Cast: Johnny Depp, Rebecca Hall, Paul Bettany, Morgan Freeman, Cillian Murphy, Kate Mara, Cole Hauser, Clifton Collins Jr.
Dir: Wally Pfister.
I was excited for this film. It's the feature directorial debut of Christopher Nolan's favorite cinematographer, Wally Pfister and it boasts a great cast and a very intriguing premise. Unfortunately, any potentially interesting idea is quashed under a whole lot of hooey that's alternating boring (a word I try to use sparingly in my reviews) and ridiculous. It's frustrating because there are sparks of an interesting film which a better script and director would've fleshed out more. It clearly wants to say something intelligent and profound about the relationship between humanity and technology but the results on screen are anything but. Johnny Depp sleepwalks through his performance, almost literally phoning it in with a vague impression of HAL-9000.
Oscar Prospects: None. Though Mychael Danna's score is one of the film's redeeming qualities.
THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL
Cast: Ralph Fiennes, Tony Revolori, F. Murray Abraham, Mathieu Amalric, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Harvey Keitel, Jude Law, Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Saoirse Ronan, Jason Schwartzman, Lea Seydoux, Tilda Swinton, Tom Wilkinson, Owen Wilson, Bob Balaban.
Dir: Wes Anderson.
I love Wes Anderson's films. That's no secret. I thought he would never equal or top Moonrise Kingdom but he just did with this film. Though it would not convert non-fans of his work, this extremely intricately designed, shot and uniquely structured film is a joy to behold. Ralph Fiennes gives a hilarious performance as Monsieur Gustave who is the concierge of the titular place as he takes under his wing his immigrant lobby boy. The film is filled with Anderson's trademark style which some people may find annoying (but not me) but it does not lose sight of the story and characters. You remain invested in both which is really quite a feat. Very funny but also ends up kind of dark and even sad. It is my favorite film of 2014 so far.
Oscar Prospects: Strong contender for Original Screenplay, Art Direction, Costume Design and Original Score. Should also get in Picture, Director, Actor (Ralph Fiennes) and Cinematography.
STRANGER BY THE LAKE
Cast: Pierre Deladonchamps, Christophe Paou, Patrick d'Assumçao, Jerome Chappatte.
Dir: Alain Giraurdie.
I've heard about this film mainly due to its graphic gay sex scenes (with a couple of shots that are unsimulated) but that's doing this film a wee bit of a disservice. What it is really is an unconvential gay love story/thriller about a man who frequents a lake infamous for gay cruising and falls for a man who he just witnessed murder his last lover. If you aren't too squeamish about having to sit through lots of full frontal male nudity and the aforementioned gay sex scenes, this is quite a wonderful film. It feels like a Michael Haneke film, almost (but with lots more penises) and beautifully photographed and acted. This is another one of my favorite films of the year.
Oscar Prospects: If it's eligible next year, it deserves Picture, Director, Screenplay and Cinematography but I doubt it will get any.