January 29, 2012

2012 Academy Award Nomination Reactions

A Dangerous Method - 2011

Director: David Cronenberg
Writer: Christopher Hampton
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Viggo Mortensen, Keira Knightley, Vincent Cassel

Rating: B-

January 27, 2012

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close - 2011

Director: Stephen Daldry
Writer: Eric Roth
Starring: Thomas Horn, Max von Sydow, Sandra Bullock, Tom Hanks

After discovering a mysterious key in a nigh-unmarked envelope in a vase in the closet of his late father (Hanks), a young boy (Horn) sets out on a journey across the five boroughs of New York City to discover the complementary lock, as well as the secrets of the mute man (von Sydow) to whom his grandmother rents a room.

Initially, I dismissed this film as cheesy and trite, and between its rating on RottenTomatoes and casting a non-child actor from children's Jeopardy, it wasn't on my radar at all...and then the Academy announced their nominations, so naturally, I went to go see it. And while there's still an intangible quality that makes me think Dujardin deserves his nomination for a silent perfomance but von Sydow doesn't, and this isn't what I consider Best Picture-worthy...at the end of the day, though, film is about being moved on a deep, emotional level, and that happened to me three separate times in the theater, by which I mean wept openly. Good for you, everyone involved with this. Almost makes me not care about the third act reveal that I saw coming from moment one, or a very unsatisfying feeling I got near the very end for reasons I can't disclose. B+

January 26, 2012

Chico & Rita - 2011

Directors: Fernando Trueba & Javier Mariscal
Writers: Ignacio Martínez de Pisón & Fernando Trueba
Starring: Limara Meneses, Eman Xor Oña, and Mario Guerra

This film follows the story of two star-crossed lovers, a singer and piano player in Havana in the late 1940s.

If you're fluent in Spanish and a big fan of jazz (and can close your eyes for 90 minutes without taking a nap), that's the only reason I'd recommend this film. It's shoddily animated and the plot is predictable. Oh, and this isn't a film for the young ones, either. It's a shame motion capture doesn't meet the Academy standards for animation, otherwise Rango might have had some legitimate competition from Tintin for the Oscar. C-

January 16, 2012

2012 Golden Globes thoughts

  • Elton John was the first to be bleeped of the night. I knew it would come back to haunt him.
  • Ricky Gervais got off to a great start, but there was far too little of him in the show as a whole.
  • While I think no one can top Albert Brooks in Drive, no one can say that Chris Plummer doesn’t deserve his awards.
  • Tina Fey photobombing was the first great moment of the night.
  • Paul Giamatti looks like a hobo in a tux.
  • Kate Winslet gets to be the first played off winner of the night.
  • Kelsey Grammer beats out Buscemi and Cranstons? That Boss must be some kind of show.
  • The Artist takes home the score award. No surprise there.
  • Yes, Michelle as Marilyn is award-worthy (I was hooked from the first line of “Heat Wave”), but My Week is not a damn comedy. Get your act together, HFPA.
  • Peter Dinklage for all the awards.
  • Adventures of Tintin is so beloved worldwide, it makes sense that it’d beat Rango in this case.
  • Come on, Woody: take a week off from shooting in Rome when you’re nominated for awards. It’s not going to kill anyone.
  • I hope the person running across the stage behind Madonna was punished. Severely.
  • Why are we “introducing” Katharine McPhee? I don’t even watch American Idol and I know that’s where she’s from!
  • There’s no way Matt LeBlanc beats out Alec Baldwin’s 30 Rock performance.
  • I don’t think Octavia Spencer should have won. Viola Davis was the sole great performance in The Help.
  • I feel bad for Helen Mirren, having to tell those awful jokes about Morgan Freeman.
  • Watch Street Smarts. EVERYONE.
  • In my house, [the Cecil B. deMille award] would also be known as the Sidney Poitier award.” I think I rolled a tear.
  • Is that Mrs. Hazanavicius with her camera phone out all the time? Classy.
  • With all due respect, Marty’s the last guy I expected to win for best director. It must have involved some back-alley film restoration.
  • THAT’S RIGHT MODERN FAMILY IS GREAT AND NEW GIRL SUCKS. Props to Ty Burrell for rocking a white tux.
  • I have an unashamed man-crush on JGL. However, I’m okay with Jean Dujardin winning instead because of the unique challenges that come with starring in a modern silent film.
  • High moment of the night: Meryl Streep forgets her glasses, yet gives a stellar speech highlighting all the great female performances of the year…while George Clooney and David Fincher attempt to get her glasses up to the stage. Also, mad props for fighting the “wrap it up” music.
  • Even though I think the funniest film should win the award for best comedy/musical, I can live with The Artist taking this one too, especially since they brought the dog.
  • George Clooney thinks that Michael Fassbender can play golf with both hands tied behind his back. Okay then.
  • The Descendants takes best actor in a drama and best drama? I think I watched a different movie.
Six weeks until the Oscars!

