Friday, December 31, 2010

The Best of 2010

Without much ado, here are my choices for the ten best films of 2010

1) The Social Network
2) Black Swan
3) The Killer Inside Me
4) Shutter Island
5) I Am Love
6) Hadewijch
7) Blue Valentine
8) Winter's Bone
9) Enter The Void
10) Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

and since any self-respecting Top 10 list needs a second half

11) White Material
12) Carlos
13) The Temptation of St. Tony
14) Never Let Me Go
15) Dogtooth
16) The American
17) Easy A
18) Life During Wartime
19) Tiny Furniture
20) Machete

I suppose if one wants to keep going and tack on some obligatory runners-up, one would be so inclined to include (in no particular order) Fish Tank; Animal Kingdom; Catfish; Making Plans for Lena; North Face; Bluebeard; Mid-August Lunch; Splice; Vincere; True Grit; The Runaways; Wild Grass; The Fighter; I'm Still Here; Inception; The Kids Are All Right; Howl; Heartbreakers; Piranha; Amer; The Other Guys; Lourdes; Jack Goes Boating; Ondine; Greenberg & City Island.

To add some other cinematic things of note (both good and bad):

Three films that ended up being better than expected, but still not so good as to reach the above runners-up spot (again, in nor particular order): Love & Other Drugs; Let Me In & Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.

A few films that I expected a lot more out of than what I got - these are not necessarily bad films (some are actually rather good) but still a lot less that what they should have or could have or would have been otherwise, which is why I am subtitling this the coulda, shoulda, woulda category (and again, no particular order): Solitary Man; Please Give; The Town; Get Low; All Good Things; Kick-Ass; A Woman, a Gun & a Noodle Shop; Survival of the Dead; the French double feature of Mesrine: Killer Instinct and Mesrine: Public Enemy #1 and the Millennium trilogy of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played With Fire & The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest.

The "what's all the hubbub, bub?" category: In no way did I find Roman Polanski's The Ghost Writer to be a bad film (I quite enjoyed some of it and completely loved the ending) but I still do not get pretty much every other critic's rabid love for it.  I would say it is better than average, with a few moments of cinematic intensity, and leave it at that.  Then again, who am I to complain, it could be Macgruber all the hubbub is about.

The five best performances of the year belong to Casey Affleck in The Killer Inside Me; Tilda Swinton in I Am Love; Julie Sokolowski in Hadewijch and Michelle Williams & Ryan Gosling in Blue Valentine.

Other well-deserved acting accolades go to Isabelle Huppert in White Material; Edgar Ramirez in Carlos; Christian Bale in The Fighter; Jesse Eisenberg in The Social Network; George Clooney in The American; Melissa Leo in The Fighter; Andrew Garfield in Never Let Me Go; Natalie Portman & Barbara Hershey in Black Swan; Carey Mulligan in Never Let Me Go; Emma Stone in Easy A and Jennifer Lawrence, John Hawkes & Dale Dickey in Winter's Bone.

As for the worst of the year, unlike past years where I tried to see enough obvious bad movies to fill up a proper Worst 10 list, I successfully avoided most of the rabble from the year.  Still, I did see some pretty awful films in 2010.  Some of these are the obvious films like Macgruber, Clash of the Titans & Robin Hood, but the worst three (by some pretty substantial margin) are The Wolfman, Alice in Wonderland and the remarkably, but inevitably terrible M. Night Shambalambadingdong's The Last Airbender.

To end on a high note, two films that I first saw at the New York Film Festival, Abbas Kiarostami's Certified Copy and Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, will be getting proper US releases in Spring 2011, and therefore will become early frontrunners for the Best of 2011 (since I loved them both - and what a day that was to see them back-to-back as I did).  I will be back in a few days with my "Most Anticipated Films of 2011" list to see what possible compatriots those two films could have on said Best of 2011 list.

Editor's (final) note: Since I have not yet had the opportunity to see either Mike Leigh's Another Year or Sofia Coppola's  Somewhere (I did not take my annual late December trip to NYC to catch up on all those releases that usually trickle out wider after the new year) I reserve the right to alter this list after I do finally see these two films (Jan. 15th-ish it looks like).  Actually I will not alter the list so much as tack on an addendum, but whatever the case, I hereby reserve the right to do so.

Here is yet another take on the Best of 2010: My column for a local alt called The Burg (this is a copy of said column on my website, The Cinematheque, to see the actual column you would have to pick up a January 2011 copy of the actual paper).  This is a somewhat outdated Best of list, since I had a deadline of Dec. 15, and had yet to see several films that would eventually make my list above.

Happy New Year..... 

*01/17 Addendum (re: Sofia Coppola's Somewhere):  I said above, that I reserved the right to include Somewhere on this list when the time finally came to see the film (which was yesterday).  I suppose in the end though, I enjoyed the film well enough, but only well enough to include it in my runners-up category.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Cinematheque Reviews:
Animal Kingdom

This Aussie movie got a US release way back in August, but I am only just now getting around to it, having flown below my radar until now (and even now, my interest is mainly due to all the Oscar buzz surrounding Jacki Weaver's performance in the film).  Perhaps I shouldn't have waited but this movie ended up being well worth that wait.  A Scorsese-driven family crime drama that not only gives us Weaver's bravura performance (this ain't your grandma's grandma!) but a slew of chilling performances surrounding the possible Best Supporting Actress Oscar winner - or at least nominee.

