“Obligatory End of Year Movie List” Post

Well, I can’t bring myself to call it a "Top 10"… or a "Best of"… Just seems rather presumptuous on my part, to weed ten films out from the thousands that were released this year and call them the "top" or the "best." According to whom? Me? And why does it have to be 10? Because David Letterman made the "Top 10 List" a part of the cultural vernacular? Maybe I’ll do eleven. Or nine…just to be contrary.

I sound cranky already, don’t I? I don’t mean to. I love talking about movies. It’s the main reason I started this blog, so that I’d have someplace to do it without boring my friends to tears. It’s just that the idea of doing a list like this is intimidating, for many reasons, not the least of which is that everyone with a movie-related blog (and his brother,) has already done one, so it almost seems like not only an exercise in futility, but just a great big conceit.

Okay, okay, enough of the whining. I think I’ll consider this "my list of my favorite movies that I saw in 2010." So, without further ado…

In order of US release:

Shutter Island
How to Train Your Dragon
The Ghost Writer
The Square
Animal Kingdom
The American
The Town
The Fighter
True Grit
The King’s Speech

(Ha! That’s 12 and I didn’t even plan it.)

Of course I saw more than twelve movies this year, and I liked most of them for one reason or another. I’m no Armand White, but I generally try to find something likeable in anything I’ve bothered to devote two hours of my time to. I had no desire to see Eat Pray Love, but I saw it with my mother and Javier Bardem was, as usual, sex-on-a-stick, so I can’t hate it.
Morning Glory
is another one I wouldn’t have chosen, but that I saw with my mother (we got to spend more time together this year than usual) and, while it was fluff, it was smart and entertaining fluff and perfectly suited to its star, Rachel McAdams.
I enjoyed The Bounty Hunter and I won’t apologize for it. There are scenes in that movie that are well worth the price of admission AND dvd and I don’t care what anyone else says or thinks. Even Jonah Hex had Michael Fassbender using his own Killarney accent going for it. Granted, not nearly enough of him to save the thing, but mercifully the movie was short anyway.

Robin Hood
narrowly missed being included, but I had to stop somewhere. (See that’s why these things are so difficult. I have an irrational fear of offending "someone" by not including "them".) There’s too much there for me to like: the cast, the director, the genre, the production values, the costumes, the score… *sigh* The same could be said of Centurion. It was just plain visceral fun. (And again…Fassbender.)

Then there are films that I’m aware of and have seen, that are well-made and for one reason or another will be remembered during awards season and hence, be given some sort of significance in the annals of film history. (I feel like I’d be remiss in not mentioning them, but they can’t be considered "favorites" for reasons that will hopefully become clear.) Winter’s Bone, for example. Without the fierce and star-making performance of Jennifer Lawrence as Ree Dolly, this might as well have been a Barbara Kopple documentary*. It was bleak and gritty and real, and completely joyless. I feel no need to see it again.

The Kids Are Alright almost made the list as well. It’s a critical darling and may very well earn Annette Bening her first Oscar. (Julianne Moore also deserves a nomination. Any other year I’d say, so does Mark Ruffalo, but there are only five slots in the acting categories.) The film is well-written, well-acted and well-directed, but it’s also so perfectly "in the moment," so completely of the time in which it was produced, that I can see it being considered dated in a few years. It may belong in a time capsule, but it doesn’t belong on my dvd shelf for future viewings.

Toy Story 3 has, upon further reflection, lost some of its luster for me. I know that I enjoyed it immensely when I saw it, but not only do I not feel the need to see it again, I can’t remember what it "felt" like the first time. I seem to recall that the emotional heart of the story was a footnote to what became nothing more than an animated action adventure film. (I may be alone in my thinking on this one, wouldn’t be the first time.)

I would have liked to have included Carlos on this list, but because it was first shown in this country on The Sundance Channel it didn’t seem right. Edgar Ramirez’s performance in the title role is nothing short of mesmerizing and I will end up watching this one again and again. All five and a half hours of it.

There are also films that I haven’t yet had the opportunity to see, that probably would have made this list. I’m more enchanted with the idea of Blue Valentine every time I see the trailer. Hopefully, I will be able to see it prior to the Oscar nominations coming out because from what I’ve read (and the little I’ve seen) both Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams will be among them.

I feel like a fraud because I failed to see Scott Pilgrim vs The World. I even had a free pass to a sneak preview, but I didn’t go. The rest of the blogosphere may think it’s brilliant, (and it may be… Director Edgar Wright is full of potential. I loved Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz,) I just couldn’t do it. Michael Cera was easy to take in small doses on the small screen in "Arrested Development," but I can’t take him for 2 hours, 7 ft high and in Dolby surround sound. I also still have not seenThe Social Network. Again, a conscious decision, (I had a pass for this one, too) and one I would not regret were it not for the fact that it’s made so many lists of so many critics whose opinions I respect. It’s out on dvd in a couple of weeks. I’ll rectify the situation then. If I have to amend my list, I will. (One mustn’t be rigid in one’s thinking, but I’m betting this is another that will belong in a time capsule.)

Now, as I pointed out, the films that do appear on my list are in order of their US release and not in order of preference. I chose my list primarily by looking at my ticket stubs for the year and thinking about which of these that: A. I would want to watch more than once (if I haven’t already), B. which are worth owning on dvd for that purpose? (For the record I already own 8 of the 12 on the above list, 4 aren’t out yet.), and C. which ones have "stuck with me" the most? Which ones can I not stop thinking about? I don’t mean constantly, but even better — which ones have enough resonance that perhaps little snippets of dialogue or an image will come to me at random moments or have situations or characters that I recognize in daily life? etc. etc.

