Tag Archives: Edgar Wright

The Adventures of Tintin

27 Dec

Title: The Adventures of Tintin
Year: 2011
Director: Steven Spielberg
Writers: Steven Moffat, Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish, based on the comic books by Hergé
Starring: Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Daniel Craig, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Tony Curran, Toby Jones
MPAA Rating: PG, adventure action violence, some drunkenness and brief smoking
Runtime: 107 min
IMDb Rating: 7.8
Rotten Tomatoes: 75%
Metacritic: 67

I knew I would really like The Adventures of Tintin. After all, it was Steven Spielberg, one of the greatest ever, doing his first animated film, in motion-capture, with the help of Andy Serkis, the pioneer of the technology and who already delivered one of the best performances of the year as Caesar in Rise of the Planet of the Apes, a mo-cap creation. The screenplay was written by three guys that make my geeky heart pump, Steven Moffat (he of Doctor Who and Sherlock), Edgar Wright (he of Shaun of the Dead and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) and Joe Cornish (he of this year’s Attack the Block, which I gave an A to). And it was based on the Hergé comics I devoured as a child and which I remember really fondly.

The result? Well, it’s a pretty damn exceptional film, with Steven Spielberg taking a lot pages from his own playbook, especially Raiders of the Lost Ark, to really deliver a hugely entertaining film, an action adventure thrill ride with some sequences that will make your jaw hit the floor for the sheer awesomeness they evoke and just how insanely well-made they are, this film becoming the second example of the year of how just how effective motion-capture can be if used by the right hands. And obviously, few hands are as trustworthy as Steven Spielberg’s, even if he’s the analog guy, he really seems to have been reinvigorated by this new technology that allowed him to create some shots physics would have maybe made too difficult to shoot regularly. This is Steven Spielberg feeling like a kid in a new playbox, the one of motion-capture, and one in which he can run free and do pretty much whatever he wants, it’s no wonder then that his creative juices were flowing at such high levels.

It’s not just the action, though, Mr. Spielberg is still super careful with the characters and pays great attention to the small details, and of course he’s joined by John Williams, his longtime composer who hadn’t produced a score since Mr. Spielberg’s fourth Indiana Jones film three years ago, and that comes back this year with this thrill ride and the much more old-school, emotional, epic War Horse that Mr. Spielberg premiered in the same week as this film (and which I’m hoping I’ll get to see really soon). And look, I won’t lie, motion-capture still is kind of creepy, it still sits in a really uneasy place between animation and live-action that it’s sort of still carving out for itself, but this isn’t The Polar Express creepy, this is much more refined animation, and in the hands of Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson, who closely produced, supervised the post and would helm a potential sequel (with him co-directing with Mr. Spielberg a tentative third), and who of course employed mo-cap in his Lord of the Rings trilogy and King Kong (thus the employment of Jamie Bell and Andy Serkis here), the technology really goes to new places in which you don’t get distracted by it but instead get engulfed by the world it presents.

Because it really is incredibly hard not to be sucked in by Steven Spielberg presenting an action adventure film featuring action scenes in motorcycles, at sea, on air, on really awesome locations and featuring some badass villains. And as someone that grew up with Tintin as a kid, it was just brilliant to see his stories on the big screen as acted and voiced by Jamie Bell, even though something about the animation on the character made him seem younger than he probably should have. The animation, however, is done perfectly well on Snowy, the incredibly awesome and loyal dog that always accompanies Tintin on all his adventures, he pretty much walks away with the whole film. Also around, of course, are Captain Haddock as played by Andy Serkis, and Thomson and Thompson, the two nearly-identical detectives that usually are on the same cases as Tintin, and who are here played, thanks to a genius casting choice, by Simon Pegg and Nick Frost.

The approach Mr. Spielberg took with the mo-cap technology in re-creating these classic characters is truly ambitious and it really paid off. I was admittedly kind of scared at first, after all these were characters that were so awesome because of how simple the drawings of Hergé seemed on the page, they were truly 2D creations. And yet, the animations are so awesomely done that, while the characters obviously look far more human than they did in the comics, they maintain every little bit of the feel the characters had when I read them, and that’s what they were ultimately all about. Further enhancing the experience is the fact that 3D on the hands of someone like Steven Spielberg is used not as a cheap gimmick, but as a true way to enhance our overall experience of the world we’re thrown into.

As we follow Tintin and Captain Haddock on the search for a sunken ship once commanded by Haddock’s ancestor, and their encounters with the film’s antagonist, Ivan Ivanovitch Sakharine, played by Daniel Craig (who had worked with Mr. Spielberg before on Munich), we’re taken on a rollercoaster ride full of explosions and chases and seriously fun characters played and voiced by a truly incredible cast. It’s impossible not to love The Adventures of Tintin, even if you’re not familiar with the character, even if you think you don’t like motion-capture, this film is tremendous, a seriously smart family-friendly film that will honestly be enjoyed by every member of the family. After a three year absence (or six if you, like me, would rather believe the fourth Indy film didn’t happen) Steven Spielberg is back, reinvigorated by a new technology he employs to create some mind-bending sequences reminiscent of his best work in the action adventure genre.