January 15, 2012

We Need to Talk About Kevin - 2011

Director: Lynne Ramsay
Writers: Lynne Ramsay & Rory Stewart Kinnear
Starring: Tilda Swinton, Ezra Miller, & John C. Reilly

Eva Katchadourian (Swinton) deals with the various trials and tribulations of raising her very disturbed son Kevin (Miller), including the aftermath of a high school massacre he perpetrates.

Kevin is one of a multitude of films where the performances surpass the work as a whole. Miller (as well as the child actor playing a younger version of his character) spends most of his screentime being absolutely terrifying, and Swinton is incredible as the woman living in fear of her uncontrollable, violent offspring. In her scenes following the incident, she has an intense hollowness about her that is unattainable by most great actors. Unfortunately, I had a major problem with the structure of the film. It's massively non-linear, told through not-quite-chronological flashbacks. It even starts out with an entirely pointless scene in the Tomatina, in which Eva is barely recognizable. However, things start being clear about 45 minutes in, and the stellar performances begin to take hold. B

January 14, 2012

The Iron Lady - 2011

Director: Phyllida Lloyd
Writer: Abi Morgan
Starring: Meryl Streep & Jim Broadbent

Rating: B-

Carnage - 2011

Director: Roman Polanski
Writers: Yasmina Reza & Roman Polanski
Starring: Jodie Foster, John C. Reilly, Kate Winslet, & Christoph Waltz

After a physical altercation between their two sons, two couples meet in an attempt to instigate the reconciliation. However, this attempt to bring peace soon takes a very sour turn.

Before going into this film, you need to know it's based on a play. Many films that started on a stage keep to the restrictions that that imposes, and this is no exception. Aside from a brief, wordless scene that shows the fight between the boys and another similar scene in the end, the vast majority of the 80 minutes is confined to the apartment of the couple portrayed by Foster and Reilly; we see their living room and the hallway outside, as well as a brief jaunt into their kitchen and bathroom. Fortunately, Polanski has quite possibly the best cast to overcome the technical limitations as much as humanly possible. A cold lawyer that can't separate himself from his phone, an arrogant broker who denies her son's aggressive nature, a high-strung worldly liberal, and a blue-collar salesman...throw in projectile vomiting and 18-year-old scotch and nothing but carnage could possibly ensue. A-

January 12, 2012

Cars 2 - 2011

Director: John Lasseter
Writer: Ben Queen
Starring: Larry the Cable Guy, Owen Wilson, Michael Caine, Emily Mortimer

A billionaire alternative fuel enthusiast establishes an international racing competition to prove the worth of his fuel, and naturally, Lightning McQueen (Wilson) can't help but enter. However, while abroad, Mater (Larry) gets entangled in his own troubles--espionage.

