Tag Archives: Shutter Island

Sympathy for Delicious

19 May

Title: Sympathy for Delicious
Year: 
2011
Director: 
Mark Ruffalo
Writer: Christopher Thornton
Starring: 
Christopher Thornton, Mark Ruffalo, Juliette Lewis, Laura Linney, Orlando Bloom, John Carroll Lynch, Noah Emmerich
MPAA Rating: 
Not rated
Runtime: 
96 min
Major Awards: –

IMDb Rating: 
6.3
Rotten Tomatoes: 
30%

I was greatly looking forward to Sympathy for Delicious, the directing debut from Mark Ruffalo. And that’s because Mr. Ruffalo not only is one of the most consistent actors working today, as can be attested by his Oscar-nominated performance in last year’s sublime The Kids Are All Right (which I ranked as my 2nd favorite male supporting performance of 2010, behind just Christian Bale’s Oscar-winning turn in The Fighter), or by the ones he gave in You Can Count on Me, Shutter Island or Zodiac, to name a few. But I wasn’t just looking forward to see what he’d do as director only because of how amazing he’s as an actor himself, which considering the wide array emotions he’s so perfectly portrayed would have you think he’d be great at getting similar results from people under his direction.

No, that wasn’t the only reason why I was interested to see him take on directing duties, a lot also had to do with the fact that the guy has worked under such amazing directors that you just know a man as smart as Mr. Ruffalo has been learning a lot along the way. Just take a look at this man’s resumé and you’ll quickly realize this guy has been surrounding himself with the best directors: Martin Scorsese, David Fincher, Spike Jonze, Michel Gondry, Michael Mann… the man has worked for the very best, and some of that was bound to pay off.

And so I saw Sympathy for Delicious with high hopes. The movie was written by Christopher Thornton, Mr. Ruffalo’s longtime friend, who also stars as “Delicious” Dean O’Dwyer, an up-and-coming DJ in the L.A. underground music scene who is left paralyzed after a bad motorcycle accident. A story that’s close to him, as he also had a promising career, but at 25 he had a climbing accident and was left paralyzed from the waist down himself, forced to live in a wheelchair for the rest of his life. Mr. Thornton didn’t give up, obviously, as he went back into acting in theatre a small time after this accident, and now here he is, in front of the camera for Mark Ruffalo, and acting alongside him and people like Laura Linney and Juliette Lewis.

And giving up is something Sympathy for Delicious explores, as Dean quickly starts getting depressed about his situation, ready to give up on life. But then he meets this young priest, which would be the character Mr. Ruffalo plays, who’s an advocate for faith-based healing, and tries to convince Dean that this might be the way to get him to walk again. And so Dean starts experimenting with healing, and he actually somehow has this supernatural power that allows him to heal… everyone but himself. So that begins this new stage of the film in which Dean, against father Joe’s advice, starts using his ability to get famous and get money, and actually joins a rock band and gains notoriety. But that just doesn’t fix anything, so we have to go on this spiritual journey with him, and realize what’s to be done for Dean to come to terms with his tragedy.

But even though I think I appreciated certain bits of Sympathy for Delicious, this film as a whole just didn’t do it for me. Which sucks because I really wanted Mr. Ruffalo to proof he can be awesome at directing as well, but I honestly didn’t get this film, no matter how much I wanted to. It’s not because the story was sort of unusual, it’s just that I don’t think I ever really got what Mr. Ruffalo and Mr. Thornton were trying to say with it. There were times in which it seemed as though they were being a satire of religious views like the ones proposed here, then there were times in which it seemed as though they were focusing on criticizing what may happen due to an excess of fame and exposure, and I just lost track of its intentions.

So there you have it, that’s why I didn’t get Sympathy for Delicious, I felt it lacked a clear point of focus. This is a film that Mr. Ruffalo and Mr. Thornton have being trying to get made for the past decade, and it’s obviously one they both hold very near to their hearts, but I just felt it was lacking, especially during the middle when it just feels all over the place for too long. But this is not to say that Sympathy for Delicious doesn’t have its moments, because it does. When it regains some of its focus it gets to shine a light on the chemistry that Mr. Ruffalo and Mr. Thornton have which can translate beautifully on-screen at times, not to mention that there are a couple of truly brilliant scenes between Mr. Ruffalo and the impeccable Ms. Linney, who, if you’ve seen You Can Count on Me (and if you haven’t then get on it now), you know can be dynamite together.

