Gustavson Column: A delightful month spent at the movies

01/19/2014 8:00 AM |
Llewyn 1

A scene from “Inside Llewyn Davis” was filmed in Riverhead.

With the arrival of January comes my annual immersion in a veritable sea of movies. Anything to get me through the next few months, when the sun will shine once again and there will be good reason to venture out of doors.

Until that sunny day in March (or will it be April this year?), I will spend the majority of my days curled up in front of our Digital Video Disc player thanks to our friend who belongs to the screen producer’s guild and thus gets “For Your Consideration” DVDs of all the good movies. Or, as a last resort, I will actually brave the elements and venture out to a local movie theater.

In alphabetical order, these are the movies I’ve seen since Christmas: “All Is Lost,” “American Hustle,” “Captain Phillips,” “Dallas Buyers Club,” “Her,” “Inside Llewyn Davis,” “Nebraska,” “Out of the Furnace,” “Stories We Tell,” “The Iceman,” “The Wolf of Wall Street” and “12 Years a Slave.” And I’m sure I’ve already forgotten one or two.

I know what you’re thinking: When did this guy have time to sleep or go to the bathroom? But remember: It could have been worse, because there are a number of current movies I absolutely, positively must see (“August: Osage County,” “Blue is the Warmest Color,” “Philomena”) along with several others I might take a chance on (“Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues,” “Lone Survivor”).

And if you’re looking for recommendations, I can honestly report that each and every movie I’ve seen since Christmas was worth seeing on at least one level, as follows:

“All Is Lost” is a must for sailors or anyone who has cruised offshore. And Robert Redford’s understated performance, including his unforgettable single word of dialogue, is praiseworthy.

“American Hustle” has four or five outstanding performances, but none better than Jennifer Lawrence’s. In fact, I won’t be surprised if she wins her second consecutive Academy Award.

“Captain Phillips” is pretty predictable, but it includes another Oscar nomination-worthy performance, this one by Barkhad Abdi, who plays one of the Somali pirates.

“Dallas Buyers Club” is distinguished by the performances of Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto, both of whom transformed their bodies in order to play AIDS victims.

“Her” may well be the best of the bunch. It’s quite unsettling, but in a provocative way, and it brilliantly captures the ways in which technology now dominates our lives.

“Inside Llewyn Davis,” the Coen brothers’ tale of a struggling folk singer in the ’60s, is another major downer, but the musical score is outstanding, as is the performance of the unknown actor/singer who plays the lead, Oscar Isaac.

“Nebraska” is best known for the lead performance of 77-year-old Bruce Dern, but it is the supporting role of the actor who plays his son, former “Saturday Night Live” cast member Will Forte, that most captured my attention.

“Out of the Furnace” arrived in and departed from movie theaters without very much notice, but it was one of my very favorites, in large part because of the performances of a passel of character actors, including Christian Bale, Woody Harrelson, Casey Affleck and Willem Dafoe.

“Stories We Tell” is actress/director Sarah Polley’s documentary about a family secret. I would not be surprised if it wins the Academy Award for best documentary.

“The Iceman” is another movie, like “Out of the Furnace,” that barely made a dent, but it, too, features one of my very favorite bad/weird guys: actor Michael Shannon. And if you doubt his ability to play weird, might I suggest his film “Bug.” (Bring paper towels and a bucket.)

“The Wolf of Wall Street” is about one-third too long at a running time of three hours, but it’s a riotous, profane, sex-crazed look at the real-life idiots who precipitated the financial collapse of the 1990s.

“12 Years a Slave” is unrelentingly grim in its depiction of America’s greatest source of shame, but you heard it here first: It will win the Academy Award for Best Picture.

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