Obsessive BAFTA results post w/PICTURES!!

I did pretty well. 13 out of 20 which is 65%.

I stumbled where I have been stumbling this entire awards season. In the Supporting Actor category, if I go with Bale then Rush wins, if I go with Rush, Bale wins. I’m sticking with Bale for the Academy Awards though. (Get your acceptance speech ready Mr. Rush.)

In the Supporting Actress category, my reasoning was sound but I picked the wrong Englishwoman! What was I thinking lol.

And in the directing category, the one time I figured I’d be right about Tom Hooper, David Fincher wins! Who’d a thunk that one, especially after the rout enjoyed by The King’s Speech overall? I think it was a stab at not appearing to be biased. I know the Oscar ballots aren’t due until Friday, but I’m sticking with Hooper after his DGA win. I also have to stick with Christopher Nolan for Original Screenplay despite his BAFTA loss to David Seidler for The King’s Speech.

Can I just say how very disappointed I am that HTTYD did not win in the Music category? I’ve said from the beginning how much I enjoyed Alexandre Desplat’s score for The King’s Speech, but JMHO, there was not another score last year that made me feel like John Powell’s gorgeous, sweeping, transporting score for How to Train Your Dragon.

Oh and just to make myself feel better, even though I called Roger Deakins right at the BAFTAs (because he’s British,) Wally Pfister beat him for the ASC award and I want to reiterate that I am choosing Pfister over Deakins for the Oscar.

Here are the nominees and the results (my predictions are in red, the winner in italics):

BEST FILM

BLACK SWAN – Mike Medavoy, Brian Oliver, Scott Franklin
INCEPTION – Emma Thomas, Christopher Nolan
THE KING’S SPEECH – Iain Canning, Emile Sherman, Gareth Unwin
THE SOCIAL NETWORK – Scott Rudin, Dana Brunetti, Michael De Luca, Cean Chaffin
TRUE GRIT – Scott Rudin, Ethan Coen, Joel Coen

OUTSTANDING BRITISH FILM

127 HOURS – Danny Boyle, Simon Beaufoy, Christian Colson, John Smithson
ANOTHER YEAR – Mike Leigh, Georgina Lowe
FOUR LIONS – Chris Morris, Jesse Armstrong, Sam Bain, Mark Herbert, Derrin Schlesinger
THE KING’S SPEECH – Tom Hooper, David Seidler, Iain Canning, Emile Sherman, Gareth Unwin
MADE IN DAGENHAM – Nigel Cole, William Ivory, Elizabeth Karlsen, Stephen Woolley

OUTSTANDING DEBUT BY A BRITISH WRITER, DIRECTOR OR PRODUCER

THE ARBOR – Director, Producer – Clio Barnard, Tracy O’Riordan
EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP – Director, Producer – Banksy, Jaimie D’Cruz
FOUR LIONS – Director/Writer – Chris Morris
MONSTERS – Director/Writer – Gareth Edwards
SKELETONS – Director/Writer – Nick Whitfield

DIRECTOR

127 HOURS – Danny Boyle
BLACK SWAN – Darren Aronofsky
INCEPTION – Christopher Nolan
THE KING’S SPEECH – Tom Hooper
THE SOCIAL NETWORK – David Fincher

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

BLACK SWAN – Mark Heyman, Andreas Heinz, John McLaughlin
THE FIGHTER – Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy, Eric Johnson
INCEPTION – Christopher Nolan
THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT – Lisa Cholodenko, Stuart Blumberg
THE KING’S SPEECH – David Seidler

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

127 HOURS – Danny Boyle, Simon Beaufoy
THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO – Rasmus Heisterberg, Nikolaj Arcel
THE SOCIAL NETWORK – Aaron Sorkin
TOY STORY 3 – Michael Arndt
TRUE GRIT – Joel Coen, Ethan Coen

