Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 Movie Year-End Wrap-Up

Happy New Year’s Eve!

14 films vie for my top ten of 2011, which I’ll announce tomorrow. I've been badmouthing this year all late November and early December, but when I finally got around to seeing the year-end movies, this turned out to be, in my opinion, one of the better movie years. My quota has been 65 in years past but I've reduced it by 5, so I’ve viewed 60 films this year; below are my one-line commentaries on each:

Must See [14]

Artist, The. Eight reels of joy.

Descendants, The. Quiet little movie manages to stay just this side of too depressing.

Dogtooth: Bizarre film is edge-of-your seat fascinating.

Drive. Dreamlike, retro, David Lynchian, love in a brutal world; has a catchy song too (!)

Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The. Slick movie is everything you'd want in the novel's adaptation, although it comes off a bit as cold as it's locale.

Hugo. Magnificent ode to cinema, a delight in 3-D.

Iron Lady, The. Sympathetic character study, almost incidentally includes politics and policy, with a fine performance by Streep.

J. Edgar. Dense and well-directed, makes you want to know more.

Midnight in Paris: A breath of fresh air; a charmer.

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. How often does an audience spontaneously burst into applause at an action sequence well done?

Moneyball. Story-driven film with excellent performances; maybe could have used a little Frank Capra in the final analysis.

Muppets, The. The magic is back (even if the cameo star-power wasn't).

My Week with Marilyn. The performances reel you in.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. The boys are back in another colorful, location-hopping adventure.

Recommended [19]

Adjustment Bureau, The: Nice little generic Matrix-type.

Bad Teacher. Surprisingly funny little film; Diaz, a bit too old for this kind of thing, to her credit, pulls it off.

Bridesmaids: Funny, but wildly uneven.

Captain America: The First Avenger. A great popcorn flick that offers a few happy surprises and a nice eye for the era it depicts.

Cedar Rapids: Funny film peopled with perhaps two-dimensional characters, but ones with which you’re happy to spend 87 minutes.

Contagion. Solid, well-paced, star-studded genre piece.

Hangover, Part II, The: Critically lambasted sequel actually delivers the laughs; in terms of believability makes the first film look like a documentary.

Help, The. Feels like ‘80s-era Oscar bait: prestigious, not-too-deep, and a little long, overall though, a good night at the movies.

I Am Number Four. Entertaining sci-fi adventure, with action-packed finale.

Ides of March, The. Very 1970s Robert Redford.

Just Go With It: Throwback comedy is idiotic but makes you happy; cheesecake outweighs beefcake by a factor of about 1,000,000.

Limitless: Wraps up a bit too pat, but a very interesting ride and something that does make you think.

Lincoln Lawyer, The: Solid story and acting, but wouldn’t call it a classic.

Paul: Delightful little nothing, has its script problems, but the laughs put it over.

Separation, A. As interesting as the story became there was something distant, perhaps this would have been a better novel, or maybe there is just something about dramas where everyone loses that make for this kind of reaction.

Thor: Surprisingly well done comic book epic has great dramatic tension and a few laughs but could have used even more comic relief.

Water for Elephants: Well done adaptation of the popular book, offers very little cinematic surprise.

X-Men: First Class: Nicely cast and plotted backstory entry nonetheless lacks in any true depth.

Young Adult. Grows on you; Theron— looking decidedly Michelle Pfeifferish, feels real.

Skippable [20]

50/50. Despite it's best effort, morose.

Adventures of Tintin, The. Wavers between Raiders-lite and who cares.

Battle: Los Angeles. The action is a long time coming

Conan the Barbarian. Truly never a dull moment (not a down second), but pretty cheesy and suffers from the fact that it's just impossible to erase Arnold from memory.

Cowboys Vs. Aliens. A reasonably entertaining summer flick, offers little originality outside of the premise.

Fast Five: Only has its outrageous finale to recommend it, which of course results in not a single civilian casualty.

Green Hornet, The. Considering the director, not much; Rogen and Chou do their best.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2. Eyefilling finale (especially in 3D) lacks in any real suspense and has far too many "explaining" scenes; trio of stars still shine brightly.

Horrible Bosses: Pleasant and nicely cast but a little too ‘stupid’ and farfetched and far too reminiscent of a movie with a real plot: ‘9 to 5.’

