God help thee, poor monkey. - Macbeth

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The 2010 Golden Globes, Part 2

I'm back, and I will now finish up my Golden Globes predictions. I'm sorry it's taken me so long, but life has been very rough lately, and I haven't had the motivation to blog about movies. When we last left off, I was talking about Best Actor for comedy/musical. Now, it's time to start off with...

Best Director - Motion Picture
Kathryn Bigelow - The Hurt Locker
James Cameron - Avatar
Clint Eastwood - Invictus
Jason Reitman - Up in the Air
Quentin Tarantino - Inglourious Basterds

As of today, the only film I have seen from this list is Avatar, which I posted about last night. It was a great film, and James Cameron has an incredible vision when it comes to directing (rumor has it he's been sitting on this movie for 10 years waiting for technology to catch up), but do I feel that he deserves the award for Best Director? Not really. One of the things that I feel makes a great director is coaxing fantastic performances out of your actors, and he didn't succeed in this film. Since I haven't seen any of the others, though, I'd just like to say that, in a way, I'd like to see Kathryn Bigelow win, just because I have rarely seen a woman win best director and it'd be nice to see a smaller director take down the towering giants that are in this category. I mean, seriously. James Cameron, Quentin Tarantino, AND Clint Eastwood are all in this category this year? All of them have won at least one Oscar before, and it would be nice to see someone who's not one of the big shots get an award. I wouldn't mind seeing Jason Reitman win, either, since I've enjoyed most of his other movies and Up in the Air is one that I'd really like to see. This isn't to say that I'll be unhappy if any of those other three win, but it's a little "Ho hum, of course they won" to me. I'd like a little bit of a surprise.

Best Screenplay - Motion Picture
Neill Blomkamp & Terri Tatchell - District 9
Mark Boal - The Hurt Locker
Nancy Meyers - It's Complicated
Jason Reitman & Sheldon Turner - Up in the Air
Quentin Tarantino - Inglourious Basterds

This is one category that I can't fake my way through. Having seen none of these movies, I can't say which of them deserves the award. Sorry for my lack of insight here, folks.

Best Performance By an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture
Penelope Cruz - Nine
Vera Farmiga - Up in the Air
Anna Kendrick - Up in the Air
Mo'Nique - Precious: Based on the Novel "Push" by Sapphire
Julianne Moore - A Single Man

I can't say much about the performances in these movies, once again, but I love Penelope Cruz and Julianne Moor. At the same time, they're both such big name actresses that I wouldn't mind seeing an underdog top them. However, I am slightly biased against Anna Kendrick for appearing in Twilight and New Moon. I hate that franchise, and I lose respect for anyone who takes part in it. I really wish I'd seen more of these movies so I could give a more educated opinion, but life doesn't always work that way.

Best Performance By an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture
Matt Damon - Invictus
Woody Harrelson - The Messenger
Christopher Plummer - The Last Station
Stanley Tucci - The Lovely Bones
Christoph Waltz - Inglourious Basterds

I've already talked about my great admiration for Matt Damon, and I've heard amazing things about his performance in Invictus. I'm also a huge fan of Christopher Plummer. I love most of his more recent works and, of course, I will always think of him as Captain Von Trapp. Just judging from the amazing cast list, I am now dying to see The Last Station and am pretty sure that it will blow me away. So many wonderful actors! I also adore Stanley Tucci, and I've never seen him in a role like this one before. I'm sure that his character in The Lovely Bones was a huge challenge, and, knowing him, I'm sure he did a fantastic job, so I wouldn't mind seeing him win. I'm not as keen on Woody Harrelson or Christoph Waltz, but I haven't seen any of these films so I can't comment on their performances here and which of these great actors deserves the award most. I can only say that, once again, I think this list is chock full of winners, and I'm really excited to see yet another category in which I can't predict the outcome.

