Archive for January, 2011

January 26, 2011

Movie Review: Take it with a grain of “Salt”

Salt (***)

I wish I could come up with other puns, but this one seems apt for the movie that it mocks. But to be fair, this was a hugely enjoyable movie… it just needs to not be taken seriously. In my mad dash to see everything nominated for an Oscar, I obviously looked at my list and I picked the shortest one. Coming in at an ultra lean 95 minutes (with credits!), this is what an action movie should be. It has no extra fight sequences, no superfluous dialogue, and no unnecessary love plot (well there is one… it just doesn’t come up that much).

Angelina Jolie plays Evelyn Salt… or does she? The premise of the movie is that while CIA Agent Salt is interrogating a Russian man, he reveals that the name of the mole in the CIA is Evelyn Salt. She swears its not her and receives a tepid response from her peers. Instead of waiting out the long slog, she decides to run. So Salt is running from the CIA, even though she’s innocent and the CIA thinks she’s definitely the mole. What follows is a lot of “which side is she really on?” The answer?

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January 25, 2011

Movie Review: Sylvain Chômet is a true “Illusionist”

The Illusionist **** (4)

I really should have tried harder for a pun with a movie I liked as much as The Illusionist. I actually had a relatively unique experience in seeing this movie. I am in France right now and as this is a French movie I was hoping to see it. But it was in theaters here a very long time ago. Practically the Stone Ages. Like July. But fortunately, there is the nationwide Telerama film festival going on, where for one weekend and at select theaters, the best movies to be released in France during 2010 played for one last time. And The Illusionist was one of these films.

One of the virtues of the film was actually an initial disappointment for me. I went to this movie to challenge myself. I wanted to see a french movie and practice my comprehension. This goal was not accomplished since the vast majority of the film is without dialogue. This is both a plot point and a technical device.

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January 25, 2011

THEY’RE HERE: Oscar Nominations

So must everything be this easy? There were definitely a couple of surprises, but mostly everything was running on schedule. The technicals area actually where the Academy shined brightest. It gave room to what looked like only 20 or so films vying for spots across all of the categories. There are 12 movies that are only nominated for 1 thing. This shows a breadth that is actually surprising. Overall I didn’t do too well. I ultimately got 83 out of a possible 105 nominations. 79%. C+. I’ll take it. Better luck next year.

The overall lessons that we have learned are that The King’s Speech and True Grit are stronger than ever, securing 12 nominations and 10 nominations respectively. At the same time The Social Network maintained, but not did not grow. It got one unexpected nomination, but also lost an expected one. We’ll see…

Inception and Black Swan both missed out on a couple expected things – Editing/Director for Inception and a lot of technicals for Black Swan. They are top dogs that have fallen to middle feeders. Winter’s Bone did well, but this is the end of the line. All 4 of its nominees are in categories with huge frontrunners.

Best Picture:

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

The most boring slate they could’ve chosen. But it’s what I predicted.

Director:

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

BIG SHOCK! No Nolan? What? I’m shocked. Shocked. Especially post The Dark Knight hate. Joel & Ethan Coen snuck in the open spot which isn’t surprising, but I only got 4 of 5.

Actor:

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

Javier Bardem – our first all Spanish performance male actor. I was shocked, but mostly sad that Ryan Gosling couldn’t make it. Shame. I was 4 for 5.

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

Congrats to Michelle Williams! This is the slate that I wanted… because I predicted it. The Academy is running on track here smoothly.

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

Woah. This to me was the biggest shock of the night. With Andrew Garfield giving two great performances this year, I was sure he was going to get in for The Social Network, especially with all of TSNs power in steamrolling the precursors. But I am happy for John Hawkes. This is so emotionally perplexing. I got 4 of 5.

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

Did this make it to my predictions? I don’t remember typing them. But this IS what I had. Jacki Weaver had so much critics support that it almost seemed inevitable all though some were afraid of it.

Adapted Screenplay:

  • 127 Hours
  • The Social Network
  • Toy Story 3
  • True Grit
  • Winter’s Bone

Boring but 5 out of 5 for me. If Aaron Sorkin misses here that’ll be the biggest shock.

Original Screenplay:

  • Another Year
  • The Fighter
  • Inception
  • The Kids Are All Right
  • The King’s Speech

Black Swan finally shows some weakness. I thought that it’s energy in the box office and love would bring it through here, but the Academy favorite auteur slipped in. 4 out of 5 for me.

Animated Feature:

  • How to Train Your Dragon
  • The Illusionist
  • Toy Story 3

I could not be more happy that Despicable Me got snubbed. The Illusionist was wonderful and this is a great day for 2D animation. This gives me hope that the Academy does have a functioning brain. I’d much rather I only have 2 out of 3 predictions correct than Despicable Me make it.

Foreign Language

  • Bitutiful
  • Dogtooth
  • In A Better World
  • Incendies
  • Outside the Law

I did really well here in a category that’s tough to predict. The shockers are Dogtooh (which I predicted) and Outside the Law (which I missed). Now I have to catch up on these and see them… 4 out of 5.

Documentary:

  • Exit Through the Gift Shop
  • Gasland
  • Inside Job
  • Restrepo
  • Waste Land

The shocker? No Waiting for Superman! Wowza! It is one of the highest grossing documentaries (the highest?) and it is made by an extremely well respected documentarian. My failure to predict anything with the word “Land” in the title led me to 3 out of 5.

Art Direction:

  • Alice in Wonderland
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I
  • Inception
  • The King’s Speech
  • True Grit

Black Swan did not do as well as I thought (hoped?) it would. Harry Potter easily took that open spot. 4 out of 5.

