Sunday, January 30, 2011

Rabbit Hole/Blue Valentine

Each of these two films have one Oscar nomination each, for Best Actress.

Nicole Kidman is excellent and strong in Rabbit Hole. She consistently delivers strong performances. The subject matter is difficult, the loss of a young child, but the journey of the movie is engaging and well executed. Aaron Eckhart and the entire cast, including Dianne Wiest and Sandra Oh, give extraordinary performances.
Blue Valentine features Michelle Williams as a wife whose marriage is struggling. The story of the present is woven with flashbacks of how the couple met in the past. Williams is another actress who is selective about her work and chooses serious roles. I absolutely don't understand why the MPAA initially gave the movie an NC17 rating. Blue Valentine is fairly depressing and not one I'd see again or recommend. I think I'm spoiled with the quality of films on this years Oscar ballot.

The Social Network

How Facebook came to be, not a simple story. The film is basically a modern morality play. The dialogue is SO fast. I am so grateful that I watched it in someone's home and we were able to rewind and take a breath as needed. I know that Aaron Sorkin's script was written with legal documentation as source material, but I really struggle with how true this "true" story is portrayed in the film. Particularly as a Best Picture nominee (The Fighter, 127 Hours and the King's Speech are also based on true stories) that is the toughest competition facing the King's Speech.
Trent Reznor's score is wonderful, a very well deserved Best Original Song nominee. The movie is well done, but not really for me. Jesse Eisenberg hosted SNL last night, and Mark Zuckerberg appeared as himself. Very interesting. Zuckerberg did say that he had seen the movie and he displayed a good sense of humor about himself. He also grinned like a fool. I don't think we as the public will ever really know if Zuckerberg is a good guy, or a bad guy. That's not really the point of the film.

Also, check this out if you've seen the movie. As seen on facebook site:

Screen Actors Guild Awards

I had never watched the SAG Awards before. This year was the 17th ceremony (47th year of the awards). It has its own vibe; everyone sits at tables and is served dinner, similar to the Golden Globes. It is also a very pro-union room. It is after all, the actor's union. There are Best Actor/Actress and Best Supporting Actress/Actor for movies and television comedy/drama/miniseries. What is unique about the SAGs is that Best Ensemble Cast is a category.
The broadcast began with a 45 second quick view of red carpet arrivals. Clearly an effort to mirror the Globes and Oscars. Most of the television categories were announced first, and I was eager for the movie categories!

The winners in the categories included in the Oscars:

Melissa Leo won Best Supporting Actress for the Fighter (she will also win the Oscar).
Christian Bale won Best Supporting Actor, also for the Fighter (he's a lock for Oscar).
Natalie Portman won Best Actress for Black Swan (looks like Oscar will go home with her too).
Colin Firth won Best Actor for the King's Speech (also the likely Oscar winner).

The King's Speech received the Best Ensemble Cast for a Motion Picture. I was a little surprised. I thought the Fighter was the ensemble to beat. Tom Hooper, director of the King's Speech, also won at the Director's Guild Awards this weekend. With 12 Oscar nominations, this strengthens the films front runner status for Best Picture.
Below are a complete list of the SAG winners. I love that Modern Family won Best Comedy TV Ensemble.

Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
The King’s Speech

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role
Colin Firth, The King’s Speech

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role
Natalie Portman, Black Swan

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role
Christian Bale, The Fighter

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role
Melissa Leo, The Fighter

Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series
Boardwalk Empire

Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series
Modern Family

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series
Steve Buscemi, Boardwalk Empire

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series
Julianna Margulies, The Good Wife

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy Series
Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series
Betty White, Hot in Cleveland

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries
Al Pacino, You Don’t Know Jack

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries
Claire Danes, Temple Grandin

Screen Actors Guild Awards 47th Annual Life Achievement Award
Ernest Borgnine

Saturday, January 29, 2011

127 Hours

This movie is phenomenal. At the moment, it's my favorite of the Best Picture nominees. It is truly a life affirming film. I actually cried tears of joy during the credits. Director Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire) seems to be drawn to work about almost insurmountable obstacles and clearly has a positive world view.
James Franco portrays Aron Ralston, the real life hiker who was trapped in Blue John Canyon in Utah for 5 days in 2003. He had to cut off his arm in order to escape. I was squeamish for the arm scene, but watching through my hair, it was not too bad. There is fair warning, its late in the movie, don't be looking for it like I did. The movie is based on a very real story and Ralston's book Between a Rock and a Hard Place. It is really about the triumph. Ralston's intelligence and will to survive are invigorating.