Most of these films aren’t perfect, in fact quite a few are deeply flawed. They might have made my list because they are excellent examples of my favorite genre, like The Square, or because of a performance by a favorite actor, like Kick-Ass.

Shutter Island is a film that, if it had been released in November 2009 as was originally scheduled, probably would have been on the awards/critics favorite lists for that year. I loved the book by Dennis Lehane and, while I’m aware that movie and film are two separate entities, I was eagerly awaiting the adaptation from the moment it was announced. Martin Scorsese again directing Leonardo DiCaprio? I’m there. I wasn’t disappointed either. In addition to DiCaprio, the whole thing was peppered with great performances from Mark Ruffalo, Max von Sydow, Emily Mortimer, Ben Kingsley, et al. Scorsese handled the twists and turns of the dark plot so deftly that, even though I KNEW the secret, I was so caught up that it came as a surprise to me as well as the rest of the audience. It’s also one of those films that reveals a little bit more each time one sees it and so definitely bears repeat viewings. I read somewhere a review that called this Scorsese’s homage to Hitchcock. Not a bad description, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with one master paying tribute to another.

My love for How to Train Your Dragon has been well-documented and I’m not sure I can add anything here that I haven’t already said. It’s a simple story beautifully told. Visually stunning, aurally stimulating, heart-warming and just plain fun. It’s the kind of movie about which one could have said, "they don’t make ’em like that anymore". Except they did.

The Ghost Writer is a well-written, well-acted little thriller that took me completely by surprise. It is essentially about a writer hired to "ghost" a politician’s memoirs, even as the politician seems to be torn as to whether he actually wants them told, and who uncovers layers and layers of secrets. It’s another film that begs for repeat viewings both to catch all the little clues you missed the last time and just because the performances are so good, particularly Pierce Brosnan and Ewan MacGregor.

Made in Australia for next to nothing, directed by Nash Edgerton and written by his brother Joel, who also plays Billy (Gawain in King Arthur, Hugo in Smokin’ Aces, etc.), The Square is a tough and brilliant bare bones neo-noir that reminded me a lot of The Coens’ Blood Simple. It wouldn’t surprise me if most of the people reading this have never heard of this movie. It’s a time honored tale of lovers who devise a plan in order to be together — a plan that sounds so simple until everything goes horribly wrong. Watching it unfold, you know nothing is going to go right for these people, but you can’t look away as each domino knocks down the next. I’d already seen it when I got the dvd for Christmas, and I’ve already watched it twice since then. This is one of those movies that some Hollywood mucky-muck with more money than sense is probably already plotting to remake with a bigger budget and a big name cast. See this one first.

Kick-Ass holds a special place for many reasons, not least of which is that it was just plain fun. Also, it featured a brilliant, comedically menacing (or menacingly comedic) performance by Mark Strong. His Frank D’Amico is kind of like Archy’s** angry American cousin (with better fashion sense.) My further thoughts on this film can be found here: weetiger3.livejournal.com/13926.html, in an earlier post.

I’m not sure anything I could say here could influence someone’s choice to see Inception, if they haven’t already done so. Brilliant is too pale of a word to describe it. It’s everything we go to the cinema to see a movie for. Big, stunning visuals. An original and, yes, complicated plot full of interesting, well-formed characters that we care about. Well-written dialogue spoken by talented actors and an ending that had people talking not only as they left the theater, but for weeks and months after.

Animal Kingdom is another Australian film that you may not have heard of (also with Joel Edgerton). I do intend to talk more fully about it when it’s released on dvd next month. It’s a family drama about some low-rent, but extremely dangerous villains. (I know I’ve hooked some of you already.) I mentioned it in passing when comparing Melissa Leo’s character in The Fighter with Jacki Weaver’s in this film. "Smurf" Cody, a combination of Lucretia Borgia and Ma Barker, has to be experienced to be believed. I can’t wait to see this again.

I only saw The American very recently. Two nights ago as a matter of fact. I felt compelled to put it on the list because I couldn’t stop thinking about it, even as I was watching it. I went out and picked up a copy the next day. I can very clearly envision myself popping this in to watch a Renault wind around the stark Abruzzi countryside and listen to Herbert Gronemeyer’s haunting score. (Not to mention watch "Mr. Butterfly" run around sans shirt.) Anton Corbijn, best known for directing music videos (U2, Metallica, Depeche Mode) and Control (a biopic of Joy Division’s Ian Curtis) has made a small 70’s era European art-house film starring one of the world’s biggest movie stars, George Clooney. Clooney is so good as a burned-out hit man that you forget that he is George Clooney. There are no smug smiles or even smugger line deliveries. In fact there are few lines at all, but he’s fascinating to watch. You can’t look away because from the opening sequence you don’t know what he’ll do.