The thing is that for those really good scenes, those that focussed just on the drama between Dean and father Joe, there are many scenes that don’t do anything for us at all. The faith-haeling stuff is very exaggerated, and more so is the stuff that goes on in the rock band, and I think that was done as an effort to satirize those things, but it just doesn’t do that very well. The part with the rock band especially, with Orlando Bloom’s and Juliette Lewis’ characters, those don’t work for a second, falling into unfortunate clichés that take away from the main drama of the story.

And that’s why I won’t give Sympathy for Delicious a very good grade, because I felt it missed its target, if it even had one to begin with. But that’s not to say this was a bad debut directorial effort from Mr. Ruffalo, not at all, I thought this had some very good moments thanks to him, especially with how he managed Mr. Thornton’s performance. I mean, the performance really is monotone, and only goes in one direction, but because Mr. Thornton under Mr. Ruffalo’s direction can connect so deeply to it on a personal level it also has this raw feel to it that feels very intense and adds to the character. In the end, Sympathy for Delicious may have been too unfocused to be great, but I’m ready to welcome the opportunity of seeing Mr. Ruffalo back in the director’s chair.

Grade: C+

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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.

OscarWatch: Best Lead Actor

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. In this post I’ll tackle…

Best Lead Actor

I’ll give my Top 20 performances given by actors in a leading role 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, it’s all said and done already. There’s really no way in hell Colin Firth isn’t leaving the Kodak Theater without that trophy firmly in his hand, his performance in The King’s Speech is unbeatable, and every other actor who did good stuff in a 2010 film will have to settle for a nomination on Tuesday.

