Monday, February 28, 2011

Gary Winick (1961-2011)

This may not be the biggest news of the day, seeing as most are still in shock after the distressing events of last night's Oscar telecast. Still, it's worth noting that director Gary Winick has passed away. He wasn't a truly great director, and three of the films he's directed in his lifetime were Bride Wars, Letter to Juliet, and 13 Going on 30, but he does have one major positive feature on his resume. That is the live-action remake of Charlotte's Web, and any rendition of that story instantly brings me to tears. I wish there was more positive feedback to give, but this is just one of those directors who won't live on forever in our memory. If this clip doesn't scream out as anything special, we're in agreement.

For Your Anticipation: Don't Cry For Me Argentina

It doesn't seem like we're in the best position for starting out the month of March, especially with a Topher Grace comedy gracing us with its presence. It's hard to be optimistic for a film whose title happens to be a song that I hate, and it has nothing to do with the film, but Take Me Home Tonight has perhaps one or two things going for it. It's a simple story about two guys who go out to get drunk and meet ladies at a party in the 1980s. It's kind of difficult to go wrong with something as ripe as that. There's no higher expectations that could never possibly met. If it's the bare minimum, it will make its due.

Oscar 2010: Final Words

"At the end, he called me to his deathbed. He could barely speak, but he took the trouble to tell me one last thing. He pulled me close, and I could only make out one word. 'Disappointed'." - Robert Fischer (Cillian Murphy) from Inception

We can now leave 2010 to the past, and stop dwelling in it with anger and desperation. The awards season is over, and much like Maurice Fischer in Inception, I am too am disappointed. If there's one thing that last night's Oscar telecast showed us, it's how pathetic 2010 in film was compared to 2009. I was part of the most delusional Oscar party in America, with people who honestly felt that 2010 was a modest improvement, both in respects to the films and the ceremony. I wasn't a fan of 2009's mixed up and frantic show, last night's show was all over the place. It was as corny and frantically emotional as the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland, the second worst Oscar winning film of this year. But thinking back to the films released, there is a noticeable rift in quality.

The King's Speech and Inception both walked away with four nominations, the latter in all technical categories and the former only in the big eight categories. The Social Network only walked away with three, all of which were well deserved awards. Some of the most disappointing awards decisions were based solely on the politics of the show. Banksy definitely deserved to win for Exit Through the Gift Shop, but the Academy was without a doubt fearful that he would ruin their precious little show, as if they needed any help with that. I'm a moderately understanding person, but I just don't stand for giving awards out to anything less than the best in each category. It didn't help that there just weren't many interesting films out this year. Probably the most disappointing upset was Roger Deakins being snubbed from Best Cinematography once again. The man just can't seem to catch a break, even after all these years.

I guess that's the way things are meant to go. The best films of the year go by under-appreciated, and the obvious crowd-pleasers are the victors. It wasn't always like this, as the Academy decided in the past two honor the best, not compromising for the sake of flash. 2007 may have been the best Oscar year in the past ten years, with films like Juno, No Country for Old Men, and There Will Be Blood pushing audiences once again to widen their horizons. If this year were more like that year, the five nominees for Best Picture would be Winter's Bone, Black Swan, The Social Network, True Grit, and The Fighter, not even mentioning The King's Speech. Those great days are past us, but I sill manage to hope that changes this year.

If things seem somewhat sparse here for the next week, it's because I'm quite honestly busy catching up with my real life. I need a break from this mania, and what better way to do it than immerse myself completely in this year. The next month offers some exciting features, and even if they turn out to be merely unintelligent diversions, that will be a welcome break from the over-intellectualized ramblings we Oscar prognosticators have been partaking in over the past few months. It all boils down to one night, and that night has to deliver. This year, it just didn't. I leave you with my guiltiest pleasure from last night's show.

Oscar 2010: The Glitz. The Glamour. The Horror.

This is as mixed an Oscar ceremony as there's ever been, in some ways better, and in some ways far worse than last year's messy ceremony. The evening started out promising with a fantastic opening montage of the ten Best Picture nominees. Then Anne Hathaway and James Franco came on, and the MTV Movie Awards style film tribute began. It was distracting, and an omen of terrible things to come. The monologue wasn't that great either, with most of the jokes landing flat on the ground. To her credit, Anne Hathaway did a great job whenever she was on the stage alone, which was sadly most of the time. I can't tell why James Franco decided to sit out most of the ceremony. He made such a big deal about it for the past month. Did anyone else think he was getting high backstage?

The winners started out optimistically, with Alice in Wonderland taking Best Art Direction and Inception taking Best Cinematography. It was enough to suggest that perhaps a major upset was in store for The King's Speech. Instead, as we reached the end, it sunk in that this was just a major misfire. Most of the deserving films and filmmakers in each category weren't rewarded, such as Roger Deakins for True Grit, or Banksy for Exit Through the Gift Shop. True, there were some rewarding winners, such as Natalie Portman for Black Swan, Melissa Leo and Christian Bale for The Fighter, and Wally Pfister for Inception, but none of those could stop The King's Speech from walking away with an undeserved Best Picture win. Much worse, Tom Hooper won Best Director, stealing it away from five more deserving nominated directors, and countless others who weren't nominated. Will Gluck was more deserving for his work on Easy A. That's where I am?

