Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Initial Reactions to the Oscar Nominees




Certainly a lot of surprise picks, snubs, and bad placements, huh?




Best Picture was pretty obvious, though 127 HOURS getting a slot over some more important and deserving films is perplexing. WINTER'S BONE was a big plus to the category.




Best Actor was easy to spot as well, though Javier Bardem took away Mark Wahlberg's placement and the indie pick of Ryan Gosling. I'm still not crazy to see BIUTIFUL after a full year of praise and pans.




Best Actress was certainly the most controversial. Nicole Kidman and Michelle Williams, both who played sad grieving wives, were the unexpected gifts of the category. Though they still have a hard chance to win, the two picks knocked off a lot of other actresses, especially Julianne Moore's great role in THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT. Jennifer Lawrence gets a deserving nomination.




I really thought Noomi Rapace would be given a surprise Oscar selection for the category as the "foreign player", similar to Bardem's spot, but it was just a dream. I will make a bold declaration right now that on January 25, 2011, I said that Rooney Mara will be nominated for Best Actress for her performance as Lisbeth Salander, come next year. And it will annoy some fans and critics.




The two supporting categories should have been relabeled "Main Roles in Films but We Didn't Want to Snub Them". Christian Bale and Jeremy Renner were well treated and Geoffrey Rush of course was nominated. Both Mark Ruffalo and John Hawkes were nominated as well, despite being top billed and having large important roles in their respected films. Still, I was very happy for them to join the club, especially the truly great inclusion of Hawkes.




Best Supporting Actress had the three expected picks, but Amy Adams and Hailee Steinfield shocked, shocked myself. I'm a very big fan of Adams in THE FIGHTER and Steinfield was very good in TRUE GRIT, though again they were the main female characters in their films. Hell, Steinfield's character was the main protagonist of the entire film! I'm sad that Mila Kunis and Barbara Hershey were neglected, as well as Marion Cotillard.




A sausage factory in Best Director. Seriously, no Lisa Cholodenko or Debra Granik? You had to give the Coens another non-win? David O. Russell I can understand why he was selected, but what about Christopher Nolan?




Universal Pictures is now foaming over after their snub in Best Animated Feature with their film DESPICABLE ME. Still, I'm very happy with the inclusion of THE ILLUSIONIST and the other two great animated films.




EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP all the way in Best Documentary! Though, I do see the Academy doing another "Social Message Win" and give it to RESTREPO or GASLAND.




Sorry Denmark, but DOGTOOTH has now entered the title fight in Best Foreign Film.




Where's TRON: LEGACY? I wasn't a huge fanboy about it but no Best Visual Effects? Only Best Sound Editing?




No love for SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD. How sad.




Now, start your Oscar pools.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Susannah York - RIP

Susannah York, a popular and very dramatic British actress, died over the weekend.

Most people have looked back on her career at some of here most popular and Oscar-winning films (Tom Jones, A Man For All Seasons). For myself, I remember her great performance in the highly underrated and undervalued film, They Shoot Horses, Don't They?

She will be missed.


Friday, January 14, 2011

The Green Hornet - Review





I have often wished that the general Internet consensus would control their urges to type out their initial comments and opinions to every single news story or first look at something. There is no sense for an user to just wait and see the final product. Even if they do play the waiting game, they have to make sure to tell everyone that they are doing just that. And then argue with the other users for not doing the same. And then engage a total flame war.



One of the recent heated instances of pre-film release criticism was the casting of Seth Rogen in the superhero film THE GREEN HORNET. Film history seems to allude the many diluted cynical detractors; Like Rogen, Michael Keaton's start and expertise in comedy was pointed out by many harsh gossipers when he was announced as the then new Batman. Though Rogen's approach to his superhero doesn't bring the same mysterious and quiet dignity that Keaton brought to the Dark Knight, he certainly does a hell of a job creating one of the most ├╝ber-narcissistic and polarizing heroes wearing a mask. Along with some fine direction from the hyper-visual Michel Gondry and a very good performance from Jay Chou, THE GREEN HORNET comes together to make an entertaining superhero film full of violent pulp and bitter arsenic.