Grade: A-

Paul

25 Apr

Title: Paul
Year:
2011
Director:
Greg Mottola
Writers: Nick Frost and Simon Pegg
Starring:
Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Seth Rogen, Kristen Wiig, Jason Bateman, Bill Hader, Joe Lo Truglio, Jane Lynch, Sigourney Weaver
MPAA Rating:
R, language including sexual references, and some drug use
Runtime:
104 min
Major Awards:

IMDb Rating:
7.4
Rotten Tomatoes:
72%

It’s hard for me to describe the sense of anticipation that I had before I saw Paul. This was easily for me one of the films from the first half of 2011 that I wanted to see the most, and I’ll take a minute here to tell you exactly why that was.

First and foremost, it’s because of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. I first came upon these two on Spaced, that masterpiece of a short-lived cult British TV series that starred both of them and was written by Mr. Pegg and directed by Edgar Wright, who I’m also a huge fan of and who’s the third component of this trifecta of British awesomeness. It’s hard to really describe how amazing Spaced is, and if you haven’t yet watched it I suggest you stop reading and go do that right now, it’s only 14 episodes full of witty pop-culture references and surrealist bits and just insanely great dialogue that you can watch in one unforgettable seating.

After Spaced the awesome trio took their talents to the big screen, and started their Blood and Ice Cream Trilogy with Shaun of the Dead, a romcom film that also had zombies and that was a true success and that had you thinking these three should stick together forever. And, well, they sort of had us thinking that they just might, as 2007 saw the second installment of that trilogy come to life as Hot Fuzz arrived in theaters and showed everyone that these three weren’t one-trick ponies.

Both of those films are probably amongst my ten favorite films of their respective years, and so I was saddened to see that the guys weren’t immediately releasing the final chapter in their trilogy, which is reportedly going to be called The World’s End. Instead, they went on to do their own separate things. Mr. Frost had a role in The Boat That Rocked and a smaller one in Penelope. Mr. Pegg exploded real nicely onto the scene with significant roles in Mission: Impossible III and Star Trek among many others. And Mr. Wright went on to direct last year’s Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, which I have ranked as my 8th favorite film of all last year.

So yeah, they have been doing all right since the last time they all worked together. And even though there will be a mini-reunion of sorts to get us going until they decide to finally make The World’s End, which is happening late this year when Steven Spielberg’s motion capture 3D The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn (which was co-written by Mr. Wright and stars Mr. Pegg and Mr. Frost as Thomson and Thompson), this was the film that would see us see at least Mr. Pegg and Mr. Frost reunited in front of the camera.

So yes, I was excited about Paul, very excited actually. Two of the funniest people that excel the most when they’re together back on-screen as the two leading men of a film that they had written together. And then there’s the fact that this was to be directed by Greg Mottola, who has a pretty stellar record himself, this is the guy that started out in the mid-nineties with the very good Daytrippers, then went on to work on three TV series that not only are unequivocally great but have garnered a considerable cult following: Arrested Development, Undeclared and The Comeback. And then the guy went back to feature films in 2007 with Superbad, following that up with 2009’s Adventureland, both films I gave an A grade to. So, again, expectations were running high on Paul.

But that’s been me going on for way too long about why I was looking forward to Paul so damn much, and not a word on exactly how I thought it finally was. Well, here’s the thing, it’s not as great as Shaun of the Dead or Hot Fuzz were, nor as great as Superbad or Adventureland, but it’s still seriously good. I mean, it’s tough to match the heights the former films of the people attached to it did, but this one honestly doesn’t fall that far from it. It has its uneven moments, but it also has quite a few of those magical moments we know these people can deliver, and with Seth Rogen voicing the titular foul-mouthed alien the two encounter, then you can count one at least being a pretty unique roadtrip movie.

I mean, this is a very warm-hearted film in the end (and the actual ending is pretty awesome), one that’s full of a lot of giggles, and that’s pure great entertainment. It’s just fun to see people having fun on-screen together, and Mr. Pegg and Mr. Frost, along the many familiar and funny faces they bring along for the ride like Kristen Wiig, Jason Bateman, Bill Hader and Sigourney Weaver (Ripley!), definitely look as though they were having a ball just riffing off each other.

My expectations were ridiculously high and I still found myself loving every last second of Paul, loving how sweet it was behind it all, which was a refreshing change from most R-rated comedies of late who think they have to be dirty all the time.

Mr. Pegg and Mr. Frost are geek heroes by now, their work alongside Edgar Wright (who’s an even bigger geek hero of mine) has cemented their statuses as such because of how lovingly they homage many genres in the movies they do together. And here, even though their usual partner-in-crime is away, they continue at it quite brilliantly, spoofing the sci-fi genre in a way that you know only true sci-fi geeks can, doing some references to films like Star Trek, Star Wars, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and a cool and extra-geeky one to the lesser known Mac and Me.