Mr. Popper's Penguins. Old-fashioned to a fault.

Rango. Amusing western send-up with bevy of unusual creatures to sustain it, if barely.

Rio: Cute and colorful, I would have preferred more screen time for the ‘humans.’

Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Lacks true depth, and doesn't really come together until the sequel set-up sequence during the credits.

Source Code: Widely overpraised fantasy is never dull, but hardly worth a second look; Jeffrey Wright was genius, however, as the genius.

Super 8: Nice atmosphere is however overplayed and takes far too long to show its hand.

Tower Heist. Silly time waster is entertaining enough but has a really dumb finale.

Tree of Life, The: Pitt is excellent, but the style just didn’t come off: did at least get better as it went along.

Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas, A. Mild.

War Horse. War Horse is hell— okay, not really, but couldn't resist the pun: it's just a perfectly pleasant prestige picture.

Win Win: One of those “gems” that you really don’t need to bother with, but you couldn’t pan either.

Avoid [7]

Dilemma, The: Surprise, it’s a drama!

Green Lantern, The: The weird nemesis— a blob— is just the beginning of its problems.

Hanna: A film produced by location scouts.

London Boulevard. Mish-mosh.

Shame. Plays out like the off off Broadway show your friend is in so you're forced to see it.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon. A lot of effort, but as with the previous films, seems to think a relentless assault on the audiences' senses (and in this case never ending and downright exhausting) equals entertainment.

Twilight: Breaking Dawn— Part 1. Finally becomes a movie toward the climax, up until then a ping pong match between music cues and dialogue.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

National Film Registry's "A Cure for Pokeritis," "The Kid" and "The Negro Soldier" Posted on YouTube

Note: "A Cure for Pokeritis" celebrates its 100th in February [part 1 below].  I think it's best described by the user review ("greatwar...") on IMDb.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

National Film Registry 2011 Announced

The list is out and in my opinion not quite as good a list as the last couple years, but not bad either... at least they did a little Oscar Best Picture catch-up with three added (The Lost Weekend, The Silence of the Lambs, Forrest Gump).  Just one movie off my suggestions made it, the grossly overlooked Bambi, glad at long last it's on there.

I was surprised to see that Chaplin's The Kid wasn't already on there, it made me, of course, want to know how many of his feature length films are in the registry, so I checked.  Of Chaplin's 11 directorial features, 5 are in the registry and 6 are not.  They've clearly got it right so far, although I'm partial to Limelight.  Certainly all of Chaplin's features should at some point be in the registry save for the last two (which were British anyway).

Chaplin features in: The Kid (1921), The Gold Rush (1925), City Lights (1931), Modern Times (1936), The Great Dictator (1940).

Chaplin films out: A Woman of Paris (1923), The Circus (1928), Monsieur Verdoux (1947), Limelight (1952), A King in New York (1957), A Countess from Hong Kong (1967).

Here is a link to the Hollywood Reporter article.

The 25 newly added films as follows:

ALLURES (1961)

BAMBI (1942)







FACES (1968)





I, AN ACTRESS (1977)


THE KID (1921)




NORMA RAE (1979)






Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Tomorrow the National Board of Review Announces

The official start of awards season is tomorrow; well unless Monday's announcement by the New York Film Critics Circle is considered the start.... I've decided, so as not to make myself crazy in future that the official start of awards season will be when the first of any of the major groups announce.  So, NYFCC you win. Since there is no guarantee that any "traditions" will be kept, I see no other way of dealing with it.      It was nice though when the National Board of Review was the first, then in rapid succession LA, New York, and recently falling into place the Washington D.C. Critics. But forget it.  I'll now just pay attention to what's first and then look at daily.  Let it be their headache!  But, since the National Board of Review's announcement has so long been considered the start, it will still be the sentimental "checkered flag" for me.

Link to National Board of Review website.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Time to Lobby the Library of Congress About the National Film Registry

Happy Thanksgiving!

