Weinstein Company via Everett Collection
At the heart of any dystopian story — be it about warring farm animals, omnipresent elder siblings, or colorless societies wherein pain and inequality have been all but eradicated — there is meant to be something human. Something that shines through to show us just how close we are to the world onscreen and just how far away from it we need to get. But at the heart of The Giver — Phillip Noyce’s film adaptation, not Lois Lowry’s ‘93 intro-to-Orwell novel — we find no humanity. There is nothing remotely vital about the film, its themes, its world, or its characters. Thus, who really gives a damn what kind of hell they’re all dealing with?
Brenton Thwaites is our hero — the exception among the heap of mindless drones (not to be confused with the movie’s surplus of literal drones) that occupy the nameless society, or so we’re meant to believe. In truth, Thwaites and his character Jonas are just as flat, vacant, and devoid of nuance as every other member of this pallid world. So when he is selected as the only villager capable of bearing the world’s memories of joy, pain, life, suffering, and — most prominently — ethnic dancing, we’re bored to tears by what might otherwise be an emotionally riveting journey into emotional maturity.
Weinstein Company via Everett Collection
But Thwaites isn’t the only issue. Jeff Bridges manages some combination of tired Sam Elliott, tired Bane, and tired Scooby Doo in his performance as the titular Giver, the man whose relationships with the society, Chief Elder Meryl Streep, and Receivers past and present are never illustrated with enough clarity to understand him as a man or a metaphorical function. Just like Thwaites’ big moments suffer from a lack of substantial precedent, any message that Bridges’ character is meant to unfurl falls as flat as the inflection of a dystopian resident.
Broad strokes are one thing; The Giver seems to miss the canvas entirely in its portrait of the importance of pain and experience. Without a single human moment to convince us of the importance of humanity, we’re really left just staring at a confusing oscillation of the color wheel for 90 minutes.
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Shailene Woodley's films The Fault In Our Stars and Divergent and boyband One Direction dominated the 2014 Teen Choice Awards on Sunday (10Aug14), each earning a slew of top honours.
The Fault In Our Stars claimed seven prizes, including Choice Movie: Drama, Choice Lip-lock and the Choice Movie Actress and Actor prizes for Woodley and her co-star Ansel Elgort, respectively, while the pals' other film together, Divergent, was named Choice Movie: Action/Adventure. As Woodley accepted her Choice Movie Actress title, she encouraged fans to just be themselves, saying, "The truest form of bravery and courage is to wake up every single day, and to be ourselves. You do you. I'm gonna do me."
Meanwhile, British/Irish boyband One Direction topped the music categories, landing eight surfboard prizes during the televised ceremony, including Choice Music Group, Choice Summer Tour for their ongoing Where We Are trek, Choice Love Song for You and I, and Choice Break-Up Song and Choice Single: Group for Story of My Life.
Pretty Little Liars was the main winner in the TV section, while it was also a big night for singer/actress Selena Gomez, who picked up the Ultimate Choice accolade for her career achievements. During her acceptance speech, Justin Bieber's on/off girlfriend gave a special shout-out to her fans for their unconditional support through the good times and the bad, saying, "I have to be honest, especially this month, I cannot thank you guys (enough), because you remind me, amidst all the stuff that we deal with personally, you remind me of what's important. And that's giving, and loving, and caring about each other. You guys make me better." The 22 year old also dedicated the award to her mother for being "the greatest human being in the world".
Performances at the Los Angeles prizegiving, co-hosted by Teen Wolf star Tyler Posey and Modern Family's Sarah Hyland, came from the likes of Demi Lovato, Rixton and Jason Derulo, while presenters included Jennifer Lopez, Taylor Swift, Ian Somerhalder and Kellan Lutz.
