From the first scene of Germany’s All Quiet On The Western Front, it’s made clear that there is no glamour or romance to war.
The year is 1917 and the Great War (or World War I as future historians will call it) has been underway for three years. On the Western Front, soldiers hide in trenches and wait for the inevitable order to try to advance to the next set of trenches. Most of the soldiers are cut down by machine gun fire and explosions as soon as they go over the top. Many more are killed as they try to run across the killing field. We are introduced to one soldier who has been ordered to charge. Within a few minutes, he is dead and his uniform has been taken, washed, and sewn up so that it can be given to whoever will be the next to enlist. The whole process plays out with a disturbing efficiency. That several men have just died in a attack that seems to lack any strategic purpose does not matter. What matters is that the uniform be ready to be worn by whoever follows.
The uniform is next handed to Paul (Felix Kammerer), a 17 year-old who not only enlists in the Imperial Germany Army but who plays a key role in convincing his friends to enlist as well. Paul has been moved by the patriotic speeches that he heard from his teachers. He expects war to be an adventure. Upon their arrival on the Western Front, Paul and his friends are surrounded by death. With their uniforms on and their gas masks over their faces, they are nearly unrecognizable as individuals. Instead, they look like what they are, cogs in the war machine. Paul spends his first night in the trenches while bombs explode all around him. His friend, Ludwig (Adrian Grunewald), cries that he wants to return home. By the next morning, Ludwig is one of the many who is now dead. Only Kat (Albrecht Schuch) is willing to look after Paul and his friends. Kat is considered to be a weathered veteran because he has managed to survive for nearly a year on the Western Front.
All Quiet On The Western Front is based on the classic anti-war novel by Erich Maria Remarque. (A previous adaptation won the Oscar for Best Picture in 1930 and is generally considered to be the first truly “good” Best Picture winner.) Th film takes some liberties with the book’s plot while still remaining faithful to Remarque’s theme of the futility of war. One change is that, along with following Paul’s day-to-day life on the Western Front, the film also details the efforts of diplomat Mattias Erzberger (Daniel Bruhl) to negotiate Germany’s surrender. It’s a fairly big departure from Remarque’s narrative but one that definitely stays true to the spirit of the book. Despite the fact that Germany knows that it has been defeated and that it will have to surrender, Paul and his friends are still expected to fight and sacrifice their lives for a victory that is no longer attainable. Indeed, the closer that Erzberger comes to signing a cease fire, the more determined General Friedrichs (Devid Striesow) becomes to launch one final, great offensive before the war ends. The soldier have no idea what is going on during Erzberger’s negotiations and Erzberger has no idea that Paul has lost the majority of his friends and has been forced to do things that will forever haunt him. They may not know about each other but Paul’s fate depends on Erzberger’s decisions and the legacy of Erzberger and all the other diplomats and commanders is to be found in what happens to soldiers like Paul.
All Quiet On The Western Front is a brutally effective anti-war film. Director Edward Berger puts the viewer right in the middle of combat and it is absolutely terrifying. Paul goes from being an enthusiastic patriot to a hollow-eyed cynic, one who knows that he is considered expendable by both the enemy and his commanders. The viewer, like Paul, quickly realizes that there is no way to win this war, other than to somehow survive long enough to return home. But even the soldiers who do survive understand that they won’t have much of a home to return to. (In a particularly shocking scene, one solder stabs himself in the neck with a fork rather than return home crippled.) While the the commanders negotiate in luxury, the soldiers live in mud and die almost randomly. The commanders may talk about strategy but the soldier know that survival comes down to luck.
It’s a harrowing film but it’s also exactly what an anti-war film should be. There’s a chance that this film could be the second adaptation of All Quiet On The Western Front to receive a nomination for Best Picture and it would certainly be deserved.
I love the Kingsman series. It looks like we have a third installment to the series, with a prequel showcasing the origins of the secret agent organization. Ralph Fiennes, Tom Hollander, Aaron Taylor-Johnson (who also worked with director Matthew Vaughn in Kick-Ass), Gemma Arterton, Daniel Bruhl, Djimon Hounsou, Charles Dance, Matthew Goode, and Stanley Tucci are all on board.
Moving right along with my look back at 2018, here are 10 good things that I saw on television.