In one month, the Library of Congress will announce the next 25 films to be added to the National Film Registry. Last year's list spanned the years 1891-1996, certainly the longest time span of any NFR 25, and included: The Bargain (1914), The Front Page (1931), W. C. Field's starrer It's A Gift (1934), Saturday Night Fever (1977), and Airplane! (1980).   Also included were historically important films such as A Trip Down Market Street (1906), an amazing record of San Francisco's famed thoroughfare just days before the earthquake.  A link to the LA Times article from last year can be found here; I really thought this was the best NFR 25 selection list in years... I hope they chose as well this year.

The National Film Registry started in 1989, and there are currently 550 films on the list.  Although the obscure films and historically important documentaries fulfill the mandate of the Registry, there does seem to be a movement, to include those fictional feature films that are great films (more of a Sight and Sound approach) or cult films (such as Grey Gardens) and not just historically or culturally important ones (there are still many Oscar-winning Best Pictures not on the list, for example).

You can e-mail your list to the Library of Congress and they'll consider your choices.  Link to their website.

Below are my picks for what should be added to this year's list (I only do the narrative feature films: I'll let the Library of Congress decide on the obscure works).  To me, the film that most needs to be added above all (my choice for two years running) is Blue Velvet.  I made a change to my approach last year... The NFR allows any movie so long as it is at least 10 years old-- dutifully I have added one film from 10 years ago... which the NFR OUGHT to do so as not to "fall behind."  But they don't.  And it seems that they almost never have films from the last 20 years (unless they are the obscure or historically significant ones; they did manage Malcolm X [1992] last year).  So I decided, when NONE of my choices made it the year before last, to have my most recent film be 20 years old instead. Why waste the votes?  I put two back from the mid-90s this year.  But, as a result of this decision last year, 3 of my films made the cut: The Exorcist (1973), All the Presidents Men (1976), and [at long last] The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

My choices for this go-round, by year:

1910s-20s-30s (3 titles)
A Tale of Two Cities (1917)
The Sheik (1921)
Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)

1940s (5 titles)
The Little Foxes (1941)
Bambi (1942)
Lifeboat (1944)
The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946)
The Lady From Shanghai (1948)

1950s (10 titles)
Harvey (1950)
The Red Badge Of Courage (1951)
Strangers on a Train (1951)
Limelight (1952)
The Quiet Man (1952)
Stalag 17 (1953)
The Seven Year Itch (1955)
The Killing (1956)
The King and I (1956)
Auntie Mame (1958)

1960s (10 titles)
The Guns of Navarone (1961)
101 Dalmatians (1961)
Lolita (1962)
The Birds (1963)
The Great Escape (1963)
Cheyenne Autumn (1964)
The Naked Kiss (1964)
Seconds (1966)
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966)
Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

1970s (10 titles)
Love Story (1970)
Two Mules for Sister Sara (1970)
Carnal Knowledge (1971)
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)
The Poseidon Adventure (1972)
The Taking of Pelham One, Two, Three (1974)
The Sunshine Boys (1975)
The Front (1976)
Grease (1978)
Kramer Vs. Kramer (1979)

1980s (10 titles)
Coal Miner’s Daughter (1980)
Arthur (1981)
The World According to Garp (1982)
A Christmas Story (1983)
Aliens (1986)
Blue Velvet (1986)
Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)
Raising Arizona (1987)
Wall Street (1987)
Die Hard (1988)

1990s (2 titles)
Pulp Fiction (1994)
Titanic (1997)

