Embracing the Melodrama #59: At Any Price (dir by Ramin Bahrani)


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With Embracing the Melodrama coming to a close (only two more reviews to go, including this one!), I want to take this opportunity to tell you about a good film from last year that didn’t get quite as much attention as it may have deserved.  The Iowa-set At Any Price is a look at greed, family secrets, and even murder in rural America.  It’s not a perfect film but it features a perfect lead performance from Dennis Quaid and it’s worth taking a chance on.

Dennis Quaid plays Henry Whipple, an Iowa farmer who also works as a sales representative for the Liberty Seed Company.  Henry sells genetically modified seeds and one thing that this film gets absolutely right is just how cut-throat the seed business truly is in the heartland.  Henry is very proud to be the top seed salesman in the county, with only Jim Johnson (Clancy Brown) coming close to matching him.  The film’s best scenes are the ones that follow Henry as he travels along his route, selling seeds, giving away candy bars, and always flashing his wide grin.  It’s only as the film progresses that we start to notice how desperate that grin really is.  Henry, we soon realize, is motivated mainly by greed and fear.  He’s the type of farmer who will go to a stranger’s funeral just to try to buy the deceased’s land.  Henry is also the type of guy who is willing to cut ethical corners to sell seeds as well.  As far as Henry is concerned, he’s only doing what he has to do to make sure that he has a successful business to pass on to his family.

Henry is all about his family and, while that may be his redemption, it’s also his family’s curse because Henry is something of a control freak.  Henry’s loyal wife (Kim Dickens) turns a blind eye to Henry’s mistress (Heather Graham).  Meanwhile, his oldest son has fled Iowa and moved down to South America.  Henry’s remaining son, Dean (Zac Efron), is more interested in pursuing a career in NASCAR than on the family farm.  Eventually, as the result of a shocking and almost random act of violence, Dean is forced to pick his future.

With both Neighbors and That Awkward Moment, Zac Efron has been reinventing himself as a skilled comedic actor.  Before that, however, he appeared in a series of movies that were meant to show his dramatic range, films like The Paperboy, Parkland, and this one.  These films ranged in quality from terrible to good but, in all of them, Zac Efron felt miscast.  Efron is the weak link in At Any Price.  Dean is supposed to be a character driven by both anger and a need to win (at any price — we have a title!) but when we look at Efron’s pretty blue eyes, we’re left with the impression that there’s not much going on behind them.

Far more effective is Dennis Quaid.  Quaid is so likable in the role that it takes a while to realize that Henry is essentially a monster.  And yet, you never totally lose your sympathy for him.  He has his own demons, demons that he’s passing down to his son.  The power of Quaid’s performance is that you can tell he knows he’s wrong but he just can’t stop himself.

At Any Price is a good farmland melodrama, full of beautiful landscapes and carefully observed details.  It’s not a perfect film but it is one worth watching for anyone who is wondering whatever happened to the American dream.

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What If Lisa Marie Picked The Oscar Nominees…


With the Oscar nominations due to be announced this week, now is the time that the Shattered Lens indulges in a little something called, “What if Lisa had all the power.” Listed below are my personal Oscar nominations.  Please note that these are not the films that I necessarily think will be nominated.  The fact of the matter is that the many of them will not.  Instead, these are the films that would be nominated if I was solely responsible for deciding the nominees this year.  Winners are listed in bold.

You can check out my picks for 2010 by clicking here.

My picks for 2011 can be found here.

And, finally, here are my picks for 2012.

Best Picture

Best Picture

12 Years A Slave

American Hustle

Before Midnight

Blue Is The Warmest Color

Frances Ha

Fruitvale Station

Her

Inside Llewyn Davis

Spring Breakers

Upstream Color

Shane+Carruth+Upstream+Color+Portraits+2013+DRHrpQS3Qacx

Best Director

Noah Baumbach for Frances Ha

Shane Carruth for Upstream Color

Spike Jonze for Her

Harmony Korine for Spring Breakers

David O. Russell for American Hustle

new-wolf-of-wall-street-trailer-leonardo-dicaprio-is-the-wealthiest-stockbroker-in-the-world

Best Actor

Bruce Dern in Nebraska

Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf Of Wall Street

Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club

Joaquin Phoenix in Her

Dennis Quaid in At Any Price

This-one-is-good

Best Actress

Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine

Julie Delpy in Before Midnight

Adèle Exarchopoulos in Blue Is The Warmest Color

Greta Gerwig in Frances Ha

Amy Seimetz in Upstream Color

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Best Supporting Actor

Barkhad Abdi in Captain Phillips

Kyle Chandler in The Spectacular Now

Bradley Cooper in American Hustle

James Franco in Spring Breakers

Jared Leto in Dallas Buyers Club

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Best Supporting Actress

Jennifer Lawrence in American Hustle

Eva Mendes in The Place Beyond The Pines

Lupita Nyong’o in 12 Years A Slave

Léa Seydoux in Blue Is The Warmest Color

Octavia Spencer in Fruitvale Station

Her

Best Original Screenplay

American Hustle

Blue Jasmine

Her

Inside Llewyn Davis

Upstream Color

Before-Midnight

Best Adapted Screenplay

12 Years A Slave

Before Midnight

Blue Is The Warmest Color

The Spectacular Now

The Wolf of Wall Street

November 1st, 2013 @ 20:49:52

Best Animated Feature

The Croods

Despicable Me 2

Ernest and Celestine

Frozen

Monsters University

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Best Documentary Feature

20 Feet From Stardom

The Armstrong Lie

Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer

Stories We Tell

Tim’s Vermeer

Blue-is-the-Warmest-Color

Best Foreign Language Film

(Please note that I do things differently for this category than the Academy.   For this award, I am nominating the best foreign language films to be released in the United States in 2013.)

