2014 Academy Awards

The Moles are doing things a little differently this year, taking leave from our day jobs (for one day at least). We’ll be watching the Oscars LIVE @dendycinemas. So please join us while we drink, tweet and probably talk a lot of shit.

What has stayed the same is our approach to the nominations, below is our list of who we want to win and who we think will win.  

Best Picture
Mole wish: Her
Likely winner: 12 Years a Slave

Directing
Mole wish: Alfonso Cuaron - Gravity
Likely winner: Alfonso Cuaron - Gravity

Actress in a Leading Role
Mole wish: Cate Blanchett - Blue Jasmine
Likely winner: Cate Blanchett - Blue Jasmine

Actor in a Leading Role
Mole wish: Leonardo DiCaprio (just give it to him so he can shut up already) - The Wolf of Wall Street
Likely winner: Matthew McConaughey - Dallas Buyers Club

Actress in a Supporting Role
Mole wish: Sally Hawkins - Blue Jasmine
Likely winner: Lupita Nyongo - 12 Years a Slave

Actor in a Supporting Role
Mole wish: Jonah Hill - The Wolf of Wall Street
Likely winner: Jared Leto - Dallas Buyers Club

Writing: Original Screenplay
Mole wish: Her
Likely winner: Her

Writing: Adapted Screenplay
Mole wish: Before Midnight
Likely winner: 12 Years a Slave

Animated Feature Film
Mole wish: Frozen
Likely winner: Frozen

Foreign Language Film
Mole wish: The Hunt
Likely winner: The Great Beauty

Cinematography
Mole wish: Gravity
Likely winner: Gravity

Make-up and Hairstyling
Mole wish: Bad Grandpa
Likely winner: Dallas Buyers Club

Costume Design
Mole wish: American Hustle
Likely winner: Great Gatsby

Documentary Feature
Mole wish: 20 Feet From Stardom
Likely winner: The Act of Killing

Documentary Short*
The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life

Film Editing
Mole wish: Gravity
Likely winner: Gravity

Music: Original Score
Mole wish: Gravity
Likely winner: Gravity

Music: Original Song
Mole wish: Happy
Likely winner: Let it Go

Production Design
Mole wish: Great Gatsby
Likely winner: Great Gatsby

Short Film: Animated*
Room on the Broom

Short Film: Live Action*
Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?  

Sound Editing
Mole wish: Gravity
Likely winner: Gravity

Visual Effects
Mole wish: Gravity
Likely winner: Gravity

Sound Mixing
Mole wish: Gravity
Likely winner: Gravity

* The Moles would like to acknowledge, that because we live on a big, isolated island, it takes ages for some of these nominated films to be released here (if they’re ever released at all). If there is a circumstance where we haven’t seen the films and therefore cannot judge accurately, we’ve just gone with the films that we’d most like to watch as winners.  

Her

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Director: Spike Jonze
Actors: Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Scarlett Johansson, Rooney Mara, Olivia Wilde
Runtime: 120 minutes
Release Date: January 16th, 2014

Reviewed by The Mole(s)

MO: When I first saw the trailer for Her, I audibly cringed and then wrote it off as total hipster fodder. Then the internet was non stop, Her, Her, Her and I was all, alright. I’ll get past Where the Wild Things Are and give this a go, OK INTERNET? Plus I love the Roons.   

LE: I should probably mention here that being full of fried chicken and various alcoholic beverages, I did nod off a few times… in my defence, I have never tried so hard to stay awake IN.MY.LIFE.

I think my trepidation was tied to Joaquin Phoenix, as well as the tricky subject matter. I honestly didn’t believe that Jonze could pull it off, but he did! I had two pre-requisites going into the film - one: I didn’t want the film to feel preachy about how reliant we are these days on technology; two: I didn’t want Joaquin to be too creepy (let’s bear in mind the last film I saw him in was The Master).

MO: I was pleasantly surprised and relieved that it wasn’t just some Charlie Brooker techoapocalypse (no offence to Charlie Brooker, I love your hate but only in small doses).

I think the strength of the film came from it not just being a technology-tale but a very humanist drama with an additional character, the husky OS (operating system for the acronymically challenged), Samantha (Scarlett Johansson).

LE: What really worked was that Jonze eased you into it, it was quite subtle. It didn’t look too obviously like “the future” as I don’t think that was really the point of the film. Things just happened, and you were in the cinema going, “Oh, that’s happening”, rather than “WHOA, THE FUTURE!! MIND EQUALS BLOWN!!!” I shudder to think about what any other director would have done with this script - but I guess this is the beauty of writing the words and then being at the helm of bringing your words to life, right?

