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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Gulliver's Travels is a bit... small.

This ain't your Granddad's...

Robert Letterman brings us a 2010 update of a timeless novel - full review, after the break

A Complete List of Academy Eligible Films - 2010

83rd Academy Awards Poster
Anne Hathaway and impending nominee James Franco host

Throughout the course of the year, specifically through January 1st - December 31st at midnight, hundreds of films fight for the coveted Best Picture of the Year award in the following February or March, handed out by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Or, for those of us not so verbose, the Oscars. Here is a complete list, from Oscar's website, of eligible films from 2010 -

All Eligible Films

From The A-Team all the way down to Youth in Revolt, nearly 250 films are in competition. Realistically, only about 15-20 have any real meaning to the awards, but still - they're all technically up for anything.

How many films from the year have you seen so far? I'm at close to 60, myself.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Black Swan.

And so it is.

From the moment that Natalie Portman tip-toes onto the screen in Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan, we're treated to something very specific - the most subtle introduction to the grandest performance on screen this year. Portman is at once harrowing, breathtaking, daring, luminous, cunning, ... it's the performance of her career, and, dare say it, a lifetime. And, like Kirsten Dunst in All Good Things, who the hell knew she could do that? There are moments in an actors career where everything seems to click. Natalie Portman has one of those moments in this film - she's in a bathroom stall, and it's a phone call to her terrifying mother (the formidable Barbara Hershey).  We know from that moment that this isn't Queen Amidala anymore - this is the birth of a stunning new actress, and I honestly can't wait for what she does next.

The rest of the film, elegantly surrounding her, thankfully is just as formatted. Its eerie perception of perfection and its quiet pacing (despite being a rather loud film) keep the viewer on the edge of their seat. Aronofsky has had a knack for exploring the internal rupturing of his lead characters, from Pi to The Wrestler. It's a formula he'll probably never drop, and that might be for the best - it might be where his brilliance lies most comfortably. As a director, he seems to be a mix of both early and late David Cronenberg - everything that made Cronenberg's work in the 80's and 90's so spectacular and industrial, and everything that makes his work now so human and restrained, they seem to meld together and find homes in all of Aronofsky's films. Hints of The Red Shoes are obviously afoot, as are shades of Perfect Blue. But, one can't be to sure that most of this didn't just come from that man's brain.

In a ballet company's "reinvention" on Swan Lake draws near, one dancer (Portman) pushes herself to the extremes of humanity to be 'perfect' and get every step right. It's an alarmingly simple base for such a towering achievement of a film.

The performances, really, though, are what make this film as genuine as it is. For all of its craftsmanship, were it not for the likes of Natalie Portman and her company, we wouldn't have our film. So, we're brought to the other real star, here - Mila Kunis.

It's about as honest a supporting performance as you can find in theaters today - scenes were stolen, left and right, but true to form, she never steals the spotlight. There's a grave difference. She leaves her mark on the character and on the film, but she doesn't chew her scenery and she knows when to reign it in. She's given her big moments, but she's never flashy or flamboyant - just... honest. Incredible performance, which hints at many damages in her character without ever losing the focus. 

Vincent Cassell, Barabra Hershey, and (welcome home) Winona Ryder are all excellent in their time on screen, as well. Ryder's loud announcement into the film is reminiscent of her triumphant return to larger studio work, after middling indie stomping, and she's wonderful. Truly wonderful. Cassell takes his persona (intense, yet oddly gentle) and gives his best work in recent memory, and Hershey offers a screen mother that could make Carrie's mom look sane and cuddly. 

All in all, this isn't a film for the feint. It's graphic, in both violence and sexuality, and graphic in its psychology. When budding sexuality becomes bludgeoning sexuality, and when the strive for perfection begets nothing but destruction, we're gifted a film like this. It's... perfect. Just like our dancer. 

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Rest in peace, Leslie Nielsen.

