Tag Archives: Leonardo DiCaprio

Dustin’s Three to See: December

In an effort to stay slightly more topical than, say, reviewing 33-year-old episodes of Saturday Night Live, I wanted to share the top movies I saw last month — to help out those of you who don’t see 90% of the films that are released like I do. And actually full credit goes to my longtime friend Phil (if you live in Columbus or the surrounding areas, go see his awesome cover band!) who was like “You see a lot of movies…you should put together a top three list every month so people who don’t go to the movies very often know which ones they should see.” And so here we are.

December is a huge month for movies, so coming up with a list of good movies to see this month wasn’t the hard part…the hard part was keeping it to three. However if you were on death row and your last request was to see three movies (instead of something more practical like, say, a hacksaw baked into a cake), these are the three to see. They are in no particular order.


Movie 1) — The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
The only unexpected thing about Peter Jackson’s Middle-Earth prequel is that they broke the shortest book (J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit) into the most movies (three so far, not counting an animated spinoff I’m pitching about dysentery called “Gollum’s Revenge”). But just because you know what’s coming doesn’t make it any less of an enjoyable ride. Jackson’s visuals have only sharpened since 2003 and brought an even more vibrant Middle Earth to life (just as those poor Kiwis were starting to be known for something other than the LOTR movies). In fact, if you’re re-watching the Lord of the Rings: Extended Edition on BluRay like I am (cue a chorus of “ohhhh THAT’S why he’s single”), you’ll really notice how much the CGI and other effects have improved in Middle Earth over the last ten years since Return of the King came out. This movie feels every bit like it’s only the first third of the story, versus the original trilogy where each installment had its own sense of closure. But to its credit, The Hobbit doesn’t drag, despite the 170-minute run time (every bit of three hours if you include previews). A good movie, with the clichéd “something for everyone” vibe that does, in fact, have something for everyone.


Movie 2) — Django: Unchained
Quentin Tarantino bears the blessing and curse of being mentioned equally alongside each of his movies — versus other directors who enjoy a slightly more anonymous presence and are able to let their movies speak for themselves. That said, QT’s latest work still has a lot to say, and if you can get past the decidedly R-rated Tarantino-style gore and more gratuitous use of the N-word than a Li’l Wayne + Mark Fuhrman mixtape, you’ll find a complex and compelling story, woven full of complex and compelling characters. With the spot-on performances you’d expect from Leonardo DiCaprio and Jamie Foxx, and tons of support from scene-stealers Samuel L. Jackson and Christoph Waltz (the latter just today nominated for Best Supporting Actor…hard to not think of him as a lead, though), this film would be a master class in acting and directing, even without its very solid story and script. But the difference between a very good movie and a great one is what you come away with once the credits have finished rolling, and when you leave Django you won’t be thinking about the exploding limbs or the racial slurs, you’ll be thinking about what the world would look like with a little less hate in it. And that’s a great thing to take away from any experience.


Movie 3) — Les Misérables
I know I said earlier that I wasn’t ranking these films in any particular order, but if you see one movie this month (or this year for that matter), it absolutely has to be Tom Hooper’s soon-to-be legendary movie based on Claude-Michel Schönberg’s legendary musical based on Victor Hugo’s legendary novel (as epic as it is lengthy). Hyperbole aside, what makes this story so compelling is that it calls into attention the eternal (and arguably only) struggle of humankind — how to forgive the unforgivable and how to hope in the face of hopelessness. To do what’s right even when it will bring no recognition or personal profit. Why else would a story written over 150 years ago and a musical that’s been running for over three decades still carry such weight in our modern lives? The acting is spectacular, the score and arrangements are deeply engrossing…overall this is an incredibly faithful and powerful adaptation of a property that isn’t easy to convert to the silver screen. The most nitpicky will wonder if the director’s ever heard of any shot besides a closeup, and will decry Russell Crowe’s vocals as subpar, but neither of these things diminish the overall experience or “must-see” status of the film. And if you’re adapting a famous stage musical, why not showcase the one element that you never see when you’re seeing the stage version in person? The closeups of the brilliant acting taking place. And as for Crowe’s vocals, the simple fact of the matter is that they’re not actually that bad…he’s just the least-talented singer in a cast of VERY talented singers. It’s not like watching American Idol auditions, and even Randy wouldn’t be so bold as to call him pitchy (he has a nasally timbre to his voice, to be sure, but he sings in tune). And if it still bothers you that much, just do what Paula did to tolerate bad singing — get hammered drunk until you don’t care. And really, isn’t that what the holidays are all about anyway?

