Friday, December 31, 2010

The King's Speech

The King's Speech tells the story of King George VI's struggle with his stammer and how he became king (he's Queen Elizabeth II's dad). The movie is clearly a Best Picture nominee and Colin Firth is strongly favored to win Best Actor. Firth was a strong contender for last year's A Single Man, and I think he'll win this year. The acting from the other leads, Helena Bonham Carter, the King's wife and Geoffrey Rush as his Australian speech therapist, is also suburb. It's good to know Bonham Carter can really act. As of late she's played the villainous Bellatrix Lestrange in Harry Potter and various characters in Tim Burton films. She's great in those roles, but its great to see her in a ground role, portraying a real person.
The score is excellent, and I hear its eligible for a Best Score Oscar (several scores, the Fighter, True Grit, Black Swan have been deemed ineligible). At a almost 2 hour run time, the dialogue heavy piece clips right along. I love period pieces done well, the history lessons like this are among my favorite at Oscar time (see also, The Queen, Young Victoria).

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

True Grit

I was the least motivated to see this movie, even in my very excited state of "Oscar homework." I am so glad that I saw it. My lack of enthusiasm may have stemmed from my childhood dislike of Westerns. My dad loves Westerns, in particular John Wayne. After having no choice but to watch them as a kid, it is a genre I shy away from. In preparation however, I watched the 1969 John Wayne original. I was familiar with the images and some of the dialogue but since my viewings were under protest, I never really watched it. Right from the start, in the Coen brother's version, even the opening music is better. The character of Mattie Ross is portrayed by Hailee Steinfeld in the Coen film. In the original, Kim Darby's Mattie, is ridiculously annoying. Tune out of the movie annoying. By that alone, the Coen Brothers version is so much stronger. Hailee's Mattie is tough, whip-smart and a character to root for.
The strength of the film continues with the actors efforts. I have to say, the Dude over the Duke. Several of Jeff Bridges' facial expressions are priceless and his presence in the role is phenomenal. John Wayne won his only Oscar for his portrayal of Rooster Cogburn. It is my opinion that the Academy was looking to award him for his career, not this particular role.

Matt Damon is also notably excellent as Texas Ranger LaBouf (pronounced Le Beef), a fully developed character who often provides the humor. The overall tone of the film, is very entertaining. The original is humorless. The cinematography and editing enhance and strengthen the picture. The song featured over the film's closing credits, is just as awful as the opening song of the original. That aside, True Grit 2010 is an entertaining, well-done, evenly paced movie. While I might not have seen it otherwise, I'm happy to have it checked off my list.

Entertainment Weekly's "The Oscar Race is On!" Issue comes out Friday, one cover with Natalie Portman and one with James Franco. I think this may be the first year that I can guess most of the "25 movies to see before Oscar night" list and have seen more upon publication than ever before. In fact, here's my list:
1) The Social Network
2) The King's Speech
3) True Grit
4) The Fighter
5) Black Swan
6) Inception
7) The Town
8) The Kids Are Alright
9) Toy Story 3
10) 127 Hours
11) Winter's Bone
12) Rabbit Hole
13) Another Year
14) Get Low
15) The Ghost Writer
16) Blue Valentine
17) Biutiful
18) Waiting for Superman
19) Conviction
20) Animal Kingdom
21) Made in Dagenham
22) How to Train Your Dragon
23) Tron: Legacy
24) Alice in Wonderland
25) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

The last few may surprise you, but the Art and Technical awards tend to honor the more popular and well done films in the special effects categories. I've seen 8/25 as I type. By Saturday, 10 out of 25 and come January 11th when the Social Network is on DVD, I'll be at least at 12/25. After the nominations come out, I cease using the ew list and just go straight for the ballot. Hope my excitement spreads! I'm not usually this enthralled until early February. My hope is that this makes it easier to see the ones that are more difficult to track down and easier to see the movies I have trouble being motivated to watch.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Oscar ballots mailed

The Oscar ballots have been mailed out to members of the academy. They are due January 14th and the nominations will be announced the morning of Tuesday, January 25th.

