Universal via Everett Collection
Lone Survivor isn't a film for the faint of heart. It's a film that beats you down and only lets you up for a few precious moments before the credits roll, but that emotional throttling is what helps make the film such a powerful experience.
Peter Berg's Lone Survivor tells the story of Operation Red Wings, primarily focusing on a group of four Navy SEALs who are sent to the mountains of Afganistan to capture or kill a member of the Taliban. The plan goes wrong, and the team has to fight for their lives to escape the enemy-infested area. The film does a marvelous job of ratcheting up the tension before collapsing into its main action sequence, one that is as thrilling as it is unsettling. The long sequence brings forth memories of the infamous D-Day opening of Saving Private Ryan, except this film's fire-fight stretches out the violence like a medieval torture device. The langourous scene is, at times, hard to sit through. Each moment slips by in coiled tension. It's undoubtedly uncomfortable, and the film makes a point to never make the violence fun or enticing. The action isn't consequence-free, and every bullet fired carries weight, making the scenes brutal and unrelenting because of it. The film takes on the aura of a horror movie that wants you to feel every second that ticks by, and director Berg makes sure that a pressing hopelessness starts to weigh on the viewer just as it does on the soldiers.
Mark Wahlberg is plenty capable as Marcus Lutrell, a member of the SEAL unit that is sent on the mission. The supporting cast plays its parts admirably by believably infusing a diverse set of personalities and values into the soldiers, while still keeping them in tune with the same military culture that governs much of their thoughts and actions. There's a great scene where a difficult decision has to be made, and the viewer gets to see the different directions to which some of the character's moral compasses are tuned. Sometimes the right thing can mean different things to different people when the risk of death is on the table. The real standout in the cast is Ben Foster, whose SO2 Matthew Alexson swirls with barely contained fury. He is darkly intense and has electric screen presence that really starts to manifest when the bullets star flying and things become dire.
Universal via Everett Collection
For all the good will that the film builds up in its first and second act, the final third of the film hits some snags as history demands that the story take itself to a different location, sacrificing some of the tension that it has built up. In the last 30 minutes of the film, there are some odd tonal choices that don't gel with the tension brimming in the first half. A comedic scene involving a language barrier stands out in particular.
The movie makes a point to steer clear of any political judgment, and it doesn't try to lay blame for the botched mission on any one head. And while the film never outwardly states and opinion on the conflicts that America found itself embroiled in during this time period, the searing brutality depicted in the movie highlight that no one should be subjected to the pain that these men were faced with. Made abundantly clear is the soldiers' willingness to drop everything and serve their country the best way they know how. Lone Survivor tries to honor the soldier, but not glorify war.
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Lone Survivor is at its best when it makes you feel the worst. It gives soldiers their due reverence by showcasing the true terror of the battlefield, and while the film does start to sag a bit in its third act, it's still more than worth the experience in order understand the consequences of war, and its toll on the people in the trenches.
Those keeping up with the continuous roll out of awards circuit nominations have, by now, come to notice a trend. Despite the wide variety of organizations offering recognition of film achievement, each year there are bound to be some mainstays: specific movies that top every venue's list.
So far, 2012's nomination championship falls in the lap of Lincoln, Steven Spielberg's beloved biopic about America's 16th president. The British Academy of Film and Television Arts has revealed its nominations, cementing Lincoln as the past year's most impressive spectacle. The historical drama earns 10 nods from BAFTA, including the top honor of Best Film. In Lincoln's company are other unsurprising entries: Les Miserables and Life of Pi each take in nine nominations (both Best Film candidates as well), and Argo ropes in seven (another top honor hopeful). Check out the full list of nominees below.
