“The Law Is Shot to Hell” Watch 1st Trailer for #SlowWest with #MichaelFassbender

Slow West, Michael Fassbender, Kodi Smit-McPhee, John Mclean, western, Ben Mendelsohn, Rory McCann

Sundance Film Festival poster for Slow West

It has been clear since the days of Jonah Hex, that any western which included Michael Fassbender would not be your typical “oater” or “horse opera” in the vein John Wayne or even Gary Cooper (super duper! C’mon, you know you totally heard Peter Boyle in your head). This would have been true of Jane Got Her Gun, if he’d stayed with the project, and it’s certainly true of Slow West. We’d had hints of its  unconventional nature from the few stills released following the film’s debut at Sundance, but now we have proof with the first trailer.

The film is writer/director John Mclean‘s feature debut after having helmed a few well-received shorts including Man On a Motorcycle and Pitch Black Heist, also starring Fassbender. In Slow West he plays Silas, a “mysterious drifter” who throws in with a 16 year-old Scottish immigrant (Kodi Smit-McPhee). The kid, in true knight errant fashion, is on a quest to find his lady love (Caren Pistorius), whose father (Rory McCann) has spirited her off to the wilds of the American west.

Despite the fact that Fassbender is playing a sort of outlaw Friar Laurence to this 19th century Romeo and Juliet, it would appear that the film is still awash with grubby, saddle-sore villains as well. The always fantastic Ben Mendelsohn (I remember when I saw Animal Kingdom for the first time. Joel Edgerton was already making a name for himself, but everything else I read said that James Frecheville* would be the break-out star. No one predicted it would be Mendelsohn who is suddenly required to be in all the movies. And have you seen “Bloodline” on Netflix?  Do it! Now! As usual I digress.) as Payne, the leader of a gang of money-hungry, cold-blooded bounty hunters, is one such character.  The actor apparently took a shine to Payne’s furry coat. He wore it to the Sundance premiere.

Take a look at this:

trailer via JoBlo

Those lucky enough to have already seen the movie have raved about Mclean’s debut, calling it a fairy tale about doomed romance and unlikely families, defined by its “sharp wit”, and “absurdist violence” remininscent of Tarantino.  When can I buy my ticket!

Produced by the team from The King’s Speech and Shame, Iain Canning and Emile Sherman, among others, including Fassbender, Slow West moseys into the Tribeca Film Festival April 18. Its May 15 US opening doesn’t preclude a stop on the French Riviera first, so I wouldn’t be surprised if its included in the upcoming Cannes Film Festival lineup as well. The UK gets it on 26 June.

*last seen in The Drop with Tom Hardy and James Gandolfini

Advertisements

Obligatory Oscar Nominations Post…with Gloating

It’s NOMINATIONS DAY!!!

My own personal advent has begun. The nominations for the 83rd Annual Academy Awards were announced this morning. As I’ve said before, Oscar Night has always been my High Holy Day and I’m more excited than I’ve been in years.

Ask me if I feel vindicated (go ahead, ask me) about John Powell’s nomination for Best Original Score for How to Train Your Dragon, not to mention the film’s nomination as Best Animated Feature. I’m not above blowing my own trumpet and saying, once again, that I called this back in April!!  I let out an audible YES! when HTTYD was the first of the three films announced in their category. (Good thing the boss wasn’t in yet.)

Okay, having gotten all of that out, without further ado, here is the complete list of nominations:

Supporting Actor:
Christian Bale – The Fighter

John Hawkes – Winter’s Bone
Jeremy Renner – The Town
Mark Ruffalo – The Kids Are All Right
Geoffrey Rush – The King’s Speech

Geoffrey Rush would still be my ultimate pick if I were doing the choosing. Without Rush, (or at least an actor of his caliber) Colin Firth’s performance would not only have existed in a vacuum, but would NOT have had the impact that it did, but I know better than to bet against Bale this time around. That’s not to say he’s undeserving of the honor and I do believe the category is his to lose.  I am very happy Jeremy Renner made the cut, hell I’m happy Mark Ruffalo did, too. John Hawkes was a surprise but not an unwelcome one. While I still maintain that Winter’s Bone rests almost entirely on the shoulders of Jennifer Lawrence, the key word is ‘almost.’ Hawkes’ Teardrop was a menacing scene-stealer and it’s always exciting when journeymen actors (eg: Jacki Weaver) are recognized, especially in little seen films.

