When I decided that Terms of Endearment was to be my next Oscar Best Picture Winner, I did not know what type of a film it was. With a character driven plot, Terms of Endearment follows the lives of a mother and daughter that have a strong yet unique bond. While this film was not my favorite, it had some outstanding performances in it that made the film compelling and worth watching.
If there was a single word that could describe this film it would be dysfunctional. When I say dysfunctional I am not referring to the camera shots or direction of the film, I am talking simply about the characters themselves. The film focuses on the mother/daughter duo Aurora Greenway (Shirley MacLaine) and Emma Greenway Horton (Debra Winger). It becomes clear early on that despite thinking about the world in very different ways, Aurora and Emma are best friends. Married to professor Flap Horton (Jeff Daniels), Aurora moves to Des Moines Iowa for Flap to pursue his career. Eventually having three children, Tommy Horton (Troy Bishop), Teddy Horton (Huckleberry Fox) and Melanie Horton (Megan Morris), the two sink into a fairly unhappy marriage. With Flap unable to deal with the pressures of having a family and Emma trying to raise the children on her own both have affairs, Flap with a young college student and Emma with Sam Burns (John Lithgow). Flap job eventually forces them to move to Kearney, Nebraska and their marriage continues to fall into disarray. The Horton’s lives are tragically put into perspective however when Emma finds a cancerous lump under her armpit.
Meanwhile, without her daughter there, Aurora Greenway is forced to live her own life. Still in constant contact with her daughter, Aurora and Emma talk on the phone often. Working her way through a string of interested gentlemen, including Vernon Dahlart (Danny DeVito), Aurora is attracted and drawn to her neighbor, Astronaut Garrett Breedlove (Jack Nicholson). Aurora is a dramatic woman that needs to be in control of every situation while Garrett is a crude, fly by the seat of his pants, drunk who does not like to be tied down. One of the most interesting aspects of the film is watching Aurora and Garrett both adapt and deal with each other’s misgivings to eventually meet each other in the middle to create a workable relationship.
While the directing and script for this film were good, there were two aspects of film that absolutely blew me away. The first was character development. Not only do the characters in this film all have fairly large flaws but the film’s script accentuates and hinges upon these flaws. Throughout the film the characters are really forced to acknowledge and deal with their own flaws as well as many of the other characters’ flaws. It allows the characters to really grow, even if it is for the worse. The other aspect of this film that I found to be amazing was Jack Nicholson. Earning himself a Best Supporting Actor Oscar, Nicholson stole the screen every time he was on it. Playing a misogynistic astronaut that has far outlived his glory days, Nicholson’s character learns to be an actual adult while cultivating a relationship with Aurora.
In my mind, Terms of Endearment is not a Best Picture winning film but when it comes down to it, none of the other Best Picture nominees, the Big Chill, the Right Stuff, Tender Mercies and the Dresser, were any more deserving. The film’s director and writer, James L. Brooks, took home an Oscar for Best Director and Best Writing and Shirley MacLaine earned her own Oscar for Best Actress. I would give this film a 6.5 out of 10. While I thought Jack Nicholson gave an outstanding performance I found the film to be somewhat boring and depressing and most of the characters did not get the final outcome the film seemed to be working towards.
Prior to seeing Looper in theaters, I thought the entire movie was going to be a sci-fi, action fuelled, mind blowing experience. The film was certainly mind-blowing and action filled but it was so much more than that. I feel that the previews for Looper were very misleading. Did you know that there was a child in it that was a main character? Did you know that half the film took place on a farm? If your answer was no to either of these questions don’t feel bad because before walking into the theater I didn’t know any of that either. The film itself was outstanding, playing with the laws of physics just enough to blow a fuse in your mind but not allowing the science fiction to get in the way of the unique plot and character development.
“Time travel hasn’t been invented yet but 30 years from now, it will have been.” The sentence starts the film, launching the audience into the mind-bending concept of what a Looper is. In the future, disposing of a body is nearly impossible so gangs use time travel in secret to send people they need disposed of back in time. The main character Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a Looper, a man hired by the future mobs to kill the men sent back in time. The man appears at a certain time and the second the Looper sees them, he shoots. Money is taped to the man’s back so the Looper gets paid and the body is disposed of. The Looper’s are run by a man named Abe (Jeff Daniels) who has been sent back from the future to keep a handle on them. When a Looper has run their course, the mob finds them and sends them back to be killed unknowingly by their thirty year younger self. It’s called closing your loop and yields a golden pay day. The first quarter of the film exists just to get us used to the world of the Looper. A drug filled, blunderbuss (their version of a shotgun) toting insanity of an existence. There is a genetic mutation called TK that effects a small percent of the population, allowing low grade, fairly useless telekinetic powers. Paul Dano steals a number of scenes as Seth, Joe’s Looper friend, until he fails to close his loop, showing the horror Abe can impart if you allow your future self to escape.
