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Sunday, January 18, 2015

Cindy Prascik's Reviews of Big Eyes & American Sniper

Dearest Blog, this week I had a glance at two awards favorites, Big Eyes and American Sniper. How's that for mature viewing? The fact that I saw both of these because the times worked well with additional Hobbit screenings...well, we'll keep that to ourselves, eh?

Spoiler level here will be mild, nothing you wouldn't know from the trailers or, you know, if you occasionally watch the news.

First to the plate: Big Eyes.

The subject of Big Eyes is painter Margaret Keane--noted for her portraits of waiflike children with extraordinarily huge eyes--her marriage, subsequent split, and legal battle with her second husband, who took credit for her work.

I burned a half-day's vacation Thursday to see Big Eyes before it closed here, thinking I'd need it for the Oscars. Oscar nominations were announced Thursday morning, and, as it happens, I don't need it at all ("My luck!" my Dad would have said), but, since the schedule worked perfectly with The Hobbit...well, you know the rest of that story.

Now, dear reader(s), you know how I feel about female-centric stories. I couldn't be less interested.

Even allowing for the Tim Burton factor, I expected to snooze through Big Eyes expressly for the privilege of saying, "Gee, that Amy Adams sure is great, huh?" Great Ms. Adams certainly is, but I couldn't have been more wrong about the rest of it. It's really nice to see something from Tim Burton that isn't inherently wacky. It's been awhile. That's not to say Big Eyes doesn't have its wacky Burton touches, but we're minus the goofy hats, silly songs, and rubber-legged dance numbers this time.

The whole thing still has an air of fairy-tale about it, which keeps a sometimes-less-than-happy story light and easy to watch. Amy Adams is incredible in the lead, a straight-woman to Christoph Waltz' over-the-top turn as her husband. (That's not to say Waltz isn't also great, and given the story, I don't find it hard to believe his performance is entirely accurate.)

Full marks to costumers, set designers, art direction, etc.: the movie looks beautiful, bright, and colorful, even in its toughest moments. It moves at a good pace and never feels slow or long, though it's hardly action packed. It came as a pleasant surprise that I enjoyed every minute.

Big Eyes runs 106 minutes and is rated PG13 for "thematic elements and brief strong language."

Maybe Oscar didn't love it, but I did.

Of a possible nine Weasleys, Big Eyes gets seven and a half.

Yesterday's heavy hitter was American Sniper.

Bradley Cooper stars in the true story of Navy S.E.A.L. Chris Kyle, a legendary sniper through four tours in Iraq, who found difficulty leaving the war behind when he finally returned home.

I always think it's important to be upfront if there's something that colors my opinion of a movie besides the movie itself, so here I need to state that I lost a friend, a Marine, in Iraq. Though I'm usually a notoriously cold fish, since then I can't keep it together if I so much as see a Marine by the Toys for Tots bin at the Mall during Christmastime. There's no way for me to watch or write about this movie minus that baggage.

So... *deep breath*

Bradley Cooper is as good as you've heard in the lead. I can't say he deserved an Oscar nod over Jake Gyllenhaal, but there's certainly nothing bad to say about his work here.

The supporting cast is solid, too, though I confess I'm not entirely sold on Sienna Miller.

The "in country" scenes are brilliantly executed; you can practically feel the heat and smell the dirt, and I'm pretty sure I held my breath for the better part of two hours, waiting for a potential threat from somewhere...anywhere.

For such a grim picture, there's a good bit of laugh-out-loud banter, and very little scene-setting music, which adds to the realistic tone.

Kyle very much embodies the prevalent American attitude of the time, so American Sniper presents quite the black-and-white view of the war, with little, if any, grey area.

The movie runs just a little longer than it needs to, and it feels somewhat wrong allowing it to present as truth so many things that have since been called into question. (The war itself aside, Kyle's Estate has been the subject of several lawsuits over the book on which the movie is based.*)

When it was over, I sprinted from the room in tears, bowling over a couple Marquee friends in my haste to go hide in a bathroom stall for a minute. (All I could see were maroon vests, so whoever it was I hope you're reading this and I apologize.)

I don't think I stopped shaking until the Elves arrived in Dale. I'm not sure how much blame/credit for that goes to the movie and how much to personal experience, but from the number of sniffles I heard around the room, this film is doing a bang-up job striking a nerve with more than just me.

American Sniper clocks in at 132 minutes and is rated R for "strong and disturbing war violence and language throughout, including some sexual references."

There are many reasons I hate American Sniper, none of which keep me from realizing it's a very good movie.

Its unflinching depiction of the cost of war is essential viewing. Of a possible nine Weasleys,

American Sniper gets seven.

Until next time...

*Thanks to Melissa Bradley for bringing this to my attention.


" made a movie WITHOUT ME??"

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