Margin Call - I had this out from Netflix for weeks. I could NOT bring myself to watch it. I refused to watch Inside Job last year, despite its frontrunner status for Best Documentary. I just couldn't stand to watch anything about the economic crisis. The financial situation is painful in enough in real life; I didn't want to devote any of my movie-going-time to it as well. So I finally sat down with it today in part because it had to go back to Netflix (my queue maxed out again) and in part because I figured I could work on my computer and keep one eye on the film and just get through it already.
By the end of the first scene, my laptop was abandoned on the table. The film is riveting. It unfolds over not even 24 hours and ratchets up the tension like a thriller. While I had been slightly annoyed that the film was picked for the Altman award at the Indie Spirits over Tinker Tailor (more on that in a moment and, on reflection, I'm not sure Tinker Tailor is eligible for the Indies...), I now think it is very warranted choice. It is a stunning cast and really an ensemble achievement. I'm also particularly glad it sneaked into the original screenplay race. Even though it came through over the more favored...
Win Win - this was a very cute film with impressive work by Paul Giamatti, Amy Ryan, and newcomer Alex Shaffer. There's nothing flashy about it, but its a great story and it just feels very true. Its the kind of domestic drama that I don't feel Hollywood makes very often anymore (or makes well).
Cold Weather - God. This was dreadful. I couldn't finish it, which is a rarity. I had heard a lot about this being one of the best undiscovered films of the year, and the mystery plot element drew me to it. I hadn't realized it's mumblecore. The only mumblecore film I've enjoyed was Tiny Furniture (although to be fair, I haven't seen Medicine for Melancholy). It seems to me if most mumblecore insists on having a completely unlikable protagonist. I realized about three quarters of the way through that I could not care less about the mystery and that the main guy was getting in the way of some beautifully filmed scenery. Euch.
Pina 3-D. Really beautifully shot modern dance. The only film since Cave of Forgotten Dreams where the 3-D seemed necessary to explore the space being filmed. Considering it didn't make it past the short list for Foreign Oscar, I don't know if it has a chance at Documentary. Maybe considering it is the most widely appealing doc in a year noted for the snubbing of Project Nim, Buck and Senna?
Tinker Tailor - God, I LOVED this. I'm not entirely sure how they managed to fit everything in (although David Bordewell pointed out here that the film clearly leaves a lot of gaps for the viewer to mentally fill in and that it didn't need the repetition of points that the miniseries needed, having a gap of a week between episodes.) Anyways, the adapted screenplay nod is incredibly well deserved. (Also; how sweet is this? "Picking up best adapted screenplay [at the BAFTAs], the film's co-writer Peter Straughan thanked "The Artist for not being adapted from a book". He then paid tribute to his co-writer and wife, Bridget O'Connor, who died before Tinker Tailor was made. "She wrote all the good bits and I made the coffee. So Bridget I love you, I miss you, this is for you."" Awwww.)
BTW - it is up for best actor, screenplay, and score at the Oscars. And it also won the BAFTA for best British film. I'm a little surprised that it didn't make it in for editing at the Oscars (but then it isn't up for Picture, which is a shame. It and Dragon Tattoo SO should have replaced Extremely Twee and War Pony.)
Mostly though, it might be one of the best casts EVER: Gary Oldman, Ciaran Hinds, Toby Jones, Stephen Graham, Colin Firth, Mark Strong (!), Benedict Cumberbatch (!), Tom Hardy (!!!), John Hurt, Christian McKay, and... AND Roger Lloyd-Pack!!!!
I just love that amount of stunning talent. I mean, you have Orson Welles showing up for maybe four lines. Mark Strong continues to just be the best. (I did mention how hilarious he was in The Guard, right? Seriously. LOVE HIM.) And I had forgotten Peter Guillem's role in the story, but Benedict Cumberbatch was really excellent (okay - I also just like typing his name. It's Cumberbatches of fun!) And considering I'm somewhat worried about understanding Tom Hardy in The Dark Knight Rises (did anyone catch what he was saying in that long preview?!), it was nice to see him in a part that let him shine.
Oh, speaking of that long preview, MI4 in Imax! Fun fun fun. I eventually decided that my love for Brad Bird outweighed my dislike of Tom Cruise's crazy, and it was a good decision. The whole film zips along and is a fabulous blockbuster. Tom Cruise's crazy didn't get in, and it was a reminder of why he became such a star. He really is pretty perfect in the role. The supporting cast is great, although I would've preferred if the film had set up Josh Holloway as the franchise replacement, since Jeremy Renner is getting the Bourne Franchise. That said, I have no idea how tall anyone is.
Oh yes, and I also saw Sleeping Beauty, which was fascinating. There's an interesting piece on it over at MUBI. It was amazingly disturbing, and one of those films that I found myself thinking about for days after I had seen it.
So, in sum? Try to catch Tinker Tailor and Margin Call before the Oscars; check out Pina in 3D and MI4 in IMAX if at all possible, add Sleeping Beauty and Win Win to your Netflix/on demand queue, and avoid Cold Weather like the Dickens.