FILM NOT IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE

BIUTIFUL – Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Jon Kilik, Fernando Bovaira
THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO – Soren Stærmose, Niels Arden Oplev
I AM LOVE – Luca Guadagnino, Francesco Melzi D’Eril, Marco Morabito, Massimiliano Violante
OF GODS AND MEN – Xavier Beauvois
THE SECRET IN THEIR EYES – Mariela Besuievsky, Juan José Campanella

ANIMATED FILM

DESPICABLE ME – Chris Renaud, Pierre Coffin
HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON – Chris Sanders, Dean DeBlois * although we know this is where my heart lies
TOY STORY 3 – Lee Unkrich

LEADING ACTOR

JAVIER BARDEM – Biutiful
JEFF BRIDGES – True Grit
JESSE EISENBERG – The Social Network
COLIN FIRTH – The King’s Speech
JAMES FRANCO – 127 Hours

LEADING ACTRESS

ANNETTE BENING – The Kids Are All Right
JULIANNE MOORE – The Kids Are All Right
NATALIE PORTMAN – Black Swan
NOOMI RAPACE – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
HAILEE STEINFELD – True Grit

SUPPORTING ACTOR

CHRISTIAN BALE – The Fighter
ANDREW GARFIELD – The Social Network
PETE POSTLETHWAITE – The Town
MARK RUFFALO – The Kids Are All Right
GEOFFREY RUSH – The King’s Speech

SUPPORTING ACTRESS

AMY ADAMS – The Fighter
HELENA BONHAM CARTER – The King’s Speech
BARBARA HERSHEY – Black Swan
LESLEY MANVILLE – Another Year (because she’s British and they gave her Melissa Leo’s spot)
MIRANDA RICHARDSON – Made in Dagenham

ORIGINAL MUSIC

127 HOURS – AR Rahman
ALICE IN WONDERLAND – Danny Elfman
HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON – John Powell COME ON!
INCEPTION – Hans Zimmer
THE KING’S SPEECH – Alexandre Desplat

CINEMATOGRAPHY

127 HOURS – Anthony Dod Mantle, Enrique Chediak
BLACK SWAN – Matthew Libatique
INCEPTION – Wally Pfister
THE KING’S SPEECH – Danny Cohen
TRUE GRIT – Roger Deakins

EDITING

127 HOURS – Jon Harris
BLACK SWAN – Andrew Weisblum
INCEPTION – Lee Smith
THE KING’S SPEECH – Tariq Anwar
THE SOCIAL NETWORK – Angus Wall, Kirk Baxter

PRODUCTION DESIGN

ALICE IN WONDERLAND – Robert Stromberg, Karen O’Hara
BLACK SWAN – Therese DePrez, Tora Peterson
INCEPTION – Guy Hendrix Dyas, Larry Dias, Doug Mowat
THE KING’S SPEECH – Eve Stewart, Judy Farr
TRUE GRIT – Jess Gonchor, Nancy Haigh

COSTUME DESIGN

ALICE IN WONDERLAND – Colleen Atwood
BLACK SWAN – Amy Westcott
THE KING’S SPEECH – Jenny Beavan
MADE IN DAGENHAM – Louise Stjernsward
TRUE GRIT – Mary Zophres

SOUND

127 HOURS – Glenn Freemantle, Ian Tapp, Richard Pryke, Steven C Laneri, Douglas Cameron
BLACK SWAN – Ken Ishii, Craig Henighan, Dominick Tavella
INCEPTION – Richard King, Lora Hirschberg, Gary A Rizzo, Ed Novick
THE KING’S SPEECH – John Midgley, Lee Walpole, Paul Hamblin
TRUE GRIT – Skip Lievsay, Craig Berkey, Greg Orloff, Peter F Kurland, Douglas Axtell

SPECIAL VISUAL EFFECTS

ALICE IN WONDERLAND – Nominees TBD
BLACK SWAN – Dan Schrecker
HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PART 1 – Tim Burke, John Richardson, Nicolas Ait’Hadi, Christian Manz
INCEPTION – Chris Corbould, Paul Franklin, Andrew Lockley, Peter Bebb
TOY STORY 3 – Nominees TBC