Personal Top 20

  1. Colin Firth (for The King’s Speech) – There really is no other #1 pick in any capacity that isn’t Colin Firth. The stuff on display from him here is just astounding, and considering he’s coming off another Oscar-nominated brilliant performance from A Single Man last year his chances only get bigger, he’s just the best.
  2. James Franco (for 127 Hours) – The buzz surrounding this film seems to have been dying down as of late, but James Franco will still no doubt get a much-deserved nomination for his work as Aron Ralston. His 2010 was amongst the best any actor had, and how he carries the film by himself, delivering a tour de force performance is amazing.
  3. Ryan Gosling (for Blue Valentine) – The film was full of raw emotion and power and honesty, and it’s all because of its two leads. Ryan Gosling is superb here, doing the finest work of his career to date, and if the world was fair then he’d get a nomination.
  4. Jesse Eisenberg (for The Social Network) – Jesse Eisenberg is still the Jesse Eisenberg we all know and love in The Social Network, but reigned in by David Fincher he delivers a fantastic performance, transforming himself into the version of Mark Zuckerberg the movie needed, and helping the film earn its “the movie of a generation” title.
  5. Javier Bardem (for Biutiful) – Much like Ryan Gosling, Javier Bardem sheds every inch of actor vanity for his role in Biutiful, and gives a very open and honest performance in it that has people speaking raves of him. The sheer amount of power and emotional punch he gives here is just unbelievable.
  6. Jeff Bridges (for True Grit) – Last year’s winner will likely be a repeat nominee this year. He tackles a role that won John Wayne his Oscar, and complete does a 180 with it, pitching his own singularities into the character, and making him instantly memorable.
  7. Aaron Eckhart (for Rabbit Hole) – Put him alongside Mr. Gosling and Mr. Bardem, this is the third performance that’s just emotionally sincere, in a film that’s raw and powerful. This is a guy who has been doing stellar work for a number of years now, and he doesn’t seem to be stopping any time soon.
  8. Leonardo DiCaprio (for Inception) – Casting Leonardo DiCaprio was the smartest thing Christopher Nolan did for his film. He grounds the film with his emotional storyline, not letting us get lost in the mind-bending plot structure, while not taking anything away from it either.
  9. Andrew Garfield (for Never Let Me Go) – Andrew Garfield had an amazing 2010, I had him as my third favorite supporting actor performance for The Social Network, which will likely get him an Oscar nomination, and he’s in my Top 10 here, for his work on what I’ll forever call the most under-appreciated film of all last year, he’s just amazing in it.
  10. Mark Wahlberg (for The Fighter) – Christian Bale, when accepting his Golden Globe for this film, said that in order for a loud performance like his to be effective, one needed an incredibly solid and quiet anchor. And Mark Wahlberg is that anchor, taking the leading role in his passion project, and delivering like crazy.
  11. Ben Stiller (for Greenberg) – Probably the best thing Ben Stiller has done in his career, his turn here is unbelievable, as he makes us feel about Roger Greenberg, feel bad for him, feel angry at him, it’s all just incredibly solid stuff from him.
  12. Robert Duvall (for Get Low) – Robert Duvall can do no wrong. He’s always amazing in anything he’s in, and he’s delivered some of the best acting work probably ever in some of his films. In Get Low he’s at it again, giving one seriously fine work, that only an actor of his caliber and experience would have been able to provide.
  13. Stephen Dorff (for Somewhere) – If this film had gotten more attention and love then we would all be calling Stephen Dorff’s career completely revived and be throwing nominations at him. The movie, however, wasn’t universally embraced. I still loved it though, and thought Mr. Dorff was amazing in it, creating in Johnny Marco a subdued and patient performance which I loved.
  14. Ben Affleck (for The Town) – I gave The Town three shout-outs in my Top 20 for Best Supporting Actor, then gave Rebecca Hall a nod in the Best Supporting Actress rankings, so this here makes it five mentions for that film. Ben Affleck not only directed and co-wrote this amazing heist movie, but also delivered a triumphant performance as the lead character who battles morals and emotions.
  15. Michael Douglas (for Solitary Man) – When people talk Michael Douglas and this awards season they talk about his supporting turn in Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, and while he’s seriously good in that one, I’d rather have more people notice him in this one, a lesser-seen film in which he gives one of the strongest performances of his career, and definitely the best one since Wonder Boys.
  16. James Franco (for Howl) – Yes, a second mention for my #2 pick. And, even though 127 Hours is of course a much much different film, in this one he also carries the film by himself with a terrific performance. He plays Allen Ginsberg, and his line-readings of the titular poem are a thing of wonder.
  17. Paul Giamatti (for Barney’s Version) – I saw this one this year and will count towards my 2011 rankings, but it classifies for this awards season, so here it goes. Paul Giamatti has already won a Golden Globe for his performance here, and rightfully so, he’s amazing, and even though an Oscar nomination is pretty unlikely it would be awesome to see.
  18. Matt Damon (for Hereafter) – I also named him for Best Supporting Actor in True Grit, and here he is again. I’ve met a lot of people saying they were underwhelmed by Hereafter, but I thought it was a pretty masterful effort by Clint Eastwood, and Mr. Damon was just sensation in it.
  19. Leonardo DiCaprio (for Shutter Island) – Another double-honoree in this category. Leonardo DiCaprio always does wonders when working under the direction of Martin Scorsese, and in Shutter Island he really is amazing. A very different sort of role in a very different sort of movie for him, but he rocks it nevertheless, providing the perfect emotions to his character.
  20. Jake Gyllenhaal (for Love and Other Drugs) – I know there were other picks I could have made for the last spot, but I always give this one to a sentimental favorite. And I thought Love and Other Drugs was underrated, and I thought Jake Gyllenhaal was amazing in it, kudos kudos kudos to him.

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

  • 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)

I think Bridges, Eisenberg, Firth and Franco are all locks by now, and I really can’t see any of them not being there picking up nominations. The fifth slot is more of a wildcard, and I think it’s a four-man race between Robert Duvall, Mark Wahlberg, Javier Bardem and Ryan Gosling. Odds-on favorite I would guess is Duvall, Wahlberg may get in because I think The Fighter will get some nice amount of love and Ryan Gosling gives a raw performance the Academy may want to reward. However, I think Javier Bardem has what he needs to pull this one off and be a foreign film competitor in a major race, he has peaked with the BAFTA nod and all the actors love his performance. So yes, I’m going with him for that final slot on Tuesday.

OscarWatch: Best Supporting Actress

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. In this post I’ll tackle…

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

I’ll give my Top 20 performances given by supporting actresses 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 this race, I’ll actually go ahead and declare this one my favorite race this year, for the sheer number of women I think have a decent shot at the trophy. Melissa Leo seems like the favorite, but Amy Adams is my personal favorite and Helena Bonham Carter could also provide an upset. So yes, this one is the one I’m not sure how to predict just yet, and we’ll have to see how it evolves with the BAFTAs and SAGs.