It probably comes as no surprise that The Town has made my list of favorites. Parts of it were filmed at "the cathedral of Boston," Fenway Park, which is about two blocks from my apartment. Running late for work one morning, I took a cab and we drove right through where they were unloading the trucks to set up for the day’s shooting. It’s a small thing, but it makes me feel connected somehow. Charlestown, the neighborhood where most of the movie takes place, is where my stbex lived when we met. I love seeing Boston on screen. It may be a big metropolitan city to the rest of the world, but to those of us who live here it feels like a small town. And regardless of what anyone thinks of his accent in this film, Ben Affleck’s second foray into directing proved that Gone Baby Gone, another of my favorites (and another based on a Dennis Lehane novel), was no fluke.
I’ve always thought Affleck was a better actor than he was given credit for or that his list of credits could attest to. (For proof, I offer Hollywoodland. He’s fantastic as George Reeves. It’s too bad more people didn’t see it.) In any case, if he’s a good actor, he’s an even better director. I’ve read in several places recently the topic of who will succeed Clint Eastwood. Why there has to be a successor I don’t fully appreciate, but of all of the candidates mentioned I can foresee the mantle falling to Ben Affleck. He’s already taken the idea of actors securing control of their projects to a higher level than mere producing can obtain. He’s been writing good parts for himself since Good Will Hunting, which he co-wrote and famously won an Oscar for with Matt Damon, and he co-wrote The Town as well. He wrote Doug McCray with the intention of playing him, but was not always planning to direct. Apparently, Adrian Lyne was Warner Brothers 1st choice. Frankly, I can’t imagine why and am very happy Affleck stepped up. He directed Amy Ryan to an Oscar nomination his first time out of the gate and I predict he’s done it for Jeremy Renner this time. Renner is perfect as James "Gem" Coughlin. Watch his face right before he says "whose car we takin’?" as he works out what Doug has just asked of him. Everything you need to know about his character, his history with Doug, everything, is right there. (There’s a reason that’s the clip that he takes with him to the chat shows.)

The rest of the cast: Jon Hamm, Rebecca Hall, Pete Postlethwaite, Chris Cooper (in his one scene), are all brilliant. The only one I didn’t buy was Blake Lively. She tried. The problem was that I could see her trying. I never believed her. Oh well, maybe it’s just me.

It is mere coincidence that the last three films on the list also happen to be my three absolute favorites of the year, although not necessarily in the same order. JMHO, everything you’ve heard about these next movies is true. They are each completely deserving of every superlative that has been used to describe them and of the accolades that are being heaped upon them.

My feelings about The Fighter can be found here:  weetiger3.livejournal.com/21316.html I’ve seen it twice and not only did it hold up well on a second viewing, I came away with an even greater appreciation for Christian Bale’s performance. The only thing that really bugged me was the same thing that bugged me the first time around: The movie starts in 1993. No mention is made of how much time has passed, but it appears to have only been a year at most. We’re never told how long Dicky is in prison. If it is only a year, then there is a glaring anachronism in the climactic fight scene, and frankly, I couldn’t believe the filmmakers hadn’t noticed it. (I’m referring to the logo for a website that appears in the middle of the ring during the Ward v. Neary fight in London.) Well, after some research and if the actual timeline is correct, it turns out it wasn’t an anachronism at all. The Ward/Neary fight took place in 2000, seven years after the start of the film. In no way is this ever made clear. It’s a small thing, but it smacked me between the eyes and took me out of the moment both times I saw it. Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t detract from the overall power of the film. I’ll continue to get chills whenever I hear Whitesnake’s "Here I Go Again" and I know I’ll want to watch the movie again when I do.

I enjoyed the Coen Brothers’ True Grit immensely, but it almost didn’t make my list. I’ve written about it recently and my thoughts, in case anyone who is interested missed them, can be found here: weetiger3.livejournal.com/22509.html It was a tough call because I wasn’t sure, if based on my criteria above, that I could call it a "favorite" yet. I was afraid that it was actually the pounding baseline of Johnny Cash’s "God’s Gonna Cut You Down" that plays under the trailer that had continued to move me. I added the film to the list and took it off several times before I decided to sleep on it. I finally realized that not only will I add this to my collection because it’s another fine example of a Coen Brothers spin on a classic genre (no, I do not follow them blindly — I did not like Burn After Reading and I do not own A Serious Man), but that I will want to watch it over and over again because I want to spend more time with those characters, especially Jeff Bridges’ Rooster and Hailee Steinfeld’s Mattie. I know there are still a lot of naysayers out there and I’ve said all I’m going to about why this movie deserves to exist along side the earlier version, but anyone who denies themselves the pleasure of watching this unknown, untested thirteen year old girl go up against an Oscar winning veteran like Bridges is missing out. Ms. Steinfeld may or may not go on to other great parts, but there’ll only ever be one first.

This brings me to the final film on the list, The King’s Speech. I’m such a complete anglophile that I’d been anxiously awaiting this one from the moment I first heard about it. I raced to the theater to see it as soon as it opened here and really, since my expectations were so high, the only real question was whether or not I’d be disappointed. I was not. I loved every minute of it.
Ostensibly, the film is a period drama about a member of the British Royal Family with a speech impediment, but there’s so much more to it than that. I don’t want to do a detailed synopsis, and I’m rarely interested in doing a conventional review. None of the reviews I’ve read do it justice anyway. The direction and the performances, all of which are spectacular, turn what could have been a dull and dry footnote to British history into a completely engrossing emotional experience.