Please note, I did not say that these were the ten “best” things on television in 2018. Instead, these are ten things that I enjoyed enough that, in January of 2019, they still pop to my mind whenever I ask myself, “What did I enjoy last year?” As always, this is just my opinion and you’re free to agree or disagree.
Got it? Okay, let’s go!
Showtime reran Twin Peaks: The Return
Okay, so maybe I’m cheating a little here. Twin Peaks: The Return originally aired in 2017. You may remember that, for about 6 months, the Shattered Lens essentially became a Twin Peaks fan site. Still, I can’t begin to describe how excited I was to discover that, over the course of a weekend, Showtime would be reairing the entire series. I binged every episode and I discovered that, even with the benefit of hindsight, it’s still one of the greatest shows of all time. Unfortunately, the Emmy voters did not agree. Bastards.
2. The Alienist
It took me a little while to really get into The Alienist but, once I did, I found myself growing obsessed with not only the sets and the costumes but the mystery as well! Daniel Bruhl, Luke Evans, and Dakota Fanning all did excellent work and I can’t wait for the sequel!
3. Jesus Christ Superstar Live
I was skeptical. I had my doubts. I thought I’d spend the entire two and a half hours rolling my eyes. Jesus Christ Superstar proved me wrong.
4. The Americans
One of the best shows on television went out on a high note.
Barry premiered on HBO and it quickly became a favorite of mine. While I agree that Bill Hader and Henry Winkler deserve all of the attention that they’ve received, I’d also say that Stephen Root continues to prove himself to be one of our greatest character actors.
6. Big Brother
The reality show that so many love to hate finally had another good season. Since I get paid to write about the show for another site, that made me happy. Seriously, some of the previous seasons were painful to watch so Big Brother 20 was a huge relief. (Plus, BB 20 inspired everyone’s favorite twitter game: “Will Julie Chen Moonves show up tonight?”)
As much fun as it is to complain about Netflix, occasionally they justify the price of their existence by giving us something like Maniac.
Sometimes, I loved this show. Sometimes, I absolutely hated it. However, I was always intrigued and never bored. I can’t wait to see what happens during season 2.
For all the attention that was given to The Assassination of Gianni Versace, Trust was the best FX true crime series of 2018. Along with an intriguing story, it also featured great performances from Donald Sutherland, Hillary Swank, and Brendan Fraser. (Yes, Brendan Fraser.)
I know a lot of people didn’t care much for the latest season of Westworld. I loved it and, in the end, isn’t that what really matters?
That’s it for television! Coming up next, it’s the entry in Lisa’s look back at 2018 that we’ve all been waiting for, my picks for the best 26 films of the year!
That, in a nutshell, is my main thought when it comes to Captain America: Civil War. It’s a movie that we spent a year anticipating. It’s a movie that we were continually assured would be great. And it’s a movie that, unlike Batman v Superman, actually lived up to all the hype. It’s also a movie that has already been reviewed here on the Shattered Lens. Check out Arleigh’s review by clicking here and be sure to check out Gary’s review as well.
So, what’s really left for me to say about Captain America: Civil War? Beyond, of course, that it was freaking awesome.
Of course, it’s hard to talk about Captain America: Civil War without also talking about Batman v Superman. Both films start with the same basic idea: the heroic activities of super heroes has led to cities being destroyed and innocent people dying. In Batman v. Superman, Batman takes it open himself to avenge the destruction of Metropolis and expose Superman as being the biggest false God since Baal. In Civil War, the United Nations announces that, from now on, all super hero activity has to be cleared with them. In Batman v. Superman, Batman and Superman are manipulated into fighting each other. In Captain America: Civil War, Captain America and Iron Man are manipulated into fighting each other. In Batman v Superman, Jesse Eisenberg plays a neurotic villain. In Captain America: Civil War, Daniel Bruhl plays a neurotic villain. Batman v Superman features more heroes than just Batman and Superman. Civil War features more heroes than just Captain America and Iron Man. Batman v Superman ends with a promise of more films to come. So does Civil War. Both films are huge and expensive star-filled spectacles and both of them are a part of a larger cinematic mythology. They both even have roughly the same running time. Of course, Batman v Superman seems even longer while Civil War is over far too quickly.
