Monday, January 31, 2011


Tori Amos is writing a musical. This is fabulous. (However, I like this performance here. And this one. And this one. Right. Stopping now.)

The Faces Behind Facebook.

If The King's Speech Gets Re-Edited to PG-13, It Doesn't Deserve the Oscar. Well, it doesn't deserve the Oscar anyway, but...

In honor of Sundance.... 10 Great Scenes from Sundance History. (Includes the fabulous note; "If film bloggers were dolphins, hype would be their echolocation.")

And Sundance actors to watch
. And another crop.

What do the SAG awards have against Rooney Mara?

10 Reasons to Watch Archer instead of 30 Rock.

Truthful Best Picture Posters

The history of hip hop.

This answers my questions about Inception's editing snub. Kinda.

Car chases, Whee!

The writer of An American Tail and Land Before Time died. Land Before Time was my second-favorite film growing up. "That's MY Hopper!" Excuse me, I've got something in my eye....

Here is my worry about the reality show about the Giants; (mostly, the more I can watch them, the happier I am. But...) Brian Wilson might start coming to practice dressed as Chuck Norris. And I really want the focus to stay on winning.

And speaking of the Giants.


Sunday, January 30, 2011

The SAG awards

I'm coming in late, but... my thoughts. Let me show them to you.

-I love that Helena Bonham Carter starts to clap for herself and then smacks her own hand away.
-Melissa Leo; get it together girl.
-How drunk is Alec Baldwin?
-There's a show starring Breckin Meyer and Zach Morris? I feel old.
-I do not understand the appeal of Betty White. I think all the actors in the room just want to pray they'll still have careers at that age.
-You know I think the King's Speech is starting to remind me of Crash. The film is mostly focused on the 3 leads, but at all these awards, they keep focusing on all the supporting actors. I feel like somewhere out there, there's a very straight-laced, polite British mobster team sternly suggesting voting for the King's Speech. I mean, he helped defeat the nazis. Righty-o. There's a good chap.
-And Natalie Portman waddles out. Mila Kunis looks fabulous, though.
-Mark-Paul Gosslear. That's Zach Morris' name.
-Man, the SAGs take their tribute award seriously.
-Wow. I thought Elijah Wood was presenting, but it's Jeremy Renner. He sounds like he's been partying hard.
-Oooh! Patrick Stewart! Patrick Stewart!
-Aw. Al Pacino. But he's not there, so at least we move along.
-The good looking crew arrives.
-God. Armie Hammer is huge.
-"And fashion."
-Andrew Garfield is apparently unimpressed with the clip reel.
-Does Josh Duhamel count as an actor?
-Oh, god. I thought Temple Grandin's streak was over.
-Julia Ormond is happy to be getting laid.
-Winona Ryder was not happy with her clip.
-God, is THAT Susan Sarandon's boy-toy?
-Is it just me, or are a LOT of people having trouble speaking tonight? What are they drinking?
-Awww.... Pete Postlethwaite.
-John Hawkes gets some shrieks. Whoo!
-Yay Christian Bale! I'm glad he's finally getting some well-deserved recognition. I do hope, though, that it doesn't go to his head. No one let him get script approval.
-And Dickie Ecklund gets up to steal the spotlight.
-Chrisitan's beard is taking on Brian Wilson proportions.
-Mark Wahlberg has some things to say, let me tell you.
-Wow. Colin Firth gives Anthony Andrews a shout out. Scarlet Pimpernel woot.
-David Sutherland has been hanging out with Grizzlies.
-Please Social Network. But I'm thinking Fighter.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Quick reactions:

The Good:

-Winter's Bone is in for Best Picture! And 127 Hours swapped in for the Town, which is fine.
-Dogtooth is in for foreign film! Way to go Academy!
-Jacki Weaver stays in for supporting actress. Yay!
-Restrepo is in for Documentary! More importantly, Waiting for Superman is out! YES! (Both Waste Land and Gasland are in... I should have thought about the fact that the academy looks kindly on environmental docs.)
-Yay! A travel story about Madagascar is up for animated short! Whoo!
-Barney's Version proves that if you put all of your marketing money into one category (makeup), you can get recognized.

The Bad:

-No Christopher Nolan for Best Director.
-Bardem. Ugh.
-No Ryan Gosling for best actor.
-I'm sorry. You put Hereafter in for Visual Effects and not Scott Pilgrim? Low blow. (And why does visual effects get 5 nominees this year?)
-Wait, no TRON for visual effects? WHAT? (No tron for score, either. It was a longshot wish, but oh well.)
-I really was hoping for Bound to You for best song.
-No Mila Kunis for supporting actress.

