2014 in Review: Unsung Movie Performances

All too often, film criticism falls victim to what I call the “Oscar Eyes” phenomenon, prioritizing showy performances and actors who make noticeable physical commitments to their characters over work that’s subtle but no less critical to a movie’s effectiveness. Below, here’s my attempt to look beyond the performances likely to be up for awards. These performances are on the margins of Oscar consideration for several reasons: either they’re in movies that rarely attract awards attention, or they’ve been overshadowed by performances with more obvious “award-bait” moments. They’re worthy of recognition nonetheless.

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The M&M Report, Episode 27: Write What You Don’t Know (Or Don’t)

Listen to this week’s M&M Report here.

Letterman

This week on The M&M Report, Devin Mitchell and I discussed David Letterman’s retirement announcement, our mixed feelings about the modern obsession with superhero movies and our opposing perspectives on Matt Zoller Seitz’s recently published manifesto “Please, Critics, Write About the Filmmaking.”

Timecodes:

David Letterman and late-night — 0:57 – 19:00
Captain America: The Winter Soldier (completely spoiler-free) — 19:50 – 26:15
Debating Matt Zoller Seitz’s film/TV criticism piece — 26:20 – end

“Thor: The Dark World”: Holy Competence

Thor: The Dark World

There’s nothing especially wrong with Thor: The Dark World, the latest in a seemingly endless string of Marvel projects leading up to the megalith The Avengers 2. The special effects are serviceable, the story moves along at an enjoyable clip and the performances are almost uniformly solid.

But there’s nothing especially right about it either. Needless convolutions cloud an already questionable narrative. Natalie Portman’s love interest Jane Foster is as bland and underwritten as any character of her kind in recent memory. Director Alan Taylor offers little visual distinction from Kenneth Branagh’s appealing but forgettable original. A week from now, give or take a Tom Hiddleston or a Kat Dennings, nearly everything that happens in Thor: The Dark World will be a distant memory.

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