Tag Archives: Jason Reitman

Best of 2011: 20 Directors

4 Feb

A whole month after 2011 ended I have wrapped up my yearly rankings, having seen 256 films released in 2011, granting 13 perfect A+ scores and a really superb 76 scores in the A range. To remember the year that was I thought I should start a feature that will hopefully become a yearly thing for me and do a few Best of 2011 posts, choosing my Top 20 films, directing efforts, screenplays, and performances (separated by lead male, lead female, supporting male and supporting female) and doing a post honoring them with a brief paragraph explaining what made each of those 20 options so remarkable and memorable and thus made 2011 a great year for films. For the third entry in the series of posts we have my Top 20 Directors of 2011:

20. BRAD BIRD for Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol

I know this is kind of a weird pick, but, for one, I really loved the latest Mission: Impossible film (it would have been the 21st pick had my Top 20 been expanded), and, secondly, I think a lot of that has to do with how Brad Bird directed it. The fact that this was his first foray into live-action, after winning two Oscar’s for The Incredibles and Ratatouille, shows the man really has the goods, and here he delivers a tremendously fast-paced action flick that’s just full of huge set pieces that are jaw-dropping and it all has just so much style. It’s all done with an action-y kind of grace, with awesome scenes that are impeccably choreographed and a great sense of humor.

19. PAUL FEIG for Bridesmaids

Bridesmaids celebrates women in comedy, written by two extremely funny gals and acted out by an ensemble full of other ones, and it was a hugely refreshing and hilarious film to watch when it came out. But, for all the female talent it has, there are two key male players off-camera that also helped make it the $290 million-grossing film it is. One of them is producer Judd Apatow, but the other is Paul Feig, the creator of Freaks and Geeks and a comedic genius on his own right. This is comedy done to perfection, equal parts raunchy and witty, and with a helluva lot of heart in it, too. After naming it my second favorite screenplay of the year this is now my second ranking in which Bridesmaids appears.

18. DRAKE DOREMUS for Like Crazy

I named this film the eleventh best of all 2011, and its director gets a shout-out in this ranking too. And he has to be here because Like Crazy is all about very raw emotions being on display all the time, and it all starts with Doremus, who based it a lot on his own real-life experience and who gave his actors, Felicity Jones and Anton Yelchin, just a very specific outlines and terrific direction and allowed them to improvise the drama unfolding. It takes a great director to have accomplished the kind of improvisation seen on screen in this film, as natural as it all feels you just know there was a lot of care and loving that went into it. He knows how to keep still and do a lot with silence, and he knows how to guide his actors; truly a talent to watch out for.

17. JEFF NICHOLS for Take Shelter

After appearing on the final spot on my Top 20 Screenplays, Jeff Nichols also appears here for his directing duties on his spellbinding film. It’s just a wonderfully subtle piece of work by him, really knowing how to create this outstanding sense of unease to go along with the mesmerizingly great domestic drama of it all. I just loved his work in this film, how he manages to make it just creep under your skin, making you feel uncomfortable and building a sense of horror while creating a really rich psychological examination of a contemporary American family.

16. ASGHAR FARHADI for A Separation

#15 on my Best Films ranking and #17 on my Best Screenplays one, Asghar Farhadi’s phenomenal film makes yet another appearance in this one. The direction is just so neat, and right after the opening scene Farhadi starts to shape his film tremendously, showing us the heart of the modern Iranian state while also commenting on the more universal themes this film touches upon, like marriage, parenthood, class and just an overall amazing portrayal of life. The ethical and moral questions this film raises are so deftly handled by Farhadi, it’s amazing.

