Lions Gate via Everett Collection
When we last left our heroes, they had conquered all opponents in the 74th Annual Hunger Games, returned home to their newly refurbished living quarters in District 12, and fallen haplessly to the cannibalism of PTSD. And now we're back! Hitching our wagons once again to laconic Katniss Everdeen and her sweet-natured, just-for-the-camera boyfriend Peeta Mellark as they gear up for a second go at the Capitol's killing fields.
But hold your horses — there's a good hour and a half before we step back into the arena. However, the time spent with Katniss and Peeta before the announcement that they'll be competing again for the ceremonial Quarter Quell does not drag. In fact, it's got some of the film franchise's most interesting commentary about celebrity, reality television, and the media so far, well outweighing the merit of The Hunger Games' satire on the subject matter by having Katniss struggle with her responsibilities as Panem's idol. Does she abide by the command of status quo, delighting in the public's applause for her and keeping them complacently saturated with her smiles and curtsies? Or does Katniss hold three fingers high in opposition to the machine into which she has been thrown? It's a quarrel that the real Jennifer Lawrence would handle with a castigation of the media and a joke about sandwiches, or something... but her stakes are, admittedly, much lower. Harvey Weinstein isn't threatening to kill her secret boyfriend.
Through this chapter, Katniss also grapples with a more personal warfare: her devotion to Gale (despite her inability to commit to the idea of love) and her family, her complicated, moralistic affection for Peeta, her remorse over losing Rue, and her agonizing desire to flee the eye of the public and the Capitol. Oftentimes, Katniss' depression and guilty conscience transcends the bounds of sappy. Her soap opera scenes with a soot-covered Gale really push the limits, saved if only by the undeniable grace and charisma of star Lawrence at every step along the way of this film. So it's sappy, but never too sappy.
In fact, Catching Fire is a masterpiece of pushing limits as far as they'll extend before the point of diminishing returns. Director Francis Lawrence maintains an ambiance that lends to emotional investment but never imposes too much realism as to drip into territories of grit. All of Catching Fire lives in a dreamlike state, a stark contrast to Hunger Games' guttural, grimacing quality that robbed it of the life force Suzanne Collins pumped into her first novel.
Once we get to the thunderdome, our engines are effectively revved for the "fun part." Katniss, Peeta, and their array of allies and enemies traverse a nightmare course that seems perfectly suited for a videogame spin-off. At this point, we've spent just enough time with the secondary characters to grow a bit fond of them — deliberately obnoxious Finnick, jarringly provocative Johanna, offbeat geeks Beedee and Wiress — but not quite enough to dissolve the mystery surrounding any of them or their true intentions (which become more and more enigmatic as the film progresses). We only need adhere to Katniss and Peeta once tossed in the pit of doom that is the 75th Hunger Games arena, but finding real characters in the other tributes makes for a far more fun round of extreme manhunt.
But Catching Fire doesn't vie for anything particularly grand. It entertains and engages, having fun with and anchoring weight to its characters and circumstances, but stays within the expected confines of what a Hunger Games movie can be. It's a good one, but without shooting for succinctly interesting or surprising work with Katniss and her relationships or taking a stab at anything but the obvious in terms of sending up the militant tyrannical autocracy, it never even closes in on the possibility of being a great one.
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Sunday night marked the 2013 Academy Awards, when the best and the brightest in Hollywood gathered to celebrate the best and the brightest filmmaking of the year. And the ceremony came complete with a few surprises. Not only did Life of Pi walk away with the most wins of the evening — four Oscars — but the film's Ang Lee eked out David O. Russell and Steven Spielberg for Best Director. But there were some expected finishes as well: Jennifer Lawrence won Best Actress, Daniel Day-Lewis took Best Actor, and Adele even scored Best Original Song for "Skyfall."
But who else picked up awards? Check out the full list of winners below!
