On Feb. 1, most Americans will stop their collective lives to watch four hours of football during our unofficial national holiday.
While gridiron combat is occupying our consciousness, movie theatres are featuring some “Super” movies of their own.
Here are five “Super” films you should see right now.
“Birdman” 5/5 stars – In one of the very best movies of 2014, Riggan (Michael Keaton) is a 60-something former movie superhero star who takes on the most ambitious project of his career: he writes, produces, directs, and stars in his Broadway adaptation of his hero’s, Raymond Carver’s, short story.
The movie plays out like a play as writer/director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu films the 2-hour picture under several continuous 10-minute shots.
While the camera winds through the hallways, dressing rooms, and the stage itself, we are privy to the backstage maneuvering and hilarity needed to put on a Broadway production.
The writing is razor sharp, and all the performances hit their marks, none better than Edward Norton’s portrayal of a talented actor with a chip – the size of a city block – on his shoulder.
“Cake” 4/5 stars – Even though the Academy did not nominate Jennifer Aniston for Best Actress, she delivers an Oscar-worthy performance as an acidic ex-lawyer wrapped in her own bitterness over a brutal car accident.
With her character heavily scarred and in massive pain, this is a rare stripped-down Aniston, as Claire constantly seethes with anger, frustration and loss.
Director Daniel Barnz slowly spins this indie yarn over 1 hour 42 minutes, and although the root cause of her pain becomes obvious after 30 minutes, the final reveal is still an overwhelming cause for emotion.
Credit the marvelous cast, Barnz’s skill for capturing a close human drama and of course, Aniston with her exceptional portrayal of a person fighting the desire to heal.
“Foxcatcher” 5/5 stars – Based upon an eerie and strange true story, multimillionaire John du Pont (Steve Carrell) asks Olympic wrestler Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) to live on his property to train for the 1988 Seoul Olympics.
While Schultz singularly focuses on Olympic gold, du Pont’s tries to reach glory for himself by trying to coach his new protege.
The problem is the ineffectual du Pont does not possess any charisma or coaching ability, and their “father/son” relationship bathes in an uncomfortable stew.
This highly intriguing and off-putting drama is led by three Oscar-caliber performances by Carrell, Tatum and Mark Ruffalo, who plays Mark’s older brother.
“Selma” 4.5/5 stars – In a painful, but also heroic look back at America’s sullied history of southern race relations, director Ava DuVernay brings Martin Luther King’s historic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama to life.
David Oyelowo champions MLK’s non-violent fight to the big screen, and channels the famous doctor with big speeches and dozens of smaller moments.
Oyelowo brings an honorable Oscar-worthy performance, but inexplicably, was left off the ballot.
DuVernay and Oeylowo together seem to flawlessly capture the spirit of that time and deliver an important history lesson which deserves to be told again and again.
“Two Days, One Night” 5/5 stars – Rightfully nominated for a Best Actress Oscar, Marion Cotillard plays a woman in dire emotional and financial stress.
Sandra (Cotillard) fights to keep her job – for reasons I will not give away here – and pleads her case to her 16 co-workers to save it.
Directors Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne’s revealing drama finds Sandra battling her defeatist tendencies on a semi-methodical march to each colleague’s home.
Sandra believes she’s only marching to keep her job, but her journey – without her knowing it – becomes an opportunity to discover her own self-worth.
This thoughtful and quietly powerful film – just about – perfectly captures the wide spectrum of the human condition.
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