MO: Total creative control, I think it can go both ways, or maybe it just relies on how well writer and director are at communicating their ideas.

It was a very subtle future, all Ikea and preppy geeks. Halfway through I was thinking to myself, I wouldn’t mind a personalised OS in my ear that I could think out aloud (bitch and moan) too, without complaint.

LE: I had a feeling you were enjoying the costume design!

I don’t know, maybe it’s just because we see people (losers) walking around with bluetooth headsets all the time, the idea of that little earpiece was a stroke of genius. It allowed the relationship between Theodore and Samantha to feel very natural, it was as if two humans were on the phone to each other, sussing each other out. I’m so impressed, I don’t know about you, but I never got a sense of feeling weird about the relationship between Theodore and Samantha at all (until it did actually get weird).

MO: I didn’t think it was weird at all. Long distance relationships exist now and it’s just two people and Skype, all physical contact is gone (ok, not permanently) and people successfully do it. Even further removed from that, people meet and chat online without ever meeting each other in real life. To me it was all about connections and imagination. This is A.I. we’re talking about - THIS IS THE FUTURE!

LE: Haha, I think the most “unrealistic” thing about the film for me was how natural Samantha’s voice sounded, I just kept thinking “when are they going to make A.I. sound less computery” (looking at you, Siri).

MO: That is a massive challenge to solve before we all start getting OS BFs and BFFs.

LE: What did you think of Joaquin? I was chatting with someone about this today, and we were discussing (arguing) whether or not he was creepy - and I guess to some degree he was a little bit, but in a sweet, nerdy way and not a chilling way. He’s such a good actor, and he definitely played his part in making this film what it is.

MO: I don’t think I’d describe him as creepy in Her at all (whoa, that was an odd sentence). I found Theodore more withdrawn and misunderstood, maybe a little shy.

He manages to carve both strong and alternatively very fragile characters with such ease. I think the moustache helped a lot in this film.

LE: Hahaha, what did you like better? The moustache or the pants?

MO: His collection of coloured shirts really won me over. Clearly the red was his favourite.

What did you think of the overall look and feel of the film?

LE: I loved it. Jonze’s future is so clean and well designed! I guess that’s what would happen if everyone was extremely organised, thanks to the benefit of having operating systems running their lives. My highly disorganised mind, cannot wait for this to happen.

MO: And it goes without saying that Amy Adams was totally ADORKABLE (I’m sorry…).

I was very satisfied that this wasn’t just some mediation on the perils of technology but a love story. Tech-rom? Sci-rom? Rom-sci? Rom-ology?

LE: Rom-ology wins the day for me! Let us not forget sexy ScarJo, who brought so much sass and personality to this Tech-romedy (ok, this one wins now). I loved this and can’t wait to watch it again. Four and a half operating soft-serve cones from me.

MO: I only hope our future is free from the crimes against crotches that are harry highpants. I’m giving it four e-choc-tops.     

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LE:

Trailer

The Book Thief

Director: Brian Percival
Actors:  Sophie Nélisse, Geoffrey Rush, Emily Watson
Runtime: 131 minutes
Release Date: 9th January, 2014

Reviewed by Mo

It was quite refreshing to approach a film blind. I haven’t read the book (not to sound like a wanker but something slightly unusual for me…) and knew little about the story other than what the trailer told me. I’m sure some will be thankful to know this review will therefore only be about the film and I will be unable to compare and complain about the value of one medium over the other. I will say this though; I watched the film with a MASSIVE fan of the book and after she had dried her eyes, I complained that I would have liked a little more thieving, to which I was told there was much more in the novel. I am pleased to admit I have started reading the book, as I have been inspired to learn more. This is a sign of a great adaptation, it must be either an entree or the main meal.

The Book Thief is actually about Death (voiced by Roger Allman) recounting his encounter with Liesel Meminger (who, at this point in the story has not began her life of thievery). A young girl who manages to capture his interest and he starts to take notice not just in her death but in her life. I am not giving away any spoilers here, Death does a pretty good job of that himself. Omniscience to the point of smugness, he does provide some dark comedic relief. All of the performances are breathtaking, especially Sophie Nélisse (who I couldn’t place until I looked her up, she’s from Monsieur Lazhar and her performance in that is just as wonderful). Geoffrey Rush is also fantastic, I felt he brought a touch of the Australian larrikin to his character.