So what did I enjoy about the show? Well, there's the aforementioned opening montage, as well as the montage for Best Picture. Those were effective, but the latter wreaked of The King's Speech. Even the producers of the show knew it was going to win. I'm probably the only one who loved the auto-tune segment, which was hilarious and off-kilter in the best way possible. I just loved it. What was the absolute best part of the show? Kirk Douglas' extended segment, obviously. The man is well past his prime, and that's the best thing about him. He just went on so hilariously, and it was hard not to burst into hysterical laughter at times. However, most times during the show, including those chanting children at the end, were overkill to the nth degree. For that, this is one of the worst shows in recent memory. Perhaps ever. It's something you didn't notice until all the proceedings were done with. Please comment below on your thoughts from the ceremony. Good? Atrociously and irreparably awful? Have at it!


Sunday, February 27, 2011

Oscar 2010: And The Winners Are...

Best Picture: The King's Speech
Best Actress: Natalie Portman (Black Swan)
Best Actor: Colin Firth (The King's Speech)
Best Director: Tom Hooper (The King's Speech)
Best Original Song: "We Belong
Together" from Toy Story 3
Best Editing: The Social Network
Best Visual Effects: Inception
Best Documentary Feature: Inside Job
Best Live-Action Short: God of Love
Best Documentary Short Subject: Strangers No More
Best Costume Design: Alice in Wonderland
Best Makeup: The Wolfman
Best Sound Editing: Inception
Best Sound Mixing: Inception
Best Original Score: Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (The Social Network)
Best Supporting Actor: Christian Bale (The Fighter)
Best Foreign Language Film: In A Better World
Best Original Screenplay: David Seidler (The King's Speech)
Best Adapted Screenplay: Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network)
Best Animated Feature: Toy Story 3

Best Animated Short: The Lost Thing
Best Supporting Actress: Melissa Leo (The Fighter)
Cinematography: Wally Pfister (Inception)
Art Direction: Alice in Wonderland

Oscar 2010 Open Thread: Adjusting Expectations...

Tonight's the night, and there's only an hour until the red carpet is finally set ablaze with excitement. It sucks on the benign occasion that you just can't get E!, and you can't catch the Countdown to the Red Carpet. Tonight's show is prepping to be an interesting one, definitely different from where it was last year, which was rather sloppy and pathetic. Anne Hathaway and James Franco are hosting, which could turn out great or less than that. Personally, I hope for the best, because that somewhat benefits me. There are going to be moments when I'm shouting with anger at the screen. I know that going in. I've made my point for my favorite film in the arena, but that probably won't get me far. The votes were cast at the height of The King's Speech's winning streak, so we'll just have to see how things unfold. I'm preparing to be underwhelmed so that my expectations may be met with enthusiasm. So from here on out, comment on your thoughts on the show as it unfolds. Open thread. Have at it!

Box Office Update: So Weak

Looks like animated fanfare is gaining speed, while everything else is quite literally stalling. Gnomeo and Juliet finally took the top spot after holding strong over the past two weeks. Hall Pass was the biggest new release, but didn't really astonish with its numbers. Drive Angry came in eighth with only $5 million the first weekend, which is far less than it probably deserved. Justin Bieber: Never Say Never released the extended director's cut, which only slightly held back the decline. The King's Speech is probably the most notable, expanding to 300 more locations to make for nice hold on Oscar weekend. Surprisingly, despite everything, this weekend had only a 10% decrease from last year. It looks like we've finally reached the turnaround in the box office.

1. Gnomeo and Juliet (Third Weekend; $14.2 million)
2. Hall Pass (First Weekend; $13.4 million)
3. Unknown (Second Weekend; $12.4 million)
4. Just Go With It (Third Weekend; $11.1 million)
5. I Am Number Four (Second Weekend; $11 million)
6. Justin Bieber: Never Say Never (Third Weekend; $9.2 million)
7. The King's Speech (Fourteenth Weekend; $7.6 million)
8. Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son (Second Weekend; $7.5 million)
9. Drive Angry (First Weekend; $5.1 million)
10. The Roommate (Fourth Weekend; $2.1 million)

Oscar 2010 Predictions: Picture

The votes have been tallied, and there's nothing I can say now that can change any heads about where they're going. So going into this evening, there's a great chance that the inevitable winner of this prize is going to be The King's Speech. Even after everything, I can still say I at least like the film, because it is inspirational and funny, but a feat of immense filmmaking, it is not. All the same, if by some miracle The King's Speech doesn't win, I don't think we'll be able to predict which feature will win. Sure, The Social Network is runner-up in the books, but things have changed so immensely that I can't tell what will happen.

