Monday, February 28, 2011

How I Did

Out of 24 categories, I managed to predict 16 correct for a total of 67%.

If I had gone with my possible spoilers in 7 of the 8 incorrect categories, I would have scored 23/24.

The only category I completely flamed out on was Best Live Action Short. Didn't see God of Love taking it. Happy it did so, but I thought it was too cutesy to actually win.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Oscar Predictions

Normally my goal is simply to get more predictions correct than not, but I have a bad feeling about this year for some reason. A few hours will tell though. I'll list my pick followed by a possible spoiler.

Performance by an actor in a leading role

Javier Bardem in “Biutiful” (Roadside Attractions)
Jeff Bridges in “True Grit” (Paramount)
Jesse Eisenberg in “The Social Network” (Sony Pictures Releasing)
Colin Firth in “The King's Speech” (The Weinstein Company)
James Franco in “127 Hours” (Fox Searchlight)

My Pick: Colin Firth. He was supposed to win last year, but didn't for that horrid "A Single Man". Whether or not the award is deserved for this performance is besides the point, the voters will give it to him.

Spoiler: James Franco

Performance by an actor in a supporting role

Christian Bale in “The Fighter” (Paramount)
John Hawkes in “Winter's Bone” (Roadside Attractions)
Jeremy Renner in “The Town” (Warner Bros.)
Mark Ruffalo in “The Kids Are All Right” (Focus Features)
Geoffrey Rush in “The King's Speech” (The Weinstein Company)

My Pick: Christian Bale. Finally, his years of gaining and losing weight for roles will pay off. He was fine in "The Fighter", though personally I'd like to see John Hawkes win.

Spoiler: Geoffrey Rush

Performance by an actress in a leading role

Annette Bening in “The Kids Are All Right” (Focus Features)
Nicole Kidman in “Rabbit Hole” (Lionsgate)
Jennifer Lawrence in “Winter's Bone” (Roadside Attractions)
Natalie Portman in “Black Swan” (Fox Searchlight)
Michelle Williams in “Blue Valentine” (The Weinstein Company)

My Pick: Natalie Portman. I've always liked Natalie Portman. Not just for the fact I have a friend who claims she's his cousin to see how gullible people are. I do feel sorry for Annette Bening, who keeps running up against juggernauts whenever she's nominated. I just don't think her performance has the traction necessary to get the win.

Spoiler: Annette Bening

Performance by an actress in a supporting role

Amy Adams in “The Fighter” (Paramount)
Helena Bonham Carter in “The King's Speech” (The Weinstein Company)
Melissa Leo in “The Fighter” (Paramount)
Hailee Steinfeld in “True Grit” (Paramount)
Jacki Weaver in “Animal Kingdom” (Sony Pictures Classics)

My Pick: Melissa Leo. Here's a category that can go one of two ways. Melissa Leo seemed to have the win locked up, then released a campaign that people really took offense to. Now, there's a strong possibility that Hallie Steinfeld will win. I still think Melissa Leo will take it though. she's been nominated before, and I just can't see enough people not voting for her simply because of a fool move.

Spoiler: Hallie Steinfeld

Best animated feature film of the year

“How to Train Your Dragon” (Paramount) Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois
“The Illusionist” (Sony Pictures Classics) Sylvain Chomet
“Toy Story 3” (Walt Disney) Lee Unkrich

My Pick: Toy Story 3. It's also up for Best Picture. If it doesn't win, expect Mickey to go on a murderous rampage.

Spoiler: How to Train Your Dragon. It's a well done film, but will only win if certain signs of the apocalypse line up.

Achievement in art direction

“Alice in Wonderland” (Walt Disney)
Robert Stromberg
Karen O'Hara

“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part
1” (Warner Bros.)
Stuart Craig
Stephenie McMillan

“Inception” (Warner Bros.)
Guy Hendrix Dyas
Larry Dias and Doug Mowat

“The King's Speech” (The Weinstein Company)
Eve Stewart
Judy Farr

“True Grit” (Paramount)
Jess Gonchor
Nancy Haigh

My Pick: The King's Speech. There's something about royalty that attracts Oscar voters. True Grit was outside too much; who remembers the sets for Inception and HP&TDH1 was mostly set in a tent.

Spoiler: Alice in Wonderland. Tim Burton's visuals can never be counted out.

Achievement in cinematography

“Black Swan” (Fox Searchlight) Matthew Libatique
“Inception” (Warner Bros.) Wally Pfister
“The King's Speech” (The Weinstein Company) Danny Cohen
“The Social Network” (Sony Pictures Releasing) Jeff Cronenweth
“True Grit” (Paramount) Roger Deakins

My Pick: True Grit. Roger Deakins is the Susan Lucci of this category. This might be his year to finally take it. Something about Westerns....

Spoiler: Inception. It won the guild's award, but that guild might not be big enough of a bloc in the Academy to make a difference.

