The month of Oscar is among us, and as you’ve probably heard, it makes a lot of sense to schedule the event in the winter months because this year’s nominees were chosen while snow-blind. But we push past the blizzard of controversy and into one of this year’s Best Documentary candidates. Director Asif Kapadia compiles unseen archival footage and unheard musical tracks to piece together the short and tumultuous life of Amy Winehouse. We get Winehouse’s own words, but we also get insight from family, friends and boyfriends as we watch the young chanteuse try to find her identity – first as an emerging superstar with a drug habit, then as a celebrity, struggling with sobriety. The real magic here is the music. With the floods of new music trying to recapture the sound of retro soul, we tend to forget what a true talent Winehouse had and wasted. “Amy” reignites the sparks the singer could create – worth a watch.
“Bridge of Spies”
Nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Motion Picture, this film really has some big cinematic connective tissue. It’s the fourth time Tom Hanks has collaborated with director
Steven Spielberg, and America’s most mainstream director brought in America’s most distinctive filmmakers, Ethan and Joel Coen, to pen the script. It depicts a time when diplomacy took tact and precision. Hanks plays James Donovan, an insurance lawyer who was recruited to defend a Russian spy and negotiate the release of an American pilot during the cold war. Spielberg has become a mastermind of matching historical context to current events, and he makes the same moves here. Hanks is surrounded by a great supporting cast, but he pushes this film from scene to scene with an experienced certainty, and he makes the Coen Brothers’ dialogue spring alive. Spy this one the first chance you get – worth a watch.
“Infinitely Polar Bear”
Somehow, the Academy Awards missed this one. I’m not sure how. Mark Ruffalo plays a manic-depressive father struggling to take care of his two daughters and get his wife back. The Oscars usually love when an actor plays infirmed. It’s set in the ’70s – Oscar loves period pieces. Ruffalo was nominated for Best Actor at the Golden Globes, so it was on the radar. Maybe, it’s because it’s writer/director Maya Forbes directorial debut, but she did such a nice job capturing the chaos Ruffalo created. Maybe, they didn’t think co-star Zoe Saldana got enough screen-time, or maybe, it’s because she plays a complicated woman. What about the young actors, Imogene Wolodarsky and Ashley Aufderheide? They are both making their feature-film debuts, and they both do a great job of simultaneously pulling at the heart-strings while being pains in the asses. It becomes really hard to defend the Academy Awards when films like this go unnoticed. Judge for yourself – worth a watch.