VETERANS, and their FAMILIES, great discounts and special
offers on major brand names.
Perfect for helping you rent your next movie: Veterans Advantage recaps 2013's nine "Best Picture" Oscar nominees, seven of which reviewed by the late Ed Koch, former Mayor of New York City, and Veterans Advantage's movie critic at the time of his passing earlier this month at the age of 88.
The "Best Picture" Nominees in alphabetical order, including the ones rated by Koch, are as follows:
2. Argo ("+" rated by Ed Koch)
This truly great film depicts the 1979 American hostage crisis in Iran. The Iranians had just expelled the Shah who fled to the U.S., and they welcomed the Ayatollah Khomeini back to their country.
Iranian students took over the American embassy and held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days. Six American diplomatic employees who managed to escape were taken in by Ken Taylor (Victor Garber), the Canadian Ambassador to Iran at the time.
The Central Intelligence Agency in Washington. D.C. began to plan a rescue mission. The agent in charge, Tony Mendez, is played by Ben Affleck who also directed the movie. Other cast members include Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin, John Goodman, Tate Donovan, Clea DuVall, Scoot McNairy, Rory Cochrane, Christopher Denham and Kerry Bishe. Every performer is superb.
Even though the audience knows that the hostages are ultimately rescued, the tension in the film is extraordinarily high and the music, which appropriately stirs emotions, is marvelous. There is a wonderful scene when the six escaped hostages are aboard a Swiss plane and the captain announces that they have just left Iranian airspace. Everyone applauds ending the tension. The same type of announcement used to be made when American planes were leaving the Soviet Union. Until an aircraft departs a country with a despotic government, those inside a departing plane fear they will be called back, even when they have done nothing illegal.
I was mayor when the 52 remaining hostages were freed on January 2, 1981. I immediately announced that we wanted to hold a ticker-tape parade in their honor. Although the State Department did not initially endorse the parade, it eventually blessed the event which was held 10 days later in lower Manhattan along the stretch of Broadway known as the Canyon of Heroes.
3. Beasts of the Southern Wild ("+" rated by Ed Koch)
I have no idea what the title refers to and it has no affect on my rating. I couldn't figure out what the picture was all about after waiting for about ten minutes. Then it was clear – it was a small version of what happened to people in Louisiana after a hurricane.
It wasn't the big hurricane that devastated New Orleans, but a regular, ordinary hurricane that devastates small rural communities, probably surrounding New Orleans, almost every year. It is part of their lives. The area is called the Bathtub and the two people we meet and follow are a little girl probably 8 or so, known as Hushpuppy, played by Quvenzhane Wallis, an absolute star who, when she grows up, will rival the celebrity of Marilyn Monroe with her poise and total nonchalance before a camera. Her father is Wink, played by Dwight Henry. He is dying, and it is clear he is overwhelmed by the thought of what will become of his daughter.
The film is neither a documentary nor a docudrama. It is a movie, a reverie, and well worth seeing.
4. Django Unchained ("-" rated by Ed Koch)
What shocked me after seeing this film was A.O. Scott's review in The New York Times. He compared it with "Lincoln," suggesting: "So maybe it's not so different from ‘Lincoln,' after all. And if ‘Django Unchained' is not better, it is arguably more radical, both as cinema and as (fanciful) history. A double feature might be just the thing, if you have five and a half hours to spare. By any means necessary!" Ridiculous.
This movie probably uses the N-word dozens of times to make its point that the whites owning slaves in the south before the Civil War saw their slaves as chattel, not human, but merchandise to be dealt with any way they wanted to.
All undoubtedly true. I, for one, do not believe any word is off limits when used appropriately. But all of us have been cowed so that we won't use the N-word, only the initial. Unless we are black or Quentin Tarantino, who is white and certainly someone not only aghast at the history of slavery, but would have been at the forefront fighting it when it existed. John Lennon and Yoko Ono got it right when they wrote "Woman is the Nigger of the World," conveying the real current meaning of the word, a reference to the untouchable. The rest of us simply have given up our first amendment rights and will not use the word. I remember how shocked I was that an editor of The New York Times who is black, defended his use of the word. Spike Lee recently wrote that he would not see the film because it treated blacks poorly and diminished the effect of the Holocaust that blacks endured. He is right to do so.
The plot involves a white bounty hunter, Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Walz), who teams up with a slave, Django (Jamie Foxx), who is looking to buy his wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington). She is now owned by Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio) who also owns a large plantation. The two had attempted to escape, were captured and sold. There is also a black overseer, Stephen (Samuel L. Jackson), more in the image of Simon Legree of the novel "Uncle Tom's Cabin"
All in all, this is a huge waste of time. It was played seriously, when it should have been directed by Mel Brooks. Don't waste your time.
5. Les Misérables ("+" rated by Ed Koch)
This film, based on the novel by Victor Hugo, is great but not glorious.
The five principals are Hugh Jackman (Jean Valjean), Russell Crowe (Javert), Anne Hathaway (Fantine), Amanda Seyfried (Cosette), and Eddie Redmayne (Marius). They all give more than adequate performances, but their voices are not the soaring operatic style provided by the cast in the several stage musicals performed on Broadway, one of which has aired many times on PBS Channel 13.