Achievement in costume design

“Alice in Wonderland” (Walt Disney) Colleen Atwood
“I Am Love” (Magnolia Pictures) Antonella Cannarozzi
“The King's Speech” (The Weinstein Company) Jenny Beavan
“The Tempest” (Miramax) Sandy Powell
“True Grit” (Paramount) Mary Zophres

My Pick: The King's Speech. Royalty wins often in this category. Royalty or over the top. Which means the only other winner might be...

Spoiler: Alice in Wonderland

Achievement in directing

“Black Swan” (Fox Searchlight) Darren Aronofsky
“The Fighter” (Paramount) David O. Russell
“The King's Speech” (The Weinstein Company) Tom Hooper
“The Social Network” (Sony Pictures Releasing) David Fincher
“True Grit” (Paramount) Joel Coen and Ethan Coen

My Pick: David Fincher. I don't think many people can even name who directed The King's Speech. The Social Network was a great film, thanks in large part to David Fincher. He's been around for a while and always seems to make decent films, this might be the way to congratulate him since The Social Network won't win Best Picture.

Spoiler: Tom Hooper

Best documentary feature

“Exit through the Gift Shop” (Producers
Distribution Agency)
A Paranoid Pictures Production
Banksy and Jaimie D'Cruz

A Gasland Production
Josh Fox and Trish Adlesic

“Inside Job” (Sony Pictures Classics)
A Representational Pictures Production
Charles Ferguson and Audrey Marrs

“Restrepo” (National Geographic Entertainment)
An Outpost Films Production
Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger

“Waste Land” (Arthouse Films)
An Almega Projects Production
Lucy Walker and Angus Aynsley

My Pick: Inside Job. This is a three horse race. Waste Land and Gasland are out. Restrepo is a good film, but it doesn't seem to have the support. Exit Through the Gift Shop I didn't think was all that great, and most of it's support seems to be of the 'let's see what Bansky does if he wins' type. I'm not sure if that's enough for people to actually vote for him. So I believe it will go to Inside Job, about the banking implosion.

Spoiler: Exit Through the Gift Shop.

Best documentary short subject

“Killing in the Name”
A Moxie Firecracker Films Production
Nominees to be determined

“Poster Girl”
A Portrayal Films Production
Nominees to be determined

“Strangers No More”
A Simon & Goodman Picture Company Production
Karen Goodman and Kirk Simon

“Sun Come Up”
A Sun Come Up Production
Jennifer Redfearn and Tim Metzger

“The Warriors of Qiugang”
A Thomas Lennon Films Production
Ruby Yang and Thomas Lennon

My Pick: Strangers No More. This is another three film race. The topicality of suicide bombers of Killing in the Name? The topicality of the Iraq war of Poster Girl? both possibly, but Strangers No More is about children of all different backgrounds (mostly refugees) attending a school in Tel Aviv and watching them succeed. I think kids will triumph over the slightly more depressing material of the other two.

Spoiler: Poster Girl

Achievement in film editing

“Black Swan” (Fox Searchlight) Andrew Weisblum
“The Fighter” (Paramount) Pamela Martin
“The King's Speech” (The Weinstein Company) Tariq Anwar
“127 Hours” (Fox Searchlight) Jon Harris
“The Social Network” (Sony Pictures Releasing) Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter

My Pick: The Social Network. The King's Speech can't win everything. The editing in The Social Network was fantastic, as it kept from from getting too lost in the time jumping narrative.

Spoiler: The King's Speech

Best foreign language film of the year

“Biutiful” (Roadside Attractions)
A Menage Atroz, Mod Producciones and Ikiru Films

“Dogtooth” (Kino International)
A Boo Production

“In a Better World” (Sony Pictures Classics)
A Zentropa Production

“Incendies” (Sony Pictures Classics)
A Micro-Scope Production

“Outside the Law (Hors-la-loi)” (Cohen Media Group)
A Tassili Films Production

My Pick: In A Better World. Susanne Bier has been nominated almost every time she directs a film and has also won previously. Biutiful was far too boring to win. Incendies and Outside the Law I've never even heard of. I think Dogtooth might just be a little too strange to win.

Spoiler: Dogtooth.

Achievement in makeup

“Barney's Version” (Sony Pictures Classics) Adrien Morot

“The Way Back” (Newmarket Films in association with
Wrekin Hill Entertainment and Image Entertainment)
Edouard F. Henriques, Gregory Funk and Yolanda

“The Wolfman” (Universal) Rick Baker and Dave Elsey

My Pick: The Wolfman. In this category, the winner is usually the one with the most makeup. Wolfman wins. Wolfman's got nards.

Spoiler: The Way Back

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original score)

“How to Train Your Dragon” (Paramount) John Powell
“Inception” (Warner Bros.) Hans Zimmer
“The King's Speech” (The Weinstein Company) Alexandre Desplat
“127 Hours” (Fox Searchlight) A.R. Rahman
“The Social Network” (Sony Pictures Releasing) Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross

My Pick: The King's Speech. Alexandre Desplat has been doing wonderful work for a while now without an Oscar to show for it. A pleasant traditional score will probably win out over Trent Reznor's more avant-garde score.