Paul is an awesome film, it’s not Shaun of the Dead or Hot Fuzz because it really wasn’t trying to be, it was trying to be something more silly while still retaining the heart and wit of those two, which it honestly did. This is a film with a cast full of great people, headlined by two guys that have so much love for each other it’s infectious to watch on screen, and by a third guy who does wonders voicing a stoner alien. It’s pure honest fun, and that’s all you can ask for until we get The World’s End.

Grade: A-

OscarWatch: Best Picture

24 Jan

Since the Academy Award nominations will be announced bright and early Tuesday morning (!) I thought I’d do seven OscarWatch posts for the main races: Screenplay (encompassing both Original and Adapted), Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Lead Actor, Lead Actress, Director and Picture.

In them I’ll detail my thoughts on the given race and how I think things are starting to shape up considering we have now seen most of the precursor awards and count with BAFTA and SAG nominations. I’ll give my personal Top 20, with a brief paragraph on each, for any given race and detail which I think will be the nominees for the Oscars come Tuesday. And in the very final pre-nominations OscarWatch post we’ll of course tackle…

Best Picture

I’ll give my Top 20 picks for the best films in all of 2010, my brief thoughts on each and then I’ll say how I think the Oscar nominations for the category will look once they’re announced on Tuesday.

As for the state of the race, well, it’s a two-way race here. The precursors gave huge momentum to The Social Network, as did its win and mini-sweep at the Globes last week. However, yesterday The King’s Speech won the Producers Guild Award, and considering it will most certainly win the BAFTA, and will have a very decent shot at the Best Ensemble SAG award this really is a two-horse race, and a very very entertaining one at that.

Personal Top 20

  1. Black Swan – My favorite film of the year by heaps and bounds, a true masterpiece, directed by one of Hollywood’s most ambitious and perfectionists minds, featuring a handful of exceptional performances and just nailing every single frame.This is intense and passionate filmamaking at its very best, and were it up to me it would win absolutely everything.
  2. The Social Network – This is being heralded as the film of a generation. And as huge a statement as that may seem, it’s really kinda sorta on the money. A film about the phenomenon that’s consuming huge amounts of time of our lives, directed to perfection by a guy who can’t seem to do a bad thing and who started directing music videos, bolstering sensational performances by a cast full of up and coming actors, and with a script full of words and witty remarks. This really is the film of a generation.
  3. Inception This was the popcorn film that was actually stimulating, the smartest film of the year directed by the visionary we have all embraced like crazy into our lives. This was the one everyone talked about even months after its release, the one that when released on home video showed us just how awesome a blu-ray can really be, the one that had some seriously amazing performances and a very emotional story in the midst of all its visual spectacle. True innovative filmmaking.
  4. Blue Valentine The rawest, most emotional film experience I had in all last year. Bolstered by two pitch-perfect performances by Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams, this film showed how quick love can start, and how quick it can all end. It’s portrayal of a crumbling marriage is a very powerful thing to watch, the actors putting everything on the line, masterful stuff all around.
  5. The Kids Are All Right – This one has superb performances around the board, and tells a very contemporary story about family which we can all relate to in one way or another. Beautifully written, directed and acted, The Kids Are All Right was one of the best films of year just because of that, but it became even better when you realized just how much the writers knew their wine.
  6. Somewhere – Sofia Coppola’s back at it again, coming back to the stuff she’s comfortable with, and directing a quiet and gorgeous film. One which takes quite a bit from her own experiences as the daughter of a big star, and has her exploring celebrity like few directors can.
  7. Never Let Me Go – And I’ll say it one final time in these OscarWatch posts, this was, to me, the most underappreciated film of 2010 by a fair amount. Capturing the style and essence of the Kazuo Ishiguro novel it was based on was going to be a tough task for anyone to accomplish, and yet Mark Romanek did so splendidly, directing Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield and Keira Knightley to beautiful performances.
  8. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World – A truly original film, one that captures to perfection the style and flair of the graphic novels I love so much and that found in Edgar Wright the perfect director to convey the precious little life of Scott Pilgrim, and in Michael Cera the perfect guy to bring the character to life. This one goes by really fast, with its stunning visuals and cool one-liners, and every last second of it is pure bliss.
  9. Toy Story 3 There hasn’t been an official confirmation that this will be the last Toy Story film. But if it is, it’s probably the most graceful conclusion to any trilogy ever, coming full circle, full of memorable moments, of huge laughs, of meaningful tears. A beautiful film that ranks amongst Pixar’s best.
  10. 127 Hours A really powerful film, this one is. James Franco delivering the best performance of his career for director Danny Boyle, who entrusted him with portraying Aron Ralston, the real life man who was trapped when a boulder crashed his arm in a Utah canyon. The result is really breathtaking, with a stunning performance by Mr. Franco, sharp directing and writing by Mr. Boyle and some really gorgeous cinematography.
  11. True Grit – The Coen brothers are at it again with True Grit, continuing the ridiculous string of stunning films. They also have a wonderful cast full of amazing veterans in Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon and Josh Brolin and found in Hailee Steinfeld one of 2010’s coolest new stars, who clearly has a very bright future in front of her. If you liked Intolerable Cruelty, and manage to ignore that underwhelming The Ladykillers then you just might say the have a perfect body of work.
  12. Winter’s Bone – Debra Granik creates a very bleak and somber atmosphere for her film about the Ozarks, and found in Jennifer Lawrence the perfect actress to bring Ree to life, and carry and bring a speck of hope to the film. This is a real starmaking turn from her, and what lies in her future is just amazing to think about.
  13. The Town – The film that proved to us that Ben Affleck really is a fantastic director. A film that was extremely entertaining and full of spot-on performances by a cast that included Mr. Affleck himself, as well as Jeremy Renner, Rebecca Hall, Jon Hamm, Pete Postlethwaite, Blake Lively and Chris Cooper.
  14. The King’s Speech – If you exclude Black Swan this is the best-acted film of all 2010, the sort of thing you can write “Oscar bait” on, everyone delivering some truly masterful performances, directed by Tom Hooper from a fantastic script. If Black Swan was a very polarizing film, this is one I cannot see anyone not really falling in love with, if anything just because of how amazing Colin Firth is in it.
  15. The Fighter – Yes, this is another rather predictable boxing film, but the real-life story and people in it make it a very very compelling family tale. This is not a boxing film with a human story in it, but a human story with boxing in it. The performances here are just amazing, with Amy Adams, Melissa Leo, Christian Bale and Mark Wahlberg all doing wonders with their characters.
  16. Let Me In – The fact that this film ended up being nearly as perfect as the original Swedish one is the biggest compliment one could give it. This is the perfect definition of a good remake, one that never once tries to lose the essence of the original, but that adds enough spice of its own to separate itself from it in order to be judged on its own.
  17. Greenberg – Noah Baumbach yet again delivers a darkly comic script and amazing directing chops to a small little film that deals with the intricacies of an offbeat character. That character is played by Ben Stiller in what might be the performance of his career, a nuanced portrayal that was perfect in all the best ways. Not to mention that it was also the film that introduced us to Greta Gerwig, and she’s all sorts of lovely.
  18. Kick-Ass – A very fun film to watch, one that honors its graphic novel roots, isn’t afraid to show a cursing thirteen-year-old or hugely graphic and gnarly violence. This really is a treat for the eyes, one that has Nicolas Cage in full-on spectacle mode being awesome, and in Chloë Moretz one of the best finds of the year.
  19. Animal Kingdom – The stunning portrayal of the Australian criminal underground world. The performances here are just stunning to watch develop, the script is really clever and the film is just intensely plotted and structured to deliver a really thrilling ride.
  20. Biutiful – This is a very powerful film, one that’s many times hard to watch, but one that’s extremely rewarding to watch as well. Bursting to life by a beautifully raw performance by Javier Bardem and confident filmmaking by Alejandro González Iñárritu, it’s strong stuff, but compelling, too, and one that will have you leaving the theater and really thinking deep about what you just saw.