15. JASON REITMAN for Young Adult

#12 on my Best Films ranking and #3 on the Best Screenplays one. Another film that’s now been in all three of my rankings thus far, and I’ve always really loved what Jason Reitman does in his films, and with Juno, Up in the Air and now this one he has a streak of three perfect films going on, and is quickly becoming one of the most important American directors around. It’s kind of a more snarky and sour film than what we’re used to getting from him, and he just knows how to execute that tone perfectly, and even though the portrayal Charlize Theron gives of Mavis Gary and the depiction of her from Diablo Cody’s screenplay don’t make her out as a likable character, he gets us to laugh at her and, maybe, even if it’s just a little bit, actually sympathize.

14. SEAN DURKIN for Martha Marcy May Marlene

Another film on all three of my rankings so far, coming in at #1o on the Best Films list and #13 on the Best Screenplays one. This is actually Sean Durkin’s debut feature, and it’s a thoroughly impressive one, just how he employs the various techniques to shine a light on the state of his lead character is fantastic, using really awesomely the time-shifting narrative, going back and forth from the chronological beginning of the story to the end, he uses that to create a sense of confusion and to make us join into her paranoia and understand how the realities are just as mixed up in her mind. Just a seriously terrific debut from a guy I can’t wait to see more of.

13. GEORGE CLOONEY for The Ides of March

#18 on both my Best Films and Best Screenplays rankings, The Ides of March gets a higher slot here because of how great I thought the direction by George Clooney, who also co-stars in it, was. You just get the sense that the man, while being a terrific actor, also has the makings of a great director, clearly having picked up some stuff after working under the direction of the Coen brothers, Steven Soderbergh and Jason Reitman. Here he shows he’s good at telling stories of smart men in complicated situations, and he creates just a great atmosphere and a wonderful sense of intrigue, as well as a kind of old-school pacing from political films of the 70’s.

12. LARS VON TRIER for Melancholia

My 16th favorite film of the year gets a nod to its crazy director, the one that got a lifetime ban from the Cannes film festival after some comments he made after the premiere of Melancholia. As always he brings forth a really unique vision to this apocalyptic story, but seeing the end of the world not in some grand way but in a smaller scope, in a very intimate way that allowed him to get a career-best performance from Kirsten Dunst, who just shines in this film, as well as create some really striking imagery to go along with the literal end of the world as well as for the inner crumbling down of the world that the depressed character Ms. Dunst plays is going through.

11. LYNNE RAMSAY for We Need to Talk About Kevin

Lynne Ramsay is one of the most talented female filmmakers around, and after a nine year absence (since 2002’s great Morvern Callar), she was back at it again with this film, teaming up with the great Tilda Swinton, an actress who delivers an amazing performance and in which she can rely to let tell the story and just take a more backed off kind of approach. How she employs the flashbacks to shine a light on the life of Eva before and after the school shooting committed by her own son is terrific, and how she never takes the easy way out of making Eva a pitiable character is terrific, trusting her actors to do all the heavy-lifting to make the story function, which the really succeed at under her confident direction.

10. TOMAS ALFREDSON for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Another film that’s been on all three of my rankings thus far, and in the Top 10 of all of them (#9 film, #8 screenplay, now this), and I guess I’ll say it again for this ranking: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is probably the smartest film to have come out in 2011. And kudos must be given to Tomas Alfredson who after delivering the sublime Let The Right One In in 2008 now made the leap to English language films with this one. And boy did he succeed tremendously, masterfully crafting a film that never once underestimates its audience, giving us an intricately-plotted film and never once dumbing it down, trusting that we’re smart enough to follow them through the puzzles of the espionage world he and his cast and crew so expertly craft.

9. BENNETT MILLER for Moneyball

Another film that’s been in the Top 10 of all my rankings so far (#7 film, #4 screenplay, now this). The fact that Bennett Miller has only made two feature films is actually quite stunning when you consider the two have been Capote and now this one. He really does bring a lot to the table in this film, a film that was based on a book about baseball statistics, but that thanks to the wonderful script, amazing performances, mainly from Brad Pitt, and the skillful Mr. Miller who made this film not about the numbers but about the people crunching them, and the relationships between them which really made this film as perfect as it ultimately was.