Personal Top 20

  1. Amy Adams (for The Fighter) – My favorite supporting actress turn of the year is one from one of my favorite actresses around. The flashier role in the movie goes to her co-star (and awards season rival) Melissa Leo, who has been dominating the awards, but in a perfect world it would be Adams picking up that golden man come February.
  2. Mila Kunis (for Black Swan) – My favorite film of the year, and Mila Kunis has been getting some kudos for her role in it, hopefully the Oscars will grant her a nomination, too. If Natalie Portman’s role in the film was to be something, Mila Kunis’ role was to be the opposite of that something. And she did that wonderfully, feeling us with intrigue about her, with fascination about her confidence and demeanor, just a really well acted role.
  3. Melissa Leo (for The Fighter) – The ladies of The Fighter will end up sparring for this award. Melissa Leo is the odds-on favorite, being a fav amongst actors and having reaped through the precursors. And her performance is indeed pretty incendiary, as she gets to tear through some very beefy scenes.
  4. Jacki Weaver (for Animal Kingdom) – The fact that Jacki Weaver is getting this amazing movie noticed is reward enough in my opinion. But how she creates one of the most effective villains of the year in this film about the Australian underground crime is fascinating to watch.
  5. Barbara Hershey (for Black Swan) – Her performance in Black Swan is amazing, if I had to pick a lady out of this film to get a nod here it would be Mila Kunis, but in a perfect world they’d both make the cut. Her overbearing mother was just a spectacular creation from her.
  6. Helena Bonham Carter (for The King’s Speech) – The actors in The King’s Speech are all first-class, and Helena Bonham Carter is no exception, her performance is exquisite as everything she other does and will no doubt get her her second Oscar nomination.
  7. Elle Fanning (for Somewhere) – Every year there’s a child actress or actor trying to get in the supporting race, this year it seems that will be Hailee Steinfeld (though she may go Lead), but in my mind Elle Fanning is the one that should get all the kudos, she’s just adorable and strong and amazing here.
  8. Hailee Steinfeld (for True Grit) – As I said, the child performer of the year to me is Elle Fanning, but Hailee Steinfeld is literally right below her. She’s ferocious in True Grit, handling her own against Jeff Bridges throughout the entirety of the film. The thing with her is whether she’ll be deemed as Lead (like in the BAFTAs) or Supporting (like in the SAGs).
  9. Greta Gerwig (for Greenberg) – She was my favorite “find” of the year, an actress I saw for the first time in a great film and soon fell in love with her. And her performance is just as good as Ben Stiller’s in this one, and yet nobody seems to be noticing either of them.
  10. Keira Knightley (for Never Let Me Go) – Again, this is my pick for the most under-appreciated film of 2010, everyone here is amazing, and Keira Knightley is no exception, she’s just a very good actress and I can’t help but think an Oscar is firmly in her future.
  11. Marion Cotillard (for Inception) – The fantastic thing about Inception is just how much character development there is in the midst of all the mind-bending plot points we have to keep track of. Marion Cotillard plays an essential part in the film, and she’s marvelous as Mal.
  12. Rebecca Hall (for The Town) – As became apparent in the post I did for Best Supporting Actor, I think The Town is filled with spectacular performances across the board. And Rebecca Hall is one of the best in it, she dons a very convincing accent considering she’s British, and has a couple of heartbreaking moments in this one.
  13. Dianne Weist (for Rabbit Hole) – Nicole Kidman is the one that will get all the Rabbit Hole attention, as she should, but her scenes with Dianne Weist are the most dynamite, and it’s for a reason, here’s an actress who’s just terrific in anything she’s in, and knows how to totally own a part.
  14. Olivia Williams (for The Ghost Writer) – Olivia Williams is very very good in this one, and I’m guessing that if the film had been released later then she would have probably end up nominated. Some very good acting chops in display from her here.
  15. Kristin Scott Thomas (for Nowhere Boy) – Kristin Scott Thomas is one of those actresses that, when she’s at the top of her game, can go right ahead and steal a movie away from anyone. She does just that in Nowhere Boy, a remarkable little film that more people should have seen, she’s just splendid in it.
  16. Ruth Sheen (for Another Year) – Lesley Manville will get all the attention this film will get, acting-wise, but Ruth Sheen is just as amazing here, playing the woman who Manville’s character leans on all too much, and giving the film that ability to feel so relatable to us, much like all of Mike Leigh’s films.
  17. Michelle Williams (for Shutter Island) – This is just so that I can give a kudos to Michelle Williams, who I’ll always give as many kudos as I can to. No, but she’s seriously good here, another film that I feel as though it would have gotten much more awards love had it been released later on during the year.
  18. Sissy Spacek (for Get Low) – I’m a big fan of Get Low, and that is mostly because every actor in it is sincerely spectacular, and Sissy Spacek is a veteran of the screen, and she’s her usual impeccable self in this one, too.
  19. Miranda Richardson (for Made in Dagenham) – She just got the BAFTA nod, and while I think her performance in the film is delightful I wouldn’t count her as part of my Top 5, but still, this is a very good performance by a remarkably consistent actress, she just can’t do no wrong.
  20. Ellen Page (for Inception) – I was considering going for more conventional picks here, but I just love Ellen Page in anything she’s in, and I loved Inception, so I picked her. I know her performance wasn’t the most remarkable of the film, not by far, but I still think no one else could have played Ariadne this well, she’ll always be a favorite of mine.