Spoiler: The Social Network

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song)

“Coming Home” from “Country Strong”
(Sony Pictures Releasing (Screen Gems))
Music and Lyric by Tom Douglas, Troy Verges and
Hillary Lindsey

“I See the Light” from “Tangled”
(Walt Disney)
Music by Alan Menken
Lyric by Glenn Slater

“If I Rise” from “127 Hours”
(Fox Searchlight)
Music by A.R. Rahman
Lyric by Dido and Rollo Armstrong

“We Belong Together” from “Toy Story 3”
(Walt Disney)
Music and Lyric by Randy Newman

My Pick: I See the Light from Tangled. Who knows? This category has gone from nominating reasonably popular songs to songs no one remembers. It's a total crapshoot, especially with three former winners in the category. I'm going with Alan Menken since he was always beloved and this sort of marks his comeback.

Spoiler: We Belong Together.

Best motion picture of the year

“Black Swan” (Fox Searchlight)
A Protozoa and Phoenix Pictures Production
Mike Medavoy, Brian Oliver and Scott Franklin,

“The Fighter” (Paramount)
A Relativity Media Production
David Hoberman, Todd Lieberman and Mark
Wahlberg, Producers

“Inception” (Warner Bros.)
A Warner Bros. UK Services Production
Emma Thomas and Christopher Nolan, Producers

“The Kids Are All Right” (Focus Features)
An Antidote Films, Mandalay Vision and Gilbert
Films Production
Gary Gilbert, Jeffrey Levy-Hinte and Celine Rattray,

“The King's Speech” (The Weinstein Company)
A See-Saw Films and Bedlam Production
Iain Canning, Emile Sherman and Gareth Unwin,

“127 Hours” (Fox Searchlight)
An Hours Production
Christian Colson, Danny Boyle and John Smithson,

“The Social Network” (Sony Pictures Releasing)
A Columbia Pictures Production
Scott Rudin, Dana Brunetti, Michael De Luca and
Ceán Chaffin, Producers

“Toy Story 3” (Walt Disney)
A Pixar Production
Darla K. Anderson, Producer

“True Grit” (Paramount)
A Paramount Pictures Production
Scott Rudin, Ethan Coen and Joel Coen, Producers

“Winter's Bone” (Roadside Attractions)
A Winter's Bone Production
Anne Rosellini and Alix Madigan-Yorkin, Producers

My Pick: The King's Speech. The Social Network won all the critic's awards, but The King's Speech won all of the guild awards; and they are the one that vote on the Oscars.

Spoiler: The Social Network

Best animated short film

“Day & Night” (Walt Disney)
A Pixar Animation Studios Production
Teddy Newton

“The Gruffalo”
A Magic Light Pictures Production
Jakob Schuh and Max Lang

“Let's Pollute”
A Geefwee Boedoe Production
Geefwee Boedoe

“The Lost Thing” (Nick Batzias for Madman Entertainment)
A Passion Pictures Australia Production
Shaun Tan and Andrew Ruhemann

“Madagascar, carnet de voyage (Madagascar, a Journey
A Sacrebleu Production

My Pick: The Gruffalo. It's the longest and has movie stars in it. Sometimes that's all it takes to win this category. Wasn't my favorite, but oh well.

Spoiler: The Lost Thing. (A lot of people are suggesting Madagascar since the animation is beautiful in it. True, but there was no story and it was a boring 11 minutes).

Best live action short film

“The Confession” (National Film and Television School)
A National Film and Television School Production
Tanel Toom

“The Crush” (Network Ireland Television)
A Purdy Pictures Production
Michael Creagh

“God of Love”
A Luke Matheny Production
Luke Matheny

“Na Wewe” (Premium Films)
A CUT! Production
Ivan Goldschmidt

“Wish 143”
A Swing and Shift Films/Union Pictures Production
Ian Barnes and Samantha Waite

My Pick: Wish 143. The Confession and The Crush both went way over the top. God of Love was cute but slight. Some people are saying Na Wewe, but usually the one that stands out the most from the others tends to be the winner and that was Wish 143 this time around.

Spoiler: Na Wewe

Achievement in sound editing

“Inception” (Warner Bros.) Richard King
“Toy Story 3” (Walt Disney) Tom Myers and Michael Silvers
“Tron: Legacy” (Walt Disney) Gwendolyn Yates Whittle and Addison Teague
“True Grit” (Paramount) Skip Lievsay and Craig Berkey
“Unstoppable” (20th Century Fox) Mark P. Stoeckinger

My Pick: Inception. Finally, it can win something. The sound awards tend to go to the big action films. Inception was the biggest.

Spoiler: Unstoppable.