MAKE UP & HAIR

ALICE IN WONDERLAND – Valli O’Reilly, Paul Gooch
BLACK SWAN – Judy Chin, Geordie Sheffer
HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PART 1 – Amanda Knight, Lisa Tomblin
THE KING’S SPEECH – Frances Hannon
MADE IN DAGENHAM – Lizzie Yianni Georgiou

ORANGE WEDNESDAYS RISING AWARD

GEMMA ARTERTON
ANDREW GARFIELD
TOM HARDY (WOOHOO!)
AARON JOHNSON
EMMA STONE

A pretty good night for The Weinstein Company. Harvey got nearly as many shout-outs as Tom Hooper and Colin Firth.

Okay so now that that’s over, I did promise you some pictures. How about some pics from last night of one of Harvey’s 2012 awards season class*?


*for Coriolanus of course!

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‘How to Train Your Dragon’ Swept the ‘Annies’!!

…and I do mean SWEPT!

Disney/Pixar chose to leave the sponsoring organization, the International Animated Film Association and not participate in this year’s awards so consequently Toy Story 3 was only nominated in three categories. The argument could, therefore, be made that HTTYD‘s performance at last night’s awards ceremony was almost a foregone conclusion, given the absence of the latest (last?) entry in D/P’s powerhouse franchise. Looking at a list of all of the nominees, DreamWorks Animation clearly dominates, in a way that Disney/Pixar had in recent years. (That story was covered in this- weetiger3.livejournal.com/20657.html -post.)

JMHO, but that argument would do a disservice to the other nominees. For example, The Illusionist is the third feature nominated for an Academy Award (along with TS3 and HTTYD.)  The films nominated in the other  ‘Annie’ categories had also been mentioned as serious contenders for that nomination (with the exception of Summer Wars from Japan, which I had never heard of and whose only US release was limited to short runs in NY and LA.)

The fact that TS3 did not beat out HTTYD in those three categories in which it appeared does probably come down to the rift between D/P and the IAFA, but that in no way connotes that HTTYD was not worthy of the awards. These two films have been spoken of in the same breath for the entire awards season. They were the only two animated films released last year that had a lock on Academy nominations. Of course, it is always assumed that TS3 is the BMOC and HTTYD is the 2nd string. 

I would love to think that last night’s results would have some influence on Academy voters. Many of the voting members of the IAFA are voting members of the animation wing of AMPAS as well. The AMPAS membership as a whole obviously thinks well enough of TS3 to nominate it for Best Picture, but it remains to be seen if the chasm between D/P and the IAFA is wide enough to cause a surge in support for HTTYD.  (A lot of perceptions have changed about a lot of films since the nominations were announced so anything is possible!)

Here is a rundown of the film related categories with their winners in bold:

Best Animated Feature
Despicable Me – Illumination Entertainment and Universal Pictures
How to Train Your Dragon – DreamWorks Animation
Tangled – Disney
The Illusionist – Django Films
Toy Story 3 – Disney/Pixar

Best Animated Short Subject
Coyote Falls – Warner Bros. Animation
Day & Night – Pixar
Enrique Wrecks the World – House of Chai
The Cow Who Wanted To Be A Hamburger – Plymptoons Studio
The Renter – Jason Carpenter

Animated Effects in an Animated Production
Andrew Young Kim “Shrek Forever After” – DreamWorks Animation
Jason Mayer “How To Train Your Dragon” – DreamWorks Animation
Brett Miller “How To Train Your Dragon” – DreamWorks Animation
Sebastian Quessy “Legend Of The Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole” – Warner Bros. Pictures
Krzysztof Rost “Megamind” – DreamWorks Animation

Character Animation in a Feature Production
Mark Donald “Megamind” – DreamWorks Animation
Anthony Hodgson “Megamind” – DreamWorks Animation
Gabe Hordos “How To Train Your Dragon” – DreamWorks Animation
Jakob Hjort Jensen "How To Train Your Dragon" – DreamWorks Animation
David Torres "How To Train Your Dragon" – DreamWorks Animation

Character Animation in a Live Action Production
Quentin Miles – Clash of the Titans
Ryan Page – Alice in Wonderland

