Awards Circle: Wild, Still Alice, Guardians of the Galaxy

Here are the latest films I’d seen (the third was embarrassingly the last) which are all contenders in the Oscar race. Reese Witherspoon and Julianne Moore star in last year’s rarity of under-appreciated female-focused films while Guardians of the Galaxy’s inclusion on this entry stays true to its odd-one-out persona (it’s bizarre yet perfectly sane of its cause).

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WILD

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A dramatically tailored and extraordinary chronicle of grief, atonement and strength, WILD is director Jean-Marc Vallee’s powerful follow-up of 2013’s Dallas Buyers Club that doesn’t lose sight and touch of its character drama completely grounded on Reese Witherspoon’s grittiest performance. Boldly embracing her role’s physical and emotional strife, Witherspoon wins her best showcase since Walk the Line, as her backstory unfolds intimately and judiciously through Nick Hornby’s adapted screenplay. A soulful and thoughtful quest for redemption, WILD treks on Vallee’s dedicated track record of recreating personal stories that are more transcendent of what is expected. Packed with emotional resonance that makes Cheryl Strayed’s true story sturdier, WILD is born to become a satisfying and personal ‘hiking’ experience.

Rating: 4.0/5.0

STILL ALICE

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It’s interesting to note that the frontrunners of this year’s Oscars lead acting categories are encumbered by their illnesses. Eddie Redmayne wrestles in the grotesque physicality of renowned physicist Stephen Hawking while Julianne Moore becomes less of the accomplished professional her character was as she succumbs to Alzheimer’s disease. Unlike The Theory of Everything, STILL ALICE is not a story that triumphs over one’s sickness. Moore poignantly captures the confusion, acceptance and submission of Alice Howland in her quick mental spiral. But the psychological tragicomedy of Blue Jasmine (as Oscar winner Cate Blanchett’s banner film) is traded with the understated family drama that STILL ALICE sheds with subtlety and restraint. The long exposures on Moore invite viewers to observe her waning mental state that shuns itself of overpowering hysterics. STILL ALICE doesn’t shy on the disconcerting lapses brought by the disease, nor makes it uncomfortable to see Alice degenerate as the months pass by. Alice’s brave admittance of losing the battle against Alzheimer’s doesn’t make her helpless; neither does the film propose defeat. Rather, STILL ALICE is consistent in inflicting endurance and inner peace as it makes an emphatic case for its delicate subject matter.

Rating: 3.5/5.0

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY

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I found myself wary during my initial immersion into Marvel’s latest cinematic foray. The atmosphere beyond The Avengers was overwhelming as the narrative jumps into the alien locations, exposing me to comics’ cosmic unchartered territory. But thanks to the earthly company of Starlord (the affable Chris Pratt) and the pop culture references, I warm towards the intergalactic eccentricity. The oddest assembly of superhero-underdogs, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY is Marvel’s most deliriously funny and irreverent adventure that never runs out of unwarranted humor while introducing new characters with humane stories no matter what their genetic composition is. Often starts ridiculous yet finds itself levelheaded throughout the process, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY exchanges familiarity with the foreign for a ferocious entertainment that raises the studio’s cinematic standards.

Rating: 4.0/5.0

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