The Ugly (or particularly shocking):

-WHERE IS MY CHER?! HOW DARE YOU NOT INVITE HER? You're still pissed about the whole Bob Mackie thing, aren't you?
-No Black Swan for Art Design? Are you kidding me? (That's actually the first of several shocking snubs for Black Swan in the tech categories. Here it was looking like it might come away with as many nominations as the King's Speech. (SERIOUSLY? NO BEST COSTUME? THE TUTUS WERE SO PRETTY!!!)
-No Inception for editing. Say what now?!

So the King's Speech, which did not get weirdly skunked in the tech categories, got 12 noms, which is going to make people think it has an edge. Psh. True Grit got 10 (yay!), Social Network and Inception got 8, The Fighter got 7, Winter's Bone got 4.

Black Swan got 5. 127 Hours got 6. Who saw that coming?


I'll have actual thoughts in a minute. But the important thing?
I predicted 89/120 nominees. 94/120, if you add in my alternates that made it.
40/45 for Picture, Director, Actors, and Screenplays. (43/45 if you count my alternates). Mwa ha ha....

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Oscar predictions

Let's guess the nominees:

Best Picture
1. Black Swan
2. Fighter
3. Inception
4. Kids are All Right
5. King's Speech
6. Social Network
7. True Grit
8. Winter's Bone
9. Toy Story 3
10. The Town

127 Hours could replace Winter's Bone. But let's hope not. Please Winter's Bone over Kids Are All Right. I won't hope against TS3, despite the fact that I think its inclusion is awful. Potential surprises: Ghost Writer, Another Year, Shutter Island (God, I hope not).

At this point, I'd love to point out this fabulous tally at indieWire. While the PGA win for King's Speech gives some semblance of an actual race (and I'd never count out Harvey Weinstein), that's 29 wins for The Social Network vs. The King's Speech's 3. Inception and Winter's Bone follow with 2 each, which is what leads me to hold out hope for Winter's Bone.

Best Director
Darren Aronofsky
David Fincher
David O. Russell
Christopher Nolan
Tom Hooper

Going with the DGAs and counting the Coens out.

Best Actress
Natalie Portman
Jennifer Lawrence
Annette Benning
Nicole Kidman
Michelle Williams

A possible Hailee Steinfeld upset here? It would be easier to predict if she and Lesley Manfield were more set in supporting versus lead. Much as I would love a Noomi Rapace upset, I don't see that happening.

Best Actor
Colin Firth
Jesse Eisenberg
James Franco
Jeff Bridges
Robert Duvall

Ugh. I'd take Ryan Gosling or Mark Wahlberg over Duvall. But god know best actor tends to skew old. Better Duvall than Javier Bardem, though?

Best Supporting Actress
Melissa Leo
Amy Adams
Helena Bonham Carter
Jacki Weaver
Hailee Steinfeld

Mila Kunis in here if voters get confused about which category to place Steinfeld in.

Best Supporting Actor
Christian Bale
Geoffrey Rush
Mark Ruffalo
Andrew Garfield
Jeremy Renner

I'd give a limb for John Hawkes to supplant Mark Ruffalo.

Best Original Screenplay
King's Speech
Kids are All Right
Black Swan

I suppose Another Year could get in after a nomination from the Critics Choice and DC awards. (It was ineligible for the WGAs)

Best Adapted Screenplay
Social Network
127 Hours
True Grit
Toy Story 3
Winter's Bone

The Town for an upset.

Best Foreign Film
At this point, it's a choice between these nine; Biutiful, Outside the Law, Dogtooth, In a Better World, Incendies, Confessions, Life Above All, Even the Rain, Simple Simon

Biutiful and In A Better World are safe bets. Incendies, probably, too. Outside the Law has proven controversial, so I bet it is out. I want to say Dogtooth and Confessions, since those are the two I most want to see, which leads me to believe the academy will snub them.

Well, here's hoping:
In A Better World

Best Animated
Toy Story 3
Despicable Me
How to Train Your Dragon

Best Documentary
Exit Through the Gift Shop
Waiting for Superman
Inside Job
Last Train Home
Client 9: the Rise and Fall of Elliot Spitzer

The Tillman story could switch in for Last Train Home. I don't see Restrepo getting in.

Best Visual Effects
The current pool is Alice in Wonderland, Inception, Iron Man 2, Harry Potter 7, Hereafter, Scott Pilgrim, and Tron. I'm going with:

Alice in Wonderland

Harry Potter as my outlier. Why can't Scott Pilgrim have nice things?

Best Live Short
I only know what BAFTA has picked in this category, so I go with those:
Until the River Runs Red
[ED UPDATE 1/24/11: The pool for this category is; Ana's Playground, The Confession, the Crush, God of Love, Na Wewe, Seeds of the Fall, Shoe, Six Dollar Fifty Man, Sma Barn Stora Ord, Wish 143. I'll go with Confession, Wish 143, Shoe, God of Love, the Six Dollar Fifty Man.]

