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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Blue Valentine

 directed by Derek Cianfrance
[filmography: directorial debut of a feature film, though has directed many documentaries]  
written by Derek Cianfrance, Cami Delavigne, and Joey Curtis
[all pretty much newbies, or at least unknown to me]

starring Ryan Gosling, Michelle Williams, and Faith Wladyka [as Frankie] 
ENJOYMENT: ***** (out of 5)
"Loved it" 

    I thought this film would be a shoe-in for Ryan Gosling at the Academy Awards, and I thought it would get a Best Picture nomination as well.  Michelle Williams got nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role, but this hardly seems justice enough for this film.  In fact, it wasn't really until I had this reaction to Blue Valentine's absence in those two categories that I realized how special the film truly is.  Blue Valentine is my favorite kind of movie, telling the story of real, raw feelings as relevant as aging love.  What happens to two teenagers who have a great couple first dates, become extremely infatuated with one another, and end up getting married?  This scenario must describe many marriages, and has for decades, but, in Blue Valentine, director Derek Cianfrance confronts this issue in a contemporary fashion with an extremely original way of telling it.  Also, to sweeten the pot, Michelle Williams' character gets pregnant within the first two or three dates, so marriage seems like the most reasonable thing to do.  However, later, after shoving divorce way off the table, the two start to realize they really don't get along and splitting up slowly becomes an option.  

    Both actors exceed even their great reputations, creating a relationship and a dichotomous world between loving and loathing each other that makes for an interesting, real-life case study.  The movie takes place between these two worlds, where the main characters, played by Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams, are young and in love, and 8-to-10 years later when the love runs dry.  Anyone who has been in a relationship that started hot and heavy at the beginning, then not too long after began to fizzle, can imagine what it would be like for these characters.  What two people can sacrifice for each other in the way of personal goals and dreams can end up compromising one or both involved, and that bitterness can start to shine through after a while.  This film explores this in a way similar to what Revolutionary Road or Eyes Wide Shut did, depicting love and marriage in a counter-culture sort of way.  Not all of Blue Valentine's moments are so beautiful--in fact, most are not--but the film has a beautiful kind of story to tell: that love must be in a marriage for the long-run, for the sake of everyone involved.  In a most clever way, Blue Valentine exposes this couple's relationship to see what it truly is, getting deeper and deeper into the meat of it.  Its morals and theme are somewhat under-discussed in film, and it is assuring that this may become a popular discussion.  No love is a Jennifer-Aniston- or Hugh-Grant-movie sort of love, and I'm willing to bet most people in relationships have felt more similar to the two characters in this film than most other romance or love stories.  Blue Valentine is one of my favorite films of the year, and is full of heart and heart-wrenching moments that will be some of the most memorable in film in 2010.


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Greenberg (on DVD)

written and directed by Noah Baumbach
[has written and directed: Margot At the Wedding (2007), The Squid and the Whale (2005), Kicking and Screaming (1995)]
[helped write: Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009), and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)]   

starring Ben Stiller, Greta Gerwig [pretty much unheard of], Rhys Ifans [The Lizard in the new Spider-Man movie], and Jennifer Jason Leigh [who supposedly helped come up with the story]
ENJOYMENT: ***1/2 (out of 5)
"More than just liked it but..." 

    I really enjoy Noah Baumbach films, but for some reason they never stick in my mind as being really important.  I understand he draws a lot of his material from personal experiences, and tries to capture the mundanity and confusion of life, but this sometimes translates to "mundane and confused" movie for me, as a viewer.  In Greenberg, Baumbach, with his soon to be ex-wife Jennifer Jason Leigh, created two characters that you may or may not want to know in real life.  In fact, Ben Stiller's character, Greenberg, may actually be someone you would want to run away from.  Greenberg would definitely serve as a novelty at a party for a minute, at least for those more cynically inclined, as he's filled with pessimistic jokes that could serve as entertainment; however, Baumbach focused an entire movie around him--that guy you would want to run away from.  Despite this, the film sets itself up for a possible interesting story, as Greenberg does serve as a sort of commentary for real life, which everyone may or may not relate with.  He's in his forties, unsuccessful, without any direction or many really friends, and goes to L.A. after being released from a mental hospital to house sit for his wealthy brother and just "take it easy for awhile."  