It might be a good idea to can sequels for all CGI film companies, considering the state of them lately. Aside from Toy Story, every CGI franchise worsens with age, and Cars is no exception. While Pixar has once again made a richly detailed alternaverse for these characters, that's the sole positive thing about this film. Cars was no one's favorite Pixar film, and they made it worse by increasing its worst aspect: Larry the Cable Guy's screentime. The story is shoddy, despite Lasseter's involvement and best intentions; either give us all-new characters and tell the spy story you obviously wanted to, or tell us a story about an international racing competition with the characters we're already familiar with. Just leave Larry out of it next time. F+

Puss in Boots - 2011

Director: Chris Miller
Writers: Tom Wheeler, David H. Steinberg, & Chris Lynch
Starring: Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, & Zack Galifianakis

The beloved feline swordsman (Banderas) from the Shrek franchise gets his own tale, complete with magic beans, a femme fatale (Hayek), and Humpty Dumpty (Galifianakis).

This is a franchise that Dreamworks should have put down years ago. The first two are really good, the third is okay, and the fourth was a blatant ripoff of It's a Wonderful Life. Now that the writing staff's resorting to incest, prison rape, and marijuna references (all quite a bit more adult than the series has gone before), I think it's safe to say this well's gone dry. If only they'd stop making so much money... F

Warrior - 2011

Director: Gavin O'Connor
Writers: Gavin O'Connor, Cliff Dorfman, & Anthony Tambakis
Starring: Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton, & Nick Nolte

Ex-Marine Tommy (Hardy) returns home to Pittsburgh in order to seek the training of his father (Nolte) for a shot at the $5 million top prize in a mixed martial arts tournament. However, with his high school teacher's salary unable to prevent the bank from foreclosing on his house, Tommy's estranged older brother Brendan (Edgerton) also sets out to enter the tournament.

I saw Contagion the weekend that Warrior hit theaters, and I can say with total certainty that I made a huge mistake. This film was absolutely incredible, and that's coming from a guy who doesn't often gravitate to sports films. Hardy, Edgerton, and Nolte are an immense triple threat of acting, which means a lot for two rising stars and a man who most would write off as having his best days behind him (considering his performance in Ang Lee's abysmal Hulk). The script works really well, getting just the right amount of each man's story to where it's nigh impossible to root for one over the other in the final bout; the main story goes over so well that you can overlook two supporting characters go from being 100% against Brendan fighting to completely in his corner for seemingly no reason whatsoever. Perhaps the box office would have worked out more in the film's favor had this not been made following so closely to The Fighter. At least we can hope that the sanctity of this film won't be ruined by franchisement like the earlier project. A-

January 8, 2012

The Artist - 2011

Director: Michel Hazanavicius
Writer: Michel Hazanavicius

Starring: Jean Dujardin, Berenice Bejo, John Goodman, James Cromwell

Silent film star George Valentin (Dujardin) fights against the inevitable rise of sound pictures, while also entering an uneasy relationship with newcomer Peppy Miller (Bejo).

Rating: A

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy - 2011

Director: Tomas Alfredson
Writers: Bridget O'Connor and Peter Straughan
Starring: Gary Oldman, Benedict Cumberbatch, Mark Strong, Tom Hardy, Toby Jones, John Hurt, Colin Firth, Ciaran Hinds

High-ranking British intelligence official George Smiley (Oldman) must find a Soviet mole within his ranks.

Rating: C-

January 1, 2012

2011 Roundup

Here's my ten favorites (as opposed to the best, necessarily) and five least favorites for the films of 2011. Keep in mind, there's plenty I haven't seen yet. Just throwing up the list for now; I'll come back with reasons later when it's not New Year's anymore.

10. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
9. The Muppets
8. Young Adult
7. Rango
6. Drive
5. 50/50
4. Bridesmaids
3. Beginners
2. Attack the Block
1. Red State

And now, my five least favorite.

5. The Green Hornet
4. A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas 3D
3. The Tree of Life
2. Cowboys & Aliens
1. Meek's Cutoff