Cinematography:

  • Black Swan – Matthew Libatique
  • Inception – Wally Pfister
  • The King’s Speech – Danny Cohen
  • The Social Network – Jeff Cronenweth
  • True Grit – Roger Deakins

The Academy is really dumb. I’ll say it. This is the most egregious snub to me, but it’s not like I didn’t see it coming. 127 Hours lensers Anthony Dod Mantle and Enrique Chediak were robbed blind. But This does show the strength of The Social Network… but also The King’s Speech… interesting. 4 out of 5.

Costume Design:

  • Alice in Wonderland
  • I Am Love
  • The King’s Speech
  • The Tempest
  • True Grit

So much for my British hunch. I guess Made in Dagenham wasn’t seen and Black Swan’s Rodarte creations were ineligible so here we are. I only got 3 of the 5 but it was nice to see a wider spread amongst different films. Brava to I Am Love.

Film Editing:

  • Black Swan
  • The Fighter
  • The King’s Speech
  • 127 Hours
  • The Social Network

I actually predicted Inception to win this category in the end so color me shocked. Lee Smith’s editing was top notch and possibly the most important element in understanding the riddle of Inception… not the screenplay. But alas, it did make room for 127 Hours and The Social Network and The King’s Speech strength shows up again. 4 out of 5.

Makeup:

  • Barney’s Version
  • The Way Back
  • The Wolfman

The makeup branch always goes their own way. But I’m glad to say that I did at least get Barney’s Version correct. I am also happy that Peter Weir gets to call another one of his movies an Oscar nominated film.

Score:

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

I’m so giddy about How to Train Your Dragon making it and Alice in Wonderland missing out (sorry Danny Elfman!). This is just a coup for How to Train Your Dragon, my favorite score in the hunt. Although the race is definitely between Hans and TSN boys.

Original Song:

  • “Coming Home” – Country Strong
  • “I See the Light” – Tangled
  • “If I Rise” – 127 Hours
  • “We Belong Together” – Toy Story 3

Only 4 nominations and I got 3 of them. No Burlesque and Waiting for Superman!?!?!? What?!?! I guess the volatile song category just wanted Gwyneth Paltrow to sing at the Oscars and I’m not sure I can fault them for that. Now that 2 of the front runners are gone, this has become a difficult one to predict.

Sound Editing:

  • Inception
  • Toy Story 3
  • TRON: Legacy
  • True Grit
  • Unstoppable

Unstoppable – Oscar Nominee. I love it so much I don’t even care if I’m only 3 out of 5… My problem is that I put TRON in the wrong category. Silly me.

Sound Mixing:

  • Inception
  • The King’s Speech
  • Salt
  • The Social Network
  • True Grit

Doth my eyes deceive me? The King’s Speech in Sound Mixing. This REALLY shows that The King’s Speech is coming in strong. My confidence in predicting The Social Network as the winner is definitely decreasing. 3 out of 5 for me.

Visual Effects:

  • Alice in Wonderland
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I
  • Hereafter
  • Inception
  • Iron Man 2

So the world though Iron Man 2 was weak, but I guess it was TRONs out of time Jeff Bridges that ultimately missed out. Hereafter’s nomination is really only for the short film “The first 10 minutes of Hereafter” but I’ve heard they’re a great 10 minutes.

I guess I’ll end this with a list of all the films I’m going to try and catch up on before Oscar night. I haven’t had a chance to see everything so I want to. And only after seeing all of these movies will I release my own personal awards. And hunting out those shorts will definitely be a challenge… Hmmmm.

Movies for me to See:

  • Another Year
  • Barney’s Version
  • Bitutiful
  • Country Strong
  • Dogtooh
  • Gasland
  • Hereafter
  • In a Better World
  • Incendies
  • Outside the Law
  • Rabbit Hole
  • Salt
  • The Tempest
  • TRON: Legacy
  • Unstoppable
  • Waste Land
  • The Way Back
  • The Wolfman

18 movies! But to be fair, that’s 5 foreign films, 2 documentaries and a paltry 20 nominations amongst them. But who knows? Maybe one of these will be my new favorite movie of 2010.

January 25, 2011

Last Minute Oscar Predictions

I don’t care if anyone reads these – I’m putting them down so I can know exactly what I predicted and see how well I did.

Best Picture:

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

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January 23, 2011

Movie Review: “The Green Hornet”? More like “The Green SNORE-net”!

I’m back from hiatus. Who said that you can’t write movie reviews while in a foreign country?

The Green Hornet (4/10)

Joy aside, I made an awful decision with my first new movie back into the fray. The all too verdant comic-to-movie adaptation of The Green Hornet was one of the most disjointed, misguided, and unaffecting adventures I’ve seen in a while. As the Green Hornet (not the movie, the avenger) tries to turn himself into a bad guy, I would like to point out the people who became bad guys and decided to be a part of this movie, and therefore make it unwatchable.

Let’s start small. er.

Seth Rogen’s weight loss for the movie was never marketed as if Christian Bale had competition. But Rogen looked… well relatively un-super. That’s not to take his weight loss away from him. He looked fine. But the whole time he just never had the charisma or the passion to carry this movie. With every joke funny enough to chuckle to yourself, came at least three or four that never landed at all. What’s more is that his character was so inept, that for 90% of the movie, he just stands amazed at the other characters. “I can’t believe you can do that, Kato! You can do everything!” “Cameron Diaz! You’re so smart and have a great ass! Wow!” “Chum-cough-ski! You’re the best car chaser ever!” Sorry. It wasn’t even worth it to look up characters names.

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