New York Review contributors on films nominated for the 2014 Academy Awards.
David O. Russell’s American Hustle declares what it is about with disarming bluntness. The two con artists around whom it revolves confide to us in voice-over right at the start: Sydney (Amy Adams), aka Lady Edith Greensley, wanted “to become anyone else other than who I was.” Irving (Christian Bale) acknowledges that “we even con ourselves.”
I’d like to consider one example of the casting of youth and beauty as an artistic failure that compromises the larger artistic achievement of a film. I’m talking about Spike Jonze’s movie Her, specifically about Rooney Mara’s small but important role as the soon-to-be ex-wife of the hero, played by Joaquin Phoenix.
A self-conscious twenty-first century version of the Fellini classic, La Grande Bellezza is a visual feast, one of the relatively few films that takes full advantage of the extraordinary, almost hallucinatory beauty of Rome.
Alexander Payne’s Nebraska is a comedy without boffo punch lines, jokey monologues, chases, pratfalls, flights of whimsical invention, or preposterous coincidences.
Inside Llewyn Davis, Joel and Ethan Coen’s sixteenth feature film, depicts a week or so in the life of its titular character, a Greenwich Village folksinger.
As Jehane Noujaim’s documentary, The Square, vividly depicts, not only did we forget, but the euphoria quickly dissipated. Some who came home from abroad eventually left again.
The strategically choreographed national roll-out of British director Steve McQueen’s horrifying and beautiful 12 Years a Slave risks putting audiences in precisely the wrong mood for a film that shouldn’t be mistaken for just another Hollywood blockbuster set in nineteenth-century America.
Floating free from their damaged space shuttle, the astronaut protagonists of Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity, rookie Sandra Bullock and veteran George Clooney, seem to swim (or drown) in an immeasurable fish tank. Depth and volume are illusory.
The Missing Picture is not a systematic history of the KR era, but it follows the chronology of events, beginning with a brief recollection of Phnom Penh when it was still a languid and abundant Southeast Asian city, perfumed with the scent of jasmine.
Lingering in the lobby after watching Blue Jasmine, I overheard lots of praise for the film’s actors—but none of the wild admiration that the film itself has elicited from critics.
As The Act of Killing begins, a series of titles outlines the film’s historical background. In 1965 the Sukarno government, which some Western governments feared was sliding into communism, was overthrown and replaced by a military regime led by General Suharto.