The imagery and story are so wonderful. They give a context to Ralston's life, family and his mental state throughout.
The score and music are also fantastic. AR Rahman also did the music for Slumdog Millionaire (for which he won two Oscar, Best Song and Best Score).

127 Hours has a total of six nominations: Best Actor -- James Franco, Best Picture, Best Director -- Danny Boyle, Best Song, Best Original Score, and Best Adapted Screenplay, each of which, the film is deserving.

The Town

Excellent caper. Ben Affleck's second directorial effort is stellar. So well done, well plotted and such a strong cast. While I make it no secret that I am a big Jon Hamm fan, he is so good as a determined FBI agent chasing the Charlestown bank robbing crew led by Affleck's character.

I must say that I am disappointed that the Town's only Oscar nod is Jeremy Renner's Best Supporting Actor nomination. The Town is available to rent on DVD.

I have been watching Oscar nominated films at a breakneck speed, so my blogs may be a little shorter than usual. I will also be providing my pre-Oscar tips and a blog of Sunday's SAG awards. Also going to do a ballot of which films I would vote for and which I predict will win. I'm going to hold off on my predictions until we get closer because part of accurately estimating the winners, is keeping a pulse on the buzz building up to the ceremony.

As always, happy movie watching!!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Oscar nominations 2011

They are here!!

Best Pictures 10 films, alphabetically: 127 Hours, Black Swan, The Fighter, Inception, The Kids Are All Right, The King’s Speech, The Social Network, Toy Story 3, True Grit, and Winter’s Bone.

I predicted 9; I fully anticipated that The Town would have the 10th nomination, not 127 Hours.

My second surprise is in the Best Actor category. Julia Roberts hosted a screening for the movie Biutiful on January 4th in LA. She felt that her friend Javier Bardem deserved an Oscar for his work in the film (Bardem won Best Supporting Actor in 2007 for No Country for Old Men. He was nominated for Best Actor previously for Before Night Falls in 2000). Colin Firth is my early pick for Best Actor but what a delightful triumph of friendship. The King's Speech leads with 12 nominations. True Grit is next with 10.

My early predictions: Christian Bale has got the statue for Best Supporting Actor in the Fighter. Natalie Portman will take Oscar home for Black Swan. Even before the nominations were announced this morning I have made those statements.

As readers of my blog, you know I've been doing my homework early. It paid off too. I am excited now that the noms are out to see Biutiful, Blue Valentine, and Rabbit Hole. My goal every year is to see all the Best Picture nominations and the films featuring Acting nominations. 127 Hours is going to be tough for me. I covered my eyes during the gorier parts of Black Swan and during the violence of the Town. Stomaching James Franco cutting off his arm is going to be a doozy (Given how many movies I see and that I am 30 years old, I think its nice that I am not desensitized). It will be interesting to see what the availability of these films in Portland is. In the weeks approaching the Oscar telecast (today, there are 32 days to go to Sunday, February 27th), theaters do tend to show more. I was hoping for filmmaker Mike Leigh's Another Year to receive more nominations. However, much like Happy-Go-Lucky two years ago, its only nomination is for Best Original Screenplay.

Below is a complete list of all 20 categories. Here is a link to the official website. To print or even to view the one page ballot, select print and a pdf of the ballot will load. Last year the Oscars made some significant changes to their website. This year they have built on those changes and its very user friendly and interactive. My favorite feature is View Nominee Info. Great details. The feature eliminates the need to google or imdb an actor or director. Plus it is accurate nomination and win history, straight from the source. Happy Oscar-ing!!

127 Hours
Black Swan
The Fighter
The Kids Are All Right
The King’s Speech
The Social Network
Toy Story 3
True Grit
Winter’s Bone

Javier Bardem, Biutiful
Jeff Bridges, True Grit
Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network
Colin Firth, The King’s Speech
James Franco, 127 Hours

Christian Bale, The Fighter
John Hawkes, Winter’s Bone
Jeremy Renner, The Town
Mark Ruffalo, The Kids Are All Right
Geoffrey Rush, The King’s Speech

Annette Bening, The Kids Are All Right
Nicole Kidman, Rabbit Hole
Jennifer Lawrence, Winter’s Bone
Natalie Portman, Black Swan
Michelle Williams, Blue Valentine

Amy Adams, The Fighter
Helena Bonham Carter, The King’s Speech
Melissa Leo, The Fighter
Hailee Steinfeld, True Grit
Jacki Weaver, Animal Kingdom