    At many points in the film, Greenberg is contrasted with his peers who aren't so devastated by life, showing how some people don't complicate the simple things more than they need to.  On the other hand, Greenberg, along with the equally confused Florence (played by Greta Gerwig), stumble their ways through the film as two dubious characters who eventually fall hard for each other.  Greenberg's only friend, Ivan (played by Rhys Ifans), tags along in a crucial supporting role, adding an element to this film that is very pertinent: what is a quality friend.  Greenberg (the movie) explores many other ideas that hit me hard, showing that life direction isn't so obvious, and there are gradients of success and purposeful living--not everyone wants to be rich and famous.  The philosophy in this film is extremely implicit, however, and relies on the patience of its audience to stew over its subtle ideologies.  Nonetheless, Greenberg (the movie) is very good, funny as hell at some points, and would be enjoyed by anyone who has ever felt lost in their journeys through life.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (on DVD)

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
co-written for the screen and directed by Edgar Wright
[filmography: Ant-Man (2014), Hot Fuzz (2007), Shaun of the Dead (2004)] 
also written for the screen by Michael Bacall [who is partially responsible for the 21 Jump Street movie in 2012, like it or not]
starring Michael Cera, Kieran Culkin, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Anna Kendrick, Alison Pill, Chris Evans, Brandon Routh, and Jason Schwartzman
ENJOYMENT: **** (out of 5)
"Really liked it" 

    Scott Pilgrim vs. the World did something with filmmaking that I have never seen before.  The line between a special-effects-created fantasy and boring-old reality do not exist.  The line between real actors acting and stuntmen doing cool stunt stuff does not exist.  Edgar Wright pushed the envelope as far as he possibly could with this one and created a world that I just wanted to hop into at some points.  The film almost created its own rules, kind of comparable to Speed Racer (2008)--the only difference though is Scott Pilgrim vs. the World was actually good.  The first hour or so of the film was immensely beautiful, being filmed in Toronto in the winter and having brilliant cinematography to help tell its story.  The characters were all brilliantly sculpted and portrayed by their respective actors, with Keiran Culkin serving as the obvious favorite of mine.  He kind of plays his Igby Goes Down character, just in more of a supporting (though not necessarily supportive) role.  Anyway, after the first hour, things get a little crazy and a lot gets crammed into the short remaining window of time.  I can honestly say that in that first hour, I was wondering where I would fit Scott Pilgrim vs. the World in my top five of 2010; however, as the film wore on, it will be lucky to make my top 10.  

    The film has many qualities that are so endearing, and one of the most obvious is Michael Cera.  For some reason, Michael Cera, who plays Scott Pilgrim, has caught the attention of the right people, though he's not on the screen for his sex appeal.  He is, succinctly put, a young comedian, like a great comedic actor of our time ever, holding the audience and making it believable some how when he scores the hottest girl in the movie.  Perhaps, in that sense, he's sort of a Woody Allen character--though I can't say he's like artist Woody Allen, because the artist Woody Allen has no equivalent.  Anyway, The girl, played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead, is Ramona Flowers, the catalyst for setting this film in the direction it goes in.  She and Scott fall for each other through a series of tactics Scott employs to capture her attention.  It's cute and exciting and you kind of want things to work out for them.  The film is filled with an ensemble cast, even at this point, and faces you have probably seen in other films, with Scott's roommate, his roommate's boyfriends, Scott's bandmates, and Scott's old girlfriend.  This ensemble element creates a lot of interesting scenes, as they're all great characters in the film.  However, the cute romantic teen comedy comes to curve in the road as Ramona brings her seven evil exes into the equation, who are out for blood and want to kill Scott if he intends on staying with Ramona.  This is where the film take a turn, morphing into a full out action flick--although it's still like no action flick that has ever been done.