And yet, Civil War is a thousand times better than Batman v Superman. For all of its sound and fury, Batman v Superman is ultimately an empty shell. I left the film feeling not at all emotionally moved but definitely deafened by all the explosions and the yelling and the ranting and the pounding score. As I left the theater, the world sounded like it was underwater. Batman v Superman opens with the world exploding and the explosion continues for another two and a half hours. Civil War, on the other hand, takes its time. After the initial battle scene (which features a nice cameo from the great Frank Grillo), Civil War slows down. It explores its characters and their relationships and their motivations. The first hour of Civil War may be dominated by people debating but its compelling to watch because, after 8 years, the MCU and the characters within feel as alive as the world outside the theater.
In Batman v Superman, Henry Cavill and Ben Affleck appeared to be acting in separate films. That’s not a problem in Civil War. When you watch Chris Evans and Robert Downey, Jr., you believe that they are friends and, when they fight, you don’t just thrill at the action. You mourn the end of a friendship. If Batman v Superman‘s battle ultimately felt hollow, the final battle in Civil War leaves you wincing in pain.
Which is not to say that Civil War is not a fun movie. It’s the most genuinely fun film that I’ve seen so far this year. There’s a joy to the best films of the MCU, a joy that — with the exception of Gal Gadot’s cameo — was totally lacking from the somber and self-important mess that Batman v Superman. I have never heard an audience applaud more than they did while watching Civil War. The film may have been dominated by Evans and Downey but every citi of thzene MCU got a chance to shine. Scarlett Johansson, Paul Rudd, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Don Cheadle, Jeremy Renner, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, and Elizabeth Olsen all proved their worth to this new cinematic mythology. After years of using Halloween to pay homage to Scarlett Johansson, I may have to go as Wanda Maximoff this year. After seeing Hollywood waste her off-center and damaged talent in films like Godzilla, it was good to see Elizabeth Olsen playing Wanda as if she could have been a cousin to her character from Martha Marcy Mae Marlene.
The audience saved their loudest and most enthusiastic cheers for Tom Holland, who claimed the role of Spiderman as his own and thankfully freed AndrewGarfield to go back to being the intriguing actor that we all remember from The Social Network and Never Let Me Go.Holland doesn’t have a large role in Civil War but he’s still well-served by the film and the script makes great use of the character and Holland’s energetic performance. As opposed to the super hero cameos in Batman v Superman, Spiderman’s appearance didn’t just feel like merely a teaser for a future film. He belonged in the story.
Of course, Civil War is dominated by the battle between Iron Man and Captain America and it says something about how successful the MCU has been that the battle feels less like a marketing gimmick and more like the natural result of what happens when two differing worldviews come into conflict. When Tony Stark sides with the UN, it makes sense. Ever since the very first Iron Man, Tony has been motivated by both guilt over making weapons and a fear that he doesn’t deserve his success. Of course Tony would side with the UN. Doing so not only allows him to alleviate his guilt but it also frees him of responsibility for any future actions that the Avengers may take. It makes just as much sense that Captain America would feel the exact opposite. His name is Captain America, not Captain United Nations. When the UN was founded, he was still frozen in a block of ice.
(Also interesting to note: Civil War was the first MCU film that I could follow without once having to ask my boyfriend for any background info on who all the characters were. The MCU has become such a part of our culture that we all know the characters, regardless of whether we have ever read a Marvel comic or not.)
There is a nominal villain. Daniel Bruhl plays Zemo and his role is actually pretty small. That said, Zemo is definitely more interesting than the typical MCU villain (he’s certainly more memorable than Corey Stoll was in Ant-Man) and Bruhl does a good job playing him. (Watching Civil War, it was hard not to think about how much better SPECTRE would have been if Bruhl, as opposed to Christoph Waltz, had played Blofeld.) But, for me, the real villain of the film was the U.S. Secretary of State (played by William Hurt). The character represented everything that all good people hate about the power structure. William Hurt turned him into the epitome of unthinking and unreasonable authority.
After Civil War was released, Salon’s Amanda Marcotte (who, let’s just be honest, ceased to be interesting the minute that she sold out and briefly worked for John Edwards in 2007) complained that Captain America had become “a douchey Libertarian.” I would argue that 1) Captain America is definitely not douchey and 2) it’s his “libertarian” stance that makes him a hero. Captain America does not represent any institution or ideology and he doesn’t take orders from faceless bureaucrats. Captain America doesn’t need permission to do the right thing. As played by Chris Evans, there’s something undeniably poignant about Captain America attempting to cling onto his idealism and his belief in personal freedom in an increasingly complicated and totalitarian world. When told that he has a duty to become an anonymous, order-taking drone, Captain America says, “NO!”