What I truly hope happens, and this is if only the wildest of dreams come true, is that Black Swan takes home Best Picture, matching it up with its Indie Spirit Award last night. The film is an undeniable feat of advanced filmmaking that shakes you to your core, which is what a film should do. Although, the Academy may still be too apprehensive to let such an off-the-wall trinket as this walk away with the top prize. To be honest, I feel like the odds for an upset would be in The Fighter's favor, and I think that I'd be fine with that. Sure, I'm not a huge fan of Mark Wahlberg, but everyone else in the cast gives tops performances, it's nicely directed, and aggressively edited. My mindset is in the mood for a change.

Of course, The Social Network isn't totally out of the cards. They amassed a ridiculous amount of critics awards, and that heft should be able to push them over the threshold. There are probably a few Academy members who are out rooting for Fincher's film to win. It's a little strange how I'm not one of them. True Grit is another potent possibility, given the authentic nature of it, it seems like exactly the sort of carefully drawn out film that the Academy would honor. I'm sure it's not going to happen, but I think it'd definitely be nice. Toy Story 3 has been gaining some steam that hasn't really gone anywhere. If tonight were the night that the first animated feature took home Best Picture, I think there'd be more rapturous applause. And I quite honestly don't see a reason why it shouldn't be in the cards. It's one of the best features of 2010. That's undeniable. What's with the apprehension?

The rest of the field is filled out by films that don't really stand a chance. 127 Hours was perhaps as great as any film this year, but it's all packed into a smaller package, and I think the Academy would go for something bigger. I'm sure that the Academy isn't exactly a bunch of Inception fans, seeing as they didn't see fit to nominate Nolan for Best Director. I don't see much success for the film beyond the technical categories, sad as it is to say. The Kids Are All Right would be a sweet winner, but does anybody really believe this could happen? Same answer for Winter's Bone, as unfortunate as that is. It's a shame how sometimes the best aren't recognized as such through strange technicalities.

1. Black Swan
2. The Kids Are All Right
3. Winter's Bone
4. The Social Network
5. Toy Story 3
6. True Grit
7. The Fighter
8. Inception
9. 127 Hours
10. The King's Speech

Will Win: The King's Speech
Should Win (My Pick): Black Swan
Potential Upset: The Social Network
Should Have Been Nominated: The Illusionist

Awards 2010: Independent Spirit Award Winners

And with that, the precursor season is now officially over, and I think I'll be more happy with the results here than with the results of tonight's Oscar showcase. Black Swan was the big winner of the night, taking home four awards and making it easier to get through the film not winner Best Picture tonight. James Franco was the most deserving actor of the group nominated, so he quite obviously took the award. Winter's Bone took home a few awards too, mostly in the supporting acting categories. The Kids Are All Right took home Best Screenplay, and Exit Through the Gift Shop won Best Documentary. Now lets go this exact way tonight, we'll finally be done!

Best Feature: Black Swan
Best Director: Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan)
Best Actor: James Franco (127 Hours)
Best Actress: Natalie Portman (Black Swan)
Best Supporting Actor: John Hawkes (Winter's Bone)
Best Supporting Actress: Dale Dickey (Winter's Bone)
Best Screenplay: The Kids Are All Right
Best First Screenplay: Tiny Furniture
Best Documentary: Exit Through the Gift Shop
Best Foreign Film: The King's Speech
Best First Feature: Get Low
Best Cinematography: Black Swan

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Oscar 2010 Predictions: Director

It's widely assumed that the winner of Best Picture usually comes out with the Oscar for Best Director as well, and it's happened so often that it's become difficult to diverse the two. Based on that assumption, Tom Hooper should by all means be going home with the Oscar tomorrow for The King's Speech, and I pray that that does not happen. That would be a catastrophic blow to the Academy's reputation, because Hooper is completely new to the awards field, and that's beside the fact that his direction doesn't leave any imprint on the feature. It's quite obviously plain and indistinct in appearance, which obviously works for the average moviegoer, but doesn't work with the quality obsessed.

To be honest, I didn't believe that Hooper would even be nominated, because there were such dynamic impressions that the other directors this year gave within their films. I expected Danny Boyle to make it in for carrying 127 Hours right along with Franco. Even more than that, I expected Christopher Nolan to be nominated for Inception, as most others did. The man has created such a wide diversity of moods and expressions across his career, and whenever we felt lost during Inception, he brought the vision to show us the way. There was a forward motion to his direction that kept the project together.

David O. Russell has me in a divided place, because while I have massively lightened up on The Fighter, I still think that he was missing his own personal groove. It was closer to distinction than Hooper achieved. I'll give him that. I'm still greatly impressed with Joel & Ethan Coen's work on True Grit, keeping a streak of gritty authenticity that the film would have been lost without. And David Fincher? Well, seeing as he's the most likely to win this Sunday, he quite obviously brought the goods to the job. He truly reinvented himself, drawing a line away from his past films like Fight Club and Se7en. In every single scene of The Social Network, you can see an attention to detail far beyond any other. To not reward that would be a shame.