8. WOODY ALLEN for Midnight in Paris

My fourteenth favorite film and my very favorite screenplay of the year; all of that because of Woody. I’m an unapologetic Woody Allen fan, even his lesser works do it for me, the guy just seemingly having a direct line to my sensibilities and to my funny bone. Midnight in Paris, of course, is Woody going back to doing to what he does best and to what he’s actually the best at doing in the world; this film is just so beautifully embedded in a lot of nostalgia, and is so funny and charming, and everything else that a Woody Allen film should be. The opening scene of this one is as much an homage to Paris as the opening of Manhattan was to the place where he made his best work. He’s just sheer genius.

7. MICHEL HAZANAVICIUS for The Artist

The presumed front-runner for the Oscar. And while that award should certainly go to Martin Scorsese, I guess the frenchman would also be a worthy winner. Creating a silent, black-and-white film that has captivated every person that’s watched it (and that I ranked as the #8 film and #12 screenplay). It works as an homage of the highest class to the Golden Era of Hollywood, recreating the charm of the films of the time, showing that he as a director is skillful and knowledgeable about his art to make a film like this, knowing how to thrill and move his audience and make one of the most entertaining films of the year out of a silent film.

6. ALEXANDER PAYNE for The Descendants

One of the greatest living American directors, as well as the man responsible for the screenplay of the film (which I ranked #7 in that ranking) and the film itself being my fifth favorite of the year. Here again he captures the essence of life every so masterfully, giving us his very unique human mix of emotions that take you by surprise; sometimes having you laugh at what’s happening on screen, sometimes having you cry. The balance between tragic and funny on display in The Descendants is one that only a man like Alexander Payne could have achieved, and the moments of emotional sincerity on display in this film, most of them acted out by George Clooney in a career-best performance, are a thing of beauty.

5. DAVID FINCHER for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

David Fincher is probably one of my five favorite living directors, after delivering my second favorite directing effort of 2010 with the masterpiece that was The Social Network he’s at it again only a year later with my third favorite film of 2011 (and the one that had my 15th favorite screenplay of the year). Creating a two-and-a-half-hour film that’s unapologetically brutal and ever so captivating, getting an iconic performance from Rooney Mara that will grab you by the throat and never let you go. Every single frame of this film, from that insanely awesome opening sequence onwards, is sheer perfection, he’s known for asking up to a hundred takes of any one scene, but at least he has stuff to back that crazy request with when the results are going to be as masterful as they are here.

4. STEVE McQUEEN for Shame

My second favorite film of the year, and the one with my fourteenth favorite screenplay. Steve McQueen is proving to be a director with a truly unique voice. He’s such an intense kind of director, ready to deliver some truly outstanding and powerful films that will certainly leave their mark on you once you see them. Shame won’t be for everyone, I know that, but to me it was just spectacular to see how a director so vividly portrayed a state of addiction and an inner life that’s a living hell through his lead character, Brandon, that’s so masterfully acted by Michael Fassbender, who was also McQueen’s lead in Hunger, proving that theirs is one of the most exciting actor-director tandems in film right now.

3. TERRENCE MALICK for The Tree of Life

I ranked the film as the sixth best of the year, and the screenplay as the nineteenth best, but Terrence Malick as a director gets a higher positioning because this film proves why he’s such an exceptional auteur, and why his long, tedious and picky process of creation really does pay off. The Tree of Life is a true cinematic achievement in every sense of the word, even if you think some scenes are too long and how it sometimes didn’t feel all that cohesive a film you have to acknowledge that, you have to acknowledge the man made a tremendously special film that, even if the emotional and spiritual parts of it didn’t ring true to you, is still an undeniable visual feast.