Colin Firth is astounding. It’s as simple as that. Through the course of the film, one literally watches him transform himself from the shy Duke of York into King George VI, the man who symbolically held his country’s hand and led them through the dark days of World War II. What’s truly amazing is that Firth does it mainly through the way he carries himself and the way he composes his face and his jaw, all of which we see closeup. The camera stays tight on his face and sometimes just his mouth, nearly every time he opens it. I believe he’s a lock for an Oscar. He deserved it for A Single Man and he’s just that consistently good, no matter what piece of dreck*** he appears in, but I don’t think they’ll be able to overlook him this time. I could continue to gush, but what would be the point? This performance is indeed award worthy. For that matter, so is Geoffrey Rush’s. Their dynamic is wonderful. They’re so good together. Just like Wahlberg and Bale, I find it hard to differentiate between these two lead and supporting performances. I suppose it comes down to screen time and Firth is onscreen just slightly more than Rush.

There wasn’t a false note in any of the other performances either. Timothy Spall looks nothing like Churchill, but he evokes the man completely. Guy Pearce not only looked like Edward VIII, he sounded like him. It wasn’t just a matter of him adapting his Australian accent to a posh British one, but anyone who has ever heard snippets of the actual "The Woman I Love" speech would find Pearce uncanny. (Bit of trivia: Anthony Andrews who plays Prime Minister Baldwin, Neville Chamberlain’s predecessor, played Edward VIII in a tv miniseries called "The Woman He Loved" and when he appeared on screen my first thought was, I wonder if he gave Guy Pearce any pointers. Oh well, I had to digress at least once…"so they’d know it was me". )

Helena Bonham Carter has never been better. She seems to have taken to heart what Eleanor Roosevelt once said about the Queen Mother, Elizabeth: that she’s "perfect as a Queen, gracious, informed, saying the right thing & kind, but a little self-consciously regal."+

The relationship between George VI and his "commoner" wife is depicted as being very loving and affectionate and in sharp contrast to what "Bertie" grew up with. His mother, Queen Mary, was shown to be cold and emotionally distant and his father, George V, a tyrant to his children. I was struck by how loving and even demonstrative the current Queen Elizabeth’s early life was supposed to have been, considering how detached she’s supposed to have been with her own children. I think it had to do with the idea that she and her "family" were not being groomed for the throne at the time. A shift in tone is hinted at in one scene after George VI became king. Let’s face it, the British monarchy have always been fairly dysfunctional, but it did feel like a telling glimpse into their lives.

I enjoyed everything about this movie. The costumes, the hair and makeup, the set design and decoration are all stunning. Alexandre Desplat’s score is inspirational and moving and makes wonderful use of some well-known classical pieces. The climatic "speech", the famous one that first rallied the British people at the start of the war, was of course incredibly well done and very emotional (which is as it should be since it is the culminating point of the film), but it is because of the journey we’ve taken more than the words that are spoken that makes it so.

I saw this one a second time as well. Until I had, I was vacillating between this and The Fighter as to which one would be my absolute favorite of 2010. Both films certainly hold up under a repeat viewing (something I haven’t done at the theater for any film without Gerard Butler in it in a very long time), packing the same emotional wallop as they did the first time and both will find a place on my dvd shelves. The difference is that I would be hard pressed to find a single flaw in The King’s Speech.

It’s perfect. Just My Humble Opinion.

*for example Harlan County, USA. A doc focusing on a coal miner’s strike in Kentucky, but depicting the same kind of impoverished rural existence as that of Winter’s Bone.
**Mark Strong’s character in RocknRolla
***Take that, Rupert Everett
+ William Shawcross (2009), Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother: The Official Biography, Macmillan

“…So long as we have hands to clasp”

Fah who for-aze!
Dah who dor-aze!
Welcome Christmas,
Come this way!

Fah who for-aze!
Dah who dor-aze!
Welcome Christmas,
Christmas Day.

Welcome, Welcome
Fah who rah-moose
Welcome, Welcome
Dah who dah-moose
Christmas day is in our grasp
So long as we have hands to clasp

Fah who for-aze!
Dah who dor-aze!
Welcome, welcome Christmas
Welcome, welcome Christmas

A friend gave me a link to this blog http://thebloggess.com/

I was a sobbing, blubbering mess after I read the latest post.  The running mascara and the funny looks from coworkers were well worth it, however, to happily, nay joyously, discover that Christmas lives…

If you are not moved by this tale of the kindness of strangers, I suggest you check the size of your own heart, Grinch.

Please read it and pass it on.

When Is a Remake Not a Remake?

I think it comes down to what kind of an emotional attachment one has to the original. I have to admit that although I liked the 1969 version of True Grit, having seen it at the drive-in when I was a kid and several times since on television, I don’t have strong feelings about it.

I do understand, however, that those who have a particular fondness for The Duke would not want to see his legacy tampered with, and I am, in general, not a fan of remaking the classics. My first question is always, ‘why?’ Are there no new stories left to tell?  The counter argument could then be made that “there is nothing new under the sun.” If that were true, then okay, tell an old story in a fresh and original way.  I cannot understand why it was thought to be a good idea to remake, line-by-line and scene-by-scene, Hitchcock’s classic Psycho. Was it just because they thought the world needed this film to be in color? That’s worse than Ted Turner’s misguided, and thankfully short-lived, plan to systematically colorize all of the classic black and white films in the Turner catalog. (Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.) I can only guess at the hallucinogens shared by director Gus Van Sant and the studio execs who backed that travesty.:What monumental hubris to think that they could do it better than Hitchcock.