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

  • Amy Adams (for The Fighter)
  • Helena Bonham Carter (for The King’s Speech)
  • Mila Kunis (for Black Swan)
  • Melissa Leo (for The Fighter)
  • Hailee Steinfeld (for True Grit)

Here’s the thing with this hypothetical nominations outlook. It all depends on whether Hailee Steinfeld is voted as Lead or Supporting Actress, if she’s deemed as a Supporting one then I think she’ll definitely make the cut, and the fifth slot would be between Mila Kunis, who I picked here, and Jacki Weaver. If she’s voted as Lead then my guess is that both Ms. Kunis and Ms. Weaver will make the cut.

The Kids Are All Right

1 Aug

Title: The Kids Are All Right
Year: 2010
Director: Lisa Cholodenko
Writers: Stuart Blumberg and Lisa Cholodenko
Starring: Annette Bening, Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo, Mia Wasikowska, Josh Hutcherson
MPAA Rating: R, strong sexual content, nudity, language and some teen drug and alcohol use
Runtime: 106 min
Major Awards: 2 Golden Globes
IMDb Rating: 7.7
Rotten Tomatoes: 96%

When I first saw The Kids Are All Right it was the best film I had seen all year by a mile, now I’ve seen Inception so that’s changed, but still, this one will go down as one of the year’s best for sure, and it’s exactly the sort of film I enjoy, a small indie dealing with real human complexities, and this one has five lead performances that are, to me, as perfect as they could have come, as is the film as a whole, and I sincerely hope it gets a nice bit of attention when the award season arrives.

This film is witty and just full-on engaging, and I truly cannot say enough about how amazing the performances, because really, the five actors are absolutely perfect at presenting the imperfections of their characters, and the multidimensionality of their performances, which of course starts with the beautifully crafted script, is just a true joy to watch and, whatever your own family life is like, you’re bound to find something of it in this one in one way or another, which just makes the connection one makes with this film that much deeper.

The film has a lesbian couple as its center, they are Jules, played by Julianne Moore, who I’m a bit in love with, and Nic, who’s played by Annette Bening in a performance which, I would imagine, will grant her, at the very least, an Oscar nomination. How this film tackles marriage is fantastic, mostly because it doesn’t focus on the fact that it’s a lesbian marriage, the lesbian part is just there to move the other plotline along, it focusses on marriage as an institution, and it delves into the difficulties it has in tremendous ways. They have two kids, Joni, played by a great Mia Wasikowska, and Laser, played by Josh Hutcherson. Jules delivered one and Nic delivered the other, but the same sperm donor was used, and, as their family life is illustrated for a bit, we see it’s a normal upper middle-class one, with many problems that you wouldn’t be that surprised to find in your own life.

Lisa Cholodenko, who is the director and one of the co-writers of this gorgeous film, crafts this one perfectly, a very smartly written dramedy about an imperfect, but still stable, family life. She has done this equally well in the past, but she hasn’t had performances as perfect as the ones she has now, Ms. Moore, Ms. Bening, Ms. Wasikowska and Mr. Hutcherson are tremendous, and so is the fifth cast member, Mark Ruffalo, who enters the film after the kids decide to look for their biological father. This is the event that shakes up the stability of their lives, Jules and Nic try and act as though they are okay with this decision, but you know that deep down inside they’re scared about it, that they don’t necessarily understand it.

