Mads Mikkelsen might not be a household name but the Danish actor has haunted some of the biggest Hollywood properties in the known universe, from playing Jyn Erso’s father in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story ’to featuring as big bad Kaecilius in Marvel’s Doctor Strange to starring opposite James Bond in Casino Royale. The distinctive-looking actor is also known for playing the titular cannibal in NBC’s deliciously macabre (and unfairly cancelled) horror serial Hannibal in addition to offering up a should-have-been-Oscar-nominated role in Thomas Vinterberg’s outstanding drama The Hunt. For me, it’s Mikkelsen’s turn as Le Chiffre in Casino Royale (for my money, the best villain 007 has faced) that both showed the actor’s vast potential and represented his promise best – playing a calculating, wildly intelligent baddie is Mikkelsen’s bread and butter and no one does it quite like him. Even flipping the script and playing on the light side of the spectrum, the actor is undeniably magnetic. Read More
The great thing about Netflix is that it gives you a lot of TV and movie watching options. The bad thing about Netflix is that it gives you…a lot of TV and movie watching options. To cut down on your Netflix search and discover time, Netfix aims to ease the process of parsing the good from the bad. The great from the not so great. From action films to foreign dramas, we’re raked the catalogs to offer only the finest that the preeminent streaming service has to offer. So settle in, get your remotes ready and prepare for the red wave of Netfix to wash over you.
FORCE MAJEURE (Ruben Östlund, 2014)
Ruben Östlund‘s Force Majeure was a favorite at the 2014 Cannes Festival, boasting a talented cast, beautiful cinematography and an original balance betwixt thrills, suspense and comedy. When a Swedish family takes a holiday in the French Alps, an avalanche strikes, causing major upheaval in the psyches of Tomas and his wife, Ebba. A character study of morals, you could say, Force Majeure is an offbeat collection of misunderstandings and displaced desires in supposed paradise.
AMELIE (Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 2001)
It’s hard to have missed this quirky 2001 French comedy starring Audrey Tautou, but if you still haven’t seen it, prepare to be charmed out of your mind. Amélie tells the story of a whimsical, oddball woman who decides to bring people together in lovely ways through acts of kindness. If Wes Anderson were a French director, he might have made something like this film. Also, the soundtrack is supremely pleasant.
A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT (Ana Lily Amirpour, 2014)
Pretentious in a hipster kind of way, A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night is a wildly confident Iranian Vampire Western, filmed in black and white. Blending genres can be hit or miss, but in this case it’s most definitely a hit. The film follows a young female vampire, played brilliantly by Sheila Vand, as she roams the empty, silent streets of Bad City. The western vibes enter around the character of Arash, who offers the vampire a ride one night.
THE HUNT (Thomas Vinterberg, 2013)
This expertly portrayed story of false persecution delves into the lonely life of Lucas, played to perfection by Mads Mikkelsen, following a disparaging misunderstanding between him and a student that costs him everything. Any further information would be too much information. Directed by Thomas Vinterberg, this is Danish cinema at its finest!
WE ARE THE BEST! (Lukas Moodysson, 2014)
1982 Stockholm is the world three preteen female protagonists live within in We Are the Best!, navigating through their angst, vastly different home lives and the 80’s punk scene. Friendship, gender equality and youthful rebellion are just a few topics this film touches on, and in the most charmingly adolescent way that smacks you with nostalgia, especially if you’ve ever cut all your hair off as a young girl, which I am certainly guilty of on more than several occasions.
LET THE RIGHT ONE IN (Tomas Alfredson, 2008)
A young boy becomes friends with his next door neighbor and realizes she’s responsible for a few murders about town, yet this doesn’t scare him off. Adapted for the screen by original author John Ajvide Lindqvist, Let the Right One In is a creepily portrayed glimpse of adolescent angst. Americanized in 2010 as Let Me In, both versions are certainly worth a watch. But watch this one first.
A HIJACKING (Tobias Lindholm, 2013)
While we’re on the subject of Americanized versions, A Hijacking, out of Denmark, was released the same year as Captain Phillips. The two could be considered companion films, although vastly different in portrayal. A Hijacking focuses evenly between the hostage protagonist, and the back and forth between the captors and the CEO of the freight company.
THE BABADOOK (Jennifer Kent, 2014)
Australian horror flick The Babadook is a psychological journey into the home life of a troubled young boy and his insomniac mother as they deal with personal demons. When an unsettling children’s book finds its way onto Samuel’s shelves, Amelia is forced to see her son’s unstable condition not as hallucinations or imaginative stories, but something real.
OLDBOY (Park Chan-wook, 2005)
Oldboy follows Oh Dae-su as he’s inexplicably locked away in prison for fifteen years, only to be eventually released with no information on why he was ever incarcerated. Quirky, comic and full of revenge violence, this South Korean film of vengeance won the Grand Prix at the 2004 Cannes Festival, and rightly so. Rightly so.
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.
WINNER: Leonardo DiCaprio ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’
Runner Up: Christian Bale ‘Out of the Furance’ & ‘American Hustle’
Honorable Mention: Ethan Hawke ‘Before Midnight’
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:
WINNER: Jared Leto ‘Dallas Buyers Club’
Runner Up: Jonah Hill ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’
Honorable Mention: Geoffrey Rush ‘The Book Thief’
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.