2. NICOLAS WINDING REFN for Drive

#4 film, #16 screenplay, and now #2 director. Nicolas Winding Refn is a man with such a unique and incredibly awesome visual style that Drive is just a masterpiece pretty much solely because of that, and if the aforementioned director-actor tandem of McQueen-Fassbender is one that really gets me excited, so too is the one of Refn-Gosling, since the two really seem to have a lot of chemistry and trust in each other in this one. How he uses violence is just outstanding, maybe it’s too extreme for some, but it was just right for me, and as shocking as it may be, it’s not gratuitous, but used by the director to elicit reactions from his audience, and that, alongside some of the other heavily-stylized techniques he employs, are used to really add a lot to the end product.

1. MARTIN SCORSESE for Hugo

Of course Martin Scorsese was going to top this ranking for me; Hugo I have already named as the best film of 2011, and the screenplay for it I ranked eleventh in those rankings. Considering he’s my favorite director all-time, this was a no-brainer. Also considering he crafted another masterpiece, but this time did so straying far away from his comfort zone, making a film aimed at kids, in 3D no less. But this is also probably the most personal film the legend has ever made, one he did so that his young daughter Francesca could finally see a film of his, one that he did as a beautiful love letter to the art of cinema himself, one that he’s incredibly passionate about and does so much to preserve. A clear #1 for me. All 5 of the Oscar nominees are in my Top 10, but if I ran the Oscars, only two of them, Scorsese and Malick, would have actually gotten a nominated, here’s hoping Scorsese can pull of the win against Hazanavicius.

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Young Adult

26 Dec

Title: Young Adult
Year: 2011
Director: Jason Reitman
Writer: Diablo Cody
Starring: Charlize Theron, Patton Oswalt, Patrick Wilson, Elizabeth Reaser, Collette Wolfe, Hettienne Park, J.K. Simmons
MPAA Rating: R, language and some sexual content
Runtime: 94 min
IMDb Rating: 7.4
Rotten Tomatoes: 80%
Metacritic: 73

 

Oh what an awesome, awesome Christmas I’m having. I decided to skip any kind of family gathering or lunch or anything and spend a the day watching films I really thought I would potentially love. The result? I saw Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy early, which was an A+ from me and the seventh best film so far this year. I saw We Need to Talk About Kevin in the afternoon, an A and currently the seventeenth best film of the year for me, and now I got to see Young Adult. Like I said, this is an awesome Christmas.

Because Young Adult certainly didn’t break the streak, I’ve now watched three truly great films in a row, and this one also extends Jason Reitman’s streak of delivering truly outstanding films. He broke out in 2005 with Thank You For Smoking, which was a really smart satire that I ranked as the thirty-first best film of that year; then of course he hit the big time in 2007 with Juno, my second favorite film of that year, one of my five favorite screenplays of the past decade (and the one from which the name of this site comes from) and the film that introduced us all to the incredible Ellen Page; and then in 2009 he cemented his status as a truly amazing director with Up in the Air, my favorite film of that year and that had George Clooney at his very best (though the actor surpassed those heights in this year’s The Descedants).

Young Adult has him re-teaming with Diablo Cody, who won the Oscar for the screenplay of Juno, and giving us the story of Mavis Gary, a woman who writes young adult novels for a living and that returns to the small town she grew up with to try and recapture the spark of her glory days, wanting to get back her high school sweetheart (who’s now married) and just behaving, as the double entendre of the title suggests, as a young adult, a grown-up woman who can’t seem to leave behind her teenage years and dreams. In the process she forms an unlikely bond with an old classmate who’s also having trouble leaving behind his days of high school, and the film goes on from there. And even though the character and the whole approach this film takes is much more snarky and sour than the stuff Mr. Reitman usually gives us, it’s still a really funny movie, and an actually remarkable exploration on these people that don’t know how to grow up, propelled to real greatness because of the performance of Charlize Theron as Mavis, and the one from the hilarious Patton Oswalt as Matt, that old classmate she strikes up a connection with.

