Final Django Unchained Trailer!

This is the final trailer Quentin Tarentino will release for his new movie, Django Unchained, coming out this Christmas.  There are few directors that I will line up and watch no matter what the film eventually looks like, and Tarentino is one of them.  But this looks like an absolute winner.

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Spritually Beatufiul and Visually Stunning: Life of Pi Review

Religion, spirituality and God are something of a major issue in the world we live in today, especially in the United States.  It’s a conversation that instills polarizing opinions and beliefs, and it frustrates our world to see that religion, an ideology and theology of peace and love, has brought nothing more than pain and suffering throughout history.  But in Life of Pi, God and spirituality is something much more than what the typical cynic or atheist would assume, and fortunately for all of us engaged in the spiritual realm of life, Life of Pi is a grand tale of how life can and cannot explain the role God plays, no matter we believe is God or if God exists.

Life of Pi, based off the New York Times bestselling novel by Yann Martel, entails the journey of Piscine Molitor “Pi” Patel, an Indian child seeking God in numerous ways.  His father, a property own that also includes a zoo, is a non-believer, one who emphasizes the importance of science and medicine as truth.  His mother on the other hand, is a gentle and kindred soul who believes that Hinduism, or religion in general, is a way of life that can only explain the human soul.  Intrigued in the idea of a greater being, Pi consumes on many religious beliefs, eventually become a Muslim, Christian and a Hindu all at the same time.  This is a very important characteristic of Pi that we’ll discuss later.  But moving forward, Pi and his family decide to move to Canada on a freighter ship, where they take all their belongings and their animals.  Unfortunately, tragedy strikes as the ship is caught within a horrendous storm, and all Pi can do is watch the ship sink in his lifeboat. 

This sets up the main situation of the entire film where Pi tries to survive on the lifeboat with a tiger named Richard Parker, an orangutan, a zebra and a hyena.  As time continues and Pi struggles for survival, his relationship with Richard Parker changes in ways that he cannot imagine.  And this is where the film really takes off to a new realm.  Richard Parker and Pi are so essential, and their ways of dealing with each other is what makes the emphasis of survival even more noticeable and important.  They needed each other to survive, and though life would’ve been a lot easier for Pi if Richard Parker did not exist, his presence allowed Pi to move forward and continue on when he felt it wasn’t possible.

There’s so much to Life of Pi that I can’t really discuss, mainly because of spoilers and themes that shouldn’t be known unless you’ve already watched the film.  But what’s important here is what the film is mainly trying to say about life, God and how it all works.  And mainly, it doesn’t.  Before all of you religious orthodox faithfuls starting hashing me out and labeling me as an atheist, calm down.  I’m on my own spiritual journey, trying to make sense of how God works in my life.  But this is exactly what the film is trying to portray.  God works in each life differently, and how we see spirituality and our relationship with God is a personal experience that no one can take away from us.

It’s hard to make sense of religion and how it deals with the world.  This is where things get super tricky God, because things are not consistent and everyone’s life or their experiences.  To say God works in one absolute way with disagree with everyone’s personal story or testimony, and Pi’s life is the epitome of that situation.  Pi was a kind and lighthearted individual who cared about a greater being and wanted to know God better.  His priority in God and religion was a testimony to his own belief, but what he lacked the most was his faith.  When we come to our worst, faith is what keeps us sane and stable within our path.

Pi’s situation is by far a terrible one.  But what is clearly represented here is what keeps us going, especially when there’s no hope in sight.  Faith in whatever we believe in is a miraculous aspect of our soul, and to those who are non-believers, seem to think is the one thing that is unexplainable.  When things go wrong, who have we turned to that gives us peace?  We may see God as a figure that delivers us from evil or unfortunate situations, but I see God as a figure who gives us peace during times of turmoil, and though he may not be able to literally bring us out of any tragic event, He can provide something spiritually uplifting.

God is not a clear partaker in this film, but more part of the conversation.  There’s a crucial part in the ending of the film that discusses the existence of God, and personally, that is how religion should work in every individual.  Obviously, those who haven’t seen the film have no clue what I’m talking about.  But mainly, Pi’s experience and personal journey with Richard Parker will always be questioned and unbelievable, and to the scientist in all of us, is truly somewhat ridiculous.  But to the religious and faithful, it’s a story that is miraculous but possible.  But each life in this world is a remarkable journey, and the way one experiences life and sees the world is entirely up to the individual.