    If you weren't already hooked by the time the film turns into a videogame-like fantasy caper, you may think it's the most ridiculous thing you have ever seen.  However, if you're like me and most people I know, you will be more than willing to make this transition and sit back to enjoy one of the coolest looking films of the year.  The special effects are seamless and of the highest quality, breaking the physics of real life and even previous films, comparable to something like The Matrix (1999), or, like I said earlier, Speed Racer (2008).  Some great cameos take place throughout the film too, capturing incredible performances by these previously-considered mediocre actors.  Now to think of it, the actors are what make this film so believable; they are so committed to their characters and supporting this fantasy world that you never think twice about its implausible nature.  All in all, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World was a big surprise and an incredibly entertaining and fantastic two hours.  I recommend this film to anyone who likes a good, fresh story, lovable characters, classy humor, and original filmmaking.

Unstoppable ($3 Theater--not the newest movie, but nonetheless worthwhile)

directed by Tony Scott
[filmography: Deja Vu (2006), Man On Fire (2004), Enemy of the State (1998), Crimson Tide (1995), True Romance (1993), Days of Thunder (1990), and Top Gun (1986), to name a few]
written by Mark Bomback
[filmography: Race to Witch Mountain (2009), Live Free or Die Hard (2007), and a couple other mediocre movies]
starring Denzel Washington, Chris Pine [Captain Kirk in Star Trek (2009)], Ethan Suplee, Kevin Dunn, and Rosario Dawson
ENJOYMENT: **** (out of 5)
"Really liked it" 

    Great action flick, not too over the top, and simple--very simple.  The two main characters exhibit qualities we've all seen before and can comprehend: misunderstood, young blue-collar meets black version of himself 30 years later.  They work as engineers--not the kind with college degrees, mind you, but train engineers.  They move freight around the country and get to know each other while another train a couple hundred miles away loses its engineer and starts barreling through towns at 75 miles per hour.  The catch: the runaway train is loaded with toxic chemical and headed toward areas that can't take turns at 75 mph.  The whole thing sounds perfect for a summer blockbuster lead by young new action star Chris Pine fresh off of Star Trek and veteran Denzel Washington, headed by Tony Scott whose film credits include Top Gun, but for this film, what's different is, it's based on a true story.  That part adds an element that makes it harder to scoff at, at least for me, and easier to get really into.  I started to really like the characters, especially Rosario Dawson, as the film cracked a few jokes and exploded and entertained for about two hours.  I really got into this movie, though it was no The Town (nothing really is). B for effort. 

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Golden Globe Noms

    Although I don't always agree with winners or nominations in certain categories at The Golden Globes, I still respect them.  They have honored some great talent in the past that the Oscars have missed, and they don't always seem to just pick the most popular.  However, this year the Best Picture - Musical/Comedy category is laughable:
  • Alice in Wonderland
  • Burlesque
  • The Kid Are All Right
  • Red
  • The Tourist  
    The only great, award-worthy movie in there is The Kids Are All Right.  And god I hope it wins, or else I will just chalk this category up to being nothing better or more respectable than the People's Choice Awards.  Seriously though, minus The Kids Are All Right and Red, the other three added together barely break a score of 100 on Rotten Tomatoes' critic compilation.  Alice in Wonderland was terrible!  I don't say that about a lot of movies, but I mean it for this.  Also, Johnny Depp did not need to be nominated twice for Best Actor, and Jake Gyllenhaal once, all for crappy roles.  Though, to be fair, I didn't see the The Tourist or Love and Other Drugs, and maybe they were impressive performances, what do I know?  I suppose I understand that movies are about mere entertainment value for some people, and not all people are into what I consider great.  But the thing that irks me here is that there were other amazing comedies this year that were left out, and great actors in these comedies.  Films like I Love You Phillip Morris, Another Year, Greenberg, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, or even Jackass 3D.  I Love You Phillip Morris was Jim Carrey's best performance, comedic or otherwise, in my opinion, and Jim Broadbent, Ben Stiller and Michael Cera were pretty great also.  One last note: The Tourist was intended to be a romantic thriller--maybe that was what the Hollywood Foreign Press thought was so funny.

So these are who and what I think will win:

It will be The Social Network's year.  Maybe not for Jesse Eisenberg's performance, though it was amazing, but I think the movie will win most categories it's nominated in.