Saturday, November 12, 2011

EW's Holiday Movie Preview 2011

I love those seasonal EW movie preview issues. The Holiday Movie Preview always features an early Oscar-buzz section that's especially fun to mull over.  In Best Picture (and Director), among the 3 Front-Runners is The Descendants, which I'm eager to see due to Alexander Payne, but surprised to see it get such a showing.  Although not among my personal favs, The Help seems to me to be the surer front-runner (listed in their "other contenders").  Another of these, Midnight in Paris, I hope makes the cut.... however that "needs to be #1 on 5% of the ballots" rule might do it some harm, as I can see people listing it more likely #2 through #10. Glad to see Brad Pitt in there for Moneyball, and the acknowledgment that it wasn't some scenery-chewing performance, but deserves the attention.  I'm very, very curious to see if Meryl Streep is great as Margaret Thatcher, and not just an assumption that she will automatically be great: I agree with EW however when they say: "Would you consider betting against her? We wouldn't." Ditto for Glenn Close. Are we just assuming she'll be great just because of the role and her track record? Interesting to see Christopher Plummer on the list for Supporting Actor-- who only got his first career nom two years ago.  So happy to hear that Max Von Sydow is supposed to be good in Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close and hope he gets nominated-- I wished he had been nominated for The Diving Bell and the Butterfly; he's only had one career nomination, which doesn't seem to be enough.  Even though it was a typical "Oscar" show-off performance, I was a sucker for Octavia Spencer in The Help.  I also agree with EW that Melissa McCarthy is a definite contender for Supporting Actress for Bridesmaids (I'm happy when any purely comedic performance gets nominated, they are so few and far between, so, "fingers-crossed").  I love Judy Greer and so I was happy to see her name appear, even if just under "long shots," for Supporting Actress for The Descendants.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Morgan Freeman to Receive the Cecil B. DeMille Award

My prediction, Meryl Streep, gets passed over again– however, I couldn't be more pleased with the choice, Morgan Freeman.  I didn't pick him because he JUST got the AFI Lifetime Achievement Award and I didn't think they'd double-up so quickly, but I was pleased when he got that too!  I think that his fifth Oscar nomination for Invictus really put him over the top for lifetime kudos.  Having also received the Kennedy Center Honors (in 2008), now its only up to the Film Society of Lincoln Center to catch up.

The first of Freeman's films I saw theatrically were Glory and Driving Miss Daisy in 1989.  I've liked him in everything since (hasn't everyone?).  His Oscar win for Million Dollar Baby was actually more along the lines of a "career achievement" win, but it was pretty representative of his work, a solid performance with that voice-over narration that has become a hallmark of his later career.

Link to HFPA press release.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Who Will Receive this Year's Cecil B. DeMille Award?

Tomorrow is the announcement of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association's Golden Globe Award for lifetime achievement, the Cecil B. DeMille Award. The timing of the announcement has changed a lot recently— it was traditionally on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving week, then it was the Thursday of the second week of November.  Last year it was Tuesday, November 9th. And this year it's Wednesday, November 9th. So, basically on Nov. 1, I just look up the date with no expectation for consistency.

The Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Golden Globe was first given in 1952, to namesake Cecil B. DeMille himself. Producer/Director DeMille was one of the most successful filmmakers of Hollywood's Golden Age and in 1952 he made the film that would win Oscar's Best Picture, The Greatest Show on Earth. Who won the second DeMille award? Walt Disney.

In the early years of the award, the recipient was generally a producer/studio head, but starting with Maurice Chevalier (1959's recipient) performers have worked their way up, to the point that the award has been given exclusively to them from 1978 (with a few "hyphenates" among them, such as Clint Eastwood), to Steven Spielberg's 2008 win.

So, who do you think will be given this year's Cecil B. DeMille Award? The most likely candidate of the last several years has certainly been Meryl Streep. Streep has received the most career nominations (at 25). Plus she's had a string of high profile hits as of late critically and commercially, too.

What is your guess for this year's DeMille? 

Notables who have yet to receive the honor include: Woody Allen, Julie Andrews, Kenneth Branagh, Michael Caine, Glenn Close, Tom Cruise, Daniel Day-Lewis, Gerard Depardieu, Robert Duvall, Sally Field, Jane Fonda, Jodie Foster, Morgan Freeman, Tom Hanks, George Lucas, Helen Mirren, Peter O'Toole, Michelle Pfeiffer, Julia Roberts, Sylvester Stallone, Meryl Streep, John Travolta, and Denzel Washington.

... My perennial guess is HFPA favorite (12 noms, 3 wins) Michael Caine, however I think this year, Meryl Streep will finally get it, and it's a long time coming....

