Sunday, January 30, 2011


I previously mentioned that over the next few weeks I'd be taking a look at the nominees in eight major categories for the 2011 Academy Awards. I'll be writing about what I think will win, what I want to win, and my thoughts about each category overall.

Here are the nominees for Best Original Screenplay:

Mike Leigh - Another Year

Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy, and Eric Johnson - The Fighter

Christopher Nolan - Inception

Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg - The Kids are All Right

David Seidler - The King's Speech

The first time nominees dominate this category, and one of them will most likely win the little gold man. David Seidler hasn't had a high profile Hollywood movie since 1988's Tucker: A Man and His Dream, and his first Academy Award nomination for The King's Speech will also likely be his first win as well. It seems like not a day goes by that I don't hear someone mention this movie. Both critics and general audiences appear to love it in equal measure, and since the buzz has been building on a Best Picture win, I'd put my money on a win for this category as well. (If I were a better man. Which I'm not.)

If another one of these writers rips the gold out from Seidler's hands, though, it will most likely be Mike Leigh, the only nominee out of this bunch. Almost every one of Leigh's films since 1996's Secrets & Lies has been nominated for Best Screenplay, and he has a total of seven nominations altogether (for writing and directing) in the past fourteen years. The Academy has given the man plenty of love over the last decade and a half, but not enough for him to bring home a statue. Although I don't know much about Another Year, I have a feeling Leigh could snag a win based on his history with the award alone.

The Fighter features a strong come-back story, but is ultimately too formulaic to dominate the evening. The Kids are All Right seems to have shed much of the critical acclaim that accompanied its release and Annette Bening will most likely take home the film's only award win.

I think the odd horse here is Christopher Nolan's nomination for Inception. His first writing nod since 2000's Memento, I can only think the Academy bestowed this on him because they weren't going to bother nominating him for Best Director. They should have went the other way. Inception has many great things going for it. The screenplay is not one of those things. This should have been a slot for Black Swan, but I can only think that the film leans too far into horror territory for the Academy.

Thursday, January 27, 2011


I previously mentioned that over the next few weeks I'd be taking a look at the nominees in eight major categories for the 2011 Academy Awards. I'll be writing about what I think will win, what I want to win, and my thoughts about each category overall.

I begin this column with the nominees for Best Adapted Screenplay.


Danny Boyle & Simon Beaufoy - 127 Hours

Aaron Sorkin - The Social Network

John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, and Lee Unkrich - Toy Story 3

 Joel Coen and Ethan Coen - True Grit

Debra Granik and Anne Rossellini - Winter's Bone

As my gut tells me that this is Sorkin's to lose, I'd consider it an upset if any one of the other four took home the little gold naked man on the evening of February 27th. Although David Fincher deserves massive amounts of praise for The Social Network's success, most people come away from that film thinking (and talking about) acid-laced dialogue and the rapid fire pace at which it's delivered. Sorkin managed to build a screenplay that both older (who didn't really know much about Facebook before the film) and younger people (who couldn't have cared less about a film such as this) could easily follow and even find immensely entertaining. Not many writers can make one deposition interesting. The Social Network juggles two, and they're both so great that if, God forbid, I ever have to take part in a real one, I'll demand it be written by the guy who wrote The West Wing.

If any of these nominees does manage to upstage The Sorkin, I think it will be the writers of Winter's Bone. That film won't win for Best Picture or its acting nominations, but the Academy will want to honor it somehow. It's the "little movie that could" this year, and there's a lot of love for it out there.

127 Hours, although I admire its screenplay and believe Boyle and Beaufoy made some bold decisions with it, has simply been overshadowed since its release. Personally, I would be stoked if it came out of nowhere to nab the gold, but the pic has lost awards steam.

Toy Story 3 probably has the biggest hurdle to jump to land a win: it's a cartoon. It's been well established over the years that the Academy don''t really consider animated films to be "real" films. As long as there's a separate category for Best Animated Feature Film, no "cartoon" will ever win Best Picture or any other category in which it's up against four live-action movies. That being said, while Toy Story 3 certainly has a fine (and finely executed) screenplay, I don't know if I'd consider it award worthy.

