Tag Archives: Brokeback Mountain

Meek’s Cutoff

12 Jun

Title: Meek’s Cutoff
Year: 
2011
Director: 
Kelly Reichardt
Writer: Jonathan Raymond
Starring: 
Michelle Williams, Bruce Greenwood, Shirley Henderson, Neal Huff, Paul Dano, Zoe Kazan, Tommy Nelson, Will Patton
MPAA Rating: 
PG, mild violent content, brief language and smoking
Runtime: 
104 min
Major Awards: –

IMDb Rating: 
7.3
Rotten Tomatoes: 
85%

I’m a big big fan of director Kelly Reichardt. Her debut film, River of Glass, is pretty excellent. 2006’s Old Joy, starring musician Will Oldham, is absolutely incredible and I have it ranked as my 28th favorite film of that year. And then there’s 2008’s Wendy and Lucy, which saw her working with Michelle Williams and which I have ranked as my 24th favorite film of that year, that film is pretty spectacular on so many levels. So yeah, when you are a director that has a style that’s so personal and minimalistic, one that resonates a lot with my tastes, and you see her track record being as impeccable as Ms. Reichardt’s is, then you can sure as hell be impressed.

And then there’s the matter of Michelle Williams. If I had to name my five favorite living actresses, I wouldn’t hesitate to put her name in the conversation, next to Meryl Streep, Kate Winslet, Cate Blanchett and Diane Keaton. I seriously love her, and every performance she gives I find to be pretty much perfect. Hell, even her breakout turn as Jen Lindley on TV’s Dawson’s Creek was seriously well acted, and her film work since, in films like The Station Agent, Brokeback Mountain, Wendy and Lucy, Synecdoche, New York and, especially, last year’s sublime Blue Valentine, has been a thing of beauty, a really thrilling journey to witness from film to film, the maturation of an actress, a woman who’s barely over thirty and yet I still have no doubt in my mind to proclaim her as one of the greatest, I just love her.

So, you see, if I liked Ms. Reichardt’s previous collaboration with Ms. Williams, you can be sure as hell about me being insanely excited for this one. And they didn’t disappoint, Meek’s Cutoff is another stellar addition to Ms. Reichardt’s body of work, and yet another spectacular performance from Ms. Williams, who you can tell is bound to get an Oscar sooner rather than later, she’s just delivering like crazy every single role she gets. I guess you could call this film a neo-western, and it’s a very unique take on that genre, because it’s probably the most slowly-paced western I’ve seen, focussing a lot on the day-to-day workings of just traveling from one place to another by foot, with wagons and oxen next to you for weeks at a time. And I think it’s tremendous how Ms. Reichardt never gives us a really huge event to take away from that monotony, instead just allowing us to immerse ourselves into this lonely and arduous journey.

Bruce Greenwood is the actor in charge of playing the title character, Stephen Meek, and the cutoff referred to in the title is this other route Meek was taking a group of settlers through instead of going through the main trail where Indian attacks were rumored to be happening. This is actually all based on a true story, but the film isn’t about a historical event, it’s just about what went on through the minds of these few people going on such a hugely demanding journey following a man who was extremely hard-headed in his views and opinions, even when it turned out he was totally wrong and had no idea of what he was doing.

And it’s all very hard-hatting stuff that these settlers have to go through after it becomes clearer and clearer that Meek didn’t really know this new path as well as he thought he did, and you really get the sense of just how hard an odyssey it might have been, fearing to run out of water, having to leave things behind just so that your burden might lessen, and this isn’t all done to create some sort of huge scene of desperation, but to allow Ms. Reichardt to do what she does best, to create her very minimalistic outlook at the psyches of her characters, not to show the desperation itself, but to show what the desperation does, it’s just seriously well done.

A member of this group of settlers is Emily Tetherow, the character played by the incomparable Ms. Williams. And she’s just pitch perfect for this role, and it’s terrific that Ms. Reichardt has her to work with here, because another thing that really sets Meek’s Cutoff from other westerns is that it focuses a lot on the women in this group of settlers, and Ms. Williams is front and center, delivering a performance that’s will most likely end up in my Top 5 given by a female lead actress this year, one of incredible restraint, saying so much just with her eyes that it’s stunning to watch. And it’s Emily who confronts Meek, who blames him for not admitting he didn’t knew where he was going, and the scenes between the two are really something to behold.

