“Dallas Buyers Club”
Matthew McConaughey has put together two spectacular years. It started in 2012 with great performances in “Mud” and “Magic Mike.” He kept it rolling by playing a super-strange character in HBO’s hard-edged series “True Detective.” It seems the momentum is on his side, because he proves in this film that he’s more than six-pack abs and a Texas drawl. This could be the peak of McConaughey’s powers with this career-defining role as a Texas lowlife who accidently becomes a decent man after contracting AIDS. Part-time actor/full-time rock star Jared Leto only chooses roles he can throw himself into. Here, he plays a drug-addled transvestite, and it never feels like he’s a tourist in the environment. McConaughey lost 47 pounds for the role. Leto lost 30, and stayed in character for the entire shooting period. Their washed-out, sickly, uplifting portrayals earned both of them Oscar nominations. The film received six total Oscar nods, but more than that, it’s really worth a watch.
“20 Feet From Stardom”
Who’d a thunk that a documentary about backup singers would be nominated for an Oscar? But while watching, you’ll start to realize so many great songs were made even greater by the nuances, the balls-out singing and the walls of sound provided by backup singers. Soul, R&B, rock ‘n’ roll, pop and loads of other genres are represented. It shows just how important these individuals are to not only popular music but alternative, underground and movie sound effects. They gave so much of themselves on these records, only to be forgotten or replaced or just plain ripped off. For almost 20 years, director Morgan Neville has documented a spectrum of musical genres, and he always puts the music first. Neville lets the stories of the music-makers spill out around the sounds they create. Unlike the other nominations in the Best Documentary category, this one is the most fun to view and listen to – worth a watch.
Philip Seymour Hoffman In Memoriam
The man’s name should’ve been Philip Scene-Stealer Hoffman. Things may be said about his tragic death, but while he was pulling breath, nobody could do what he did with overweight, quirky, obsessed characters. He gave everything to every role, no matter the size. Here are 21 must-watch films, spanning his career, covering different types of characters. Some of these films are well-known, others not so much. But they show exactly what this man was capable of. From the ’90s you had “Boogie Nights,” “The Big Lebowski,” “Happiness” and “Magnolia.” From the double-naughts you had “State and Main,” “Almost Famous,” “Love Liza,” “Punch-Drunk Love,” “Owning Mahowny,” “Along Came Polly,” “Capote,” “Mission: Impossible III,” “The Savages,” “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead,” “Charlie Wilson’s War,” “Synecdoche, New York,” “Doubt” and “Pirate Radio.” And more recently, you had “The Ides of March,” “Moneyball” and “The Master.” Hoffman was a fucking wizard of the complicated, the over-the-top, the nuanced, the hilarious. Oh, the magic we’ll miss.
Derrick Bracey, for Weekly Surge