How to Train Your Dragon
The Illusionist
Toy Story 3

Alice in Wonderland, Robert Stromberg, Karen O’Hara
Happy Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 1, Stuart Craig, Stephenie McMillan
Inception, Guy Hendrix Dyas, Larry Dias, Doug Mowat
The King’s Speech, Eve Stewart, Judy Farr
True Grit, Jess Gonchor, Nancy Haigh

Black Swan, Matthew Libatique
Inception, Wally Pfister
The King’s Speech, Danny Cohen
The Social Network, Jeff Cronenweth
True Grit, Roger Deakins

Alice in Wonderland, Colleen Atwood
I Am Love, Antonella Cannarozzi
The King’s Speech, Jenny Beaven
The Tempest, Sandy Powell
True Grit, Mary Zophres

Darren Aronofsky, Black Swan
Joel & Ethan Coen, True Grit
David Fincher, The Social Network
Tom Hooper, The King’s Speech
David O. Russell, The Fighter

Exit Through the Gift Shop, Banksy and Jaimie D’Cruz
Gasland, Josh Fox and Trish Adlesic
Inside Job, Charles Ferguson and Audrey Marrs
Restrepo, Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger
Waste Land, Lucy Walker and Angus Aynley

Killing in the Name (Nominees TBD)
Poster Girl (Nominees (TBD)
Strangers No More, Karen Goodman and Kirk Simon
Sun Come Up, Jennifer Redfearn and Tim Metzger
The Warriors of Qiugang, Ruby Yang and Thomas Lennon

127 Hours, Jon Harris
Black Swan, Andrew Weisblum
The Fighter, Pamela Martin
The King’s Speech, Tariq Anwar
The Social Network, Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter

Hors la Loi (Outside the Law) (Algeria)
Incendies (Canada)
In a Better World (Denmark)
Dogtooth (Greece)
Biutiful (Mexico)

Barney’s Version, Adrien Morot
The Way Back, Eduoard F. Henriques, Gregory Funk, Yolanda Toussieng
The Wolfman, Rick Baker and Dave Elsey

127 Hours, A.R. Rahman
How to Train Your Dragon, John Powell
Inception, Hans Zimmer
The King’s Speech, Alexandre Desplat
The Social Network, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross

“Coming Home,” Country Strong, Tom Douglas, Troy Verges and Hillary Lindsey
“I See the Light,” Tangled, Alan Menken, Glenn Slater
“If I Rise,” 127 Hours, A.R. Rahman, Dido, Rollo Armstrong
“We Belong Together,” Toy Story 3, Randy Newman

Day & Night, Teddy Newton
The Gruffalo, Jakob Schuh and Max Lang
Let’s Pollute, Geefwee Boedoe
The Lost Thing, Shaun Tan and Andrew Ruhemann
Madagascar, Carnet de Voyage (Madagascar, a Journey Diary), Bastien Dubois

The Confession, Tanel Toom
The Crush, Michael Creagh
God of Love, Luke Matheny
Na Wewe, Ivan Goldschmidt
Wish 143, Ian Barnes and Samantha Waite

Inception, Richard King
Toy Story 3, Tom Myers and Michael Silvers
TRON: Legacy, Gwendolyn Yates Whittle and Addison Teague
True Grit, Skip Lievsay and Craig Berkey
Unstoppable, Mark P. Stoeckinger

Inception, Lora Hirschberg, Gary A. Rizzo, and Ed Novick
The King’s Speech, Paul Hamblin, Martin Jensen, and John Midgley
Salt, Jeffrey J. Haboush, Greg P. Russell, Scott Millan, and William Sarokin
The Social Network, Ren Klyce, David Parker, Michael Semanick, and Mark Weingarten
True Grit, Skip Lievsay, Craig Berkey, Greg Orloff, and Peter F. Kurland

Alice in Wonderland, Ken Ralston, David Schaub, Carey Villegas and Sean Phillips
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 1, Tim Burke, John Richardson, Christian Manz and Nicolas Aithadi
Hereafter, Michael Owens, Bryan Grill, Stephan Trojanski and Joe Farrell
Inception, Paul Franklin, Chris Corbould, Andrew Lockley and Peter Bebb
Iron Man 2, Janek Sirrs, Ben Snow, Ged Wright and Daniel Sudick

Another Year, written by Mike Leigh
The Fighter, Screenplay by Scott Silver and Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson; 
Story by Keith Dorrington & Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson
Inception, written by Christopher Nolan
The Kids Are All Right, written by Lisa Cholodenko & Stuart Blumberg
The King’s Speech, Screenplay by David Seidler