There is an indian watching them, you see, and we are to assume that he’s doing just that to guide an indian attack to their location. And even the portrayal of the indian is unlike what you see in your regular westerns, he’s not that fierce warrior dressed in a particular way, he’s an observing man, a mysterious figure throughout. And the settlers eventually catch him, and there’s a discussion about whether they should just kill him so that he can’t kill them while they sleep, which is what Meek proposes, or to try and get him to tell them which way to go to get water, which is what Emily proposes. And it’s all sensationally well told, with a huge sense of slow-burning tension through the story, with a slow paced designed to really show us the grim realities of the time.

This is just truly a spectacular film, shot in a screen ratio we haven’t seen for decades, but that was the one used in most of the great western classics, which only adds to its faithful look. Yes, the pacing may be slow, but the film is all the more perfect for that, because that way we really get to feel how long and hard their journey was, and it’s just such an impressively immersive film that you have to give all the props in the world to Ms. Reichardt, who gives a masterclass in how to handle this material, and to Ms. Williams, who between this one and the upcoming Take This Waltz and My Week with Marilyn is bound to have another terrific year, and we’re all very lucky because of that.

Grade: A-

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Water for Elephants

7 May

Title: Water for Elephants
Year: 
2011
Director: 
Francis Lawrence
Writer: Richard LaGravenese, based on the novel by Sara Gruen
Starring: 
Reese Witherspoon, Robert Pattinson, Christoph Waltz, Hal Holbrook, Paul Schneider
MPAA Rating: 
PG-13, moments of intense violence and sexual content
Runtime: 
120 min
Major Awards: –

IMDb Rating: 
6.9
Rotten Tomatoes: 
57%

I love Reese Witherspoon, it’s as simple as that. I think she’s an amazingly talented actress, who’s also beautiful and really charming so I always jump at the opportunity of seeing her on-screen. Last year she was in How Do You Know, James L. Brooks’ disappointing new romantic comedy which I graded a B-, and at least now she’s in a considerably better movie, one that’s based on a pretty good novel, that’s really nicely told by director Francis Lawrence, beautifully shot by Rodrigo Prieto (who’s also done Brokeback Mountain and Babel), and that has some nice performances in it. But even though I really did like Water for Elephants, there was still one thing that kept me from really loving it, and that was the chemistry, or lack thereof, between Ms. Witherspoon and her male co-star, Robert Pattinson.

Now, don’t think that that’s because I dislike Robert Pattinson, because I honestly don’t. Sure, his performances in the Twilight films are nothing note-worthy, but they’re not horrible either and those films have been getting better and better, and his performance in last year’s Remember Me I thought was pretty decent. So it’s really not because I think Mr. Pattinson isn’t a great actor that the chemistry didn’t flow between our two leads here, it’s just that I didn’t, maybe it’s the eleven year age difference between the two (he actually played her son in a deleted scene of 2004’s Vanity Fair), maybe it’s something far more intangible than that, I just wasn’t sold.

But individually I thought they both did fine, Ms. Witherspoon especially, and even though the other people considered for their roles (Scarlett Johansson for hers and Channing Tatum, Emile Hirsch and Andrew Garfield for his) would have provided very interesting choices as well, except Mr. Tatum who I definitely wouldn’t thrust into a role like, and may have had some good chemistry between them, I wouldn’t change these two for a minute.

And credit really has to be given where it’s due, and much of it goes to Mr. Lawrence, who makes a drastic change in tone from having previously directed only Constantine and I Am Legend, and who crafts this one beautifully, he gets a very satisfying romance from a film that could have easily turned out to be a hugely cheesy affair. And even though his two main performers and Christoph Waltz, the main supporting one, were all turning in real solid performances, they were doing so without any seeming recognition of chemistry with each other, and Mr. Lawrence still pulled it all together nicely and the end product is one that’s much better than what I expected.