The Cinematheque Reviews:
True Grit

I don't want to call the Coen Brothers' remake of True Grit a disappointment, for that would make one think I did not like it - and I most certainly did.  Yet, when one thinks of the high level of anticipation that comes with such a film as this, and then having said film not live up to that (perhaps) unfair expectation, one surely must come to grips with using the term disappointed, no matter how misleading such a term may end up being.  Let us just say that the new True Grit did not live up to what this critic was hoping it would be, but it still ended up being a rather good film in this very same critic's eyes.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas To All

Preparing now to go to sleep with the images of sugar plum fai...okay, I'm just going to go to sleep, and then tomorrow (Xmas Eve) the lovely wife and I will prepare for our annual Christmas Eve Bash - Swedish meatballs. shrimp, mac & cheese and lots more galore.  Until then, no new reviews - though after the weekend, reviews of The Fighter, True Grit, The Temptation of St. Tony, Hadewijch, Blue Valentine & (keeping in the Holiday mood) Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale - but here is an anticipatory look at our (very soon) upcoming Xmas Eve Bash.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Top Ten Reasons Why White Christmas is the Best Freakin' Christmas Movie Ever Made

10) Danny Kaye making a snowy diorama with found items on the club car table as he and the others sing "Snow Snow Snow Snow".

9) Vera-Ellen's miniature waistline that makes her seem like one of the influences for Tim Burton's creepy Mars Attacks! alien women.

8) Mary Wickes blatant audacity at not even hiding the fact that she is opening people's mail and listening in on other people's phone calls.

7) The apparent squad of taxi's waiting in line behind the Florida Club to pick up any passengers that happen to crawl out the dressing room windows.

6) Danny Kaye's bright yellow socks.

5) Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye unable to keep straight faces while doing a semi-drag version of Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen's "Sisters" number. 

4) Rosemary Clooney's ultra-sexy rendition of "Love, You Didn't Do Right By Me." 

3) The strategically placed horse and carriage that gallops by as they open the hotel doors to show everyone the titular white Christmas outside.

2) The overtly sentimental finale that not only brings a tear to my overtly sentimental-minded eye, but also hearkens back to the opening scenes, set during WWII, that make war seem like so much fun.

And the number one reason why White Christmas is the best freakin' Christmas movie ever made:

Bing Freakin' Crosby singing that freakin' title song written by Irving Freakin' Berlin, not once, but twice in the freakin' movie.

 Merry Freakin' X-Mas.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Film Poll #7: The Results

You were asked to name your favourite Bogie & Bacall film and without much surprise, it was a two-way race, with To Have and Have Not barely sneaking out a victory over The Big Sleep.  Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Dark Passage and Key Largo went completely voteless - again, not much of a surprise.

Anyway, the final tally was as below.

To Have and Have Not - 8 votes (53%)
The Big Sleep - 7 votes (46%)
Dark Passage - 0 votes (0%)
Key Largo - 0 votes (0%)

The remaining 1% is lost somewhere in the mathematical netherworld.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Cinematheque Reviews:
All Good Things

As much as I am impressed with Blue Valentine with Ryan Gosling (and Michelle Williams) that is how disappointed I am with All Good Things with Ryan Gosling (and Kirsten Dunst).  It has nothing whatsoever to do with the very talented Mr. Gosling (an actor one could claim to be the greatest of his generation and it would not seem cheap or cliche'd at all) nor does it have anything to do with Mr. Gosling's respective costars (both very talented as well, though I do definitely prefer one over the other in a rather coyly large way), instead with the way each movie is made.  All Good Things is not a bad movie in any way, but it does indeed have its glaring flaws.  Anyway, my review of All Good Things is up and running over at The Cinematheque (my review of the aforementioned Blue Valentine will have to wait until closer to its release date of Dec. 31st to see the light of day - radio silence until then).

The Cinematheque Reviews: Conviction

I had to wait until this particular movie had already left the cinema my lovely wife and I run together, in order to post this review.  I don't know how much sway I have as a critic, but I am pretty sure (mostly) panning a movie one is trying to make money off of is not the most business-savvy way of doing things.  So here it is, two days after its last show.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Best of 2010 (Well, Almost).....

Tonight I must form some sort of semi-coherent 600 word article on what I think are the best films of 2010 and cyber it along to the editors of the local alt-monthly I write a column for, The Burg.  The thing is though, I have yet to see all the films I should have sen in order to produce an accurate, semi-coherent 600 word article on what I think the best films of 2010 were/are.  As of tonight, I still have a gaping hole big enough to fit True Grit, Somewhere and Another Year into (not to mention The Fighter, Rabbit Hole and The King's Speech, but I don't honestly see those making it into my eventual Best of list).  In fact, as of tonight I only have nine films that fit into my Best of 2010 list - with a few possibilities that could fill that final hole, such as White Material, Never Let Me Go or Carlos (who instead will be sent to the runners-up department - or an extended Top 20 if you will).  But alas, deadlines is deadlines.  I will at some time or another (probably right around January 1st) post my "real" Best of 2010 list both here (in mostly commentary-less list form) and over at The Cinematheque (in much more typically wordy fashion - as I do every year).  As to tonight, I suppose a Top 9 will suffice for The Burg.  With that I leave you with a teaser of the list to come (aka, one of the nine).

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Wonderful, Horrible Fun of Myra Breckinridge, in 847 Words or Less

Gore Vidal, on whose novel the film was based, publicly disowned the film, calling it the second worst film he had ever seen (you'll have to ask Mr. Vidal what the worst was).  It killed the career of its whack-job director, Michael Sarne, who would never work in Hollywood again.  It pretty much put the kibosh on the budding career of sex goddess Raquel Welch, slowing her meteoric rise to a mere trickle afterward (though, to be honest, her relative inability to act may have had a certain amount of cause and effect in such matters).  Film Critic Rex Reed, who makes his acting debut in the film (and ironically gives probably the closest thing this movie has to a good performance), wrote in Playboy magazine, that the film was so bad, it would probably never open (it did).  

