Saturday, December 31, 2011

My top 10 favorite films of 2011.

With 2011 ending in 3 and a half hours, I have decided to post my top 10 favorite films of this year. 2011 was a good year. I had to leave some good films this year. Beginners, Rise of the Planet of the Apes...

10. The Help
09. The Ides of March
08. War Horse
07. Midnight in Paris
06. Drive
05. Moneyball
04. The Descendants
03. The Artist
02. Hugo
01. The Tree of Life

84th Oscars: Best Director Nominees

I'm addicted to checking the score for Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. Last I've read, it has a 49% on RT, and a 40 on Metacritic. In fact, it's on the brink of being "Generally unfavorable". What I really hope is that the Academy isn't too Daldry bias. Come January, I don't want to hear the film's name being announced. Scratch that, I wouldn't mind Max von Sydow being announced.

A real lock for the Best Director nomination is Michel Hazanavicus, for directing The Artist. I would say his biggest win is at NYFCC, and there are other groups that I am too lazy to name.

Besides him, there are two other big shots: Terrence Malick (I'm not bias,) and Martin Scorsese. I can easily profess that Scorsese is my favorite director, and debatably the greatest of all time. Already he has won the National Board of Review for Hugo and also been nominated for the Golden Globe.

Malick's nomination is nearly as divisive as his film itself. He won at Chicago and LAFCA, but missed at Golden Globes.

I would want to say that if critics were Oscar voters, The Social Network would have won last year, and Nicolas Winding Refn would be a nomination lock for this year. However, I don't see high prospects for Drive, or Refn himself. Bummer.

All in all, Daldry's luck has run out, Scorsese and Hazanavicus are locks, and Malick will probably make it. Alexander Payne needs to step up his game if he wants the nomination, and Woody Allen will duke it out with Spielberg for the last spot. Sounds fun.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Artist (2011), 4/4 Stars

I love Charlie Chaplin films. Modern Times? One of the best of all time! The thing about Modern Times is that it's not a complete silent film- there's some sound. That's the same situation with Michel Hazanavicus' The Artist.

The Artist tells of George Valentin, a popular silent film star. One fan of his, Peppy Miller, accidentally becomes a big star when meeting him. Soon, Miller surpasses Valentin when she joins the sound wave.

Soon, Valentin hits a low. His butler is fired, and his wife dumps him and his stuff. Not only that, his wife tells him to see the movie Beauty Spot, the movie throwing Peppy into fame.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

84th Oscars: Detroit Film Critics Winners

Sorry I can't cite the site, but here are the winners! (No italicization for the sake of time.)

The Artist

Michel Hazanavicus

Michael Fassbender

Michelle Williams

Christopher Plummer

Carey Mulligan


Jessica Chastain



84th Oscars: Dublin Film Critics Circle Winners

Thanks to AwardsDaily for this list. For the sake of time, I'm not going to italicize every film's title.

Best Picture

Best Director
Nicolas Winding Refn, “Drive"

Best Actor
Ryan Gosling, “Drive”

Best Actress
Jessica Chastain, “The Tree of Life”

Best Documentary

Best Foreign Language Film
“A Separation”

Best Irish Film
“The Guard”

Best Irish Documentary

International Breakthrough
Jessica Chastain, “The Help,” “Take Shelter” and “The Tree of Life”

Domestic Breakthrough
John Michael McDonagh, “The Guard”

I highly doubt Dublin is a big Oscar game changer, but it's a cool list.

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Descendants (2011), 3.5/4 Stars

First off, I have only seen Alexander Payne's Sideways, and I loved it. However, it was only recently since that time, much before I learned to love Alexander Payne.

The Descendants tells of George Clooney playing Matt King, a lawyer and heir to 25 acres of Hawaiian land. However, his wife has had a boating accident, and is in a coma. In one scene, King tells his cousin that he is "trying to keep his head above water". Distraught as he is, he has to take care of his two daughters, and he hardly knows their personality. Scottie, the 10 year old, is an offensive loudmouth who Matt cannot familiarize with. Alexandra, the 17 year old, does drugs and drinks while at private school.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Reader (2008), 3/4 Stars

Note: Daldry's new Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close came out today, and Ralph Finnes has recently celebrated his birthday. This couldn't be a better time to recycle my review for The Reader. I wrote this review in November.