LIFE OF PI
ZERO DARK THIRTY
OUTSTANDING BRITISH FILM
THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL
OUTSTANDING DEBUT BY A BRITISH WRITER, DIRECTOR OR PRODUCER
BART LAYTON (Director), DIMITRI DOGANIS (Producer) — The Imposter
DAVID MORRIS (Director), JACQUI MORRIS (Director/Producer) — McCullin
DEXTER FLETCHER (Director/Writer), DANNY KING (Writer) — Wild Bill
JAMES BOBIN (Director) — The Muppets
TINA GHARAVI (Director/Writer) — I Am Nasrine
FILM NOT IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE
RUST AND BONE
SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN
WEST OF MEMPHIS
MICHAEL HANEKE — Amour
BEN AFFLECK — Argo
QUENTIN TARANTINO — Django Unchained
ANG LEE — Life of Pi
KATHRYN BIGELOW — Zero Dark Thirty
AMOUR (Writer: Michael Haneke)
DJANGO UNCHAINED (Writer: Quentin Tarantino)
THE MASTER (Writer: Paul Thomas Anderson)
MOONRISE KINGDOM (Writers: Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola)
ZERO DARK THIRTY (Writer: Mark Boal)
ARGO (Writer: Chris Terrio)
BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD (Writers: Lucy Alibar, Benh Zeitlin)
LIFE OF PI (Writer: David Magee)
LINCOLN (Writer: Tony Kushner)
SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK (Writer: David O. Russell)
BEN AFFLECK — Argo
BRADLEY COOPER — Silver Linings Playbook
DANIEL DAY-LEWIS — Lincoln
HUGH JACKMAN — Les Misérables
JOAQUIN PHOENIX — The Master
EMMANUELLE RIVA — Amour
HELEN MIRREN — Hitchcock
JENNIFER LAWRENCE — Silver Linings Playbook
JESSICA CHASTAIN — Zero Dark Thirty
MARION COTILLARD — Rust and Bone
ALAN ARKIN — Argo
CHRISTOPH WALTZ — Django Unchained
JAVIER BARDEM — Skyfall
PHILIP SEYMOUR HOFFMAN — The Master
TOMMY LEE JONES — Lincoln
AMY ADAMS — The Master
ANNE HATHAWAY — Les Misérables
HELEN HUNT — The Sessions
JUDI DENCH — Skyfall
SALLY FIELD — Lincoln
ANNA KARENINA (Dario Marianelli)
ARGO (Alexandre Desplat)
LIFE OF PI (Mychael Danna)
LINCOLN (John Williams)
SKYFALL (Thomas Newman)
ANNA KARENINA (Seamus McGarvey)
LES MISÉRABLES (Danny Cohen)
LIFE OF PI (Claudio Miranda)
LINCOLN (Janusz Kaminski)
SKYFALL (Roger Deakins)
ARGO (William Goldenberg)
DJANGO UNCHAINED (Fred Raskin)
LIFE OF PI (Tim Squyres)
SKYFALL (Stuart Baird)
ZERO DARK THIRTY (Dylan Tichenor, William Goldenberg)
ANNA KARENINA (Sarah Greenwood, Katie Spencer)
LES MISÉRABLES (Eve Stewart, Anna Lynch-Robinson)
LIFE OF PI (David Gropman, Anna Pinnock)
LINCOLN (Rick Carter, Jim Erickson)
SKYFALL (Dennis Gassner, Anna Pinnock)
ANNA KARENINA (Jacqueline Durran)
GREAT EXPECTATIONS (Beatrix Aruna Pasztor)
LES MISÉRABLES (Paco Delgado)
LINCOLN (Joanna Johnston)
SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN (Colleen Atwood)
MAKE UP & HAIR
ANNA KARENINA (Ivana Primorac)
HITCHCOCK (Julie Hewett, Martin Samuel, Howard Berger)
THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY (Peter Swords King, Richard Taylor, Rick Findlater)
LES MISÉRABLES (Lisa Westcott)
LINCOLN (Lois Burwell, Kay Georgiou)
DJANGO UNCHAINED (Mark Ulano, Michael Minkler, Tony Lamberti, Wylie Stateman)
THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY (Tony Johnson, Christopher Boyes, Michael Hedges, Michael Semanick, Brent Burge, Chris Ward)
LES MISÉRABLES (Simon Hayes, Andy Nelson, Mark Paterson, Jonathan Allen, Lee Walpole, John Warhurst)
LIFE OF PI (Drew Kunin, Eugene Gearty, Philip Stockton, Ron Bartlett, D. M. Hemphill)
SKYFALL (Stuart Wilson, Scott Millan, Greg P. Russell, Per Hallberg, Karen Baker Landers)
SPECIAL VISUAL EFFECTS
THE DARK KNIGHT RISES (Paul Franklin, Chris Corbould, Peter Bebb, Andrew Lockley)
THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY (Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton, R. Christopher White)
LIFE OF PI (Bill Westenhofer, Guillaume Rocheron, Erik-Jan De Boer)
MARVEL AVENGERS ASSEMBLE (Nominees TBC)
PROMETHEUS (Richard Stammers, Charley Henley, Trevor Wood, Paul Butterworth)
HERE TO FALL
I’M FINE THANKS
THE MAKING OF LONGBIRD
THE VOORMAN PROBLEM
Click here to read about BAFTA's Rising Star Award nominations, which include Elizabeth Olsen and Juno Temple.
[Photo Credit: David James/20th Century Fox]
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'Amour' Named Best Picture By National Society of Film Critics
'Zero Dark Thirty', 'Lincoln', 'Argo', 'Looper' Among WGA Award Nominees
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If there is one thing Pete Wells' caustic New York Times review of Guy's American Kitchen and Bar did for Guy Fieri's Times Square restaurant it's generate buzz. From Twitter to the conference room, Flavor Town has been on the tip of everyone's tongue for the past two days — and Hollywood.com's headquarters is no exception. Along with the rest of the New York Times-reading, Today show-watching, grub-loving population, we couldn't stop talking about Fieri and his, as Anthony Bourdain so gracefully put it, "terror dome." The one question that was heard echoing throughout our office was, "Could it really be that bad?" Naturally, we had to find out for ourselves. So lunch today for Kelsea Stahler and myself took place at Guy's American Kitchen and Bar.