Below is Dave Karger's list of likely nominees for the week.

This year's awards show is Sunday, February 27th.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Kids Are Alright

The opening scenes are scored perfectly, the soundtrack is great. It's punchy as needed, not over the top. The opening shows all the main characters and sets the jumping off point for the story. The movie stars Annette Bening and Julianne Moore as the mothers to two teenage children, Joni and Laser, portrayed by Mia Wasikowska (Alice in this years Alice in Wonderland) and Josh Hutcherson. The plot develops as the kids contact their birth father sperm donor, Mark Ruffalo.
The dialogue is excellent. It is smart, and begins with an ease of wit and humor. The pacing and length of the film seems just right. The camera is not mockumentary style nor handheld, but as a very "real' style. The editing and cinematography of one scene in particular is so amazing, it expresses so much emotion and serves to lift Annette Bening's stellar performance. She is heartbreakingly good (so is Julianne Moore, but Bening's performance in particular shone to me). I don't know the other nominees yet, but with this performance -- Bening's is deserving.

Family is complicated. This film made me think about my own family. It hooks you with its wit and dialogue and keeps you with its accurate portrayal of the real issues of family and marriage.

And I drank wine while I watched. And no one counted how many glasses.

Side-note about redbox-ing this particular movie, the menus allow you to select the special features, but only plays a message from the studio that all bonus features can be viewed by purchasing the blu ray. Boo to that. Bravo to the flick.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

10 Best Picture noms

Good ole Owen, one of the main two movie reviewers over at ew, expresses his opinion about the Academy's decision last year to have 10 films nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars below. A decision that continues this year.

I agree, with many of his points. Yes, it's obvious which are the "top five," which are the commercially successful ones us real people see and which five would not be included if there were only five nominated flicks. Yes, this is an attempt to bring more viewers to the awards show. My main disagreement, that 10 nominees diminish the Oscars. The Oscars are still the highest honor when it comes to movies and back in the 30s, there were always 10 films nominated for Best Picture.

Overall though, I do wish that there were only five movies nominated for Best Pic. It really just made for more "Oscar homework" for me last year and didn't seem to change much. My love for movies and the Oscars isn't really effected by the year to year changes. I do like to see more people genuinely excited and watching.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Best Christmas Movies

My favorite Christmas movies are:

  1. A Christmas Story

  2. The Grinch (the original animation)

  3. Elf

  4. It's A Wonderful Life

  5. The Family Stone

  6. Home Alone

  7. Love Actually

  8. The Holiday

  9. A Charlie Brown Christmas

  10. One Magic Christmas

Judge my list all you want, these are my favorites. I LOVE holiday themed rom-coms: Love Actually, The Holiday and When Harry Met Sally. I know When Harry Met Sally is not technically a holiday movie, but I always think of it that way and make a point to watch it at this time of year. I watched it on Sunday in fact. I've used a couple of songs from it on my various Christmas CDs (Winter Wonderland by Ray Charles most notably).
I can guess that Meet Me in St Louis (which I do watch every year), White Christmas, Miracle on 34th Street, and Christmas Vacation top many peoples lists.

What are your favorite Christmas movies? Let's see some comments and dialogue peeps!!

this week's ew nominations list

I keep an eye on this list every week, don't you want to too?!

Dave Karger is THE expert at Entertainment Weekly when it comes to the Oscars.

I've been starting my homework really early this year. I feel like my close attention over the last few years, helps me to know which ones to see early, and which to wait for the nominations. Nominations are announced Tuesday, January 25th. And the big show is Sunday, February 27th.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Green Hornet

The fact that I was able to screen a movie almost a full month before its release date, definitely cool. Emily has a way with scoring the passes.

The Green Hornet is a comedic super hero movie, based on the radio show, the Green Hornet. Seth Rogen stars as the title character and he also co-wrote the script.