  • Best Motion Picture - Drama:  The Social Network
  • Best Motion Picture - Musical/Comedy:  The Kids Are All Right (which is worthy of being called "best picture," I have to say.)
  • Best Actor - Drama:  Colin Firth for The King's Speech
  • Best Actress - Drama:  Natalie Portman for Black Swan
  • Best Actor - Comedy:  Though I don't personally think so, Johnny Depp for Alice in Wonderland
  • Best Actress - Comedy:  Annette Bening for The Kids Are All Right
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Christian Bale for The Fighter
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Amy Adams for The Fighter
  • Best Director:  David Fincher for The Social Network
  • Best Screenplay:  Aaron Sorkin for The Social Network
  • Best Animated Film:  Toy Story 3
  • Best Foreign Language Film:  I Am Love

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Fighter

directed by David O. Russell
[filmography: I Heart Huckabees (2004), Three Kings (1999), and Flirting with Disaster (1996)] 
written by Scott Silver [8 Mile (2002), and The Mod Squad (1999)], Paul Tamasy [creator of Santa Buddies and Air Bud], and Eric Johnson [screenwriting debut]
starring Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adam [Julie and Julia (2009), Doubt (2008), Enchanted (2007), Junebug (2005), and Catch Me If You Can (2002)], Jack McGee, and Melissa Leo [Frozen River (2008)]
ENJOYMENT: ***** (out of 5)
"Loved it"

    The Fighter is currently my second favorite film of 2010, after Rabbit Hole, and I really can't recommend it enough to people.  This film is great because, unlike Rabbit Hole, I believe The Fighter has a much larger audience.  And I love when great, great, great movies are made for large audiences. It doesn't mean that everyone will see it, but I believe most people who do see it will at least appreciate the story and be entertained and wowed throughout.  Not to say I didn't have some mixed feelings about it though--not all of it was easy to watch.  In fact, there was a time during the film where I decided I didn't like it, but that slowly faded and the last hour or so flew by without another thought like that. 

   This film had so many qualities that were great and have made it memorable, but the number one thing is that it defied its genre.  We've all seen about dozen boxing films, even though I personally have never seen a real-life boxing match.  Some of us may even feel that boxing films are over, and you may have secretly vowed never to see another one again (though there are a bunch of great ones).  But The Fighter is different.  It's a lot more closely related to Raging Bull than Rocky or Million Dollar Baby, as it's extremely unsmiling at parts, and focuses more on the man outside of the ring.  But The Fighter is even more than just about the man, it's about the family and girl who are part of the man.  In fact, in the early scenes of the film it's hard to tell that Mark Wahlberg's character is the main character.  He's never alone and barely does the talking.  But this is all about the set up.  As the film goes on, there is a lot of character development: you get to know all the characters, up close and personal.  The great big scene at the end is my favorite of the year, and one of the best scenes like it that have ever been made.  I can say so much about this movie, how it touched me emotionally, how it entertained me, inspired me, and made me sad. I have quite an emotional attachment after going through so much will all of those characters.

   Director, David O. Russell, really understood his characters and the mission of the film, and didn't relent getting the best performances out of his actors. Russell definitely solidified his career and will get a nomination this year.  Even though he yells and throws things at his actors (at least he did on I Heart Huckabees (2004), he is noticeably amazing behind the camera--not everyone could make this film as great as it is.  It has tons of style and heart, and nothing else comes too close to touching it in 2010 in that department.  Christian Bale will win Best Supporting Actor at the Oscars this year--for sure, for sure.  He lost all his muscle and tons of weight for this role--like he did for The Machinist (2004), but not quite as drastic--after being The Dark Knight, with another Batman on the way.  However, it wasn't just a physical transformations for Bale; I know people who saw this film and honestly didn't know it was Christian Bale--he became engulfed in his character.  Amy Adams and Melissa Leo are also at the their absolute bests in this film.  This is saying a lot for Adams, as she is one of my favorite actresses alive, and really showed a different side of her acting range as the hard, short-tempered bartender that she was. The Fighter is a must see this year, and I assure you will see a ton of nominations and wins for it at this year's Oscars.