To say this film deserved the elusive Best Picture nomination, is incorrect. The Dark Knight was a better film in almost all respects. Alone, The Reader is a very good film. It's one of the few films I can truly describe as drama, alongside Atonement and The Pianist. The direction here by Stephen Daldry was also very good, and that anticipates me more for Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.

The story describes of a young boy, Michael. Coming home from school, he purges, but is assisted by Hanna. Diagnosed with scarlet fever, (I have "Scarlett Fever), he remains sick for three months. To thank Hanna, he brings her flowers, and catches her in the act of dressing. Hanna later asks Michael to bring him two buckets of coal. He comes home a mess, and Hanna bathes him. It ends with them, both seduced, having sex.

Together they have an affair. After reading to her, Hanna demands Michael to read first, than make love. Suddenly, Hanna leaves. Nine years later, Michael is a law student and Hanna is on trial for Nazi war crimes. And, Michael discovers a dark secret about Hanna, one that was in his face during their entire affair.

To say the acting was OK is an understatement. Winslet delivered a very sexual, unique, and powerful performance, while Finnes had a lesser, more subdued role. I'm happy Winslet won the Oscar for this, but she deserved much more for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. My main problem was with the kid, David Kross. His performance was too forced during quiet scenes, and too loud during quiet scenes. Perhaps he wasn't experienced enough. But if I were to pick a quality in the film as a coherent whole, it would be the music. The piano music is high, mighty, and adds wonderful atmosphere. I am amazed how well this film would go with Atonement, another WWII drama. It's too bad composer Nico Muhly wasn't nominated for his work on this film.

One of my main problems was the clunky time shifting. Though the beginning felt smooth with Nico Muhly's music, scenes from Kross to Finnes and back again were rugged and slurred the plot together. The film could've been much better if the time shifting narrative was more seamless or if the sequences were chronological.

All in all, I give this film a solid recommendation, but it's not without it's flaws.

3/4 Stars

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

84th Oscars: Best Picture Nominees

If you were to ask anyone who the Oscar front runner is, you'll hear The Artist, The Descendants, or even Moneyball. (Yes, I'm talking about Sasha Stone,). The fact that there is no real front runner is a delight, and makes the game a real guess.

I'm going to say there is about a 5% chance of Bridesmaids being nominated. I'm extending the margin just in case it happens. I would also put a 3% chance on J. Edgar, because... it's not that good. Drive would have a 15% chance, despite it's goodness.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. Gee, I'm giving it a 50/50 chance. (The movie 50/50 is getting a 1% chance, even though it looks good,). One of my last articles, Extreme Loss and Incredible Crap? is unfairly titled, but EL&IC is losing chances with a now 65% tomato-meter. It's pretty much holding on by Daldry and Hanks. Horn's performance is too divisive.

Speaking of divisive, The Tree of Life (My favorite movie of 2011!). It's quite divisive, just read the RT reviews here. It has a 61% audience approval rating, but an 84% Critics Rank. Either way, I think with Daldry's loss, the year's best film will become a nominee. I'm giving it a 75% chance of being nominated.

On the note of 75, that's the RT score for The Help. It's probably the year's "Audience picks" nominee, one that parents at home probably saw. I'm not going to lie, but I actually liked it quite a bit. It's a good flair of comedy and drama, and I really want Viola Davis to win Best Actress. In fact, I think the performances keep the whole film afloat. They are hard to ignore, so... 90% chance of being nominated in my book.

Over Christmas Break, I want to see The Descendants and The Artist, the two real front runners. There was a third, War Horse, but it's losing chances. The Descendants, 99.9%. The Artist, 100% (My bet to win,). War Horse, 95%.

In fact, if you want to be nominated, be different. The Tree of Life and The Artist are probably the most different films out of the bunch. The former being more divisive.