WINNER: Meryl Streep ‘August: Osage County’
Runner Up: Julie Delpy ‘Before Midnight’
Honorable Mention: Scarlett Johansson ‘Her’
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:
WINNER: Julia Roberts “August: Osage County”
Runner Up: Margot Robbie “The Wolf of Wall Street”
Honorable Mention: Kristen Scott Thomas ‘Only God Forgives’
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.
WINNER: Spike Jonze ‘Her’
Runner Up: Richard Linklater ‘Before Midnight’
Honorable Mention: Steve McQueen ’12 Years a Slave’
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.
WINNER: American Hustle
Runner Up: The Wolf of Wall Street
Honorable Mention: August: Osage County
12 Years a Slave
This is the End
WINNER: Sean Bobbitt ’12 Years A Slave’
Runner Up: Emmanuel Lubezki ‘Gravity’
Honorable Mention: Roger Deakins ‘Prisoners’
Phedon Papamichael ‘Nebraska’
Hoyte Van Hoytema ‘Her’
Bruno Delbonnel ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’
John R. Leonetti ‘The Conjuring’
Yves Bélanger ‘Lawrence Anyways’
Best Foreign Film
WINNER: The Hunt
Runner Up: Laurence Anyways
Honorable Mention: Populaire
Blue is the Warmest Color
Crystal Fairy and the Magical Cactus
WINNER: The Act of Killing
Runner Up: Cutie and the Boxer
Honorable Mention: Dirty Wars
The Crash Reel
WINNER: “Fare Thee Well” – Inside Llewyn Davis
Runner Up: “Young and Beautiful” – Great Gatsby
Honorable Mention: “Doby” – Anchorman 2: The Journey Continues
“Please Mr. Kennedy – Inside Llewy6n Davis
“The Moon Song – Inside Llewyn Davis
“In Summer – Frozen
“Oblivion” – Oblivion
WINNER: Her ‘When it All Goes Dark’
Runner Up: The Wolf of Wall Street “Lemmons 714”
Honorable Mention: Before Midnight ‘Letter from the Future’
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.
On the march to the end of the season, with only four more major releases to go for 2013, I crossed two big ticket items off the list with The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug offering just the brand of disappointment I was crossing my fingers against and Inside Llewyn Davis which has been growing on me all week since seeing it. But the really miraculous part of this week is how much great cinema I’ve seen at home. I can’t remember watching a string of films this solid in a long, long time and I’m a happy camper for it. I guess that’s what happens when you sign up for Netflix disks and pop on a collection of films you’ve been waiting to see. So let’s hop into all the goodies I watched at home.
THE HUNT (2013)
A ceaselessly powerful movie that’ll have you in fits of frustration, The Hunt is anchored by yet another career-defining performance from the always brilliant Mads Mikkelsen. It’s surely not the most accessible film of the year – it’s a Danish film about allegations of child molestation – but it explores victim psychology and crowd mentality with gripping truth. As school teacher Lucas (Mikkelsen) is accused of abusing one of his students, who so happens to be his best friend’s meek, doll-nosed daughter, we’re the only ones who know his innocence and see the town explode around him, acting against him at first with social rejection and later, violence. As things escalate and Lucas becomes an outright pariah, you’ll want to scream at the television. But every time you want to point the finger at someone or other, you find yourself slipping into their mindset and understanding where they’re coming from. In an impossible situation such as this, it all comes down to what we’re willing to believe and who you’re willing to trust.
A PROPHET (2009)
Jacques Audiard‘s tale of a young French-Arab man rise inside the ranks of a prison mob is brimming with intrigue and stands as a sort of European Good Fellas. A gradual rise of power the likes of A Prophet will surely bring a slew of comparisons to Scorsese’s wok and for good reason. Audiard captures a similarly telescopic broadcast of a life, filtered down into a two-hour-plus film but still feels complete and massive. But he distinguishes his own style in the many off-kilter camera moves, intoxicating fuzzy screenshots, the use of language as a chess piece, all the while dividing the film up into succinct chapters that usually revolve around the introduction of a new character. Aided by an epic breakout from Tahar Rahim, A Prophet is a confidently made mobster movie that stands amongst the best.
O BROTHER WHERE ART THOU (2000)
I’m almost ashamed to say that I have never sat down and watched the entirety of O Brother Where Art Thou but it feels good to get it off my chest. Thankfully, it lived up to the high praise I’ve heard sung by hipsters and movie critics at large. Once again giving a story, which is a straggly update on Homer’s ‘The Odyssey’, a whole new set of legs than any of their previous work, the Coens continue a string of encyclopedic work that knows no bounds and dares journey into just about any territory they please. The hypnotic music, literary references, and band of stooges all help to carve a niche film the likes of none other that is easily recommended to just about anyone interested in music, comedy, or antiquity.
LAURENCE ANYWAYS (2013)
If you’re going to see one three-hour French-language film about star crossed lovers acclimating to a sexual identity crisis this year make it Laurence Anyways. First of all, you’ll sound so much more sophisticated when you one up all those wanna be know it alls babbling over Blue is the Warmest Color. Secondly, it’s a better film. With staggering performances from its two leads, decadent set and costume design, a throbbing score, and zesty direction, Laurence Anyways reaches emotional highs and blistering lows that only something this real and yet surreal could accomplish.