This film makes me want to study religion, spirituality and God forever, fully knowing that my questions will never be completely answered.  And that’s okay.  Life of Pi is not focused on the destination but the process, the journey.  How we arrive to a certain understanding or conscious belief is just as important as what the understanding or belief is. 

This film is visually mesmerizing.  The 3D is used to its full capacity, and when filmmakers like Ang Lee decide to use 3D in ways that it’s supposed to be used, I’ll be the first in line.  But this film is so much more than just the visuals.  It’s an epic adventure with a character trying to find out answers to questions we all have.  He just has a hungry tiger with him.

Life of Pi gets 4 Stars (out of 5).

Joseph Gordon Levitt To Play Next Batman Including Justice League?!

Initial reports were stating that Nolan was completely done with Bruce Wayne and that Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel has no connection to the future Justice League films set to open on 2015.  But new reports now say that Snyder’s Superman will be part of the Justice League world, and that it’s very possible that Joseph Gordon-Levitt will play the next Batman in future installments and in the Justice League series.  MIND BLOWN.  Reports are that Warner Bros. and Gordon-Levitt are in contract talks and include certain number of films.  This will be very interesting to watch as all this plays out.

The Oscar Race Heats Up As Lincoln Becomes Early Favorite

The Oscar race is a fascinating experience.  if you’re a crazed and psychopath Oscar-goer, then you know, like the NFL, there is no such thing as an off-season.  Once the Academy Awards are finished, the new season begins, and though our helpings of fresh and exciting news aren’t always constantly fed throughout the year, this season, November-December, is where the race really heats up.  This is where studios save their best for last.  Their highly placed treasures are in their back pockets, waiting and waiting, until the right moment approaches.  That’s why timing is everything in the Oscar race.  If you don’t understand this, then you’ll be easily left and forgotten as the Academy is no sympathizing angel.  It’s a monster, but a monster that can be tamed, if and when the right film comes along.

As the Oscar season hits full stream, I’ll be updating more with news, opinions and constant posts on how the Oscar season is shaping.  If you’ve read before, I’ve posted my first Oscar race post claiming that Argo is on top of the leader board.  Though it still is definitely a contender, it is no more the head honcho.

Best Picture

1.  Lincoln

Critical acclaim and box office success are necessary components to Oscar success.  If you don’t have either, you have to be one damn good film (to the Academy’s eyes) to overcome.  it’s happened before, but it’s rare, and it happens usually when the Academy doesn’t want another film to win.  Lincoln, however, is everything the Academy jumps on.  Besides the two important factors, it has a tremendous cast with Daniel Day-Lewis leading as its captain.  Then add in the best screenplay of the year by Tony Kushner and Steven Spielberg (guarantee nomination), well you should get the picture.  Right now, it’s in the driver’s seat and peaked at a very good time as the early nominations move will certainly attribute to Lincoln’s awards success.  Right now, I’m projecting around 10-11 nominations for Lincoln, including a lock for Best Picture.  But it definitely has some large and difficult roadblocks ahead as…

2.  Les Miserables

If you’ve seen the musical, then you’ll know how emotionally engaging and fulfilling this production is.  Having just witnessed the touring production in Chicago, it’s a masterpiece full of excellent music and prospering roles.  So if one can adapt this on screen, Les Mis has the potential to be a monster of a hit.  This is what I’ve been hearing all over twitter from different sources as Les Miserables from Tom Hooper screened at multiple theaters over the weekend in Los Angeles and New York.  Though I’ve personally haven’t seen it, I’m ready to claim Les Miserables as a contender, knowing fully the response I had watching the musical.  I’ve personally been told “if you’ve seen the musical, you’ll love the movie” which means I know how I’ll respond to the film.  The only question is how will the Academy?  Anne Hatheway has been slated as a lock for snagging Best Supporting Actress already, which means it definitely is a film to be reckoned with.  Les Miserables has a few obstacles to overcome also as it deals with a Christmas release (a little late IMO), Tom Hooper winning BD and BP two years prior and a potential receptive culture hinging on prior experiences with the onstage production.  My personal feelings is that Les Miserables has the potential to pull a Million Dollar Baby here.  The Aviator had been the favorite for a long time, and then all of a sudden came this late December release.  What will be important to watch is the Best Ensemble Award for the SAG.  Lincoln and Les Miserables will go head-to-head there, and whoever wins that may dictate who wins Best Picture.