 AWARD PREDICTIONS:  The film will get nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Editing at the Academy Awards.  Christian Bale will win Best Supporting Actor, and I believe Amy Adams will win Best Supporting Actress. Melissa Leo will get nominated for Best Supporting Actress. Probably nothing for Marky Mark, however.  As for the Golden Globes, I don't care.  The Globes nominated Alice in Wonderland and The Tourist for Best Picture; I'm done with them.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Ghost Writer (on DVD)

 The Ghost Writer (2010)
directed by Roman Polanski
[filmography: Oliver Twist (2004), The Pianist (2002), The Ninth Gate (1999), Chinatown (1974), Rosemary's Baby (1968)]
written for the screen by Robert Harris [who also wrote book, The Ghost, which the film is based on] and Roman Polanski  
  starring Ewan McGregor, Pierce Brosnan, Kim Cattrall, Tom Wilkinson, and Olivia Williams
ENJOYMENT: **1/2 (out of 5)
"Didn't like it so much, but on the fence"

   I was excited to see this film for obvious reasons: Roman Polanski, Ewan McGregor, and the great reviews.  However, I waited for it to be released on DVD, as there were no award shows coming up and I wasn't quite convinced enough to spend 10 bucks.  So, I ordered The Ghost Writer on Netflix as soon as it came available and watch it to some delight.  Here is what I thought. In a nut-shell, I thought it was average, which was a bit disappointing.  However, critics liked it, so if you are at all interested, just see it--it wasn't terrible or anything.  

-The cinematography was absolutely gorgeous, encapsulating the gloomy and mysterious feel of the movie's plot.  
-The opening scenes set the film up for what I thought could be a Da Vinci Code-esque (book, not the movie) or Shutter Island type mystery, which roused great interest in me.  The movie opened with a set of peculiar circumstances, and continued for about a half an hour setting a scene that could quite possibly make for an interesting and surprising mystery.
-Ewan McGregor and Pierce Brosnan were great, though not spectacular or anything, and Kim Cattrall was wonderful in a serious role.
-I enjoy mysteries--Silence of the Lambs, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Witness for the Prosecution, The Usual Suspects, etc.--so I got really excited to see what would happen in this movie, considering the specific circumstances.

-I kind of enjoyed the real-life parallels with current events, like a nation's leader being accused of war crimes and illegal interrogation techniques and treatment of terror suspects.  However, this also contributed to making the film feel trite and only served as a novelty at first.

-The number one thing that I didn't like about this film was that it was trite.  I went in expecting a kind of film I'd never seen before, or that I hadn't seen for a long time, but it turned out being just like Inside Man (2006), or something else that had a lot of build up but little pay off. Nothing that I wanted to happen happened, and the things that did turned out to be disappointing.
-Olivia Williams (An Education (2009), and The Sixth Sense (1999)), who played the Prime Minister, Pierce Brosnan's, wife, was horribly miscasted. She was a suspicious character from the start, a bit awkward, and there was nothing likable or sexy about her.  She was the number two thing I didn't like about this movie.
-The ending was... well, I don't much more than I already have so I'll leave it at this.  The ending was a let down.
-Well, come to think about it, everything leading up to the ending was a let down too.  In fact this movie was one big let down.  Other than the few aforementioned pros.

AWARD PREDICTIONS: Best Cinematography at the Oscars, and nothing else :-)

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Exit Through the Gift Shop (on DVD)

 Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010)
directed by Banksy
[Well-known British street artist who keeps his real identity under wraps--even more undercover than the Wachowski Siblings 
filmography: no previous films]
  starring Banksy, Thierry Guetta, Shepard Fairey and Space Invader
 [all street artists]
ENJOYMENT: ***** (out of 5)
"Loved it"
    I had never heard of this film until a friend recommended it to me recently.  It's available now on Netflix instant view and it's less than 90 minutes long, so I jumped all over it.  To my astonishment, this was a brilliant and fascinating documentary.  If I told you what it was about, you might not be interested in it immediately.  However, the way that it's presented is like a piece of art, introducing the reason for the film and then taking interesting tangents that help to set the scene for its concluding chapter and main point for existing. I was literally floored by how interesting this documentary was, as I usually find documentaries dull and one-sided propaganda.  This film, however, introduces the culture of street art and focuses on the major players in this scene without trying to make a moral statement, like most of documentaries try to do.  Instead, this film's statement deals more with philosophical questions, like, "what is art," and, "what is good art?"  The film shows that street art, or glorified graffiti, has the same components and emotions tied to it as more conventional art.  The main difference, as this film points out, is the lifespan of street art. That, and the fact that most street art is illegal.  These two qualifiers is what makes street art especially interesting, and in Exit Through the Gift Shop we are offered a look into both the art and the artists behind the art. 
    Most of this documentary is filmed on a handheld camera, over many years in the life of the central character in the story, Thierry Guetta.  In this documentary, Thierry films everything that happens in his day-to-day life.  He's obsessed with filming.  One day he gets interested in his cousin, Space Invader's, art, which involves gluing animated Space Invader characters around Los Angeles.  Thierry follows Space Invader around for awhile, then meets other people, or artists, who do the same sorts of things.  Some artists paint murals on the side of walls or buildings, and others plaster humongous illustrations that they printed out at Kinko's.  Thierry captures all of this on film, and it becomes his new obsession.  Throughout the documentary, Thierry meets different artists and follows them doing different sorts of things, until he meets the street artists at the top, Banksy (the director of this film).  Banksy is the best in business, and Thierry learns much from him and their adventures.  The film then takes a twist that really surprised me, focusing again on Thierry and what becomes the object of his next obsession.  This gives rise to a bunch of interesting philosophical problems, and keeps you on an adventure through different kinds of mediums in art, and then becomes more broad and all-encompassing. All in all, you'll be flabbergasted and wondering about thoughts you might have held somewhat dearly, all while being enormously entertained throughout.

   Exit Through the Gift Shop is one of the best documentaries I have ever seen.  Like a good documentary should, I walked away with a different way of looking at life and art.  However, what made this film extraordinary is that it did not tell me what to think; it showed me things and I got to deduce an opinion for myself.  I loved this movie so much, I watched it again a couple days later with a friend and still thoroughly enjoyed it.  Exit Through the Gift Shop is a living, breathing piece of art, not just a documentary about art, but something incredibly beautiful in itself.  I could not recommend this higher!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Black Swan

 Black Swan (2010)
directed by Darren Aronofsky 
[filmography: The Wrestler (2008), The Fountain (2006), Requiem for a Dream (2000), and Pi (1998)]
 written by Andres Heinz, Mark Heyman, and John McLaughlin 
[filmography: Heyman and McLaughlin cowrote Man of the House (2005) with Tommy Lee Jones, which nobody saw]
story by Andres Heinz
[filmography: Black Swan is Heinz' film writing debut, though the NYU and UCLA film school grad will likely have much more to come soon enough]
 starring Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel, Winona Ryder, and Barbara Hershey

ENJOYMENT: ***** (out of 5)
"Loved it"
    Black Swan was a longtime coming, in my mind.  After Pi and Requiem for a Dream, Aronofsky established himself as an ambitious new surreal filmmaker, kind of in the vain of David Lynch and David Cronenberg.  But, though The Fountain was pretty surreal (it wasn't that good, and definitely not minimalistic), it wasn't until now, with Black Swan, that Aronofsky revisited his roots that made him stand apart in the first place.  Though he didn't write any part of this film--and he usually does--, he treated this as if it was his baby, and it will probably be forgotten that he didn't write it even among avid Aronofsky fans.  Nonetheless, the director, the visionary writers, and the loopy Natalie Portman and supporting actors made for a great psychological horror movie that explores deep and ugly human emotions in a visionary way that will never be forgotten.