Mark Ruffalo is an actor I really like, you look at him in films like You Can Count on Me, and Zodiac, and Shutter Island, and you know this is a guy who can seriously act, and look at his roles in stuff like 13 Going on 30 or Just Like Heaven, and you know that he’s a pretty charming dude, look at him in this one, and  you can see him acting the shit out of a role while still being really charming, because that’s what the role of Paul needed him to be, kind of like the lighter, better version of the character he played in You Can Count on Me. Paul is, you see, a guy who was definitely a sort of hippie when he first donated his sperm, and still has that same sort of air around him, he’s a pretty chill guy, not married, no kids, he grows organic food and sells it at his organic restaurant, and he’s totally okay with meeting his kids.

So okay, in fact, that when he learns that Jules is thinking about going into landscape design he hires her to do his backyard, and then things happen and they end up having sex (see how I avoided saying “and then he does hers”?), and what stems from that shakes the family even more, but fortunately we have a writer-director like Cholodenko, who is always in control of the stuff she has coming up, she never lets this turn into an unbearable melodrama, but instead this always remains a lighter sort of film, a truly spectacular one at that, and how she copes with the feelings of the people involved is amazing, Nic feeling betrayed and being really serious all of the time, Jules and Paul being confused, a different sort of confusion from the kids, both of whom really like Paul, this is all handled tremendously.

This is, quite simply put, the best comedy film about an American family in a while, maybe ever, I don’t know, I guess Little Miss Sunshine is the only other amazing comedy about an American family I can think of right now, but The Kids Are All Right is even better, I would say, not by much, but it is better to me, it is better because it’s more nuanced, it’s a really funny film without ever being a comedy, and a really heart-wrenching film without ever, as I said above, going into melodramatic tones, it’s just a well-crafted and exceedingly well-acted film.

I loved how Ms. Cholodenko never ever made this film about lesbian marriage, she just made it about marriage and made them lesbians to introduce Paul, it was necessary for that, but not to illustrate something different about the marriage, Nic and Jules have a perfectly normal marriage, they love each other and their kids and they are a bit of a mess in between and they have some problems of communication with their two teenage children, that’s normalcy in every single way, shape or form. Paul communicates better with Laser and Joni, he’s an outsider, he has a fresh sort of insight and personality that enables him to do this, he’s the foreign agent that changes the lives of everyone in that family, and that’s just a treat to watch.

Ms. Cholodenko has crafted a very human film, a film with emotions and complex situations full of domestic awkwardness we can all, to one level or another, relate to, and it’s a perfect film, or at least it was to me, and it’s the sort of film I’ll be able to watch time and time again years into the future and revel with the same level of joy at the performances shown and the emotions evoked. Plus, this is a film with good taste in music, and an even better taste in wine.

Grade: A+

The Ghost Writer

7 Apr

Title: The Ghost Writer
Year: 2010
Director: Roman Polanski
Writers: Roman Polanski and Robert Harris, adapting from the novel by Robert Harris
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Pierce Brosnan, Olivia Williams, Kim Cattrall, Timothy Hutton, Tom Wilkinson, Jim Belushi
MPAA Rating: PG-13, language, brief nudity/sexuality, some violence and a drug reference
Runtime: 128 min
Major Awards:
IMDb Rating: 7.9
Rotten Tomatoes: 82%

This is a Roman Polanski film and even though it isn’t one of his best it is still a really good film, the direction and screenplay are truly great and the performances, especially that of Ewan McGregor are just as amazing. It tells the story of a ghost writer hired to complete the memoirs of a British Prime Minister until he discovers some very serious secrets.

This is a Polanski thriller through and through, and the guy is in top form, it’s not a thriller like the ones we see too much of these days, this one is smoother, it takes its time and the suspense builds throughout like crazy, not depending on genre cliché shocks but instead using really great development and plot devices, the work of a true master.

Polanski was arrested, as we know, last September in Switzerland, but that didn’t stop production, and that certainly didn’t stop his involvement, he oversaw every artistic direction and editing process from a Swiss prison, and it shows, with a director like Polanski his genius touch is quite obvious.

The ghost writer is played by McGregor, Brosnan plays the former British Prime Minister Adam Lang, who was ever so clearly modeled after Tony Blair, Olivia Williams is his wife Ruth, and Kim Cattrall is his aide Amelia, with whom he’s having an affair. That’s a really cool cast, and a cast that acts extremely well in this one, especially, as I said, McGregor as the ghost.

Once we get introduced to that story the story gets going, Lang is accused of accepting the kidnapping and torture of suspects when he was in office, which then leaves the Ghost at the huge house alone, searching for secrets that could turn out deadly. This film succeeds tremendously because of Polanski, it truly is the work of a master, the way he evokes Hitchcock and all the other great masters of the genre is both evident and commendable.

It’s a truly good film, featuring remarkable performances by the whole cast, headlined by the lead one of McGregor and a solid supporting turn by Williams and it shows how a legendary director can still be at the top of his craft when he sticks to what legendary directors know, which is the importance of craftsmanship over cheap gimmicks which plague these sort of films as of late.

That’s why The Ghost Writer succeeds, because it brings to mind, as did Shutter Island which I saw on the same day this past February, how truly nice it is to see a film that has a good story, and mostly because it makes us remember the pleasure we get when we watch a film that’s just well directed, everything from the outside shots, to how Polanski works with his actors, with subtle touches from the scene when a note is passed from hand to hand to the way his actors are posed, this is a well-thought-out film.

Grade: B+

Shutter Island

7 Apr

Title: Shutter Island
Year: 2010
Director: Martin Scorsese
Writers: Laeta Kalogridis, adapting from the Dennis Lehane novel
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley, Michelle Williams, Emily Mortimer, Max von Sydow, Jackie Earle Haley, Patricia Clarkson
MPAA Rating: R, disturbing violent content, language and some nudity
Runtime: 138 min
Major Awards: 1 NBR Award
IMDb Rating: 8.1
Rotten Tomatoes: 68%

Shutter Island is minor Scorsese, but, to me, minor Scorsese still is pure genius. Plus, I like Shutter Island because it shows Mr. Scorsese, probably my favorite living director, in a way we have never seen him before: completely loose.

That’s right, Mr. Scorsese is completely unrestrained at the helm of his latest, a personal homage of his to this genre which provides some genuinely nice thrills, a bit of mind-fuck and terrific performances by an outstanding cast headed by his go-to-guy Leonardo DiCaprio.

I’m having trouble typing this review because I feel like I have so much to say about this film but I don’t know how to start, or how to say it, if you know a bit about Martin Scorsese you’ll know he’s quite seriously the ultimate film buff, the guy knows absolutely everything about anything film-related and has probably seen every film ever done, and this is serious stuff he does with Shutter Island, he represents this genre extremely well, he stacks every single cliché the genre has on top of the other, and he does it in a way that it doesn’t seem cliché, but in a way that seems genius, Scorsese genius.

The music, the frights, the acting, everything is outstanding. Shutter Island, we are told, is a prison for the criminally insane, we travel there with U.S. marshal Teddy Daniels, the Leo DiCaprio character, and his partner Chuck Aule, the Mark Ruffalo character. They are there to investigate the disappearance of a child murderer, and once we’re there with them, the film doesn’t let us go. The prisoners, the staff at the prison, our two federal agents themselves, and especially the surroundings we’re in are worked to utmost perfection by Scorsese, who is completely crazy in this one, and he creates a tremendous noir film that, even though right now is nowhere close to his best films, I have the feeling that, when all is said and done, will be a really important piece of his cinematographic canon.

Mr. Scorsese plays with our minds like crazy, he makes us feel with the music, with the performances, with the way he makes Mr. Kingsley and Mr. von Sydow work which is so effective, with the way he and his long-time editor (and my favorite editor at that) Thelma Schoonmaker have arranged the film, this is a mindtrip for the ages. I read a couple of pieces in newspapers in which Scorsese and his actors told about how he showed them classic films which he wanted them to think of while shooting, that’s how good the guy is.

You may be reading this and thinking it’s a piece in which I just throw praise at the master that is Martin Scorsese, and it is, I guess, he does an homage to a genre with Shutter Island, I’ll give an homage to him with my review of it. The actors are also outstanding though, that’s to be noted, especially DiCaprio who always excels under his mentor.

Now, many reviews I’ve read, and pretty much every single acquaintance I have who’s seen the film has complained at one level or the other about the ending, and I get why that may be, I fortunately don’t feel like that, I mean, I don’t really understand why Marty (I feel like a friend calling him that, sue me, anyone can dream) went there, and I don’t think he does himself, but I do get it in a really bizarre way, and I feel like that about the whole film really, it’s a strange film, but it’s a film done exceedingly well by a master who decided to pay tribute to a great genre using terrific actors who delivered for him.

Grade: A-