The plot of the film really begins when the mob attempts to close Joe’s loop. Future Joe (Bruce Willis) is not quite ready to die and manages to run away from young Joe. Determined to kill his future self before the mob catches and tortures him, young Joe tries to hunt himself down. In the process, he figures out why his future self is so dead set on life. In the future, a holy terror named the Rainmaker has risen up and taken over every gang. Closing every loop and running the world with fear and terror, the Rainmaker has turned into a kind of tyrant. With information about the Rainmaker, future Joe has determined he is one of three people. When future Joe is was sent back in time, he was sent back in time to a year where the Rainmaker was only ten. Future Joe figures that if he can kill the three children that may grow up to be the Rainmaker then he will change the future and his past. Young Joe picks one of the children, Cid (Pierce Gagnon) and goes to his house. Trying to be cryptic but eventually explaining everything to Cid’s mother Sara (Emily Blunt), Joe stays to protect Cid and hopefully catch and kill his future self.
What was amazing about this film was that it was a time travel film that refused to talk about time travel. Rather than getting into the parts of time travel that could raise questions about how it could exist and not destroy time itself or create a paradox, the film creates rules that keeps those things from happening. Abe has been sent back in time to deal with the messy details of time travel. That is enough explanation for the Loopers and therefore enough for the audience as well. The film doesn’t completely ignore the implications of time travel and peppers the film with mind blowing concepts. Beyond the unique plot and script the film featured some impressive performances. Bruce Willis gave a great performance as a man willing to do anything to fix the future but is painfully aware of the horrors he is committing. Joseph Gordon-Levitt becomes young Bruce Willis, talking like him and taking over his movements and mannerisms. Emily Blunt is heartbreaking as a struggling mother but I think my favorite performance came from young Pierce Gagnon. Not only did Pierce hold his own with Joseph Gordon-Levitt, he actually stole some scenes from the veteran actor. Able to move the dialogue on with just his facial expressions, Pierce is a quiet, mature child with the soul of a mob boss. The shots, script and impressive child acting all rolled together to make this one of the most terrifying and lovable child characters I have seen on screen.
The only complaint I could have about this film was that it felt like two different films. The first half of the film, where young Joe is off of Sarah’s farm, and the second half, where is on the farm, are vastly different. Sci-Fi reigns supreme in the first half of the film while the second half is a more wait in suspense, character driven film. The slight disconnect between the first and second half of the film is noticeable but does not hurt the film at all. A sci-fi action film featuring great acting and a unique storyline, Looper is a must see for anybody who is a fan of any genre I have mentioned in this post. I give Looper an 8.5 out of 10 and couldn’t be happier to have seen a unique, fresh action film.
Last week I told you that I would try not to pick such depressing films every week for my This Week on Netflix segment but, considering I pick movies at random, I was unable to achieve my goal. This week’s Netflix film comes from Instant Queue and is a film called Paperman. An unbelievably odd story about a writer who is trying to complete his second novel, Paperman quickly turned from the weirdest movie I have ever seen to one of the most touching films I have watched in a long time.
Jeff Daniels stars as Richard Dunn, a failing writer that is desperately trying to complete his second novel. The film opens with Richard and his wife, Claire Dunn (Lisa Kudrow) as they travel to a cabin in Long Island so that Richard can have some solitude in which to write. To keep up with her job and allow Richard time to write, Claire lives elsewhere during the weekdays. It is clear from the beginning that Richard is a quirky, possibly mentally unstable individual. Though his is an adult, Richard is accompanied by his imaginary friend, the hilarious Captain Excellent (Ryan Reynolds), who has been with Richard for years. Plagued by writer’s block and unable to even being his novel, Richard ventures out to town. There he meets the teenage Becca (Emma Stone) along who is with her friend Christopher (Kieran Culkin) and her chicken-shit boyfriend Bryce (Hunter Parrish). Though he is childless, Richard hires Becca to babysit which turns into house-sitting while Richard wastes time in town. Though their relationship seems to start as something that could turn sexual and therefore pedophiliac, the two end up being two lonely people that long for the company of a friend. Drama explodes when Claire misinterprets the friendship between Becca and Richard forcing each character to examine not only their lives but the relationships that make them up.
Watching this film is an odd experience throughout but during the last half an hour it becomes abundantly clear that this film is brilliant. With a script as quirky as the main character, the film messes with your mind in more ways than one. Richard spends the film obsessing over the name for his novel’s main character, a bird that is the last of his kind. We hear the first line of the novel over and over again, “Richard regarded his solitude as something sacred”, and each time with a different name. We don’t realize that the line is about Richard himself until he realizes it at the end of the film. The realization, in my opinion, serves as the films resolution, giving it a sense of closure. The film also brilliantly develops Becca and Richard’s relationship. At first, seeming to be something that was going to lead to an unholy and illegal situation, the relationship evolves without the audience realizing it. What initially made me uncomfortable turns into a heart breaking friendships between a man longing for a child and a young woman longing for a family to love her.
This film is certainly worth watching, especially if you have Neflix because….well you can stream it instantly whenever you want. The film is darkly comedic and seems to deliberately mess with your head. I give it an 8 out of 10. The acting, though nothing award winning, is great throughout the film but its real appeal is it’s oddly thought provoking content and story.