Even in the wake of a foodie scandal — or as close to a scandal this industry gets — it was business as usual today at 220 West 44th Street. The place was hopping, filled to the brim with hungry tourists and business lunches. According to a restaurant employee, who was instructed to stay neutral on the topic, "Today was just a normal day."
But for passersby and diners alike, the Times review and its fallout was never very far from anyone's mind. A man from Columbus, Ohio, told us as he casually perused the menu outside with his wife, "We knew about [Fieri], we had seen him on the food channel." His wife chimed in, "Yeah, I knew he had a restaurant here before we saw the review." She added, "We saw him on the Today show this morning. I thought he did an excellent job, stood up for himself." And, despite the potential diners' familiarity with the scathing review and the fact that much of the food on the menu "look[ed] kind of heavy," the two headed inside for a bite.
Rishi Sharma and Alex Wolfe, young professional New Yorkers working in the finance industry, cited Wells' review as the sole reason they and a friend chose to make the trek across town to Guy's American for lunch. And the verdict: Not so bad. Sharma (who enjoyed the pork sliders, mac and cheese, and calamari appetizer) said of his experience, "The food was good, our service was very good. The food was flavorful, our waiters were very attentive. The ambience was like a normal, mid-sized, good old fashioned American chain. So I walked away thinking it was a good experience."
But that doesn't mean the review was forgotten. In fact, Wells' critiques formed the foundation for Wolfe and Sharma's lunchtime chatter. "We were just saying over lunch that we're all foodies. No one is more discriminating and can be scathing in their criticism than us," Wolfe said. "But come on, it's a mid-sized, mid-priced, chain restaurant and for that I think it's very good. And I think the review, as entertaining as it was to read, was pretty unfair, pretty over the top. And almost kind of… you think about the New York Times being the gold standard in journalism and all that, and I thought that that review was so over the top that it almost compromised their integrity. And that comes from three vicious food critics."
A couple who wished to be identified as "Native New Mexicans" also said the were inspired to check out Guy's American after reading Wells' review. "I watch Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. And it was such a scathing review that it was like, Could it really be that bad? So we decided to come and see how bad it was," the wife offered. The couple also echoed Wolfe and Sharma's faint praise of the cuisine at Guy's American. "I thought it was typical bar-type food that was fine. I had the tortilla soup which tasted good. My waitress was cute and nice and friendly," the woman said. (She later clarified, "My tortilla soup was good, but I was warned that it was spicy and — we're from New Mexico, we know what spicy is — it wasn't that spicy. It was tasty, but it wasn't spicy.") Both agreed that the apple crumble (called "House Made Granny Apple Crumble," $11) was the best thing they ate.
Thanks to the review's instant viral popularity, news of its vitriol spread beyond the restaurant's haven on 44th street and into the wilds of Times Square. There we found Jennifer, a young woman visiting New York from Santa Monica, who knew much of the review. "I thought [the review] was pretty funny. I mean, I haven't eaten there, so I don't know, but my instinct is that it was fair. I think there's room in reviews to be creative." Would she be stopping by to see how things were for herself? "I was actually thinking about taking a picture and tweeting it and saying, 'I've heard a lot of buzz about this place. Maybe I should check it out.' But I wouldn't actually eat there."
The question at the heart of this whole debacle is whether the Times was right to hold Guy's American to the same standard as they would the "fine dining" restaurants they usually review. Can we expect the same things from Guy Fieri's curation of greasy American bar food located smack dab in the middle of tourist trap Times Square that we would from Thomas Keller or Wylie Dufresne? Although she enjoyed chuckling at Wells' review, Jennifer thinks not. "I get his brand and I'm sure that the people that would want to eat at his restaurant wouldn't feel the same way that a New York Times reviewer would," she said.
She added, "I mean, it's kind of like reviewing Applebees, right? So I bet that for people who love Guy Fieri and really follow his brand it's going to be just great. And I think that a lot of people who are tourists, especially in Times Square, that's the kind of expectations you have."
And indeed, Jennifer has a point. In waiting to question unsuspecting diners as they exited the restaurant, we witnessed Beth Mowry and Abbey Brown, two young women from Ohio, walk up to the menu posted outside the door, take a gander, and go inside — only to exit two minutes later. "What made you decide not to eat there?" we asked. They gleefully responded, "We're going to, we made a reservation for tomorrow!" While Brown admitted she had read Wells' review earlier that day — "I think it was a little harsh. I mean, if he didn't like it he should give them a bad review, but the things that he said were a little extreme," she said — Mowry was simply a fan of Fieri's. "We just passed by, happened to notice the name with the sign and wanted to check it out," she said. Both agreed, "We watch his show and enjoy it."
Let's now kick it back to our initial query, "Could it really be that bad?" The general opinion seems to say no, not really.
Follow Abbey Stone on Twitter @abbeystone
[Photo Credit: PR Newswire/AP Photo]
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