The main list of winners is:
Choice Movie: Action/Adventure - Divergent Choice Movie: Drama - The Fault In Our Stars
Choice Movie Actor: Sci-Fi/Fantasy - Josh Hutcherson, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Choice Movie Actor: Drama - Ansel Elgort, The Fault In Our Stars
Choice Movie Actress: Drama - Shailene Woodley, The Fault In Our Stars
Choice Movie Actress: Action/Adventure - Shailene Woodley, Divergent
Choice Movie Actor: Comedy - Kevin Hart, Ride Along
Choice Movie Breakout Star: Ansel Elgort, The Fault In Our Stars and Divergent
Choice Scene Stealer: Nat Wolff, The Fault In Our Stars
Choice Lip-lock: Ansel Elgort and Shailene Woodley, The Fault In Our Stars
Choice Chemistry: Ansel Elgort, Nat Wolff and Shailene Woodley, The Fault In Our Stars
Choice Movie Villain: Donald Sutherland, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Choice Comedian: Kevin Hart
Choice TV Actor: Drama - Ian Harding, Pretty Little Liars
Choice TV Actress: Drama - Lucy Hale, Pretty Little Liars
Choice TV Actress: Comedy - Lea Michele, Glee
Choice TV Actress: Sci-Fi/Fantasy - Nina Dobrev, The Vampire Diaries
Choice Summer TV Star: Male - Tyler Blackburn, Pretty Little Liars
Choice TV: Drama - Pretty Little Liars
Choice TV: Reality - Keeping Up With the Kardashians
Choice TV: Reality Personality - Female - Cat Deeley, So You Think You Can Dance
Choice TV Breakout Show: Faking It
Olay Fresh Effects Choice Breakout Star: Odeya Rush
Choice Male Artist - Jason Derulo
Choice Female Artist: Ariana Grande
Choice Song of the Summer: Really Don't Care, Demi Lovato
Choice Music Group: One Direction
Choice Breakout Group: 5 Seconds of Summer
Choice Group of the Summer: 5 Seconds of Summer
Choice Song: Female Artist - Problem, Ariana Grande featuring Iggy Azalea
Choice Single: Group - Story of My Life, One Direction
Choice Love Song: You and I, One Direction
Choice Break-Up Song: Story of My Life, One Direction
Choice Country Artist: Taylor Swift
Choice Male Hottie: One Direction
Social Media King: One Direction
Choice Twit: One Direction
Choice Summer Tour: Where We Are Tour, One Direction
Candie's Choice Style Icon: Zendaya
Ultimate Choice: Selena Gomez.
The ‘90s are back with a vengeance but some parts of the apparently beloved decade belong back in that beloved decade. Case and point: the classic ‘90s magical family movie. Disney’s latest The Odd Life of Timothy Green plays heavily on the visual and musical cues that we children of the ‘90s may recognize from films like The Santa Claus and even Hocus Pocus. The problem is that the film opens that door without fully walking through it.
The Jennifer-Garner starrer rests in a nebulous place between wacky contemporary comedy and a nostalgic throwback. But it can’t be both. Centered on the unfortunate reproductively-challenged couple Jim and Cindy Green (a perfectly adequate Joel Edgerton and Garner) the film follows the duo as they give up on having kids and spend a night with a bottle of wine writing down their won’t-be child’s perfect characteristics with a good old pencil and paper (pay attention now because that pencil part is pretty important). They bury the papers in a box in Cindy’s perfectly-kept garden and while they sleep the box sprouts into a little boy - their little boy only with a few leaves on his legs since he grew out of the ground after all. This part of the story combined with the film’s obvious affinity for the good old days as evidenced by the Greens’ home town and its dependence on a classic pencil factory lends itself to that nostalgic feeling.
It’s a few gratuitous and tonally dissonant moments that throw us back out of our reveries and into an uncomfortable space. Both Cindy and Jim have what should be comically horrible bosses played by Diane Wiest and Ron Livingston respectively. But between Weist’s mind-bogglingly goofy scene in which little Timothy paints her scraggly chin-hair and all and Livingston’s many off-colour moments - including one in which he instructs Jim to fire half the factory staff before lifting an over-sized “THE BOSS” mug to his face - are rather jarring in a film that is largely wistful.
But it’s not totally Odd Life’s fault. Modern audiences demand these sorts of gags in their light-hearted movies. The problem is that it’s up to the filmmakers to give us what we need not what we want. Odd Life’s story is largely melancholy throughout as Timothy’s fate is betrayed in the first two minutes of the film. While some levity is necessary the moments of light need only to come from the film’s main light source: the wonderful little boy at the center of the story.
Ultimately Timothy’s sweetness and Garner’s incomparable ability to create a lovable albeit neurotic mother save the film and allow for an emotionally satisfying end to the family tale. There are just far too many bumps along the way.