127 Hours, Screenplay by Danny Boyle & Simon Beaufoy
The Social Network, Screenplay by Aaron Sorkin
Toy Story 3, Screenplay by Michael Arndt; Story by John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich
True Grit, written for the screen by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
Winter’s Bone, adapted for the screen by Debra Granik & Anne Rosellini

Sunday, January 16, 2011

2011 Golden Globes

My favorite red carpet look was Natalie Portman. The soft pink satin dress with red accents and accessories, delicately flowed over her baby bump and she looked fantastic. Mila Kunis and Catherine Zeta Jones both wore beautiful emerald green dresses. Claire Danes rocked the hot pink dress she selected as well. And I'm so glad that she won Best Actress in a Mini-Series or Movie Made for TV.
Ricky Gervais can be biting, but dang, as host this year, he was mean too. Almost to an inappropriate degree. The president of the Hollywood Foreign Press zinged him right back though. Things took a turn for the best with his announcement of Robert Downey Jr as a presenter. It was edgy, but still funny. Downey's response to quote was: "Aside from the fact that its been hugely mean spirited with mildly sinister undertones, I'd say the vibe of the show has been pretty good so far." He then proceeded to do a hilarious introduction of the Best Actress in a Movie, Comedy or Musical category. Which Annette Bening won. Later in the show Natalie Portman won for Best Actress in a Movie, Drama. Its going to be quite the Oscar race between these two women.

I had a few favorite couple moments. First, when Jon Hamm's nomination for Best Actor in a TV Series Drama was announced. The character of Don Draper was described as womanizing the look his long time girlfriend actress Jennifer Westfeldt gave him, was priceless. And the way that they laughed and the look on his face, made it seem like some kind of inside joke between the two of them. Second, when Angelina Jolie retied Brad Pitt's bow-tie (not when she leaned on him for the known shots; too obvious). Lastly, Steve Carell and his wife laughed so sweetly together when his nomination for Best Actor in a Comedy TV was announced.

On the topic of couples, are Mila Kunis and James Franco a couple? Have they cameoed as a couple so much that they decided to be one? Is that why Macaulay Culkin got the boot? They seemed like a couple seated together.

Host Ricky Gervais gave his annual ribbing of Steve Carell for starting in the Office, and Carell pushed him away and said it never gets old. Steve Carell and Tina Fey were laugh out loud hilarious presenting for Screenplay Motion Picture. When Carell said King George "v." i." instead of the sixth, I seriously peeled with laughter. How do I not own Date Night? .

Tom Hanks and Tim Allen, were very excellent together, presenting Best Movie, Musical or Comedy. They made a nice dig at the host and Tim Allen quoted Buzz Lightyear. Nice. The Kids Are Alright won.

The standing ovation for Michael Douglas' prestation of Best Movie Drama was very heartfelt and he addressed it by saying with such humor, "there has to be an easier way to get a standing ovation." The Social Network won, will it win Best Picture at the Oscars?

Oscar nominations are announced Tuesday January 25th!! Below is a complete list of winner's.

Best Motion Picture – Drama
The Social Network

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama
Colin Firth, The King’s Speech

Best Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical
The Kids Are All Right

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama
Natalie Portman, Black Swan

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical
Paul Giamatti, Barney’s Version

Best Television Series – Comedy or Musical

Best Director – Motion Picture
David Fincher, The Social Network

Cecil B. DeMille Award
Robert De Niro

Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture
Melissa Leo, The Fighter

Best Actor in a Television Series – Comedy or Musical
Jim Parsons, The Big Bang Theory

Best Actress in a Television Series – Comedy or Musical
Laura Linney, The Big C

Best Foreign Language Film
In a Better World (Denmark)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Series, Mini-Series, or Motion Picture Made for Television
Jane Lynch, Glee

Best Screenplay – Motion Picture
Aaron Sorkin, The Social Network

Best Performance by an Actress in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television
Claire Danes, Temple Grandin

Best Performance by an Actor in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television
Al Pacino, You Don’t Know Jack

Best Animated Feature Film
Toy Story 3

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical
Annette Bening, The Kids Are All Right

Best Original Score – Motion Picture
Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, The Social Network

Best Original Song – Motion Picture
“You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me,” Burlesque
Music and lyrics by Diane Warren

Best Television Series – Drama
Boardwalk Empire

Best Performance by an Actor In A Television Series – Drama
Steve Buscemi, Boardwalk Empire

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television
Chris Colfer, Glee

Best Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television

Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series – Drama
Katey Sagal, Sons of Anarchy

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture
Christian Bale, The Fighter