Liesel’s story is a quiet tale about words, people and the very human trait of telling stories. The microcosm of her life on Himmel Street is set against the backdrop of Nazi Germany between the years of 1939 to 1942. The Book Thief is not a history lesson and although we see glimpses of the very real horrors, I don’t think this is the point of the film. 

I think it is a difficult task incorporating books into films, your choices for communicating the text is limited. Either someone reads it aloud or the words are overlayed on the screen. I think the touches of text that were introduced throughout, were handled appropriately and in the end the film became not so much about books but stories and storytelling. Books inspire and transport us, but stories can save us.

MO:

Trailer

 

The Spectacular Now

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Director: James Ponsoldt
Actors: Miles Teller, Shailene Woodley
Runtime: 95 minutes
Release Date: 5th December, 2013

Reviewed by LE

I must admit, my initial feelings toward this film whilst walking out of the cinema were that of disappointment and annoyance. The coming-of-age story of high school senior Sutter (Miles Teller) is a seemingly banal one - the irresponsible, hard partying jokester comes good when he meets the quiet and studious Aimee (Shailene Woodley). A little bit of soul searching was enough to verify the source of my frustration, and I’ve now come to accept the fact that with The Spectacular Now, James Ponsoldt has given us a refreshingly realistic story of the perils of high school. The source? The realisation that I am getting old.

Suttor is the epitome of everything you (I?) hate about teenagers these days: living in the now, no thought to the future, as arrogant as befits someone his age, and yet annoyingly charming and sweet. His attention falls on Aimee, who is hard working and studious, quiet and compliant. Their relationship begins as nothing out of the ordinary: the cool class clown chooses to “help” this poor, meek soul, with no lasting intentions - however, things don’t turn out as Suttor plans, as her hold over him increases as they draw closer to the end of their high school days. It’s actually a beautiful story, and it provides the viewer with a decent exploration of not only their high-school romance, but also the two as individuals attempting to overcome this trying yet exciting stage of their lives. So many hormones! And Shailene Woodley’s hair!

So what was it that I found so irksome? Suttor is everything you (I?) hate about teenagers - so stupid and selfish, carting around with him that idiotic sense of bravado that one does during their formative years. And I saw so much of my idiotic teenager self in him, that it was almost painful at times to watch. And Aimee - so compliant and hesitant; it was as if I was being transported back in time to that awkward stage of my life. And it’s so easy to judge them for being stupid - which I did, until I realised that they’re just being teenagers! The world is their oyster; they have every right to be arrogant and make mistakes because they possess the luxury of time to learn from them. A luxury, sadly, that is (seemingly) rapidly dwindling for myself.

The moral of the story: stop getting so angry at those (stupid) teenagers, because you were once one of them! There’s only a small window they have to be idiotic before they turn into us (me), so, let them be at it, I say.

LE: 

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MO:

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The Mole’s top 10 films of 2013

This year, we are organised (and very agreeable) moles.

  1. Frances Ha
  2. Rust and Bone
  3. The Way, Way Back
  4. Oh Boy!
  5. Silver Linings Playbook
  6. Spring Breakers (MO) Stories We Tell (LE)
  7. Stoker (MO) Gravity (LE)
  8. Zero Dark Thirty
  9. Cloud Atlas
  10. Anna Karenina

Honourable Mentions

Behind the Candelabra
Blackfish
Blancanieves
The East
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
The Look of Love
This is 40

Movies from 2013 the Moles will not be re-visiting

Not to sound like wankers but we’re pretty selective with our film choices (we have day jobs). This is a list of only the films we got to watch, heaps of other films came out this year that we will never watch, haha.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Director: Peter Jackson
Actors: Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Benedict Cumberbatch
Runtime: 161 minutes
Release Date: 26th December, 2013

Reviewed by The Mole[s]

MO: I liked that you turned to me two minutes before this was about to start and asked, “Didn’t we get headaches last time we watched this in 3D and 42fps and then we had to re-watch it in 2D just to enjoy it…” Yes, yes we did. Although this time, we won’t need to see it again in 2D (plus, who has the time?). I still don’t love the effects, I felt all of the real scenes looked fake and all of the green screens looked great which hurts my brain a little. I also suspect New Zealand would be a little unhappy…

LE: Why would New Zealand be unhappy? Sometimes it felt like a really, really long ad for New Zealand tourism. IT’S REALLY NICE THERE, WE GET IT. Although I didn’t get a headache this time around, I still had a lot of difficulty adjusting. It was like when high definition television was first introduced and all TV shows just looked weird. Also, (I know I’m going to get hunted down by LOTR/Hobbit fans for saying this), but it didn’t help that a lot of the dialogue in this film also felt like I was watching some cheesy direct-to-video fantasy film *runs and cowers in a corner*

MO: NZ would be pissed that Jackson made so much of its “natural scenery” appear fake.