Supporting Actress:
Amy Adams – The Fighter
Helena Bonham Carter – The King’s Speech
Melissa Leo – The Fighter
Hailee Steinfeld – True Grit
Jacki Weaver – Animal Kingdom

Hailee Steinfeld ( and regardless of one’s opinion on the film itself this little girl gave one hell of a performance,) should have been nominated in the Best Actress category. As I’ve already stated, she has more screen time than Jeff Bridges, but obviously the Academy didn’t see it that way and her spot belonged to Julianne Moore for The Kid’s Are Alright. (JMHO, but) I am beyond thrilled Jacki Weaver was recognized by the Academy for a film ( Animal Kingdom) probably seen less than Winter’s Bone. (Maybe they did watch those screeners after all!) Helena Bonham Carter has long been a favorite of mine and I think she’s simply stunning in The King’s Speech, but I do still think that the category belongs to Melissa Leo, and so far only BAFTA disagrees.

ACTOR:
Javier Bardem – Biutiful
Jeff Bridges – True Grit
Jesse Eisenberg – The Social Network
Colin Firth – The King’s Speech
James Franco – 127 Hours

I’ve already talked about my perceptions of Jesse Eisenberg’s performance in The Social Network. JMHO, but if the Academy just couldn’t bring themselves to nominate Marky Mark (for a performance that was the flip side of Christian Bale’s) then what about Paul Giamatti? Kevin Spacey? Leonardo DiCaprio (for either Inception or Shutter Island, both of which were better, more powerful and more nuanced performances than Eisenberg’s.)  I suppose one could make the argument that it’s a moot point since this is Colin Firth’s year. While I wholeheartedly agree with the latter, the former precludes the notion that it’s the nomination that counts. Again, JMHO, but nominating Eisenberg is a product of the hive mind that anointed The Social Network as the film to beat at this year’s awards.

ACTRESS:
Annette Bening – The Kids Are All Right
Nicole Kidman – Rabbit Hole
Jennifer Lawrence – Winter’s Bone
Natalie Portman – Black Swan
Michelle Williams – Blue Valentine

I’m happy that Michelle Williams was recognized for Blue Valentine. (I can even understand the omission of Ryan Gosling-her’s was the ‘showier’ role.) The rest of the list offers no real surprises, although it would have been nice if they hadn’t played it safe by giving Kidman the nod and instead made the bolder choice of Lesley Manville for Another Year,  but this night will belong to Natalie Portman.

PICTURE:
Black Swan
The Fighter
Inception
The Kids Are All Right
The King’s Speech
127 Hours
The Social Network
Toy Story 3
True Grit
Winter’s Bone


A few words about the Producer’s Guild Award and its impact on the winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture:
The Guild’s award is generally considered to be a pretty good indicator of strength in the Oscar race because so many of its members are also voting members of the Academy. Last year’s PGA winner, The Hurt Locker, went on to win the Oscar when until then Avatar had been considered a lock.

This year’s "Avatar" is The Social Network, which appeared to be on course for a Best Picture win, and generally considered to be the front-runner, after garnering more than 90 guild and critics association honors, including the Golden Globe.  The PGA win for The King’s Speech, however, has breathed new life into the race and solidified it as a real contender for the Oscar.

Also of note is the fact that the Academy membership skews a little older than the youth driven host picks and other nominated films would seem to indicate. It is in no way out of the realm of possibility that they would go for a ‘feel-good triumph over adversity’ with attractive leads and pretty costumes and sets, over the "Facebook movie."

For these reasons, and because it deserves it, I’m going with The King’s Speech for the win.
 

DIRECTOR:
Darren Aronofsky – Black Swan
David Fincher – The Social Network
Tom Hooper – The King’s Speech
Joel & Ethan Coen – True Grit
David O. Russell – The Fighter

I am as upset as the rest of the bloggisphere about the omission of Christopher Nolan (for Inception) from this list. I will, however, ask the question that I’ve been asking everyone else I’ve talked to about it: Who would you have dropped and why?  The five names on this list are all directors of films with a Best Picture nomination, which is exactly why this category needs to be expanded to ten names, to better correspond with the list of Best Picture nominees.  As I’ve said before, those ten films didn’t direct themselves. If they are worthy of recognition, shouldn’t  those at the helm of those films be worthy of recognition as well? There is also a school of thought that says Inception will spoil as Best Picture to right this wrong. It could happen. Actors vote for actors, directors vote for directors etc, but the entire voting body votes for Best Picture. We’ll see how mad those with a vote really are.