How I Think the Oscar Nominations Will Look Like (in alphabetical order)

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

The Town and 127 Hours are the wildcards for me here. The other 8 I think are guaranteed to score an invite to the big race. I named both The Town and 127 Hours as hypothetical candidates, but I could actually see either one of them being bumped off the shortlist in favor of Winter’s Bone, we shall wait and see what happens Tuesday morning.

OscarWatch: Best Director

24 Jan

Since the Academy Award nominations will be announced bright and early Tuesday morning (!) I thought I’d do seven OscarWatch posts for the main races: Screenplay (encompassing both Original and Adapted), Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Lead Actor, Lead Actress, Director and Picture.

In them I’ll detail my thoughts on the given race and how I think things are starting to shape up considering we have now seen most of the precursor awards and count with BAFTA and SAG nominations. I’ll give my personal Top 20, with a brief paragraph on each, for any given race and detail which I think will be the nominees for the Oscars come Tuesday. In this post I’ll tackle…

Best Director

I’ll give my Top 20 picks for best job at directing a film in 2010, my brief thoughts on each and then I’ll say how I think the Oscar nominations for the category will look once they’re announced on Tuesday.

As for the state of the race, I actually would stop calling it a race at all anymore. This award, no matter the outcome of the Best Picture one, will end up in David Fincher’s hands for sure.