This is just seriously my type of film, I’m too much of a Jason Reitman fan not to love this, and the way he handles this material is awesome, he knows how to execute that tone in which you can make fun of something while still being really affectionate towards it, and the fact that he could deliver such an acid portrayal of a woman, and not only get us to really laugh at it but actually sympathize, just a little bit, with her as well, is a truly remarkable feat. Though of course a lot of that credit also has to go to Ms. Theron, another great performance by a leading actress in a year that’s filled with truly memorable ones, she’s sensational here. It’s the character study of Mavis that really makes Young Adult stand out, and it’s all because of a really brave performance by Ms. Theron, who captures that really crappy side of a woman who inside is still a child, too obsessed by how popular she used to be to realize, much less admit, just how lonely she is now.

It’s a really difficult task to make a film about an unlikable protagonist, not to mention that we’ll probably like her less at the end of the film than what we did in the beginning. Mr. Reitman, Ms. Cody and Ms. Theron break the mold by giving us such a movie, a film that doesn’t follow any set of rules and gives us a look as to what may happen to those countless “Queen Bee” characters of the films of the 80’s as they hit forty. It’s just amazing how unnerving Mavis can be when we meet her, we get the gist that she’s divorced and now spends her time writing these novels, drinking and pulling her hair while she does so, and deciding that going back to her hometown and reuniting with her teenage sweetheart is the right move. Of course that the guy is now married and a first-time father only means that she’ll think she’s trapped in his marriage and decide to destroy said institution, arguing that they’re made for each other and whatnot. Like I said, it’s hard to root for Mavis.

It’s really a 180 that the Reitman-Cody partnership took going from Juno MacGuff to Mavis Gary. Juno was just super smart and hugely likable, Mavis is a woman you dislike from the get-go and she goes back to her hometown where everyone thinks she’s a success, and she goes there ready to break a marriage (incidentally, the Mini Cooper that Mavis drives is just like the one Ms. Theron’s character in The Italian Job drove). It’s like she thinks it’s not too late to set things straight and go back on the path she thinks was meant for her in life. And the job Patrick Wilson does with the role of Buddy, the highschool sweetheart, is actually really great, a nice guy who doesn’t know how quite to react when his old flame, who he thinks is just a glamorous and successful woman, comes back to his life, him holding a breast milk pump, and wants him to get back together with her.

But the best parts of the film were not the ones about the hunk she came looking for, but about the nerd she finds instead. That nerd being Matt, who’s played so, so well by Mr. Patton, who I’m a huge fan of. The film actually depends on him quite a lot, because, considering our lead character is unlikable, it’s Matt who’s the character we can relate to, the one that’s easy to connect with and that speaks the truth (though this truth is penned by Diablo Cody so it’s obviously much cooler than your truth or my truth). Not to mention that he’s just super geeky and makes his own action figures and owns a lot of indie band t-shirts, which makes Patton Oswalt perfect to play him and makes Matt a character I would obviously love.

Matt also distills his own bourbon, which is a quality Mavis loves, as she’s pretty much an alcoholic and that’s her poison of choice. That condition explains a lot about her: the fact that she’s single, that fact that she’s suffering from writer’s block, the mess that’s her life, how she wants to cling to a time in which she was the most popular girl in school. A time of which Matt serves as a reminder of, which may explain why she starts hanging out with him, even though while she was being crowned prom queen he was at the hospital after being severely beaten by bullies who thought he was gay even though he isn’t. It’s cringe-inducing to see how even towards a guy like Matt she complains about her life really seriously, wallowing in self-pity and having zero consideration for Matt.