True Grit, on the other hand, is most definitely award worthy, and my personal favorite out of the above bunch (although I have not seen Winter's Bone (sorry Katie, Netflix stopped streaming it instantly). From all accounts, the Coens have stayed very true to Charles Portis's novel, but there are still uniquely Coen aspects to True Grit, and the screenplay is so finely tuned and without excess that one will miss how subtle it is on a first viewing. Subtle in every way except, of course, the dialogue, which matches (and exceeds, in my opinion) the colorful nature of Sorkin's The Accidental Billionaires adaptation. There's not a day that goes by that I don't think of the words in True Grit and the magnificent way they are spoken by the characters. Out of all the nominees, this is the one I would love desperately to see win.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


Well, today was the day, folks, when the nominations were announced for the 83rd Academy Awards. The verdict after reading the list of nominees? "Um...of course?"

The Best Picture category should give an overall view of how predictable all of the (major) categories were this year. There are no surprises, no District 9 or A Serious Man sneak-ins this year. Not even Winter's Bone can lay claim to a "didn't see that one coming" (although it certainly comes the closest), as it's been gaining traction with the Academy all awards season, landing on multiple "best of" lists and gathering indie trophies like a Wendigo collecting human flesh.

Looking over the categories, though, it's striking how solid almost every single one of them are. Coming off of a truly atrocious and much balked-at Golden Globe awards ceremony, the nominees for the 83rd Academy Awards are actually kind of refreshing - and that's despite knowing that almost all of the nominees were shoe-ins anyway. I think that's a testament to how strong a year cinema had in 2010 overall. I'm still not sure that the Best Picture category need to be expanded to fit ten films, but at least all ten this year (seven I'm 100% sure about, three I haven't seen, I'm only assuming based on critical acclaim) deserve to be nominated (I'm looking at you The Blind Side).

What's also great about this year is that there is no clear frontrunners in any of these categories (a la Jeff Bridges for Crazy Heart or Christoph Waltz for Inglourious Basterds). For awhile, The Social Network was the sure bet for Best Picture, but The King's Speech has suddenly blown up, practically dominating late season Oscar chatter. Christian Bale, similarly, won the Globe for Best Supporting Actor (The Fighter), but Geoffry Rush's performance is getting strong word-of-mouth.

Of course, a few of the categories held some surprises, the biggest being the Best Supporting Actor list. I have not seen Winter's Bone, but I have been a John Hawkes fan for years, ever since I saw this great character actor lit on fire and shot to hell in the opening scene of From Dusk 'til Dawn. And although I'm not quite sure Jeremy Renner deserved recognition for what's basically a one-note (but a really, really well-played and memorable note) character, it's certainly great to see him nominated in an acting category for the second year in a row. I predicted last year that Renner will take home an Oscar for acting in the next ten years. This won't be that year, but I still hold to that prediction.

Finally, it seems Christopher Nolan has once again been snubbed for Best Director by the Academy, and the internet is abuzz with closed-fisted fanboys pounding their keyboards in disgust at his exclusion. To some extent I understand their frustration. David O'Russell, while doing a fine job of commanding The Fighter, certainly doesn't belong in this list of Best Directors, and his name should most definitely be replaced by Nolan's, who made The Flying Karamazov brothers jealous with his juggling of summer blockbuster and heady themes in Inception. That being said, I think those who are disgruntled over Nolan's snub can take comfort in the fact that the award was never his to take home anyway.

Over the next few weeks, I'll be taking a look at eight major categories:  Best Screenplay, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actress in a Supporting Role, Best Actress in a Leading Role, Best Actor in a Supporting Role, Best Actor in a leading Role, Best Director, and Best Picture. I'll also be commenting on some of the other categories as well. There's a lot to write about this year. (And maybe I'll save a special blog to blab about how stoked I am that the Coen Brothers have another Best Director nomination under their belt, and True Grit has an awesome total of ten nominations).