1926 - 2010

He'll always be remembered for his ridiculously funny Naked Gun series, and for his ridiculously funny supporting role in Airplane! (Surely, you can't be serious) but what has always impressed me about the now late Leslie Nielsen is how ridiculously talented he is when he's not trying to be funny. His early dramatic work is some of the best around. If you have the chance, be sure to check out his guest work on the old Paul Haggis show Due South, and also watch Harlow, where he plays Richard Manley. Excellent work from an actor who will be truly missed.

Also, for a mindless look at a performance filled with comedic genius (too bad the movie around the performance does it no justice), dust off a copy of Mr. Magoo and truly enjoy your evening.

Rest in  peace, Mr. Nielsen. But, know that we'll never stop calling you Shirley.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

My favorite FYC ads so far

This has been a fabulous year for the annual For Your Consideration sweep over Hollywood, provided by the internet and, of course, Daily Variety. Some of my favorites so far?

FYC - Best Actor: Leonardo DiCaprio - Shutter Island

My personal favorite, so far. 

I'm not talking about the performance itself or anything, rather the art that is the FYC ad. To me, it's as crucial a form as the Criterion artwork, though for different reasons. I love the multi-page format and the shot of Martin Scorsese in the lower right. That, and the lovely Michelle Williams (who deserves her own FYC for the film) is featured. 

FYC - Best Picture: Toy Story 3


"Not since..." is probably my favorite marketing tool in a long time. And it makes complete sense. Not since Shakespeare in Love has a comedy won, not since The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King has a billion dollar movie won... The catch is, this film actually deserves these comparisons. But, keeping personal feelings at bay, I love the style of the poster. One of the funnier moments in the movie, a semi-mockery of the epicness its tag evokes, and... it's the monkeys. It's all about the monkeys. 

FYC - Best Animated Feature: Legends of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole

I know, right?

I have nothing to say about the ad. I don't even really like it. I just think it's awesome that they're pushing the film. Go, Zack Snyder. Go.

Share some of your favorites! I'll post some more as I find ones that stand out to me. 

Friday, November 26, 2010

Into the Wild

"Forget the grand. Forget the master scheme. Forget control. That is the bleak but true basis of independent cinema. Inch by motherfucking inch we must, because we have no other choice." - Oliver Stone

In the recent wake of Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, I'm forced to remember the formidable filmmaker Oliver Stone used to be. Seemingly, in lieu of his earlier films, he appears to create by this creed. W. and Wall Street, Part II, and the first two cuts of Alexander aside, he still has the heart of warrior filmmaker. I ran across this quote earlier today while setting up this blog and it resonated in an incredibly specific way. 

For the longest time, since I've been a small kid, I've had an addiction to film. And I've long wanted to be a critic, or a screenwriter or a director, or what have you. But, we must all start somewhere. I've written many reviews independently, and thankfully I had my first one published on For Colored Girls, by Tyler Perry. And I've been told that as long as I give them the reviews, they will have a home. Here, though, I'll allow myself a bigger, more personal format where I can give news, reviews as they come from whatever I see, and an outlet to voice my frustrations over Hollywood's refusal to tell an original horror story. 

But, for now, I leave you with this - go watch a movie. It's the weekend. We've all earned it. 

Try this one on for size - 

A beautiful film, by Sean Penn, based on the book by Jon Krakauer. Inspired by the unfortunate true events, Emile Hirsch and Penn bring vivid life to Chris McCandless' ill-fated journey to Alaska. Supported by Vince Vaughn, Hal Holbrook, Kristen Stewart, Catherine Keener, and William Hurt, and a moving folk score by Eddie Veder, the movie barely seems as long as it is. Its pace is remarkable. The screenplay has a few dry spots, especially toward its uniquely powerful ending, but what few drawbacks the film has are more than covered up by Penn's earnestness as a director and the film's beautiful images. It'll give you chills. 

Enjoy it, if you choose to watch. It's one of the 2007 films I revisit as often as I can,

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