(As a sidenote: If you want to see what the world expects Captain America to become, check out William Klein‘s Mr.Freedom.)
I know that some are claiming that Civil War is the best MCU film so far. I wouldn’t quite go that far. The film never quite reaches the lunatic heights of Guardians of the Galaxy nor does it match the subversive glee of Winter Soldierrevealing that smug old Robert Redford is an agent of HYDRA. But, no matter! Captain America: Civil War is pretty freaking great!
Here are the other MCU reviews that have appeared here on the Shattered Lens:
Captain America: The Winter Soldier wasn’t just a surprise hit for Marvel Studios and parent company Disney in 2014, it also showed the general public that there was more to Captain America than just a flag-waving symbol of America’s past glory. Captain America was a character that wasn’t the hip, wisecracking Tony Stark. He wasn’t the tortured soul in a monster’s body like Bruce Banner as the Hulk. He didn’t have the Shakespearean gravitas that was always lurking behind Thor and his complicated Asgardian family. No, Captain America was considered too straight-laced, blonde and blue-eyed goody two-shoes.
Captain America: The First Avenger focused on those very qualities. Steve Rogers was just a skinny, asthmatic young man from Brooklyn who wanted to do his part during World War II. It would be thanks to an experimental super-soldier serum that Steve Rogers’ body finally matched the inherent goodness and will to defend the little guy. For some, this initial introduction to Captain America was too hokey, but was entertaining enough. His next appearance in 2012’s game-changing superhero team-up The Avengers saw him be part tactician for a burgeoning superhero team and part comedy relief.
It would be with The Winter Soldier that the rest of the general public finally got to what comic book fans have known for years. This is a badass man, out of his time but always fighting the good fight and staying true to his convictions and principles. What was seen as hokey idealism became something of a beacon of selflessness and the moral center in a modern world that was steeped in shades of grey. It helped that writing team of Stephen McFeely and Christopher Markus (who wrote The First Avenger) finally found a pair of directors in the Russo Brothers (Anthony and Joe) who understood just what made Captain America relevant in this day and age of cynical anti-heroes.
It’s no surprise that the Russo Brothers were tasked with continuing the work they began in the Winter Soldier with McFeely and Markus with the film that would complete the Captain America trilogy in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It would be quite a task in getting Captain America: Civil War off the ground and moving forward under all the weight of nearly every MCU superhero (minus Thor, Hulk and Nick Fury) in attendance and the introduction of two new ones to the universe.
Did the Anthony and Joe Russo pull off this massive undertaking? Or did they stumble to not just the huge cast and many storyline threads the way Joss Whedon did with the ambitious, but flawed The Avengers: Age of Ultron?
I’m happy to say that the Russo Brothers did better than succeed but may have just made the best film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and proved that Marvel Studios head honcho Kevin Feige was correct in placing the brothers as the new captain of the massive thing called the Marvel Cinematic Universe as it enters Phase 3.
Captain America: Civil War is set just a year after the events of Age of Ultron where the Avengers barely defeated Tony Stark’s mad A.I. Ultron and it’s decision to wipe humanity from the planet. While the team did save the world from global extinction they also didn’t save everyone. there were still hundreds, if not, thousands of Sokovians who died during the battle. The same could be said for all the battles since the alien invasion over New York. The Avengers, led by Captain America, have saved the world from invading aliens, world-dominating terrorist group and killer A.I robots. Yet, the collateral damage caused by these battles have begun to weigh not just on some of the Avengers, but has made the governments of the world see the team as a sort of super-powered private military group who don’t obey international laws and borders. Yes, they’ve saved humanity many times from destruction, but at what cost.
It’s during a battle early in the film as Captain America and his team stop the theft of a biological weapon in the city of Lagos, Nigeria that collateral damage and deaths rear it’s head once more as Wanda Maximoff (aka the Scarlet Witch) accidentally allows a suicide bomb vest explode too close to a nearby high-rise causing the deaths of several aide workers from Wakanda.
It’s from this event that the world finally have reached a tipping point and want to put the team under U.N. control with Tony Stark agreeing to the plan to help assuage his guilt over the deaths caused by him creating Ultron. Some of the team understands that government oversight that the Sokovian Accords puts on the team is the right thing to do. While others, especially Captain America, think it’s best to leave the team to continue to be their own masters instead of beholden to a bureaucracy whose agenda may not be conducive to saving lives.
