Bye-bye 2011films! Oscar finalizes the award season…

84th Academy Awards Poster.png

It is over!  The Academy Awards have come and gone for 2011.  The verdict?  Not too bad. The theme was going to the movies and I will dare say this was the best show in a LONG time.  It felt faster paced (liked the combining of categories)–fresh (loved the Cirque du Soleil piece and the pre-recorded interviews)–and funny (Billy Crystal was fantastic–and there were some funny bits due to Robert Downey, Jr and Emma Stone).  The theme was cool–especially for all of us cinephiles–I could relate to many of the comments made about film, their impact and importance in our lives. 

There were no real big surprises, except for Meryl Streep‘s win–everyone was certain it would go to Viola Davis (even Streep herself)–but no one can be upset though because Streep is amazing. Period.  And her speech was lovely. 

I was also pleased that Hugo was getting some love, but not quite enough since The Artist still managed to win the big categories–BOO!  As you know most of my favorite films of the year were not in contention tonight so I was just cheering for anything that wasn’t The Artist (on principle). 

I was happy for Rango to win in Animation.  (I still think Tintin should have been there!)  Was upset Rise of the Planet of the Apes lost the visual effects trophy–they deserved it.  Or at least Harry Potter, but no. Potter was also robbed in the Make Up category.  Original score should have been John Williams.  Everything else was alright

So, bottom line?  We need to bring Billy back every year until he dies (c’mon what else is he doing now?)–keep the brisk pace and creative additions and maybe the Awards can return to their old glory. Because to quote Billy, “Nothing helps the economy like watching millionaires give each other gold statues!”

Enjoy some video highlights! 

 

Took me 4 years to discover the awesomeness of being In Bruges!

(2008)

WOW!  I loved In Bruges!  This film is the perfect combination of a dark, human comedy and  an emotional character study.  Brilliant!  Now, I understand the excitement for writer/director Martin McDonagh‘s next film Seven Psychopaths and will wait anxiously for its 2012 release.

It is hard for movies to surprise me.  Without trying, I usually see connections and predict possibilities, but McDonagh kept me in the dark for most of this narrative, which allowed for small unexpected awesomeness!   What appears to be a typical tale about two professional hitmen in hiding in the city of Bruges in Belgium, awaiting their gangster boss’ instructions, turns out to be an intricate narrative with layers of depth and meaning.  McDonagh’s direction is tight and lean–there are no wasted or unnecessary shots, which keeps the pace brisk and energetic. 

The cast is perfect!  Colin Farrell can be hit and miss with me, but he is dead on as the younger of the hitmen.  This is the kind of performance that makes you sad when you see him wasting his talent on unworthy crap.  C’mon Colin!  No more crap, please.  (I did love his turn in Fright Night  last year–so maybe things are looking up)  Then you have the often overlooked brilliance of Brendan Gleeson  as the older hitmen (if you haven’t seen The Guard–make that happen! It is great).  Round it off with the genius that is Ralph Fiennes, as the cranky and hilarious boss and you have magic.  And as we all know–magic on-screen can be a rare phenomenon.  It was also clever to use the city of Bruges purposefully, so that it too, becomes another interesting character–“It’s like a f-ing fairy tale!”

So, rent it, put it in your Netflix queue, Redbox it, whatever you have to do…but if you, like me, have waited to watch this–put it on your must see list.  And if you’ve already enjoyed it –you can just sit back and say, DUH! 🙂

Check out the official website:

Focus Films In Bruges

 

Bullhead–a story about bulls, steroids and one troubled man…

Who knew when Bullhead screened at Fantastic Fest last year that it would end up being Oscar nominated for Best Foreign Film?  Well, Tim League‘s Drafthouse Films knew it was good and decided to acquire the rights to distribute the film in the US and now… BAM!  I love Alamo Drafthouse and because of that, I will be rooting for a win come The Oscars on Sunday night.  But, that will not be hard to do because it also happens to be pretty damn good movie.