Best Animated Short
(Going with the Annie noms here:)
Coyote Falls
Day & Night
The Renter
Enrique Wrecks the World
Cow who wanted to be a Hamburger (how much do I want to see this when the shorts come out?)

[ED UPDATE 1/24/11: The pool for ani short is: The Cow who Wanted to Be a Hamburger, Coyote Falls, Day & Night, the Gruffalo, Let's Pollute, the Lost Thing, Madagascar Carnet de Voyage, Sensology, Urs, the Silence Beneath the Park. Therefore I am updating my picks to; Coyote Falls, Day & Night, the Cow who, and.... the Gruffalo and Madagascar. Since we can't see them until after the noms are announced....]

[ED UPDATE 1/24/11 CONT.: It occurs to me I have completely omitted Documentary Short. Whoops. The pool for this one is: Born Sweet, Killing in the Name, Living for 32, One Thousand Pictures - RFK's Last Journey, Poster Girl, Strangers No More, Sun Come Up, Warriors of Qiugang. I'm picking: Born Sweet, Killing in the Name, Living for 32, Strangers No More, Warriors of Qiugang.]

Best Costumes
Black Swan
King's Speech
Alice in Wonderland
True Grit

Tron and Inception for upsets here. (Upsets. Psh. Like there's much to go on once you reach this level of category)

Best Art/Production design
Alice in Wonderland
Black Swan
King's Speech
True Grit

Best Makeup
Pool: Alice in Wonderland, True Grit, Barney's Version, Fighter, Jonah Hex, Way Back, Wolfman. I go with:

Alice in Wonderland
True Grit
Wolfman (it would feel wrong if this didn't get in, no?)

Jonah Hex as the spoiler (Josh Brolin is in both). (And what is the makeup in the Way Back? Fake teeth? tattoos?)

Best Cinematography
True Grit
Black Swan
King's Speech
Social Network

Best Editing
Social Network
Black Swan
127 Hours
King's Speech

Best Song
You Haven't Seen the Last of Me (Burlesque)
If I Rise (127 Hours)
I See the Lights (Tangled)
There's a Place for Us (Narnia)
Coming Home (Country Strong)

Bound to You (Burlesque) as a spoiler. Possibly Shine (Waiting for Superman). Please god, don't nominate We Belong Together (TS3).

Didn't we just have the Beyonce/Jennifer Hudson sing-off a couple years back? It seems criminal not to get Christina Aguilera up there to belt at everyone.

Best Score
Important to remember here: the Fighter, the Kids are All Right, True Grit, and Black Swan are all disqualified in this category.

Social Network
127 Hours
King's Speech
Alice in Wonderland

How to Train Your Dragon as a spoiler. I would like TRON here, please. But I'm not seeing it happening.

Best Sound
Black Swan
Social Network
True Grit
King's Speech

Tron, Harry Potter 7, Shutter Island as spoilers.

Best Sound effects editing
Iron Man 2
Black Swan
127 Hours

True Grit, Salt, Tron for upsets.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Top 20 of 2010

Right, I usually try to get this up the first week in January, but... I was busy, dammit!

Notable Omissions that I have yet to see: The Town, Red Riding 1983 (I... don't ask), I Am Love, A Prophet, 127 Hours, Get Low, Ghost Writer, Buried, Red, the American, Monsters, Machete, Rabbit Hole, Another Year, The Way Back. I can't see everything. At some point I have to go watch Metropolis. There are only so many hours in a week!

So, with that in mind, here are my top 20 of 2010 (with links to earlier references/reviews on the blog included, and if you can see it now):

1. Winter's Bone. (On DVD) Just hands down the most brilliant film I've seen this year. An Ozarks-set noir with fantastic performances all around.
2. Red Riding: 1974. (On DVD) Part of a trilogy of films loosely based around the Yorkshire Ripper and police corruption in the area. This first film deals with a young reporter and one of the victim's mothers. Andrew Garfield was excellent in the Social Network and Never Let Me Go, but he is at his absolute best here.
3. Inception. (On DVD) I think you may have heard of this one.
4. Black Swan. (In theaters) I can't believe I never got around to writing this one up, but I really loved it. It's high art horror. And ballet lends itself particularly well to horror.
5. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. (On DVD) Like any fan of the books, I could point out one or two niggling details that I would have done differently, but the fact of the matter is that they took a massive, widely-adored book and did it justice. Noomi Rapace knocks it out of the park as Lisbeth.
6. Fish Tank. (2009/2010 release, but I saw it in January, so I'm adding it here. Not yet on DVD.) I haven't been able to get this film out of my head all year. It is so striking, so original that it seared itself onto my brain. Katie Jarvis gives an incendiary performance as a teen that tries to live beyond her projects housing and Michael Fassbender is riveting as her mother's new boyfriend who begins to befriend her.
7. The Social Network. (On DVD) I think I'd like to see this one again. I feel like it may grow on me. I didn't quite fall in love with it, I won't re-watch it the way I will Inception, but it's so excellent on so many levels and I have found myself thinking about it a lot. Yes, even apart from the awards race.
8. The Fighter. (In theaters) What could have been a rote underdog sports tale is elevated by terrific characterization and filming style. This and True Grit were the two most pleasant surprises for me at the movies this year.
9. True Grit. (In theaters) If No Country for Old Men was the Coens' serious western, this one puts the genre squarely in their sly, darkly-comic oeuvre.
10. Red Riding: 1980. (On DVD) This one hasn't stuck with me the way 1974 did, but it is also incredibly well done and anchored with a remarkable performance by Paddy Considine.