Former child star and then-current US ambassador Shirley Temple Black, got her white house buddy Tricky Dick to demand the archival footage of her being squirted in the face while milking a cow (from a scene from Heidi) which was interspersed with a rape scene, be taken out of all prints immediately (which it was, though we do see and hear Ms. Temple in another, non-rape, section).  Loretta Young then, without the help of President Nixon, successfully sued 20th Century Fox for using images of her in that same infamous scene.  Seventy-six year old Mae West, who hadn't been in front of the cameras for nearly twenty-seven years, and acting as the diva bitch from Hell (Welch would get the brunt of such behaviour), made herself look pathetic and kinda creepy as a septuagenarian sexual deviant in her obvious long blonde wig and typical double entendres to all the young bucks within ear reach (including a very young Tom Selleck).  And to top this all off, Time Magazine opened their scathing review of the film with the line "Myra Breckinridge is about as funny as a child molester."

Now though this film is truly atrocious, easily deserving many of those aforementioned "accolades",  and is, from a cinematic standpoint, a train wreck from beginning to end, there is indeed another side to the film version of Myra Breckinridge.  A side that is a cheap and giddy delight for anyone with such cheap and giddy tendencies - which, admit it or not, we have at least a little bit of such inside us all.  A film that seemingly emulates Robert Altman's style, though in a much more amateurish manner (though considering Myra Breckinridge was being made at about the same time as Altman's breakthrough film M*A*S*H, this is either mere coincidence or just a sign of the filmmaking times) this quite infamous work (on many a worst movies of all-time list) is filled with fun moments that if strung together would make for a fine film - only, for some reason it never does.

As far as these so-called moments go, I am not sure which is my favourite.  Could it be the opening, pre-title sequence where Rex Reed is about to get his manhood severed by a mad-looking doctor played by John Carradine of all people?  Could it be that same Rex Reed, later on in the film, pawing at his chest and screaming "Where are my tits!?  Where are my tits!?" (a scene Reed had to be bullied into doing by being told they would cut away from Reed and a voice impersonator would just do the line for him in post production)?  Could it be Raquel Welch strapping on her own manhood and raping the naive young buck she has tied to an examining table, while dressed as some sort of cross between Wonder Woman and a cowgirl stripper (even without the aforementioned Shirley Temple scene)?  Could it be bellowing John Huston, strutting around in silly, jingle-jangling singing cowboy gear, complete with ridiculously over-sized twenty-five and a half gallon hat?  Could it be the male-centric joy of seeing Raquel Welch in bed with a young Farrah Fawcett?  But wait, there's one that tops 'em all.

Perhaps my favourite part of this ridiculous film is watching the sad and quite pathetic seventy-six year old Mae West, mostly blind from cataracts, and having to be led to the stage, and dressed in a slinky, skin-tight sequined gown complete with long flowing flaxen blonde wig, a chorus line of tuxedo'd black men dancing a la Pips style behind her, belt out a horrendous version of Otis Redding's "Hard to Handle" (a supposed prerequisite in Ms. West's contract was the demand to perform at least one song).  That one takes the proverbial cake for sure.  Whatever the case, and however bad this film may be, with no one wanting to take credit for any part of it (disavowed by pretty much everyone in a dvd special feature doc, from Vidal to Welch to Rex Reed to studio head Darryl 'Freakin' Zanuck!) there is still much to love in Myra Breckinridge.  Anyway, any film wherein Rex Reed screams "Where are my tits!?  Where are my Tits!?" is just alright with me.  Indeed.

Monday, December 13, 2010

NYFCC (& the future of such things)

The New York Film Critics Circle Awards

And The Social Network keeps on going and going and going.

Picture The Social Network
David Fincher for The Social Network
Annette Bening for The Kids Are All Right
Colin Firth for The King's Speech
Supporting Actress
Melissa Leo for The Fighter
Supporting Actor
Mark Ruffalo for The Kids Are All Right
Lisa Cholodenko & Stuart Blumberg for The Kids Are All Right
Matthew Libatique for Black Swan
Animated Film
Sylvain Chomet's The Illusionist
Inside Job
Foreign Film
First Feature
David Michôd's Animal Kingdom

So enough of this awards hoopla.  I get obsessed with it each and every year and tend to ignore all other things, so enough damn you (me) - enough!!  I will post the Golden Globe nominations when they are announced tomorrow (or the next day - whenever it is) and that will be it on the subject until I make my Oscar Nomination Predictions in the days right before they are announced.  Until then more reviews of newer films (Animal Kingdom, Conviction, The Fighter, All Good Things & True Grit coming soon) and various bloggish things about some older films as well.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Boston & NY Online Critics Chime In

The Boston Film Critics and the New York Critics Online have announced their yearly awards and it looks pretty clear that The Social Network has quickly become THE film to beat for the Best Picture Oscar (taking top honors from the NBR and LA critics recently as well). Natalie Portman in Black Swan and Christian Bale in The Fighter are also beginning to take a frontrunner stance in the Best Actress and Best Supporting Actor races respectively.  Other frontrunners beginning to take shape are Jacki Weaver for Supporting Actress for her role in Animal Kingdom (though she didn't take the two awards below, she has won the LA and NBR awards earlier), Aaron Sorkin for his The Social Network Screenplay (it would be considered Adapted Screenplay in the Oscars eyes, as they give two awards for adapted and Original), Toy Story 3 for Animated Picture and Black Swan's cinematography for Matthew Libatique.  The NY critics announce their winners tomorrow and the Golden Globes will reveal their nominees the day after that.