I agree with you about the dialogue, I just had to keep reminding myself that this is a fantasy film, this is not a dialogue driven, high drama. It was frequently tittering on the edge of cringe. Only to be continually rescued by both Martin Freeman and BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH, AS THE BEST EFFING DRAGON, EVER!

LE: I thought the NZ scenery looked spectacular! Every scene that focused on the characters however - totally different story. I know there’s a massive ongoing dialogue about 48FPS, so I’ll leave it be for now. Only time will tell, I guess.

There was a massive shift between An Unexpected Journey and Desolation. Where Unexpected was an exciting and moving introduction, the beginning of an adventure, this film felt like it was some key scenes, and then a LOT of filler and drawn out scenes. I recall a similar feeling during Two Towers, but the difference is that LOTR was based on a lengthy novel, whereas, The Hobbit: not so. Perhaps with the third instalment, Jackson can bring this story back for me, but I was really not impressed (it was lucky I wasn’t wearing a watch, because you would have heard a lot of sighs coming from the seat next to you). Agree regarding Freeman and Cumberbatch - if not for them, this movie would have been lost for me.

MO: I thoroughly enjoyed this second adventure, but agree that it was too long. It frustrates me that they’re added all these extra plot points (the female elf Turiel and the whole elf/dwarf love story) but I can’t see to want end. Is Jackson trying to appeal to a wider audience? Why can’t we just get some more interesting background information like why Thranduil is such a stern c-bomb.

Or is this Jackson referencing other Tolkien stories that I’m totally oblivious too?

LE: Sadly, I’m not certain. I actually didn’t mind the love story - I just thought it was really drawn out. And if Jackson has taken artistic license, he definitely needs to - in order to turn this story into a trilogy. At some point, I know I’m going to have to just accept that this book is going to be portrayed in three films - it’s just so hard! It’s so very irritating to me that I’m perhaps judging it unfairly. But it just felt like I was watching the LOTR trilogy again, and I was looking for something fresh (albeit, still from Middle Earth). That dragon, however, was spectacular. It looked so very REAL.

MO: And it was also so much Cumberbatch, I could almost imagine him writhing around on the floor, with him long, nimble fingers. Ok, that got a bit sexy…

The cash cowness of The Hobbit is becoming a little clearer which is sad. I still got caught up in the majesty of it all but I think Jackson is really lucky (and employs great casting directors) that he has some amazingly talented actors that really carry this film through all of its cheese.

LE: I’m trying really hard to believe that Jackson loves this world so much, he just wants to share as much of his vision as he can with the world. And he is exceptionally good at it! There were certain moments however, where it felt as though he was feeling a touch too much nostalgia for LOTR - is Legolas even in The Hobbit (book)? And Gandalf facing the Necromancer and then being imprisoned. Deja vu much?

MO: I really appreciate your positive outlook and I honestly hope it’s at the very least, 85% true. A touch too nostalgic and blatantly setting up for LOTR - but I suppose, could you blame him?

Legolas is not in the book but I don’t want to get into the black hole that is books vs. films, so maybe we should just decided whether we liked it or not, on a scale of one to five? ;-)

LE: Your wisdom is second to none! I’m giving it 3 and a 1/2 choc tops. The 3 is for Freeman and Cumberbatch, and the half is for Peter Jackson’s cameo and STEPHEN FRY!

MO: I squealed like a little girl when I saw Fry, I’m also giving it 3 1/2, just to see him with that strange ginge perm.

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LE:

Trailer

Blue Jasmine

Director: Woody Allen
Actors: Cate Blanchett, Alec Baldwin, Peter Sarsgaard, Louis CK
Runtime: 98 minutes
Release Date: 12th September, 2013

Reviewed by Mo

Blue Jasmine could easily be described as a modern retelling of Tennessee Williams’ classic play, A Streetcar Named Desire but the description would not do the film justice. Yes, it has similar characters and plot points but Blue Jasmine focuses almost entirely on its title character; Jasmine and tries to exhume the reasons behind her current state of mind.   