The trailers don't do this film any justice to how cynical it really is: Seth Rogen is Britt Reid, a wealthy party-going buffoon who really has no love for his own life or the reality printed on the newspapers of his father's company, The Daily Sentinel. It's not hard to see why, since his father James Reid, played by Tom Wilkinson, is an acidic misanthrope and a hypocritical bastard who brought Britt up to become a tortured soul. After his father is killed off by a conveniently hilarious bee sting and he inherits the company, Britt continues to be on auto-pilot until he has a huge hissy fit over his newly bland-tasting daily cappuccino. He rehires his laid-off coffeemaker/car mechanic Kato, played by Jay Chou, only to forge a strong bond with him over drinks and long rants about the newly worm food James. The two cap their new friendship off by vandalizing a statue of James before unexpectedly unleashing a vicious beatdown on some robbing thugs. Britt experiences his first life-changing experience and sets out with Kato in creating an undercover vigilante to protect Los Angeles while also engaging his childhood dream of being a superhero.



Though my plot description goes over the top surface, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg have written one of the harshest looks at the superhero genre. Both Britt and Kato are willing to kill their adversaries, whether it is a lowly thug or the top crime kingpin Ben Chudnofsky (Christoph Waltz), and seem to have no consequences of spilling their blood all over the city. Britt uses his newspaper to inflate and spread his ever expanding ego. The two new "heroes" do not have enough intelligence to think outside of new guns and cars, so they exploit the college education of Britt's secretary (Cameron Diaz). And throughout the film, even after receiving some complications due to his personal and vigilante actions, Britt continues to maintain his single-minded neanderthal ways. This may be the deal-breaker for some viewers but I felt it fitted well with the superhero's pulpy past. Rogen and Goldberg both have created a giant satire aimed at the popularity of Tony Stark and Bruce Wayne while also mixing in some Mike Hammer.



The script brings many other great elements to the table beside being a anti-IRON MAN. Several sequences, most notably an opening scene with a cameoing James Franco, break the fourth-wall and poke fun at the conventions of the superhero and crime genres. Chudnofsky often is the one featured during these parts, as he starts off as a "disco Santa" looking gangster with a strange double-chamber pistol before transforming into a goofy costumed supervillain who spouts out a theatrical speech before killing someone. The script also touches upon the lingering criticism of the Green Hornet franchise, that the Kato character, especially the Bruce Lee version, is more interesting than the hero himself. The hero-sidekick feud between Britt and Kato leads to some hilarious but tense exchanges between the two, thanks to the terrific performances of their actors. The tension finally snaps with a fantastically choreographed fight in Britt's McMansion. This feud is further helped by the "bromance" angle of the film; Britt sometimes uses mean and homophobic remarks toward Kato but he actually cares about his new "brother".



Though it seems at first that Michel Gondry doesn't bring his usual visual overload for this film, he does use it at key moments, such as the hyped-up "Kato-vision", where objects and people are attacked in a certain order. Probably my favorite sequence of Gondry's is when Chodnofsky lays down a bounty on the Green Hornet and the screen splits apart into many boxes, following the messengers and the goons all seemingly in one take. Acting wise, Seth Rogen does a great job in portraying Britt's assholism and Jay Chou is able to go beyond his thick accent to play the lovable Kato and is jaw-dropping with his martial arts prowess. Though not very show-boating like his previously famous role, Christoph Waltz is entertaining as the dull but mentally campy and deranged Chodnofsky. Cameron Diaz surprisingly is fine in this film. I felt she would be the weak link when she first walked into the room but she handles herself well with the two leads.



Aside from the grim violence and harsh tone that might hurt some viewers, the film suffers greatly with its "Lord of the Rings" ending sequence. After a extensive car chase and a near HARD BOILED -like shootout, the movie continues with several more false endings and scenes. Despite these problems, THE GREEN HORNET is certainly the first great film of 2011. Some may say that I maybe overrating it, especially since its a good companion piece with the other polarizing superhero parody KICK-ASS, but it still was very funny to watch and serves as the easiest entry for many viewers to experience the world of Gondry.






FINAL REVIEW: 4 / 5

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Best of the Rest of 2010

My opinions on the rest of film in 2010.