Personally, my own interests skew darker than that, and I'm put in favor of Darren Aronofsky for his work on Black Swan. It's quite possibly the most impressive directing job of his career, because I wasn't taken with The Fountain, and The Wrestler was mostly a showcase for Mickey Rourke. Black Swan brims with distinction, creating a fine conceivable line between the two sides of each character and pushing towards the heart of the matter. It's highly meticulous emotional territory, not to mention the specificity required in the world of ballet. Aronofsky no doubt had to take a crash course in ballet like all the actors in the film, just to get into the heart of the world he was creating. It's an emotional feast in the most subtle of ways, always straying away from being too obvious. Unfortunately, this isn't the year Aronofsky wins, and we'll have to wait for that to happen.

1. Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan)
2. David Fincher (The Social Network)
3. Joel & Ethan Coen (True Grit)
4. David O. Russell (The Fighter)
5. Tom Hooper (The King's Speech)

Will Win: David Fincher (The Social Network)
Should Win: Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan)
Potential Upset: Tom Hooper (The King's Speech)
Should Have Been Nominated: Christopher Nolan (Inception)

Theatrical Trailer: Meek's Cutoff

We've got a few western recreations on our way this year, with the half-assed attempt that is Rango or the intriguing action-thriller Cowboys and Aliens. My interests actually skew most towards this western from Kelly Reichardt, director of Wendy and Lucy. I'm not so much astounded by flair, but deep textured style catches me eye immediately. I doubt there's a single shot from this trailer for Meek's Cutoff that wasn't interesting to my eyes. The tone of this trailer actually strikes me in a similar way to There Will Be Blood, but I doubt a similar outcome based on the PG rating. Check out the trailer below, and comment on your own thoughts from it.

Television Breakdown: The Scene of the Crime

Fringe: Subject 13

took a dive last week, not ratings, but in quality. They overdosed on the sentimentality, and the extraneous pieces just didn't come together organically. Tonight had a lot of work to do in terms of renewing faith in the series, and it certainly did in the only way this show knows how. Peter was the episode that established Fringe as my favorite show on television, so this episode had some hefty shoes to fill. It didn't deal at all with the collapse of the universes, instead deciding to focus on many of the other aspects of the show. It was a mix of tragedy, hope, and mythological integrity to several different
lines of thought.

Keep in mind that this is not the perfection that Peter was, because there's one or two gripes I have. The nature of this episode is different than I imagined, being less action focused and more emotionally based. It's not so much a problem, but something that requires a change of perspective. I also thought Olivia was a bit old to be in that daycare in Jacksonville, but whatever. I'm forgiving of that as long as we're given something as beautiful, sweet, and heartbreaking as what we saw. Subject 13 messed around with the vignette format in an interesting way that was perfectly adept to their brand of quality.

The episode begins with Peter marching out to Reiden Lake, intent on going straight to the bottom and return home. Obviously it doesn't work that way, and he accidentally tries to kill himself. His time in our world has been stressed to say the least, with him railing against the parents and the world that isn't his. Relocating to Jacksonville, young Olivia Dunham is in the midst of Walter's advanced drug trials while simultaneously dealing with her abusive and frightening stepfather. For Olivia, these horrible trials on children were a welcome escape from the devil she experienced at home. So far, he is not played by Gary Oldman, to my great dismay. They've still got time to change that eventually, and when they pay off on his character, I'm sure it will be an interesting plot string.

The next vignette shows Walter's ruthless study of Olivia's different emotional responses. It's almost difficult to watch as Walter turns on a dime on her in order to serve his own ends, though out of the best intentions. He wants to get Peter back home, but has to deal with how far he is willing to go to achieve that goal. Is he willing to sacrifice a little girl for the greater good? It appears not, as both versions of Walter will not sacrifice a child so bluntly. No matter what, there is a line that still can't be crossed. On the other hand, Walter did paint Nick Lane out to be dead in front of her, causing Olivia set the room ablaze. I guess that line doesn't include cruel practical jokes.

Oscar 2010: Presenters Go In Pairs

From the way this looks, I'd say we're looking at a decent stab that the shortest Oscar telecast in a while. Perhaps it won't actually put people to sleep. On the other hand, this is an odd bunch, completely devoid of Tina Fey or Steve Martin. Such a shame, but there's that open space for Best Supporting Actress. Maybe they'll make a surprise appearance, but nothing is set. I just know that this will be a difficult ceremony to sit through if The King's Speech sweeps as many believe it will. I'm praying for an upset.

1. Art Direction (Tom Hanks)

2. Cinematography (ditto)

3. Supporting Actress (?)
4. Animated Feature (Justin Timberlake, Mila Kunis)
5. Animated Short Film (ditto)

6. Adapted Screenplay (Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin)

7. Original Screenplay (ditto)

8. Foreign Language Film (Russell Brand, Dame Helen Mirren)
9. Supporting Actor (Reese Witherspoon)

10. Original Score (Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman)

11. Sound Mixing (Matthew McConaughey, Scarlett Johansson)

12. Sound Editing (ditto)
13. Makeup (Cate Blanchett)

14. Costume Design (ditto)

15. Dcumentary Short Subject (Jake Gyllenhaal, Amy Adams)
16. Live Action Short Film (ditto)

17. Documentary (Oprah)

18. Visual Effects (Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law)

19. Editing (ditto)
20. Original Song (Jennifer Hudson)
21. Director (Hilary Swank, Kathryn Bigelow)

22. Actress (Jeff Bridges)

23. Actor (Sandra Bullock)
24. Picture (Steven Spielberg)

Friday, February 25, 2011

Open Thread: If YOU Had An Oscar Ballot...