Personal Top 20

  1. Darren Aronofsky (for Black Swan) – Yes, the award will go to David Fincher, but Darren Aronofsky is my personal pick for an inch. And that’s because Black Swan was my favorite film of the year by so much more than an inch. This is a masterpiece, a magnificent triumph in filmmaking, and Darren Aronofsky did a perfect job handling the reigns of it.
  2. David Fincher (for The Social Network) – David Fincher is the real deal, you look at his filmography and the titled you see are spellbinding: Fight Club, Se7en, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Zodiac. This is a guy who has made some of the definitive films of the last decade and a half, and this may just be his crowning achievement, just an amazing job by him.
  3. Christopher Nolan (for Inception) – The smartest film of all 2010, the kind of film that had you really working to keep up with it, and craving a repeat viewing to see what you may have missed. This was all executed to perfection by Christopher Nolan, who also wrote the film and was in charge of making “Did it stop spinning?” one of the most asked questions of all last year.
  4. Derek Cianfrance (for Blue Valentine) – I kind of fell in love with this film when I saw it, and it had a lot to do with the two lead performances. And those performances were directed to perfection by Derek Cianfrance, who also co-wrote the film and crafted a gorgeous look at a painful marriage.
  5. Edgar Wright (for Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) – I’m a massive fanboy of Edgar Wright, and I’m also a massive fanboy of the Scott Pilgrim graphic novels. When I first heard he was the one to be put in charge of bringing them to life I thought that if anyone was to succeed at that task it was probably going to be him. And sure enough, he created one of the most original and fun films of 2010 with a marked imprint of his very unique vision.
  6. Lisa Cholodenko (for The Kids Are All Right) – This is a wonderful film and it the woman handling the reigns, and also the one who co-wrote it, is at ease here, exploring very complex human emotions and situations. An exemplary piece of work.
  7. Joel Coen & Ethan Coen (for True Grit) – I’m starting to think there should be a campaign to name the Coen brothers the definitive American filmmakers of our time. They always tackle very different topics, eras, and genres, and they always produce work of the highest of qualities. Here they go forth an make a western, the genre you’d never suspect would fit to their artistic sensibilities, and yet the wonderful language of the book they adapted, as well as the perfect group of actors they got made it look easy for them to craft a seriously great film.
  8. Tom Hooper (for The King’s Speech) – This is probably the most prestigious film of 2010. Everyone loves it, it marries to perfection the historical biopic film aspects with mass appealing themes, and it has Tom Hooper sitting firmly on the director’s chair, working with a bunch of very talented and recognized thespians. He did a truly amazing job here, and if Fincher wasn’t such a lock to win the Oscar I’d call Mr. Hooper his biggest threat.
  9. Sofia Coppola (for Somewhere) – I’ll forever be a lover of everything Sofia Coppola does. And Somewhere is no exception, coming back from the larger scaled Marie Antoinette to return to the quiet, patient and beautifully observant films she does so well. Marie Antoinette was actually pretty amazing, but this is a return to her comfort zone, to where her aesthetic lies and where she can excel at telling small but beautiful stories.
  10. Ben Affleck (for The Town) – Here was the film that confirmed to everyone that Ben Affleck as a director is most certainly the real deal and not a one-hit-wonder who got lucky with the sublime Gone Baby Gone. He directs an all-star cast to some spectacular performances (I gave five of the film’s performances mentions in previos OscarWatch posts, including the one Mr. Affleck gave himself), and creates a bank heist movie that feels really fresh and doesn’t abuse any of the many genre clichés that would have been so easily to fall into for any lesser talented filmmakers.
  11. Danny Boyle (for 127 Hours) Slumdog Millionaire, his Oscar-winning previous effort, was going to be a tough act to follow. And Danny Boyle traded the very busy and loud streets of Mumbai and its many characters for a canyon in Utah in which his single character would be trapped for most of the film. And it paid off tremendously, with Mr. Boyle adding a very different and yet equally deserving film to his outstanding resumé.
  12. Debra Granik (for Winter’s Bone) – This was one very very cool cinematic experience for me in 2010, and how Debra Granik portrayed this very tough and very real region of the U.S. was just impeccable. Anchored by some awesome performances from breakout star Jennifer Lawrence and John Hawkes this was just a sensation film.
  13. Mark Romanek (for Never Let Me Go) – The music video director went back to feature films for the first time since One Hour Photo, and the result is the film that I have been calling the most underappreciated movie of 2010 in pretty much every OscarWatch post yet. This really was a beautiful adaptation of the Kazuo Ishiguro novel, full of pitch-perfect performances and able to create a very unique and fitting mood.
  14. Lee Unkrich (for Toy Story 3) – Pixar keeps its perfect streak alive with Toy Story 3, as the film managed to tell a story about growing up, about the blows life may deal us with, about friendship and love. It had huge laughs, great adventures, tearful moments, and everything else one could have wished for.
  15. David O. Russell (for The Fighter) – I loved The Fighter, and a lot of it had to with how David O. Russell chose to tell this story. Not using the many familiar themes and motifs that were available to huge extents, but using them as a backbone to tell a story that we all knew how it would end and still making it exciting and getting amazing performances from every single member of his cast.
  16. Mike Leigh (for Another Year) – There’s probably not a single living director who’s better at exploring the human psychology during everyday tasks than Mike Leigh. And Another Year is another prime example of why that is, this is just one very very good film, with a trio of awesome performances and a great overall feel.
  17. Noah Baumbach (for Greenberg) – Noah Baumbach is a guy I think can do no wrong. Greenberg is an exquisite exploration of its main character, a guy who’s not that easy to love, but who’s actually very easy to relate to and really care for. The situations created and explored by Mr. Baumbach and his cast, all of whom are uniformly excellent (especially Ben Stiller and the lovely Greta Gerwig), are just terrific to watch.
  18. Clint Eastwood (for Hereafter) – I know some people didn’t love Hereafter, but I thought it was tremendous. And that was mostly because of Mr. Eastwood, who got some very fine performances from his cast and dealth with a very interesting topic in a very interesting way. Why some people weren’t so fully on board with this film is something I won’t ever really understand.
  19. John Cameron Mitchell (for Rabbit Hole) – This was a very difficult film to really manage. And yet the result was something spectacular, with John Cameron Mitchell dealing with the hard material wonderfully, directing Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart to some perfect performances in the process.
  20. Matthew Vaughn (for Kick-Ass) – Last spot in the rankings goes to Matthew Vaughn, who directed one of the funnest films in all 2010 and captured to perfection the graphic novel style of it all, crafting memorable characters and scenes, not to mention that this was what sparked Chloë Moretz’s career, so we have him to thank for that.