Best Picture
"Black Swan," Mike Medavoy, Brian Oliver and Scott Franklin, Producers
"The Fighter" David Hoberman, Todd Lieberman and Mark Wahlberg, Producers
"Inception," Emma Thomas and Christopher Nolan, Producers
"The Kids Are All Right," Gary Gilbert, Jeffrey Levy-Hinte and Celine Rattray, Producers
"The King's Speech," Iain Canning, Emile Sherman and Gareth Unwin, Producers
"127 Hours," Christian Colson, Danny Boyle and John Smithson, Producers
"The Social Network," Scott Rudin, Dana Brunetti, Michael De Luca and Ceán, Producers
"Toy Story 3" Darla K. Anderson, Producer
"True Grit" Scott Rudin, Ethan Coen and Joel Coen, Producers
"Winter's Bone" Anne Rosellini and Alix Madigan-Yorkin, Producers

Actor in a Leading Role
Javier Bardem in "Biutiful"
Jeff Bridges in "True Grit"
Jesse Eisenberg in "The Social Network"
Colin Firth in "The King's Speech"
James Franco in "127 Hours"

Actor in a Supporting Role
Christian Bale in "The Fighter"
John Hawkes in "Winter's Bone"
Jeremy Renner in "The Town"
Mark Ruffalo in "The Kids Are All Right"
Geoffrey Rush in "The King's Speech"

Actress in a Leading Role
Annette Bening in "The Kids Are All Right"
Nicole Kidman in "Rabbit Hole"
Jennifer Lawrence in "Winter's Bone"
Natalie Portman in "Black Swan"
Michelle Williams in "Blue Valentine"

Actress in a Supporting Role
Amy Adams in "The Fighter"
Helena Bonham Carter in "The King's Speech"
Melissa Leo in "The Fighter"
Hailee Steinfeld in "True Grit"
Jacki Weaver in "Animal Kingdom"

Animated Feature Film
"How to Train Your Dragon" Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois
"The Illusionist" Sylvain Chomet
"Toy Story 3" Lee Unkrich

Art Direction
"Alice in Wonderland"
"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1"
"The King's Speech"
"True Grit"

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

Costume Design
"Alice in Wonderland," Colleen Atwood
"I Am Love," Antonella Cannarozzi
"The King's Speech," Jenny Beavan
"The Tempest," Sandy Powell
"True Grit" Mary Zophres

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

Documentary (Feature)
"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 Aynsley

Documentary (Short Subject)
"Killing in the Name"
"Poster Girl"
"Strangers No More"
"Sun Come Up"
"The Warriors of Qiugang"

Film Editing
"Black Swan"
"The Fighter"
"The King's Speech"
"127 Hours"
"The Social Network"

Foreign Language Film
"Biutiful," Mexico
"Dogtooth," Greece
"In a Better World," Denmark
"Incendies," Canada
"Outside the Law (Hors-la-loi)," Algeria

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

Music (Original Score)
"How to Train Your Dragon," John Powell
"Inception," Hans Zimmer
"The King's Speech," Alexandre Desplat
"127 Hours," A.R. Rahman
"The Social Network," Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross

Music (Original Song)
"Coming Home" from "Country Strong," Music and Lyric by Tom Douglas, Troy Verges and Hillary Lindsey
"I See the Light" from "Tangled," Music by Alan Menken Lyric by Glenn Slater
"If I Rise" from "127 Hours," Music by A.R. Rahman Lyric by Dido and Rollo Armstrong
"We Belong Together" from "Toy Story 3," Music and Lyric by Randy Newman

Short Film (Animated)
"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

Short Film (Live Action)
"The Confession," Tanel Toom
"The Crush," Michael Creagh
"God of Love," Luke Matheny
"Na Wewe," Ivan Goldschmidt
"Wish 143," Ian Barnes and Samantha Waite

Sound Editing
"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

Sound Mixing
"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

Visual Effects
"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

Writing (Adapted Screenplay)
"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

Writing (Original Screenplay)
"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

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

KATIE'S TOP 5 OF 2010!

Have a special little treat here at The Everything Film Blog today. Friend and former co-host of The Everything Film Show Katie Calautti has been so kind as to add to her top 5 films of 2010 to our little blog here. Like her choices? Let her know in the comments section and then tell her how much you would like her to contribute to TEFB on a regular basis!

Read more of Miss Calautti's writings at A Spoonful O'ISMS.