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The 2013 Academy Award Winners:
Best Picture:Beasts Of The Southern WildSilver Lingings PlaybookZero Dark ThirtyLincolnLes MiserablesLife Of PiDjango UnchainedWinner: ArgoAmour
Best Actor:Winner: Daniel Day-Lewis, LincolnDenzel Washington, FlightHugh Jackman, Les MiserablesBradley Cooper, Silver Linings PlaybookJoaquin Phoenix, The Master
Best Actress:Naomi Watts, The ImpossibleJessica Chastain, Zero Dark ThirtyWinner: Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings PlaybookEmmanuelle Riva, AmourQuvenzhane Wallis, Beasts Of The Southern Wild
The 2013 Academy Award Winners:Best Director:David O. Russell, Silver Linings PlaybookWinner: Ang Lee, Life Of PiSteven Spielberg, LincolnMichael Haneke, AmourBenh Zeitlin,Beasts Of The Southern Wild
Best Writing, Original Screenplay:Flight, Written by John GatinsZero Dark Thirty, Written by Mark BoalWinner: Django Unchained, Written by Quentin TarantinoAmour, Written by Michael HanekeMoonrise Kingdom, Written by West Anderson and Roman Coppola
Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay:Beasts Of The Southern Wild, Screenplay by Lucy Alibar and Benh ZeitlinWinner: Argo, Written by Chris TerrioLincoln, Written by Tony KushnerSilver Linings Playbook, Written by David O. RussellLife Of Pi, Written by David Magee
Best Original Song:"Before My Time," Chasing Ice, Music and Lyric from J. Ralph"Pi Lullaby," Life Of Pi, Music by Mychael Danna; Lyric by Bombay Jayashri"Suddenly," Les Miserables, Music by Claude-Michel Schonberg; Lyric by Herbert Kretzmer and Alain Boubill"Everybody Needs a Best Friend," Ted, Music by Walter Murphy; Lyric by Seth MacFarlaneWinner: "Skyfall," Skyfall, Music and Lyric by Adele Adkins and Paul Epworth
Best Original Score:Anna Karenina, Dario MarianelliArgo, Alexandre DesplatWinner: Life Of Pi, Mychael DannaLincoln, John WilliamsSkyfall, Thomas Newman
Best Production Design:Anna Karenina, Sarah Greenwood (Production Design); Katie Spencer (Set Decoration)The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Dan Hennah (Production Design); Ra Vincent and Simon Bright (Set Decoration)Les Miserables, Eve Stewart (Production Design); Anna Lynch-Robinson (Set Design)Life Of Pi, David Gropman (Production Design); Anna Pinnock (Set Decoration)Winner: Lincoln, Rick Carter (Production Design); Jim Erickson (Set Decoration)
Best Achievement in Film Editing:Winner: Argo, William GoldenbergLife Of Pi, Tim SquyresLincoln, Michael KahnSilver Linings Playbook, Jay Cassidy and Crispin StruthersZero Dark Thirty, Dylan Tichenor and William Goldenberg
Best Supporting Actress:Sally Field, LincolnWinner: Anne Hathaway, Les MiserablesJacki Weaver, Silver Linings PlaybookHelen Hunt, The SessionsAmy Adams, The Master
Best Achievement in Sound Editing:Argo, Erik Aadahl and Ethan Van der RynDjango Unchained, Wylie StatemanLife Of Pi, Eugene Gearty and Philip StocktonWinner: Skyfall, Per Hallberg and Karen Baker LandersWinner: Zero Dark Thirty, Paul N.J. Ottosson
Best Achievement in Sound Mixing:Argo, John Reitz, Gregg Rudloff, and Jose Antonio GarciaWinner: Les Miserables, Andy Nelson, Mark Peterson, and Simon HayesLife Of Pi, Rob Bartlett, D.M. Hemphill and Drew KuninLincoln, Andy Nelson, Gary Rydstrom, and Ronald JudkinsSkyfall, Scott Millan, Greg P. Russell, and Stuart Wilson
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Best Foreign Language Film of the Year:Winner: Amour, AustriaNo, ChileWar Witch, CanadaA Royal Affair, DenmarkKon-Tiki, Norway
Best Documentary Feature:5 Broken CamerasThe GatekeepersHow To Survive A PlagueThe Invisible WarWinner: Searching For Sugar Man
Best Documentary Short:Winner: Inocente, Sean Fine and Andrea Nix FineKings Point, Sari Gilman and Jedd WiderMondays At Racine, Cynthia Wade and Robin HonanOpen Heart, Kief Davidson and Cori Shepherd SternRedemption, Jon Alpert and Matthew O'Neill