The Social Network
David Fincher, The Social Network
Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network
Natalie Portman, Black Swan
Supporting Actor
Christian Bale, The Fighter
Supporting Actress
Juliette Lewis, Conviction
Aaron Sorkin, The Social Network
Foreign-Language Film
Animated Film
Toy Story 3
Roger Deakins, True Grit
Andrew Weisblum, Black Swan
New Filmmaker
Jeff Malmberg, Marwencol
Ensemble Cast
The Fighter
Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, The Social Network

The Social Network
David Fincher, The Social Network
James Franco, 127 Hours
Natalie Portman, Black Swan
Supporting Actor
Christian Bale, The Fighter
Supporting Actress
Melissa Leo, The Fighter
Breakthrough Performer
Noomi Rapace, The Millennium Trilogy
Debut Director
John Wells, The Company Men
Ensemble Cast
The Kids Are All Right
Aaron Sorkin, The Social Network
Exit Through the Gift Shop
Foreign Language
I Am Love
Toy Story 3
Matthew Libatique, Black Swan
Clint Mansell, Black Swan
Top 10 Films
127 Hours, Another Year, Black Swan, Blue Valentine, The Ghost Writer, Inception, The Kids Are All Right, The King’s Speech, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, The Social Network

LAFCA Announce Their 2010 Picks

Where, like I said when I made my predictions, I am not very good at picking the precursors - the Oscars, yes, but these, not so much.  Anyway, I only picked two and a half correctly (picking one of the director duo that tied is the half) but there were some good surprises (though Blue Valentine was not among those).  My choices for screenplay and cinematography for tomorrow's NY announcement won here, so perhaps I am just ahead of my time.

It is good to see Carlos get some love and it looks like Aussie actress Jacki Weaver is quickly becoming a frontrunner for the Oscar for Supporting Actress - she is the only acting frontrunner to pop up as of yet, though The Social Network and it's director and screenwriter are surely frontrunners.

Anyway, here are the LA picks.

Picture: The Social Network
[Runner up: Carlos]
Director: (tie) Olivier Assayas for Carlos and David Fincher for The Social Network
Actress: Kim Hye-Ja in Mother
[Runner up: Jennifer Lawrence in Winter's Bone]
Actor: Colin Firth in The King's Speech
[Runner up: Edgar Ramirez in Carlos]
Supporting Actress: Jacki Weaver in Animal Kingdom
[Runner up: Olivia Williams in Ghost Writer]
Supporting Actor Neils Arestrup in A Prophet
[Runner up: Geoffrey Rush in The King's Speech]
Screenplay Aaron Sorkin for The Social Network
[Runner up: The King's Speech]
Cinematography Matthew Libatique for Black Swan

[Runner up: Roger Deakins for True Grit]
Music (tie)
Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, The Social Network and Alexandre Desplat, The Ghost Writer
Production Design Guy Dyas for Inception

[runner up: The King's Speech]
Documentary Last Train Home
[Runner up: Exit Through the Gift Shop]
Experimental Jean Luc Godard's Film Socialisme 
Foreign Film Carlos (France)
[Runner up: Mother (South Korea)]
Animated Film
Toy Story 3
[Runner up: The Illusionist]
New Generation
Lena Dunham for Tiny Furniture
Legacy of Cinema Award Serge Bromberg, Henri-Georges Clouzot's Inferno, and the F.W. Murnau Foundation and Fernando Pena for the restoration of Metropolis 
Career Achievement Paul Mazursky
Here is a blurb from Nathanial Rogers great site, The Film Experience, which I wanted to add just to let everyone know of the stupidity in some of the Oscar eligibility rules:

ONE FINAL IMPORTANT NOTE: South Korea's Mother & France's A Prophet, which both won awards today with Los Angeles critics, represent flip sides of the same Oscar coin. Both were submitted for Oscar consideration last year in the foreign film category but were not released in Los Angeles theaters in 2009 rendering them ineligible for other Oscar nominations that year. They both received theatrical releases in 2010, and because of Oscar rules on that matter, only Mother is now eligible for Oscar consideration (in all categories EXCEPT foreign film since it had its shot last year). A Prophet, having been nominated in its only eligible category last year, is not eligible for any further consideration. Make sense?


Here are my attempt at predicting who the LA and NY critics will pick when they announce their awards on Sunday the 12th and Monday the 13th, respectively.  I must preface this rather futile exercise with the fact that I am not very good at this - yes, I can pick Oscar winners like a mofo (and more oft than not, win any annual Oscar poll contest), but the early precursors are a horse of a much different colour.  Anyway, here goes.