5) Buried
It's a damn shame that this film's title somewhat serendipitously premeditated its reception with both critics and audiences: it got lost amongst the bigger-backed fall studio releases and no one saw it. Sure, it's not exactly the easiest sell: Ryan Reynolds in a box for 96 minutes. But all you Hitchcock enthusiasts will stick with me on this one: a single location does not always make for a single-faceted movie. Sure, the flick is claustrophobic, but that's the point. Director Rodrigo Cortés and cinematographer Eduard Grau (who impressed me with his stunning work on Tom Ford's "A Single Man") make the most of lighting, location and camera angles. You never see the same shot twice, and that's a feat in itself when you're working with an 84x28x23-inch space. The story is packed with movement (oh yes - full-fledged action sequences in a coffin - believe it) and the narrative touches upon incredibly timely and pertinent issues involving the nature of war, terrorism, government, bureaucracy and all the innocent people whose hands get tied by the red tape that connects them. It's one of the most thrilling, important movies of 2010.

4) Exit Through the Gift Shop
To call this movie a documentary is to comment only on its bones - the eminently watchable story turns the tables on its director/narrator, painstakingly brushes a classical portrait on the fourth wall, spray paints over it and then rams a wrecking ball through it. Fans of famed British graffiti artist Banksy will certainly be drawn to the overt subject matter - as will those in the art world - but the folks who should check it out (who, arguably, are the ones this film was made for) are the rest of us. That’s to say: the consumers, the aficionados, the easily-malleable mainstream. It'll blow you away and leave you chewing on the tale's intent (and all its resulting repercussions) long after the credits roll.

3) Winter's Bone
This is essentially a quiet, deliberate, intensely-personal character-driven movie about the Godfather-like ties that bind meth-peddlers in backwoods America. The menacing tension and drama that builds throughout the slice-of-life narrative is nearly impossible to convey with words - it simply sneaks up on you and leaves you reeling. It’s an incredibly well-crafted film, from script to camerawork to acting to directing. John Hawkes' screen presence is as badass as ever, but it's most worth watching for 17-year-old Jennifer Lawrence's mind-bendingly pitch-perfect performance. I'm not sure what you were doing when you were 17, but I was stuffing my bra. I've got 12 extra years on the girl and I'm feeling pretty unaccomplished in comparison.

2) The Social Network
This movie is a cinematic opus to my generation - the symphony-like unfurling of the birth of social media as told by always-ingenious David Fincher, who wields his directorial vision to prove that Facebook's inception was riddled with as much dramatic play as its privacy-busting interface has come to instill in its users. A uniquely-American tale, this film is nothing short of a masterpiece. Aaron Sorkin's script hums with intriguing characters, crackling dialogue and sage social commentary. And just two words regarding the score: Trent Reznor. (See also: hell yes.) This is a deep, dark comedic tragedy above all else, and feminist groups be damned - watch closely and you'll find that the filmmaker's underlying perspective is wrapped within a single line spoken from the mouth of one of the movie’s female characters.

1) Black Swan
I'd call myself an Aronofsky apologist, but there's nothing to apologize for. The man hasn't made a bad movie yet. This film - above all others in 2010 - has crawled inside my brain, burrowed in and made itself comfy. Somewhere on an easy chair next to my cerebellum it reclines, shifting and changing shape like Nina Sayers herself. Leave it to Aronofsky to turn a beloved ballet into a crazy-heady werewolf picture. The man is not subtle, so I'm continually baffled when folks tell me they don't get the point of the story. Just look at the set, makeup and costume design, the voyeuristic camerawork, the blink-and-you-almost-missed-it clues edited's all there for you, ensconced within Aronofsky's wildly psychological, perfectly-paced and characteristically-original script. My proclamation after leaving the theater: Dearest Natalie Portman - Allow me to suggest that your Oscar speech read, "You other bitches didn't stand a chance." Humbly, me.

*Honorable mentions/near-impossible omissions (in particular order): True Grit, Inception, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, The Ghost Writer, How to Train Your Dragon, The Fighter, Never Let Me Go, Kick-Ass.

*Most overrated of the year: The King's Speech, Blue Valentine, 127 Hours, The Kids Are All Right, Catfish.

*Admittedly, I haven't yet seen: Biutiful, Rabbit Hole, Another Year, Somewhere, The Town.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

JAY'S TOP 5 OF 2010!

We're a little late with this one but, as the saying I invented goes, better late than never! 

The cast of The Everything Film Show has come up with their top 5 films of 2010, and we're sharing them here with you. 2010 started off weak, but finished pretty strong, and I think, years from now, we'll consider a few of these films classics.

Enjoy the lists, and if you have your own you'd like to share, feel free in the comment section. 