BEST DIRECTOR: Darren Aronofsky, Black Swan


HM: Christopher Nolan (Inception), David Fincher (The Social Network), Edgar Wright (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World), Lisa Cholodenko (The Kids Are All Right), Niels Arden Oplev (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), Banksy (Exit Through the Gift Shop)


BEST SCREENPLAY: Christopher Nolan, Inception


HM: Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network), Mark Heyman, Andres Heinz, and John McLaughin (Black Swan)



BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: Wally Pfister, Inception


HM: Matthew Libatique (Black Swan), Jeff Cronenweth (The Social Network)


BEST EDITING: Andrew Weisblum, Black Swan


HM: Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall (The Social Network)



BEST SCORE: Hans Zimmer, Inception


HM: Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (The Social Network), Daft Punk (Tron: Legacy), A. R. Rahman (127 Hours)


BEST SONG: "Naina Miley", Robot (Enthiran)


HM: "Mother Knows Best", Tangled


BEST POSTER ART: Black Swan


HM: The Social Network, Inception, Let Me In, Enter the Void, Waking Sleeping Beauty, The Human Centipede (First Sequence), Rabbit Hole, For Colored Girls


BEST TRAILER: The Social Network


HM: Inception, Machete


BEST GUILTY PLEASURE: The Human Centipede (First Sequence) and Robot (Enthiran)




UNDERRATED AND UNAPPRECIATED

Actors and Actresses that gave great performances in terrible films and/or in roles with little material and screentime.

Josh Brolin (Jonah Hex, True Grit)
Chris Evans (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World)
Michael Fassbender (Jonah Hex)
Michael Gambon (The King's Speech)
Jackie Earle Haley (A Nightmare on Elm Street)
Rooney Mara (A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Social Network)
Barry Pepper (True Grit)
Michael Sheen (Tron: Legacy)
Brenda Song (The Social Network)
Timothy Spall (The King's Speech)
Olivia Wilde (Tron: Legacy)






Thursday, January 6, 2011

Best Performances of 2010


Best Actor: Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network



Honorable Mentions:


Colin Firth, The King's Speech

Mark Ruffalo, The Kids Are All Right

James Franco,
127 Hours

John Hawkes,
Winter's Bone

Andrew Garfield,
The Social Network

Michael Nyqvist,
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Jeff Bridges,
True Grit

Mark Wahlberg,
The Fighter

Leonard DiCaprio, Inception





Best Actress: Noomi Rapace,
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo



Honorable Mentions:


Natalie Portman,
Black Swan

Julianne Moore,
The Kids Are All Right

Annette Bening,
The Kids Are All Right

Amy Adams,
The Fighter

Jennifer Lawrence,
Winter's Bone

Hailee Steinfeld,
True Grit

Helena Bonham Carter, The King's Speech

Rebecca Hall, The Town





Best Supporting Actor: Jeremy Renner,
The Town



Honorable Mentions:


Armie Hammer,
The Social Network

Justin Timberlake,
The Social Network

Nicholas Cage,
Kick-Ass

Jon Hamm,
The Town

Joseph Gordon Levitt, Inception

Tom Hardy, Inception

Joe Anderson,
The Crazies

Christian Bale,
The Fighter

Jason Schwartzman, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

Kieran Culkin,
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

Josh Hutcherson,
The Kids Are All Right





Best Supporting Actress: Marion Cotillard, Inception



Honorable Mentions:


Melissa Leo,
The Fighter

Blake Lively,
The Town

Mila Kunis,
Black Swan

Donna Murphy, Tangled

Ellen Wong, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

Mia Wasikowska,
The Kids Are All Right



Next Up: The Best of the Rest of 2010

Worst Performances of 2010


Worst Actor: Zac Efron, Charlie St. Cloud




Dishonorable Mentions:


Tom Cruise, Knight and Day

Noah Ringer, The Last Airbender

Alan van Sprang, Survival of the Dead

Gerard Butler,
The Bounty Hunter

Dwayne Johnson, The Tooth Fairy





Worst Actress: Megan Fox, Jonah Hex



Dishonorable Mentions:


Cameron Diaz,
Knight and Day

Sarah Jessica Parker, Sex and the City 2

Jennifer Aniston, The Bounty Hunter

Gemma Arterton, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

Nicola Peltz, The Last Airbender

Kristen Bell, When In Rome





Worst Supporting Actor: Devon Bostick, Survival of the Dead



Dishonorable Mentions:


Paul Dano, Knight and Day

Dax Shepard, When In Rome

Charlie Tahan, Charlie St. Cloud

Jack McCay, Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore

Brandon T. Jackson, Operation: Endgame

Jason Sudeikis, The Bounty Hunter

Dev Patel, The Last Airbender

Jackson Rathbone, The Last Airbender





Worst Supporting Actress: Lindsay Lohan, Machete



Dishonorable Mentions:


Kim Cattrall, Sex and the City 2

Denise Richards, Finding Bliss

Emile de Ravin, Operation: Endgame

Kathleen Munroe, Survival of the Dead




Next Up: Best Performances of 2010

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Best Films of 2010



Love and Family. Reality and Surreality. The Power of Technology and the Arts.