This is the romantic sort of film that I have no trouble embracing, one that feels so decidedly old-school and that finds in its story of a bareback rider for a circus, her husband who’s the extremely controlling circus owner, and a drop-out form Cornell’s veterinary school who enlists the circus a very satisfying romantic triangle. Mr. Waltz is the one who plays the circus owner, August, married to the lovely Marlena, who works on his circus on the main show that has her riding a beautiful horse and who’s controlled by August as though she was just as much his possession as the horse. Then we get to meet Mr. Pattinson’s character, Jacob (and yes I know Twilight fans will catch the irony of the name), who’s actually narrating the story to us as an older man, played by the great Hal Holbrook, and who was just a naïve young college drop-out when he stumbles upon the train, and August at first wanted to just throw him off it, until he realizes that his veterinary skills may be useful on his circus.

And it’s really nicely done here, Jack Fisk, a collaborator of Terrence Malick and an Oscar-nominee for his work in There Will Be Blood, is the production designer here, and his work gives this film a great feeling, one that without making use of any special effects still has this very magical look to it while still looking entirely plausible, and the sets he constructs here go a long ways to getting that effect. And even though the chemistry, like I’ve said, I found to be lacking, I still think these people give some pretty solid performances. Which is especially true of Mr. Waltz, who, much like he showed in his Oscar-winning turn in Inglourious Basterds, can play a controlling man who seems to be charming but is actually quite evil like few can. He does that again here as August, and its his jealousy towards the relationship that starts to bloom between Jacob and Marlena that gets this film going.

Water for Elephants feels like a classic film in many ways, because it deals just with people and their emotions, and it does so in an enchanting time. Marlena is always unabashedly loyal to her marriage with August, and we get the sense that a relationship with Jacob would obviously be the next logical step, but it’s unfortunate then that the chemistry between Ms. Witherspoon and Mr. Pattinson is nowhere to be found, which is more his fault than hers really, since that really would have made this one a big success. Still, this one, though always bordering it, never really delves into its melodramatic potential entirely, which I found to be a great thing, and it serves as a nice film to watch now in early May right before we get a whole season full of effects-ladden summer blockbusters.

Grade: B

Oscar Nominations: My Reactions

25 Jan

The Oscar nominations were announced bright and early this morning. And while most of the nominees were predictable, there were still quite a bit of storylines to take out of the morning’s announcements.

Firstly, of course, the outrageous snub of Christopher Nolan in the Best Director category, Inception might have made the Best Picture ballot and Mr. Nolan himself got his second career Screenplay nod, but the Academy yet again failed to mention him for Best Director to make room for the Coen brothers. Another snub was The Town, which ended up with a sole Oscar nomination and got snubbed in the Best Picture as well as Director and Screenplay races, the films nominated instead were still quite deserving, but still, too little love bestowed on such a great film.

Then, on a far more positive note, this was also the year in which films that came out of Sundance came out strong at the Oscars, which is terrific news for the independent film business, The Kids Are All Right and Winter’s Bone both got 4 nominations in major races, Animal Kingdom got a Best Supporting Actress bid, and four out of the five Best Documentary nominees were shown in Park City a year ago.

As for what the nominations will mean come the big night on February 27th, well, The King’s Speech certainly got a huge boost today, scoring an even dozen nominations, the most out of any film this year. That has some people jumping from The Social Network‘s bandwagon into the one driven by Harvey Weinstein, since for the last several decades the movie with the most nominations has won the Best Picture race 75% of the time. Now, let’s play statistics for a while here, I actually still think The Social Network will still win this for now, but the stock on The King’s Speech has certainly risen in the last few weeks. First, of course, was Saturday’s PGA win, and considering that association has bestowed its award to the eventual Best Picture winner 13 out of the last 20 years it means it has the odds going for it.

But then again, lets not forget just how much The Social Network has going for itself, it pretty much swooped the Critic’s groups awards, including big wins at the Globes and the National Board of Review. Not to mention that David Fincher is the clear front-runner to win not only the Best Director Oscar, but the DGA honors that will be announced on Saturday. And really, the Best Director winner is always considered the likely victor of the big race and, in fact, the winner of the DGA award has actually went on to have their film win the Best Picture Oscar 33 times in the last 40 years.

So, who really has the advantage? I honestly don’t know, this really is one seriously tough race to call, and I won’t call it until all the remained precursors are done with. Yes, the DGA will most likely go to The Social Network, but then the BAFTAs will presumably be all over The King’s Speech considering it’s a home-grown film. The PGA win by Tom Hooper’s film was big, yes, but so were the many Critic’s Associations and Globes wins by David Fincher’s movie. So, if I may interject, I think that the one awards show that may be a big indicator as to what will happen on Oscar night will be the SAGs, taking place this coming Sunday.