I generally find appalling the xenophobic trend Hollywood is following of scavenging foreign markets for good films to bastardize by remaking them in English with actors known to American audiences.  What’s worse, they almost always end up being inferior to the original.

Was it really necessary to redo the Swedish Let the Right One In a mere two years after its release? Chloe Moretz is an extremely talented child actor, but surely something else could have been found for her to do, other than Let Me In, before Scorsese was ready for her closeup? (By the way, she’s in his next film, Hugo Cabret.)  The remakes of the three Swedish films based on Stieg Larsen’s acclaimed books, the second and third of which have just hit American theaters this fall, are already underway with The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, and an all-star cast.  While I think Daniel Craig will make an excellent Mikail Blomqvist, I enjoyed Michael Nyqvist’s performance in the original and I really can live without seeing Craig’s.  An Academy Award for Best Foreign Film virtually guarantees an American remake. Example: The Lives of Others, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s brilliant German winner from 2006 is currently in development, according to imdb.Pro.

Granted, the notion of remakes is not new. It’s been happening for almost as long as there have been films. There have even been directors who have remade themselves, like Alfred Hitchcock who made two versions of The Man Who Knew Too Much, one in 1934 and another in 1956. Twenty years is about a generation. Many who saw the Jimmy Stewart version may not have been aware of the British version with Leslie Banks and Peter Lorre (especially since this was before the advent of television, the medium by which most of us cut our teeth on ‘old’ films.) So does the acceptability of a remake have to do with the passage of time?  A new version of Easy Virtue was released in 2009. Hitchcock’s came out in 1928 (and it’s not one of his more beloved films, although not many saw the new one either.) My question is: Was it the 81 years in between the two versions or the fact that both films were based on a play by Noel Coward that allows them to coexist?

There are many films that I would immediately be up in arms about if they were to be remade. Hell, I’m not at all happy that it was decided that 1981’s Arthur, featuring a timeless performance by the late Dudley Moore, was ripe for the picking.  Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge fan of Helen Mirren. I adore her and everything she stands for and I’m sure Russell Brand will be appropriately funny, but I’m not looking forward to this. Indeed, unless forced, I probably will not see it. The trailer better knock my socks off. And it could well be my own fondness for Arthur, but I see a difference between the remaking of it and this year’s True Grit.

The former is based on an original screenplay, the latter on a classic novel.

I can hear eyes rolling from here, and I know what you’re thinking: “How would you feel if they decided to remake Gone With the Wind, also based on a ‘classic’ novel?”  Are you kidding?!  I’d hate it, plain and simple. There is no scenario I can think of that would make that acceptable. Fortunately, I think GWTW is one of those rare films that is in a “protected class.”  There are a few I can think of, such as The Godfather or the original Star Wars Trilogy. Of course, that could just be wishful thinking. The Hollywood machine must be fed and it may eventually come for the pantheon of untouchables.

I can imagine that Clark Gable (or even Charles Laughton) fans were not happy when Marlon Brando and company remade Mutiny on the Bounty.  Brando fans were probably up in arms about the Mel Gibson version, however, time having created distance between each versionI would argue that there is room in the canon for all three versions.

It is JMHO that the new True Grit is an old story told in a new way. It is based more closely on Charles Portis’ book than the 1969 version directed by Henry Hathaway and of course starring the inimitable John Wayne. It is not so much a remake of that movie as it is another interpretation of the source material. The 2010 version is based on a screenplay by Joel & Ethan Coen, who relied on the novel as their source. They did  NOT rely on the screenplay of Marguerite Roberts who also, however nominally, used the novel as a source. So, technically, can it be called a remake?




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I haven’t read the script for either version, but I can only imagine how tempered and watered down the one written in 1969 was, simply because of the era in which it was conceived. The Coens’ version went for ‘true’ or real ‘grit’ if you’ll pardon the pun. Everyone, with the exception of Mattie, looks filthy and like they probably smell worse. Many moons have certainly crossed the mountains between baths and dental hygiene had obviously not been introduced to the prairie yet, despite the appearance of a so-called ‘dentist’ in the 2nd reel

The dialogue has all of the wit and humor of Coen classics like Raising Arizona (Emmett and Moon reminded me of  Gale and Evelle Snoats) and Fargo, but with the formal and stilted vernacular of the 1880’s.  When was the last time you heard the word ‘braggadocio’ used in a conversation? There are no anachronistic colloquialisms or modern slang to jolt you out of the moment or clash with Carter Burwell’s authentic score.

The supporting performances are all authentic and spot on, from Leon Russom’s sheriff, J.K. Simmons voice-over as a country lawyer, to Barry Pepper’s Ned Pepper.  Josh Brolin is practically unrecognizable as Tom Chaney, including  his speech pattern.

Hailee Steinfeld is no Kim Darby. (Thank you! I can’t see her ever boiling bacon or giving John Cusack TV dinners for Christmas.) What a find. She’s phenomenal. From the moment she appears on screen, she commands it. The “grit” in the title does not belong to Cogburn as much as it does to her Mattie Ross.

Matt Damon as LeBoeuf gives a performance that we haven’t seen from him before. His verbal sparring with Mattie is a joy to watch and listen to. “Ay-dee-os”

Of course, the key to the success of the film is whether or not one buys Jeff Bridges as Reuben “Rooster” Cogburn.  The answer for me is yes, I did. His Rooster is so different from Wayne’s that it’s very easy to forget you’ve ever seen this character on screen before. I said the other day that I thought Jeff Bridges would do ‘irascible old coot’ very well and indeed he does. As a physical specimen, neither he nor the character are aging very well, but it works for the actor here.