11. Perrier's Bounty. (On DVD) Is this a great film? No. Did I find it wildly entertaining and enjoyable? Yes. Crazy Irish mob film with a great cast.
12. Cell 211. (Not yet on DVD) A fantastic Spanish prison drama. Does not go anywhere you expect it to.
13. Red, White and Blue. (Not yet on DVD) As I wrote before; "Really good, and really disturbing. I suppose it would be called a horror film, but it isn't supernatural in any way. It's flawed people in bad situations doing nasty things to each other. It's far more character-driven than most horror films and it's really well done."
14. Predators. (On DVD) The best summer action flick of 2010. Did everything it set out to do and was a lot of fun.
15. The Killer Inside Me. (On DVD) Casey Affleck as a murderous small town southern sheriff. Much in the same vein as American Psycho or Confessions of a Dangerous Mind.
16. Never Let Me Go. (Not yet on DVD) An achingly beautiful portrait of three friends who grow up at a strange boarding school for special children and the paths they take.
17. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest. (On DVD 1/25/11) The trilogy wraps up with Lisbeth and Mikael fighting to keep Lisbeth out of jail and trying to return her rights to her. Incredibly satisfying.
18. Blue Valentine. (In theaters) Well done, if depressing look at the dissolution of a marriage.
19. The King's Speech. (In theaters) A sports film about a speech impediment, or Masterpiece theater for the awards race. Also, it turns out that Nazis are bad.
20. The Crazies. (On DVD) A surprisingly effective horror film about a zombie-esque plague in a small town. Also a good argument for why remakes are not always a bad idea.

The best of the rest: Ondine (On DVD - Irish fairytale), Red Hill (On DVD 1/25/11 - Aussie Western/Revenge thriller), Kick Ass (On DVD - what it says), Tucker and Dale vs. Evil (Not yet on DVD - horror comedy), Animal Kingdom (On DVD 1/18/11 - Aussie crime drama), Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (On DVD - ode to video games, hipster love, and amazing visuals), I Love You Phillip Morris (Not yet on DVD - gay prison dramedy), Marwencol (Not yet on DVD - fascinating documentary about the artist Mark Hogancamp), Salt (On DVD 1/18/11 - spy thriller), Bunny and the Bull (Not yet on DVD - surreal British road trip), Let Me In (On DVD 2/1/11 - vampire tale/coming of age film. But scary>sparkly.)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Blue Valentine

Expectations can be a funny thing. See, I went into Blue Valentine expecting to fall in love with it. And that's a high bar to set.

I also went in knowing that it was the juxtaposition of two people falling in and out of love. I don't really know how else to talk about the reason I didn't fall in love with this movie than talking about how that isn't 100% true, so.... thar be spoilers ahead.

I think had it really been simply a story of how two people who fell so incredibly in love could, years later, fall completely out of love, that would have been really interesting and I might have loved it more. But the start of the story isn't the start of a beautiful, epic romance. She gets knocked up. With another man's kid. And Ryan Gosling decides to be the good guy and step in and marry her.

If that doesn't have flashing red lights all around it, going; 'this is completely and totally the wrong reason to marry someone,' I don't know what would. So it isn't, to me, much of a mystery about how these kids could end up on the brink of divorce. Of course it doesn't work. It's the logical conclusion to that story.

The thing is, lots of people do fall in and, later, out of love, and I think I wanted to see a story more about that. That was what I had expected going in.

Now, I will say that I think they both deserve acting kudos; both Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams give very vulnerable, nuanced performances.

The writing also felt really honest. Uncomfortably so. I think that's the other reason it's hard to love this film; watching people break apart is awful. They both make bad decisions. They both say the wrong thing. The relationship falling apart isn't really anyone's fault - it's just two people stuck in a cycle of being angry and hurt. And that's incredibly difficult to watch.

So; it's well done. I'm glad I saw it. It has some of my favorite end credits I've ever seen. The acting is great. Just... be kinder to each other, people.

4/5 stars.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

True Grit

I suppose I could write out an entire review, but the only thing you really need to know is this: True Grit is fucking hilarious.