Hear me out for a while, the SAG obviously doesn’t have a Best Picture award, but rather a Best Ensemble one, meaning it will honor the combined acting performances of the cast in a film. And while I still think that the front-runner for that one is The Fighter (which has four seriously spectacular performances), I can see an upset happening courtesy of The King’s Speech. The Social Network won’t win that one, it has some great performances but it can’t compete acting-wise with those two other films, so that race will be the one to prove just how much support The King’s Speech has. And if it wins that one, then I probably will update my predictions and consider it the front-runner for the Oscar, because, remember, the SAGs have many times served as indicators of Oscar upsets, I’m obviously referring to 1998, when the SAG went to Shakespeare in Love, the same film that went on to win the Best Picture Oscar over the clear favorite, Saving Private Ryan, and most recently in 2005, when Crash ended up with the SAG win and ended up upsetting Brokeback Mountain for the Academy’s top honor.

So yes, this will be a Best Picture race for the ages, one I’m really excited for and one that will come down to the very end. Will The King’s Speech end up with the win? Consolidating itself as the biggest Oscar bait there ever was in 2010, a biopic about British monarchy counting with excellent performances all around and a spectacular director working form a brilliant script. Or, will The Social Network prevail? The film with very young up-and-coming actors, directed by a director that started out working on music videos and then went on to create some of the most masterful and popular films of the last decade and a half, one about a modern phenomenon and full of quick-witted, very fast and talkative scenes. It will be a New School vs. Old School battle to the very end, the historical dramas have fared very well in the past, I’m thinking Gandhi or The English Patient, but as of late, with winners like The Hurt Locker and No Country for Old Men, it feels as though the Academy is skewing more towards films oriented to younger audiences with a more gritty sort of feel. We’re in for one very entertaining race to the finish line.

But enough about the big race, I’m sure we’ll talk much more about that in the near future, but for now let us revise all the nominations announced by the Academy today.

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

All the usual suspects here. I went 9 for 10 as far as my predictions go, considering Winter’s Bone felt the love from the Academy big time today and crept into the big party, throwing out my original prediction for the tenth slot: The Town. Again, as for who will actually win it, I have no idea, it’s a big split between The Social Network and The King’s Speech, and we’ll have a clearer idea of the state of the race once the remaining precursors are all said and done.

BEST DIRECTOR

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

I went 4 for 5 in this one, considering I predicted the horribly snubbed Christopher Nolan to be invited to the party instead of the Coen brothers. However, True Grit got a massive ten nominations and the love went to the genius brothers instead. Which was well deserved, but it’s ridiculous that Nolan doesn’t have a Best Director nomination to his name yet. However, massive kudos to Darren Aronofsky for finally getting his first career nomination for helming what to me was the best film of 2010.

BEST LEAD ACTOR

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

Went a perfect 5-for-5 in this race, correctly predicting Javier Bardem’s nomination over Get Low‘s Robert Duvall. Still, Bardem’s nomination was much deserved, and it was awesome to see a foreign language performance getting a nod here. However, this has never been a race, the golden man probably has Colin Firth’s name engraved from this very moment.

BEST LEAD ACTRESS

  • Annette Bening (for The Kids Are All Right)
  • Nicole Kidman (for Rabbit Hole)
  • Jennifer Lawrence (for Winter’s Bone)
  • Natalie Portman (for Black Swan)
  • Michelle Williams (for Blue Valentine)

Another category in which I went 5-for-5 in my predictions. And it really is a lovely bunch of ladies getting nominated here, Michelle Williams got her extremely deserved nomination for her beautiful work in Blue Valentine and Jennifer Lawrence capped off her breakthrough year with an invite to Hollywood’s biggest party. This is, though, still a Portman vs. Bening battle, and even though I think Portman has the edge because hers was the better performance in the better film, I’ll wait until the SAGs are done on Sunday to call her a lock.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

  • Christian Bale (for The Fighter)
  • John Hawkes (for Winter’s Bone)
  • Jeremy Renner (for The Town)
  • Mark Ruffalo (for The Kids Are All Right)
  • Geoffrey Rush (for The King’s Speech)

