitalia to perturb the most hip of parents, do be sure that you’re attending The Wolf of Wall Street with the right parties. This ain’t your grandma’s Scorsese.

A+

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Christopher Nolan Teases With INTERSTELLAR Trailer

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Few directors garner as much hype as Christopher Nolan these days. His skill at straddling the line between being interesting enough for thoughtful film-goers and stupid enough to make everyone else feel smart, has garnered him a great reputation with audiences and made him a safe bet for studios. For roughly the past year, the only info on his upcoming project, aside from some casting news, has been the name. After watching the first teaser for Interstellar, we don’t know much more.  The synopsis reveals that it will have something to do with space travel and wormholes. Thank you, Chris, for not showing us the whole movie yet.

Showing footage of some of humanities greatest achievements, Matthew McConaughey narrates, implying that we have lost the ambition that drove us to such great heights. He is shown driving through a field at the end, looking determined.

It is nice to see Nolan breaking away from his usual suspects here, casting McConaughey (who has been nothing but fantastic for the past few years), Anne Hathaway, Casey Affleck, John Lithgow, and Ellen Burstyn. Michael Caine is the only Nolan regular here. Look forward to likely seeing another Nolan hit next November. 

Interstellar is directed by Christopher Nolan and stars Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, and Casey Affleck. It hits theaters November 7th 2014.

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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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