This is ‘The Dude’ nearly twenty years on and with more than a vat load of ‘beverages’ under his belt and living in the much harsher environs of the Old West. But The Dude abides, and that’s all one needs to know.

There was one recreation of an iconic moment from the John Wayne version, and that was when Bridges’ Rooster Cogburn charges across the prairie to duel with Ned Pepper, his reins in his teeth and a gun blazing from each hand. It is my opinion that scene was recreated as a snapshot homage to The Duke and the 1969 film and the only time either Wayne or the earlier film are brought to mind.

So then do the objections have more to do with a classic John Wayne character being portrayed by another actor than the movie itself being remade? They must. I can’t imagine there are too many people worried about Glen Campbell or Kim Darby’s screen legacies.

If that’s the case, then I have to say that I at least understand the sentiment. I don’t want to see Russell Brand playing a character that, for me, is indelibly Dudley Moore’s, and I could not stomach anyone but Clark Gable playing Rhett Butler (and no, I did not watch the television miniseries. Timothy Dalton? Really?)

JMHO … the 2010 film is pure Coen Brothers, with little to no resemblance to the 1969 version…and I enjoyed it immensely.

and a 1/2 out of 5

Immortality, Baby!

“Marky Mark” Wahlberg has been nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Actor-Drama. I can’t even believe I just typed that sentence. (Actually, I was going to wait to do this post until next month when the Academy Award nominations are announced. At this point, I predict he’ll be nominated for one of those, too. Recent developments, however, have led me to believe the time is right.)

While I am very happy for this former Calvin Klein Underwear model and erstwhile rapper, and I actually believe that his role as Micky Ward is the role of a life-time and he did a fantastic job, my first thought was not about him at all. My first thought was:

Gerard Butler, you’d better get your shit together.

There is absolutely no reason that an actor of Gerard Butler’s caliber, name recognition and popularity, should not be offered the same types of roles that I see other actors, with less of those things, getting all the time.

I don’t mean to take anything away from Mr. Walhberg, that’s not my point. I say again that I loved The Fighter and he was fantastic in it. My point is that he fought for that role. He knew what it could do for him and what he could bring to it. He believed in his abilities as an actor and as a producer he worked for many years to get the movie made. He watched the lead yo-yo away from and back to him several times, but he wanted it and in the end he made sure he got it. And with that performance, Mark Wahlberg has finally gotten what he’s said he really wanted, respect as an actor.

This is what I expect from Gerard Butler. This is what I want for Gerard Butler.

He’s on the right track. He’s acquired a production company with his longtime manager, Alan Siegel, and he’s acted as producer on two films so far, 2009’s Law Abiding Citizen, and 2011’s Machine Gun Preacher.

I’m on the record as having enjoyed LAC and any reader of this blog knows just how biased I am about Mr. Butler, but I have to say that however the film was received by critics, it was an important step in his education. I’m sure the learning experience G had while making that movie was both immeasurable and priceless. (Although, it must be said that the movie did make some money.)

I am of the opinion that his next foray into production, Machine Gun Preacher, would not have gotten made if he hadn’t been attached as an actor, and also if his production company hadn’t gotten involved as well. Now, I have not seen this film yet, but by all accounts it has a great deal more gravitas than most of his other post-300 projects combined. And frankly, that’s what he needs: Gravitas. Or at least he needs to be perceived as someone who possesses this quality.

The film that could give him this in spades, if it is successful, looks to be the next one out of the gate. There had been reports that Ralph Fiennes directorial debut, Coriolanus, will open in some European cities as early as February of 2011. There have already been screenings in London and the word that is leaking out about G is very positive. (In a bit of theatrical serendipity, both Fiennes and Butler have appeared on stage in the play. In fact, it was G’s first professional gig as an actor.) Indeed, just this morning it was announced that Coriolanus will screen at the prestigious Berlinale in early February. (There is some discrepancy as to whether it will show in or out of competition. I’ve seen conflicting reports on this point.) Regardless, this is a very good thing. The Berlin fest is among the world’s top four, in my opinion, (along with Cannes, Toronto and Venice) and it means the world is eagerly awaiting Fiennes’ first directorial effort.

Fiennes is an actor who has gravitas coming out of his ears. Even his years playing a Harry Potter villain have somehow only managed to increase it and one would never associate Ralph Fiennes with a bad rom-com with a high powered co-star desperate for a hit…errr…okay, make that SHOULD never. At least he learned his lesson and stopped at one. Besides, The End of the Affair excuses a multitude of sins. As usual, I digress. The point is that Ralph Fiennes hand-picked Gerard Butler (whose name incidentally helped get the film financed) to play Coriolanus’ antagonist Tullus Aufidius, opposite him.

It will not matter what the general public thinks about this film, especially since most will probably have a hard time finding a movie like this and will have to make the concerted effort to seek it out via “On Demand” and dvd. If critics and industry insiders like and admire this movie, it will go a long way to reshaping Butler’s career path.