-Natalie Portman's performance: she is finally utilized to her full ability and will most likely win the Academy Award for Best Actress for her efforts
-The style and vision of this film and how it expressed deep emotions in its imagery and music
-Its supporting actresses, Mila Kunis, Winona Ryder, and Barbara Hershey.  Though the film focuses mainly on Portman's character, I still couldn't pick out the craziest one of them all--they're all insane and insanely entertaining!
-The originality of the character study--a kind of beauty-pageant crazy, full of highly competitive people with often low self-esteem, with a deeper and more artistic approach, being that it's ballet dancers instead of beauty queens
-The justice of its dance scenes and music sequences expressing the beauty at the root of ballet, while balancing it was equal amounts of horror 
-The psychological and incomprehensible quality that is rare in films, really making us crazy and all wondering what really happened 
-The fact that after weeks since I saw it, I have nothing but incredible things to say

-When I walked out of the theater I didn't know what to think, and thought I didn't like it that much. It wasn't until a little while later that it all sank in, and now that I'm reflecting so much on it I realize how magnificent it truly was.
-Nothing else except that it may not be for the faint of heart and people with an opposition to graphic lesbian sex scenes

AWARD PREDICTIONS: Definitely Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Best Actress Natalie Portman, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Editing, Best Makeup, Best Costume Design, and Best Cinematography.  Probably nomination for Best Supporting Actress Mila Kunis and possibly also for Barbara Hershey.  I believe Natalie Portman will win, along with the writers taking home the in-my-mind coveted Best Original Screenplay Oscar.

127 Hours

 127 Hours (2010)
 written for the screen by Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy
[filmography: Slumdog Millionaire]
 directed by Danny Boyle
[filmography: Slumdog Millionaire, Sunshine, Millions, 28 Days Later..., The Beach, Trainspotting, and Shallow Grave]
starring James Franco
ENJOYMENT: **** (out of 5)
"Really like it"

-Amazing style on part of Danny Boyle and cinematographers Anthony Dod Mantle (Antichrist, Slumdog Millionaire, Millions, Dogville, 28 Days Later...) and Enrique Chediak (28 Weeks Later..., The Faculty).
-Brought me back to Boyle's old days of lucid daydreaming scenes, surreal visuals, and interesting chronology, with a mastery that gets better each film
-Incredible performance on part of James Franco, especially the last third of the film
-Great philosophy in a couple scenes that is applicable to more than that character in the film but to everyone's lives, urging us to be better to people
-As interesting as possible considering the subject matter, never boring its audience somehow

-Despite its inspiring nature, it's a simple story that is somewhat limited in scope.
-Though Franco's performance is marvelous, somewhere in my head he is still categorized under "B actor", and that made it a little less memorable in the long run.   

AWARD PREDICTIONS: 127 Hours will receive a nomination for Best Picture, Best Actor James Franco, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, and Best Editing at the Academy Awards. Maybe Best Director.  No wins.

I Love You Phillip Morris

 written for the screen and directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa
[directorial debut, but writing filmography: Bad News Bears (2005), Bad Santa, Cats and Dogs]
starring Jim Carrey, Ewan McGregor and Leslie Mann
ENJOYMENT: ***** (out of 5)
"Loved it"
    I only saw this movie because I was waiting for Corey to be able to see The Fighter and Portland is a little behind on movie releases, so this was the only movie at the theater that sounded good.  I was originally very excited to see this film just from the plot description, the R rating, Jim Carrey, and it being the writers of Bad Santa's first directorial effort.  Then I saw the trailer, saw the reviews, and thought maybe it was different than I thought it would be.  But, alas, this film was incredibly hilarious, magnificently raunchy, very graphic, and extremely well-made.  I'd say it's Bad Santa meets Catch Me If You Can.  Jim Carrey is at his absolute best, not afraid of anything about this role and reminding us of his myriad of acting ranges.  Also, no one understands the humor in this film better than Carrey, bringing us back to the days of Ace Ventura, Dumb and Dumber, and even Me, Myself, and Irene.  Ewan McGregor also attacks this role unabashedly, playing Jim Carrey's lover Phillip Morris (not the Philip Morris of the cigarette empire).  
   All in all, I couldn't recommend I Love You Phillip Morris more highly to those of you with a bit of a twisted sense of humor with no aversion to seeing gay characters be promiscuous and wild.  On the other hand, those of you who are a bit uptight, be prepared for some "wild" you haven't seen in films yet.  Jim Carrey plays a loving father and husband to a devout Christian Texan woman, Leslie Mann, who decides to stop living a lie, move to South Beach, and become a conman.  The cons, the chases, the jokes, and the many incarnations of Carrey's devlish and sneaky character are wonderful, on par with his range in Man on the Moon, and the excitement of Catch Me If You Can.  I laughed super hard the whole way through this film--though the guy next to me wasn't laughing, I thought maybe he was cracking up on the inside.  The story is spectacular and impressive and needed to be told, for how men can do these sorts of amazing (yet illegal) things is beyond me.  
    The film had a modest budget, $13 million, though you would never know it--Carrey and McGregor must have worked for peanuts.  I think Carrey should have gotten a Golden Globe for this role, though no nominations have been named for this film yet.  UPDATE: The Writer's Guild of America (WGA) nominated I Love You Phillip Morris for Best Adapted Screenplay!
-Big laughs all the way though
-Incredible entertainment with lots of action and twists and turns.
-Superb acting on part of Carrey especially, with a great performance from McGregor
-Dealt with taboo subject not too often seen in films, and though not always with grace and tact, it was still refreshing to see even a perverse gay love story
-Great production, all in all--the whole story is there in all its glory