Well, up to this point, I've done my part to make my position on this Sunday's Academy Awards clear. I've said what will win in comparison to what obviously should win, minus the two categories I'm covering tomorrow and Sunday. Now it's your turn, and I don't want you to go ahead and pick what everyone expects to win. I want you to honestly say what you think is going to win in the comments section. That's the one purpose of this post. To see what you'd like to win. The nominations in each category can be seen on the predictions page.

The Top 10: Best Animated Feature Nominees

With all the bustle of awards season, it's easy to forget that this is the tenth year of the Best Animated Feature category at the Oscars, and the nominees have been diverse and mostly rewarding. So here is my compilation of the ten best nominees in this category to date, stretching all the way back to 2001. And I can promise you that it's not all Pixar.

10. Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)

Directed by Wes Anderson

I'm not really a great fan of Wes Anderson, because most of his work is far more miss than hit. He does have an enthusiasm about him and that energy shows in his work. So what better medium for his to try his hand at than animation, or more specifically stop-motion. After Henry Selick left the project for bigger and quite honestly better things (see #4), Anderson became the unlikely director, and brought so much to it. Authenticity is something that always impresses me, and this is undeniably the most authentic animated feature of the past decade. Everything feels so real and untarnished, from the aesthetic of the dolls that make up the characters, to witty script that rivals The Hangover in terms of screwball antics. It definitely feels like the sort of film that would be passed down through the years.

9. Persepolis (2007)
Directed by Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud

A French animated adaptation of an autobiographical graphic novel about the Iranian revolution. That's a description that will only ever be suited to this film, and you can overlook how unique this film is at first glance. From the basic and simple animation style, this film is more than just a look into the way the government of Iran changed, but also a spry and emotional tale of the way a little girl changes as she grows up. It has an ironic comic timing to it, and that's very much amplified by the constantly changing atmosphere of Marjane Satrapi's mindset. The film moves at such a clip that you can feel that change of mind that zigzags around so frantically. It's like catching lightning in a bottle, and how it bounces around from there.

8. Finding Nemo (2003)
Directed by Andrew Stanton

When thinking of Pixar's achievements over the past decade, the mind always seems to shift to the film that truly put them on the map. Toy Story, A Bugs Life, and Monster's Inc. could all be seen as Pixar's precursor work, very much like Memento, Insomnia, and The Prestige could be seen as Christopher Nolan's precursor work to The Dark Knight. Both didn't truly hit worldwide renown until their greatest hits yet premiered. Finding Nemo is very much the film most responsible for Pixar's impeccable track record. It didn't stray too far away from the harshness of life, nor the cruelty of the sea. It has plenty humorous anecdotes along the way, and to this day there ceases to be a voice performance that reaches the same heights as Ellen Degeneres as Dori. The men and women over at Pixar still had plenty greater works to unveil, but this was the perfect beginning.

Oscar 2010 Predictions: Lead Actress

I don't really think in a way that can be deemed as rational, as my brother keeps telling me of my fascination with Cougar Town. Of the nominees for Best Actress, the one I think is least deserving of recognition is Nicole Kidman for Rabbit Hole, and this is for a few reasons. The least important reason is that she's been pretty much absent from awards contention for the past few years, and her return feels a little awkward. There's a coldness to her performance, and it comes off as a bit forced if you ask me. It's still great, but less so than the other nominees. That's the critical perspective, and somehow that perspective can't take apart Emma Stone's performance in Easy A. Somehow her mannerisms in the film came off to me so radically that they brought me to tears with her. Don't call me pathetic!

Unfortunately, Emma Stone isn't nominated this year, which leaves a field of mistresses to sleep with deal with. Michelle Williams is an actress I have been observing rather closely, because I feel she's got the sort of talent that could explode across the screen in spectacular fashion. Somehow, and this has been nagging on me, she doesn't quite do that in Blue Valentine. She comes extremely close, and the raw intensity of her performance does warrant a nomination, but I can't really go any further for her yet. Her and Kidman are in something of the same boat, albeit in completely different ways.

The rest of the actresses here deserve to be here 100%, and it'd be so difficult to pick one out of the bunch if it hadn't been made so obvious already. Natalie Portman's iconic performance in Black Swan topped of the tragic tale of fragility and duality in a way that never once feels forced or exaggerated. She manages the transition from innocent child to sensual being of destruction so flawlessly, and that's not even to speak of the subtle nuances to the performance aspect of it. The physical brutality of the ballet world pushes the actress to emphasize every move in a way she wasn't capable of before. Any performance she gives from here on out will be better because of what she learned here. That's definitely worthy of reward.