In any case, although it’s rare that a director win without his film winning Best Picture and vice versa, I think David Fincher will win for Best Director.  My heart is obviously with Tom Hooper and The King’s Speech.

**In light of  his DGA win, I’m amending this and unequivocally going with Tom Hooper for The King’s Speech.  edited 1/31/11

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY 
Mike Leigh – Another Year
Scott Silver & Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson – The Fighter
Christopher Nolan – Inception
Lisa Cholodenko & Stuart Blumberg – The Kids Are All Right
David Seidler – The King’s Speech

I’m pleased to see Mike Leigh’s Another Year recognized for something and I predicted that it would be in this category. I don’t think anyone can beat Christopher Nolan. Inception was as high-concept as they come and that concept was conceived by Nolan and driven by his multi-layered mind bender of a script and he managed to wrap it around compelling, well fleshed-out characters and made it understandable to the masses with witty dialogue that managed to explain it all without dumbing it down.
 

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY:
Danny Boyle & Simon Beaufoy – 127 Hours
Aaron Sorkin – The Social Network
Michael Arndt – Toy Story 3
Joel Coen & Ethan Coen – True Grit
Debra Granik & Anne Rosellini – Winter’s Bone

I’m disappointed for Ben Affleck and Aaron Stockard. Having read "The Prince of Thieves," I can appreciate their adapted screenplay for The Town that much more.  I think Winter’s Bone got their spot, but there were more than ten movies made last year and a lot of them had great scripts. I can’t take too much issue with this list, and I still believe, for the same reasons I believe he won the Golden Globe, that Aaron Sorkin has this one.

ANIMATED FEATURE:
How to Train Your Dragon**
The Illusionist
Toy Story 3

Again, I’m already on record with my feelings on this category.  While the fact that TS3 has been nominated in the Best Picture category as well as this one might give HTTYD a slight edge, I don’t, unfortunately, think it will be enough to overcome the category’s ‘300 LB Gorilla’. This is one occasion when I’m just happy that my favorite got an invitation to the big dance. (And unlike at the Golden Globes, I hope it has a big show of support walking the red carpet. He’ll probably be asked to present, but it is my hope that when a microphone is stuck in his face, Gerard Butler will be able to talk about his Academy Award nominated film and not just "who he’s wearing." Again, I repeat myself lol.)
 

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM:
Biutiful (Mexico)
Dogtooth (Greece)
In a Better World (Denmark)
Incendies (Canada)
Outside the Law (Algeria)

One of the toughest categories to call, especially after Denmark’s Golden Globe win. Politically speaking, I think Biutiful will win because Javier Bardem won’t. I’m probably wrong. Don’t worry, I’m used to it.

ART DIRECTION:
Alice in Wonderland
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1
Inception
The King’s Speech
True Grit

Tough category.  I’m gonna go with Alice in Wonderland. Harry Potter will probably get it next year for DH pt 2 since it will be the last of the series (much like LOTR:Return of the King cleaned up).

CINEMATOGRAPHY:
Black Swan
Inception
The King’s Speech
The Social Network
True Grit

Another tough one. The list of nominees matches that of the American Society of Cinematographers. They offer no clues,however, since they don’t give out their awards until February 13. Roger Deakins, nominated for True Grit, and who consulted on the visuals for How to Train Your Dragon, will be honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Does that preclude him from winning an ASC award for True Grit?   I only mention it because a lot of the voting members of the cinematographers wing of the Academy are also ASC members, but Roger Deakins is a favorite. Wally Pfister has been nominated three other times for an Academy Award, all for films with Christopher Nolan in the director’s chair. I think I have to go with Inception, although I feel like I’m throwing darts.


DOCUMENTARY FEATURE:

Exit Through the Gift Shop
Gasland
Inside Job
Restrepo
Waste Land

I live in Boston where documentaries often have long theatrical runs and it’s sometimes hard for me to remember that the rest of the country doesn’t have the same opportunities to see them. I’ve seen Restrepo (as well as Inside Job, which is still playing here) and in the absence of The Tillman Story, a big disappointment, JMHO, I have to go with that one. No one’s going to see The Company Men (although I did and I liked it, it’s just too soon) and no one’s going to vote for Inside Job.