I predicted four out of the five here, the one I got wrong was Andrew Garfield who I thought would firmly land a nod but was bumped off by John Hawkes who was riding on the huge love given to Winter’s Bone here. Still, this is no contest, it’s Bale’s to lose, and he just won’t.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

  • Amy Adams (for The Fighter)
  • Helena Bonham Carter (for The King’s Speech)
  • Melissa Leo (for The Fighter)
  • Hailee Steinfeld (for True Grit)
  • Jacki Weaver (for Animal Kingdom)

I’ve always said this was my favorite race of the year, and even though my personal #2 pick, Mila Kunis, was left out, it really still is. I said that if Hailee Steinfeld remained here and wasn’t voted as Lead, then either Ms. Kunis or Jacki Weaver would get the boot, I picked Kunis in my predictions but apparently the Academy really loved the Australian crime saga and wanted to give it a nod, as they should have, really. Still, this is the best race there can be this year, considering I could see any of these ladies potentially winning. Amy Adams was my personal favorite of the year, and she gives her best performance yet, and considering it’s her third nomination they may (and hopefully will!) give it to her. Helena Bonham Carter may find herself winning if The King’s Speech sweeps. Melissa Leo is the current favorite, and if she wins the SAG on Sunday then this will be hers. Hailee Steinfeld carries True Grit and the voters may like to reward a young one. And Jacki Weaver created one seriously compelling character here, though considering she missed out at the SAG I think she’s the less likely to end up winning.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

  • Another Year (written by Mike Leigh)
  • The Fighter (written by Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy and Eric Johnson)
  • Inception (written by Christopher Nolan)
  • The Kids Are All Right (written by Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg)
  • The King’s Speech (written by David Seidler)

I went 4 for 5 in this one, and the one I missed was the one that pains me the most not to see here which was the beautiful Black Swan screenplay, which I had in favor of Another Year, but I guess you can never count Mike Leigh out of this race, he’s just that good. As for who will win it, I would very much like to see The Kids Are All Right pick this one up, or if not then Christopher Nolan as a sort of apology from the Academy for not even nominating him for Best Director. But, most likely, this one will end up firmly in the hands of David Seidler.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

  • 127 Hours (written by Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy, based on the book by Aron Ralston)
  • The Social Network (written by Aaron Sorkin, based on the book by Ben Mezrich)
  • Toy Story 3 (written by Michael Arndt, based on the story by John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich)
  • True Grit (written by Ethan Coen and Joel Coen, based on the novel by Charles Portis)
  • Winter’s Bone (written by Debra Granik and Anne Rosellini, based on the novel by Daniel Woodrell)

As I said in my predictions, Winter’s Bone was going to put up a fight to be honored in this category. In my predictions I had The Town listed instead of Debra Granik’s film, but, as I’ve already said, the Academy shout-out the Ben Affleck film outside of Jeremy Renner’s nod, so no love here either. I like Debra Granik’s script better though (had it 6th in my Best Screenplays of 2010 list, while The Town was 15th), so I’m happy about it. Still, there’s no way Aaron Sorkin is losing this one, but then again I said the same thing about Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner’s script for Up in the Air last year.

BEST ART DIRECTION

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

Very very good bunch of nominees here, the only film I could have seen making the cut and still be happy about it would have been Shutter Island, but nevertheless, this will be a very cool race. I’m hoping Inception will prevail here, though Alice in Wonderland may have something to say about that and, if it turns out to be a sweep, so may The King’s Speech.

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

  • Black Swan
  • Inception
  • The King’s Speech
  • The Social Network
  • True Grit

If I would have to guess, I’d say True Grit will win this one. However, it was amazing to see Black Swan get listed here, though I would have liked to see The King’s Speech miss out on this race in favor of the wonderful job by the 127 Hours guys.

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

  • Alice in Wonderland
  • Io Sono l’Amore
  • The King’s Speech
  • The Tempest
  • True Grit

As I said in my review for The Tempest, you can never count any Julie Taymor film out of the Best Costume Design race (all four of her films have now been nominated), but still, this one will most likely go to Alice in Wonderland. Cool to see Io Sono l’Amore get a nod here, too.