These were the consistent themes that were apparent through the best films of the year. For many reasons, 2010 was a special time and place for the deep exploration of them through the power of the cinema.


It was the year of the talk. While Hollywood bumbled their way at the box office, the scheduling and marketing of movies the entire year, many independent films broke out and gained a bit traction throughout the year with interesting word of mouth. Some film studios teamed up with visionary writers and directors to create films that had blogs, forums, and journalists asking for questions, opinions, and debates. Animation continued its popularity but returned to the national spotlight and film circle discussions with releases that boldly touched on the human condition.


The following is the films that I have deemed the best of 2010. Though I put them in a list format, I was equally entertained and moved by these films.


To repeat: This list is of my own opinion, not the general public or Internet consensus. If I didn't view the film or watch it in its entirety, than it is ineligible. A few examples of films I wanted to see but couldn't before the mandated deadline were Blue Valentine, Dogtooth and Four Lions.




TOP TEN BEST FILMS






1. Toy Story 3

Woody, Buzz, Jesse and the crew say goodbye to their true owners, the viewers themselves. The only film last year to connect to me so much so that I weeped in happiness.



2. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Will the American remake be placed this high? I do not know, but it will be hard to top the excellent acting and chemistry of Michael Nyqvist and Noomi Rapace along with the great direction and cinematography.



3. Inception

Visually arresting and powerfully written, Christopher Nolan marries action film logic with a deep inspection of how dreams and memories can be stolen and/or replaced. The replayability is maddening, especially once you consider the film as a study on the manipulations and power of film itself.



4. Exit Through the Gift Shop

Is it a documentary or a mockumentary? Pro or Anti-Street Art? Is it attacking the current art world of buyers and believers? Is the Disneyland story true, and if so why are we seeing the real footage? Street artist and the film's director Banksy leaves you pondering but still entertained.



5. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

Who knew that videogame humor and over-stylized action and acting can make an enjoyably thrill-ride while being a depressing look at modern love and social connections.



6. Black Swan

Keeps you guessing throughout the beautifully gothic landscape of New York. Natalie Portman pulls off her absolute best with a painstaking performance in this fairy tale story of ballet and female sexuality. Or is it about homosexuality and self-opression? Or is it about sadism in gender communications? Or…



7. The Social Network

Once an Internet punchline became a dark look at American youth and business. The Facebook film has a great script and cast, with Trent Reznor's haunting score and Jesse Eisenberg's performance standing out from the orgy of debauchery and computers.



8. The Kids Are All Right

A fantastic ensemble of actors performs a fresh and realistic look at modern family life. Despite some quirky moments and lines, the film captures the actual emotions people go through, whether it's dissatisfaction in personal goals or the start of college life.



9. The Town

Slick direction and great acting makes this one of the best urban crime films. It featured some of the best suspense-filled action sequences of last year with some entertaining uses of black humor.



10. Best Worst Movie

The sleeper of the year. Despite being a bad movie aficionado, I still haven't fully seen all of Troll 2. Viewers don't need to, as they experience an often hilarious and bleak look at cult fandom and guilty pleasures while examining the interesting lives of the makers and players of an awful movie.




THE NEXT TEN


11. How To Train Your Dragon

12.
Tangled

13. The Fighter

14. Winter's Bone

15. Kick-Ass

16. The King's Speech

17.
Waking Sleeping Beauty

18. The Secret of Kells

19.
The Crazies

20. Casino Jack and the United States of Money




Next Up: Worst Performances of 2010

Monday, January 3, 2011

Worst Films of 2010



Overall, I believe that 2010 was a very great year in film. Of course, that also means that the greatness of the few made the cream of the crap stand out more.