Achievement in sound mixing

“Inception” (Warner Bros.) Lora Hirschberg, Gary A. Rizzo and Ed Novick

“The King's Speech” (The Weinstein Company) Paul Hamblin, Martin Jensen and John Midgley

“Salt” (Sony Pictures Releasing) Jeffrey J. Haboush, Greg P. Russell, Scott Millan and
William Sarokin

“The Social Network” (Sony Pictures Releasing) Ren Klyce, David Parker, Michael Semanick and Mark

“True Grit” (Paramount) Skip Lievsay, Craig Berkey, Greg Orloff and
Peter F. Kurland

My Choice: Incpetion. If people voted for it in the other category, they;ll do sao here.

Spoiler: The King's Speech. Speech is about sound, after all.

Achievement in visual effects

“Alice in Wonderland” (Walt Disney) Ken Ralston, David Schaub, Carey Villegas and Sean

“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1” (Warner
Tim Burke, John Richardson, Christian Manz and
Nicolas Aithadi

“Hereafter” (Warner Bros.) Michael Owens, Bryan Grill, Stephan Trojanski and
Joe Farrell

“Inception” (Warner Bros.) Paul Franklin, Chris Corbould, Andrew Lockley and
Peter Bebb

“Iron Man 2” (Paramount and Marvel Entertainment,
Distributed by Paramount)
Janek Sirrs, Ben Snow, Ged Wright and Daniel Sudick

My Pick: Inception. Cities don't fold in on themselves alone. Happy Potter will probably win next year as a reward for making it through all 8 films.

Spoiler: Alice in Wonderland

Adapted screenplay

“127 Hours” (Fox Searchlight) Screenplay by Danny Boyle & Simon Beaufoy
“The Social Network” (Sony Pictures Releasing) Screenplay by Aaron Sorkin
“Toy Story 3” (Walt Disney) Screenplay by Michael Arndt Story
by John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton and Lee
“True Grit” (Paramount) Written for the screen by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
“Winter's Bone” (Roadside Attractions) Adapted for the screen by Debra Granik & Anne

My Pick: The Social Network. About as strong a lock as possible. Great screenplay.

Spoiler: Winter's Bone

Original screenplay

“Another Year” (Sony Pictures Classics) Written by Mike Leigh
“The Fighter” (Paramount) Screenplay by Scott Silver and Paul Tamasy & Eric
Story by Keith Dorrington & Paul Tamasy & Eric
“Inception” (Warner Bros.) Written by Christopher Nolan
“The Kids Are All Right” (Focus Features) Written by Lisa Cholodenko & Stuart Blumberg
“The King's Speech” (The Weinstein Company) Screenplay by David Seidler

My Pick: The King's Speech. It can't be easy writing all those stuttering syllables into a screenplay.

Spoiler: The Kids Are All Right

And there we are. I'll update tomorrow with how I did based on my original predictions and on both my predictions and spoilers combined.

Do My Eyes Deceive Me?

It looks as if my favorite Serbian tennis player has made it into the final round for the third time in his career. I'd hope he can pull out his first win, but I don't want to jinx anything. Fingers crossed, though.

Friday, February 25, 2011

My Ballot

ETA: Well, the other voters agreed with me on 5 of the categories and disagreed with me on 7 of the categories. Maybe next year I'll have more influence.

Now that the deadline for voting has passed, I can reveal my choices for this year's Independent Spirit Award categories. Last year, it seemed that most of the other voters didn't agree with me, let's hope this year is different. For I only speak the truth!

Best Picture

127 Hours
Black Swan
The Kids Are All Right
Winter's Bone

My choice: I went with Winter's Bone. I found it to be the most well-rounded of the films and the only one that really kept me guessing as to where it was going. Though any of these films are a worthy choice, except Greenberg. Greenberg sucked.

Best Director

Darren Aronofsky – Black Swan
Danny Boyle – 127 Hours
Lisa Cholodenko – The Kids Are All Right
Debra Granik – Winter's Bone
John Cameron Mitchell – Rabbit Hole

My choice: Debra Granik. To the victor go the spoils. I'm one of those who believe that if you have the best picture, then you also have the best director.

Best Actor (Best Male Lead)

Ronald Bronstein – Daddy Longlegs
Aaron Eckhart – Rabbit Hole
James Franco – 127 Hours
John C. Reilly – Cyrus
Ben Stiller – Greenberg

My choice: James Franco. An incredible performance given the limited mobility of the character. He really made you feel the arrogance and the vulnerability of the character all in 90 minutes.

Best Actress (Best Female Lead)

Annette Bening – The Kids Are All Right
Greta Gerwig – Greenberg
Nicole Kidman – Rabbit Hole
Jennifer Lawrence – Winter's Bone
Natalie Portman – Black Swan
Michelle Williams – Blue Valentine

My choice: Jennifer Lawrence (seeing a theme?). I found this to be the most well rounded of all the performances. I don't think she'll win this year, but she will soon.