The Darjeeling Limited (2007), 3/4 Stars

I'm really not that familiar with Wes Anderson. I saw his Fantastic Mr. Fox, which is another 3 star movie. Either way, I'm happy that the Criterion Collection recognizes Mr. Anderson's work, because I intend on seeing more works by him. (Rushmore).

On to the movie. The film is very good, but not great. I felt it tried too hard to be sad, to hard to be happy, and too hard to be dramatic. Once the three brothers (Adrien Brody, Jason Schwartzman, and Owen Wilson,) board the train, it's very hard to believe that an Oscar winner, Schwartzman, and Gil from Midnight in Paris are all brothers.

However, there's a scene when they all go to their dad's funeral. From that scene, there are some very visible similarities. It's easy to see why Wes would cast Adrien Brody within his regulars Wilson and Schwartzman.

From the trailers, I thought that this would be a comedy with some family drama, but not much else. Instead, there's real heart, and the comedy is a chuckle, not a hoot.

Most of all, I hope that this film has a high count on being revisited. As for now, I recommend the film, and The Criterion Collection.

3/4 Stars

Extreme Loss & Incredible Crap?

It's amazing how much the Academy LOVES Stephen Daldry. For the only three films he directed, he got three directing noms. No matter how perverse and Kate Winslet-y The Reader is, The Dark Knight was better.

If you look at his Tomato-meter scores, there are none below 90%, and they rapidly go down.

Billy Elliot- 85%
The Hours- 81%
The Reader- 62%

There's no consistency on his scores, or how good his films are. I'm not saying the Tomato-meter will represent the film's quality, but if the decline is correct, we're looking at an Extreme Loss.

I actually saw some clips of the film on RT, and the kid has a weird rhythm to his voice- There's fluctuation, like he knows he's on camera.

Recently, RopeOfSilicon gave the film an A+. Than again, they have been predicting it to win Best Picture since September.

I hope I'm wrong about the film's scores, but if this keeps up, we have a clunker. (See J. Edgar).

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Wrestler (2008), 3/4 Stars

Darren Aronofsky. Oh how weird you are.

Surprisingly, this film is an exception to his weirdness. I'm not insulting him because out of his works, they are very good. I intend to see his Requiem for a Dream when I am a little older. Anyways.

Mickey Rourke plays a role that might be even autobiographical to himself. If you read about him, he's actually a quite damaged man. I'm not insulting him either, because he delivered a great performance in the film. It's almost upsetting that he lost to Sean Penn (I'm still sore about his The Tree of Life hate). Anyways.

In the film, I feel that Rourke's Randy sympathized with himself, and Tomei's stripper Cassidy. She's aging in her art (I don't consider stripping an art,) similar to Rourke losing his talent in wrestling.

The film plays out like so: Randy "The Ram" Robinson, an aging wrestler is up for a 20th anniversary match. Problem is, he's had a health problem, and his relationships are crumbling to an extreme degree (Cassidy and his daughter).

It's an interesting plot that plays out in thin events, not flat out telling you what happens. Which is my main problem with the film. IT'S TOO THIN! It's main highlight is Rourke's performance, to such a subtle degree.

3/4 Stars

Black Swan (2010), 3.5/4 Stars

The closest thing I've seen to a ballet is Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan. I'm not going to lie, but the plot is very weird, and almost convinces you not to watch the movie. Ballerinas? Fighting for a role? Sexual adventures? All in the same film? Sounds like a real turn-off.

With Aronofsky's steady hand at directing (The Wrestler), the film is almost a visual beauty. The tricks and illusions looked good enough to me, and they were really good glance at a hallucination.

But I wondered, what were the points of the segments? The character Nina had some of the most cliched, cheest hallucinations ever. That's what degraded the film.

The opening half is very good, with easy to follow characters. It's evident, right from the start, that Barbara Hershey is very protective of her Natalie Portman (Who wouldn't be?). Anyway, she is very secluded and almost immature. She still has stuffed animals in her room, and is very protective of her miniature ballerina music box. But that's merely just an opening to the "white swan" of the characters.

