Sometimes it’s a dilemma: what DVD should you rent or what movie should you stream or order-on-demand? Do you want a date flick, an action caper, or a goofy comedy? Weekly Surge is here to help with our reviews of recent at-home movie releases, which we’ve watched from the comfort of that favorite recliner. This month we’re focusing on Oscar-nominated flicks.
Ben Affleck as a director is more than an actor dilly-dallying with a camera, trying to figure out which side to stand on. He seemingly decided if audiences weren’t going to take him seriously as a dramatic actor, he would use his gift of storytelling to prove he belongs in the nominated seats of the Academy Awards. His first two feature films as a director, “Gone Baby Gone” and “The Town,” were both set in his hometown of Boston and each received an Oscar nomination apiece. This film is set all over the map, depicting the real life “Canadian Caper,” where members of the CIA pose as a film crew and work with the Canadian government to smuggle six Americans out of 1980 Iran before they become hostages. The actors and sets are spot-on authentic, combined with the way Affleck filmed and edited, it looks like 1980. This approach earned seven nominations but none for Affleck’s directing. Good thing he’s already raked in all the smaller awards because this one will only grab one or two of the lesser golden dudes, but this overlooked historical gem is worth a watch.
“The Invisible War”
Kirby Dick has explored plenty of issues in 30 years of documentary filmmaking – the American movie rating board, abuse in the Catholic Church, anti-gay legislation, French philosophy – and these are just the topics of his films in the last 10 years. This time, the subject is sexual assault in the military. It goes beyond rape cases, examining how rape investigations are dismissed because of the arrangement of the disciplinary systems in the armed services. The film follows a few of the victims as they tell their horrific stories but the amount of people who have experienced this type of abuse and have to endure the abuse of power that follows these situations is disturbing. It is a powerful film, so powerful that after it was seen by the Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta, he actually changed the military policy associated with rape-case protocol. Hard viewing experience or not, it’s an important film and worth a watch.
This is Keira Knightley’s third film with director Joe Wright – “Pride and Prejudice” and “Atonement” were the first two, see where this is going? They love to make highbrow period pieces. Here, they leave the confinements of the British Isles, heading for the vastness of Russia. Well, not exactly vast – most of the film is set in a weird maze of a theatre. It’s an experimental take on Tolstoy’s novel and the film is full of all the stuff that makes classic Russian literature distinctive – angst, unrequited love, the fragility of being human, the hierarchy and hypocrisy of Russian society. Knightly is great at 19th Century crazy and the rest of the cast, not mentioned in the title, does its English best, making it more enjoyable than your standard stuffiness. It’s nominated for four Oscars but with the competition, you can bet on Oscar’s unrequited love – still worth a watch.
Derrick Bracey, for Weekly Surge