“All Is Lost”
Robert Redford has been asked to carry the weight of films before. But in this movie, he’s the only name on the cast list, and he’s able to pull a feature film out of a 30-page script with almost no dialogue. The gist of those 30-pages goes kind of like this – man on a sinking boat. The scenes feel excruciating, and Redford shows that at 77-years-old, he still has plenty of acting chops. But his vigor shouldn’t come as a surprise. For more than 50 years, Redford has not only been an active member of Hollywood filmmaking, he’s been one of the largest promoters of indie films. Here, he works with relatively new director J.C. Chandor. The relationship pays off for Redford’s performance, but unfortunately, it didn’t get much play from the Academy. It only received one Oscar nomination for sound editing. Redford got ripped off, because this is worth a watch.
“Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa”
Johnny Knoxville gets his fair share of acting gigs, but let’s be real, he isn’t a great actor. Sure, he’s a charismatic and likable guy, but the “Jackass” franchise has always been his best work. He excels at playing dress up and finding ways to elaborately get his ass kicked. But this “Jackass” project has a plot. Knoxville brought in longtime “Jackass” collaborator Spike Jonze and longtime “Jackass” director Jeff Tremaine to help write it. The gags are still over-the-top, and they still use unknowing crowds as innocent bystanders. Knoxville and young actor Jackson Nicoll are able to handle fun/silly/gross scenes with certain sincerity instead of filling in the gaps with firecrackers up bum-holes like a usual “Jackass” film. There are moments were these two are asked to act, and those moments fall flat. But this Knoxville evolution earned this film an Oscar nod for hair and makeup. Who knew that stretched and dangling testicles could garner the Academy’s attention? Testicles and Oscars aside, this one is worth a watch.
“The Act of Killing”
Surreal – that’s the best way to describe this documentary. Director Joshua Oppenheimer goes into Indonesia to not only interview mass murderers from previous death squads, but to ask them to reenact the murders they committed in the past while trying to rid the country of communism. Filmmakers encourage these men to tell their stories about how they beat, stabbed, shot and strangled their victims. They contentiously call themselves “gangsters” and take pride in their country’s corruption. But as they stage these elaborate reenactments, a deft move is performed by the filmmakers. The killers are slowly brought to face their crimes. It is damn disturbing to watch at times. It’s the most powerful piece of filmmaking on the Oscar ballot this year – worth a watch.
Derrick Bracey, for Weekly Surge