Posted by Ken Burke On February - 3 - 2015 0 Comment


126133_galI’d like to call your attention to my latest detailed review, this time a tale of two early Oscar-potential-buzzers from two well-respected directors featuring some notable actors, one of which, Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper, did grab six Oscar noms (Best Picture, Actor, Adapted Screenplay, Editing, Sound Mixing, and Sound Editing) in anticipation of that upcoming Feb. 22 ceremony and is burning up the box-office (over $250 million in domestic ticket sales after six weeks in release, which according to Box Office Mojo makes it #6 and still climbing for 2014 movies—even though only one of those six weeks was part of last year’s calendar) while the other, A Most Violent Year, comes from another acclaimed director, J.C. Chandor (with nowhere near the legacy of Eastwood, although his previous films, Margin Call [2011] and All Is Lost [2013], were both critically acclaimed), but received no recognition from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences nor much from the paying public (with not quite $3 million in domestic receipts despite being in theatres for 5 weeks), yet the critical community is very supportive of it, even more so than American Sniper.

Certainly … Sniper is more in the news than … Violent Year as some praise this depiction of expert marksman Chris Kyle’s patriotic fervor and his 160 confirmed kills during four tours of the war in Iraq (with up to 255 deaths claimed by his supporters) while others loudly condemn the film as a pro-war celebration glorifying what some say are vicious attitudes toward Iraqis by Kyle as well as unsubstantiated, ego-driven lies about his career in his autobiography which served as a chief source for this script (you can get a sampling of both sorts of opinions in links contained in my review noted above).  Director Eastwood says simply that his intention was to make an anti-war statement, depicting the trauma that unnerves even a dedicated soldier such as Kyle, so I’ll leave it to you as to what interpretation of these events is most appropriate.  A Most Violent Year (referring to the 1981 crime wave in NYC, which fortunately for me came about a decade after I moved away from my brief attempt to take a bite of the Big Apple) is fictional but based on the realities of known collusions between businessmen and mobsters, often taking everyone else around them—including union truck drivers and district attorneys—down into their miserable manipulations of American commerce.  There’s not much actual violence on the screen here, just the constant threat of it as an aspiring home-heating-oil mogul and his wife (played marvelously by Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain—she could easily be on the Oscar list for Best Supporting Actress in place of Laura Dern or Keira Knightly, despite their solid performances) face pressures from both inside and outside the law.

I liked both of these films and highly recommend them while they’re still available.  Comments on any of this are welcome here, at my blog review site, at the LinkedIn Movie Addicts or World Cinema Critics discussions, or sent directly to me at



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