Best Animated Film
Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs
Fantastic Mr. Fox
The Princess and the Frog

The only movie in this category that I did not want to see was Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs. I'm sorry, but I don't understand how such a simple book can become a good film. I would love to see Coraline, but I'm not sure if I'd like it to win. I'm getting a wee bit tired of Tim Burton, since all his movies are so bizarre and kind of start running together in my mind. To me, Tim Burton is the more mainstream, slightly less wacky version of Terry Gilliam, and Gilliam is one of my favorite directors. I'm excited to see The Princess and the Frog, mostly because I've been getting so sick of all this 3D computer animation. I'm an old school Disney fan at heart. I liked the two dimensional Princess movies, you know? I'm really happy to see Disney starting to return to their roots. Despite that, I'm not sure it merits the award for Best Animated Film. Honestly, I think it's going to come down to a battle between Up and The Fantastic Mr. Fox. I have yet to see Up, but I've heard amazing things about it, and it looked really good. However, my vote goes to The Fantastic Mr. Fox. It was a brilliant movie that felt like a Roald Dahl book and was (blissfully) a change in style from all the other animated movies that have been coming out. It was cute, funny, and complex. There were so many layers to the jokes, and I'm sure I'd get so much more if I watched it a second time. Wes Anderson really outdid himself with this one, and I'm hoping to see it take home the award. Besides, we all know that Disney can make a good animated film. It would be nice to see someone beat them for once, especially if that someone isn't yet another animating mogul.

Best Foreign Language Film
Broken Embraces/Los Abrazos Rotos
The Maid/La Nana
A Prophet/Un Prophéte
The White Ribbon/Das Weisse Band

To be honest, the only film from this list that I've even heard of is Broken Embraces, and I'd really like to see it. However, I'm always painfully ignorant in this category, since foreign films usually only come to select theaters and play for short periods of time. Just more movies to add to my list.

Best Original Score - Motion Picture
Michael Giacchino - Up
Marvin Hamlisch - The Informant
James Horner - Avatar
Abel Korzeniowski - A Single Man
Carter Burwell & Karen O. - Where the Wild Things Are

The only scores that I have any in depth knowledge about are Avatar and Where the Wild Things Are, so I'll talk about those. Avatar's score fit with the feeling of the movie, but it was a little too much like one of those generic epic scores. There were parts that sounded like they were straight out of Pirates of the Caribbean and other parts that reminded me a lot of The Lord of the Rings. Besides, other than the parts that reminded me of something else, the score didn't really stand out to me the way I find a fantastic score does. In Where the Wild Things Are, I found myself really noticing the music and loving it. I would love to see it win, because it was so fresh and original and didn't feel like, "Oh, they stole this from (Insert Movie Here)." Actually, the score that I feel is wrongfully missing from this list is from The Brothers Bloom. I realize that it wasn't a hugely popular film, but the music was amazing. I actually have the soundtrack on my ipod and love listening to it. It was original, catchy, and just fantastic, so I wish that it could have made this list.

Best Original Song - Motion Picture
"Cinema Italiano", Music & Lyrics By: Maury Yeston - Nine
"I Want to Come Home", Music & Lyrics By: Paul McCartney - Everybody's Fine
"I Will See You", Music By: James Horner & Simon Franglen, Lyrics By: James Horner, Simon Franglen & Kuk Harrell - Avatar
"The Weary Kind (Theme from Crazy Heart)", Music & Lyrics By: Ryan Bingham & T Bone Burnett - Crazy Heart
"Winter", Music By: U2, Lyrics By: Bono - Brothers

I haven't heard any of these songs that stuck out to me, so I can't say which deserves to win. I'm sure it will be an interesting race, though.


Coming Soon: My thoughts on the TV shows also nominated for this year's Golden Globes.

Movie Review: Avatar

First of all, I'd like to start with a commentary on the power of great films. I have been going through a very tough time right now, and I haven't felt truly happy in at least weeks. Watching this movie was a very welcome vacation from reality during which I felt happy and unburdened for a blissful two and a half hours. I have to admit, at first I wasn't too interested in this film. It looked like it was going to be way too much CGI for my taste. Actually, the movie is 60% CGI, but it's used in a context that is breathtaking and it's done very tastefully. It has a few explosions here and there, but it doesn't feel like James Cameron inserted gratuitous amounts of unnecessary special effects into every scene, which I greatly appreciated.