It’s a subject matter that was explored in some fashion in an earlier superhero mash-up but one that failed to stick the landing. Yet, even this battle of differing ideologies between Captain America and Iron Man only becomes part of the foundation to the true narrative for Civil War. It’s the friendship between Captain America and Bucky aka the Winter Soldier and how the former must try to prove the latter innocent of another terrorist attack the world thinks he’s responsible for. Those Avengers who signed the Accords must now bring in Bucky dead or alive while Captain America with the help of those who didn’t sign try to prove his innocence and find the true architect of the terrorist bombing.
Captain America: Civil War succeeds where the earlier superhero film failed because of the groundwork laid down by the 12 previous films released to make up the current Marvel Cinematic Universe. From Iron Man all the way up to Age of Ultron, these twelve films flesh out the backstory and characters that make up these heroes. We’ve gotten to know what motivates them to risk their lives for the greater good, but we also see glimpses of the inter-personal conflicts that looks to tear the team apart from within.
There’s not enough that could be said about the masterful work done by the Russo Brothers in juggling the personalities of twelve superheroes (two getting their initial introduction to the MCU) and giving them enough to do in the film to make them relevant to the proceedings instead of just becoming glorified cameos. The actors playing these characters have had many films to own the roles and each and everyone hits it out of the park. The stand out from the veterans in the ensemble cast still remains Chris Evans and Robert Downey, Jr as Captain America and Iron Man, respectively. Yet, it would be the arrival of the two new heroes into the mix with Chadwick Boseman as the newly-crowned king of the technologically-advanced nation of Wakanda, T’Challa and Tom Holland as the teenage chatterbox and dumpster diving tech genius Peter Parker aka Spider-Man.
Boseman as the Black Panther adds a certain level of gravitas and regal fury to the proceedings which balances the edge between serious to comedic. His Black Panther has his own agenda in getting involved in this intra-familial squabble. He has his own agenda and if it means siding with Iron Man against Captain and his team then he would do so if it succeeds in helping him finish his mission. It helps that he looks damn cool in what has to be the best superhero costume thought up by the designers in Marvel Studios.
It would be Tom Holland as the young Peter Parker and Spider-Man who steals the show whenever he’s on-screen. This is the Peter Parker and Spider-Man that comic book fans have been waiting for. While Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield succeeded in portraying some of the character’s personality, they could never fully capture what made Spider-Man such a favorite amongst comic book readers. This Spider-Man is geeky and not at all hip and cool, but with a sense of right and wrong that comes having great power means shouldering the responsibility to use it for good.
Captain America: Civil War, with its exploration of many profound ideas and themes, is still a superhero film and a tentpole blockbuster at that and audiences still want to see the action up on the big screen. Boy, does this film have action and enough of them to spare. The action scenes range from the grounded hand-to-hand fighting the Russo Brothers used to great effect in The Winter Soldier (this time around with the help from Chad Stahelski and David Leitch, directors of John Wick to provide 2nd Unit Directing help) up to the superhero battle that raises the bar on such things set at an evacuated airport in Leipzig, Germany.
This 6-on-6 tête-à-tête between friends and colleagues takes the climactic battles in both Avengers films and does them better. With each hero using their abilities to great effect in conjunction with their allies and against those they are fighting. There was never a time during this near on 20-minute action scene did it ever get confusing. Many filmmakers doing superhero (or just plain old action films) could learn a thing or two from how the Russo Brothers and 2nd Unit directors Spiros Razatos, Stahelski and Leitch choreographed and filmed all the action sequences in Civil War. It was near-perfect with only wishful thinking that Gareth Evans from The Raid films could’ve been asked to help out to make things perfect.
As huge and bombastic the film gets with this airport fight, it would be the final throw down between Captain America and Iron Man at the end of the film that we get the emotional heft the film needs to keep itself from becoming just another loud and explosive superhero film. This fight becomes personal and shows how fights between close friends become the most brutal and heartbreaking. Neither combatants are wrong about their stances in the fight, but they’re also wrong in not being able to think things through. These two alpha males who have a friendship full of respect but also combativeness throughout the years of the MCU that finally explodes into all-out war when a tragic secret from both Tony Stark’s and Bucky’s past come to light.