The only actress with any hope or chance of beating Portman, though I pray that doesn't happen, is Annette Bening for The Kids Are All Right. She's definitely at the point in which she's just waiting for the day she gets her award. I would've said this was her year before I saw Black Swan, and it's still worthy of note how she manages to make the character so believable in a way Julianne Moore didn't quite achieve. Perhaps that was just the way the characters were formatted, but you're definitely put on Bening's side by the end of the film, and there has to be a reason for that. Topping everything off, Jennifer Lawrence is the breakout star of the year, no matter what case you make for Hailee Steinfeld or Andrew Garfield. Lawrence shows a maturity beyond her years in this role, and if there's a film with such a solid ensemble this year, I'd say it was Winter's Bone.

1. Natalie Portman (Black Swan)
2. Annette Bening (The Kids Are All Right)
3. Jennifer Lawrence (Winter's Bone)
4. Michelle Williams (Blue Valentine)
5. Nicole Kidman (Rabbit Hole)

Will & Should Win: Natalie Portman (Black Swan)
Potential Upset: Annette Bening (The Kids Are All Right)
Should Have Been Nominated: Emma Stone (Easy A)

For Your Anticipation: I Want to Go Home

Last week certainly didn't inspire as much confidence as we had hoped for Fringe, especially after hitting an all time low in the ratings. I'll admit that I wasn't the biggest fan of 6B, and it really brought out what I think are the worst qualities of the show. So what better way to counteract that than with tonight's followup to last year's mind-blowing emotional powerhouse Peter. Not only does tonight deal with the aftermath of Peter's abduction and how Walter and Elizabeth Bishop convinced him he was their son, but it also deals with Peter and Olivia's first meeting in Jacksonville, as well as Walter's experimentation on her. There's also supposed to be a sojourn to the alternate universe to see how Walternate reacted to the dilemma. This is prime emotional territory, and I love the 1985 period setting to these episodes. If this means a return of the retro title design, I'm a happy camper.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Teaser Trailer: The Hangover: Part II

For me, this is the epitome of a teaser trailer. It doesn't really give anything away, and doesn't give us much at all, but it doesn't disappoint. It's a simple look at some frames from the film, one rather simple crack by Zach Galifiankis, and the sense that something crazy is going down. The Hangover: Part II is so far being smart about their advertising campaign, and I applaud them for that. I'm sure people are going to call it a cop out, but I think it's what a teaser should be, and yet never is these days. Feel free to disagree in the comments section!

Oscar 2010 Predictions: Lead Actor

By now it's an undisputed fact that Colin Firth's performance in The King's Speech is the best of 2010, and there's no denying that fact. It almost makes it difficult to accept that in a race this clean, but Firth really deserves it. I think he probably deserved it more for his role in A Single Man last year, but better for him to receive recognition now than to never receive it at all. And what of the rest of the field? They could be mere flies on a windshield up against Firth, but they're actually pretty close and fantastic performances in my opinion. The only one I can't comment on is Javier Bardem, because, like many Americans out there, I still haven't seen Biutiful. I know. I'm a massive failure.

Probably the actor who I truly wish was nominated this year was Aaron Eckhart for Rabbit Hole, and I ride on the same current as most people. Nicole Kidman is great in that film, but I found that the rollercoaster heart of the piece was Eckhart's rigorous emotionality. Instead, Jeff Bridges was nominated for True Grit, and I'm only slightly not okay with that. I think his performance in the film was great, and I almost got to wishing he would win this year and Firth had won last year. What stopped me was that this really isn't the main attraction. This is a supporting performance meant to serve Hailee Steinfeld's leading work as Mattie Ross. I also kind of wish Matt Damon was nominated for his work as Labeouf, but that is undisputably supporting in any case, and the supporting branch is packed as it is.

A month back, I would've said that Jesse Eisenberg was going to steal the gold from Colin Firth, and my reason for that was that he was gaining some traction in the critics awards, and if there's any performance that impressed as much as Firth's, it was Eisenberg's in The Social Network. Nobody would have thought that the Michael Cera look alike would have so much to offer, but he really hit it out of the park in a way that nobody expected, even after they'd seen the film. If Firth didn't have this locked up, I'd say Eisenberg would be the one to steal it. The actor I kind of pegged as the underdog was actually James Franco. Before I saw 127 Hours, I felt like it was a bit overblown. I couldn't have been more wrong, because Franco does deliver some brave work as Aron Ralston, and manages to translate his journey emotionally. That's the best an actor can aspire to.

1. Colin Firth (The King's Speech)
2. Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network)
3. James Franco (127 Hours)
4. Jeff Bridges (True Grit)
5. Javier Bardem (Biutiful)

Will & Should Win: Colin Firth (The King's Speech)
Potential Upset: Are you serious? No way!
Should Have Been Nominated: Aaron Eckhart (Rabbit Hole)

Films To See In 2011: March

At the start of every month, I tell myself that it's going to be better than what we were saddled with last month. That hasn't really been working for me lately, seeing as the closest January brought us to real quality was No Strings Attached, and the top film out in February happens to come from Justin Bieber. That's meant to be a compliment, because unlike most people on the planet, I don't hate Justin Bieber. I have better things to do with my time than hate a 15 year old kid who never did anything wrong to me. Getting back on track, I genuinely believe this month will be a step in the right direction. There are some films that I'd have liked to put on this list, but just didn't make the cut. The Adjustment Bureau looks like it could be another great film for Matt Damon, Paul looks absolutely hilarious, and features like Sucker Punch and Battle: Los Angeles look like well produced action spectacles. I just found myself most anticipating of three somewhat unlikely films.