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Pre-Awards Season Begins 2011

I usually say that the announcement of the National Board of Review's picks will bring down the checkered flag for the start of Awards Season, but of course, no tradition can ever last without some silly stupid goose spoiling the whole thing, in this case, oddly, the supposedly prestigious New York Film Critics Circle.  So, now what? I guess life just goes on.  To me, the National Board of Review's picks will always start me thinking about the upcoming Oscars. And, yes, of course, I want to know who the NYFCC pick.  But as far as timing, I think that's permanently gone out the window.  All this horseplay just further solidifies my real curiosity for just the main show: the Oscar nominations/Oscars themselves, and the rest be damned.  Furthermore, even what had come to define the start of what I've been calling here as Pre-Awards season— Entertainment Weekly's Holiday Movie Preview Issue— I had to switch last year when EW delayed the issue a week.  I switched it up to the L.A. Times' Holiday Movie Sneaks, that thankly has remained on schedule, out today, the first Sunday in November.  With its publication (and presumably this week's EW Holiday Movie Preview Issue [UPDATE: EW Holiday Preview 11/18/11]), I feel we can safely stand around the water cooler and talk "Oscar" without fear of "already?"

A highlight of early pre-Awards season for me is always the announcement of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association's Cecil B. DeMille (Lifetime Achievement) Award, that will be announced this Wednesday, November 9.

Films I look forward to seeing this Holiday season, in no particular order, include: The Muppets, The Descendants, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, My Week with Marilyn, War Horse, Sherlock Holmes 2, Mission Impossible 4, The Artist, and The Iron Lady.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

New York Film Critics Circle Pull Some Nonsense

So the NYFCC has decided to announce their awards this year on Nov. 28, to best the National Board of Review.  How utterly childish. Does this benefit the movies? No. Does this benefit the public? No. Does this benefit the awards? No.

Let me give you a little history lesson NYFCC. In 1939, when the National Board of Review was ten years into making their selections, their quest for being first backfired big time, when Gone With the Wind wasn't viewable until its release three days after NBR eligibility.  What did the National Board of Review go with for Best Picture? Confessions of a Nazi Spy.  Here's hoping that in ten years' time you'll end up with egg on your face too for your stupid move.

What is it with awards-givers that they have to consistently ruin traditions (and things that aren't "broke") because some publicists had an "idea" in a brainstorming meeting?  Have some integrity and tell them NO.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Just Six Best Director Nominees from the 1960s Left

With the passing of Michael Cacoyannis at age 89, just six Best Director Oscar nominees from the 1960s are still alive. Cacoyannis was nonimated for 1964s Zorba the Greek.  Only one pre-60s Best Director nominee is still alive: Michael Anderson (Around the World in 80 Days, 1956).  Only one winner is alive from the 1960s- Mike Nichols, who won for The Graduate.

Below is the full list of living '60s nominees and the films they received nominations for in this decade:

Claude Lelouch (b. 1937): A Man and a Woman (1966)
Mike Nichols (b. 1931): Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966), *The Graduate (1967)
Norman Jewison (b. 1926): In the Heat of the Night (1967)
Franco Zeffirelli (b. 1923): Romeo and Juliet (1968)
Anthony Harvey (b. 1931): A Lion in Winter (1968)
Costa-Gavras (b. 1933): Z (1969)

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Best of the Year So Far: Midyear 2011

Several years back I realized that I had trouble diferentiating between the movies I liked and the movies I loved from the early part of the year.  Roger Ebert has always suggested that this was true of the Academy and why the Oscars have such "short attention span."  He recommended a midyear ballot to go along with the end-of-the-year ballot combining both to create the nominations list.

For me, I decided a mid-year top 5 usually works.  I wait until July 15, since the first few weeks of January are generally a wash for new releases, and so 7/15 is a little closer to the mid-point.  This year, although I had many "nominees" for the top 5, I found it tough to pick a top 5 (sorry, although it would have been "eligible" I haven't yet seen Harry Potter).

I have thirteen "nominees" for my top 5 this year— just two at the top, i.e. "must see" (Dogtooth and Midnight in Paris).  This years nominees (films I'd seen by 7/15 that made my "must see" and "recommended" categories) include: The Adjustment Bureau, Bridesmaids, Cedar RapidsDogtoothThe Hangover Part II, Just Go With It, Limitless, The Lincoln LawyerMidnight in ParisPaul, Thor, Water for Elephants, and X-Man: First Class.