5/5 stars.

So much to see...

True Grit and Blue Valentine... True Grit and Blue Valentine....

Till then, enjoy this list of EW's 25 films to see before Oscar night (with helpful comments of availability included (bold are the ones I've seen):

The Social Network - on DVD Jan 11
The King's Speech
Inception - now on DVD
The Fighter
Toy Story 3 - now on DVD
True Grit
Black Swan
The Kids Are All Right - now on DVD
127 Hours
Winter's Bone - now on DVD
The Town - now on DVD
Rabbit Hole - goes wide Jan 14
Another Year - goes wide sometime in January
Get Low - DVD Feb 22
How to Train Your Dragon - now on DVD
Blue Valentine - goes wide sometime in January
Biutiful - goes wide Jan 28
Animal Kingdom - on DVD Jan 18
Waiting for Superman - on DVD in Feb
Alice in Wonderland - now on DVD
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - now on DVD
Inside Job - goes wide Jan 28
The Illusionist - goes wide Jan 14

On an unrelated note, just as I was mourning what could have been with Nick Stahl's career, this news came through the wires: Nick Stahl Cast in Locke & Key. Yay! Back on the small screen and joining my most anticipated new show!

Monday, January 10, 2011

If I could make up my own awards

Once the Oscar noms come out, I'm sure I'll gleeful about some inclusions, pissed at some snubs, outraged at the undeserving noms, and wistful for those that never had a chance. And then I'll pick the ones I think will win, and which I think should win, and root for my favorites.

But what if I could pick all the nominees myself?

I certainly haven't seen everything that has come out this year. There are many films which I'm sure are some of the best of the year that I never got to; White Material, I Am Love, the Tillman Story, Restrepo, Get Low, Rabbit Hole, Vincere, Ghost Writer, A Prophet, Dogtooth, Applause, Mother, Another Year, Incendies, Beyond.

I mean, if you look at every picture which has received a nomination for Best Picture from a critics guild, that's 47 different films right there, excluding docs and foreign films.

So, given what I have seen, here's what I'd pick (nominees, alternates for your consideration, and notable omissions of the films I have yet to see):

Best Picture
Winter's Bone
The Social Network
Black Swan
The Fighter
Girl with a Dragon Tattoo
Fish Tank
Red Riding: 1974 (hey, Carlos is getting foreign film nods from a bunch of guilds. Although, yes, it is ineligible for an Oscar. But these are MY awards.)
Never Let Me Go
Animal Kingdom

Notable Omissions; Blue Valentine, True Grit, 127 Hours, Ghost Writer, The Town

Best Popcorn Film (those genre flicks worth your time, if not critical love)
Cell 211
Perrier's Bounty
Red, White and Blue
The Killer Inside Me
The Crazies
Red Hill
Kick Ass
Tucker and Dale vs. Evil
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

Notable Omissions; Red, Machete.

Best Actress
Jennifer Lawrence, Winter's Bone
Katie Jarvis, Fish Tank
Noomi Rapace, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Natalie Portman, Black Swan
Carey Mulligan, Never Let Me Go

Notable Omissions; Michelle Williams (Blue Valentine), Lesley Manville (Another Year), Anne Hathaway (Love and Other Drugs), Hye-Ja Kim (Mother), Nicole Kidman (Rabbit Hole).

Best Actor
Colin Firth, The King's Speech
Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network
Colin Farrell, Ondine
Andrew Garfield, Red Riding: 1974
Noah Taylor, Red, White, and Blue

Alternates; Jim Carrey (I Love You, Philip Morris), Mark Wahlberg (The Fighter), Kodi Smit-McPhee (Let Me In).

Notable Omissions; James Franco (127 Hours), Ryan Gosling (Blue Valentine), Tahar Rahim (A Prophet), Edgar Ramirez (Carlos), Robert Duvall (Get Low), Jeff Bridges (True Grit), Jim Broadbent (Another Year), Aaron Eckhart (Rabbit Hole), Ciaran Hinds (the Eclipse), Vincent Cassel (Mesrine). *phew*.

Best Supporting Actress
Jacki Weaver, Animal Kingdom
Mila Kunis, Black Swan
Melissa Leo, The Fighter
Juliette Lewis, Conviction
Dale Dickey, Winter's Bone

Alternates; Chloe Moretz (Kick Ass), Amy Adams (The Fighter), Marion Cotillard (Inception).

Notable Omissions; Olivia Williams (Ghost Writer), Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit), Dianne Wiest (Rabbit Hole), Rosamund Pike (Barney's Version).

Best Supporting Actor
Andrew Garfield, The Social Network
Michael Fassbender, Fish Tank
John Hawkes, Winter's Bone
Christian Bale, The Fighter
Armie Hammer, The Social Network

Alternates: Brendan Gleeson (Perrier's Bounty), Tom Hardy (Inception), Kieran Culkin (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World), Michael Shannon (the Runaways), Geoffrey Rush (the King's Speech), Sam Rockwell (Conviction), Ben Mendelsohn (Animal Kingdom).