Character Design in a Feature Production
Sylvain Chomet “The Illusionist” – Django Films
Carter Goodrich “Despicable Me” – Illumination Entertainment and Universal Pictures
Timothy Lamb “Megamind” – DreamWorks Animation
Nico Marlet “How To Train Your Dragon” – DreamWorks Animation

Directing in a Feature Production
Sylvain Chomet “The Illusionist” – Django Films
Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud “Despicable Me” – Illumination Entertainment and Universal Pictures
Mamoru Hosoda “Summer Wars” – Madhouse/Funimation
Chris Sanders, Dean DeBlois “How To Train Your Dragon” – DreamWorks Animation
Lee Unkrich “Toy Story 3” – Disney/Pixar

Music in a Feature Production
Sylvain Chomet “The Illusionist” – Django Films
David Hirschfelder “Legend Of The Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole” – Warner Bros. Pictures
John Powell “How To Train Your Dragon” – DreamWorks Animation  !!!!
Harry Gregson Williams “Shrek Forever After” – DreamWorks Animation
Pharrell Williams, Heitor Pereira “Despicable Me” – Illumination Entertainment and Universal Pictures

Production Design in a Feature Production
Yarrow Cheney “Despicable Me” – Illumination Entertainment and Universal Pictures
Eric Guillon “Despicable Me” – Illumination Entertainment and Universal Pictures
Dan Hee Ryu “Legend Of The Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole” – Warner Bros. Pictures
Pierre Olivier Vincent “How To Train Your Dragon” – DreamWorks Animation
Peter Zaslav “Shrek Forever After” – DreamWorks Animation

Storyboarding in a Feature Production
Alessandro Carloni “How To Train Your Dragon” – DreamWorks Animation
Paul Fisher “Shrek Forever After” – DreamWorks Animation
Tom Owens “How To Train Your Dragon” – DreamWorks Animation
Catherine Yuh Rader “Megamind” – DreamWorks Animation

Voice Acting in a Feature Production
Jay Baruchel as Hiccup “How To Train Your Dragon” – DreamWorks Animation
Gerard Butler as Stoick “How To Train Your Dragon” – DreamWorks Animation
Steve Carrell as Gru “Despicable Me” – Illumination Entertainment and Universal Pictures
Cameron Diaz as Fiona “Shrek Forever After” – DreamWorks Animation
Geoffrey Rush as Ezylryb “Legend Of The Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole” – Warner Bros. Pictures

Writing in a Feature Production
Michael Arndt “Toy Story 3” – Disney/Pixar
Sylvain Chomet “The Illusionist” – Django Films
William Davies, Dean DeBlois, Chris Sanders “How to Train Your Dragon” – DreamWorks Animation
Dan Fogelman “Tangled” – Disney
Alan J. Schoolcraft, Brent Simons “Megamind” – DreamWorks Animation

The award I am most thrilled with is, of course, John Powell’s win for his score. I won’t gush or go into, yet again, how much I loved it or how deserving of awards and accolades I think it is. I will say that I hope this win, and the possibility of a win at next weekend’s BAFTAs, will translate into some Academy votes. The ballots are still out there. Vote early and often Academy members!

Again, I humbly offer my sincere congratulations to DreamWorks Animation and How to Train Your Dragon on their wins last night. My digits are still crossed for an upset on February 27th!

*******************
Unrelated note:  At yet another awards ceremony held last night,  Aaron Sorkin and The Social Network along with Christopher Nolan and Inception won WGA awards for Adapted and Original Screenplays respectively.  The odds are certainly in their favor that these wins will carry over to Oscar night. (This tells me that I’ve backed the right two horses, so to speak. lol)


An Open Letter to the Screen Actors Guild

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Dear SAG,

Let me start by saying how much I enjoy your annual telecast. As previously averred, I’ve never missed one in its 17 year history and whether or not you take the following suggestion to heart, I will watch again next year as well. You people know how to throw a party.