Beyond the Hills

Blue Is The Warmest Color

No

Renoir

White Elephant

The Great Gatsby1

Best Production Design

12 Years A Slave

Gravity

The Great Gatsby

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Oz: The Great and Powerful

Spring Breakers

Best Cinematography

Frances Ha

Inside Llewyn Davis

Nebraska

Spring Breakers

Upstream Color

American Hustle

Best Costume Design

12 Years A Slave

American Hustle

The Copperhead

The Great Gatsby

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Upstream Color

Best Film Editing

12 Years A Slave

American Hustle

Gravity

Her

Upstream Color

American Hustle 2

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

12 Years A Slave

American Hustle

Dallas Buyers Club

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Warm Bodies

Maniac

Best Original Score

Gravity

Her

Maniac

Trance

Upstream Color

The Great Gatsby2

Best Original Song

“Let it Go” from Frozen

“A Little Party Never Killed Nobody (All We Got)” from The Great Gatsby

“Young and Beautiful” from The Great Gatsby

“The Moon Song” from Her

“I See Fire” from The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

“Atlas” from The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

“Please Mr. Kennedy” from Inside Llewyn Davis

“So You Know What It’s Like” from Short Term 12

“Becomes The Color” from Stoker

“Here It Comes” from Trance

Iron Man 3

Best Sound Editing

All Is Lost

Iron Man 3

Pacific Rim

Rush

Upstream Color

Pacific Rim

Best Sound Mixing

All Is Lost

Iron Man 3

Pacific Rim

Rush

Upstream Color

Gravity

Best Visual Effects

Gravity

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Iron Man 3

Oz: The Great and Powerful

Pacific Rim

List of Films By Number of Nominations:

9 Nominations — Upstream Color

8 Nominations — American Hustle

7 Nominations — 12 Years A Slave, Her

5 Nominations — Blue Is The Warmest Color

4 Nominations — Frances Ha, Gravity, The Great Gatsby, Inside Llewyn Davis, Spring Breakers

3 Nominations — Before Midnight, Dallas Buyers Club, Iron Man 3, Pacific Rim

2 Nominations — All Is Lost, Blue Jasmine, Frozen, Fruitvale Station, Nebraska, Oz The Great and Powerful, Rush, The Spectacular Now, Trance, The Wolf of Wall Street

1 Nominations — 20 Feet From Stardom, The Armstrong Lie, At Any Price, Beyond The Hills, Captain Phillips, The Copperhead, The Counselor, The Croods, Despicable Me 2, Ernest and Celestine, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Maniac, Monsters University, No, The Place Beyond The Pines, Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer, Renoir, Short Term 12, Stoker, Stories We Tell, Tim’s Vermeer, Warm Bodies, White Elephant

List of Films By Number of Oscars Won

3 Oscars — American Hustle, Upstream Color

2 Oscars — The Great Gatsby

1 Oscar — Before Midnight, Blue is The Warmest Color, Frances Ha, Frozen, Gravity, Her, Iron Man 3, Maniac, Pacific Rim, The Spectacular Now, Spring Breakers, Stories We Tell, The Wolf of Wall Street

Lisa Marie Picks The Best 26 Films of 2013


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2o13 was an unusually good year in film.  While there was never any doubt what my number one film would be, it took me considerably longer to narrow down my other favorites to just 25 movies.

Also complicating matters is that a film that I’m very much looking forward to, Spike Jonze’s Her, is not going to be opening here until next weekend.  Because I haven’t seen it, I could not consider it for this list.  If, after I do see it, I feel that it belongs in the top 26, I will add it.

(Update: I have since seen Her and I have modified my original list. — LMB, 1/1o/14)

You may be asking, “Why 26 films?”  Lisa doesn’t do odd numbers, that’s why.

Without further ado, here’s the list!

  1. Upstream Color
  2. American Hustle
  3. Frances Ha
  4. Her
  5. Before Midnight
  6. Blue Is The Warmest Color
  7. Spring Breakers
  8. 12 Years A Slave
  9. Fruitvale Station
  10. Inside Llewyn Davis
  11. The Wolf of Wall Street
  12. Warm Bodies
  13. The Counselor 
  14. Gravity
  15. Blue Jasmine
  16. The Spectacular Now
  17. Much Ado About Nothing
  18. Dallas Buyers Club
  19. The Conjuring
  20. Drinking Buddies
  21. Iron Man 3
  22. Nebraska
  23. The Place Beyond The Pines
  24. At Any Price
  25. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
  26. All Is Lost
  27. The Iceman
  28. Frozen

Upstream Color

(Now that you’ve seen my favorites of 2013, check out my picks for 2010, 2011, and 2012!)

Other Entries In TSL’s Look Back At 2013:

  1. Lisa Marie’s 12 Favorite Novels of 2013
  2. Lisa Marie’s 12 Favorite Non-Fiction Books of 2013
  3. Semtex Skittle’s 2013: The Year in Video Games
  4. 20 Good Things Lisa Marie Saw On Television in 2013
  5. 10 0f Lisa Marie’s Favorite Songs of 2013
  6. Lisa Marie’s 16 Worst Films of 2013
  7. Necromoonyeti’s Top 10 Metal Albums of 2013
  8. Things That Dork Geekus Dug In 2013
  9. Lisa Marie’s Best of 2o13 SyFy