Cesar Chavez is one of American history's legendary union organizers and workers' rights activists. Back in the 1960s, he was at the forefront of the effort to unionize California farmworkers. CESAR CHAVEZ also is the name of a new biopic: a simple, sincere chronicle of a decade in the life of Chavez (who is played by Michael Peña).
Jared Leto was, for sure, the hands-down pick to win the Best Supporting Actor Academy Award for his memorable presence in DALLAS BUYERS CLUB. But what is intriguing is the state of his screen career prior to DALLAS BUYERS CLUB. Before copping his Oscar, Leto had not made a film in five years and, furthermore, his previous effort was no small affair. It was an ambitious mega-budgeted sci-fi fantasy that, thematically-speaking, is reminiscent of such films as THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON and CLOUD ATLAS. Its title is MR. NOBODY and its director is Jaco Van Dormael, the esteemed Belgian filmmaker.
Countless films have featured couples who, upon first meeting, are like water and oil. In other words, for one reason or another, they simply do not like each other. But as the story develops, they bond and, at the finale, wedding bells are ringing. This is the storyline found in celluloid romances from decades ago, and this remains the formula today.
A constant refrain that I’ve been hearing from movie lovers for years is: How come Hollywood does not produce more high-quality films-- films that are script and character-driven, and that are not overloaded with generally mindless content? This is a fair question. And it is one with a simple answer. That answer is a one-word answer. That one word is: money.
During World War II, Hitler and the Nazis looted and eventually destroyed countless works of art in an attempt to obliterate a cultural heritage that did not conform to the tenets of National Socialism. And the key issue that is explored in The Monuments Men, the new film directed by and starring George Clooney, is: Was it worth risking one human life to salvage this heritage? In other words, what is of more value: The survival of one painting by Pablo Picasso or the life of one otherwise obscure human being?
Like so many of us, I was shocked and saddened to learn of the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman. To be felled by a drug overdose and to pass away at such a young age certainly is tragic. Granted, we frequently are hit with headlines regarding the demises of famous and often beloved movie folk. But this one somehow seemed different.
These days, when it comes to the Academy Awards, documentaries too often are shoved aside. The media spotlight is on the celebrities, the high-profile feature films, which films or actors were nominated and which were overlooked, and who likely will walk off with Oscar.
Sometimes, an actor who once upon a time earned a certain celebrity but has long since disappeared from the limelight makes a triumphant return to center stage. Such is the case right now with Bruce Dern. These days, Dern is back in full force playing a grizzled, alcoholic senior citizen in Alexander Payne's NEBRASKA. Dern's letter-perfect performance earned him a top acting prize at last spring's Cannes Film Festival. He now is winning best actor awards from film critics' groups, and the question of the moment is: Will he walk off with the Best Actor Academy Award?