BEST EDITING

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

Out of the technical categories, Best Editing is the one that foretells the Best Picture winner the most, so this one is one we should pay close attention to. Since the award was introduced nearly eight decades ago, only nine films have won Best Picture without being nominated here. Which I guess also goes to explain why Crash trumped over Brokeback Mountain. But still, the two Best Picture front-runners are here, so seeing who wins may be decisive as to who takes Best Picture. My vote goes to The Social Network here, and I still can’t fathom why Inception wasn’t named.

BEST MAKEUP

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

They failed to recognize Alice in Wonderland in this one somehow, so I’m guessing this one’s definitely The Wolfman‘s.

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

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

Usual suspects in this one. Awesome to see Reznor and Ross up for this one, and they’re definitely my favorites to end up picking the award. However, Alexandre Desplat gets his fourth nomination with this one and still hasn’t won, so if The King’s Speech ends up owning the show he could win. However, Hans Zimmer’s score for Inception, which is all sorts of mind-blowing, may end up getting the win if the Academy feels it didn’t bestow enough nominations love towards the film, he hasn’t won an Oscar since The Lion King in 1995, despite being nominated 6 additional times since.

BEST SONG

  • If I Rise (from 127 Hours)
  • Coming Home (from Country Strong)
  • I See the Light (from Tangled)
  • We Belong Together (from Toy Story 3)

I honestly don’t know who will end up with the win here. All I know is that I’m happy no songs from Burlesque were named here.

BEST SOUND

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

This is the one category that had most prediction experts baffled. Everyone predicted a maximum of 11 nominations for The King’s Speech, and this is the one nobody imagined, and the one that showed us just how much the Academy loved the film. As strange as it may sound, a Sound nomination is what really let us know that it was the front-runner.

BEST SOUND EDITING

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

I really liked seeing TRON: Legacy here, and I was sure that The Social Network would get a nod here, but out of nowhere came Unstoppable and made the cut. Still, a cool and eclectic bunch.

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

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

I expected TRON: Legacy to make the cut here, but at least it got a Sound Editing nod so it didn’t go unmentioned. Still, if Inception loses this race the Oscars will have lost all credibility to me.

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

  • Biutiful (from Mexico)
  • Dogtooth (from Greece)
  • In a Better World (from Denmark)
  • Incendies (from Canada)
  • Outside the Law (from Algeria)

This one’s always very tough to predict. But hopefully Biutiful will end up with the trophy.

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM

  • How to Train Your Dragon
  • L’Illusionniste
  • Toy Story 3

This one isn’t a race at all, Toy Story 3 will win this one hands down.

BEST DOCUMENTARY

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

No Waiting for Superman? Yeah, very very weird. Same with the lack of Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer. Still Inside Job would be a very cool winner, as would be Exit Through the Gift Shop, especially if we somehow get a Banksy appearance.

Love and Other Drugs

2 Dec

Title: Love and Other Drugs
Year:
2010
Director:
Edward Zwick
Writers:
Charles Randolph, Edward Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz, based on the book by Jamie Reidy
Starring:
Jake Gyllenhaal, Anne Hathaway, Josh Gad, Judy Greer, Gabriel Macht, Oliver Platt, Hank Azaria, George Segal, Jill Clayburgh
MPAA Rating:
R, strong sexual content, nudity, pervasive language, and some drug material
Runtime:
112 min
Major Awards:
IMDb Rating:
6.6
Rotten Tomatoes:
42%

 

Expectations for Love and Other Drugs were kinda high at one point I guess,  the trailer was quite fun and people were calling Anne Hathaway an Oscar contender. Now the movie has been released for a week, and the reviews have been lukewarm at best, and the chances of Ms. Hathaway nabbing one of the five slots come Oscar time seems like one helluva long shot.

All that being said, I actually found myself really loving Love and Other Drugs. I found it to be a very refreshing film, a romantic comedy that’s finally adult coming from a Hollywood studio is basically unheard of these days, and the actors in the film are some of the most likable in the business. Ms. Hathaway alongside Jake Gyllenhaal in the two lead roles were simply superb, and any supporting cast that counts with Judy Greer, who I have an undying love for, will always be golden in my book.

So count me amongst the lovers of this film. I won’t call it one of the year’s best, but I have a distinct feeling that this time next year I’ll remember it very clearly, remember it as a fresh rom-com, one that actually has emotions and actual characters and that beyond all its flaws, because it does have a few of those, was a film that had me falling for it thanks two its two terrific leads.