Best Supporting Actor (Best Supporting Male)

John Hawkes – Winter's Bone
Samuel L. Jackson – Mother and Child
Bill Murray – Get Low
John Ortiz – Jack Goes Boating
Mark Ruffalo – The Kids Are All Right

My choice: John Hawkes. You never knew if his character was going to help out or pull a gun and shoot. I was afraid watching him. That's good acting.

Best Supporting Actress (Best Supporting Female)

Ashley Bell – The Last Exorcism
Dale Dickey – Winter's Bone
Allison Janney – Life During Wartime
Daphne Rubin-Vega – Jack Goes Boating
Naomi Watts – Mother and Child

My choice: Dale Dickey. She played a mean backwoods mother. The type of person you don't want to cross. I don't want to meet her in a dark alley. Just as scary as John Hawkes.

Best Screenplay

The Kids Are All Right – Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg
Life During Wartime – Todd Solondz
Please Give – Nicole Holofcener
Rabbit Hole – David Lindsay-Abaire
Winter's Bone – Debra Granik and Anne Rosellini

My choice: Winter's Bone. What else? It was #5 on my top ten of the year. I liked The Kids Are All Right, but the screenplay was a little too jokey for me.

Best First Screenplay

Jack Goes Boating – Robert Glaudini
Lovely, Still – Nik Fackler
Monogamy – Dana Adam Shapiro and Evan Wiener
Obselidia – Diane Bell
Tiny Furniture – Lena Dunham

My choice: Tiny Furniture. A cute little indie. Nothing too amazing to write home about, but a lot of promise in it.

Best First Feature

Everything Strange and New
Get Low
The Last Exorcism
Night Catches Us
Tiny Furniture

My choice: Get Low. A nice offbeat comedy about an older man who wants to hold his own wake before he dies. Robert Duvall and Bill Murray keep the proceedings enjoyable.

Best Cinematography

Black Swan – Matthew Libatique
Greenberg – Harris Savides
Never Let Me Go – Adam Kimmel
Tiny Furniture – Jody Lee Lipse
Winter's Bone – Michael McDonough

My choice: Michael McDonough. What? You thought I've give up on my Winter's Bone streak now?

Best Foreign Film

The King's Speech – Tom Hooper • UK
Kisses – Lance Daly • Ireland
Mademoiselle Chambon – Stéphane Brizé • France
Of Gods and Men (Des hommes et des dieux) – Xavier Beauvois • Morocco/France
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (Lung Bunmi Raluek Chat) – Apichatpong Weerasethakul • Thailand

My choice: Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives. This will most likely be on my top ten list for 2011. A lyrical and utterly strange movie that just floats on by as you get into its rhythms. Weerasethakul's films are an acquired taste, but if you acquire it then you are rewarded.

What about The King's Speech? While it will probably win the Oscar, I found the film to have a few too many slow patches for my taste. It's good, yes, but it's not amazing.

Best Documentary

Exit Through the Gift Shop – Banksy
Marwencol – Jeff Malmberg
Restrepo – Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger
Sweetgrass – Lucien Castaing-Taylor
Thunder Soul – Mark Landsman

My choice: Restrepo. I did not find Gift Shop to be a great film. Too boring. Restrepo, while a little repetitious at times, did what a documentary should do. Show me an aspect of life I'm not to aware of and make me care about it.

And there we go. Let's see how I match up to the actual winners this year.

Top Ten of 2010: #5 - #1

#5 Winter's Bone

A fantastic peek into an area of the U.S. most people don't think about, Winter's Bone was the most unexpected film of the year for me. A story about a girl on a search for her missing father, the movie introduces you to characters that seem like they'll either help her or hurt her at any given moment. The only film this year I can say I had no idea what to expect next. I'm still scared to meet any of those people. Go see it.

#4 The Strange Case of Angelica

Somehow, at age 101, Manoel De Oliveira managed to deliver one of the best films of his career. A love story between a man and a corpse (well...her ghost), Angelica lets you get lost in the remembrance of how passionate true love can be. Filled with tangents about life and particle physics, you sit with a smile on your face hoping that the two lovers will find a way to be together as you want to hold on closer to your own.

#3 Inside Job

The documentary of the year to get your blood boiling. An explanation of how the economy collapsed and the steps the government and banking industries took that basically made it inevitable. Watch at your own risk if you have high blood pressure. Fascinating from start to finish when you're not yelling at the people on the screen.

#2 The Social Network

Every so often, Hollywood gets it right. A perfect combination of director, screenwriter and actors bring the "story" of the early years of Facebook to life. (How true it is is for others to decide). Everything about this film works. The one liners, the music, all fantastic. Now if only more films like this can be released every year.

Rental of the Year
Word is Out

A documentary from the 1970's featuring 20some gay and lesbian people simply talking about their lives. Some known personages, some not. All with amazing stories to tell. The DVD features an update with almost everyone from the documentary. Rent now.

