REVIEW : “The Revenant”

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The last two years have been pretty kind to Alejandro González Iñárritu. 2014 saw the release of “Birdman”, his showy, indulgent black comedy/drama that caught fire during awards season eventually earning him Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay. Now we get 2015’s “The Revenant”, a dark frontier western that once again finds Iñárritu at the heart of the Oscar conversation.

Iñárritu’s films require a unique taste. They often wallow in pessimism, anguish, and despair. He often gives us miserable characters with little to no emotional complexities. And to varying degrees, each of his films carry their own pretentious self-awareness. But at the same time Iñárritu deserves to be called a visionary. While it could be said Iñárritu has no sense of modulation and he sometimes milks a technique dry, he does put a ton into his narrative structures and visual presentations.

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“The Revenant” is undeniably Iñárritu. Modulation is as hard to find as mercy and hope across his cold, bloody, and unforgiving landscape. The story overextends itself while the characters and audience are incessantly battered by the director’s almost sadistic infatuation with suffering. Doesn’t sound too good, right? Here’s the catch, it’s actually quite good. None of those things keep “The Revenant” from being an exhilarating experience. In fact, in a bizarre and twisted way many of Iñárritu’s indulgences fit perfectly with this dark and violent story.

The story was inspired by the true experiences of fur trapper Hugh Glass and loosely based on Michael Punke’s “The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge” from 2002. The concept saw several casting and directing changes before Iñárritu landed it in 2011. He worked with Mark L. Smith on the script and Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy were brought on board as the stars. Filming began in 2014 and spanned various locations in the United States, Canada, and Argentina.

At its core the story is fairly simple. The setting is 1823 in the unsettled Northwest. A military sponsored trapping expedition under the command of Captain Andrew Henry (Domhnall Gleeson) is attacked by a native tribe. Only ten men manage to escape including trapper and guide Hugh Glass (DiCaprio) and his Pawnee son played by Forrest Goodluck. The situation worsens after Hugh is violently attacked by a grizzly bear. Maimed and helpless, Hugh is buried alive in a shallow grave but not before witnessing the murder of his son by a vile, scurvy fellow trapper played by Tom Hardy.

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The trailers frame the rest of the story as a revenge tale and that’s partially accurate. Eventually Hugh escapes his shallow grave (the word revenant actually refers to the rising of the dead) and sets out to avenge his boy. But the film doesn’t put a heavy stress on that until later. Instead it becomes what I would call a survival procedural as Hugh methodically navigates one harrowing obstacle after another – his broken body, starvation, the freezing cold, hostile natives. The film certainly puts a heavy emphasis on the survival element of his story.

In doing that Iñárritu runs DiCaprio through a torturous gamut of challenging scenes. Leo has said several of the scenes were some of the hardest he has ever done. That’s easy to believe. Iñárritu emphasized authenticity and felt greenscreens  would hurt his vision for the film. That meant Leo trudging through actual deep snow, being swept away in an ice cold river, gnawing on raw fish and buffalo liver. DiCaprio goes all-in and gives an intensely committed performance that relies more on physicality and expression than dialogue. It’s something to behold.

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While on the subject of beholding you can’t speak of “The Revenant” without talking about its stunning presentation. As I mentioned Iñárritu is often obsessed with how his films look, almost to a fault. But here that obsession pays big dividends. The first smart move was bringing in the great Emmanuel Lubezki to shoot the film. Lubezki’s technique is so perfectly calibrated to this frontier world of beauty and violence. The action scenes are ferocious and filmed with a lyrical energy. They are veritable ballets of muskets, hatchets, bows, and blood.

But that is only one aspect of the film’s phenomenal visuals. There is also the way Iñárritu and Lubezki shoot the land. Scene after scene focuses on the astonishing beauty of the territory while also distinguishing it as threatening and untamed. It may be a slow panning shot of sun breaking through a forest’s canopy, a still shot of an ominous but beautiful snow covered mountain, or maybe a tracking shot of an icy, slow moving river. The imagery is stunning. It reminded me of Terrence Malik only colder, harsher, and bleaker. And I’m not sure any camera has ever captured the feeling of cold, wet misery better than here.

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If anyone feels that effect it’s the cast. Moreover if suffering on screen can win you an Oscar Leonardo DiCaprio has it in the bag, and Tom Hardy should at least be in the awards conversation. DiCaprio’s thirst for revenge is painfully earned and Hardy’s cauterized emotions feeds his repugnancy. Both are sturdy anchors for this patient, sweeping frontier epic. Both meld perfectly into Iñárritu’s dark, gloomy, overcast world.

It’s always pretty obvious where “The Revenant” is heading, but it’s that journey from the main story point to the finale that is so captivating. It isn’t an easy film to watch. The images are often shockingly gruesome and Iñárritu’s fascination with sorrow, misery, and loss pummels with one emotional gut-punch after another. But yet there is a seductive allure the kept me glued to every struggle, every conflict, and every encounter. I was overwhelmed by the scenery more times than I can count. But most importantly everything felt rich with meaning and emotion whether it was the ugliness of humanity or the beauty of nature. That’s not an easy thing to convey and Iñárritu deserves a ton of credit for doing it.

VERDICT – 4.5 STARS

4.5 STARS

REVIEW: “Django Unchained”

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My initial reaction after first viewing Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained” was incredibly mixed. So many critics and movie viewers loved the film while I struggled to get a true sense of my feelings towards it. In fact, my confliction was such that I never wrote a review for it. Now I have wrestled with this critical darling and I ask myself if my reservations still feel justified and is the film worthy of the massive amounts of accolades and praise heaped upon it?

One thing you have to give Tarantino is that he is a filmmaker with a definite style. But personally speaking it’s often his style that is both a strength and weakness of his films. I think that’s the case here as well. “Django Unchained” has a smart and instantly engaging blueprint. But there are stylistic choices, all signatures of Tarantino’s filmmaking, that are distracting and do more to promote his brand than actually strengthen the narrative. Many people love that about his pictures. I think it sometimes works against him and takes away his focus.

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The story begins two years prior to the Civil War. A man named Django (Jamie Foxx) along with four male slaves is being driven like cattle by two slave handlers. They run into a German dentist named Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) who ‘acquires’ Django and hires him to help find a group of outlaws known as the Brittle brothers. Django reveals to Schultz that he was married but was separated from his wife by a wicked slave owner. Schultz offers to help him find his wife in exchange for Django working for him through the winter. While together they run into a wild assortment of people, none more heterogeneous that a plantation owner named Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio).

“Django Unchained” has been called Tarantino’s spaghetti western but we only occasionally see the similarities between his film and those Italian westerns that became popular in the late 1960s. This is really just a revenge tale with plenty of fancy dressing. The story starts up nicely and the opening 30 minutes or so sets a very interesting table. But then the film slows down a bit which begins drawing attention to its 165 minute running time. It picks back up once Candie appears and then falls into a stew of truly great scenes, uncomfortable but hilarious humor, goofy and outlandish graphic violence, and jarring injections of that Tarantino “style”. It makes the last third of the film range from fascinating and intense to messy and indulgent.

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When Tarantino’s focus is on the right thing he can create some of the most mesmerizing scenes ever put to film. The opening sequence in “Inglourious Basterds” is a prime example. We get several instances of that in “Django Unchained”. There are moments when the dialogue is sharp and flowing which in turn creates scenes that turn out amazing. A long dinner table sequence at Candie’s plantation is one of my favorites. It’s crisp and fluid while also soaked in perfectly developed tension. There are a few other scenes where the humor hits with perfect timing and I found myself laughing out loud. QT is also always impressive with his camera. He can get a tad carried away at times but this film, like many of his others, looks great and there are several unforgettable shots.

But there are flipsides to almost all of these positives. While some scenes are brilliant and the dialogue strong, others drag out too long and some of the dialogue is annoying. For example, Tarantino has a fascination with certain language and we see it here. There are times where certain characters sound like they belong in “Reservoir Dogs” instead of a spaghetti western. Then there are the aforementioned style choices. Take the music. QT has always liked to incorporate unique music into his films which I appreciate. But here he goes from a musical homage to the theme from “Two Mules for Sister Sara” to bass-pounding rap music. For me it did more to take me out of the setting than enhance the film. And then there is the much talked about graphic violence. Tarantino definitely soaks the audience in copious amounts of blood, but it’s hard to take it serious. I was neither turned off by it or impressed with it. It was so ridiculously over the top that it was neither humorous nor did it add any intensity to the action. Any impact it had quickly wore off.

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I do have to give props to the cast. I’ve never been a big fan of Jaime Foxx but he does a nice job here. He does stumble over the occasional bits of poorly written dialogue but as a whole this was an impressive performance. Christoph Waltz is just a tremendous actor and he always seems to fit nicely into Tarantino’s weird worlds. Leo DiCaprio has an absolute blast playing this twisted francophile wannabe slaver with bad teeth and a deceptive charm. He steals several scenes by going all in and you can’t take your eyes off of him. Samuel L. Jackson is a hoot playing possibly the most despicable character in the movie. He’s also undeniable funny at times and more than once I caught myself in uncomfortable laughter. And Kerry Washington is very convincing in one of the film’s few emotionally steady roles.

So what to make of “Django Unchained”? I understand that many absolutely adore the movie. For me it is another Tarantino project that shows bits of greatness that it never can sustain. The good moments are really good but each of them are bookended by one questionable narrative choice or a blast of QT style that doesn’t always help the film as a whole. To call “Django Unchained” uneven would be an understatement. It has its share of problems. But it also features fabulous performances, a wonderful visual flare, and a handful of purely brilliant sequences. Those things save it from completely drowning in Tarantino’s indulgence.

VERDICT – 3 STARS

5 Phenomenal Movie Storms

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Think about this, how many movies in some way, shape, or form use some type of storm in their story? I bet there are a lot more than you think. So just for fun I thought it would be cool to look five great movie storms. I’m going for variety here so there may be some you expect to see that didn’t make it. Still, I’m quite excited about these five movie storms and I have no problem calling them phenomenal.

#5 – “Hard Rain”

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In the cheesy but personal guilty pleasure “Hard Rain”, a small Indiana town is flooded during the midwest’s worst recorded rainstorm. Christian Slater is an armored truck driver tasked with getting the bank’s money out of the abandoned town. Little does he know that Morgan Freeman and his band of baddies have their eyes set on the loot. This starts a heated chase through flooded streets, flooded schools, flooded churches, you name it. The storms presence is there throughout the film and the filmmakers utilize it in some crafty and inventive ways. This isn’t the smartest of films but it is a lot of fun. It also features one of the most significant movie storms you’ll find. I just had to sneak it on this list.

#4 – “Take Shelter”

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In Jeff Nichols’ 2011 film “Take Shelter” Michael Shannon plays a man named Curtis who frequently experiences troubling dreams involving a massive approaching storm. This storm is unlike any of the others listed because it represents some important symbolism. These horrible visions impress upon him the need to spend what little savings he has to build a storm shelter for the tempest that’s on the way. There’s real danger approaching and Curtis must protect his family. But is the storm coming from the clouds or from him? Again, this isn’t a typical storm like the rest but it’s essential to this tremendous film.

#3 – “Shutter Island”

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In Martin Scorsese’s underappreciated gem “Shutter Island” there is a destructive storm that hits which changes the landscape of the island housing a hospital for the criminally insane. It also helps trigger several events which are key to this wonderful psychological thriller. Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo play federal marshals investigating the disappearance of patient. While there the storm hits preventing them from returning to the mainland. During the chaos of the storm’s aftermath they are able to sneak in and investigate parts of the hospital they were previously not allowed to see. This provides some key pieces to this twisted puzzle.

#2 – “Portrait of Jennie”

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In the 1948 fantasy drama “Portrait of Jennie” the great and underrated Joseph Cotten plays a struggling painter who is hungry for inspiration. He finds it in a mysterious young girl named Jennie and I’ll leave it at that. In one scene the artist heads out to sea to find her but encounters a violent storm that smashes his boat on a rocky shore. What really makes this storm special are the tremendous ahead-of-its-time special effects. There are sweeping shots of almost mythical cloud formations and stunningly realistic scenes showing the storm tossing the boat around. We also get clever uses of color tints and sound. The amazing visuals won the Academy award that year and the storm plays a good part in this fantastic movie.

#1 – “Key Largo”

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Humphrey Bogart and director John Huston teamed up several times and one of their best collaborations was the 1948 classic “Key Largo”. Bogie arrives at a hotel in Key Largo, Florida and finds it occupied by a group of gangsters posing as fisherman. After a tropical storm hits he ends up trapped inside with the mob boss, his henchmen, and the owners. The storm is key to framing the narrative. It’s buildup, the moment it hits, and the aftermath all play big roles in the film. It’s ominous and menacing and it provides a perfect setting for this compelling story. I’m a huge Bogie fan and “Key Largo” is a favorite of mine.

So what do you think of my list? So many other great movie storms come to mind. “The Wizard of Oz”, “Cast Away” just to name a couple. I’d love to hear your thoughts or picks. Please share them in the comments section below.

REVIEW: “Inception”

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After the release of Christopher Nolan’s “Inception” back in 2010, I wrote a review on my earlier blog site praising the film. After several more viewings, I would continue to applaud this production and it was easily my favorite film of that year. But as excited as I was over “Inception”, I still don’t think my previous review did justice to what has become one of my favorite movies of all time. Yes, I said of all time! I still find “Inception” to be one of the most original and most ambitious movies I’ve ever seen. But ambition doesn’t always equal a great movie. “Inception” not only aims high but it succeeds in creating a brilliant and unique picture that’s unlike anything I’ve seen.

It’s hard to pigeonhole “Inception”. It’s a heist film, a tragic romance, science-fiction, and an action film. But the best thing is it uses all of these ingredients flawlessly. The bulk of its success can be traced right back to Nolan. For my money Christopher Nolan is one of our greatest working directors. He wrote , co-produced, and directed this film and I truly believe he’s one of the only visionary filmmakers who could have pulled this off. It took him almost ten years to write and rewrite the script and it took the huge success of “The Dark Knight” to secure the big budget needed to make “Inception”. But you sure can’t argue with the results of the finished product. “Inception” ended its box office run making over $825 million worldwide.

The film stars Leonardo DiCaprio, an actor Nolan had wanted to work with for some time. He plays “Dom” Cobb, a dream thief for lack of a better title. He, along with his partner Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), are paid to infiltrate the subconsciouses of their targets via their dreams and steal information. When the dream extraction from a wealthy Japanese businessman named Saito (Ken Watanabe) goes wrong, Cobb and Arthur find out they were being tested. Instead of extracting information, Saito wants the them to attempt inception on a business rival of his. The idea of inception is that instead of stealing information you plant it in the target’s subconscious while they’re dreaming. There are questions as to whether inception is even possible but Cobb is enticed to take the job when Saito promises to use his influence to clear Cobb’s name of a mysterious murder charge that has kept him out of the United States and separated from his two children.

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To do the job Cobb needs a top-notch team of experts. Eames (Tom Hardy) is basically a forger or probably better described as an impersonator. Once inside a dream he has the ability to take on the identity of anyone. Ariadne (Ellen Page) is the architect. She is able to construct mental labyrinths inside the dreamers subconscious. This is essential if the team is going to know their way around the dream. Yusuf (Dileep Rao) is basically the team’s pharmacist. He’s the one who controls the sleep via his numerous concoctions. Saito also insists on going and keeping an eye on his “investment”. Nolan takes us through the formation of the team, bits of their training, and of course their attempt at inception. As the story moves forward Nolan plays with our minds as he begins placing dreams within dreams and he causes his audience to pay close attention as their well planned heist encounters more and more complications.

One thing I’ve always loved about a Christopher Nolan film is his ability to put to gather the perfect cast. This may be his best yet. DiCaprio has been a critic’s darling with several of his performances, but I think this is one of his very best. Cobb knows his business but he’s a tortured man with loads of emotional baggage. Leo handles all of this perfectly. I also loved Tom Hardy here and he steals nearly every scene he’s in. Eames is a confident wisecracker and some of his best scenes are when he’s giving Arthur a hard time. Speaking of Arthur, Gordon-Levitt gives another strong performance and he has one particular action sequence that’s one of the best I’ve ever seen. And then there’s Ellen Page who I liked as Ariadne. Her character is new to the dream scene and she brings a needed sense of caution and reality to the mission.

But there are some other great performances that are important to the story and worth mentioned. One of my favorites was Marion Cotillard as Mal. She has a special bond with Cobb and repeatedly appears within the dreams potentially compromising the mission. Cotillard’s performance is multi-layered and fascinating. Michael Caine, a Nolan favorite, is very good as Cobb’s father-in-law and caregiver of his children. Cillian Murphy plays the team’s central target for inception and he too is a great fit for his role. It was also great to see Tom Berenger given a nice role to work with and the great Peter Postlethwaite in what would be his last performance before his death due to pancreatic cancer. All of these performers are sharply in tune with the material and the cast serves as just one of the movie’s many high points.

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Nolan is also a visual filmmaker and there is some incredibly eye candy in “Inception”. The movie was filmed in locations all over the world including Tokyo, Morocco, Paris, and Alberta. Each of these places have their own separate and distinct look and feel to them within the movie whether they take place in reality or in a dream. This was an intentional move by Nolan who wanted to place his film in the contemporary world while also playing with our perceptions of what is real and what’s not. And of course since we’re talking about dreams, Nolan has a spectacular and diverse visual sandbox to play in. He wows us with several amazing special effects sequences that include rotating hotel rooms, trains barreling down big city boulevards, and a shootout at a fortified arctic base. “Inception” hits you with one spectacular set piece after another and all of this gels nicely with the movie’s deep and layered story.

“Inception”isn’t a movie with a straightforward by-the-books narrative. It’s a film that requires you to pay attention and I like that. I’ve talked with people who didn’t care for the movie because of its complexities and I can’t help but be puzzled. So many movies are simple and formulaic genre films that never challenge their audiences in any way. For me it’s refreshing to have something completely original and fresh and I appreciate how the film doesn’t dumb things down for the audience. I’m also amazed at just how well this complex story unwraps. Nolan constantly throws new kinks into his story to the point where I questioned whether he could bring it all together. But like a skilled and crafty pro he pulls everything in during the last 20 minutes, right up to the beautiful final shot. And that final scene, well it gets a little misty for me every single time.

For me everything in “Inception” works. The special effects, the action sequences, Nolan’s phenomenal script, the incredible cast, Hans Zimmer’s pulse pounding score. This is why I go to the movies. There’s nothing conventional about “Inception” and there’s no way to watch it and not appreciate its craftsmanship. That said be prepared to think. The story is a bit of a challenge but that’s just another joy I get from watching it. I understand it may not be everyone’s cup of tea but it gives me everything I want in a motion picture experience. For me this is a modern cinematic masterpiece.

VERDICT – 5 STARS

5 STARSs

5STAR K&M

5 PHENOMENAL MOVIE ROMANCES

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Well this is the week where millions and millions of dollars will be spent on fresh roses, boxes of rich chocolates, sparkling diamond jewelry, and expensive fancy dinners all in the name of undying love. Ok, let me reword that. This Thursday is Valentines Day – a day where we guys had better have our wives or girlfriends something nice or the following few weeks will not be very pleasant! In the spirit of this wallet-crushing holiday I thought it would be good to focus this week’s Phenomenal 5 on love. So today I’m listing 5 Phenomenal Movie Romances. These are classic onscreen romances that are equally memorable and romantic. Now with so many big screen romances gracing cinema for all these years I would be a real goof to call this the definitive list. But I have no problems calling these five movie romances absolutely phenomenal.

#5 – Jack and Rose (“Titanic”)

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While the first half of James Cameron’s epic sized blockbuster “Titanic” wasn’t nearly as good as the second half, it did set in motion a romance that gave the tearjerker finale some huge emotional pop. Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a poor drifter and Rose (Kate Winslet) is a member of the high society upper class. The two cross paths on the maiden voyage of the British luxury liner Titanic. Obviously they come from opposite ends of the social order but you know the old saying – “opposites attract” yadda yadda yadda. A deep and forbidden love develops between them and Rose’s family are none too happy about it. But all of that takes a back seat when the Titanic strikes an iceberg and begins to sink. At no time does their love shine brighter than in their struggle to survive and you can’t help but be moved by it.

#4 – Jesse and Celine (“Before Sunrise” & “Before Sunset”)

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No list like this would be complete without including Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy). These two young lovers first met on a train from Budapest to Vienna in “Before Sunrise”. Jesse convinces Celine to skip her connecting train to Paris and spend the night walking around Vienna with him. A romantic spark is lit and the two seem like true soul mates but at the end of the film they head their separate ways. They cross paths 10 years later in Paris in “Before Sunset” and their lives have taken on many new changes. But as they spend the day walking and talking we quickly learn that spark never went out. It’s such a wonderful but complicated romance and we’ll get to see them 10 years later in this year’s “Before Midnight”. I can’t wait.

#3 – Nathaniel and Cora (“The Last of the Mohicans”)

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Underneath the surface of frontier violence and costly war lies an incredible romance that plays a big part in “The Last of the Mohicans”. Cora (Madelenie Stowe) is an English woman who has arrived in the States during The French and Indian War. She’s rescued by Nathaniel (Daniel Day-Lewis) and his adopted father and brother after a Huron war party tries to kill her. Through Nathaniel she learns a different perspective of the war and how it effects the locals. Even more important to the story, the two develop a love for one another that carries them through blood, battlefields, and tragedy. The way this love story is told through this dangerous and violent environment is beautiful and “The Last of the Mohicans” remains one of my all time favorite films.

#2 – Scarlett and Rhett (“Gone with the Wind”)

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There may not be a more difficult and sometimes volatile relationship in film than the one shared between Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh) and Rhett Butler (Clark Gable). Their fascinating romance takes place during the outbreak of the Civil War. Scarlett is a fiery but spoiled daughter of a plantation owner and Rhett is just the one to tame her…or is he? Rhett is a confident and brash fellow who makes a play for Scarlett. But he’s not her puppet which often times infuriates her. But through their on again/off again relationship there is evidence of a truly passionate love between them. These two take us on a roller coaster ride that’s anything but a soft and tender love story. But it’s without a doubt one of the most mesmerizing romances to ever grace the movies.

#1 – Rick and Ilsa (“Casablanca”)

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My favorite movie of all time also happens to feature what I think is the greatest romance in movie history. Humphrey Bogart plays Rick, a club owner in Casablanca during World War 2. His world is turned upside down when Ilsa (played by the stunningly beautiful Ingrid Bergman) reenters his life. We learn the two fell madly in love after first meeting in Paris but circumstances tore them apart. From the first moment their eyes meet again, we know that neither’s feelings have changed. But there are several obstacles keeping them from being together and watching what seems to be an ill-fated romance is simply great cinema. Bogart and Bergman have incredible chemistry and you never doubt their character’s love for each other. This is the quintessential romance in what’s a truly flawless movie.

So those are my five phenomenal movie romances. Now I want to hear your thoughts. What did I miss or where did I go wrong. Take time to comment and share you favorite movie romance.

5 Phenomenal Actors Who Never Won an Oscar

A few weeks ago I looked at 5 phenomenal actresses who were never given an Academy Award despite their incredible talent and strong careers. Today we are focussing on the men. I found this to be a much tougher list to put together. The number of great actors that never won the highest acting award would surprise you. And I found it incredibly difficult to leave certain names off this list. But I think a great case can be made for the five that made the cut. Now, as with the ladies, Lifetime Achievement Oscars don’t count. I’m talking about men who never received the heralded Best Actor or Best Supporting Actor awards. With such a healthy selection, it would be silly to call this the definitive list. But it’s clear that these 5 Oscarless actors are certainly phenomenal.

#5 – FRED ASTAIRE

While I’ve never been a huge fan of musicals, I’ve always appreciated the amazing contributions Fred Astaire made to the once flourishing genre. So it came as a big surprise to see that Astaire never won an Oscar. Now he did receive an honorary Academy Award after one of his retirement stints. But he was never recognized for his acting. Astaire was an amazing talent both with his dance and with his voice. But he was also a talented and always likable actor who made many quality films. There was a lot of doubt about whether he would make it in the movie industry but he would end up putting that to rest. He will always be recognized for his collaborations with Ginger Rogers. The two made a total of ten movies together including “Top Hat”, “Swing Time”, and “The Barkleys of Broadway”. He was superb in “Holiday Inn” alongside Bing Crosby. He would also make many well-received movies with the likes of Rita Hayworth, Judy Garland, Gene Kelly, and Audrey Hepburn. Fred Astaire made many films that should have garnered some Oscar attention. And this is coming from a guy not that crazy about musicals.

#4 – LEONARDO DICAPRIO

From an early age, Leonardo DiCaprio defined himself as an exceptional actor through several incredible performances. He first caught the attention of movie fans with his portrayal of a mentally handicapped boy in “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape”. This would earn him his first Academy Award nomination. He would star in several recognizable films before making his big splash (pun intended) in James Cameron’s mega-hit “Titanic”. Following it, he began a defining collaboration with Martin Scorsese in films like “Gangs of New York”, “The Aviator” (which earned him his second Oscar nomination), and “The Departed”. Hey would then earn a third nomination in “Blood Diamond”. He would continue to do top-notch work particularly in “Shutter Island”, his fourth movie with Scorsese, and the fantastic “Inception” with director Christopher Nolan. DiCaprio has an impressive resume and several intriguing roles lined up. He’s earned his numerous nominations but cases could be made that one or more of them could have translated to wins.

#3 – ROBERT MITCHUM

It’s hard to believe that an actor who was so highly revered and with so many good movies on his resume never received an Academy Award for his work. Such is the case with Robert Mitchum. Mitchum really made a name for himself in the film noir genre with movies like “Crossfire”, “Out of the Past”, and “The Big Steal”. He also starred in “The Story of G.I. Joe”, a solid picture that would earn him his one and only Academy Award nomination. After playing in a variety of roles, Mitchum would give a mesmerizing and menacing performance in “The Night of the Hunter”. The rest of Mitchum’s career would feature numerous Oscar worthy performances in some really good films such as “The Sundowners”, the creepy “Cape Fear”, “The Longest Day”, “El Dorado”, “The Friends of Eddie Coyle”, and “Ryan’s Daughter”. Mitchum had a recognizable look and unmistakable voice. But he also had a booming screen presence that made his performances all the more memorable. It’s truly amazing that the Academy never recognized him for his work.

#2 – JOSEPH COTTEN

Joseph Cotten had a long film career that spanned over five decades. He was an actor that was always working but was never quite as popular as many of Hollywood’s big names. But personally I loved Cotten and he starred in some of my favorite classic movies. You know things are good when one of your very first feature films in the beloved “Citizen Kane”. Cotten’s performance as Leland stands out and it’s one of the film’s many strong points. After another wonderful collaboration with Orson Welles in “The Magnificent Ambersons”, he would star in one of my very favorite Alfred Hitchcock pictures “Shadow of a Doubt”. In it he delivers yet another true Oscar-calibur performance. The 1940’s were a great year for Cotten as evident by his work in “Gaslight”, “Portrait of Jennie”, and a spectacular movie that I think may offer his very best performance “The Third Man”. While not as strong as the 40’s, the rest of his career would offer several memorable roles in films like “Niagara”, “Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte”, “Soylent Green”, and “Airport ’77”. It’s stunning to me that Cotten never garnered any recognition from the Academy especially for his early work.

#1 – CARY GRANT

It almost doesn’t seem possible. Has Cary Grant really never won an Academy Award especially when considering his brilliant resume? Nope, he never won an Oscar and he was only nominated twice! In 1970 the Academy did give him a “We Feel Terrible for Always Passing You Over” honorary Academy Award, but that doesn’t make up for the shunning. Cary Grant’s career stands on its own and it goes without saying that it was a great one. Grant’s good looks and undeniable charm always translated well to the big screen. He gave so many brilliant and charismatic performances from the 1930’s until his retirement in the mid-60’s. Instead of giving a history, let me just name some of the wonderful films he’s been in and you explain to me how he never won and Oscar – “Bringing Up Baby”, “Gunga Din”, “His Girl Friday”, “The Philadelphia Story”, “Penny Serenade”, “The Talk of the Town”, “Arsenic and Old Lace”, “Notorious”, “To Catch a Thief”, “Houseboat”, “North By Northwest”, “Operation Petticoat”, “Charade”. There are several other great Cary Grant pictures but I think you get the point. He was a wonderful actor who always commanded the screen. He also gave us some of cinema’s greatest films.

There you go. Those are my five phenomenal actors who have never won an Oscar. What say you? Agree or disagree with my list? Please take some time to share your thoughts on this week’s Phenomenal 5.