And that’s mostly because, I would suspect, the man behind this film is not a guy you’d ever peg for a rom-com director. Edward Zwick is best known for more dramatic and heavier works such as Glory, The Last Samurai, Legends of the Fall and Blood Diamond. And I think that’s why this one seemed so different, why in this one love was shown like it is in real life, like a true fickle bitch that can be both the best thing in life while still hurting you at the very same time.  Because the love story Mr. Zwick tells here is one that hurts, it doesn’t stop being a rom-com because it’s still many times fun and a lot of times sexy, but it doesn’t smother you with stupid clichés and dumb lines and lets some good raw emotion come through.

Mr. Gyllenhaal plays Jamie Randall, a salesman for Pzifer during the times when Viagra was enterting the market. And he meets Maggie, Ms. Hathaway’s character, on a doctor’s office. Him posing as a medical intern and she going in for an exam which required her to show her breast which Jamie takes a peek at, only for her to eventually find out he really wasn’t supposed to be there and get really mad at him.

That’s how our two protagonists meet, and the film feels fresh just then, the relationship these two develop is wonderful to watch. They go for coffee and quickly have sex, and this is a film that’s super comfortable with showing a good sex scene, it’s not gratuitous in the least, but it doesn’t shy away from it either, which is great not only because we have two attractive people here, but also because adults have sex, that’s how a love relationship goes and it’s good that a film shows how it is. Though to be fair these two weren’t thinking love at all, they just were attracted to, and wanted to get busy with, each other.

The rest of the movie examines how they move on from that apparently-casual encounter to something more profound and real. This isn’t the perfect romantic comedy, it’s not because the characters these two play, him the charming loose guy who can pretty much bed any girl he wants and her the bohemian artist just living life, have been staples in these films for quite some time. But this one at least has two actors that bring something different to their characters, add that to the fact this film is shot amazing well and directed by a guy that brought his own little something to the genre and you’ll have a kickass addition to the rom-com canon.

Now, as I said, there is a sort of dramatic turn this one takes. Once we get over the sexy pleasantries of their initial meet-cute we get to see these two set apart their own conventions and get down their guards to deepen their relationship, and we see all the things that can come out of doing such a thing, the good and the bad.

Jamie will obviously turn out to be bad guy who’s actually a very sweet guy while still being terribly seductive, and Mr. Gyllenhaal plays him just great, and is seriously funny in it, too. The scenes he shares with Josh Gad, who plays his brother, or with Oliver Platt, who plays his awesome boss, or with the always cool Hank Azaria, as his most dependable client, can be seriously hilarious.

But what we also get in Mr. Gyllenhaal, is his ability to go from being the laughs of the film, to being a perfect fit to go alongside Ms. Hathaway, who’s the true heart of the film, and this is something which should come as no surprise to anyone who saw Brokeback Mountain in which the two played off each other really well. Now, even though I said I doubt this will grant her her second Oscar nomination, the first one being for her mesmerizing turn in the masterful Rachel Getting Married, this is still a very moving performance she gives. She lets us into Maggie, she bares it all, and I don’t just mean her clothes, and gives us a very honest and seriously affecting look into her character.

I’ve been a fan of Ms. Hathaway since forever, and the stuff she’s doing nowadays is amazing, her work in The Devil Wears Prada was amazing, then came Rachel Getting Married which is one of my favorite performances of the past decade, and now this one. I don’t think she’ll get the Oscar nomination, because the reaction to this film has been quite mild, but man would I be happy if she did. But then again, there’s always Lone Scherfig’s One Day which is coming out next year, which looks seriously awesome and like the sort of film Ms. Hathaway could continue doing her magic in.

This was just a beautiful film to me. Maggie has been diagnosed with early Parkinsons, and that’s why she just wants the sex and not the love, because she, the overthinker that she is, reckons it will be too much of a burden on anybody who’s with her. And then we see the love that comes up between her and Jamie, and we see the tough times and the good here, and the good are impeccably sexy. And while this one is not without its faults, the good parts more than make up for the bad, these is a great pairing of actors that make Love and Other Drugs one of the most honest films of its type to come out in years, and one in which we are given love as it is, and I loved it for that.

Grade: A-