My top 5 2011 so far (listed alphabetically):
Cedar Rapids
Midnight in Paris
X-Men: First Class

Sunday, April 10, 2011

With Lumet's Passing, One '50s Best Director Oscar Nominee Left: Michael Anderson

With the passing of Sidney Lumet— a Best Director Oscar nominee for 1957's 12 Angry Men— just one Best Director nominee from the 1950s is still with us: Around the World in 80 Days' Michael Anderson. Anderson, who was nominated for an Oscar just this once for the 1956 Best Picture winner, is 91 years old.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Oldest Extant Feature 100th Anniversary— L'Inferno (1911)

At long last, the oldest complete extant feature film turns 100 today (it's first screening), Italy's L'Inferno.  The films general release in Italy and France came in the ensuing weeks.  This terrific adaptation of Dante's Inferno is easily one of the best silents of it's era.  It's available on DVD, an excerpt below.

Monday, February 28, 2011

83rd Annual Academy Awards: A Review

The 83rd Annual Oscars fell flat.  The yin and the yang of hosts James Franco and Anne Hathaway didn’t work: he was far too subdued and she was too hyper.  At the same time, I didn’t object to anything they did, and as neither of the two are comics you can’t fault them for not being funny enough (Hathway actually did get in a few “ad libs” [”I thought “F” stood for "Fighter.”]) Hopefully we now have— at long last— learned our lesson: one host, who’s a comedian, please next year.  As further evidence, I offer the appearance of Oscar host extraordinaire Billy Crystal who came out halfway through the show and immediately hit a home run with his gag about how the show is running late (“And so, the nominees for Best Picture are…”).

Despite the hosts, everything about the show seemed old hat.  The opening with the hosts inserted into the Best Picture nominees has been done to death; and the auto-tuning bit also seemed (at least 2 years) old.  And yet this was supposed to be the “young and hip” Oscars.  The problem is the writers are old and phoning it in.

The Bob Hope “time machine” wasn’t bad but seemed a non-sequitor.  On paper, Hope plus Kirk Douglas might have seemed a nice way of bringing back the history of the show, but both cases backfired.  Kirk Douglas offered a cringe worthy start, even if, after all, it came out OK.  Thankfully winner Melissa Leo was able to mix it up well with Kirk when she came up to accept.  Leo’s drop of the f-bomb, which I believe is a first on an Oscarcast, only offered interest due to Christian Bale’s follow-up that he wouldn’t do the same since he’s done it enough.

The ABC pre-show was the usual disaster, with lame-o interviews and an unfortunate preview of things-to-come with a completely zonked James Franco.  Tom Hanks, old pro that he is, is the only one who came off well in the pre-show, chatting just moments before he was to take the stage.

The start of the show was pretty rocky.  After that far-too-long hosts-in-Best-Pictures piece Franco and Hathaway stumbled through a monologue of sorts with one tried and true winner— the old person gag: “Grandma” Franco’s standing up and professing her excitement at seeing Marky Mark. 

Some well-played “side” business of the presenters is worth noting.  Firstly, I liked the fact that Matthew McConaughey when reading the winners for the technical awards said the name of the movie title before the obscure names of the winners (i.e. he said “The winner is Inception…” first, so you knew what won, more important than who won to the viewing audience); Cate Blanchett’s ad-lib after seeing The Wolfman’s make-up (“Gross!”) was hilarious; Jake Gyllenhaal saying you should watch the short films because it can help your chances at winning your Oscar pool; Spielberg listing the “losers” of Best Picture as good company to the nine films that wouldn’t win.

None of the speeches were particularly standout, save for Randy Newman’s saying that he “wants to be good television” by not taking the producer’s advice and “listing” thank-yous but wasn’t able to, and King’s Speech director Tom Hooper who said his mother discovered The King’s Speech when she went to a reading of the unproduced play (“listen to your mother”).  Speaking of Randy Newman, I’ve said for years that the Best Song category needs retirement and following his win for the upbeat and cheery but clearly mediocre “We Belong Together,” my point has gained further evidence.

Odds and Ends section: I believe the obits reel was misguided with clips of the deceased “smiling” to Chaplin’s “Smile”— disturbing.  My favorite performance of the year was Michelle Williams in Blue Valentine, but her “Oscar clip” looked like one for co-star Ryan Gosling.  I liked Jeff Bridges and Sandra Bullock’s “first name basis” intros of the nominated lead actors and actresses, gave a personal touch.