Film of the Year
#1 Ahead of Time

Ahead of Time is a documentary about a woman almost no one can name today, but who everyone should know. Ruth Gruber was the youngest person in the world to receive a PhD. She worked as a journalist, alerting America to the dangers of Nazism from inside Germany, was the first foreign correspondent allowed to fly through Siberia, and was present at the birth of Israel, a witness to the Exodus incident. During WWII, she worked for the interior department as the liaison between the U.S. and 1000 Jewish refugees brought over from Italy; the only Jewish people the U.S. actively sheltered during the war. She was right at the forefront of most of the important developments of the world from 1930-1950. Her story is outstanding and she's still going strong today at 99. Ahead of Time is a stunning time capsule of those events told firsthand by Ms. Gruber. Watch it as soon as you can.

February Movies

Once again, a roundup of all the films I saw in a month. Not reviews, per se, just a sentence or two about my general feelings about the films. This time: February!

Won Ton Ton: The Dog Who Saved Hollywood (D+): I watched this movie for all the cameos from old time Hollywood stars it has. Thank God for those cameos, because this was once of the worst films I've seen in a while. Every joke fell flat. A total slog.

True Love (C): A short collection of films about love. Some were crap. Some were mildly enjoyable. All are forgettable.

Restrepo (B+): A interesting documentary following a year in the life of an Army troop at a remote outpost in Afghanistan. Tense and thrilling most of the time. It does suffer from a slight case of "the sames" after a while. "The sames" being that you've seen it and heard it before. Doesn't make it bad, just that it isn't totally fresh.

Film Geek (D+): A movie nerd finds love. Or at least I think he does. The movie conceit kept coming and going throughout the film as the need dictated. Otherwise you were left with a unlikable main character essentially stalking a woman. Fun.

Cold Weather (B+): I'm not the biggest fan of mumblecore, but this movie had just enough jokes going for it to keep me entertained. The grade would be higher, but the director decided to make the ending about one thing when it should have been about another. You'll have to rent it to see what I mean, and it's definitely worth a rental when it's out in a few months.

Biutiful (C-): Javier Bardem does deserve his nomination, but besides that, Biutiful is watching a man die very slowly for 2h20m. And you feel every minute of it. It doesn't help that the film essentially tells two parallel stories that should interact at some point but never do.

Strapped (B-): A hustler tries to find his way out of an apartment building, but keeps running into various residents who prevent him from doing so. At the end, the hustler learns something about himself. The interactions with the residents aren't anything surprising and I'm not exactly sure what the hustler learns; but he was attractive and I'm human, so that's good enough for a B- in my book.

Even The Rain (B): A Spanish film about a film crew trying a film a Columbus movie in Bolivia while the 2000 water riots are going on. A little heavy-handed at times, but filled with good performances and an important message. And who doesn't love Gael Garcia Bernal?

The Wolfman (C): I saw this for its Oscar nomination. It wasn't as bad as I expected it to be, but perhaps that was because I saw the extended version which put back in some explanatory scenes. Still, it was all pretty rote. And it took over half the film to get to the first Wolfman transformation.

The 2010 Oscar Nominated Animated Short Films (B-): I'm not going to get into a discussion of each film individually here. Just that this year it was an underwhelming lot.

The 2010 Oscar Nominated Live Action Short Films (B-): Repeat the above.

The 2010 Oscar Nominated Short Documentary Films (A-): This was more like it. Usually, this category is a three hour depression fest, and while the topics this year aren't cheery, each film ended on an uplifting note. This gives the viewer a peek into an aspect of life on Earth they might not know about and not leave them wanting to forget about it, as the more downbeat documentaries have done in the past. A tough category to call this year.

Toast (B+): A fun little BBC telefilm about about the childhood of British chef Nigel Slater. Nothing too Earthshaking here, it was all predictable and pleasant. Helena Bonham Carter was a hoot and the food made me hungry.

The Eagle (C): I saw this solely for Channing Tatum and Jamie Bell. Something about having to go rescue a Eagle standard from evil blue painted people in Scotland. Needed less emoting and more wrestling.


Stanley Kubrick's Boxes (C): I've decided to finish watching all the Stanley Kubrick films I've missed. Started off with this British documentary about what was contained in the 1000 or so boxes Kubrick left on his property after he died. The answer is: nothing special. Photographs and other assorted research that one would associate being done with any film. Only two things of note: 1. Four minutes of behind the scenes footage of Kubrick on the set of Full Metal Jacket. 2. A fan letter that Kubrick labeled as being written by a 'crank' read by that person years later and their current thoughts about it.

Stanley Kubrick Documentaries: No grade here. They were all very basic docs. The type you'd find playing before any movie in the 1950's.

Fear and Desire (C): Everyone has to start somewhere. While there are some flashes of promise in Kubrick's first feature, it really isn't all that great. A war film told mostly in voiceover about how war is bad. Checked off.