When it comes down to it, this is a typical James Cameron film. It's groundbreaking, a delicious visual spectacle, and it will undoubtedly become yet another classic, but plot-wise it's not the best I've ever seen. You know what's coming. You can predict certain major plot twists, and you know how it's going to end. However, it's not a total yawn-fest where you sit there saying, "Boring. Saw that coming. That, too." It's still an engaging story, and it really wraps you up so that you actually believe in what's happening on the screen. It does feel a little bit like a lot of other movies all mashed together (a few that crossed my mind were Pocahontas, Peter Pan (the 2003 live action version), The Mission, Star Wars, and The Lord of the Rings), but it works, so I can't complain.

As for the acting, it's definitely passable. I wouldn't say that it's the best performances I've ever seen in my life (Sam Worthington's British accent is particularly noticeable at times), but the character development is good, and you really find yourself becoming emotionally involved with the characters. And there weren't any scenes where I wanted to smack myself in the face at the utter corniness or just downright bad acting, which is pretty rare for me, especially in science fiction movies (let's be real here, they can get a little over the top with the drama). Also, the characters were relatable, despite the fact that many of them were aliens.

But, honestly, the best part of this movie was the graphics. They were breathtakingly beautiful, and far more realistic than anything I've seen so far. The Na'vi actually looked like people, and you could see shadows of the actors playing them in their faces. For someone who isn't so hot on the CGI craze like I am, this was a thoroughly enjoyable use of it that I hope other directors will emulate. (Of course, you know what happens next is that everyone else rushes to copy it, and it becomes tired and overused, and we have to hold our breaths and wait for the next fresh take on it.) Seriously, though, the effects were spectacular, and the planet of Pandora was absolutely beautiful. I really enjoyed the variety in the flora and fauna as well as the Na'vi themselves. In fact, although I'm not too keen on this whole 3D craze, either, I would highly recommend it for this film. Once again, it wasn't used in a way that was over the top or too showy and fake. Nothing jumped out at you from the screen or anything; it just gave the film depth and made you feel like you were right there in it. When the characters were running through the jungle, I found myself flinching when a branch swung back towards the camera or wanting to bat away various glowing particles that floated through the air in different parts of the movie. It was incredibly entertaining. I do have to warn you, though, that it takes a good half hour for your eyes to adjust to the 3D vision. Up until then the film is annoyingly blurry and out of focus, which is a real pain. By the end, though, it's totally worth it. Also, try to get there early to make sure you get good seats. We ended up in the front row, which was not pleasant, especially since we were seeing it on the IMAX. My neck was sore by the first hour.

All in all, Avatar is a fantastic film that I highly recommend. It's cinematic history in the making, and you don't want to miss out. It will change the face of modern film. Here's to the genius of James Cameron. The man sure knows how to make a blockbuster.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Golden Globes 2010, Part 1

Well, I have to say, the past two years have been great for movies. It's easy to get down when you see all the muck that Hollywood churns out, but lately there have been many films that have been a breath of fresh air. Originality seems to be making something of a comeback, and nowhere is that more apparent than in this year's Golden Globes nominations. Now, as usual, I've been a bad film buff and haven't seen a majority of these films. There's never enough time to make it to the theaters these days, and many of the nominees are just being released. Hopefully, I'll see some of these before the night of the Globes (Sunday, January 17, 8-11 PM EST), but for now I can merely speculate on who is deserving of the award and who will actually win. And, let me tell you, in most of these categories, it's a very close call. I don't think I've seen such a rich list of nominees in...well...ever. So, without further ado, I give you the nominees for the 2010 Golden Globes!

Best Motion Picture - Drama
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
Precious: Based on the Novel "Push" by Sapphire
Up in the Air

Well...like I said, I've been a bad movie buff this year. I haven't seen any of these films. Shame on me! However, I have heard stellar reviews of every single movie on this list, and all of them are ones that I've been wanting to see. Who will go home with the award? I honestly have no idea. Normally I'd say that Precious was going to win, simply because the bleeding hearts in Hollywood lap up heartbreaking dramas (not that that's a bad thing), but when it's up against such strong competition, I begin to have my doubts.