The point of this post is that I still see great potential in this man. He doesn’t need to coast on being, for example, ‘the poor man’s Russell Crowe.’ Russell Crowe is a great actor and no matter what else anyone thinks of him with reference to matters not film related, he has achieved a certain status for it. He gets the good scripts and works with the best directors and has projects lined up for at least the next five years. Physically, he may not be in Gladiator form and probably won’t be again, but it doesn’t seem to be important to him (or his career.) He’s still acting and turning in fantastic performances. He’s certainly not resting on the laurels that he earned in that film.

While the gossip rags may taunt him forever about not maintaining his Leonidas physique, it’s time for G to stop resting on the kudos he got for “300.” More importantly, he needs to stop coasting on Dear Frankie, the movie that most of Hollywood thinks of as the one that proved he could actually act, even though very little of the ticket buying public has seen it.

He needs to decide whether he wants to be an actor or a movie star. (I’m sure the latter is much more fun.) I may have gotten this totally wrong, but when I first discovered this guy, I was under the impression that the work mattered to him. Listen to him talk about a role he’s passionate about and you’ll probably feel the same way. Watch “Wrath of Gods,” a documentary about the making of 2005’s Beowulf & Grendel (bit of trivia: WOG is actually the 1st film on which he’s listed as producer, but not with his shingle, Evil Twins) and listen to him talk about that film, including characterization and the movie-making process. Has that artistic fire burned out completely in the intervening five years? (We won’t discuss where the accent has gone.)

Personally, I don’t think so. I don’t believe he likes being more well known for the parties he attends and the models he’s allegedly keeping company with. He’s just living his life, grabbing all the gusto he can. Hell, if I woke up every morning and looked at that face in the mirror and had the readies he has access to, I’d be doing the same thing. (He’s also, in my humble opinion, trying to stave off the march of time, probably for a lot of reasons.)

As an avowed fan of Gerard Butler, I realize my credibility when discussing this subject is already in question. All I can do is assure you, gentle reader, that I do not view this man through any variation of rose-tinted glasses, (although I’d like to view him through those Marc Jacobs shades he frequently sports. For some reason I really like those.) He is not on a pedestal of my making and I am not of the opinion he can do no wrong.

It drives me absolutely batshit when I read the delusional ramblings of women who see him as perfect, simply because he is beautiful, and verbally spew their virtual wailing and keening and rending of clothes across the internet because of the bad rap his acting and his antics have gotten lately. He’s a grown man, he can and will do what he wants regardless of what I think and I’m pretty sure his ‘soul’ will survive if the self-appointed guardians stopped guarding it. (He is not now, nor has he ever really been “Erik.”) That sort of behavior diminishes all of us who consider ourselves fans (with an ‘F’ not a ‘PH.’)

I say all that by way of disclaimer. The hopes I have for G are inspired by the potential I have seen and still see in him. The movie business is capricious at best. It can all change in an instant. I have touted the talents in previous posts of two of Butler’s recent co-stars, Tom Hardy and Michael Fassbender. While I grant you they are younger than G, like him they have both been toiling away at their craft for many years, and yet suddenly they are two of Hollywood’s hottest “It Boys.” Despite amazing performances in several critically acclaimed indies like “Hunger” and “Fish Tank,” it took a small role in a film like Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds” to catapult Fassbender into the mainstream. For Hardy, it was Christopher Nolan’s “Inception.” Wahlberg had quietly been accumulating an impressive list of credits over the course of the last fifteen years, but I believe his big moment started with “The Departed,” directed by one Martin Scorsese and continues with the words “…Award nominee.”

I’d just really like it if one of these days someone sat down and wrote the line: Gerard Butler has been nominated for a Golden Globe…or an Academy Award.

Now, that’s immortality baby!

thanks for reading…

*Click Click*

Doing the Demented Poodle Dance!!

How to Train Your Dragon has been nominated for a Golden Globe in the Best Animated Feature category!!

I won’t even say it was almost a given at this point, especially since there were FIVE slots to fill. Nope, not gonna say that, just gonna bask in the warm glow of being right…


Seriously, I don’t want this to sound like sour grapes, but I’m more than a little disappointed that the score was once again overlooked. I’m trying to wrap my head around it, but I’m having a difficult time. I really haven’t been this passionate about the music for a film in quite awhile. I know I’m not alone in this, but it does point up yet again that popular opinion often matters very little when it comes to awards recognition.

On another note, some of the actors I was rooting for have been nominated as well:

Jeremy Renner – Best Supporting Actor for The Town
Christian Bale – Best Supporting Actor for The Fighter
Amy Adams – Best Supporting Actress for The Fighter
Melissa Leo – Best Supporting Actress for The Fighter
Jacki Weaver – Best Supporting Actress for Animal Kingdom*
Natalie Portman – Best Actress for Black Swan
Mark Wahlberg – Best Actor for The Fighter

Complete list of nominations here:

Best Supporting Actress in a Series, Mini-Series or TV Movie

Hope Davis – The Special Relationship
Jane Lynch – Glee
Kelly McDonald – Boardwalk Empire
Julia Stiles – Dexter
Sofia Vergara – Modern Family

Best Actress in a TV Series, Comedy

Toni Collette – Unites States of Tara
Edie Falco – Nurse Jackie
Tina Fey – 30 Rock
Laura Linney – The Bic C
Lea Michele – Glee