DOCUMENTARY SHORT:
Killing in the Name
Poster Girl
Strangers No More
Sun Come Up
The Warriors of Qiugang

ANIMATED SHORT:
Day & Night
The Gruffalo
Let’s Pollute
The Lost Thing
Madagascar, carnet de voyage

LIVE-ACTION SHORT:
The Confession
The Crush
God of Love
Na Wewe
Wish 143

All three of the shorts categories are impossible (for me) to call. I’ve never even heard of any of them. I hope to do something about that because they are being released to theaters. Hopefully you’ll have the opportunity to see all of the animated, live-action and documentary shorts when they come to your town in three programs with all of the films in their category for 90 minutes. Pretty good deal. I recommend it if you’re trying to win an office pool. Knowing or guessing the shorts is usually the difference between winning and losing. JMHO

VISUAL EFFECTS:
Alice in Wonderland
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1
Hereafter
Inception
Iron Man 2

For the most part, I am terrible when it comes to handicapping the technical awards. This category would seem to be a no-brainer for Inception, but the other four films wouldn’t be nominated if they weren’t equally as visually stunning. My mind keeps going back, however, to the image of Paris being folded like an Escher staircase and the fight in the collapsing hotel hallway. Inception it is.

COSTUME DESIGN:
Alice in Wonderland
I Am Love
The King’s Speech
The Tempest
True Grit

Do we go with period realism like True Grit or The King’s Speech, or out and out fantasy like Alice in Wonderland or The Tempest? I’m going for The King’s Speech because I really went for Colin Firth in a kilt. (Hey, these are my picks!)

MAKEUP:
Barney’s Version
The Way Back
The Wolfman

I’d love for The Way Back to win just because I want Peter Weir’s beautiful, if bleak, film to be recognized in some way. I wish it had been for cinematography or with a nod to Ed Harris in the Best Supporting Actor category, but I’d take Make-up Design. It’s hard to beat a film where the make-up is almost another character, so I grudgingly have to go with The Wolfman.

FILM EDITING:
Black Swan
The Fighter
The King’s Speech
127 Hours
The Social Network

SOUND MIXING:
Inception
The King’s Speech
Salt
The Social Network
True Grit

SOUND EDITING:
Inception
Toy Story 3
Tron Legacy
True Grit
Unstoppable

ORIGINAL SCORE:
John Powell – How to Train Your Dragon
Hans Zimmer – Inception
Alexandre Desplat – The King’s Speech
A.R. Rahman – 127 Hours
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross – The Social Network

I can’t call this one for Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross (actually, I refuse) just because they won the Golden Globe (for so many reasons, but mostly) because the Oscar nomination ballots were due back before the Globes were announced. So just like with the other categories, the winners of the Globes had no bearing on what was nominated by the Academy.  And there is just no way in hell I can pick another score on this list.  I loved Desplat’s score for The King’s Speech. The Academy is already on record for appreciating A. R. Rahman, he won for his score for Slumdog Millionaire and Hans Zimmer always delivers, BUT, I’ve said all along that Powell’s score for HTTYD is the best I’ve heard all year and I stand by that.  If the Academy recognized it as worthy of a nomination, I am putting my faith in the voters to give it the award. JMHO

ORIGINAL SONG:
"Coming Home" from Country Strong
"I See the Light" from Tangled
"If I Rise" from 127 Hours
"We Belong Together" from Toy Story 3

I have no horse in this race and I don’t know if I should be surprised that (the by all accounts dreadful) Burlesque was completely overlooked. Since Jonsi didn’t make the cut, I’m going with perennial favorite Randy Newman.

** If my personal pick differs from what I think will actually win, I’ve highlighted that in pink.

So, we’ll all get the chance to see how much of a crackpot I am on February 27th. Thanks for reading. 

Here’s your treat:

Okay so it’s really my treat. At least I share.

*tip o’ the pin to my tireless editor, Connie, for keeping me on the good sides of Strunk and White

“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
Kick-Ass
Inception
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

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…

LMAO!

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

Carlos
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
Glee
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
Tangled
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
Burlesque
The Kids Are All Right
Red
The Tourist

Best TV series, Drama

Boardwalk Empire
Dexter
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
Inception
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