Best Live Action Short Film:Asad, Bryan Buckley and Mino JarjouraBuzkashi Boys, Sam French and Ariel NasrWinner: Curfew, Shawn ChristensenDeath Of A Shadow (Dood Van Een Schadow), Tom Van Avermaet and Ellen De WaeleHenry, Yan England
Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling:Hitchcock, Howard Berger, Peter Montagna, and Martin SamuelThe Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Peter Swords King, Rick Findlater, and Tami LaneWinner: Les Miserables, Lisa Westcott and Julie Dartnell
Best Achievement in Costume Design:Winner: Anna Karenina, Jacqueline DurranLes Miserables, Paco DelgadoLincoln, Joanna JohnstonMirror Mirror, Eiko IshiokaSnow White And The Huntsman, Colleen Atwood
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Best Achievement in Visual Effects:The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton, and R. Christopher WhiteWinner: Life Of Pi, Bill Westenhofer, Guillaume Rocheron, Erik-Jan De Boer and Donald R. ElliottMarvel's The Avengers, Janek Sirrs, Jeff White, Guy Williams and Dan SudickPrometheus, Richard Stammers, Trevor Wood, Charley Henley and Martin HillSnow White And The Huntsman, Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, Philip Brennan, Neil Corbould and Michael Dawson
Best Achievement in Cinematography:Anna Karenina, Seamus McGarveyDjango Unchained, Robert RichardsonWinner: Life Of Pi, Claudio MirandaLincoln, Janusz KaminskiSkyfall, Roger Deakins
Best Animated Feature:FrankenweenieThe Pirates! Band Of MisfitsWreck It RalphParaNormanWinner: Brave
Best Animated Short Film:Adam And Dog, Minkyu LeeFresh Guacamole, PESHead Over Heels, Timothy Reckart and Fodhla Cronin O'ReillyMaggie Simpson In "The Longest Daycare," David SilvermanWinner: Paperman, John Kahrs
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Best Supporting Actor:Winner: Christoph Waltz, Django UnchainedPhilip Seymour Hoffman, The MasterRobert De Niro, Silver Linings PlaybookAlan Arkin, ArgoTommy Lee Jones, Lincoln
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[Photo Credit: Joe Klamar/Getty Images]
Oscars 2013 Special Coverage
Oscars 2013 Red Carpet Arrivals: PICS!
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Theatrics slapstick and cheer are cinematic qualities you rarely find outside the realm of animation. Disney perfected it with their pantheon of cartoon classics mixing music humor spectacle and light-hearted drama that swept up children while still capturing the imaginations and hearts of their parents. But these days even reinterpretations of fairy tales get the gritty make-over leaving little room for silliness and unfiltered glee. Emerging through that dark cloud is Mirror Mirror a film that achieves every bit of imagination crafted by its two-dimensional predecessors and then some. Under the eye of master visualist Tarsem Singh (The Fall Immortals) Mirror Mirror's heightened realism imbues it with the power to pull off anything — and the movie never skimps on the anything.
Like its animated counterparts Mirror Mirror stays faithful to its source material but twists it just enough to feel unique. When Snow White (Lily Collins) was a little girl her father the King ventured into a nearby dark forest to do battle with an evil creature and was never seen or heard from again. The kingdom was inherited by The Queen (Julia Roberts) Snow's evil stepmother and the fair-skinned beauty lived locked up in the castle until her 18th birthday. Grown up and tired of her wicked parental substitute White sneaks out of the castle to the village for the first time. There she witnesses the economic horrors The Queen has imposed upon the people of her land all to fuel her expensive beautification. Along the way Snow also meets Prince Alcott (Armie Hammer) who is suffering from his own money troubles — mainly being robbed by a band of stilt-wearing dwarves. When the Queen catches wind of the secret excursion she casts Snow out of the castle to be murdered by her assistant Brighton (Nathan Lane).