Best Performance By an Actress in a Motion Picture - Drama
Emily Blunt - The Young Victoria
Sandra Bullock - The Blind Side
Helen Mirren - The Last Station
Carey Mulligan - An Education
Gabourey Sidibe - Precious: Based on the Novel "Push" by Sapphire

Once again, I find this impossible to call. Emily Blunt's star has clearly been on the rise for some time, and I'm dying to see her in the part of Queen Victoria. Indeed, even her casting in this film seems to hint at success yet to come, as she joins the ranks of those who have played the British monarchs (including her competitor, Helen Mirren). Seeing Sandra Bullock in this category is also pleasing for me. Ever since seeing her as the racist housewife in Crash, I've been hoping to see her in more serious roles. She seems to spend most of her time in cheesy romance movies, and now that I've got a taste for her as a serious actress, I'm hankering for more. The Blind Side looked like it might be a little cheesy, but it's still made my "To See" list. As for Helen Mirren, do I really need to say anything? That woman is an acting goddess. Despite my limited knowledge of her role in this latest film, I would be neither surprised or unhappy to see her walk away with the award. Finally, we have newcomers Carey Mulligan and Gabourey Sidibe. I first saw Mulligan in her debut as Kitty Bennet in 2005's Pride and Prejudice and thought she looked as much at home in front of the camera as her more seasoned costars. Her newest movie, An Education looks phenomenal and is based on a novel by Nick Hornby, one of my favorite authors. Her performance has earned her rave reviews, and her sense of poise and style on the red carpet has already earned her the title of today's Audrey Hepburn. Clearly she is a force to be reckoned with. And then you have Gabourey Sidibe, who plays the title character in Precious. It's obvious that the girl has talent, even from the brief clips of her performance that I caught in the trailer. And with such a weighty role, she's holding her own against these formidable women.

Best Performance By an Actor in a Motion Picture - Drama
Jeff Bridges - Crazy Heart
George Clooney - Up in the Air
Colin Firth - A Single Man
Morgan Freeman - Invictus
Tobey Maguire - Brothers

Another list full of knockout champs, and all actors whom I admire deeply (with the exception of Maguire. No offense to him, but I don't know if I'll ever be able to forgive him for Spiderman 3). All seasoned actors with talent coming out of their ears. If I had to narrow it down to two, though, I'd say George Clooney and Morgan Freeman were the most likely to walk away with the award. Clooney is something of a darling, although not undeservedly as he tends to tackle challenging roles, and he seems to be getting a lot of nominations in recent years. As for Morgan Freeman, he's given us years of fantastic performances, and he's playing Nelson Mandela. People aren't kidding when they say that biopics are free tickets to the Oscars. And with good reason; playing a living person means going to a whole different level of acting. People have something to compare you to, so they won't believe your performance on your talent alone. You have to successfully portray the person that you're cast as, which is no easy task. As for the other nominees, I adore Jeff Bridges and Colin Firth and would love to see either of them take home the award. They are both incredibly talented actors, and I have no doubts that they gave exceptional performances in their roles. In a perfect world, the advantages that I listed above for Clooney and Freeman would have no effect here, and the actors would be awarded based on these performances alone. Time will tell just how perfect the world we live in is. As for Tobey Maguire, I couldn't get enough of a feel from the trailer for Brothers to tell you my impression of his performance. The movie didn't really grab my attention, but, then again, neither did No Country For Old Men, and look how that ended up.