Best Film: The Social Network
Best Director:  David Fincher, The Social Network
Best Actor:  James Franco, 127 Hours
Best Actress:  Annette Bening, The Kids Are All Right
Best Supporting Actor:  Matt Damon, True Grit
Best Supporting Actress:  Dianne Wiest, Rabbit Hole
Best Adapted Screenplay:  Lisa Cholodenko, Stuart Blumberg, The Kids Are All Right
Best Cinematography: Wally Pfister, Inception
Best Foreign Film:  White Material
Best Documentary:  Exit Through The Gift Shop
Best Animated Feature: Toy Story 3

Best Film: The Social Network
Best Director:  Mike Leigh, Another Year
Best Actor: Javier Bardem, Biutiful
Best Actress: Tilda Swinton, I Am Love
Best Supporting Actor:  Christian Bale, The Fighter
Best Supporting Actress:  Jacki Weaver, Animal Kingdom
Best Adapted Screenplay:  Aaron Sorkin, The Social Network
Best Cinematography: Matthew Labatique, Black Swan
Best Foreign Film:  I Am Love
Best Documentary:  Inside Job
Best Animated Feature: Toy Story 3

As you can plainly see, only Best Pic and Best Animated Pic match up between the two organizations.  I think this Oscar race is going to be a rather wide open one (as opposed to past years where many categories are completely sewn up long before the awards are finally handed out).  As for surprises, I would love to see some love for Blue Valentine and its two stars and/or for John Hawkes and Dale Dickey for their roles in Winter's Bone, possibly even a Best Actor award for Casey Affleck in The Killer Inside Me, but I don't see that last one happening.
I will post the actual winners (and my prediction grade) as soon as everything is announced.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Film Poll #7: Bogie & Bacall

First, he stole her away from the desires of director Howard Hawks, and allowed her to steal scene after scene from him in their first movie together (and her film debut btw) To Have and Have Not, then this forty-four year old tough guy actor got this nineteen year old beauty to marry him.  Then came The Big Sleep, Dark Passage Key Largo - and somewhere in there these two iconic stars helped create the Rat Pack (legend has it Bacall even gave them their name) and became the essence of cool. and finally,

Now all you have to do, is choose which of these four films you like best.  Is it the intriguing To Have and Have Not, where Betty teaches Bogie how to whistle?  Is it the quintessentially confounding Film Noir The Big Sleep?  Is it the rarely seen crime drama with the strange P.O.V. camerawork, Dark Passage?  Is it their final film together, where Bogart reunites with Edward G. Robinson, the steamy noirish Key Largo?  Go over to the left-handed sidebar and make your choice now!
.....and of course, you must check this out. I remember when this song/video came out and it was right about the time I was beginning to get into classic cinema, so, as cheesy as it may be (and even by 80's standards, this is pretty fucking cheesy!), I have always loved this song.

Friday, December 10, 2010

10 Slot Best Pix a 12 Way Race

First there are the sure things:
1. The Social Network
2. The King's Speech
3. Inception
Then there are the almost sure things:
4. The Kids Are All Right
5. 127 Hours
6. Toy Story 3
Then there are the strong, but vulnerable contenders:
7. Winter's Bone
8. Black Swan
9. True Grit
Then there are the could be's:
10. The Town
11. The Fighter
12. Another Year

The only problem with the above scenario is there are only 10 slots for these 12 films to fit into, which means (in my opinion) the last three on this list are going to be fighting it out for that tenth spot.  Perhaps even the last four, but we will keep the Coens a bit safer on the list at least until their film opens.

There are the slim slim slim possibility of a surprise on this list - The Way Back, Blue Valentine, Rabbit Hole, Get Low or even the seemingly buzz-dead Secretariat are most likely for such a feat, but still very unlikely.  I personally would love to see Shutter Island or The Killer Inside Me sneak in, but who the Hell am I kidding?

For right now, I will stick with the top 10 for my predix (though, honestly, I think The Fighter and The Town could just as easily switch spots), but of course that is bound to change before Oscar time - especially after next week and the NYFCC, LAFCA and SAG awards and noms (but then these are more likely to effect the acting races than Best Pic).  In fact, next week (post the above award-givings) is when I will post my updated predictions for the four acting races and the director and screenplay categories (possibly the tech awards as well).

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Cinematheque Reviews:
White Material

My review of Claire Denis' White Material, starring the ever-enigmatic (and sexier than ever at fifty-seven) Isabelle Huppert, is up and running over at The Cinematheque. I think this is the strongest Denis film since Beau Travail back in '99, and as for Ms. Huppert, well, she's as dangerously evocative as always (in fact it's pretty hard to keep up with the descriptives needed for someone like Isabelle Huppert - but I keep trying).  

My 7 Favourite Things About
Elia Kazan's A Face In The Crowd

**Spoilers ahead for those of you who worry about such things**

1) Andy Griffith's maniacal laugh that seems to be a cross between a country bumpkin who just watched his favourite Nascar driver win the big race and a mad scientist who just figured out how to bring the dead back to life (and then control them as an Earth-raging army of the undead) - or perhaps just a demented small town sheriff who just shot his idiot deputy down with the idiot deputy's own gun, using the one bullet he allows said idiot deputy to have (but perhaps, this being Mr. Griffith's film debut, this is just an omen of things to come in a hazy Mayberry future).

2) Elia Kazan's way of allowing his camera to record the entire room surrounding his characters, almost making the furniture and knick-knacks to be characters themselves, though with far less method acting on their behalf. 

3) Budd Schulberg's scathing screenplay.  Sure he named names (as did director Kazan) but whether he is a rat or not, his acerbic writing is an inspiration to any hard-hitting screenwriter that came after him.  Perhaps, without Schulberg, there would be no Aaron Sorkin writing today.  Perhaps some people would be more than okay with that, but I for one, would not be.

4) A 22 year old (playing and looking 17) Lee Remick twirling her baton (and her tail) for the camera and for Griffith's folksy rapscallion Lonesome Rhodes (and perhaps for some others too).

5) Not that anyone would know this by watching the film, but the majority of A Face In The Crowd was filmed at the old Biograph Studios of D.W. Griffith, Mary Pickford and Lillian & Dorothy Gish (considered the very first movie studio ever, founded by Edison in 1895) - and for a rabid film history lover like yours truly here, that just gives the film (in hindsight) an extra kick.