How I Think the Oscar Nominations Will Look Like (in alphabetical order)

  • Darren Aronofsky (for Black Swan)
  • David Fincher (for The Social Network)
  • Tom Hooper (for The King’s Speech)
  • Christopher Nolan (for Inception)
  • David O. Russell (for The Fighter)

I think Aronofsky, Fincher, Hooper and Nolan are all 100% sewn up to get nominations. And the fifth slot is a battle between David O. Russell and the Coen brothers for True Grit, but with the latest precursors indicating that the former holds the advantage in that square-off.

OscarWatch: Best Screenplay

21 Jan

Since the Academy Award nominations will be announced bright and early Tuesday morning (!) I thought I’d do seven OscarWatch posts for the main races: Screenplay (encompassing both Original and Adapted), Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Lead Actor, Lead Actress, Director and Picture.

In them I’ll detail my thoughts on the given race and how I think things are starting to shape up considering we have now seen most of the precursor awards and count with BAFTA and SAG nominations. I’ll give my personal Top 20, with a brief paragraph on each, for any given race and detail which I think will be the nominees for the Oscars come Tuesday. And we’re kicking things off with…

BEST SCREENPLAY

I’ll give my Top 20 screenplays of the year, though I won’t divide them between original or adapted screenplays, my brief thoughts on each and then how I think the two screenplay races may look this Tuesday, in no particular order.

As for the state of this race, I think the winner in the Best Adapted looks clear, and by this of course I mean The Social Network. Aaron Sorkin has been unstoppable thus far and he should continue his reign come the Academy Awards. And if someone can stop it then I’d say it probably would be Michael Arndt for Toy Story 3, but that won’t really happen.

As for the Best Original Screenplay race, things aren’t so clear-cut here to me. This one is a three-way race between Inception, The King’s Speech and The Kids Are All Right to me. If The King’s Speech ends up winning Best Picture then it’ll get this one, though it may still get it regardless. If the Academy wants to finally reward Christopher Nolan then they’ll do it in this category. And if neither of those scenarios happens then it’s The Kids Are All Right. Really really tough one to call, though, we’ll just have to wait and see who wins the WGA.

Personal Top 20:

  1. The Social Network (written by Aaron Sorkin, based on the book by Ben Mezrich) – My second favorite film of the year had by far my favorite screenplay of the year. Written by Aaron Sorkin in his typical witty and fast-paced talky style this one was amazing.
  2. The Kids Are All Right (written by Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg) – This is a film with a lot of stand-out scenes, and while a lot of that is because of the amazing acting it has on display, it also has to do with just how impeccable the writing is.
  3. Toy Story 3 (written by Michael Arndt, based on the story by John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich) – When you talk to people about this film, male or female, eight or eighty, they’ll all tell you they loved it, and most will also tell you they cried. That’s a testament to fine script Michael Arndt crafted for Pixar’s latest.
  4. Black Swan (written by Mark Heyman, Andres Heinz and John J. McLaughlin, based on the story by Andres Heinz) – My favorite film of the year should definitely get nominated for an Academy Award for it’s intriguing and hypnotizing script which creates this mesmerizing tension that translated so beautifully to the screen.
  5. Inception (written by Christopher Nolan) – The year’s most mind-challenging film was written to perfection by its director. And it had to be for us to be able to follow the intricate plot and structure. For him to have been able to introduce so much character development considering how much was going on is a testament to his writing skills.
  6. Winter’s Bone (written by Debra Granik and Anne Rosellini, based on the novel by Daniel Woodrell) – I thought Winter’s Bone was a remarkable film, and the job it did at capturing to perfection the mood of its source material was tremendous.
  7. Blue Valentine (written by Derek Cianfrance, Cami Delavigne and Joey Curtis) – Much like the film itself, this is a tough script, and a very original one, too. Grounded on some very raw emotions, this is just a very powerful screenplay, which, unfortunately, I don’t think will get much awards recognition.
  8. Somewhere (written by Sofia Coppola) – I may be biased here because of my undying love for Sofia Coppola, but I still really do think Somewhere has a beautiful script. I know many will say that that’s not really the case, because the script is really short and quiet, but what’s there is magic, just see the film if you don’t believe me.
  9. The King’s Speech (written by David Seidler) – David Seidler gets the trifecta of biopic scripts here. He makes it both informing about its historical figure, while still very moving and appealing to the masses.
  10. Rabbit Hole (written by David Lindsay-Abaire, based on his own play) – Adapting such a beautiful play was going to be a difficult task. Unless you were the one who wrote the play to begin with. David Lindsay-Abaire transfers perfectly the feel and mood of his Pulitzer-winning play from stage to screen.
  11. The Fighter (written by Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy and Eric Johnson, based on the story by Paul Tamasy, Eric Johnson and Keith Dorrington) – This is one very effective script, the writers took elements we’re all extremely familiarized with, and made them feel new and fresh within this real-life story.
  12. Never Let Me Go (written by Alex Garland, based on the novel by Kazuo Ishiguro) – My vote for the most under-appreciated film of all 2010. The screenplay by Alex Garland is moving and perfectly captures the dystopian atmosphere of the Kazuo Ishiguro novel.
  13. Another Year (written by Mike Leigh) – Mike Leigh’s at it again with this film, continuing his perfect observation of human psychology in a terrific film which explores the everyday lives of middle-class English people like only he can.
  14. 127 Hours (written by Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy, based on the book by Aron Ralston) – This one very compelling script, of course aided by the fact that they had Aron Ralston, the movie’s subject, on hand to ask questions to. The power of the film, in which we remain with one person in one place for the majority of its duration comes not only from the great direction and acting, but also from this very good screenplay.
  15. The Town (written by Peter Craig, Ben Affleck and Aaron Stockard, based on the novel by Chuck Hogan) – This was actually a pretty damn amazing film, and Ben Affleck, as we know, already has an Oscar for writing Good Will Hunting with Matt Damon. Here he’s joined by two other writers and creates a great film that never uses any cheap tricks or clichés and that always feels extremely entertaining.
  16. True Grit (written by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, based on the novel by Charles Portis) – The Coen brothers are amazing at adapting this novel and making it their own. The vocabulary fits well with their trademark sense of humor, and they do wonders with that language in this one.
  17. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (written by Michael Bacall and Edgar Wright, based on the graphic novels by Bryan Lee O’Malley) – I’m a huge fan of the Scott Pilgrim novels, and as such I didn’t knew what to expect of the film that tried to encompass those precious little volumes into a film. I had to nothing to worry about, though, because the result was a superbly fun film, written to perfection by Edgar Wright, the graphic novels’ fanboy and film’s director, and Michael Bacall.
  18. Greenberg (written by Noah Baumbach, based on the story by himself and Jennifer Jason Leigh) – I’m a huge fan of every single letter, comma and any other splash of ink Noah Baumbach writes, and Greenberg is no exception. This is an amazing story here, full of very good lines (“Youth is wasted on the young”, says Ivan. To which Greenberg replies: “I’d go further. I’d go: Life is wasted on people”).
  19. Get Him to the Greek (written by Nichollas Stoller, based on the characters created by Jason Segel) – The year’s funniest script, the amount of amazing one-liners this one has is ridiculous. Just go light up a Jeffrey, or drink up some naughty water, or something, because you’re about to get your mind fucked.
  20. Get Low (written by Chris Provenzano and C. Gaby Mitchell, based on a story by Chris Provenzano and Scott Seeke) – There were some four or five films competing for my final slot in this Top 20, but I thought Get Low was the worthiest entry, there is some very fine writing on display here as well as a very original premise. It also helps its case that the words were uttered by top-notch actors.

How I Think the Oscar Nominations Will Look Like (in alphabetical order) – Best Original Screenplay

  • Black Swan (written by Mark Heyman, Andres Heinz and John J. McLaughlin)
  • 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)

This would be, in my opinion, a very very solid field of nominees. I think four of these slots are all sewn up, with the fifth slot being a battle between The Fighter and Another Year. Who gets that final nod will be decided by how much love those films get, and as such, I’m guessing The Fighter will prevail.