Young Adult is a truly terrific movie, I really loved it and I’m giving it my eleventh perfect grade of the year (and second of the day!). I loved it because of how piercing a character study it is, I mean it’s obviously really funny too, but it’s so great because of how it presents Mavis to us. It never once tries to justify her behavior, but at least it gives a sincere depiction of this character, which maybe, just maybe, may earn the tiniest bit of your sympathy. Whether it does or it doesn’t is up to you (I’m personally still absorbing it, and want to watch it a second time), but the result is undeniable, this film is tremendous, the performances by Ms. Theron and Mr. Patton are nothing short of perfect, and Jason Reitman continues to extend one of the most impressive track records in Hollywood, and the fact that his next film will star Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin only suggests that streak will go on. For now, he’s four-for-four, and this one’s spectacular.

Grade: A+

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.

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+

Chloe

14 Apr

Title: Chloe
Year: 2009
Director: Atom Egoyan
Writer: Erin Cressida Wilson, based on the film Nathalie… written by Anne Fontaine
Starring: Julianne Moore, Liam Neeson, Amanda Seyfried, Nina Dobrev, Max Thieriot
MPAA Rating: R, strong sexual content including graphic dialogue, nudity and language
Runtime: 96 min
Major Awards:
IMDb Rating: 7.1
Rotten Tomatoes: 52%

Some critics haven’t received Chloe, the remake of the 2003 french film Nathalie…, that well, claiming that it doesn’t deliver the thrills it promises and falls into clichés of the sexual thriller genre, I personally loved the film, especially because it showcases three fabulous actors who I love, especially Amanda Seyfried, who was convinced to take the titular role by executive producer Jason Reitman.

Atom Egoyan is outstanding in directing Chloe, the film in which a woman, played by Julianne Moore, sees a girl outside her office window who looks and acts like a super fancy call girl, then she finds a photograph on her husband’s phone that she finds suspicious, goes back to where she first saw the girl, makes eye contact with her and starts taking to her in the powder room. The girl, played by a wonderful Amanda Seyfried, is wonderfully nonchalant when she tells her women are not usually her clients.

Amanda Seyfried is a young actress I’m completely nuts over, one of my Hollywood crushes if you will, but still, crush and bias aside she’s still a terrific actress and how she plays Chloe is superb, this is a character that obviously has personal motives to do what she does, but those aren’t apparent, and that’s what fuels this incredibly complex film because it’s not so much about actually doing something, as much as it is about thinking about doing it.

The plot after the initial scene I just described goes like this: Catherine, the Julianne Moore character, tells Chloe, who’s actually quite smart aside from her obvious beauty, that she suspects her husband of being adulterous and wants her to try and seduce him as an apparent test of her husband’s fidelity, or lack thereof.

The psychology behind it all is great, how Chloe, showing how smart she actually is, doesn’t sell her body, that’s for cheap whores, but instead uses her intelligence to work her clients and find out what it is what they really desire first, and then giving it to them, in a way that, whether they want it or not, they’ll be tempted to take. She meets David, the husband, at the place where he usually has lunch, a tip given by Catherine. And she tells Catherine what she says she found out.

I would go on describing the rest of the story, but I’ve decided I won’t, if you have read anything about the film you’ll probably already know there’s an sapphic scene between Moore and Seyfried, but the thing is the film is incredibly complex, more than just the sex bits, and it’s a treat to really enjoy and figure out as you go, this is a film about a young girl, wise beyond her years, who knows how to psychologically control people and enjoys it, it’s a film about Chloe’s real motives and what moves her and her way of thinking, and it’s truly fascinating to watch how Egoyan delves into this.

This is a serious mindtrip more than it is a thriller, it’s about the complexities of love, I would say, it raises a lot of questions about the titular character and it raises a lot of questions about the questions this character asks, and yes, it tells this tale and asks this questions in a sexual manner, but there’s really no other way this could have been told to illustrate it properly, and it helps it has Neeson performing his role as a true enigma at such a high level, this was, after all, the film he was shooting when he found out about his wife’s unfortunate death, it also has Moore in a great part, but then again Moore never disappointed, and Seyfried going deep into the intelligent, complex and beautiful Chloe.

Grade: B+