-The title will turn a lot of people off from seeing this film.  (I thought it was about the tobacco tycoon, Philip Morris, and he was really gay and spent time in jail and dated a conman.)

AWARD PREDICTIONS: Nothing.  Though it should get Carrey a Best Actor Oscar nomination, his first in his life, and a Best Adapted Screenplay nom.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Rosemary's Baby (on DVD)

written for the screen and directed by Roman Polanski
[filmography: The Ghost Writer (2010), Oliver Twist (2004), The Pianist (2002), The Ninth Gate (1999), Chinatown (1974),] 

starring Mia Farrow, John Cassavetes, and Ruth Gordon
ENJOYMENT: ***** (out of 5)
"Loved it"

The King's Speech

directed by Tom Hooper
[filmography: John Adams (TV miniseries 2008), Elizabeth I (TV miniseries 2005)]
written by David Seidler
[filmography: nothing notable that I know of]
starring Colin Firth, Helena Bonham Carter, Guy Pearce, and Geoffrey Rush
ENJOYMENT: **** (out of 5)
"Really liked it" 
    So this may be the best film of the year, depending on who you talk to.  In fact, it would not surprise me much if The King's Speech took home the Oscar and/or the Golden Globe for Best Picture, and I would not be surprised if a few of the main actors and filmmakers took home statues also.  This film was nearly perfect; beautiful and inspiring, with brilliant acting, extremely memorable characters, and great writing.  The film was not made to relish the royal family's glory, or to defame its majesty.  No, The King's Speech was made to merely illustrate the story of a man who worked through a debilitating handicap with perseverance and support from those who believed in him.  This film was more of a kind of Billy Elliot story than biopic like W., and a great story at that.  The King's Speech isn't my personal favorite this year, and may only barely make my top five, but I do respect it as "one of those movies" that is great on many different levels. 
    One of the things about the King's Speech that makes it great, first and foremost, is the lead trio, Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham Carter.  Colin Firth, from A Single Man, is one of my most beloved actors right now, and I will follow him for at least a couple years to see more of what he's capable of.  Now I know better than ever that he plays a powerful leading role extremely well, passing for a king without a second thought.  Geoffrey Rush is also perfect in his role as the king's eccentric speech therapist, humble yet extremely bold.  Rush's jubilant character adds a certain lightheartedness to the dark subject matter of a king who has a speech handicap at a time of uncertainty for his nation, as well to the somewhat somber King George VI.  The audience and I laughed many times during this film, especially during times when the seemingly-incompatible lead characters exchanged their argumentative dialogues. Though through their friendship that builds throughout this film, along with the support of their wives (Helena Bonham Carter and Jennifer Ehle), emerges an inspiring film of perseverance and faith.

AWARD PREDICTIONS: The King's Speech will definitely get a Best Picture nomination at the Academy Awards, nominations for Best Actor Colin Firth, Best Supporting Actor Geoffrey Rush, and Best Supporting Actress Helena Bonham Carter. Tom Hooper will get a Best Director Nomination, and David Seidler will get a Best Original Screenplay Nomination.