The reason for my letter is simple: JMHO, but I believe that the Guild should recognize the voice casts of animated films. These actors are all card-carrying members of your organization and pay their dues just like actors that are seen on screen.  They deserve to be recognized, too.

Now, a regular reader of this blog (assuming there are any) would think that my motive is an ulterior one, that I really only want the voice cast of one particular movie (How to Train Your Dragon) to be recognized and if possible, one member of the cast (he who shall remain nameless) to which I say, au contraire. While the lack of recognition for the vocal talents involved with my favorite animated film of 2010 may have sparked the idea, it is, after all, too late for that particular film.
 
Regardless of what prompted it, I do think it’s an idea whose time has come. SAG, you showed your willingness to think outside the box by adding the “Outstanding Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Motion Picture” category. (Maybe next year you’ll even put it on television.)  This little bit of ‘hipper-than-thou’ cred is only going to go so far. Make the next logical leap to including voice casts before The Academy or, heaven forbid, the HFPA beats you to it!
 
Sincerely,

Weetiger3

And now, treats for faithful readers…


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

John Powell & the Score for HTTYD Nominated for a BAFTA!

I watched the taped BAFTA nominations this morning and because during the press conference, featuring the wonderfully clipped British tones of Academy Chairman Tim Corrie and the equally mellifluous and telegenic Dominic Cooper and Tallulah Riley, (found here: bcove.me/rf76m173) they only showed us the "major" awards such as those for acting, writing,  and directing, I very nearly missed this little tidbit:

JOHN POWELL HAS BEEN NOMINATED FOR A BAFTA FOR THE SCORE OF  HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON !!!!

Sorry for shouting. Can you tell I’m excited??  After both Mr. Powell and this wonderful music were ignored by the HFPA and The Golden Globes, I was beginning to despair that they would be recognized this award season. "Oh ye of little faith…"  Leave it up to the British to know quality when they hear it.

The film has also received one of the three nominations for Best Animated Film!!!

Now that I’m calmer, I can also say that I’m a little disappointed by their other nominations, specifically where’s Melissa Leo for The Fighter?? I’m on record has having enjoyed Amy Adams’ performance in that film, but if they were allowed to choose only one, it most certainly should have been Ms. Leo (and funnily enough, it does appear that most of the rest of the award-nominating world agrees with me. AMPAS has, of course, yet to weigh in on the matter.)

On the other hand, I love that they nominated Hailee Steinfeld as a lead actress and not a supporting one. It makes no difference that she won’t win, she’s only fourteen, she can wait, but it is a better fit, since if the yardstick is screen time, she has more than Jeff Bridges who is considered a leading actor.

Complete list of 2011 BAFTA nominees:

BEST FILM

BLACK SWANMike Medavoy, Brian Oliver, Scott Franklin

INCEPTIONEmma Thomas, Christopher Nolan

THE KING’S SPEECHIain Canning, Emile Sherman, Gareth Unwin

THE SOCIAL NETWORKScott Rudin, Dana Brunetti, Michael De Luca, Céan Chaffin

TRUE GRITScott Rudin, Ethan Coen, Joel Coen

OUTSTANDING BRITISH FILM

127 HOURSDanny Boyle, Simon Beaufoy, Christian Colson, John Smithson

ANOTHER YEARMike Leigh, Georgina Lowe

FOUR LIONSChris Morris, Jesse Armstrong, Sam Bain, Mark Herbert, Derrin Schlesinger

THE KING’S SPEECHTom Hooper, David Seidler, Iain Canning, Emile Sherman, Gareth Unwin

MADE IN DAGENHAMNigel Cole, William Ivory, Elizabeth Karlsen, Stephen Woolley


OUTSTANDING DEBUT BY A BRITISH WRITER, DIRECTOR OR PRODUCER

THE ARBORDirector, Producer – Clio Barnard, Tracy O’Riordan

EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOPDirector, Producer – Banksy, Jaimie D’Cruz