Notable Omissions; Jeremy Renner (the Town), Matt Damon (True Grit), Edward Norton (Stone), Pierce Brosnan (Ghost Writer).

[Ed. note: I know, I know. I didn't include Sam Rockwell in my top 5. Quelle Horreur. He was good. He's always good. He wasn't given as much material to work with as one would have hoped. So when it comes down to the last spot, Armie Hammer had a more impressive role overall.]

Best Director
Darren Aronofsky, Black Swan
David Fincher, The Social Network
Christopher Nolan, Inception
Debra Granik, Winter's Bone
Andrea Arnold, Fish Tank

Alternates; David O. Russell (the Fighter), Lena Dunham (Tiny Furniture).

Notable Omissions; the Coens (True Grit), Danny Boyle (127 Hours), Roman Polanski (Ghost Writer), Derek Cianfrance (Blue Valentine), Mike Leigh (Another Year).

Best Screenplay - Original
Black Swan
The Fighter
Fish Tank

Notable Omissions; Buried, Blue Valentine, The Square, Four Lions, Another Year.

I almost want Four Lions to win as a write-in, just for its audacity.

Best Screenplay - Adapted
The Social Network
The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
Winter's Bone
Red Riding: 1974

Alternates; I Love You Philip Morris, Never Let Me Go, The Killer Inside Me.

Notable Omissions; True Grit, The Town, Rabbit Hole

Best Foreign Film
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Cell 211
(both ineligible for oscars).... The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest?

I may not have seen enough films in this category this year. Let's say Dogtooth, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, and A Prophet (nominated last year) for the other nominees and Simple Simon, Beyond, Incendies, Mother, I Am Love (ineligible for the Oscar), Hadewijch, Of Gods and Men, White Material, Carlos (ineligible), Applause, The Edge, Life Above All, and Undertow as the alternates.

Best Animated
Nada. Despite my deep love for animation, I have seen none of these films. I... don't know what happened this year.

Best Documentary
Ditto as foreign films. Marwencol FTW!

So let's go with Exit Through the Gift Shop, the Tillman Story, Restrepo, and A Film Unfinished, with Winnebago Man, Gasland and Last Train Home as alternates. I can't watch Inside Job. I just can't.

Best Visual Effects
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
Harry Potter 7a
Alice in Wonderland

Notable Omissions; Monsters, Narnia, Prince of Persia.

I have yet to see any shorts (hmmm.... when do those group showings occur?), so let's skip those.

Best Costumes
Black Swan
Alice in Wonderland
King's Speech

Surely other people wore costumes. Hmmm... TRON? Can I give an award for getting Garrett Hedlund into that getup? Inception? People wore pretty things in that.

Notable Omissions; True Grit, Burlesque (SEQUINS!!!), I Am Love, the Tempest, Agora, Made in Dagenham.

Best Art/Production Design
Bunny and the Bull
Black Swan
King's Speech

Alternates; Harry Potter 7a, Shutter Island

Notable Omission; I Am Love

Best Makeup
Alice in Wonderland
Black Swan
Harry Potter 7a

Notable Omissions; True Grit, Splice, the Wolfman, the Tempest, Burlesque? Who wore makeup this year? I can't fill this category.

Best Cinematography
Black Swan
Never Let Me Go
Harry Potter 7a
Winter's Bone

Alternates; The Fighter, The Social Network, Shutter Island, Let Me In.

Notable Omissions; True Grit, I Am Love, 127 Hours, Sweetgrass, Monsters.

Best Editing
The Social Network
Black Swan
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
Shutter Island

Notable Omissions; 127 Hours, The Town.

Best Song
(AKA: who do I want to watch during the show - it's like who gets a grammy nomination!)
You Haven't Seen the Last of Me (Burlesque). CHER!!! PLZ WEAR BOB MACKIE, K? THNKS.
Eclipse (Eclipse). Much as I hate to nominate anything having to do with Twilight, I really do like Metric.
Bound to You (Burlesque). (Christina Aguilera)
Life During Wartime (Life During Wartime). (Devendra Banhard & Beck)
What Part of Forever (Eclipse). (Cee-Lo Green)

Your other song options (FYI); If I Rise - 127 Hours (Dido - I like this one alright), I See the Lights - Tangled (Mandy Moore), There's a Place for Us - Narnia (Carrie Underwood), Better Days - Eat Pray Love (Eddie Vedder - ditto; also not bad), Chanson Illusionist - The Illusionist (Sylvain Chomet). The last one isn't a Belleville Rendezvous, but it's cute.