Jay's Top 5 Films of 2010:
5. Kick-Ass
A superhero movie that is not so much a parody more than it is an homage.

4. Inception 
An original concept and meaningful story underneath the big-budget action sequences.

3. The Social Network
May not be a close retelling of actual events but makes you leave the theater wanting to do more with your life.

2. Scott Pilgrim vs The World 
For those who grew up in the 8bit days this was filled both with nostalgia and somehow made Michael Cera seem like a fighter.

1. Black Swan 
Darren Aronofsky's best film yet.

Monday, January 10, 2011


We're a little late with this one but, as the saying I invented goes, better late than never! 

The cast of The Everything Film Show has come up with their top 5 films of 2010, and we're sharing them here with you. 2010 started off weak, but finished pretty strong, and I think, years from now, we'll consider a few of these films classics.

Enjoy the lists, and if you have your own you'd like to share, feel free in the comments section!

Kelsey's Top 5 Films of 2010:
5. True Grit
A good remake, paid homage without being redundant.

4. Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Theif
A fun kid's film, didn't mind discrepancy between books and film.

3. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
2 hours of head banging fist pumping AWESOMENESS.

2. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

1. Toy Story 3
A Pixar masterpiece, perfectly scripted and beautiful animation.

JUAN'S TOP 5 OF 2010!

We're a little late with this one but, as the saying I invented goes, better late than never! 

The cast of The Everything Film Show has come up with their top 5 films of 2010, and we're sharing them here with you. 2010 started off weak, but finished pretty strong, and I think, years from now, we'll consider a few of these films classics.

Enjoy the lists, and if you have your own you'd like to share, feel free in the comments section! 

Juan's Top 5 Films of 2010:

5. How to Train your Dragon

Dreamwork's most emotional animated feature, with a heartfelt "boy and his car" story, awesome and funny characters and great action sequences.

4. The Social Network

Director David Fincher does it again this time aided by a soon to be oscar-winning script by Aaron Sorkin and powerful performances byJesse Eisenberg and Andrew Garfield. A revealing story about humans most elemental motivations and its consequences. The best movie of the year but not my favorite film of the year.

3. Toy Story 3

 Another Pixar masterpiece, both a coming of age and an escape-from-prison tale that tugs at the viewer's emotional strings. And that final sequence on the conveyor belt.... The second most emotional film of the year for me.

2. Never Let Me Go

Director Mark Romanek has crafted a simple, focused and powerful tale about love and living your life to its fullest. By setting his lens in the amazing interactions between Andrew Garfield, Kiera Knightly and Carey Mulligan, Director Romanek presents to us real ethical dilemmas that should be explored and an invitation to live our lives in the present, for its the only time we truly have. The most emotional film of the year for me, it shook me to the core.

1. Inception

Film is about taking chances, breaking the mold and taking the audience to places they have never thought of or if they have, present to them a physical construct of those dreams. Director Christopher Nolan has crafted his magnum opus with this film, a fun, action packed, intelligent and explosive piece of cinema that enchants your brain, your emotions and your senses. In a time where creativity and originality are being sacrificed for safe, soulless and derivative films, it's a true fresh of breath air to be treated to a masterpiece such as this.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

JEFF'S TOP 5 OF 2010!

We're a little late with this one but, as the saying I invented goes, better late than never! 

The cast of The Everything Film Show has come up with their top 5 films of 2010, and we're sharing them here with you. 2010 started off weak, but finished pretty strong, and I think, years from now, we'll consider a few of these films classics.

Enjoy the lists, and if you have your own you'd like to share, feel free in the comments section! 

Jeff's Top 5 Films of 2010:

5.  Megamind

A much deeper movie than expected with the most well-developed super-villain in any movie of this genre.

4.  Love & Other Drugs

A hilarious, romantic, and poignant journey of two people who find what they really need in life.  With exceptional performances by Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway and superb direction by Edward Zwick.

3.  The Social Network

A phenomenal script from Aaron Sorkin which keeps you riveted the whole way through.  Jesse Eisenberg and Andrew Garfield are outstanding.

2.  The Town

Ben Affleck proves how amazing a director he is with his sophomore effort.  Knockout performance from Affleck and the rest of his amazing cast.