Hollywood still hasn't learn its lessons and its misjudgments unless it's printed on something with green ink. The overboard of 3D films somewhat helped the annual box office totals but scared away many theatergoers. The lust and luster of romantic comedies continued to fall sharply due to idiotic conventions and writers and script doctors who don't understand humor. Then, there's the colossal pieces of cinema trash that shocked and awed and the small independent films that offended with their ineptitude and quirkiness.


These are the films I have deemed the worst of 2010.


Now comes the usual disclaimer that sadly everyone forgets to remember: This list is of my own opinion, not the general public and Internet consensus. If I didn't see the film at all or in its entirety, than it isn't counted.




TOP TEN WORST FILMS





1. The Last Airbender

Failure in each and every scene and shot. Even as a non-fan of the original animated series, I hated this with such a passion. One of my memories of the film theaters last year was seeing a very disgruntled teenager yell "Bullshit!" out loud after the credits started to roll.



2. Tooth Fairy

I really love Dwayne Johnson and hope for the best for him but he did himself in with this stupid Santa Clause rip-off directed by the director of the Santa Clause films. Nothing makes any sense in the script scribed by five different writers and the gender politics are regulated to men being cynical misanthropes and women being transparent boobs. The film also has an unintentionally hilarious/frighteningly creepy subtext with British comedian Stephen Merchant's performance as a way-too-happy-for-kids fairy sponsor.



3. Survival of the Dead

The shockingly insufferable continuation of George A. Romero's Dead series. A horrible cast of characters, terrible performances, and an out-dated and dumb script with the absolute worst plot and character twists seen this year. Definitely troubling and fanboy crushing is the fact that Romero uses CG gore instead of calling up Tom Savini.



4. Charlie St. Cloud

Putrid piece of pretty people garbage. This depressing turd has Zac Efron use his bland statuesque emotions into wasting five years of his life to playing catch with his long dead annoying brother. Supporting actors disappear into the ether for more clunky dialogue and never explained plot holes and questions. Just how can you have sex with a ghost?



5. Operation: Endgame

Take several great alternative comedians and some dramatic actors and put them in a vapid Boondock Saints influenced black ops comedy-thriller. Instead of finding a way out of a self-destructing underground outpost, two teams of assassins scream and shout and kill each other instead because producer Richard Kelly wants more random scenes of political bashing and easy-to-spot plot twists.



6. Knight and Day

Two former Hollywood elite smug their way through boring action and a tepid story and characterization. A slight breeze for many but I hated Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz playing with the cheat codes of cinema, remaining invincible and beautifully perfect. The stupidity of their characters is astounding and the humor is non-existent.



7. Finding Bliss

Though it is awful, it is also very very sad. You are essentially watching the desperate pleas of female director Julie Davis through her very Hollywood-wannabe story of a NYU film student's first professional job working at porno studio. You know this movie is bad when the movie-within-the-movie is far worst than the porno-within-the-movie.



8. South of the Border


Even if you like and support Hugo Chavez and his Bolivarian revolutionary politics, this is still a glorified promotional video with atrocious camerawork and the bloated direction of a fat Oliver Stone. Funny how he only talks to the leaders but never the normal citizens. After all, Stone playing soccer with Evo Morales is more important.



9. The Bounty Hunter

Unlikable main characters, very unfunny jokes about gambling addiction and alcoholism, pointless subplots, having Jennifer Aniston as a lead, and the worst placement of pop music into the proceedings. I'm sorry director Andy Tennant, but what does Ke$ha's "Tik Tok" have to do with craps?



10. Sex and the City 2

Two and half hours of the most subtle and appalling insults to women, the overall American public, and the Middle East. Except for an entertainingly campy prologue, you are left mouth agape at the horrors of Sarah Jessica Parker's pretentiousness and the message that women should be rewarded with a beautiful diamond ring if they almost cheat on their husband.





THE NEXT FIVE


11. When In Rome

12. Vampires Suck

13. Bitch Slap

14. Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore

15. Leap Year





Next Up: The Best Films of 2010

A Moment of Silence Before the Best and Worst Lists



Before I start with my recap on 2010 in film, I need to give my regards to the deaths of Anne Francis and Pete Postlethwaite.

I do feel that Postlethwaite's death is more sadder to me, especially since he did great work in 2010 and was in two of my favorite films.

They both will be missed.