Killer's Kiss (B+): Kubrick's second feature is a tight (67 minutes) film noir featuring the good guy, the femme fatale and her brute of a boyfriend. Plays out exactly as you'd expect it to. A good final fight and some fantastic views of 1950's NY make this one to catch.

Full Metal Jacket (B): I didn't find this to be the masterpiece that some others claim it is. The training camp scenes are fun, the Vietnam scenes are done well, but I just didn't see a point to everything. you have a 45 minute film followed by a 65 minute film, neither of which seem to have anything to really say. Still, it's not boring by any means.

And there you go. What have you seen of these? Which ones do you want to rush out and see? How right or wrong am I?

Top Ten of 2010: #10 - #6

#10. The Ghost Writer

Whatever your personal feelings about Roman Polanski may be, there is no denying that he does know how to direct an excellent film. The Ghost Writer is a taut, entertaining thriller about a young, nobody everyman who gets in way over his head in political dealings. It also features the best ending of any film I saw in 2010.

#9. The Kids Are All Right

A charmer of a film from beginning to end. Annette Bening and Julianne Moore played a believable couple working through a rough patch in their marriage when their children discover their birth father. With Mark Ruffalo as the father, I don't blame what happens next. Featuring a great capper of a monologue by Julianne Moore about the difficulties of marriage.

#8 Another Year

A deceptively simple film, Another Year follows a average English family through the four seasons of a year. Lesley Manning gives the film its emotional heft as the family's slightly off-kilter friend. Mike Leigh's film will keep you laughing throughout, but will leave you with questions at the end as to how far someone should go to help out a friend in need.

#7 Toy Story 3

What else can really be said about this film? It was funny, touching and left almost everyone in tears. I was ready to go out to my local toy store after the film and buy everything I ever played with while growing up all over again. I don't believe the film could want for a better reaction than that.

#6 127 Hours

Yes, the arm cutting scene was slightly difficult to sit through, but Danny Boyle's film kept you interested in watching it while waiting for the inevitable. James Franco did an outstanding job in conveying all the different emotions one can have while faced with a seemingly impossible situation. I'm not sure why the Oscar buzz for this film died out so quickly, it certainly deserves some recognition.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Top Ten of 2010: Honorable Mentions

Now is the time for all things movies. We'll start off with my top ten films of 2010. Follow that up with how I filled out my ballot for the 2010 Spirit Awards then wrap up with my Oscar predictions.

2010 only had 21 films receive a grade of A- or better from me. 13 got the A- exactly. 6 received an A and only 3 an A+. A few other films I saw at the NYFF also received an A level grade, but as they won't be released into theatres sometime this year, they'll probably show up on my list this time next year. So let's get to it.

Crap of the Year
I've gotten much better in terms of weeding out watching what looks to be utter shite. Ten years ago, I would pretty much go watch everything that came out in a theatre. Nowadays, if it looks awful, I don't go. This leads to a much lower amount of films given a D or F grade from me. However, a few always slip through the cracks.


This was a short film I saw in front of a screening of the American version of Jacques Tati's My Uncle. Tatitude is supposed to be an homage to Tati's first film: M. Hulot's Holiday. What it is, is six minutes of my life that was sucked from me. The short is a random collection of images from Tati's film with other random stuff superimposed on it. That's all. There's no rhyme or reason to it. When you check your watch a couple of times during a six minute movie, you know it's bad.

Samson and Delilah

This Australian film has won or was nominated for a rather large number of awards. I don't know if I'll ever understand how. I found Samson and Delilah to be a slow-moving, turgid and utterly ridiculous experience. The characters were not remotely believable and each new plot twist absurd. Everyone has a couple of films that they hate while it's loved by almost everyone else. This is mine for 2010.

Honorable Mentions


Inception continues Christopher Nolan's streak of directing films I love. It was original, filled with great visuals and, in my opinion, was not hard to follow. The only reason it didn't make the top ten was the final action sequence. I found the scene set at the snow base to be a little long for my tastes and the action there rather pedestrian. At least it gave Tom Hardy a showcase. Go see him in Bronson.

When You're Strange

I can probably name a couple of songs by The Doors, but I've never been a super fan of the group. That is why I responded so well to Tom DeCillo's documentary about them, and primarily Jim Morrison. Everything in the documentary was new to me and gave me an entirely new appreciation for the group. Concert footage and behind the scenes footage (including some pristine images from movies that Jim Morrison) kept me riveted to the screen. I'm sure (as many reviews pointed out), that for the fan, there is little here that isn't already known, but if you're unfamiliar with the history of the group, this movie will get you ready to run out and by all their CD's.