After Jasmine’s supposedly successful and wealthy husband is ousted as a common criminal, he commits suicide, leaving Jasmine heart broken and tapped out. She turns to the only family she has left, her working class sister Ginger, a relationship best described as Louis Vuitton meets Walmart. Jasmine attempts to move on with her life, but what does one do when their only skillset is “socialite?”

Woody Allen has created a conundrum  of a character in Jasmine, who is at times both superficial and enigmatic. The film journeys back and forth between the past and the present…I spent the entire film pendulating between feelings of pity and wanting to poison her Stoli martini with something stronger than a twist. Cate Blanchett embodies Jasmine flawlessly, from the way she carries herself to the voice, it’s difficult to recall her natural Australian demeanour.

Although at times funny, Blue Jasmine could not be described as a comedy (even with the bonus Louis CK). A film about appearances, how we use them to judge others and how the one we project of ourselves can be equally as misleading and damaging.   

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LE: 

Trailer

Stories We Tell

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Director: Sarah Polley
Actors: Sarah Polley, Michael Polley, Harry Gulkin
Runtime: 109 minutes
Release Date: September 26th, 2013

Reviewed by The Mole(s)

MO: I think we’re going to have a hard time reviewing this documentary without giving away some of its mystery - BUT LET’S GIVE IT A GO!

This was better than I expected as the story at the core of the film was much more intriguing than I had originally thought it would be.

LE:  I had an inkling this doco would be good, as it was so well received at the Sydney Film Festival - even after reading the rave reviews though, I still wasn’t ready for how emotionally invested I became in it. It’s such a great story, and so well told. You are right about Sarah Polley - I just wanted to watch her entire back catalogue immediately after this screening.

MO: “And here I thought you just gave me head…” I really need to watch Go again.

I loved how it was filmed, there were the multiple layers of story telling and then there was the filming of the documentary, as well as the documentary itself and the found footage and the recreated scenes… and it should have been a complete mess but it worked perfectly, you almost felt like you were part of it.

LE: It was so very intimate - from the scenes with her siblings, to the scenes with her father, and even herself. A very brave undertaking - it was a soul-baring exercise; nothing was too intimate to expose, and that vulnerability was part of its charm. It was actually very beautiful to see such a strong familial bond as well - Sarah Polley somehow convinced her family and friends to reveal themselves and some of their deepest emotions - you got the feeling that she must be very loved in order for them to comply with such a request.

MO: It was like a whole Polley family cathartic experience, although there were times when I thought to myself, “this could only happen within a family of actors.” She really managed to find that perfect balance in a film, it was simultaneously heartbreaking and heartwarming. It also made me a little sad at times to be an only child… haha - but not for long.

LE: Hahahaha, yes, siblings can be both a blessing and a CURSE.

It’s going to be so difficult to talk about the story itself without giving anything away, but WHAT A STORY! An homage of sorts to her mother, and a better central character you could never find - she seemed like such a marvellous and vivacious person. How could you blame Sarah Polley for wanting to share her story?

MO: Also at a deeper level there was that very human aspect of storytelling and how we all view and recount interactions and events so differently. I really liked how she introduced this concept of “editing” and everyone had their own opinion on it, it was quite simple but really powerful and no where more obvious than in filmmaking, when the simplest of edits can change a whole story.

LE: Every story has multiple accounts, depending on those who partake in the events - I enjoyed that she acknowledged that there is an element of truth in all accounts.

Just the amount of selflessness within the characters that surrounded her mother, it was just so beautiful. I do recall at one point both of us trying very hard to hold back tears (BECAUSE WE ARE BOTH ROBOTS).

I can’t wait to watch this again.

MO: I’m always very wary of the “truth” documentaries often claim (because I’m both a robot AND a cynic), what I really liked about Stories We Tell was that it never tried to be the whole “truth,” it was a very candid film and an honest portrayal of a woman and the extraordinary effect she had on the people in her life.  

LE: It seemed like she was trying, and for the most part, succeeding in offering as objective a glimpse as she could.

I loved this documentary - one of my favourites of all time. Four choc tops.

MO: Four from me too and please add “Sarah Polley; director” to our back catalogue of things to watch.

MO:

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Why no reviews?

The Moles are going on holidays to New York City… we’ll try to fit in seeing some films in-between all the sightseeing, brunches, art museums and stalking Alex Billington.

If not, we will be back soon, WE PROMISE!

Love the Moles x