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FLICKS: August Osage County, Dallas Buyers Club & MIFF

Posted on 27 February 2014 by LeslieM

By Dave Montalbano


August Osage County is your typical Hollywood contender for an academy award. It features serious award-winning actors like Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts and Chris Cooper. The story is based on a Pulitzer Award-winning play and it has the Weinstein Brothers marketing machine behind it. The film is finely directed by John Wells with an emphasis on symbolic cinematography, contrasting the beautiful landscapes of Oklahoma with the spider’s lair of the Weston Family.

We are introduced to Pa Weston (Sam Shepard), who has hired a caregiver. Pa disappears and Ma (Streep) summons her family. With children portrayed by Julia Roberts, Juliette Lewis and Julianne Nicholson, one can expect shouting matches around the subjects of drug abuse, suicide and incest. In between this dysfunctional family feud, this film features moments of comedy and laughter.

The problem is that it does not feel like a slice of life. For all of its technical beauty, it’s an ugly film to watch. Streep and Roberts reveal their inner barnacles and give excellent, but disturbing, performances.

Disturbing best describes the ensemble cast in Dallas Buyers Club. Directed by Jean- Marc Vallee, this film features extreme close-ups of the AIDS epidemic from the perspective of both patient and caregiver. Yet given its gloomy premise, it has many redemptive moments.

Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey) is a roughhousing rodeo cowboy. After an orgy, Ron contracts the HIV virus and is given 30 days to live. During this month, he runs afoul the medical community and dislikes being associated with the homosexual community. When he survives past his original death sentence, he challenges the medical community when he learns about AZT – a drug that can postpone full blown AIDS. McConaughey gives the performance of his career and is likely to take home an Oscar Sunday night.

Dallas Buyers Club and August Osage County are performance- driven movies with the best actors of the age.

For 31 days, Turner Classic Movies has been presenting Oscar-nominated and winning films from the previous 85 years. Given the distance of time, one can see that performances can become outdated. Though Oscar-nominated, Sir Laurence Olivier gave an unintentionally comic performance as Othello complete in blackface minstrel. How I wish I caught James Earl Jones’ performance in Othello at Parker Playhouse 30 years ago. Christopher Plummer, who portrayed Iago in that stage production, will be honored at the Miami International Film Festival (MIFF), which begins March 7. Mike Myers, Shirley MacLaine, John Turturro and Andy Garcia are expected to attend.

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