3.  Argo

Unfortunately for Ben Affleck and co., they peaked too soon.  This is a great film.  It’s classic filmmaking at its finest, and in any other year, it has the potential to win Best Picture.  But likewise for all the great films of 2012, it’s a clouded race with highly excellent candidates.  Argo needs plenty of support from the critics, and I don’t know if that’ll do enough for Argo to make a late push for Best Picture.  It’s one of those films that got hot too early and is starting to lose its steam.  But it has nothing to do with its quality.  The Oscar race is the Oscar race.  But Argo will definitely snag a Best Picture nomination.

4.  Silver Linings Playbook

I was personally torn and confused on where to put this film on the list of contenders.  Having just recently seen this film over Thanksgiving (review coming), it’s an engaging film driven by its performances.  Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawerence and Robert De Niro all put in their best work, and it is one of the more emotionally captivating films currently in the awards season.  That is its biggest element working for SLP.  The Academy goes ape-crazy for emotional films, and SLP is no short of an emotional experience.  The only thing is that all these films are emotional.  They hinge on the audience having strong feelings, and if that’s the only thing SLP has going for it, then it’s going to fall short.  Though members of the Academy are buzzing over the film, this Oscar race is a long and tiring one, and if the buzz is nothing short of Best Picture winner, then I don’t think it’s enough to put SLP in the top spot.  I may be wrong, but I’m going with my gut feeling on SLP.

5.  Zero Dark Thirty

Likewise with Les Miserables, it’s a film I haven’t seen but have heard roaring applause for over twitter.  Screenings have been taking place and many are saying it’s better than The Hurt Locker (Won Picture, Director and Screenplay).  The fact that this film is something different and particularly diverse compared to the rest of the field will help ZDT’s chances if all the major contenders play the emotion and feelings card.  This is a film strictly focused on killing Osama Bin Laden.  Nothing more.  Like Lincoln, it doesn’t stray away from it’s emphasis.  Much respect to Kathyrn Bigelow and Mark Boal for repeating their excellent work.  Considering that I haven’t seen ZDT, I can only put it at my number 5 slot.  But, look out for a potential underdog.

6.  Life of Pi

Oh Life of Pi, how much I appreciated you (review coming).  It’s such a grand and epic film in both visual and spiritual entities.  It’s a film that captures everything you want in a film experience, but like all the other contenders fighting for a spot, it’s main Achilles heel would be being released in 2012.  Being nominated will be it’s main achievement, and the Academy will also reward the film with multiple nominations including Director, Screenplay and Special Effects of course.   But for Life of Pi to be seriously considered a Best Picture contender, it would have to pull a huge upset in multiple facets of award programs and I just don’t see that happening.

Other Contenders/Potential Nominees

The Master

Beasts of the Southern Wild

Amour

Moonrise Kingdom

The Impossible

Django Unchained

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Goodness.  There’s just so much quality and greatness in this year’s potential 2012 Best Picture lineup.  What a major headache this will be for Academy members.  And this is what the Oscar season will be until the eventful night in February of 2013.  I honestly have no clue what’s going to happen.  Unlike last year where it was clear that The Artist was going to demolish everyone and everything in its sights, this year, we can have a wide range of awardees from major outlets and not have a clear concise favorite.  This is going to be an exciting Awards season and I hope you’re ready for the ride.

Prediction for Best Picture (11/26/12):  My gut tells me Les Miserables.

 

One Of The Most Important Films Of All Time: Lincoln Review

Bravo Steven Spielberg.  Bravo Tony Kushner.  Bravo Daniel Day-Lewis.  And kudos to the rest of the cast.  Lincoln, a persuasive but elegant film specifically focused on the passing of the 13th Amendment, will go down as one of the greatest and most important films in cinematic history.