In this Greek film, a set of parents keep their children completely secluded from the outside world. Everyday objects are referred to by different names and a co-worker of the father is brought in to help relieve sexual tension. Why? A good question that the film never answers as we are allowed to revel in the weirdness of the situation as it plays out to it's logical and extreme end. I'm not sure the conceit is held up entirely through the running time, but there's enough offbeat humor in the film to keep that concern in the background.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Mini Golf Memories

I remember playing this mini golf course about 20 years ago on a family trip to Colorado. The only difference here, is that I scored a hole-in-one on this hole.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

CD Exchange #8

Here's one of the songs that a lucky recipient will receive on their upcoming CD. From the happy section, of course.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

January Movies

I always take January as my time to catch up on all the movies I feel like seeing. TV is pretty much on hiatus until February, and the weather stinks, so it's the perfect time to watch as much as possible. Here's a rundown of what I caught the past 31 days. All films have their respective link to their IMDB page in the sidebar. These aren't reviews so much as brief personal assessments.

The Fighter (B+): My Aunt's niece plays Mark Wahlberg's daughter in this films, which I was all gung-ho to see, until I realized she only had 3 minutes of screentime. The film itself is decent, but very predictable and slow in parts. Oscar for Christian Bale though. And Melissa Leo.

Family Guy: It's A Trap (A-): Great conclusion to their Star Wars trilogy. Jokes that work, references that are funny. Easy way to pass an hour. Might not hold up on repeated viewings, but who watches those more than once?

Boys Life 7 (D+): A collection of some number of gay themed shorts. They all sucked.

The Illusionist (B): A lovely little homage to Jacques Tati, that starts off in a vein of wistful humor then quickly turns depressing. I don't require a happy ending in my films, but when it became obvious where this one was heading, a little levity would have been appreciated.

True Grit (A-): A fine entry into the Coen Brothers oeuvre. The film was paced well, it was funny and suspenseful and the script had some great turns of phrase. Didn't love the coda, but it didn't detract from the rest of the film.

I Love You Phillip Morris (B-): Raunchy and hilarious in parts, slow and boring in others. This would have been a better film if Ewan McGregor had been given a character to play. As written, Phillip Morris has almost nothing to do.

The Take (B): A British crime drama miniseries with Tom Hardy. Pretty average stuff, nothing surprising or truly interesting, it's all been done before and better.

I Knew It Was You: Rediscovering John Cazale (C): A short documentary celebrating the career of 70's character actor John Cazale. It comes off as a DVD extra, everyone loved him, he never did anything wrong, he was perfect in all his roles, every famous actor he ever worked with learned so much from him. Repetitive.

All Good Things (B-): A dramatization of the Robert Durst case, this film suffers from wallowing in the weird twists of the case instead of its characters. nice to see Kirsten Dunst again, though.

Dream Boy (C): An adaptation of the Jim Grimsley novel. Too slow paced and the lead character is difficult to identify with. Makes for a slog of a film.

The Exterminating Angel (A-): Luis Bunuel's satire on religion (one of many) where Mexican nobility find themselves unable to leave a room. Starts to drag slightly, and waits until the very end to make its point, but still a fantastic film.

Simon of the Desert (B-): Luis Bunuel's satire on religion (one of many) where a man stands on a pillar in sacrifice for God and is tempted by the Devil. Enjoyable, but too short (45 min) to make much of an impact.

Viridiana (B): Luis Bunuel's satire on religion (one of many) and the aristocracy where a nun visits her uncle in the countryside and sets up a shelter for the town's poor. Winner of the Plame D'Or, I thought once the movie made its point, it kept on making its point over and over.

Somewhere (C): Sofia Coppola's study of the ennui of a Hollywood actor. Ennui is the feel one gets watching this plotless and ultimately pointless film.

Blue Valentine (B): A study of a couple and how their marriage disintegrates. I'm not as in love with the film as others are. I found it to drag at points and be almost too downbeat for entertainment. Again, I don't need happy, peppy in a film, but I need something to latch onto. Two hours of depressing material tends to put one out of an enjoyment zone.

Exit Through the Gift Shop (B): An interesting take on the street art phenomenon. Better in the first half as the film follows a number of different artists. boring in the second half when Bansky takes over.

Open House (C): A person is held hostage in their house while two psychopaths take over and start killing. Been there, seen it.

I Am Love (B+): An Italian film about Tilda Swinton's affair with a cook. The film isn't as epic as it thinks it is, but the food in the film made me hungry.

The Way Back (C+): Prisoners escape from a Russian gulag and make their way on foot to India. It feels like we're with them every...single...step of the way.

Making the Boys (B): A nice look at the cultural touchstone that was The Boys in the Band. Loses focus a couple of times, but places the film in perspective.

Lake Tahoe (A-): A young man's car breaks down and he tries to find the replacement part needed for it. On his search, he comes across a number of slightly strange individuals. From the director of Duck Season (another fine film), this is a great, low-key and very funny 80 minutes.

Gasland (C-): One of this years Oscar nominated documentaries, it's all about hydraulic fracturing and how it's bad. Trouble is, the director delivers mushy-mouthed narration that is grating to the ears, an endless litany of the same problems over and over, graphics that are hard to follow since they fly by so quickly and a finale that ignores any idea of a possible solution and instead dumps the issue back to the viewer. It won't win.