How I Think the Oscar Nominations Will Look Like (in alphabetical order) – 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)
  • The Town (written by Peter Craig, Ben Affleck and Aaron Stockard, based on the novel by Chuck Hogan)
  • Toy Story 3 (written by Michael Arndt, based on the story by John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich)
  • True Grit (written by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, based on the novel by Charles Portis)

I think The Social Network, Toy Story 3 and True Grit are all locks. 127 Hours I’d probably count in the same category, too. Which means there’s only one slot that, according to me, is up for grabs. I think  the Academy will give it to The Town, since they won’t recognize Ben Affleck in the director category (by an inch) and will have to give him something here, though I’m expecting some fight from the Winter’s Bone screenplay.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

26 Aug

Title: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
Year: 2010
Director: Edgar Wright
Writers: Michael Bacall and Edgar Wright, based on the comic book series by Bryan Lee O’Malley
Starring: Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Ellen Wong, Kieran Culkin, Chris Evans, Anna Kendrick, Alison Pill, Brandon Routh, Jason Schwartzman, Mark Webber, Johnny Simmons, Brie Larson, Aubrey Plaza, Satya Bhabha, Mae Whitman, Shota Saito, Keita Saito
MPAA Rating: PG-13, stylized violence, sexual content, language and drug references
Runtime: 112 min
Major Awards:
IMDb Rating: 8.2
Rotten Tomatoes: 81%

This was another film I was intensely psyched about, directed by a guy who has done one of my favorite TV shows (Spaced) and two seriously amazing films (Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz), based on a series of graphic novels I’m a huge geek for, and with a cast that includes Michael Cera, Jason Schwartzman, Aubrey Plaza and Brie Larson. There was seriously nothing not to like about Scott Pilgrim vs. the World when it was announced.

Then the teaser trailers and pictures started surfacing online, and it all further proved that we were right, that this was going to be all sorts of amazing. Then came words from Quentin Tarantino, Kevin Smith and Jason Reitman, all of whom were shown a rough cut of the film by Edgar Wright and apparently loved it. Then fanboys like me started craving more and more, and we were given teasers after teasers, and the full trailers, and a Comic-Con panel that was packed like crazy, this was all amazing, and, to me, so is the film as a whole, a wait that was sincerely well worth it.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is the ultimate geek movie, filled with references to videogames and other pop-culture items, and a visual style that’s truly like nothing that’s ever been on screen before, plus it really does capture the quirky sense of humor and fast pace of the graphic novels perfectly, something fans of the source material like me are bound to appreciate. This is the film that will get all the ones who said “Inception is the only true original film of the whole summer” to think again.

I’m trying to think about something bad to say about this film, but I can’t, I guess one could say the script is kinda just-okay, but it’s more than that because it still manages to capture the essence of the source material perfectly, and that’s all Mr. Wright and co-writer Michael Bacall should have aimed to do in the first place, to get themselves to emulate the speedy and fun style of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s comics. They make this one feel like a videogame, when the title character kills someone the dead guy turns into coins, something that not only makes it way easier to get a gentler rating from the MPAA, but that also guarantees more than a few geekgasms from everyone in the audience.

Scott is twenty-two, and he’s the bass player in a band called Sex Bob-omb (after the Super Mario character), and he’s your typical guy really, he likes good music, knows a lot of fun yet useless facts, has a girlfriend and yet swoons over other girls he assumes he can’t get and he hangs out with his gay bestfriend/roommate. And then he meets Ramona Flowers, one of those awesome girls he thought he could never get, he meets her while he’s still with Knives Chau, his high-school-attending rebound girlfriend, but his relationship status with her quickly changes so he can go in pursuit of Ramona. There’s a catch however, you see, to get to be with Ramone he has to first fight and defeat her seven evil exes. And that’s when the film distances itself from reality and goes into videogame/awesome mode.

The battles look exactly like a videogame would (and the actual tie-in 8-bit Scott Pilgrim videogame is pretty damn rad on its own right) and they’re amazing, you’ll find yourself pretty much drooling over the visuals and the bold look of it all. It’s not so much that this was taken from reality as it is that this is Mr. Wright’s and Mr. O’Malley’s reality, and it’s one kick-ass reality to be in for close to two hours (or much longer than that if you’re like me and have enjoyed repeat viewings). The characters are totally awesome, from all of the evil exes, which seem truly out of this world, to the more humane characters like the roommate Wallace Wells or Stacey, Scott’s younger sister who’s played by the always lovely and amazing Anna Kendrick, who began dating Edgar Wright while shooting, thus instantly putting them in the Top 5 Most Amazing Couples list.

Edgar Wright is not a filmmaker’s filmmaker, he’s something that, to me, is even better, and that’s a filmgoers filmmaker, a guy that learned from watching and loving films and graduated into making them. Technically his films may not be the very best (though they’re pretty outstanding still), but all his films have a ton of moments that make regular movie fans, and especially fans of the specific genre, go completely nuts. He just seriously knows how to create some seriously pleasing visual moments, look at Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz and there you’ll see some bits that are just unbelievable, and he adds to his quota with this one.

In Scott Pilgrim vs. the World the movie there’s a lot of what made Scott Pilgrim, the graphic novels, so damn great. And that’s the fact that beyond the fast style, beyond the awesome fights and the loud music there’s a helluva lot of honesty to these characters, a lot of what it feels to be young and in love, and the doubts that go with all of that, this is after all a coming-of-age story, it’s just the raddest one ever told.

Grade: A+