I almost wish I could throw on Avril Lavigne's song from Alice in Wonderland or Gwyneth Paltrow's Coming Home from Country Strong, just to see them both get schooled by Cher and Cristina Aguilera. Because I'm cruel like that.

Best Score
TRON: Legacy - Daft Punk [Ed: WHY is this not getting more attention? I LOVED it.]
The Social Network - Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Fighter - Michael Brook
Inception - Hans Zimmer
Black Swan - Clint Mansell

Alternates; King's Speech - Alexandre Desplat, Alice in Wonderland - Danny Elfman, Harry Potter 7a - Alexandre Desplat, Never Let Me Go - Rachel Portman.

Notable Omissions; True Grit - Carter Burwell, Ghost Writer - Alexandre Desplat, 127 Hours - A. R. Rahman.

Best Sound Mixing & Editing (I know the one has to do with recording sound effects and background, and the other has to do with volume/mixing/etc., but.... I'm grouping them.)
Black Swan
The Social Network
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
Shutter Island

Alternate; Iron Man 2.

Notable Omission; True Grit.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Bits and bobs

I'm supposed to be unpacking today, but unable to get in touch with my ride. Which is a pity, because I had hoped to be done in time to go to a double feature of Hitchcock at the Castro this evening. C'est la vie.

Here are a few things that have caught my eye recently:

I want an iPhone.

I know what I'm seeing this week. Then again, I am a 27 year old single girl.

Good Movies: When a Critic is Off Duty. It doesn't matter how brilliant Black Swan is, or how much my mother loves ballet, she'll never go see it. It doesn't matter that the Social Network has won something like 18 best picture awards, my father will never go see that Facebook movie. And I can shout till I'm blue in the face about how fantastic Winter's Bone is, and maybe 1 or 2 people will check it out. Not that I'm a critic. But I like her take on a lot of these films, particularly the King's Speech.

Are American TV Execs as Crass as Episodes Makes Them Out to Be? No one else seems to find it as funny as I do that Shameless and Episodes are premiering on the same night.

THIS. Is amazing. They got JEREMY IRONS to narrate. There's no way to watch it without starting to hum this.

Which Oscar Contended Do You Vehemently Refuse to See? Let's see; this year it is shaping up to be the Kids Are All Right.
2000 - Gladiator. I should have stuck by that - I saw it years later. God, the Greatest Show on Earth might be a better Oscar winner.
2001 - A Beautiful Mind. Stuck by that. Still haven't seen it.
2002 - The Pianist. It was never open near me. I still haven't seen it, but I'd like to.
2003 - Master and Commander. Despite my love for Peter Weir, there's that little issue of Russell Crowe.
2004 - almost all of them. What a weird year for movies.
2006 - Letters from Iwo Jima. Although I'd really like to see it and unsee Babel.
2008 - Benjamin Button. Despite my love for David Fincher, it just looked soooo loooong.
2009 - Blind Side. I mean, are you kidding me?

And finally, did you know that if you go to Rotten Tomatoes and look up an actor, it will give you their highest and lowest rated films? For instance;
Guy Pearce: LA Confidential (99%), Factory Girl (19%)
Christian Bale: Henry V (100%), Captain Corelli's Mandolin (29%)
Ben Whishaw: Bright Star (82%), Stoned (15%)
Sam Rockwell: Light Sleeper (94%), Strictly Business (11%) [Ed. note - I have never heard of either of these. Rotten Tomatoes should maybe not include early bit parts?]
Cillian Murphy: The Dark Knight (94%), Disco Pigs (20%)
Nick Stahl: In the Bedroom (93%), Kalamity (0%).

Wait, what? 0%? What the hell?

Apparently it is a total crap thriller, and then this review on the page caught my eye. "Any writer-director lucky enough to snare Nick Stahl for a lead should, if nothing else, be smart enough to make good use of him. Instead, the gifted Stahl is stuck blankly responding to the operatic overacting of co-star Jonathan Jackson. As longtime friends, both guys are going through bad breakups. For Stahl's Billy, this means moping around a lot. For Jackson's Stan, it means pulling out a gun and stalking every woman in sight.

Stahl should have had a career similar to Sam Rockwell's, blending thoughtful indies with fun popcorn flicks. Instead, he's spinning his wheels in junk like this. Calamitous indeed. [Ed: bold mine]"

*sigh* That's sad, but astute.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The King's Speech

Right - catching up on my oscar-bait now. It's hard to go into films like these in a vacuum. Eventually, a certain amount of buzz rubs off on you. Films can certainly defy expectations, but you usually have those expectations going in. In my case, I had been hearing that the King's Speech was a front-runner for best picture after TIFF, it had slipped greatly and experienced a bit of a backlash, and then good word of mouth as it was released was helping it to regain momentum (backlash against the backlash?). Two of my very trusted friends had both really loved the film. I am not a huge Colin Firth fan, but I had really loved him in A Single Man last year. Then I found out that a lot of the supporting parts are occupied by some of my favorite British actors. Plus, I like the Weinstein Company, who is putting it out. And finally, I was raised on a lot of BBC and Masterpiece theater, so I figured the genre was pretty up my alley.