This Belgian drama is written and directed by Michaël R. Roskam  and he is definitely one to watch.  I am sure some more good stuff will be coming from this guy.  He has an interesting style and is capable of creating atmosphere with little dialogue.   A little anecdote: During Fantastic Fest we had tickets to watch Bullhead, but decided to attend the only screening of You’re Next (which is awesome & will come out later this year) and my daughter, by chance sat next to Roskam.  They started a pleasant conversation in which she mentioned that we were wanting and planning to watch Bullhead, but had switched–Roskam then proceeded to tell her that Bullhead was his movie!  He then conceded that it was pretty heavy and intense–which is why he was sitting next to her and not at his own movie screening.  😀  Pretty funny.  Now, he is Oscar nominated–bet he did not see that coming.  Nice. 

This story covers a lot of ground.  Hormone mafia–steroids–police informants–betrayal–bullies–and tragedy.  But, the film really works because of its star, Matthias Schoenaerts.  Schoenaerts is mesmerizing.  You are drawn to his deep sadness–his mental turmoil.  It is a strong performance.  There a many themes throughout–the most apparent is the comparison of animals and man–and he reminds you of an animal, a bull, to be more direct.  A mass of muscle and strength with the potential of great raw power–just standing there…waiting to be unleashed. 

My only minor complaint is the time.  If it were 30 minutes shorter, it may have been a bit tighter in pacing.  It almost seems to have too much time to build and the climate then feels like it loses some of its power.  But, that is a personal opinion and it does not take anything away from the film. 

Unfortunately, it may not be in a theater near you–so keep your eyes out for rental possibilities.  And if you want, go ahead and cheer for it to win the Oscar–it is a worthy choice!

Discover the beautiful Secret World of Arrietty!

 

A timeless tale. Gorgeously hand drawn landscapes. A tenderly sweet friendship.  How lovely!  And by the way, Studio Ghibli rocks!  The Secret World of Arrietty will join the already awesome list of Ghibli films (Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle,etc) and take its place among the classics. 

I love old school, traditional animation.  I sometimes worry that it may be a dying art form and we may have legendary Hayao Miyazaki to thank for it not disappearing completely, since Disney’s last effort was The Princess and The Frog (which was lovely) and they do not seem to planning another one.  At least Disney is distributing Ghibli’s films and bringing the awesomeness to American shores. 

Miyazaki is getting older and is starting to hand over the reigns to others.  With Arrietty, he adapted Mary Norton‘s The Borrowers and created the storyboards and planned out the story, but he handed the directing chair to Hiromasa Yonebayashi, a long time animator at the studio. More so than Ponyo (which is my least favorite of his films), you can feel Miyazaki’s touch in this story. His style is present, but Yonebayashi does add his own spirit and unique pacing.  It is a simple story of friendship and trust.  And I loved everything about it.  I think the studio’s future is in good hands.  (It was the number one film in Japan last year!)

If you’re already a fan of Ghibli’s films, I do not have to say much because you know…if you do not know yet what you are missing, then start checking out ALL of their amazing films!   You will not regret it and more than likely, you will join the Miyazaki fan club! (Which my daughter should be the president of–she is a Totoro collector–and even her car is named Mononoke–yes, I have raised her properly :)) 

So, go out there and catch Arrietty before it disappears from theaters!

Before the Oscars, I finally get to my Top 15 of 2011!

Academy Award Winner

Academy Award Winner (Photo credit: Dave_B_)

I will start by saying that the Academy Awards are frustrating. Sometimes they get it right, but mostly the awards end up being either a popularity contest, an oops-sorry-we-got-it-wrong-last-year-so-we-will-give-it-to-you-now-for-a-way-inferior-role, or just plain crazy!  So, why do I watch? Why year after year, do I torture myself? I can not help it!  I have watched the Oscars all my life.  It is a tradition. 

As a lover of films, it is what you do and I must admit that part of the fun is the craziness. You get to talk with your family and friends–for or against–the choices that the Academy makes, the dresses worn, and the speeches. This year I am stoked that my favorite host, Billy Crystal, has returned (Hugh Jackman has been my only other favorite host since Crystal departed).  As you will notice, not many of my favorites are represented this year at the Oscars…I know–that’s what I was talking about…

Now a few disclaimers before my list.  This is my Top 15 list–not the critics and I tend to choose films that have affected me–emotional and/or intellectually.  Also, I am, first and foremost, a sci-fi//action girl–so every year those films creep into my list.  I have reviewed most of these so you can search for them to read more about them.

