Tag Archive: leonardo dicaprio

great gatsby

Dir. Baz Luhrmann
(2013, PG-13, 143 minutes)

The Great Gatsby is a good fit for director Baz Luhrmann, who continues to pursue the theme of doomed love that also marked his previous films Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge, and whose exaggerated, impressionistic style is well suited to capture an era of excess and a feeling of love that ultimately proves as unsustainable as the world it’s set in. He doesn’t show us what life was like in the Roaring Twenties. He shows us what it might have felt like during such a period of unquestioned prosperity. And when the characters experience their crushing heartbreak, it foretells the looming societal downfall of the Great Depression.

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django unchained cast

Dir. Quentin Tarantino
(2012, R, 165 minutes)

The controversy surrounding Django Unchained was not encouraging. Reactionary backlash can be misleading – no, Zero Dark Thirty is not an endorsement of torture – but when Quentin Tarantino, a frequently brilliant auteur who sometimes is also an indulgent cinema-geek who makes more movie references than movies, intends to make free use of the N-word to tell a story about slavery designed after old spaghetti westerns, we have good reason to be concerned. Has this white director, who has a tendency to wink through the camera, earned the right to wink about the historical sale and ownership of black people?

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Dir. Clint Eastwood
(2011, R, 137 min)

J. Edgar is an informative film about the growth of the Federal Bureau of Investigation under the leadership of J. Edgar Hoover, but it’s more instructive than passionate. In the last decade, director Clint Eastwood has made reflective, expressive films like Million Dollar Baby and Letters from Iwo Jima with a minimalist style whose economy brought out the power of his subjects; his still waters run deep. With J. Edgar, though he retains the somberness and desaturated tones of his previous work, he doesn’t capture the same intimacy. His characters don’t draw us in as fully, and his more emotional scenes feel as though they’re trying too hard.

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It’s a new year and a good time for wishful thinking. Ballots have been mailed to Academy Award voters and must be returned by January 14, so to all my Oscar-voting readers — let’s for the moment assume I have any — here are some eligible contenders you haven’t been hearing about but deserve your attention.

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Leonardo DiCaprio, in 'Incepption'

Dir. Christopher Nolan
(2010, PG-13, 148 min)
★ ★ ★ ★

I want to go swimming in this movie. Inception is so full of imagination, of visual and narrative invention, of filmmaking verve, and yet with a strong emotional thread that pulls us through its labyrinth of consciousness, that I want to luxuriate in it for hours. I can’t say for sure after one viewing whether all its dots connect, but I was increasingly spellbound the deeper I went, and when it’s over there are tantalizing mysteries left to uncover. Its possibilities — and the possibilities under its possibilities — may be limitless.

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Leonardo DiCaprio, in 'Shutter Island'

Dir. Martin Scorsese
(2010, R, 138 min)
★ ★ ★ ★

Shutter Island was shuffled from an intended fall 2009 release date to February 2010, which changed the its profile from Oscar-season prestige picture to a late-winter thriller with low expectations (a studio delaying a film is often a sign of a lack of confidence), but it has proven to be a sound business decision; though the film has met with generally positive reviews (62 on Metacritic, 67% freshness on Rotten Tomatoes), it nevertheless might have been regarded as a disappointment from Martin Scorsese and struggled to get traction during the crowded awards blitz. Now, the film is well on its way to a domestic gross of $100 million … Read the rest of my review at Culturazzi.org

“Revolutionary Road”

Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, in 'Revolutionary Road'

Dir. Sam Mendes
(R) ★ ★ ★ ½

This is Sam Mendes’s most accomplished film since American Beauty, but it is possibly the most problematic he has made. Returning to the subject of the misery of suburban conformity, he directs the story of an unhappily married couple straining against the ennui of 1950s Connecticut. In it, he shows the same insight into the psychology of outwardly successful people suffering a private hell. He composes shots of expressive beauty. And he collaborates again with composer Thomas Newman, whose piano work is plaintive and haunting. But a number of scenes land wide of the mark, and performances under his guide at times go astray. But more on those issues later.

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