The story is well known. In her New York Times review of the movie, Manohla Dargis provides interesting statistics regarding "Les Miserables." She wrote
"Written by Alain Boublil and the composer Claude-Michel Schonberg (with English-language lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer), the musical 'Les Miserables' is of course one really big show, perhaps the biggest and certainly one of the longest-running. Its Web site hints at its reach: Since the English-language version was first performed in London in 1985, it has been translated into 21 languages, performed in 43 countries, won almost 100 awards (Tony, Grammy) and been seen by more than 60 million people. In 1996 Hong Kong mourners sang 'Do You Hear the People Sing' to memorialize Tiananmen Square. In 2009 the awkward ducking Susan Boyle became a swan and a world brand with her rendition of 'I Dreamed a Dream' on the television show 'Britain's Got Talent.'"
Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter play the innkeepers with whom Cosette is living. I preferred the fat swine who played the outrageous grifters so much better on stage.
While this two-and-one-half-hour film is not as good as the stage performance -- it is still very good. Since I was unable to get tickets to see it on a weekend, I had to play hooky from work and see it on a weekday at 4:30 p.m.
6. Life of Pi ("+" rated by Ed Koch)
I had my doubts that this film would be the blockbuster it was touted to be since two other recent movies receiving similar promotional fanfare were disappointing: "The Master" is incomprehensible and "Cloud Atlas" is uninteresting. While "Life of Pi" is no masterpiece, it is a very enjoyable picture beautifully depicted under extremely difficult circumstances.
The story, based on a novel by Yann Martel, begins in India. The lead character is Pi, short for Piscine Molitor. (Played as a boy by Ayush Tandon, a teenager by Suraj Sharma, and an adult by Irrfan Khan.)
Pi’s father (Adil Hussain) owns an animal circus which he intends to take to Canada. He boards his family and the menagerie on a Japanese freighter which sinks in a storm. Pi ends up on a lifeboat with a zebra, an orangutan, a hyena and a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. After the other animals are killed by the tiger, the story focuses on how Pi and the tiger accommodate one another during their journey on a lifeboat for more than 200 days.
Making a compelling and engrossing film with such a small cast had to be an enormous task for the talented director Ang Lee, of "Brokeback Mountain" fame. It reminded me of the World War II movie "Lifeboat" starring Tallulah Bankhead which also dealt with the issue of a cramped space. How much of the picture involves an actual tiger and how much is digital effect, I don’t know, but it worked.
Pi’s understandable reliance on his god – Vishnu - will be received differently by members of the audience. I understood that his faith allowed him to do things he would not or could not have otherwise done. It is surely true that there are no atheists in foxholes.
"Life of Pi" is an interesting and visually extraordinary film. I enjoyed the experience.
8. Silver Linings Playbook ("+" rated by Ed Koch)
The screenplay, based on a novel by Matthew Quick, projects the lives of a several people, particularly that of Dolores (Jacki Weaver), striving to be supportive of family members.
Dolores's husband, Pat Sr. (Robert De Niro), is a compulsive gambler. Their son, Pat, Jr. (Bradley Cooper), who appears to be in his 30s, is being released from a mental facility. His problem is anger management but he doesn't appear to be dangerous. Pat, Jr. is looking to reconcile with his wife, Nikki (Brea Bee), who has taken out a restraining order against him. Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), a neighbor who used to be caught up in a promiscuous lifestyle, has a crush on Pat Jr.
I enjoyed this picture. The acting is very good, particularly that of Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence. The plot reminded me of a 1950's movie, like “Marty” starring Ernest Borgnine.
9. Zero Dark Thirty ("+" rated by Ed Koch)
The film is a fictionalized account of the capture of Osama bin Laden. It took eight or more years of tracking him down to finish the job on President Obama's watch.
The movie makes it clear that torture was used to secure information needed to find him. The administrations of both Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama have taken the position that torture is not used by the United States when interrogating prisoners in the war against Islamic terror. Both administrations, I believe, exclude water boarding as an act of torture.
I recall the Bush administration publicly stating that an important secret was pried from a prisoner by the use of water boarding which lead to the killing of bin Laden. That secret related to the courier delivering messages to bin Laden, who was living in a house in Pakistan situated next to Pakistan's West Point. Most people have no doubt that the Pakistani army or special forces were protecting him. The actual capture of bin Laden by the Navy SEAL team, shown on news reports, was brilliantly done.
My own position on torture, including water boarding, is that torture should only be used when large numbers of American lives are on the line or when searching for a weapon of mass destruction. The film takes no position but clearly shows torture being applied.
I was unfamiliar with most of the cast members with the exception of James Gandolfini who portrays the CIA director and Jessica Chastain, (currently appearing on Broadway in "The Heiress") who plays the role of Maya, a CIA officer.
The last half-hour of the movie involving the actual attack on bin Laden's mini fortress is the most exciting part of the film. He was, of course, killed on the premises. Hooray for the Navy SEAL team.
For less than $5 a month,
you save every day on real brand names: