Movie Diary 12/2/2013

American Hustle (David O. Russell, 2013). The 1970s reign supreme, but then you knew that already. Some very spirited actors – none more so than a fierce Amy Adams – kick up a fun romp around the ABSCAM affair. Do they give Oscars for hair styling? (full review 12/20)

The Conjuring (James Wan, 2013). Missed it the first time around. Considering some level of buzz around it, a disappointing movie. Wan’s confident camera sense is frequently let down by the words that come out of people’s mouths.

The Palm Beach Story (Preston Sturges, 1942). Slightly surprised that Sturges didn’t bring back the Wienie King for one final appearance. But Rudy Vallee’s performance remains on the short list of my faves ever.

At Berkeley (Frederick Wiseman, 2013). The venerable documentarian goes to Cal, and makes four hours remarkably engrossing – especially fine is its portrait of the value of people talking with each other. (full review 12/6)

Caught in the Web (Chen Kaige, 2012). A peppy (but not trendy) cross-section of contemporary Chinese society, beginning with a viral video that threatens a bunch of people who are generally out for themselves. Terrific cast, lousy music, and Chen Kaige brings his ability to resist caricature. (full review 12/6)

The Way Way Back (Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, 2013). Another year-end screener to check off the list. Good people on screen, but not a lot of oomph otherwise.

All Is Lost (J.C. Chandor, 2013). And one more to catch up with. Redford is just a brilliant choice for the lead and only role: a man (“Our Man” in the credits) struggling to save his boat and himself when a crossing is threatened with a series of calamities. He does all the logical things to make things right, and everything still goes bad. All I can say is this movie hit me where I live.

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