Best TV Movie or Mini-Series

The Pacific
Pillars of the Earth
Temple Grandin
You Don’t Know Jack

Best Original Song – Motion Picture

Bound to You – Burlesque
Coming Home – Country Strong
I See the Light – Tangled
There’s a Place for Us – Chronicles of Narnia: The Dawn Treader
You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me – Burlesque

Best Actor, TV Series Comedy

Alec Baldwin – 30 Rock
Steve Carrell – The Office
Thomas Jane – Hung
Matthew Morrison – Glee
Jim Parsons – The Big Bang Theory

Best Actress in a TV Series, Drama

Julianna Margulies – The Good Wife
Elizabeth Moss – Mad Men
Piper Perabo – Covert Affairs
Katey Sagal – Sons of Anarchy##
Kyra Sedgwick – The Closer

Best Original Score – Motion Picture

Alexander Desplat – The King’s Speech
Danny Elfman – Alice in Wonderalnd
A.R. Robin – 127 Hours
Trent Reznor – The Social Network
Hans Zimmer – Inception

Best Screenplay – Motion Picture

Danny Boyle – 127 Hours
Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Hart – The Kids are All Right
Christopher Nolan – Inception
David Seidler – Kings Speech
Aaron Sorkin – Social Netowrk

Best Supporting Actor in a Series, Mini-Series, or TV Movie

Scott Caan – Hawaii 5-0
Chris Colfer – Glee
Chris Noth – The Good Wife
Eric Stonestreet – Modern Family
David Strathairn – Temple Grandin

Best TV Series, Comedy

30 Rock
The Big Bang Theory
The Big C
Modern Family
Nurse Jackie

Best Foreign Language Film

Biutiful – Mexico, Spain
The Concert – France
The Edge – Russia
I Am Love – Italy
In a Better World – Denmark

Best Animated Feature Film

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

Best Actor in a Mini-Series or TV Movie

Idris Elba – Luther**
Ian McShane – Pillars of the Earth
Al Pacino – You Don’t Know Jack
Dennis Quaid – The Special Relationship###
Edgar Ramirez – Carlos**

Best Actress in a Mini-Series or TV Movie

Hayley Atwell – Pillars of the Earth
Claire Danes – Temple Grandin
Judi Dench – Return to Cranford
Romola Garai – Emma
Jennifer Love Hewitt – The Client List

Best Actress in a Motion Picture, 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 Actor in a Motion Picture, 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 Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture

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

Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture

Amy Adams – The Fighter
Helena Bonham Carter – The King’s Speech
Mila Kunis – Black Swan
Melissa Leo – The Fighter
Jackie Weaver – Animal Kingdom

Best Actor in a TV series, Drama

Steve Buscemi – Boardwalk Empire
Bryan Cranston – Breaking Bad
Michael C. Hall – Dexter
John Hamm – Mad Men
Hugh Laurie – House

Best Director – Motion Picture

Darren Aronofsky – Black Swan
David Fincher – Social Network
Tom Hooper – King’s Speech
Christopher Nolan – Inception
David – The Fighter

Best motion picture, Musical or Comedy

Alice in Wonderland
The Kids Are All Right
The Tourist

Best TV series, Drama

Boardwalk Empire
The Good Wife
Mad Men
The Walking Dead

Best Actress in a Motion Picture, 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 in a motion picture, Drama

Jesse Eisenberg – Social Network
Colin Firth – The King’s Speech
James Franco – 127 Hours
Ryan Gosling – Blue Valentine
Mark Wahlberg – The Fighter

Best motion picture, Drama

Black Swan
The Fighter
The King’s Speech
The Social Network

(via the Hollywood Reporter although I spell better than they do)

*When this comes out on dvd and I can see it again, I’ll do a post. I need to talk about this one!
**Holy Crap! Love that Idris Elba and Edgar Ramirez have been recognized! Long time fan of both actors
## It’s about fucking time! That is all
### No Michael Sheen?!?! WTF?!?!
***Mark Ruffalo was overlooked for The Kids Are Alright so that Johnny Depp could be nominated twice? And the 2nd for a movie that’s been trashed by critics? Hmmm…

Another post dissecting these nominations and with my picks will surely follow (because I can’t keep quiet about this stuff.)

Today’s reward: a flashback to January 2010…

*clicky clicky

My Daily Moment of Zen + A Rant

Okay so the How To Train Your Dragon awards parade rolls on with a nomination for a Critics Choice Award in the Best-Animated Feature category.

I don’t mean to sound blase, especially since I’ve been pushing for this since April, but at this point it is hardly surprising.  What is surprising is that other than the "Annies," I’ve not seen any mention of John Powell’s beautiful, uplifting and majestic score.  What’s up with that? As I’ve mentioned in an earlier post, he’s got the respect of his peers in the industry, with the awards to back it up. He’s won Annies and Baftas and ASCAPs, oh my! So where’s the love?

Certainly there are films that I have yet to see that are bigger blips on the Oscar radar and some probably have beautiful scores, but I personlly haven’t seen another movie yet this year (and I have seen 6 of the 2010 AFI top ten as of this writing,) that can top the score for How to Train Your Dragon.

Also, notably absent from the list was a nomination for original song for "Sticks and Bones."  I guess Jonsi’s promo appearances were for naught and he’s still not as well known as Mandy Moore. Well, the Critics Choice Awards do tend to play it safe. Consequently no nomination.

Okay, rant over for the day. It’s STILL only December!

Here ya go my beauties… My Daily Moment of Zen…