6) A drunk with power Andy Griffith, making snide cracks about the sheep of America and bedding every woman he comes across (especially risque in a 1957 Hollywood that was just then beginning to eat away at the Hays Code) and hawking what is basically an early form of speed for the TV cameras, is extra fun to watch after having grown up on the overly sweet and always helpful Andy Taylor on The Andy Griffith Show.

7) As a legacy, watching Keith Olbermann calling Glenn Beck "Lonesome Rhodes" in honour of Griffith's back-handed political huckster-cum-demagogue from A Face In The Crowd.  I know this really has nothing to do with the film itself, but rather with Beck's obvious similarity to this TV and radio shyster of a character - but anytime we get an opportunity to take a crack at Beck, we should not hesitate.  (Okay, political statement over now, we can move on).

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

I Read the News Today, Oh Boy

Just a picture for today.  It's a publicity still from Richard Lester's 1967 movie How I Won the War

Monday, December 6, 2010

Slip Slidin' Away.....

No, not the Paul Simon song (though I do like it) - I mean my fading presence on the LAMB Leaderboard.  As backstory, the LAMB is actually an acronym for the Large Association of Movie Blogs (of which I am proud member #678 of 750+ members and counting) and the aforementioned Leaderboard is LAMB's way of congratulating those Top 20 movie bloggers who have sent the most traffic LAMB's way over each month (via clicking that cute little button over on the left-handed sidebar of this blog - or wherever each blogger's own cute little button may reside).

So, when I first joined the LAMB back in the middle of August of this year, I soon found myself ensconced in the #5 spot in August's Top 20 Leaderboard - and after only two weeks!  This was quite the surprising little ego boost indeed, but I assumed this debut (with a bullet!) was due to being the new kid on the block and everyone checking my blog out.  I figured come September, I would be gone from the Leaderboard altogether.   Well, I decided to get some friends to help me make sure this did not happen by clicking that cute little button on their computers as well.  Well, lo and behold, September came and I was bumped up to #4.  My ego was satiated and all was good in the world.  So far.

Then came October and an embarrassing plummet to #12.  Ack!?  Sure, I realize this is all just a silly little numbers game, and doesn't really mean anything personal toward myself or my blog (I know I still have regular readers - though I could always use more), but I do love me a Top 10 list (or Top 20 in this case) and so I play along in giddy delight, hoping my numbers go back up.  This brings us to the LAMB Leaderboard for November.  This also brings us to another plummet (though not quite as drastic) to #16.  Will I fall into blogosphere obscurity?  No!!!  I can't let that happen.  The domino effect of notoriety on the web turning into a legit career as Film Historian / Critic (that actually pays well!?) is in balance.  What's a poor boy to do? 

Well, perhaps whenever you find yourself visiting this blog (and enjoying the writing and critiques of yours truly, one hopes) you too, much like Bogie's Rick helping Ilsa and Victor Laszlo at the end of Casblanca (it's a stretch but we all knew I had to throw some sort of movie reference in here, so I went with a classic), could click on that cute little button over on the left-handed sidebar and help me reach those halcyon heights of yesteryear once again.  Here's lookin' at you kid.

ed. note: I just found out I dropped on Wikio's list from 70th to 83rd  Aaahhh!!

The Cinematheque Reviews:
Mesrine Pts. I & II

I saw Mesrine: Killer Instinct and its immediate sequel Mesrine: Public Enemy #1 in back to back shows at New York's Angelica way back in October but am just now writing and posting my review on this bold new movie (or two movies actually).  Why, you ask?  Well, I'll tell ya.  When I love a film I am like a rabid little typist, pouring out all my thoughts and rants as fast as I can.  The same rabid truth comes with those films I loathe.  Then we have Mesrine - a film I was both impressed with and disappointed in.  What was I to do?  Well, I did what I do so well, and procrastinated.  That brings us to the here and now.  In other words, my review - neither a rave nor a pan - is up and running.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Cinematheque Reviews:
Love & Other Drugs

A well-acted, if not extremely well-written or directed movie that highlights yet another daring and fine performance from that former Disney teen princess Anne Hathaway.  Now if she would just stay away from those Bride Wars type of movies, everything would be great (really Anne, I know the money is good, but you are above those kind of things now).  Too bad for her (and for co-star Jake Gyllenhaal who does his typical, but still highly entertaining cad-with-a-heart schtick - and this time acting a bit more "into her" than his Brokeback Mountain character was) that the movie completely falls to pieces in the last act - and the only thing it had going for it in the first place were these performances.  Anyway, a good film for at least a while and another stunning Hathaway performance (now stop doing the silly rom-coms!).

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Cinematheque Reviews:
Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan

Here it is true believers - my long-winded and quite rambling filmic essay-cum-Proustian wannabe pontification (cum movie review of sorts) all done in arrogant stream-of-consciousness pretentious ballyhoo style of Darren Aronofsky's brilliantly absurdist (and quite pretentious in its own right) batshitcrazy mindfuck of a movie, the inevitably derisive and quite startling balletic monster movie creature known as Black Swan.  Read it if you dare.