Fairy tales take flack for rejecting the idea of women being capable but even with its flighty presentation and dedication to the old school Disney method Mirror Mirror empowers its Snow White in a genuine way thanks to Collins' snappy charming performance. After being set free by Brighton Snow crosses paths with the thieving dwarves and quickly takes a role on their pilfering team (which she helps turn in to a Robin Hooding business). Tarsem wisely mines a spectrum of personalities out of the seven dwarves instead of simply playing them for one note comedy. Sure there's plenty of slapstick and pun humor (purposefully and wonderfully corny) but each member of the septet stands out as a warm compassionate companion to Snow even in the fantasy world.
Mirror Mirror is richly designed and executed in true Tarsem-fashion with breathtaking costumes (everything from ball gowns to the dwarf expando-stilts to ridiculous pirate ship hats with working canons) whimsical sets and a pitch-perfect score by Disney-mainstay Alan Menken. The world is a storybook and even its monsters look like illustrations rather than photo-real creations. But what makes it all click is the actors. Collins holds her own against the legendary Julia Roberts who relishes in the fun she's having playing someone despicable. She delivers every word with playful bite and her rapport with Lane is off-the-wall fun. Armie Hammer riffs on his own Prince Charming physique as Alcott. The only real misgiving of the film is the undercooked relationship between him and Snow. We know they'll get together but the journey's half the fun and Mirror Mirror serves that portion undercooked.
Children will swoon for Mirror Mirror but there's plenty here for adults — dialogue peppered with sharp wisecracks and a visual style ripped from an elegant tapestry. The movie wears its heart on its sleeve and rarely do we get a picture where both the heart and the sleeve feel truly magical.
WHAT IT’S ABOUT?
Claire is an attractive CIA operative and Ray is an M16 agent who simultaneously leave their Governmental spy activities in the dust to try and profit from a battle between two rival multi-national corporations both trying to launch a new product that will transform the world and make billions. Their goal is to secure the top-secret formula and get a patent before they are outsmarted. While their respective egomaniacal CEOs engage in an unending battle of wills and one-upmanship Claire and Ray start out conning and playing one another in a clever game of industrial espionage that is even more complicated due to their own long-term romantic relationship.
WHO’S IN IT?
Reuniting Closer co-stars Julia Roberts (as Claire) and Clive Owen (as Ray) turns out to be an inspired idea. They turn out to be the perfect pair oozing movie-star charm and electricity in this elaborate con-game that might have been the kind of thing Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant might have made in the '60s (in fact they did in Charade). Roberts with that infamous hairstyle back the way we like it and Owen looking great in sunglasses prove they have what it takes to navigate us through this ultra-complex plot in which no one is sure who they can trust at any given moment. They play it all in high style and the wit just flows as the story skirts back and forth during the period of five years. The supporting cast is well-chosen with juicy roles for Tom Wilkinson and Paul Giamatti (out of their John Adams duds) as the two CEOs going for each other’s throats. Giamatti who sometimes has a tendency to overdo it is especially slimy here and great fun to watch.
Big-star studio movies today rarely take risks and often talk down to the audience but in Duplicity writer/director Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton) has crafted a complicated con-comedy that requires complete attention at all times just to keep up with the dense plot’s twists and turns. It’s the cinematic equivalent of a New York Times crossword puzzle and Gilroy and his top-drawer production team deliver a glossy beautiful-looking film that’s easy on the eyes hitting locations from Dubai to Rome to New York City.
Like any good puzzle it sometimes can be frustrating putting it all together and Gilroy’s habit of taking us back in time and then inching forward gets a little confusing even with the on-screen chyron pointing out where we are at any given moment. Stick with it though and you will be well-rewarded.
A scene near the end where the formula must be found scanned and faxed in a matter of minutes is sweat-inducing edge-of-your-seat moviemaking and it provides the ultimate opportunity for Roberts and Owen to take the “con” to the next level. Another where Roberts uses a thong to try and trick Owen into admitting an affair he never had is also priceless and gets right to the heart of the game-playing.
GO OUT AND GET POPCORN WHEN ...
Never. Stock up during the coming attractions. If you miss a moment of this entertaining romp you might never figure it all out.