Sandra Bullock mustve reached a comfortable point in her career where she can be extremely choosey about her film roles. In 2013, she only did two movies. The first one was the successful comedy, The Heat, with Melissa McCarthy. This one is a masterpiece that was four years in the making from filmmaker Alfonso Cuaron. The patience and diligence paid off by earning it 10 Oscar nominations Bullocks second. Besides a worthy assist by George Clooney in his best bravado, Bullock singlehandedly carries this film and shows shes no lightweight. As a matter of fact, she throws down one heavy-ass performance. She probably wont win the Oscar for it, but that doesnt matter, because this is one of those rare films that is suspenseful and entertains and is a smart story with strong acting. It will win some naked bald statues, because this is a good space for all parties involved worth a watch.
Director Alexander Payne knows the topic of this film Nebraska. Not only is it Paynes home state, its the fourth time hes set a story in the corn state Citizen Ruth, Election and About Schmidt. This just may be his starkest take on the state yet. Filmed in black and white, the characters are as desolate inside as their surroundings are outside. There are moments of pure bleakness, but Paynes magic is the ability to bring out the heart in his calloused characters. And Bruce Dern and June Squibb lay down a pair of beautifully ornery roles, earning them both Oscar nods. Their dynamics are as good together as they are with the other members of the cast. Will Forte raises the bar on his career. Bob Odenkirk continues to build a quality resume. The film is up for six Oscars. Payne has six nominations and two wins in the past. This movie wont sweep, but it will win something and its definitely worth a watch.
Cutie and the Boxer
Nominated for an Oscar for Best Documentary, this is the story of Ushio and Noriko Shinohara. The film works through a 40-year timeline as the couple struggle through poverty, alcohol abuse, shifting identities, artist egos, raising children and love most importantly love. Ushio is an artist from Japan. Noriko has put her own artistic aspirations on the backburner to care for Ushio and their son. Ushio shields himself with a sense of artist self-delusion. Noriko builds up resentment and yearns for escape. First-time director Zachary Heinzerling does a fine job of filtering the artistic visions of these two very different artists through all the dismal points, the soft eloquence, the anger and the missed opportunities along the way. Occasionally its hard, but its worth the watch.
Derrick Bracey, for Weekly Surge