Directed by Daniel Barnz

A surprise, I am sure this is going to come as, but I can't remember a point in which I didn't think this was going to be a good film. I know that it has a supporting cast that includes Mary-Kate Olsen and Vanessa Hudgens, of all people, but I remember when Hudgens was set to appear in Bandslam a few years back. Nobody thought that would turn out well, and it turned out great. Beastly truly looks like a sweet and somewhat enjoyable twist on the tale of Beauty and the Beast. This could be the true breakout role for Alex Pettyfer (I Am Number Four), or else just another film worth seeing for Neil Patrick Harris.

#2."Jane Eyre"
Directed by Cary Fukunaga

I wasn't exactly sold on this one so instantly, but before the trailer came out, I had a hard time seeing the down side. It's a pretty well-known story, though I haven't ever found the time to read it, and the film features two of my favorite up-and-coming actors of this era. If you're familiar with this sight, you'll know how much I've appreciated Mia Wasikowska's work over the few months, and Michael Fassbender immediately struck me when he appeared in Inglourious Basterds nearly two years ago. I knew that this guy was going places. The first trailer was a bit mysterious for my tastes, and I had no idea what to make of this film. However, given the tone and writing of the footage I've seen, I think Jane Eyre could be the rare old-British drama that actually works. I'm certainly hoping for that outcome.

#1."Win Win"
Directed by Thomas McCarthy

Inevitably the film that I am 100% assured of is from Thomas McCarthy, who is fashioning a resume that paints him to be the Christopher Nolan of indie dramedies. By that, I mean that his track record thus far is impeccable, which I can't say is too stupefying since this is only his third film. Still, the man has done some great work in the recent past, and he's also partially responsible for the screenplay for Up. My anticipation for this film is do only partly to the director's craft, because it also features a clean shaven (kinda) Paul Giamatti in the lead role. The plot of a failing lawyer and family man moonlighting as a high-school wrestling coach who takes in a talented teenager doesn't strike as classic off the bat, but it's off-kilter enough to be more than just nothing. This could be McCarthy's best yet, and Giamatti could be looking at his second Academy-Award nomination. Maybe my hopes are a bit too high, but I really want Win Win to be a major win.

For Your Anticipation: 10 PM to 6 AM

To tell the truth, I didn't know that Hall Pass was from the Farrelly brothers until I read it in a review. It comes as little surprise to me, seeing as I thought the film looked atrocious far before I learned who made it. It has Owen Wilson, which is never a sign of optimistic fortune, and Jason Sudeikis is quite honestly one of the SNL actors I always imagined turning into an annoying leading man. And now we're here, talking about this sad little misfire, as it's sure to be. I have the utmost confidence in my own ability to tell if a film is going to fail or not.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Oscar 2010 Predictions: Supporting Actor

We live in a world of good and bad, and it almost seems as if we spend so much time defining the line between those two that we forget about the line between good and great. That's my biggest problem with this year's Oscar race, and I doubt that I'm alone on this one. I had so much overwhelming trouble compiling a list of last year's best, not only because I hadn't seen everything, but because there were so few truly great films. Not to mention the fact that at the time I was compiling my list, I hadn't made the important revelations that didn't occur until we reached this Oscar race. This Oscar season has really shaped me more critically than any other in recent memory, and that's the biggest complement I can give it.

So, you can stand to reason that all of the performances in the Best Supporting Actor category are good, but can we really say that they're all great? I hardly believe that to be the case, especially since one of my favorite supporting performances of the year wasn't even nominated here, and I'm not speaking of Andrew Garfield's sweet and sympathetic performance in The Social Network. I'm talking about Vincent Cassel's finely cut performance in Black Swan as the intense ballet director and Nina's romantic fancy. Almost every character in the film is two-sided, which offers only the greatest performances.

As for what is nominated, I can't say all are deserving to be here, and the one I find my mind coming back to constantly is Geoffrey Rush in The King's Speech. I know he used to be the frontrunner, but he just lacks the extra depth that's needed to go above and beyond. If there's anybody who's going to steal the top prize from the preferred winner, it will be him, but undeservedly so. Similarly, Jeremy Renner did a fantastic job with what he was given in The Town, and he just bordered on being truly great. The role was there, and he was there, but something benign just seems to be holding him back a bit.

So who is nominated here and deserves to be here? For one thing, I still feel Mark Ruffalo's character in The Kids Are All Right was given a melancholic and half-fulfilled ending, which is really perfect for the performance he gave. It's really fascinating in that less-is-more sort of way, and Ruffalo has always excelled in such subtleties. John Hawkes is my #2 pick for this category, and he emphasizes everything I loved about Winter's Bone, with the gruff exterior shrouding a wearied heart underneath. He's sadly not going to win this year, which adds to my hopes that he really pulls out all the stops in Martha Marcy May Marlene.