Best Motion Picture - Comedy or Musical
(500) Days of Summer
The Hangover
It's Complicated
Julie & Julia

For once, a category in which I have a clear favorite! If I controlled the Golden Globes, the award would go to (500) Days of Summer, no question about it. It's refreshingly original, funny, shamelessly steeped in pop culture, and, most importantly, relatable. It's not your average sappy love story, and the hilarious script and fantastic performances from the actors (Joseph Gordon-Levitt in particular) made it one of my favorite movies of the year. I've been waiting for it to come out on DVD since I saw it at the film festival back in April. My second choice, however, would be Nine. I have been dying to see that movie since I first saw the article on the ladies in Vogue a couple of months ago. It looks like a sensory smorgasbord. The dancing, the singing, the costumes, the lights! Completely sensational. I just hope it lives up to my expectations. Julie & Julia was a wonderful movie, but not the best comedy or musical I've seen this year. I felt that it would have been far more satisfying if they'd just left out the Julie storyline and made a movie entirely about Julia Child instead. Speaking of Meryl Streep, I haven't seen It's Complicated yet, but I have to say that, from the trailer, it didn't strike me as being an exceptional movie. Funny, perhaps, and cute, but not awards material. However, I could be totally wrong. And, finally, The Hangover. I have had countless people of all different tastes in movies tell me that this was a hilarious movie that I absolutely have to see. I still haven't seen it. Once again, it may be funny, but it didn't pique my interest when I saw the trailer, and I have a hard time stomaching crass, bawdy humor. Needless to say, if this wins over (500) DoS, I will be beyond pissed off.

Best Performance By an Actress in a Motion Picture - Comedy or Musical
Sandra Bullock - The Proposal
Marion Cotillard - Nine
Julia Roberts - Duplicity
Meryl Streep - It's Complicated
Meryl Streep - It's Complicated

So. Sandra Bullock. While I'd love to see her win for Drama, I'm not so keen on her nomination in the comedy category. The Proposal looked like just another cheesy, gimmicky rom-com, and I wasn't driven to see it. I'm sure I'll watch it eventually, but I'm in no hurry. Same with Duplicity. Julia Roberts is a fantastic actress, but lately she's been playing a lot of the same roles. I can't say with certainty that she's not deserving of the award, but Duplicity looked like just another spy movie. Needless to say, I'm not convinced. Now, Marion Cotillard is a different story. Not only does Nine look phenomenal, but she is one of my absolute favorite actresses currently working. She's classy, she's poised, she's absolutely adorable, and she gives fantastic performances every time. I've admired her ever since she won for La Vie en Rose, and I would love to see her walk away with another award. As for Meryl Streep, she was excellent as Julia Child, and I would be tickled pink if she won the Golden Globe for that performance. Like I said, I think the movie would have been better if she'd been in more of it. She was charming, lovable, hilarious, and inspiring, and if she's going to win for either of her roles, I would much prefer that it be for this one.

Best Performance By an Actor in a Motion Picture - Comedy or Musical
Matt Damon - The Informant
Daniel Day Lewis - Nine
Robert Downey Jr. - Sherlock Holmes
Joseph Gordon Levitt - (500) Days of Summer
Michael Stuhlbarg - A Serious Man