One of the first scenes of the movie includes, what I feel, is a hilarious cameo (and I totally called it before the person's face was shown).
I thoroughly enjoyed the pace and humor of the movie. It pokes fun at the super hero genre in a very entertaining way. And there is some genuine ass kicking. I enjoy Seth Rogen and his comedy style cracks me up. The soundtrack, is excellent, featuring Coolio and the White Stripes.
I take a movie for what it is. When watching a silly comedy, I draw my conclusion as such. When I watch an Oscar contender, evaluating it is much more analytical and much more of a critique.
I was all in for this movie, but there came a point, when I could no longer suspend my disbelief. It was fun but it did feel a little long.

The photos for this blog had to be taken after the movie. Part of the screening is that you are not allowed to bring even a cell phone into the theater.

SAG award nominations

I love the build up to the end of the year (and Oscar eligibility).
Check out ew list and comments of the SAG noms:

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Tourist

After seeing the serious mind bender Black Swan, my and Marleny's Sunday viewing of the Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp Venetian ride the Tourist, was just right. Fun action with humor and pretty people to watch, excellent.
The movie opens on a van of British police officers monitoring Angelina Jolie's character, Elise. They've got her routine down but today is the day things change and they are soon chasing her to a train station. She's searching for someone who can double as her mysterious husband. Enter, Johnny Depp's Frank. Can I just say, I want to meet Johnny Depp the math teacher from Wisconsin, right now!!

The Venice location is gorgeous and Elise is always impeccably dressed, the fashion is just as gorgeous. And we get to see Johnny in a tux (I love me some Johnny but his personal wardrobe is not my preference. Perfect example, what exactly was he wearing on Letterman last week?!)
It's an action movie, well paced, not overblown with excellent support from Paul Bettany as the lead investigator and his boss, former James Bond, Timothy Dalton. Great fun.

Black Swan

Going to see Black Swan, was quite the experience. Katy and I arrived downtown and there was a very long line despite the three theaters showing the movie at Fox Towers. The 8 o'clock showtime we had arrived for, was sold out. So we purchased our tickets for the 10pm showing and hung out downtown. Then there was the line to be seated, and then there was the problem with the projector that delayed the start of the film. But finally the trailers for other Oscar fare began (I can't wait to see The King's Speech). I'm impressed with the Portland movie-going public, the movie does not even release wide until this Friday.
 From the get-go, Natalie Portman's character Nina is repressed and in an odd childlike state. This is best demonstrated by her relationship with her mother, played by Barbara Hershey. Her bedroom is pink and full of stuffed animals (and her mom helps her get ready for bed). The mother-daughter issues are just part of the craziness. Nina is driven and completely dedicated to being a perfect dancer. As she seeks perfection in the dual role of both the White and Black Swan, she becomes obsessed and starts to lose her mind. The ballet's director (Vincent Cassel, the aerobatic thief in Ocean's 12) encourages her in a range of, shall we say, unprofessional methods. There are glimmers of her breaking away from her mother and becoming an independent adult, but all the weird stuff that's going on in her mind, gets in the way. Lily, portrayed by Mila Kunas, is the antithesis of Nina. She's wild, uncontrolled, her technique may be weak but she expresses raw emotion. I don't think Lily has violently bad intentions against Nina. Its my interpretation that Lily's most extreme actions, are all in Nina's head. It speaks to the script and the direction of the film on how all these elements subtly build and crescendo to conclusion.
The music is fantastic. Throughout the film it sets the creepy, confused tones, without being over the top or too obvious. Excellent cinematography, though I must say, I was not at all prepared for the gore of the film. One scene in particular still makes me shutter days later. I was definitely not sitting back, enjoying the movie. I was uncomfortable throughout, which I think was the intention. It must also be said that Winona Ryder is excellent as the drama queen ballerina Beth, who has been made to retire.

I could go on and on, listing the specifics but I'm not going to rattle off all the nuanced details that make the film what is, but I would sure love to talk about it after you see it. I've read that the ending needs interpretation or to be explained, but unlike my experience with director Darren Aronofsky's previous picture, The Wrestler, I have a clear understanding of the end of Black Swan. I know what happened.
I recommend seeing this movie in the daylight, and be prepared to talk about it the whole ride home.

