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So now is the time of year where the paying of your SAG dues begins to pay off! If you are a member of the Screen Actors Guild and you are up to date on your dues, then you begin to receive some perks. One of which being a mailbox full with DVD screeners of the nominated films. You are also given free tickets to theaters and access to watch movies on certain websites.

This season I was offered screenings of the following films and here are some of my thoughts.  Short and sweet.

AMERICAN HUSTLE: Made me question what the hell I was doing with my life at 23 years old because I certainly wasn’t winning  Oscars. This movie highly benefits from the 360 degree concept of film direction taken by David O’Russel.  The actors had to be 100% present in every given moment and it works.  Christian Bale has been a favorite of mine for a long time.  His performance in, “The Fighter” ranks as one of my ALL TIME FAVORITE PERFORMANCES, EVER!  I am always impressed with Amy Adams and Bradley Cooper is proving himself as a force to be reckoned with in this industry with each new project.  It was, however, Jennifer Lawrence who captivated the screen.  She is a POWERHOUSE of an actress with the capability to express dark manipulation, brutal vulnerability, sadness and unabashed confidence within one moment of a scene.  She lives the life. She is exhilarating on screen creating an impossibility of taking your eyes off her.  And she is 23.  Impressive.  Watch the movie for her performance if nothing else and you will be pleasantly surprised with everything else.

BLUE JASMINE: Cate Blanchette’s performance should make us all acutely aware that only a streak of bad luck is the breath of difference between our present lives and the random ramblings on a park bench.

PS..I had the privilege of sitting in on a conversation with Miss Blanchette last week. Consider me smitten. This woman defines poise. Radiates charm and intelligence and just kind of makes you want to become a better human in her presence. She shared the intricacies of her craft in a way that validated all young actors; actually actors everywhere indiscriminate of age. She did a service so great to the actor that say Meryl Streep did not. I’ll never forget literally, LITERALLY, sitting on the edge of my seat as Miss Streep conducted her interview on, Inside The Actors Studio, grasping for any tiny nugget of information that could give me the tiniest glimpse into the creative genius that is Meryl Streep, only to receive in turn this comment, “I am afraid to disclose too much about my craft in fear of losing it.” Really?  REALLY?  Then why even do the interview?  On INSIDE THE ACTORS STUDIO?

Cate Blanchett really gave us a lot of insight into her method of creating characters and what it means to train.  Her advice was invaluable.

AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY:  Ok. She may never divulge the secrets to her extraordinary talent.  Fine.  You can still learn a lot through observation and this movie only further validates my opinion that Meryl Streep must be an alien from Planet Thespian. Only logical explanation. Seriously..she never ceases to astound me. Such an elegant woman completely and utterly living in the addicted skin of a self indulgent mother is pure perfection.

DALLAS BUYERS CLUB: DYING TO WATCH THIS..(no pun intended). I am currently in Mexico and haven’t had the chance but had the privilege of an hour of conversation with the ever charming Mr. Mcgoneghy. Later blog about that experience soon to come! Congrats to the coolest snd most charming southern man who ever lived! Challenge me. You won’t win.

**Update**

Saw this.  Loved this.  Matthew Mcgoneghy is at his absolute finest.  I have a deep rooted love for Jennifer Garner stemming from her Alias days but I’m sad to say, I think she was terribly miscast in this film.  I feel like an unknown would have been a better choice.  All that being said, Jared Leto steals the movie. STEALS IT. He plays Rayon with such delicate perfection. Portraying one of the most charming and lovable human beings I have ever seen in film.

12 YEARS A SLAVE: Great movie. Great movie. Made me realize how blessed I am in my own existence. However. I have to say..and oh, how I love me some Brad Pitt but while watching this film I was thinking..”There is no way Brad Pitt is gonna have any kinda part in owning a slave much less whipping one. So, then I’m thinking he’s gotta be some sort of help to one of them. WELL, he not only plays a good guy and he not only saves the day in this film but he also mouths off, in defense of mistreated salves to the actual slave trader in the early 1940’s, as a hired hand. Probably the most unbelievable part in the movie. However..as previously noted, I do love me some Brad Pitt so I will forgive this unbelievable performance…even though he never took off his shirt. The rest of the film is heartbreakingly spectacular.

On the other side of the risk taking spectrum is Michael Fassbender.  He perfected a conflict of brutality and vulnerability in a way that the audience was able to humanize a truly barbaric individual.  He did his job and he did it very well.  I applaud him.

THE BUTLER: Forest Whitaker plays Cecil Gaines in this true story about a man doing whatever necessary to support his family.  Whitaker radiates warmth and vulnerability but is able to balance this with a certain strength in maintaining his household.  I just believed every second of this performance.  Every single second.  I have to give it to Oprah Winfrey!  This woman is an icon.  A woman who we see every day on a television screen, being as close to herself as humanly possible for the past 20 years and I believed her portrayal of Gloria Gaines, completely.  Sometimes, someone is such a big star, or we know so much of their personal lives that it is difficult to see them as anyone but themselves.  Take Brad Pitt in 12 Years a Slave as an example.  This was not the case with Ms. Winfrey and I love her even more for taking a chance on this film.

PHILOMENA: Had zero interest in this film. Zero. Yes, I understand how wonderfully talented Brits are. They must be. They steal all of our work.  I get it. I still don’t like their films. And then..I watched one. Ahh..with absolute authenticity both these actors portray utterly believable and sympathetic characters. Judi Dench is heaven. The heartbreaking enthusiasm Ms. Dench portrays, upon her learning a few words exchanged between her estranged son and her journalist friend, is nothing less than brilliant. BRILLIANT. It is a must-must see and not only because I have an affinity towards the mother-son bond; )

NEBRASKA: OK. My nephew cracked up before falling asleep at the suggestion of the first five minutes of this film. I do believe the son was miscast although I understand they were going for some comic relief to lighten up this black and white film. I wish they would have had more confidence in the other actors as well as the film’s director, Alexandor Payne to provide this comedy. Bruce Dern delivers his best and the supporting cast is phenomenal. I do think the film would have worked in color but I appreciate the artistic adventure. Bottom line: good performances and worth watching.

GRAVITY: I can only hope to look that good on screen while pushing 50. And, if I am ever lost in space, I wouldn’t mind George Clooney being there to keep me company. Those are my thoughts on Gravity.

ENOUGH SAID: Let me preface this little review with how sad I am that Gandolfini is gone. Fuck. He was great. GREAT at what he played. A gangster. Tony Soprano will live in my card catalogue of influential characters as long as I live. And..he wasn’t so bad as a divorcee trying to get back in the game.

Julia Louis-Dreyfess, however, steals the show. From everyone. From Gandolfini, from Toni Collette, from Melissa McCarthy’s husband..even from the pretty newcomers who play her daughter and her daughter’s friend. She plays her character with a perfect blend of strength and vulnerability. To watch her face on screen in all of it un-botoxed glory is refreshingly magnetic. She shines as a television actress but she sparkles on film

And so, those are my thoughts these season. Hope you enjoy:)