I was extremely concerned and hesitant with Lincoln, and it all started with Steven Spielberg.  Don’t get me wrong, Spielberg will always be my favorite director of all time.  His resume is untouchable in both critical and financial success.  But lately, his films have garnered a different response as his films have taken a completely different attitude.  It all started with The Terminal, something that was good but not Spielbergesque, but understanding not every film is going to be a complete masterpiece.  Then Munich, War of the Worlds, Indiana Jones and finally War Horse.  There isn’t much to say about his last few films except that are very challenging and difficult films to direct.  The praised director is not a writer, so you can only so far with a struggling script, but specifically with War Horse, it was a film that felt misguided and too “preachy”.  I’m a Social Studies and History major, so for me to feel bored and uninterested in a Hollywood film says enough.  So when Spielberg’s next project was based off our 16th President, I was expecting more War Horse prequel then astounding classic.

Doing a film on Abraham Lincoln is so difficult and unapproachable that Spielberg had to understand that there was no room for error.  From the script, the mannerisms, and even the sound of his carriage, everything had to be precise and perfect.  And if not, the history gods would send the wrath of 1000 nerds, including myself, as if there’s one figure you must get accurately, it is our dear Abraham Lincoln.

How dare I doubt Spielberg?

Lincoln is primarily focused on the final months of Lincoln’s life, centering around the struggle to pass the 13th Amendment in the House of Representatives.  Battling Congress, his cabinet and even his own family at times, Abraham Lincoln pushes for the complete emancipation of slaves before the war ends knowing that if this does not get passed, slavery will continue.  The choice to focus on this and only this in Lincoln’s Presidency and pretty much his life is a bold and daring move.  But what’s so important about emphasizing this specific time in Lincoln’s life is that this is most likely his biggest contribution to America.  The man alone is an example to all in many different areas as his importance to family and the way he treats all individuals.  But this, the passing of the 13th Amendment, is where Lincoln’s legacy will always sustain.

The film does a tremendous job of staying on task.  If you’re going to do a movie about Lincoln and the 13th Amendment, then hell, stay on the 13th Amendment.  There is plenty of room for the film to go on a tangent, but it stays course the entire time.  That doesn’t mean that we don’t witness other characters and Lincoln’s involvement with other individuals outside of the 13th Amendment.  We see plenty of sides of Lincoln; the troubled, stressed, the family man.  But all interactions are based upon the importance of the 13th Amendment, the Civil War and the purpose of why the nation is in such a terrible state.  The film concentrates and fully delivers on its promise of delivering the push of the 13th Amendment, and how Lincoln’s Presidency was defined by it.

But obviously, nothing will be successful in a Lincoln biopic if Lincoln is not performed in a perfected reenactment, but being fully aware that Daniel Day-Lewis, proclaimed as the greatest actor of our time (I agree), is fulfilling the shoes, there were absolutely no concerns.  And when you see the masterful performance on screen, you don’t see Daniel Day-Lewis in some pretty convincing make-up, no you witness President Lincoln in all his glory.  Lewis so committed and fully developed into the President, and instead of trying to be a deep, resonating voice that we all think Lincoln was, Lewis goes for accuracy.

I’m no Lincoln expert, but I appreciate that the truth played out the public belief.  We witness a man who is humble but confident in his beliefs.  We witness a father who has love and tenderness, but also struggle with past failures and pain.  We see a President scarred by the war and being the man who arguably led 600,000 to their deaths, but also fully understands that no man has died in vain.  He’s so in tune with what defined Lincoln in all phases of his life that this not a performance, this is Daniel Day-Lewis becoming Abraham Lincoln.

If you don’t know Lewis’ methodology, he fully becomes the character he plays on and off screen.  He’s praised for his research and his abilities, but only because he puts complete devotion to his character.  He talks to his friends and co-workers in his character, even off-screen.  He is fully into the mind of his role, and that’s what separates him from the rest.  And you can clearly see the amount of effort and tireless determination Lewis brings to the screen.  There’s nothing short of astounding work here.  I honestly didn’t think Daniel Day-Lewis could ever top his performance in There Will Be Blood, but his resilience and complete focus as Lincoln will go down as one of the greatest achievements in film.  The third Oscar awaits you Mr. Lewis.