Oh goodness, the choices. Once again, I would be pleased so see anyone from this list walk away with an award. I've always had a soft spot for Matt Damon, who tackles both drama and comedy alike with amazing talent and grace and isn't afraid to look funny or make a fool of himself (the only reason that Sarah Silverman song "I'm F*cking Matt Damon" was funny was because he was in it himself). Not to mention the fact that The Informant has been on my "To See" list for quite a while now. I feel slightly the opposite about Daniel Day Lewis, actually. I've always had a slight prejudice against him ever since I watched The Crucible, where he got so into character that he didn't brush his teeth for the entirety of the filming and they turned orange. I was too busy trying not to gag when he was onscreen to appreciate his performance. Despite that, I've begun developing an affection for him in recent years. He is an incredibly dedicated actor (as shown in that little anecdote), and it's pretty much a guarantee that any performance he gives is going to be spectacular. Needless to say, I wouldn't be surprised in the slightest to see him win. I've also been feeling slightly prejudiced against Robert Downey Jr. recently, but for different reasons (he's going to be playing Elwood P. Dowd in Steven Spielberg's remake of the classic movie Harvey, which is pretty much unforgivable in my mind. THE ROLE WAS WRITTEN FOR JAMES STEWART, THEREFOR NO ONE BUT JAMES STEWART SHOULD PLAY IT). However, he is an extraordinary actor with a biting sense of humor, and I am terribly excited to see him in Sherlock Holmes. Despite my reservations about his other career choices, I do think he's deserving of a nomination in this category. However, the nomination that I'm most excited about is Joseph Gordon Levitt, and not because I loved (500) DoS. Actually, he was the reason that I saw that movie in the first place. Joseph Gordon Levitt is my absolute favorite contemporary actor, and it's about time his talent was recognized. He picks his movies based on the quality of the script, which is why I know that any movie with him in it will probably be good (with the exception of G.I. Joe, which he picked as a break from doing serious roles. What a horrible movie). The first time I saw him in a role other than as a geeky kid (see 3rd Rock From the Sun and 10 Things I Hate About You) was in the indie film Brick, and it was so different from any other role I'd seen him in that I didn't recognize him at first. I'd never given him a second's thought before then, and suddenly I was renting every movie he'd done recently, with mindblowing results (go watch The Lookout and tell me he's not a brilliant actor). I will be sorely disappointed if he doesn't win the award, but even seeing him nominated makes me insanely happy. As for Michael Stuhlbarg and A Serious Man, I must shamefully admit that I know nothing about either of them and, therefore, have no insight into whether or not he can hold his own against such talented actors.


That's it for Part 1 of my thoughts on the 2010 Golden Globes. I will be posting more on the rest of the nominees (best director, screenplay, song, score, foreign language film, supporting actor/actress, and animated film) later, but for now, I'm out of time. Cheers!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Movie Review: Margot at the Wedding

So, I finally got around to sending back the two Netflix movies that have been sitting around my apartment for months and wasting my money. I got a fresh shipment last night. Trainspotting and Margot at the Wedding. I love Nicole Kidman (much to my mother's chagrin), so I sat down today to relax and enjoy Margot. Unfortunately, I didn't even make it an hour in. I could not stand it and had to turn it off. If there's one thing that I hate, it's independent films that feel the need to present a cold, dreary reality. I hate movies that I cannot enjoy while I'm watching them. None of the characters were likable, and, let's be honest, anyone whose "reality" is that depressing needs a change. Yes, life is not all puppies and rainbows and laughter. We all know that. But there are ways to present that in a film without making you feel like you want to slit your wrists while you watch it. I had thought I would enjoy it, considering the director, Noah Baumbach, worked with Wes Anderson on the screenplay of The Fantastic Mr. Fox, which I loved, but clearly he is a hit or miss kind of guy (similar to Anderson in that sense). And this movie was definitely a miss. I'm sending it back tomorrow, unfinished, so that I can get a more enjoyable movie and for now am happily watching Last Chance Harvey on Netflix's online viewer instead. I'm five minutes into the film and already I'm smiling. This is a good sign. I'm sure the next movie I see Nicole Kidman in (Nine, if all goes according to plan) will be a better investment.

Friday, December 11, 2009

A Sob-Inducer

My best friend sent me this video today. She told me to watch it if I was in the mood to cry. I was feeling pretty content and not at all teary, so I figured I'd be fine. Oh how wrong I was. This is an example of exceptional filmmaking. With mostly images and limited words, I was reduced to tears in a matter of minutes. This is a perfect example of film as an art form rather than as a source of entertainment. It resonates deep within and connects with our own personal experiences to create an intense emotional reaction. But at the same time, its message is easily accessible. Despite being a lover of film, I'm not a huge fan of experimental films that are way off the grid and incredibly bizarre. I appreciate the value of movies like that, but I prefer to watch something that tells a story, something that I connect with. It's why I still have an appreciation for crappy, clichéd movies. They're perfect for curling up on a horrible day and just zoning out and immersing yourself in the story. Now, this clip is not that kind of movie. Not by a long shot. But it is something that I think most of us can relate to, and it's portrayed in a way that is beautiful and haunting. Think "Marley & Me" meets art cinema. So, I hope you enjoy this clip as much as I did. Make sure you have a supply of tissues close at hand. You're going to need it.