Here we go…Top 15 of 2011! 

15.  Midnight in Paris

Beautifully told.  Whimsical and brilliant.  This is what I love about Woody Allen.  This role was tailor-made for Owen Wilson.

14.  The Help

Hit all the right notes.  Humorous, dramatic and heartfelt.  Deserves all the attention it is getting. I am rooting for them on Oscar night. 

13.  Warrior

What should be a clichéd, typical sport movie is transformed into an intense and effective character study.  Nick Nolte deserves this Oscar. 

12. Super 8

A homage to Spielberg and a different era of storytelling.  It is perfect. 

11.  Another Earth

Creative and unique.  Brit Marling is a force to be reckoned with. 

10.  The Adjustment Bureau 

I loved this film.  Matt Damon and Emily Blunt‘s chemistry is worth the watch.  This is how I like my romantic films to be–interesting, realistic with a sci-fi twist.

9.  Hanna

Wonderfully acted.  Awesome action sequences.  Fantastic music.  Intriguing heroes and unforgettable villains.  Yeah, it is BADASS!

8.  Attack the Block

Talk about BADASS!  This film is the ultimate sci-fi/action flick.  It is AWESOME!  Then they surprise you with depth and meaning.

7.  Beginners

This plays like an artistic piece.  It is poetry on film.  Christopher Plummer is lovely (I will not be upset if Nolte loses to him–which he might).  Ewan McGregor is wonderful.

6.  Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Gary Oldman.  Enough said.  Yes, I am biased.  But this is a clever, quiet, deliberate film.  Layered and nuanced.  And yeah…let’s not forget Benedict Cumberbatch. 🙂

5.  Drive

You either love or hate it.  I loved it.  One of the best deconstructing of a character on film.  Pretty impressive.

4.  Shame

Michael Fassbender not nominated for an Oscar?  Sad.  This is a brutal, honest look at a man’s struggle with his demons.  It will haunt you.

3.  The Skin I live In

Blew me away.  It sneaks up on you.  Revealing itself slowly and deliberately.  Antonio Banderas is fantastic!

2.  Take Shelter

Beautifully crafted.  Michael Shannon was also sadly forgotten by Oscar.  Powerful and intense.  A true mind bending experience.

1.  50/50

Real. Emotional. And laugh out loud funny. I loved everything about this film.  I am a huge fan of Joseph Gordon Levitt and this only solidifies his awesomeness!  (Shame on you Oscars–shame on you–not one single nomination.)

The Woman in Black goes for old school bumps in the night…

In a time where most horror films go for the gore and violence, The Woman in Black instead chooses to use atmosphere and old-fashioned chills to try to scare you and it works pretty well, mainly because Daniel Radcliffe is all grown up and able to carry this ghost story on his own. 

I will admit that at first there were a few jokes…”Mum, look! It’s Harry Potter!” and “Hello, my name is Aberforth Dumbledore (when Ciarán Hinds appeared).”  But within 15 minutes we are in director James Watkins‘ world and we forget about Harry Potter–that is impressive on its own because we have watched Radcliffe grow up before us as the iconic Potter, but Radcliffe has become a very good actor and we believe him as the sad and desperate Arthur Kipps.

Kipps is a young, widowed attorney that gets sent to finish up the estate of a recently deceased woman and of course, all sorts of supernatural things begin to happen.  The film takes its time to create tension and increase the “spook factor”.  Radcliffe does an excellent job of portraying the different levels of fear, from first being startled to disbelief and denial, to feeling nervous and finally terrified–he is able to convey all of that silently–not too shabby for the chosen one. 🙂 

Although the story is a straight forward, typical ghost story–it still works. It may not keep you awake at night, but at the moment you will become invested, you will experience a few jumps and enjoy the ride. 

 

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Finally watched InTime and it turned out to be a waste of my time…

I did not like this movie and I should have. Why, you may ask?  Well, I love dystopian films. I like writer/director Andrew Niccol‘s previous projects (Gattaca anyone?).  I like the interesting concept. I like Justin Timberlake (he is a natural).  I like Amanda Seyfried (has talent).  I like Cillian Murphy, a lot (super talented).  Yet, with all that going for it– I still did not like it. 

Something was missing.  Plot? Solid mythology? Character development? Plausible arc?  I don’t know…something.  Throughout I kept thinking–which was probably the big mistake–(maybe I should have NOT been thinking)–why is this happening?  Why aren’t they doing that?  Once I turned to my daughter (Vieve) and said “That doesn’t make sense…”  And she appropriately replied, “Sense has nothing to do with it…leave logic out of this!”   She was correct.  But, even removing logic and sense, I still did not like it.

Oh well!  They can’t all be winners.  🙂

Max Landis is definitely one to watch…

OMG!  I found this after my Chronicle review and was totally impressed. I am even more excited about this young man’s future.  He wrote and directed this short about the infamous “death” of Superman in the comics–now I want more of his screenplays to get picked up.

I was literally laughing out loud!!  BRILLIANT!!  (and it helps that I never liked Superman) I love all the celebrity cameos.  Super fun!  ENJOY!

The Death and Return of Superman

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Want a pleasant surprise? Check out Chronicle!

I love when that happens.  When you have NO expectations for a film and then…SURPRISE!  Not bad.  I was interested in the premise–three teenage boys discover they have superpowers and things start to unravel–but I was not so excited about the found footage style.  I am not a fan of found footage movies.  They annoy me.  My thought process usually goes like this…Really? You’re still documenting “for humanity” instead of running for your life? I think not.  Yet, Chronicle takes a fresh approach and it worked for me.

First of all, it actually has a narrative and the characters have believable arcs.  (It is not just random pieces of film sliced together.)  I felt as if everything that happen would really happen.  Young men would act and react in the way it is portrayed in the film.  It helps that the three, relatively unknown actors–Dane DeHaan (reminds me of a young DiCaprio), Michael B. Jordan (very charismatic) and Alex Russell (genuine), have a great chemistry together that feels natural and authentic. It is even better that they are all talented.  DeHaan’s Andrew is actually kind of sad and you are sympathetic to his evolution into somewhat of a “villain”.  Well done!

New director Josh Trank is showing some potential here.  Trank takes the time to develop his characters and pace the tension, so when it reaches the climax, you find you are fully invested. The story idea and screenplay belong to Max Landis  (son of John Landis–who is an 80s icon) and I am looking forward to what else he will come up with.

So, if you were at all into NBC’s Heroes, you will totally enjoy this.  It is a refreshing twist on the tired style of filmmaking and will hopefully be the launch pad for a whole slew of exciting new talent!

 

The Grey was much more than I expected! WOW!

Okay. I will admit that I went into The Grey with only one expectation…to be entertained.  Liam Neeson and wolves?  I am in.  That is all I needed to know.  Yet surprisingly, there was way more to this film than even the trailer reveals (I love when that happens!).  I had heard some positive buzz, but was thinking it was due to pure badassness, not because of its depth and intensity.  How awesome!

You know by now, that I do not like to summarize a film and tell you details because I want you to discover all the wonderful things on your own–but I will tell you this–writer/director Joe Carnahan weaves an exciting, tense, thought provoking and personal story.  This film covers a lot of ground–survival, fear, life and death. It is truly an existential experience!  Really? Yes, I am not joking.  There are strong themes.  From animal instincts to faith in a higher power.  (I love the parallels drawn between the wolves and this group of roughnecks–and by the way, I do not agree that the Gray wolves were being shown in a negative light–if anything, you will respect them more after this.) 

Liam Neeson is perfect.  He was meant to play this part.  I can only imagine what he drew upon to reach the soul of this man who is clinging to his life. If Neeson doesn’t receive award attention it would be a shame!  The supporting cast is dead on!  But, a stand out is Frank Grillo‘s Diaz.  I loved him in Warrior and now this only solidifies my interest in career.  Another important character is the isolated landscape of Alaska.  It is both beautiful and haunting–(there were points that I could FEEL the cold). 

That is all I will say.  The Grey is a smart, intense thriller that is also a psychological study of human survival. I was at points–impressed, exhausted and emotional–wow!  To live and die on this day…To live and die on this day!  Indeed. Now that is what I call a cinematic experience!!