So did I like it? Eh...

Here's the thing - the acting and the production design are very good. I really felt that the script was incredibly uneven.

In case you have been living under a rock, the plot follows the Duke of York, who becomes King George VI when his brother abdicates for Wallis Simpson, from a disastrous public speech at Wembley to his speech to the people on the eve of WWII. The basis of the film is the relationship between the Duke and his speech therapist, Lionel Logue, an unconventional Aussie who helps him overcome his stammer.

Colin Firth gives a really great performance. And he and Geoffrey Rush are pretty much assured acting nods, I think.

The problem for me came from the script. There were these moments of expository monologue-ing that just didn't do it for me. It actually made me think of Fritz Lang's Metropolis; here, let me BEAT YOU OVER THE HEAD WITH THE MESSAGE OF THE FILM. And it was annoying, because parts of the film were really well written. For example, the best scene in the film comes from the Duke opening up to his therapist after the death of his father. It's wonderfully acted, and subtly written. The audience gets a lot of the home dynamics in the royal family, and the emotional trauma that the prince went through.

Contrast that to Michael Gambon as King George V, berating his son while he practices a speech;

This devilish device will change everything if you won’t. In the past all a King had to do was look respectable in uniform and not fall off his horse. Now we must invade people’s homes and speak ingratiate ourselves with them. This family is reduced to those lowest, basest of all creatures...we’ve become...actors!...

When I’m dead that boy will ruin himself, this family, and this nation, within twelve months. Who’ll pick up the pieces? Sir Oswald Mosley - marching his black-shirt British Union of Fascists through the streets of London? Herr Hitler, intimidating half of Europe, Marshall Stalin the other half? Who’ll stand between us, the jackboots, and the proletarian abyss? You?

Really, is that why it is important for him to not stammer? Gee, I hadn't gotten that through him watching you deliver a radio address, as part of your functional duties. You mean a part of his stammer comes from you being an overbearing father? I had no idea. It's like Masterpiece Theater for dummies. And these swings in the quality of the writing I found very jarring.

Finally, it also annoyed me to no end that Edward, the Duke's older brother, was reduced to an over-simplified villain. Okay, I get that the film focused on George, and that the whole royal family blames Edward for forcing him into being king and very possibly shortening his life-span by a whole lot. So I get that he is going to be the villain in this telling. But my understanding of his relationship with Mrs. Simpson was that they were wildly devoted to one another and that he was actually very canny in his dealings with parliament. In the film, he's basically a hood-winked playboy, even if he is well acted by Guy Pearce. Anyways, the part seemed very reductionist and inaccurate. Plus, it turns out that Winston Churchill was best friends with him? Didn't get that at all...

Finally, the woman who played Wallis Simpson looked very familiar and I could not place her till I got home; it was Eve Best. Eve Best, who is one of the finest Shakespearean actresses alive, was reduced to swanning around in a cocktail dress and looking cougar-ish. That is a tragic misuse of her talents right there.

I guess overall I'd say the scenes between Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush are very well done, training montages and all, and that most of the periphery is ill-handled and over-blown (if set in pretty scenery).

3/5 stars.

Red Hill

So a couple of nights ago I went to see Red Hill, which is an Australian Western. Or Horror by way of a Western. Or Revenge Thriller. Some combination thereof. I had liked the trailer, was intrigued to see Ryan Kwanten of True Blood fame in something from his country of origin, and the NYTimes rated it as a critic's pick.

The film revolves around Constable Shane Cooper (Kwanten), who has moved to a nowheres-ville small town (Red Hill) for his pregnant wife. His first day on the job, a convicted murderer breaks out of a nearby prison and heads straight to Red Hill, throwing Cooper headlong into a series of shootouts, fights, and intrigue.

The film pretty much hits every Western cliche and foreshadowed sign post on its way to the final showdown. But it does so with such gleeful abandon that it is difficult not to be charmed. I know I complained about heavy-handed foreshadowing and knowing the plot ahead of time in TRON, but in Red Hill, the pacing zips along and the movie remains fun, even if you already know how it is all going to play out. It doesn't break any new ground or reinvent the Western, but its a solid, fun genre flick, which sometimes is all you are looking for. The genre fits well into the Aussie outback, simply because so much of it is on the edge of unforgiving, untamed wilderness and so far from civilization.

On a final note, I went to see this at the Lumiere, which is one of 5 Landmark theaters in SF. Very cute and absolutely the friendliest staff I've ever encountered at a theater. It was, however, very cold and they were offering free tea and coffee, which I really should have taken them up on.

3.5/5 stars