This category simply belongs to Christian Bale this year, and it's almost an act of apology after the Academy snubbing him all these years. It's unfortunate that he hasn't received a nomination until now, but it's great that he's set to receive his first win this year. He always falls completely into these roles, from every expression and every breathe, and it almost always feels unique to that specific character. This is one of those instances, and when Bale's playing a coked up former-wrestler whose fame is widely debatable, as is the case in The Fighter, you're going to deal with some crazy emotions. Bale matches those perfectly, as he almost always does.

1. Christian Bale (The Fighter)
2. John Hawkes (Winter's Bone)
3. Mark Ruffalo (The Kids Are All Right)
4. Jeremy Renner (The Town)
5. Geoffrey Rush (The King's Speech)

Will & Should Win: Christian Bale (The Fighter)
Potential Upset: Geoffrey Rush (The King's Speech)
Should Have Been Nominated: Vincent Cassel (Black Swan)

Red-Band Trailer: Bad Teacher

Can you believe that a trailer for a film starring Cameron Diaz and Justin Timberlake didn't have me rolling my eyes once. I'm sure if I tried hard enough the second time through I could find something worth a shrug, but my initial reaction to the trailer for Bad Teacher is surprisingly positive. Maybe it's the fact that Diaz's best friend in the film is played by Phillis Smith from The Office. Perhaps it's the not-so-obvious way things are put, especially since Jason Segel is probably going to end up with Diaz in the end and he's only featured three times in this trailer. I have a sixth sense about where romantic comedy plots are going, even if they are largely predictable these days. This trailer didn't exactly rearrange my Summer schedule, but it could've been a lot worse.

For Your Anticipation: What The Hell Is That?

There's a fine line between campy exploitation and just plain trash, and there is no walking on that line. You're either on one line or the other, or else you're removed from the situation entirely. Drive Angry is in the middle of deciding which side it falls on, and I'd like to stay optimistic about this one. Sure, I did place it as one of the likely awful films of this month, but who couldn't after that trailer? I'm looking for an indication of a good time, rather than a waste of time. It's Nicholas Cage, so it could go either way.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Oscar 2010 Predictions: Supporting Actress

Not nearly the most difficult race to predict, but also not a walk in the park. This was really a banner year for supporting female performances, and in fact more so than lead female performances. You can tell by the sheer amount of talent that wasn't nominated here, and yet should have been. Mila Kunis was did a fantastic job with what she was given in Black Swan, but the supporting gal that really stole the show for me was Barbara Hershey as Nina's overbearing mother. It's really one of the most tragic performances of the year, embodying somebody who reluctantly gave up her own career to become a mother, and as such is now realizing how she hasn't prepared her daughter properly for the real world. When she's looking up at Nina at the close of the film, you can see it in her eyes.

I could go on about Rooney Mara's stellar-but-short performance in The Social Network, Marion Cotillard's fascinating, multifaceted, and underrated work in Inception, or Mia Wasikowska's sweet and fragile overlooked performance in The Kids Are All Right, but I pretty much just summed them up in a run-on sentence. If there's any actress nominated here who is undeserving of any recognition, it is Helena Bonham Carter for The King's Speech. Don't get me wrong, because I've loved plenty of her past work, but she's the plainest and most uninteresting of the big three characters in the film. You can tell that from the clothing she wears, and you can tell that from her performance. I much preferred her latest turn as Bellatrix Lestrange in Deathly Hallows: Part 1.

I still haven't seen Animal Kingdom, for which Jacki Weaver is nominated, and I've been putting it off because the only ads for the film have been showing off this creepy and demented image of her. Maybe that's one of the big appeals of it, but I'll have to check it out sometime before this Sunday. Amy Adams is up for her work in The Fighter, which almost immediately appealed to me after I saw it. I gather that that's the way it was for most people, because she had such a trashy-yet-sexy attitude about her that seemed pretty authentic, and most people could imagine a girl like that in their neighborhood.

The big fight is between Hailee Steinfeld for True Grit and Melissa Leo for The Fighter, and I've been pretty one-sided for most of this race. At the end of last year, I absolutely loved Steinfeld's brave and beautiful performance, and I still believe that she's the best actress in contention here. However, as for the person who I believe will win and absolutely deserves to win, I have to go with Melissa Leo for The Fighter. After going back to the film, she's really got that ferocity and expression that almost matches her up with Bale's work. That's not even to mention the work she's done in the past. She's been unrewarded for so long, and that should end on Sunday night. If not, then she'll turn in another bravura performance and we'll be right back here again.

1. Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit)
2. Melissa Leo (The Fighter)
3. Amy Adams (The Fighter)
4. Jacki Weaver (Animal Kingdom)
5. Helena Bonham Carter (The King's Speech)

Will & Should Win: Melissa Leo (The Fighter)
Potential Upset: Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit)
Should Have Been Nominated: Barbara Hershey (Black Swan) OR Rooney Mara (The Social Network) OR Marion Cotillard (Inception) OR Mia Wasikowska (The Kids Are All Right)