Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Hustle to Go See American Hustle

Just as last year came to a close, American Hustle (not to be confused with 2007's Katt William's American Hustle: The Movie) made its way onto the silver screen and into the hearts of whoever nominates movies for Golden Globes and Academy Awards. This film, directed by David O. Russel, was nominated for seven Golden Globe awards winning three of them including Best Picture, and has been nominated for 10 Oscars. Obviously, people think it's pretty great, including myself.
Just look at how great that cast is.
Taking place in the late 1970s, American Hustle follows the story of Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) and his mistress Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams), two quite talented con artists. The duo is caught red-handed by an FBI agent, Richie DiMaso, played by a very perm-headed Bradley Cooper, and get roped into helping him investigate white collar crimes and corruption. This leads them to meeting New Jersey's favorite mayor Carmine Polito (Jermey Renner) and a whole load of shenanigans (also read as "the plot") ensue. Also, DiMaso wants to bang Sydney, Rosenfeld becomes friends with the mayor questions everything, and Jennifer Lawrence's character, Rosenfeld's wife, gets drunk. A lot.
She was perfect for the role.
I would try to better sum up the plot, but in all honesty it's kind of difficult to figure just what exactly this movie was about. So much happens and parts of the story is narrated by two people at some points, it really is a mess. However, this took away little from the overall quality of American Hustle.
While the plot was lacking and unclear, the cast and the characters makes up for everything. Lawrence's role as Rosalyn Rosenfeld, essentially a 1970's real housewife of New Jersey, was downright hilarious. She was a terrible wife, the Picaso of passive aggressive kung-fu, and damn was it funny to watch her blow up a microwave and blame it on her husband. Also, Christian freaking Bale went from Batman to fat-man for this film. Two years ago he was the Bruce Wayne, the pinnacle of human physique and intelligence and vigilante extraordinaire. In American Hustle, Bale's Irving Rosenfeld is a bald, chubby, scumbag with an elaborate comb over that competes with Donald Trump's. The first five minutes of the movie is just his character fixing his comb over ... and it was strangely entertaining.
The comb over may as well have been its own character.
Cooper, Adams, and Renner also did very well in their roles, but Lawrence and Bale undoubtedly stole the show.
According to IMDB, American Hustle falls under the film genre of crime and drama, but when I walked out of the theater I was pretty sure it was a comedy, too. It is nothing but entertaining and certainly deserves every nomination and award it received.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Sisters Before Misters in Frozen

Since 1937's Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Walt Disney Animation Studios has been an unstoppable force when it comes to animated films. This was especially true in the 90's when Disney perfected the formula for cartoon fairy tale adventures with classics like Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King.
For 90's kids, this was our childhood.
Two decades later and Disney still can't be outdone. Even now in 2014, the basic equation for their princess movies hasn't changed. It's actually kind of simple: an attractive female character plus an attractive male character plus an adorable animal divided by the evil antagonist's plot equals dangerous, yet quirky romantic situations. Add to that the climactic scene and near death of an important character multiplied by a developing love story raised to the power of catchy musical numbers all adding up to a happy ending and lots of money.
Did I say simple? I meant predictable.
Nearly every Disney princess movie follows this standard formula. However, the newest addition to Disney's line of successful animated films, Frozen, throws an ice pick into the equation. For those who haven't seen it yet - seriously, it's been out for over a month now, go see it - be warned, there's spoilers ahead (scroll down to the last paragraph for my opinion on the film).

Frozen is based off of Hans Christian Andersen's story The Snow Queen and tells the story of two princess sisters, Anna (Kristen Bell), and Elsa (Idina Menzel). At a young age, Elsa develops magical ice powers (kind of like Frozone from The Incredibles), which almost kill Anna. So, their parents visit magic trolls to heal her and have her memories of Elsa's powers erased. Then, in order to prevent the people from freaking out over Elsa's powers, mom and dad lock their daughter away in her room forcing her to grow up in solitude and put the castle on lock down for pretty much forever.
Some years later, after Anna and Elsa's parents died, Elsa is being crowned queen. Queen Elsa decides to open the castle to everyone for the first time in forever (see what I did there?) for her coronation ceremony. Anna meets and quickly falls for a prince named Hans (Santino Fontana) who immediately proposes to her. Just when things seem to be going well, Anna and Elsa get in a fight, Elsa's ice powers go crazy, everyone freaks out, and Elsa runs away to the snowy mountains as the entire kingdom freezes over.
Anna goes after her older sister, leaves Hans in charge, and meets Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) and his dog-like reindeer, Sven. They totally flirt a bunch and make it to Elsa's ice castle in the mountains which she built in a matter of seconds while singing about her feelings. Elsa accidentally hits her sister with her powers freezing Anna's heart and sends the two away via a giant snow-golem (snow-lem) bodyguard.
Wrapping this summary up quickly (SPOILERS!), royal guards attack and arrest Elsa for endangering her own kingdom, Anna learns the only way to not die from her heart being frozen is an act of true love, Hans is a jerk and only wants to marry Anna to take over the kingdom for himself, Kristoff loves Anna, Elsa escapes, more guards attack, Kristoff tries to make it to Anna to kiss her and save her with an act of true love, Anna sacrifices herself to save Elsa just as her whole body freezes, Anna sacrificing herself was an act of true love and saves herself, Elsa learns that love is the key to her powers, the snow storm stops, the kingdom thaws, and Hans is arrested. Whew, that was a lot.
Almost forgot this little guy, the funniest character in the movie: Olaf (Josh Gadd).
Now let's go backwards a little and look at the climax a little closer. Anna needs an act of true love to prevent her from dying, she goes back to the castle to see Hans, her fiance, and finds out the guy doesn't love her and is only using her to become king. Naturally, everyone realizes that Kristoff is going to be the guy that kisses Anna and saves the day ... but that isn't what happens. Anna sacrifices herself to save Elsa just as she completely freezes. This is the act of true love that saves Anna, not Kristoff's kiss like everyone was expecting. While every other Disney princess movie ends with the love between the hero and the princess saving the day, the love that saves the day in Frozen is sisterly love.
This twist completely changes the deeper message of the movie. While most other Disney princess stories end with the hero rushing in to save the day and kiss the girl, Frozen teaches girls that they don't need a man to save them and they're perfectly capable of saving themselves.
Looking deeper into the movie, it's easy to see some feminist undertones in the portrayal of men in the movie and the act of true love previously mentioned. Also, some homosexual undertones can be found (if you over-analyze things a little) in regards to Elsa's powers, how her parents responded to her powers, and her big musical number. These undertones, while deep, take nothing away from the movie's quality.
Frozen is a great addition to Walt Disney Animation Studios' countless quality cartoons. The animation is beautifully intricate, the songs fantastic, Bell and Menzel's voice acting and singing are on-point and fantastic, and the film is simply a lot of fun. I've got a soft spot for Disney, and while it's not my favorite Disney movie (that title is jointly held by Aladdin and Wreck-it-Ralph), I recommend you see Frozen if you already haven't ... and even if you have go watch it again. You won't regret it.