FOUR LIONSDirector/Writer – Chris Morris

MONSTERSDirector/Writer – Gareth Edwards

SKELETONSDirector/Writer – Nick Whitfield

DIRECTOR

127 HOURSDanny Boyle

BLACK SWANDarren Aronofsky

INCEPTIONChristopher Nolan

THE KING’S SPEECHTom Hooper

THE SOCIAL NETWORKDavid Fincher

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

BLACK SWANMark Heyman, Andrés Heinz, John McLaughlin

THE FIGHTERScott Silver, Paul Tamasy, Eric Johnson

INCEPTIONChristopher Nolan

THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHTLisa Cholodenko, Stuart Blumberg

THE KING’S SPEECHDavid Seidler

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

127 HOURSDanny Boyle, Simon Beaufoy

THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOORasmus Heisterberg, Nikolaj Arcel

THE SOCIAL NETWORKAaron Sorkin

TOY STORY 3Michael Arndt

TRUE GRITJoel Coen, Ethan Coen

FILM NOT IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE

BIUTIFULAlejandro González Iñárritu, Jon Kilik, Fernando Bovaira

THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOOSøren Stærmose, Niels Arden Oplev

I AM LOVELuca Guadagnino, Francesco Melzi D’Eril, Marco Morabito, Massimiliano Violante

OF GODS AND MENXavier Beauvois

THE SECRET IN THEIR EYESMariela Besuievsky, Juan José Campanella

ANIMATED FILM

DESPICABLE MEChris Renaud, Pierre Coffin

HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGONChris Sanders, Dean DeBlois * although we know this is where my heart lies

TOY STORY 3Lee Unkrich

LEADING ACTOR

JAVIER BARDEMBiutiful

JEFF BRIDGESTrue Grit

JESSE EISENBERGThe Social Network

COLIN FIRTHThe King’s Speech

JAMES FRANCO127 Hours

LEADING ACTRESS

ANNETTE BENINGThe Kids Are All Right

JULIANNE MOOREThe Kids Are All Right

NATALIE PORTMANBlack Swan

NOOMI RAPACEThe Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

HAILEE STEINFELDTrue Grit

SUPPORTING ACTOR

CHRISTIAN BALEThe Fighter

ANDREW GARFIELDThe Social Network

PETE POSTLETHWAITEThe Town

MARK RUFFALOThe Kids Are All Right

GEOFFREY RUSHThe King’s Speech

SUPPORTING ACTRESS

AMY ADAMSThe Fighter

HELENA BONHAM CARTERThe King’s Speech

BARBARA HERSHEYBlack Swan

LESLEY MANVILLEAnother Year  (because she’s British and they gave her Melissa Leo’s spot)

MIRANDA RICHARDSONMade in Dagenham

ORIGINAL MUSIC

127 HOURSAR Rahman

ALICE IN WONDERLANDDanny Elfman

HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGONJohn Powell  COME ON!

INCEPTIONHans Zimmer

THE KING’S SPEECHAlexandre Desplat

CINEMATOGRAPHY

127 HOURSAnthony Dod Mantle, Enrique Chediak

BLACK SWANMatthew Libatique

INCEPTIONWally Pfister

THE KING’S SPEECHDanny Cohen

TRUE GRITRoger Deakins

EDITING

127 HOURSJon Harris

BLACK SWANAndrew Weisblum

INCEPTIONLee Smith

THE KING’S SPEECHTariq Anwar

THE SOCIAL NETWORKAngus Wall, Kirk Baxter

PRODUCTION DESIGN

ALICE IN WONDERLANDRobert Stromberg, Karen O’Hara

BLACK SWANThérèse DePrez, Tora Peterson

INCEPTIONGuy Hendrix Dyas, Larry Dias, Doug Mowat

THE KING’S SPEECHEve Stewart, Judy Farr

TRUE GRITJess Gonchor, Nancy Haigh

COSTUME DESIGN

ALICE IN WONDERLANDColleen Atwood

BLACK SWANAmy Westcott

THE KING’S SPEECHJenny Beavan

MADE IN DAGENHAMLouise Stjernsward

TRUE GRITMary Zophres

SOUND

127 HOURSGlenn Freemantle, Ian Tapp, Richard Pryke, Steven C Laneri, Douglas Cameron

BLACK SWANKen Ishii, Craig Henighan, Dominick Tavella

INCEPTIONRichard King, Lora Hirschberg, Gary A Rizzo, Ed Novick

THE KING’S SPEECHJohn Midgley, Lee Walpole, Paul Hamblin

TRUE GRITSkip Lievsay, Craig Berkey, Greg Orloff, Peter F Kurland, Douglas Axtell