Golden Globe nominations

No real big surprises, though it is interesting that The Tourist got three nominations, must be the international locale (a blog on that coming up soon as well). And yea for Johnny for his two noms.
Such a fun show to watch. All the celebs sitting with their cast-mates, drinking. And its an incredible build-up to the Oscars. The Golden Globes award show is Sunday, January 16th on nbc, Ricky Gervais is hosting.

Good ole ew, I think their list is a little easier to read. I also think its funny that the Wall Street Journal, just copy and pasted from the NFPA (Golden Globes) website!

Here are the movie noms. Its a movie and tv award show, but this is a movie blog. I do love me some tv though.
Best Picture — Drama
Black Swan
The Fighter
The King’s Speech
The Social Network

Best Picture — Musical or Comedy
Alice in Wonderland
The Kids Are All Right
The Tourist

Best Actor — Drama
Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network
Colin Firth, The King’s Speech
James Franco, 127 Hours
Ryan Gosling, Blue Valentine
Mark Wahlberg, The Fighter

Best Actress — Drama
Halle Berry, Frankie and Alice
Nicole Kidman, Rabbit Hole
Jennifer Lawrence, Winter’s Bone
Natalie Portman, Black Swan
Michelle Williams, Blue Valentine

Best Actor — Musical or Comedy
Johnny Depp, Alice in Wonderland
Johnny Depp, The Tourist
Paul Giamatti, Barney’s Version
Jake Gyllenhaal, Love and Other Drugs
Kevin Spacey, Casino Jack

Best Actress — Musical or Comedy
Annette Bening, The Kids Are All Right
Anne Hathaway, Love and Other Drugs
Angelina Jolie, The Tourist
Julianne Moore, The Kids Are All Right
Emma Stone, Easy A

Best Supporting Actor
Christian Bale, The Fighter
Michael Douglas, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
Andrew Garfield, The Social Network
Jeremy Renner, The Town
Geoffrey Rush, The King’s Speech

Best Supporting Actress
Amy Adams, The Fighter
Helena Bonham Carter, The King’s Speech
Mila Kunis, Black Swan
Melissa Leo, The Fighter
Jacki Weaver, Animal Kingdom

Best Director
Darren Aronofsky, Black Swan
David Fincher, The Social Network
Tom Hooper, The King’s Speech
Christopher Nolan, Inception
David O. Russell, The Fighter

Best Screenplay
127 Hours, Simon Beaufoy and Danny Boyle
Inception, Christopher Nolan
The Kids Are All Right, Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg
The King’s Speech, David Seidler
The Social Network, Aaron Sorkin

Best Original Song
“Bound to You,” Burlesque (performed by Christina Aguilera; written by Samuel Dixon, Christina Aguilera and Sia Furler)
“Coming Home,” Country Strong (performed by Gwyneth Paltrow; written by Bob PiPiero, Tom Douglas, Hillary Lindsey, Troy Verges)
“I See the Light,” Tangled (performed by Mandy Moore & Zachary Levi; written by Alan Menken & Glenn Slater)
“There’s a Place For Us,” The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (performed by Carrie Underwood; written by Carrie Underwood, David Hodges, Hillary Lindsey)
“You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me Yet,” Burlesque (performed by Cher; written by Diane Warren)

Best Original Score
127 Hours, A.R. Rahman
Alice in Wonderland, Danny Elfman
Inception, Hans Zimmer
The King’s Speech, Alexandre Desplat
The Social Network, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross

Best Foreign Language Film
The Concert
The Edge
I Am Love
In a Better World

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

Monday, December 13, 2010

Before the Golden Globe nominations tomorrow...

My post about Black Swan is coming up. In the mean time, its starting to get on lists and more award show buzz.

Big city lists:

And the AFI Top 10 of 2010:
Black Swan, The Fighter, Inception, The Kids Are All Right, 127 Hours, The Social Network, The Town, Toy Story 3, True Grit, and Winter’s Bone.
Two films that were not eligible for the top 10 received special awards: The King’s Speech (ineligible because it’s British) and Waiting for “Superman” (which couldn’t be considered because it’s a documentary).