It’s a fight that has no winners and for a superhero film that is a major change from the usual narrative (especially within the MCU storytelling playbook). The film ends with the very team created to save the world from all threats even more unsure of their place in the ever-changing and ever-judging world. It’s a bold move by Marvel Studios to start their Phase 3 that would culminate in the battle to end all battles with the two Avengers: Infinity War films (soon to be retitled) which happen to be under the master-class guiding hands of the Russo Brothers in the directors’ chair and the writing duo Stephen McFeely and Christopher Markus.
In the end, Captain America: Civil War manages to capture not just what made comic books and films adapted from them fun and exhilarating, but also able to tackle some serious ideas and themes both existential and personal. It just goes to show that one doesn’t need to sacrifice one to have the other. One can have serious and dark but also be fun. It’s a balance that’s difficult to do, but when the people involved in creating such a story stick the landing then we a classic in the making. It bodes well for the rest of the films in Phase 3 to have such a great beginning, but also raises the bar for the other filmmakers following in the wake of what Anthony and Joe Russo have concocted. Let’s hope they are all up to the task.
We are just two weeks away from the release of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and just a week from the premiere of Netflix’s Daredevil Season 2. What better way to remind people that there is another hero vs hero film coming out to start off the summer than with the final full trailer for Captain America: Civil War.
One things which distinguishes this latest and final trailer happens right at the very end. One could almost say that this was the trailer’s post-credit sequence.
Captain America: Civil War swings into action on May 6, 2016.
It’s that time of the year when the country (to some extent the world) witness a sporting event that’s become almost ritualistic in how it gathers it’s audience. I’m talking about the yearly Super Bowl pitting the NFC champions against the AFC champs. Even if one wasn’t a huge fan of football, the Super Bowl has become such an event day not just for the game, but the half-time show. Then there are the commercials which has become just as anticipated as the game itself.
It’s this day that we get major studios plying their upcoming films for the summer blockbuster season and Disney is not a studio to let this day pass without showing something new regarding one of their biggest films this summer.
The first Captain America: Civil War trailer a couple months ago got everyone anticipating the film. Now we have the Super Bowl TV spot to fan the flame of hype for the film that dared to go up against Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice when they both had the same release date: May 6, 2016. The latter film blinked and opted to dominate the film landscape a couple months earlier.
This tv spot emphasizes the fractured nature of Avengers that lends to the film’s title of civil war.
So, which team are you on? Are you on Team Captain America? Or are you more the Team Iron Man?
Captain America: Civil War is the opening shot of Marvel’s Phase 3 for their cinematic universe. The huge success of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, both in the box-office and among critics, even convinced Marvel Studios and Disney to pit this upcoming sequel against DC’s own Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. One of the two had to blink and move their release date and it ended up being DC.
In what many have called Avengers 2.5 due to the amount of Marvel superheroes involved in the story, Captain America: Civil War will look to explore the consequences of the collateral damage incurred by Captain America and his teammates in the Avengers whenever they fight it out in public. The destruction of Midtown Manhattan during the Battle of New York was the start. The wreckage of three advanced SHIELD Helicarriers in the Potomac was another. Yet, it looks like the destruction of the capital city of Sokovia during the team’s fight against Ultron may have been the straw that broke the global governments’ back.
So, will Tony Stark and his team of Pro-Registration win out over the out-gunned Team Captain America who do not want to be beholden to the agendas of any world government?
We shall find out when Captain America: Civil War drops on everyone on May 6, 2016.
This morning the SAG Award nominees were announced and, perhaps not surprisingly, the story is less who was nominated and more who was snubbed. For instance, Oscar front-runner Robert Redford’s performance in All Is Lost was ignored while Forest Whitaker’s rather one-note turn in The Butler was nominated. Tom Hanks was not nominated for Saving Mr. Banks but the late and missed James Gandolfini picked up a nomination for Enough Said. Myself, I’m more surprised that Octavia Spenser was not nominated for her performance in Fruitvale Station.
As has been pointed out over at Goldderby, the SAG Awards are no longer the fool-proof Oscar prediction tool that they used to be. Getting a SAG nomination no longer guarantees you an Oscar nomination and, by that same standard, getting snubbed is no longer an automatic cause for concern.
That said, the SAG winners do typically end up receiving an Oscar nomination in January.