All in all, not the train wreck it’s being made out to be in the media, but an unmemorable show… plus a little-too-perfect choice for Best Picture, and far too much “spreading of the wealth” this year (I do believe this is actually the first time in Oscar history that six films got multiple awards).

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Oscar Nominations 2010: My Thoughts

As I noted in my previous blog entry, a lot of the frontrunners this year in the major categories were my own personal favorites... so I knew I'd like the nominations for the most part.  Sadly, again, the overwhelming amount of prognosticating has made the nominations a simple confirmation.  If you open the Entertainment Weekly from Jan. 7, you'll see just about all of the nominees laid out (as with last year's EW predicts issue).

The Academy's switch to ten nominees for Best Picture is still idiotic. And can we please kill Best Song already.... I don't really want to begrudge anyone their nomination-- but just look at the list.

Last year, I noted that the two week push back to Feb. for the noms— due to the Olympics— led to a less "exciting" announcement and that a Jan. announcement might have been less dull.  And for me at least it was true— for some reason I was so much more excited for the nominations this year. Even the newscaster at the local ABC affiliate said this year seems more exciting.  But again, too bad we already knew who all the nominees would be!

I offer my thoughts below, this year I'm taking out biggest "shocks" because there just aren't any anymore among the nominees... maybe the biggest "surprise" nomination (if you want to call it that) is Javier Bardem's Best Actor nomination for BIUTIFUL, and the surprise shut-out would be Christopher Nolan for INCEPTION (and I'll just say it now: it's idiotic that the Coens bested him for TRUE GRIT in this category).

Michelle Williams in BLUE VALENTINE [thank god]
Geoffrey Rush in THE KING'S SPEECH
Hailee Steinfeld in TRUE GRIT
Best Cinematography for THE KING'S SPEECH
Best Foreign Language film for DOGTOOTH

BLUE VALENTINE for Best Picture (as if!)
Mila Kunis in BLACK SWAN
Pierce Brosnan in THE GHOST WRITER

Monday, January 24, 2011

What Film Will Get the Most Oscar Nominations?

Tomorrow morning at 5:38 AM PST, the Oscar nominations will be announced.  It's time for the annual parlor game: What is your guess for the film that will get the most nominations? Last year it was a tie between AVATAR and THE HURT LOCKER (nine each).

Here are the possible choices for this year:

THE SOCIAL NETWORK and THE KING'S SPEECH: The two Best Picture front-runners have definite nominations as well in such categories as Director, Acting, Screenplay, and Score.  SPEECH has bonus locks in Art Direction and Costume Design.

TRUE GRIT: Many possible nominations including: Picture, Director, Actor, Supporting Actress, Screenplay, Editing, Art Direction, and Cinematography.

BLACK SWAN: Many possible nominations, including: Picture, Director, Actress, Supporting Actress, Screenplay, Editing, Costumes, and Cinematography

INCEPTION: The only likely Best Picture nominee with a strong chance in the effects categories, it would need long-shot acting nominations to put it over the top.

THE FIGHTER and THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT: Both have multiple acting locks and have a definite chance in the Picture/Director/Screenplay categories.

My pick is THE KING'S SPEECH with BLACK SWAN, THE SOCIAL NETWORK, TRUE GRIT, and THE FIGHTER closely behind in a veritable dead heat for second place.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

My Oscar Ballot: Movie Year 2010

The 83rd Annual Oscar nominations will be announced Tuesday. Here are the nominees I'll be rooting for (many that are locks this year, happy to say):

Of the nominees that appear to be "locks":
Best Picture: The Social Network
Best Director: David Fincher for The Social Network
Best Director: Tom Hooper for The King's Speech
Best Director: Christopher Nolan for Inception
Best Actor: Jesse Eisenberg in The Social Network
Best Actor: Robert Duvall in Get Low
Best Actor: Colin Firth in The King's Speech
Best Actress: Michelle Williams in Blue Valentine
Best Supporting Actor: Christian Bale in The Fighter
Best Supporting Actor: Jeremy Renner in The Town
Best Supporting Actor: Mark Ruffalo in The Kids Are All Right
Best Supporting Actor: Geoffrey Rush in The King's Speech
Best Supporting Actress: Amy Adams in The Fighter
Best Supporting Actress: Mila Kunis in Black Swan
Best Supporting Actress: Melissa Leo in The Fighter
Best Supporting Actress: Hailee Steinfeld in True Grit
Best Adapted Screenplay: The Social Network
Best Original Screenplay: The King's Speech
Best Cinematography: The King's Speech