1.  Inception

Christopher Nolan does it again and shows why he’s the best director working today.  A completely unique and extremely intelligent movie.  A fantastic cast all around.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

MARK'S TOP 5 OF 2010!

We're a little late with this one but, as the saying I invented goes, better late than never! 

The cast of The Everything Film Show has come up with their top 5 films of 2010, and we're sharing them here with you. 2010 started off weak, but finished pretty strong, and I think, years from now, we'll consider a few of these films classics.

Enjoy the lists, and if you have your own you'd like to share, feel free in the comments section! 

Mark's Top 5 Films of 2010:

5. Inception
The brainiest summer blockbuster ever. Inception movie overcomes its scripts numerous problems by being instantly accessible (it’s not as difficult to understand as you think) and fast-moving (it’s the quickest 2 ½ hour movie I’ver ever seen), while bursting at the seams with ideas and questions about dreams and perceptions of reality.
 4. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

Edgar Wright directs what is probably his best (but not my favorite) film yet, with a movie that’s the equivalent of sticking your head in a jet engine fueled with the fantasies of 1,000 videogame/pop culture geeks. The jokes come as quickly as the action does, and Wright masters the art of both. 

3. The Social Network
Aaron Sorkin’s witty dialogue is the centerpiece of David Fincher’s operatic and immensely entertaining film about entrepreneurial gamesmanship in the high-pressure world of ivy-league school. With a detached yet mesmerizing score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, and performances acutely tuned to the rhythm of Sorkin’s dialogue, The Social Network is the movie about the beginnings of Facebook that we never wanted but are glad we received. 

2. True Grit
Speaking of the rhythm of dialogue, no film features as many gloriously delightful passages and phrases of the spoken word than True Grit. The Coen Brothers have tried to break into the mainstream before with disappointing results. But here they’ve crafted an almost-perfect film that’s much more layered with meaning than one would notice on first viewing. Hailee Steinfeld gives a performance that impresses, even while acting against the heavy triumvirate of Jeff Bridges, Matt Damn, and Josh Brolin. Keep an eye out for a barely recognizable Barry Pepper, who steals the very few scenes he’s in.

1.  Black Swan
If you’re one who laments the “good old days” when Hollywood was “original” and you *didn’t* see Black Swan, then you deserve every remake, sequel, adaptation, reboot, redux, re-imagining, re-tooling, and re-working  infecting the multiplexes in ever increasing numbers. A brilliant, deeply disturbing look into self-destruction through perfection, Black Swan is about as visceral an experience as you’re likely to ever have in a movie theater. Physical repulsion and euphoria walk hand-in-hand during Darren Aronofsky’s finest work yet. Natalie takes home the Oscar for Best Actress in 2011. 

Friday, January 7, 2011


Many of us have had experiences in which films move us emotionally, so much so that we leave the theater as if we had been actively involved in our own personal two hour story and not sitting passively in a darkened theater for that time. Even fewer of us have had experiences were walk out of the theater a different person than when we had walked in, literally changed by a story that we identified with so immediately and deeply that it's as if the film was a transformative ball of energy, pulling us through whatever psychologically damaged state we are in at the moment due to life's random unfair acts. Even fewer still are the ones lucky enough to meet the source of those life-altering experiences. What would you do if you met a person who was directly responsible for getting you through the single worst moment of your life? What would you say? Would you even have the guts to say anything at all?

My friend Katie was lucky enough to have such an encounter. She recently attended a screening of Darren Aronofky's The Wrestler, with the director in attendance. This was a particularly exciting evening for her because, you see, Aronofsky is Katie's favorite filmmaker, responsible for her favorite movie - his 2006 masterpiece The Fountain. While the Q & A with the director was a thrill in and of itself, what happened after the event was even more special for my friend.

Katie has a blog titled "A Spoonful O'ISMS", and she has written about her experience there, and since she's a much better writer and storyteller than I am, I'll refer you there to get the rest what happened. I pass it along to you because I think it's an inspiring reminder that not only can a film be a profoundly moving and life-affecting experience but that, should we get the chance, we also need to express our thanks to those who have provoked us to have these experiences. Filmmakers are paying attention, and they (well, not all, but the good ones) make movies in the hopes of getting reactions from people like myself, my friend, and you.