Monday, January 10, 2011

Country Strong

Gwyneth Paltrow is an excellent actress and I don't think she ever gives a bad performance. She lived with her family in Nashville for the filming of the movie and became friends with her co-star Tim McGraw and his wife Faith Hill. She can sing and also (at least as far as a movie goer can tell) plays a decent guitar as alchohlic country star Kelly Canter. Garrett Hedlund is Beau Hutton, a deep voiced singer/songwriter who opens for Kelly's out-of-rehab Encore tour along with Leighton Meester's Chiles Stanton, a former beauty-queen with stage fright. In her first scene, Chiles is supposed to be annoying, more about making it big than the love of music that Beau is motivated by. Chiles never had that "I just want to punch her" feeling that Taylor Swift elicits out of me. Her character definitely develops and grows throughout the movie.
The movie was a lot darker than I expected. There were several elements that I found myself very unprepared for and surprised by. At least it was not limited to what one could predict from the trailers, that's not good. I will say some of these bleaker moments now color my feelings when hearing the movie's title song, Country Strong. Though briefly heard in the movie, Shake That Thing is a really fun, pop-y track. I think on its own it would do very well. While this is a movie about music, you may have noticed that I tend to comment on the song choices and what I notice about the score of the pictures I see. I think that music is a very important element of any movie. Music is emotive and when used well, it can perfectly compliment any movie. It should not be depended on in place of strong writing or acting, but its significant all the same. I wish that there was a way for me to play a song over specific blog entries. If anyone knows how to achieve this, please let me know.

Side notes of today's blog: What is up with the previews lately?! Are the demographics just off or what?! I understand the action and more male skewed trailers before the Fighter, but the ones before Country Strong were just plan random. Maybe there were many demos in that theater, it was packed, but I do not want to see Prom by Disney or The Roommate, horror lite.

I also keep reading about how overall ticket sales were down in 2010. Well for the last few weeks, the end of 2010 and the start of 2011, the theaters have been packed! Long lines and sometimes later showings seen. Even with pre-purchase. Go figure.

The Golden Globes are this Sunday, starting at 5pm Pacific time, on nbc, hosted by Ricky Gervais.

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Fighter

The movie tells the story of real life boxer Micky Ward. Micky's brother Dicky and his mother train and manage him in Lowell, MA. Mark Wahlberg was so committed to the role that he stayed in fighting shape for over four years until the film could be completed. He knew the real Ward, refused a stunt double and worked to get the movie made as early as 2005.

As hard as Wahlberg worked, the entire cast is phenomenal. Christian Bale is almost unrecognizable as Dicky Eklund. Melissa Leo is the matriarch of one crazy, and large family (two sons and seven daughters). Amy Adams is always good and does not miss a beat, as Micky's tough, smart, supportive girlfriend. And its definitely an against type role for her, just one of her profane rants accomplishes that. Mickey O'Keefe, plays himself, the Lowell cop who trained Micky. The entire ensemble works so well together, paired with the scenery of Lowell and the costuming, the movie really is a glimpse at the real life character's lives (Conan O'Brien's sister Kate plays one of the seven sisters!).

Camera techniques add to a "documentary" feel, though not in all scenes, which is good. The style adds to the film while not being overdone. The fight scenes also seem to appear as if they are being watched on tv. The actual HBO commentaries were used over the footage shot for the movie.

I lost count of how many times I thought, I love Mark Wahlberg, throughout the movie.

Which leads me to my top three entertainers of 2010. First off, Mark Wahlberg. He stars in the Fighter, clearly a serious, committed, fully invested role. He also stole every scene in Date Night that he was in and showed more of his comedic talents in The Other Guys with Will Ferrell ("No, seriously, who is she?!"). On the small screen, he often guests as himself on Entourage and also executive produced three other HBO series this year -- In Treatment, Boardwalk Empire and How to Make it in America.

My second entertainer of the year, Jon Hamm. Commanding host of SNL (twice in 2010), hilarious as hunky-idiot and Liz's ex on 30 Rock, and of course, Don Draper on Mad Men. He also co-starred in another Massachusetts movie of the year, Ben Affleck's the Town.

Number three, James Franco. As co-host of the Oscars and likely nominee for Best Actor in 127 Hours, he has the serious side covered. He too guest starred on 30 Rock, appeared on General Hospital, was in Date Night along side Mila Kunis, and Eat Pray Love's first act with Julie Roberts. He also is pursuing multiple graduate degrees and his book of short stories was published.

I wish I had at least one female but none come to mind for 2010 that had multiple successes across genres and media forms like these three guys.