Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Mini-Reviews: Blue Jasmine, The Grandmaster & The Spectacular Now (2013)

Blue Jasmine

Oscar #2, please.

Directed by Woody Allen
Produced by Letty Aronson, Stephen Tenenbaum and Edward Walson
Written by Woody Allen
Starring Cate Blanchett, Sally Hawkins, Alec Baldwin, Peter Sarsgaard, Louis C.K., Alden Ehrenreich, Andrew Dice Clay, Bobby Cannavale and Michael Stuhlbarg


Jasmine, a recently divorced woman who's lost her fortune, moves in with her adopted sister.

After last year's hiccup with To Rome with Love, Woody Allen is back with this comedy of hysterics. It has his trademark wit and an excellent cast, but this film is all about Cate Blanchett. While most of the supporting cast (especially Hawkins) deliver great performances, it's Blanchett that earns - and deserves - the spotlight. As Jasmine, she gives one of the year's greatest performances, if not the best overall. Woody Allen's neurotic characters have always attracted talent, but landing Blanchett makes this film much better than it could've been. If Oscars are to be had, I'd start with Best Actress and settle for that, if nothing else.

Oscar Potential: Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress (Hawkins) and Best Original Screenplay

The Grandmaster

Why did you cut me, Harvey?

Directed by Wong Kar-Wai
Produced by Guoqng Gu, Sanping Han, Kuo Hsing Li, Zhong-lun Ren, Jacky Pang Yee Wah, Wong Kar-Wai, Xiaoming Yan and Dong Yu
Written by Wong Kar-Wai, Jingzhi Zou and Haofeng Xu
Starring Tony Leung, Ziyi Zhang, Song Hye-Kyo, Chang Chen, Wong Hing-Cheung and Zhao Ben-Shan


Ip Man, who trained Bruce Lee, lives a life of battles won and lost in love and war.

Oh, what could have been. Unfortunately, I saw the shorter US cut (unknowingly at the time) of Kar-Wai's long-awaited film that feels like a mangled masterpiece. Although the film is stunning to look at, the narrative feels jarringly episodic and too unfocused. However, the performances by Tony Leung and Ziyi Zhang aren't wasted, as the pair turn in fine work as usual. Again, the film is beautifully lensed by Philippe Le Sourd, and the sets and costumes are gorgeous. Adding to superb fight sequences are the rich score by Nathaniel Méchaly and Shigeru Umebayashi, which incorporates some of Ennio Morricone's compositions, and the precise sound design. It looks wonderful, but there's a lot to be desired.

Oscar Potential: Best Production Design, Best Costume Design and Best Foreign Language Film (if eligible)

The Spectacular Now

Woodley and Teller are perfect together.

Directed by James Ponsoldt
Produced by Michelle Krumm, Andrew Lauren, Shawn Levy and Tom McNulty
Written by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber (screenplay); Tim Tharp (novel)
Starring Miles Teller, Shailene Woodley, Brie Larson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Kyle Chandler and Kaitlyn Dever


Sutter, a high school partier, questions his outlook on life when he meets Aimee, a girl who's different from the others.

A surprising gem, this touching film features fantastic performances from Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley. Capitalizing on the promise he showed in Rabbit Hole, Teller gives a marvelous performance as the easy-going Sutter. Of course, Woodley is even better as Aimee than she was in her award-winning performance in The Descendants. The pair have a natural chemistry, and they make the most of Neustadter's and Weber's tight adaptation. In addition, there is great supporting work from Brie Larson, Kyle Chandler and Jennifer Jason Leigh. I have the same enthusiasm for this as I did The Perks of Being a Wallflower last year. It's a film I want everyone to watch, and I can't wait to see it again.

Oscar Potential: Best Supporting Actress (Woodley) and Best Adapted Screenplay


  1. I've seen all three of these films as I saw The Spectacular Now this past Sat. as I will post my review in a few days as I'm still on my brief hiatus.

    I also saw The Grandmaster last week but in its 130-minute Chinese cut. I'm going to see the shortened version this coming Sunday (along w/ The World's End) just to see what got cut and if Harvey Weinstein really did some injustice towards us.

    1. I hope the longer cut of The Grandmaster is better, because I was really disappointed with the US version.

    2. I'll let you know on Sunday to see which cut is better as I really did like the Chinese cut a lot.

  2. I'm so mad I missed 'The Spectacular Now' last weekend. I had a few hours of downtime and so I drove out to Dallas to catch 'Ain't Them Bodies Saints' and instead of jumping in the car and driving to the other side of town for 'The Spectacular Now' I went and had lunch. LOL! Now I don't know when I'll get the chance!!!

    1. Ah, I hope you get to see it soon! At least you've seen Ain't Them Bodies Saints. :D

  3. Great reviews! I've been wanting to see The Spectacular Now, and I think I'll give Blue Jasmine a try since everyone is raving over Cate Blanchett's performance.

  4. I've been so disappointed with Allen's films in recent years I'm gonna catch Jasmine on DVD, even though I love Blanchett.

    1. Yeah, I don't think it's a must-see in the theater, but Blanchett is fantastic.

  5. Cate Blanchett was a vision in Blue Jasmine...those facial expressions! I've found the greatest gifs of her in the movie...I won't lie...and I use them daily. Definitely oscar winner in my book.

    UNFORTUNATELY, I wasn't moved with The Spectacular Now the same way EVERYONE else was. In fact, I didn't think it held a candle next to Perks :(

    1. Blanchett killed it.

      Sorry you didn't respond to The Spectacular Now. I was pleasantly surprised with it.

  6. You think Supporting for Woodley, huh? Maybe because it's an "easier" category...? Either way, I'd love to see her represented, that'd be great. And Hawkins... I really hope she breaks through and gets nominated.

    1. Well, Woodley is supporting, isn't she? Her character does nothing but support Sutter, and I'm pretty sure she has no scenes without him. Though Woodley has a good amount of screen time, it's all structured around Sutter's growth, so she's supporting to me.

      Yes, please let Hawkins happen!

  7. Nice Reviews. I agree that Blanchett should get the Nom for best Actress this year. Too bad The Grandmaster was cut down for U.S. release. Will look for The International version later

    1. Thanks. Yeah, I can't wait to see the full version of The Grandmaster.