Kidding aside, none of us are so perfect that our lives don’t need some dissection more often than not, and if it takes a major motion picture like Les Misérables to be the caveat that pushes you to choose hope and life and right in the face of this world’s constant negativity and darkness, then so be it.

“To love another person is to see the face of God.” —Victor Hugo


So there’s your three to see for December, and don’t fret, I’ll be sure to sort through January’s best for you in time for the start of next month!

Honorable Mentions (from November and December): Wreck-It Ralph, Skyfall, Lincoln, Amour, Promised Land

Play on,

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How an Old Dog Taught Me a New Trick

Gatsby the Brave

Our dog’s name is Gatsby (yes, after the literary figure and soon-to-be Leonardo DiCaprio vehicle). And like most dogs, our dog does something incredibly annoying. Actually several things, but for now we’ll just focus on the one. And this annoying thing is every time we get ready to leave, he flips out, sprints around the house and runs to a favorite corner of the couch or under the table to hide, making a variety of noises the entire time. When we go to extricate him, he’s usually shaking, sad, and generally worked into a pretty hysterical state. The reason he reacts like this is because he knows that when we leave the house it means that he’s about to go into his crate, and he doesn’t like his crate (this seems to be a pretty universal canine crate trait). Or at least that’s what I thought the reason was. Until I noticed that Gatsby actually didn’t seem to mind his crate that much. It’s got enough room for him to move a bit and lay down if he wants, he gets a little treat when he goes in, it’s even got his favorite blanket in there for him to burrow in to. And when he’s in his crate, he’s actually quite calm — maybe resigned to his fate is the vibe — and exhibits none of the freak-out emotions that he does prior to being put into his doggie domicile. And that’s when it hit me: it’s not the crate he dislikes, it’s the fact that we’re leaving that he can’t stand. Gatsby has a lot of separation anxiety (more so than most dogs) and he loves to be around us (the order in which he likes us is actually hilariously and borderline rudely obvious), so I’m not overstating things when I tell you that us leaving is the worst thing that he can imagine happening. Compounding that dislike into something even more intense is that, as a dog, any time we leave, he literally has no idea when or if we’ll be back. As far as his little canine mind knows, this may be the very last time that he gets to see the people he loves most in the world. Gatsby simply lacks the capacity to spot the differences that indicate either a long vacation away from home or a quick run to the fro-yo joint down the block. So then in this new light, all the sadness, the shaking, the general “my world is collapsing around me!” emotions he goes through every time we leave makes sense. Gatsby might never see us again (as far as he knows) and that’s worth working himself into a lovesick hysterical sadness.

It’s easy enough to attribute a behavior like that to the inferior brain of a canine (you wouldn’t be wrong) and simply brush it off while mentally patting ourselves on the back for having such a supreme intelligence that we can decipher TIME and DISTANCE, etc. But really, we don’t have a superior mind, we have the very same flaw — just on the opposite end of the spectrum. Just as Gatsby overreacts and lets his emotions run wild, so do we err on the side of apathy and taking our loved ones for granted — assuming that there will always be another opportunity to show our affections or express our love.

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The First Time I Sold Myself (aka Handbook for the Sellout)

Somewhere betwixt the early 20th century and the late 20th century, it became very vogue for “discerning artistic consumers” (read: pretentious A-holes) to ridicule successful artists for “selling out”.  The idea being that any artist able to turn a profit in their medium (music, acting, writing, painting, etc.), had clearly abandoned their ideals and convictions in order to do so.  After they sold out, they became puppets of The Man, and as such, were incapable of producing anything genuine and spectacular anymore, which made them less cool in the eyes of the “in the know” consumers — and by association served as a way for these same D-bags to judge the people who still supported said artist.  These hip, trendy consumers have clearly never had to pay rent before — because how else could they possibly justify hating on people who have spent years struggling to eke out a living in the arts unless they’d never had any bills or financial responsibilities of their own; and as a result, were totally oblivious to the fact that artists have to support themselves and their families on something other than dreams and smiles.

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