Katie got a chance that most people will never get, and my first reaction was that of jealousy. (I, too, am a huge Darren Aronofsky fan). After reading her blog, though, that jealous turned into happiness - I was happy not only that she got to experience such a wonderful moment, however fleeting, but I was also happy to be reminded of why I love film and the reason I spend so much time thinking about it, watching it, talking about it, and writing about it. (Okay, writing about it MUCH LESS than thinking, watching, or talking about it.)

So take a few minutes and read Katie's blog post "Perpetually Having a Moment", and then think about what film has helped you through your own personal moment, and what you would say to the person who created it.

Thursday, January 6, 2011


Review by Gina Muscato

Directed by Shana Feste

Starring Gwyneth Paltrow, Tim McGraw, Garrett Hedlund

Anyone who knows anything about Gwyneth Paltrow already knows she can sing. She’s done it before in movies like Duets and Infamous. And more recently, Paltrow dominated an episode of the hit TV series Glee and impressed the country music world with her performance at the CMAs. In her new movie Country Strong, Paltrow shows her singing chops once again.
In the film, Paltrow plays Kelly Canter, a self-destructive country music superstar whose drunken and disorderly conduct forces her to pause her career for rehab. Kelly’s manager/husband, James (Tim McGraw) pulls her from rehab too soon to revive her career with a comeback tour. Opening acts Beau Hutton (Garrett Hedlund), a deep-voiced singer who coincidentally was Kelly's sponsor in rehab, and Chiles Stanton (Leighton Meester), an up-and-coming country vocalist/songwriter, accompany them on the tour, which is often maligned by Kelly’s affair with Hedlund and her rivalry with the younger Meester.
The film's director Shana Feste masterfully weaves the lives of these four characters together throughout the film. Kelly wants to keep her marriage to James alive, but also has a thing for Beau. Beau understands Kelly but winds up falling for Chiles. Chiles flirts with James to further her career, but falls for Beau.
Though much of the pre-buzz surrounding this film was over Paltrow's singing, she spends most of her onscreen time crying in drunken melt downs, rather than crooning. In fact, Paltrow's main vocal performance doesn't come until close to the end of the film. The film's more memorable voice is that of Hedlund, whose bass-baritone conjured up memories of Crash Test Dummies lead singer Brad Roberts' vocals on their only hit single "Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm." Hedlund, best known as the star of the 2004 film Friday Night Lights, is handsome and rugged, possessing raw sexuality and yet an undeniable vulnerability. Some critics are touting Hedlund's performance as his arrival as a leading man, noting that this movie will do for him what Thelma & Louise did for Brad Pitt. And yeah, Hedlund is that good.
Meester, meanwhile, is perfectly cast as Chiles, a fresh-faced former beauty queen longing for a music career, but has her own issues of insecurity and stage fright. McGraw also delivers a solid performance as Kelly’s emotionally-drained husband James. He portrays a believable tenderness toward Kelly in the right moments -- just enough to make him almost likable.
Paltrow, though an extremely talented actress, seems to over-act at times, particularly in her meltdown on stage that threatens the comeback tour. Her performance rebounds with scenes in which Kelly offers advice to Chiles and when Kelly visits the classroom of a little boy with leukemia -- easily two of the best scenes in the movie. Paltrow is certainly believable as a country music star, not just with her voice, but her casual southern drawl sounds spot-on.
Though, Country Strong has its flaws. It's silly to have Kelly carry around a baby bird that she found in the forest near rehab, even though it's meant to symbolize the baby she lost. Also, there's really no reason to make such a big deal about Chiles stealing the song "Coming Home" from Kelly. Kelly winds up singing it anyway.
Also, several plot points may be a little too convenient to believe, including the fact that Beau is an aspiring singer who just happens to work at the same facility where the most famous country music star in the world is rehabilitating. Of course he does. Also, it doesn't make much sense that Beau would rather perform in tiny, small town bars rather than in front of a crowd of thousands. I didn’t buy that, so I’m sure the average movie go-er won’t either.
There are some decent songs in the film, including the Hedlund/Meester duet "Give Into Me." I was hoping for a Paltrow/McGraw duet at some point in the film -- not on stage, but in bed or dressing room somewhere. Needless to say, that never happened. McGraw doesn't sing a single note throughout the film. And unfortunately, most of the songs are forgettable.
If you can push past the convenient and predictable plot points and even the cliches, you might like this one. Forgive me, but I did.