The film nominees can be found below:
BEST FILM ENSEMBLE
“12 Years a Slave”
“August: Osage County”
“Dallas Buyers Club”
BEST FILM ACTOR
Bruce Dern, “Nebraska”
Chiwetel Ejiofor, “12 Years a Slave”
Tom Hanks, “Captain Phillips”
Matthew McConaughey, “Dallas Buyers Club”
Forest Whitaker, “The Butler”
BEST FILM ACTRESS
Cate Blanchett, “Blue Jasmine”
Sandra Bullock, “Gravity”
Judi Dench, “Philomena”
Meryl Streep, “August: Osage County”
Emma Thompson, “Saving Mr. Banks”
BEST FILM SUPPORTING ACTOR
Barkhad Abdi, “Captain Phillips”
Daniel Bruhl, “Rush”
Michael Fassbender, “12 Years a Slave”
James Gandolfini, “Enough Said”
Jared Leto, “Dallas Buyers Club”
BEST FILM SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Jennifer Lawrence, “American Hustle”
Lupita Nyong’o, “12 Years a Slave”
Julia Roberts, “August: Osage County”
June Squibb, “Nebraska”
Oprah Winfrey, “The Butler”
BEST FILM STUNT ENSEMBLE*
“All is Lost”
“Fast & Furious 6”
Rush, the latest film from Ron Howard, is the type of film that I usually hate.
It’s big, bombastic, and so extremely mainstream that it actually features Chris Hemsworth uttering the line, “This is what I was born to do,” without a hint of irony. This is a film about rich boys playing with expensive toys and the movie’s portrayal of women manages to make Aaron Sorkin look enlightened by comparison. Finally, the film is about a sport that I previously knew nothing about and, after having spent two hours watching this film, I still know very little about.
And yet, I didn’t hate Rush. In fact, I really enjoyed it and I think the reason why comes down to one thing.
I have a weakness for hot guys who drive fast cars.
Rush tells the true story about the rivalry between two Formula One racers, the flamboyant Englishman James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and the extroverted German Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl). The film follows them from their first meeting in 1970 until they both find themselves competing for the Formula One championship in 1976. Along the way, we watch how both of them deal with the temptations that went along with being a rich celebrity in the 1970s. (Lauda resists the majority of them. Hunt does not.) Along the way, one of them struggles to recover after a horrifying accident and both of them try to maintain a balance between their personal lives and the fact that each race they run could potentially be their last. (In one of the film’s best scenes, Niki explains that he’s prepared to accept a 20% chance of dying during a race but not a point more.)
Plotwise, Rush is pretty much a standard sports film, full of men talking about the importance of being men while women stare up at them with adoration. Inspirational speeches are delivered and everything comes down to one final race. If, like me, you’re not into Formula 1 racing, the film can occasionally be difficult to follow. During one extended montage of cars racing across the world and occasionally crashing, I found myself seriously wondering how many races could possibly be run in a Formula One season. As the film reached its conclusion, James and Niki started talking about which racers have the most points. Their conversation would have undoubtedly been easy to follow for someone who was into Formula One but for me, it took a few minutes to figure out what they were going on about.
However, none of that matters.
There’s a lot of reasons why Rush works. The film’s glossy recreation of the 1970s (in all of its frequently tacky glory) is enjoyable to watch and Hans Zimmer’s score is properly loud and majestic. Both Hemsworth and Bruhl give good performances, with Hemsworth coming across as properly flamboyant and Bruhl bringing some much-needed humor to a character who, in the hands of a lesser actor, could have been insufferable. Both Olivia Wilde and Alexandra Maria Lara do good work bringing seriously underwritten characters to life.
However, the film’s ultimate success belongs to director Ron Howard.
Ever since Frost/Nixon prevented The Dark Knight from getting a best picture nomination in 2009, there has been a certain loud element of the online film community that has used Ron Howard as a go-to example of a safe and thoroughly commercial director. He is often dismissed as being the epitome of a mainstream, conventional filmmaker.
However, as mainstream as Howard’s sensibility may be, Rush proves that he still knows how to craft an exciting scene. I may have occasionally had trouble keeping track of who was and wasn’t in each car but that didn’t make the races any less thrilling or the accidents any less horrifying. During the film’s best sequences, you feel the thrill of being in control of the uncontrollable and you understand why Niki and James are willing to risk death just so they can experience being alive.