SPECIAL VISUAL EFFECTS

ALICE IN WONDERLANDNominees TBC

BLACK SWANDan Schrecker

HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PART 1Tim Burke, John Richardson, Nicolas Ait’Hadi, Christian Manz

INCEPTIONChris Corbould, Paul Franklin, Andrew Lockley, Peter Bebb

TOY STORY 3Nominees TBC

MAKE UP & HAIR

ALICE IN WONDERLANDNominees TBC

BLACK SWANJudy Chin, Geordie Sheffer

HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PART 1Amanda Knight, Lisa Tomblin

THE KING’S SPEECHFrances Hannon

MADE IN DAGENHAMLizzie Yianni Georgiou

SHORT ANIMATION

THE EAGLEMAN STAGMichael Please

MATTER FISHERDavid Prosser

THURSDAYMatthias Hoegg

SHORT FILM

CONNECTSamuel Abrahams, Beau Gordon

LINPiers Thompson, Simon Hessel

RITEMichael Pearce, Ross McKenzie, Paul Welsh

TURNINGKarni Arieli, Saul Freed, Alison Sterling, Kat Armour-Brown

UNTIL THE RIVER RUNS REDPaul Wright, Poss Kondeatis

ORANGE WEDNESDAYS RISING AWARD

GEMMA ARTERTON

ANDREW GARFIELD

TOM HARDY  (WOO  HOO!)

AARON JOHNSON

EMMA STONE

The Orange British Academy Film Awards will be given out Sunday 13 February 2011, the ceremony again hosted by the wonderful Jonathan Ross and can be seen here in the States on BBCAmerica (8pm ET which is not live due to the 5 hr time difference.)

Another “win” for HTTYD!

The Producers Guild has today announced their nominees for the best of 2010.  No real surprises that I can see, although others may disagree. The good news for How to Train Your Dragon, is that not only was it one of the three films nominated in the Animated Category:

The Award for Outstanding Producer of Animated Theatrical Motion Pictures Nominees:

but as predicted, Toy Story 3 was also nominated in the much larger overall "best film" category:

The Darryl F. Zanuck Award for Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures Nominees:

  • 127 Hours – Producers: Danny Boyle, Christian Colson
  • Black Swan – Producers: Scott Franklin, Mike Medavoy, Brian Oliver
  • Inception – Producers: Christopher Nolan, Emma Thomas
  • The Fighter – Producers: David Hoberman, Todd Lieberman, Mark Wahlberg
  • The Kids Are All Right – Producers: Gary Gilbert, Jeffrey Levy-Hinte, Celine Rattray
  • The King’s Speech – Producers: Iain Canning, Emile Sherman, Gareth Unwin
  • The Social Network – Producers: Dana Brunetti, Ceán Chaffin, Michael De Luca, Scott Rudin
  • The Town – Producers: Basil Iwanyk, Graham King
  • Toy Story 3 – Producer: Darla K. Anderson
  • True Grit – Producers: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, Scott Rudin

(thank you to Rebecca Murray at about.com !!)

Why is this good news for HTTYD you ask?  Because the Producer’s Guild is usually a very good barometer of the Academy Award nominations for Best Picture and I still maintain that if Toy Story 3 is nominated in that category, even though it will surely be nominated in the Animated Feature category as well, then HTTYD stands a (marginally) better chance of winning the former. 

HTTYD would still be a long-shot, but every little bit helps right?

Oh, and while we’re on the subject, can I just say how pleased I am with the overall list?  (Of course I can, it’s my blog…)

For your trouble…


*they plump when you click ’em*

“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