Tag Archives: Academy Award

Trials & Triumph

Terrific cast, searing true story in Oscar-winning ‘Slave’

12YearsASlave_BD

12 Years a Slave

Blu-ray $39.99, DVD $29.98 (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment)

 

With its Oscar for Best Picture capping off a run as one of the most celebrated films of 2013, director Steve McQueen’s epic adaptation of a true American slave’s odyssey is often difficult to watch, but becomes something triumphant to behold. The all-star cast (which includes Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt, Benedict Cumberbatch, Sarah Paulson, Paul Dano and Paul Giamatti) is anchored by the riveting powerhouse performances of Chiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon Northup, a free black man kidnapped and sold into slavery, and Lupita Nyong’o, who received the Academy Award for Supporting Actress as Patsy, a fellow captive. Extras include several behind-the-scene features, including Ejiofor reading passages from Northup’s autobiography, on which the movie was based.

 

—Neil Pond, American Profile Magazine

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Far Out

Sandra Bullock is a knockout in thrilling outer-space drama 

Gravity

Gravity

Blu-ray +DVD + Digital Bonus Pack $35.99 (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)

Sandra Bullock stars in this technically dazzling Oscar-nominated thriller as a NASA medical engineer thrown into a terrifying struggle to survive after her first space shuttle mission suddenly erupts in catastrophe. George Clooney’s also along for some of the ride, but this is Bullock’s show all the way as her character stares down the blackness of the cold, indifferent, infinite void of the cosmos—and wonders how she can possibly get home.  Bonus content includes behind-the-scenes features, a short film by director Jonás Cuarón, and a look at the groundbreaking special effects, which create the most realistic, believable scenes of bodies and other “weightless” objects bobbing, bouncing, twirling, hurtling, and colliding ever depicted on screen.

—Neil Pond, American Profile Magazine

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Winter Break

Will ‘Nebraska’ finally crack the Oscar ice for Bruce Dern?

NEBRASKA

Nebraska

Starring Bruce Dern & Will Forte

Directed by Alexander Payne

R, 115 min.

Bruce Dern has only been up for two Academy Awards. Back in 1979, he was nominated for his supporting role as a stressed-out Vietnam-vet husband in Coming Home. (He lost to Christopher Walken, who played another, even more stressed-out Vietnam vet, in The Deer Hunter.)

Now, 25 years later, he’s back in the running again, this time for a Best Actor trophy, for what might well be the crowning performance of his entire career—as a cantankerous Montana senior citizen on a crazy quest to claim a sweepstakes jackpot across the state line in Nebraska.

Dern plays Woody Grant, who mistakenly thinks that the Publishers Clearing House-style notification/solicitation he’s received means he’s won a million dollars. Woody may have a touch of dementia, might have a drinking problem, and he certainly “believes stuff that people tell him,” according to his adult son, David (Will Forte of Saturday Night Live fame).

NEBRASKAThis “little” film shuffles along at a leisurely pace, without a lot of the frills, thrills or spills that usually mark box-office champs. Yet it’s up for five other 2014 Oscars: Best Picture, plus nominations for June Squibb (Supporting Actress), who plays Woody’s tart-tongued war horse of a wife; veteran cinematographer Phedon Papamichael, whose black-and-white vistas often look like fine-art photographic prints; writer Bob Nelson, who provided the wit, warmth and humanity of the screenplay; and director Alexander Payne (The Descendants, Sideways, About Schmidt, Election), a native of Omaha, whose affinity for the empty, wide-open spaces and deadpan social cadences of the Midwest shows in the authenticity of every scene, every conversation, and every character, and in the way he gradually reveals the details, wrinkles and folds of the story.

It’s a story of a simple road trip that becomes something much bigger, much broader, and much deeper—a tale of fathers and sons and families, of generosity and grudges, of old memories and youthful frolics, of the many shades of grey in the wide spectrum of love.

NEBRASKA

“He doesn’t need a nursing home,” David tells his brother (Bob Odenkirk, of TV’s Breaking Bad). “He just needs something to live for.”

It’s got six shots at taking home an Oscar this year. But even if doesn’t, this wonderful, warmhearted winter gem of a film is already a big winner, especially for anyone fortunate enough to see it.

—Neil Pond, American Profile Magazine

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