On Watching a 16mm Print of Truffaut's The Green Room

There I sat, on a Wednesday evening at a filmclub of sorts called Moviate, in Midtown Harrisburg, snugly nestled amongst the throngs of film lovers packing the screening of Truffaut's all-but unknown 1978 film adaptation of the Henry James novella "The Altar of the Dead".  Well, most of that opening sentence is correct at least.  The blatant lie shoved in there, like a glaring, flaming albatross (at least to me) is the whole flapdoodle about the throngs of film lovers.  In sad reality, there were only three of us (four if you include Moviate's head honcho and projectionist) at this Wednesday evening screening - but even more sadly is the fact that this is probably considered a good crowd for such an event here in the boondocks of central PA.
Anyway, soapboxing about the dearth of culture in America aside (and trust me, I can ramble on quite incessantly about that angering subject!), allow my short critique about this mid-week cinematic experience to get under way before everyone is completely bored out of their respective skulls at the aforementioned rambling.

The Green Room has got to be one of the least known (and least seen) of all of Francois Truffaut's oeuvre, so even on the scratchy, colour-saturated 16mm print that we throngs of three were privy to is a welcome kind of joy.  Based on the aforementioned James novella, Truffaut weaves a story of a disenfranchised man in the late 1920's, having been through the horror of the Great War only to return and lose his beautiful young bride mere months after their wedding.  This quite morose protagonist, played by Truffaut himself with an almost zombie-like stoicism (perhaps this is less a character driven thing and more an inability to act kind of thing in many ways), makes it his life's duty to honour "his" dead - those who have been part of his life (either in a major way or the most minor).

This self-imposed honourable duty begins in the titular green room of the man's provincial French house and eventually concludes in a newly-rebuilt chapel, with enough fluttering candles and Gothic atmosphere to make one expect a horror movie to pop out of the woodwork at any moment - it is after all, based on Henry James.  It is a strange movie indeed, never really going anywhere, but never really meaning to either.  Perhaps not up there with the so-called creme de la creme of Truffaut works, but with its deep set cinematic eyes and its overtly Gothic mannerisms and the director's strangely one-note performance, The Green Room is more than an interesting diversion on a Wednesday night in Midtown Harrisburg.

The thing that most satisfied me - and the film historian inside me (and the self-referential junky inside there) - was what would be the semi-climactic set piece of the renovated chapel and the "dead" laying to rest there.  Candles burning in every corner, Truffaut's character has hung pictures of all those he has lost, and it is in these pictures that we see a glimpse of the cinephile inside Truffaut (not that he has ever kept this persona very hidden from us).  Pictures of Oskar Werner, Jeanne Moreau, Oscar Wilde and even Henry James line these flame-lapped walls as an ode to Truffaut's own "dead" (or in some cases, his past friends and idols).
What more can one say?  Not much I suppose.  The Green Room, while interesting and even exhilarating at times, never imposes the feelings films such as The 400 Blows or Jules et Jim or The Wild Child or Shoot the Piano Player have and still do.  Still though, this little seen film (even on scratchy 16mm) is a fun look at the auteur of all auteurs at his Gothic giddiest - stoic as it may well seem, in what very well may be the director's least lively tale ever.  Perhaps it is my desire for the life in cinema as opposed to the death inside it, that makes me place this film lower on the proverbial totem pole than I probably should, for it is a well-crafted and well-manicured look at death and what it means to those still living.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

In the First Awards of the Season, The National Board of Review Does A Little Social Networking

As far as my predictions went (posted on Facebook, ironically enough considering the sweep that has occurred) I correctly picked Best Film and Best Supporting Actor only (predicting just the "top 6" categories).  I am really glad to see Fincher and Eisenberg in there (though I still think Colin Firth will take home the Oscar, considering Oscar's track record with awarding actors a year or two late, for considerably lesser performances - think A Single Man from last year).  Manville and Weaver are somewhat surprises in their wins, but the NBR being the first of the critics groups (before all the ducks are lined up so to speak) tend to do that.  

Other things I am happy with (as happy as one can be with such things) are the special award for Sofia Coppola, the very very very underrated Shutter Island in the top 11, Howl's mention in the Freedom of Expression category and Buried's screenplay win.  The one thing I am unhappy with is the complete shutting out of Blue Valentine.  The unwarranted NC-17 rating is already killing its Oscar chances and a nod for Michelle Williams and/or Ryan Gosling (the two best single performances of the year!) would have helped them.  Black Swan I expected no love for (though I still plan on putting it relatively high up in my top ten come year's end - which is damn soon) but at least an inclusion in the top 11 would have been nice (I mean c'mon, Toy Story 3?!?).  

Anyway, enough rambling, here are the winners and such.

Best Film: The Social Network
Best Director:  David Fincher, The Social Network
Best Actor:  Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network
Best Actress:  Lesley Manville, Another Year
Best Supporting Actor:  Christian Bale, The Fighter
Best Supporting Actress:  Jacki Weaver, Animal Kingdom
Best Foreign Film:  Of Gods and Men
Best Documentary:  Waiting For “Superman”
Best Animated Feature: Toy Story 3
Best Ensemble Cast:  The Town
Breakthrough Performance: Jennifer Lawrence, Winter’s Bone
Best Original Screenplay:  Chris Sparling, Buried
Best Adapted Screenplay:  Aaron Sorkin, The Social Network 

William K. Everson Film History Award: Leonard Maltin
Spotlight Award for Best Directorial Debut:  
Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington, Restrepo

Special Filmmaking Achievement Award: 
Sofia Coppola, for for writing, directing, and producing Somewhere

NBR Freedom of Expression: Fair Game, Conviction, Howl

Top Eleven Films (In alphabetical order):
Another Year
The Fighter
The King’s Speech
Shutter Island
The Social Network
The Town
Toy Story 3
True Grit
Winter’s Bone

Top Ten Independent Films (In alphabetical order):
Animal Kingdom
Fish Tank
The Ghost Writer
Let Me In
Please Give
Youth in Revolt

Top Six Foreign Films (In alphabetical order):
I Am Love
Life, Above All
Of Gods And Men
Soul Kitchen
White Material

Top Six Documentary Films (In alphabetical order):
A Film Unfinished
Inside Job
Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work
The Tillman Story
Waiting For “Superman”

Independent Spirit Awards

I suppose I should be keeping my predicting skills somewhat limber for the upcoming Oscar season (a season that if I felt guilt would constitute a guilty pleasure for me) so here are my choices (personal and prediction-wise) for the upcoming Independent Spirit Awards, which will be handed out on 02/26/2011, exclusively (I am told) on IFC.