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Love and Other Drugs

The pace, music and editing of the first scene of Love and Other Drugs, are excellent. It opens in 1996 with Jake Gyllenhaal as an electronics store salesmen, set to the sweet sound of the Spin Doctors. The energy and sly charm of Gyllenhaal's character, Jamie Randall, continue throughout much of the movie. He's a smooth operator and its not the least bit offensive. Its completely cute and funny.

Now as a pharmaceutical rep, Jamie soon crosses paths with Anne Hathaway's free-spirited artist, Maggie Murdock. They are two of a kind and fall right into bed. As the buzz for the movie promises, there's lots of skin and sex scenes. Maggie's character faces a challenge in her life that much of the second half of the film and the conflict of the movie revolve around. I did not know it before seeing the movie, and though most reviews probably mention it, I won't. I like that I didn't know everything about the movie before seeing it.

Over all, its a fun picture, and I enjoyed the trip back to the 90s and the exposure of the relationship between doctors and pharmaceutical companies. The only silver bullet, is the "grand gesture" scene that frequents many rom-coms. It is based on a real story, the screenplay is adapted from the book Hard Sell by the real Jamie. And it wasn't cheesy, my main element to determine a good or bad rom-com.

I'll be seeing Black Swan Friday and The Tourist on, you never know when there is more Oscar news this time of year.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part One

This was the first of the Harry Potter movies that I needed to hurry up and finishing reading before the movie came out. And I failed at that. But I did try really hard to get half-way, its only part one after all, right? Why, you may ask, am I taking so long to read the final book? Well, I'll tell you. With the last three books, I tried to wait to start reading them for as long as I could and then to read as slowly as I could. I flew through the first four books the summer before the first movie came out and had time to reread them. It was a long time to wait between books, and with the final book, that was it. Well, spoilers everywhere soured me on the final book. My own sister and step-brother chatting about it while I waved my hands about "hello, haven't read it yet, PLEASE stop talking about it, RIGHT NOW!" and Stephen King writing an article in ew with no spoiler warning and then saying any true fan would have read the book by then: these things shut me down. To Uncle Stevie, my protest would be, "My fandom is strong and my delay is based in my love of the Potterverse." I open this post with my reading history because I find it fascinating that there are people who see the movies and never read the books. While my brain does not have the capacity to hold all the details of the books at quick reference, I find that there is such a deeper viewing experience to the movies, when you've read the books.
With my dash to read the book before I saw it on Black Friday with Emily, I couldn't help but notice all the nuances between the book and the scenes as portrayed in the movie. Overall, the changes are minor and the entire series as been very true to the books. In fact, I noticed in the credits that JK Rowling was a producer. After doing a little imdb research, this is indeed the first film in which Rowling has a producing credit.

When I first heard that the final installment would be broken into two parts, I was displeased. I felt like they were "pulling an HBO" (HBO often divides the final seasons of their tv series into two parts for basically additional DVD revenue, ie Sex and the City). If the last few, both similar in length, were made in one, why now? Well, there is certainly enough plot to fill Part One, so I'm thankful for the extension of my Harry Potter experience.
The impressive thing with the Potter movie series is that the production value has always been phenomenal and Deathly Hallows holds true to this. While the main, extended characters are all present, the movie centers on Harry, Ron and Hermione and then Harry and Hermione. Wonderful action and visually stunning.

I'm sure that I am not the first to make this observation but the terror of Voldemort and his followers reminds me of Hitler and the Nazis. I've read that some have regarded the last Potter books as a critique of the Bush administration. As much as I am not a fan of the Bush administration, that leaves me scratching my head. It seems so evident to me that the reference is to the Nazis. The hiding that so many must do, the trials over peoples race (muggle or pureblood) and the distinction of those that are muggles.

If your a fan of the books and movies, or just the movies, continue to keep up with the series.

Oscar news for Blue Valentine & early predictions

Looks like Harvey Weinstein made his case. As I mentioned in my Holiday Season movie preview, if the NC17 rating had stuck, it could have been detrimental to the film's chances of a successful Oscar season.

Here's an early, early list. Can't wait for the ew 25 to see before Oscar night list. Its not 100% but it gives me "homework" before the actual nominations come out.