Of the nominees that have a good chance:
Best Documentary: Exit Through the Gift Shop

Of the "dark horse" variety:
Best Director: Roman Polanski for The Ghost Writer
Best Supporting Actor: Pierce Brosnan in The Ghost Writer
Best Supporting Actor: Armie Hammer in The Social Network
Best Supporting Actress: Mia Wasikowska in The Kids Are All Right
Best Original Screenplay: Blue Valentine
Best Original Screenplay: Despicable Me
Best Adapted Screenplay: The Ghost Writer

No chance, but how cool if:
Best Picture: Blue Valentine
Best Director: Derek Cianfrance for Blue Valentine
Best Director: Banksy for Exit Through the Gift Shop
Best Supporting Actress: Dakota Fanning in The Runaways
Best Supporting Actress: Chloe Moretz in Kick-Ass
Best Supporting Actress: Lucy Punch in You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger
Best Adapted Screenplay: Youth in Revolt

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Bond Is Back (Bond 23): Spread the Word

Its official as of today, James Bond will return on November 9, 2012!  Daniel Craig's third... he'll outdistance Timothy Dalton (the last victim of MGM's financial woes) with this new film.

The next question is: what will the title be?  Everyone in Bond fandom believes that the Ian Fleming short story title "The Property of A Lady" is a likely candidate. Ironically, that was to be the title of Dalton's third film before it was scrapped.

Link to MI6 fan club site's article on the release.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

One Line Review's Top Ten Movies and Noteworthy Achievements 2010

TOP TEN 2010 (alphabetical):
Blue Valentine (d. Derek Cianfrance)
Exit Through the Gift Shop (d. Banksy)
The Fighter (d. David O. Russell)
Get Low (d. Aaron Schneider)
The Ghost Writer (d. Roman Polanski)
Inception (d. Christopher Nolan)
The King’s Speech (d. Tom Hooper)
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (d. Edgar Wright)
The Social Network (d. David Fincher)
Youth in Revolt (d. Miguel Arteta)


Best Film:
Blue Valentine

Best Actor:
Jesse Eisenberg in The Social Network

Best Actress:
Michelle Williams in Blue Valentine

Best Supporting Actor:
Pierce Brosnan in The Ghost Writer

Best Supporting Actress:
Hailee Steinfeld in True Grit

Best Original Screenplay:
Derek Cianfrance, Joey Curtis, & Cami Delavigne for Blue Valentine

Best Adapted Screenplay:
Aaron Sorkin for The Social Network

Best Director:
Derek Cianfrance for Blue Valentine

Honorable Mentions:

Best Picture: Exit Through the Gift Shop, The Social Network

Best Actor: Robert Duvall (Get Low), Colin Firth (The King’s Speech).

Best Actress: Kristen Bell (When in Rome).

Best Supporting Actor: Christian Bale (The Fighter), Armie Hammer (The Social Network), Jeremy Renner (The Town), Mark Ruffalo (The Kids Are All Right), Geoffrey Rush (The King’s Speech), Justin Timberlake (The Social Network), Owen Wilson (How Do You Know).

Best Supporting Actress: Amy Adams (The Fighter), Dakota Fanning (The Runaways), Mila Kunis (Black Swan), Melissa Leo (The Fighter), Chloe Moretz (Kick-Ass), Lucy Punch (You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger), Mia Wasikowska (The Kids Are All Right).

Best Adapted Screenplay: Robert Harris & Roman Polanski (The Ghost Writer), Gustin Nash (Youth in Revolt).

Best Original Screenplay: Ken Daurio, Sergio Pablos, & Cinco Paul (Despicable Me), David Seidler (The King’s Speech).

Best Director: Banksy (Exit Through the Gift Shop), David Fincher (The Social Network), Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech), Christopher Nolan (Inception), Roman Polanski (The Ghost Writer).