Something that should be fully understood however is that though Lewis knocks it out of the park, he does not overshadow the rest of the ensemble.  Though this is a lifetime career performance, the supporting roles are just as good, and might’ve enhanced Lewis’ abilities even more.  This was a truly masterful film in an acting perspective.  This cast is as good as it gets.  David Strathairn, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, James Spader, Hal Holbrook, John Hawkes, Jackie Earle Haley.  This is a cast that any director would be proud to work with.  They’re all truly astonishing and amazing with clear intentions on getting their role down to a precise tee.

But two supporting performances stood out than the rest.  Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln and Tommy Lee Jones as Thaddeus Stevens deserve just as much recognition as Lewis.  Both veterans in their respective field, but looking back at all their work in their seasoned careers, I don’t think I’ve seen such performances from either actors as I witnessed in Lincoln.  The importance of each role is sufficient to that of Lincoln’s agenda and current situation.  Stevens, a radical Republican who dares to see a nation other than complete equality, must understand Lincoln’s proposed Amendment, willing to sacrifice his own beliefs and understand change and progress does not come in quick responses.  Stevens doesn’t interact with President Lincoln all too much on screen.  But that’s the beauty of their relationship.  Lincoln mainly struggles with the Democrats, refusing to vote for the 13th Amendment, but there’s also a small but tense situation between the radical Republicans, which Stevens is obviously the leader of, pushing for complete equality including segregation and voting rights.  This is Tommy Lee Jones at his best.  He’s complete aware of his performance, understanding his involvement and important part in this period film.  He’s not there to just earn a paycheck a la Men In Black 3.  No, this is a passion piece for Jones, and as audiences we should appreciate and adore when actors like Tommy Lee Jones steps up to the plate.

As so Sally Field.  Sally Field is the most important actor other than Daniel Day-Lewis because this is where we get to see the mortal figure of Lincoln.  She brings out the flaws and the struggles of our 16th President, mainly dealing with death and tragedy of their eldest son.  As the First Lady, she completes the responsibilities in ways no other First Lady has ever done so before.  But behind the scenes, she’s conflicted and tortured by how politics has mislead their family and if it will continue to strain the lives and their sons.  Sally Field is so crucial to this film, and it’s mesmerizing to watch Lewis and Field on screen together.

Lincoln succeeds on all levels.  Personally, this is the kind of movie that instills my beliefs and virtues as a citizen in the United States.  Obviously I’m biased as a Social Studies and History major, so for some, this film will not be nowhere near as engaging and entertaining as it was for me, but still, you can’t take away what the film achieves.  Lincoln achieves something that no other film has, and that is that America is continually growing nation.  We aren’t perfect as our history will tell us.  We make countless mistakes, which includes inside and outside of slavery and racism.  But progress is a virtue, and a virtue our nation must hold dear no matter what generation we are currently living in.

I’ll be the first to always criticize our country from our inability to act in bipartisanship or how we sometimes forget the foundations of how this country was built through strength in the Constitution and belief in our representation, but Lincoln reminds us that progress and change is something that takes time.  We must remember that it took almost 100 years between abolishing slavery and creating equal and voting rights for the same people.  No matter how fast or slow, change for bettering our nation is always progress.  Abraham Lincoln was graceful and an elegant man, but when it came down to his political and social views, he was relentless and merciless.  He stood for what believed, even if it was taking advantage of his powers.  But in the end, a righteous man will always overcome.  And Lincoln is the epitome of this. 

Lincoln is more than a film.  It’s a reminder that we should be proud of what our country has been able to overcome and achieve through our differences and misunderstandings.  Lincoln is a look at an individual who understood that the fight for freedom and the eventual outcome was more important than the constant reminders and difficulties of the process.  Lincoln is a perfect example of a film completely dedicated to its material.

Lincoln receives 4 1/2 stars (out of 5).  First time I’ve ever given a film more than 4 stars.

Star Wars Update: Brad Bird Is Out!

Unfortunate news Star Wars nerds.  Brad Bird, the director behind The Incredibles and Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol has taken himself out of the running for Star Wars Episode VII.  He’s currently working with Disney to create the science fiction film, 1952, with George Clooney being attached to the project.  There aren’t many candidates left so it’s going to be interesting who Kathleen Kennedy and co. decides to go with.  But it seems to me that Matthew Vaughn is still the favorite.  We’ll keep our eyes and ears open.

The article is posted here at Collider.