As for my thoughts on the nominations, I was rather surprised (though happily so) to see the love for the somewhat underrated Greenberg and the lack of love (except for First Feature and a supporting nod for Bill Murray, the best thing about the movie) for the somewhat overrated Get Low.  I was really glad to see the supporting nods for Winter's Bone. All the Oscar talk has been about Jennifer Lawrence as lead - and such talk is well-founded as she is great in the role - and it is nice to see Hawkes and Dickey getting a much needed push for eventual Oscar nods.  The strangest nomination though goes to Sam Jackson for his supporting role in Mother and Child.  Not that he wasn't good in the film (he is the coolest motherfucker around) but really didn't have that much to do in said film, and Ryan Ifans of Greenberg was left out in the proverbial cold because of it (assuming he was the sixth choice that is).  Otherwise, a great selection here (love seeing Michelle Williams in for Blue Valentine, though would have liked to  have seen her co-star Ryan Gosling in there as well) - and fantastic to see Uncle Boonmee get a nod (and a hopeful win).  As for my favourite in this whole bunch (Black Swan) I don't see it taking home any of the big hardware (cinematography is my only predix for it) but Aronofsky is well respected.  I suppose we will see.

Best Feature
127 Hours
Black Swan
The Kids Are All Right
Winter’s Bone

My choice: Black Swan
My prediction: Winter's Bone

Best director
Darren Aronofsky, Black Swan
Danny Boyle, 127 Hours
Lisa Cholodenko, The Kids Are All Right
Debra Granik, Winter’s Bone
John Cameron Mitchell, Rabbit Hole

My choice: Darren Aronofsky
My prediction: Debra Granik
Best first feature
Everything Strange and New
Get Low
The Last Exorcism
Night Catches Us
Tiny Furniture

My choice: Tiny Furniture
My prediction: Tiny Furniture

John Cassavetes Award 
(best feature with a budget of $500k or less)
Daddy Longlegs
The Exploding Girl
Lovers of Hate

My choice: I haven't seen any of these
My prediction: Daddy Longlegs

Best screenplay
Stuart Blumberg, Lisa Cholodenko, The Kids Are All Right
Debra Granik, Anne Rosellini, Winter’s Bone
Nicole Holofcener, Please Give
David Lindsay-Abaire, Rabbit Hole
Todd Solondz, Life During Wartime

My choice: Debra Granik and Anne Rosellini
My prediction: Stuart Blumberg and Lisa Chodolenko

Best first screenplay
Diane Bell, Obselidia
Lena Dunham, Tiny Furniture
Nik Fackler, Lovely, Still
Bob Glaudini, Jack Goes Boating
Dana Adam Shapiro, Evan M. Wiener, Monogamy

My choice: Lena Dunham
My prediction: Lena Dunham
Best female lead
Annette Bening, The Kids Are All Right
Greta Gerwig, Greenberg
Nicole Kidman, Rabbit Hole
Jennifer Lawrence, Winter’s Bone
Natalie Portman, Black Swan
Michelle Williams, Blue Valentine

My choice: Michelle Williams
My prediction: Jennifer Lawrence

Best male lead
Ronald Bronstein, Daddy Longlegs
Aaron Eckhart, Rabbit Hole
James Franco, 127 Hours
John C. Reilly, Cyrus
Ben Stiller, Greenberg

My choice: Ben Stiller (but I have not seen 127 Hours yet)
My prediction: James Franco

Best supporting female
Ashley Bell, The Last Exorcism
Dale Dickey, Winter’s Bone
Allison Janney, Life During Wartime
Daphne Rubin-Vega, Jack Goes Boating
Naomi Watts, Mother and Child

My choice: Dale Dickey
My prediction: Dale Dickey

Best supporting male
John Hawkes, Winter’s Bone
Samuel L. Jackson, Mother and Child
Bill Murray, Get Low
John Ortiz, Jack Goes Boating
Mark Ruffalo, The Kids Are All Right

My choice: John Hawkes
My prediction: John Hawkes
Best cinematography
Adam Kimmel, Never Let Me Go
Matthew Libatique, Black Swan
Jody Lee Lipes, Tiny Furniture
Michael McDonough, Winter’s Bone
Harris Savides, Greenberg

My choice: Matthew Libatique
My prediction: Matthew Libatique

Best documentary
Exit Through The Gift Shop
Thunder Soul

My choice: Is there a sixth choice?
My prediction: Exit Through the Gift Shop

Best foreign film
Mademoiselle Chambon
Of Gods and Men
The King’s Speech
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives

My choice: Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives
My prediction: Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives

Perhaps I went a bit Winter's Bone heavy there (I held back on screenplay and cinematography!) and Bening and her film are probably the safer bets (I think it comes down to these two films in most categories), but I have this feeling.....
Anyway, the real Oscar precursor hoopla begins later today with the National Board of Review's picks (followed by the NY and LA critics next week sometime).