The "black swan" characters are more outgoing, wild, and successful in a way. There's a new ballerina in the troupe, and her name is Lily. She is competing for the role of the Swan Queen in the next ballet. The head, Tomas Leroy, or Toma, chooses Nina. Nina's not perfect, though.

First off, Nina is not as outgoing to play the role of "Black Swan". Fortunately, she is very good as the White Swan. (Which probably won her the role). The thing is, Toma wants one ballerina to play both swan characters. Upsetting to Lily, she challenges Nina mentally, socially, and sexually.

The twist is, these challenges are affecting Nina psychologically. She has hallucinations, unique dreams, and other thoughts.

As I stated above, the hallucinations and twists are cliched, and the degrade the film from perfection. Bummer.

3.5/4 Stars

Sunday, December 18, 2011

When You Find Me (2011), 2/4 Stars

When You Find Me is a very unique way of making a film.I'm sure you've seen ads on RottenTomatoes, YouTube, and other sites.

Camera company Canon and Ron Howard both produce and help with the film. The behind-the-scenes work sounds even better than the film itself. You see, users can submit photos that relate to screenplay aspects (setting, time, character, mood, relationship, goal, obstacle, and the unknown). With all this unusual production, I couldn't help but assume the movie would be... weird. And, it is!

It's not memorable at all, to begin with. It's been about an hour since I've seen the film, and I don't remember the characters names. There's two sisters, however. One young, one old. There's no real back-story either, but the film was easy enough to follow.

The mother is dying. They get a call that she won't make it, but the sisters arrival is delayed because the junior kept on playing. When the sisters arrive, the mother is dead.

One night, the youngest dreams of heaven, and spacecraft. She runs off to the burial ground, and is reluctantly chased by her sister to go home.

It's very interesting to see how the situation played out. I hate to bring up The Tree of Life, but there is a scene in heaven that is very derivative toward it. In the scene, the ghostly mother stands by a tree, almost like Chastain saying "You'll be grown before that tree is tall." Just a small quibble, though.

All in all, the movie has interesting production, but not much else.

2/4 Stars

People Magazine's Top 10 Movies

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close got a number one! You can read the complete list below or go to your newsstand and see it, including top 10 albums and TV shows...

1. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
"...a film that's wrenching and a miracle."
2. The Artist
"...more imaginative than nearly every other film this year."
3. Drive
4. A Separation
5. The Skin I Live In
6. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
7. Senna
8. The Descendants
9. The Adventures of Tintin
10. Bridesmaids

Kill Bill: The Whole Bloody Affair (2003-2004), 4/4 Stars

It's amazing how films now are being split into two parts. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Breaking Dawn... but from what I know is that the only two-part masterpiece from the last decade is Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill.

Vol. 1 (not part 1,) is an introduction to The Bride, played by Uma Thurman. She has woken up from a coma, been raped by dirty hospital workers, and her baby is missing. It's shocking, I imagine, but she picks up her ears and realizes the only person to gain vengeance from is Bill, the father of her missing baby.

Bill was the leader of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad, which the Bride took part in. Not surprisingly, The Bride, code-name Black Mamba, left to raise her and Bill's baby and is soon to wed with a record store owner. Assuming this upsets Bill, he shoots The Bride, resulting in her 4-year coma.

Probably the best action scene in Vol. 1 (and the whole film together,) is when The Bride fights the Crazy 88 in Japan. It's a stylized fight, with Uma jumping off walls, Japanese men in Green Hornet like masks, and Lucy Liu watching from above. It's disappointing that Quentin had to split the two films, resulting with almost all action in the first film, and talking the second.

Vol. 2 is the masterpiece that binds the two together. There's flashback to the Bride, now referred to as Beatrix Kiddo, wedding rehearsal. It's a black-and-white segment that looks just fine. Throughout this part, Kiddo goes on to kill Bill, his brother, and his assistant.

There's a flashback with the Bride training with Pai Mei, a sterotypical Chinese kung-fu master. It's a funny performance, with him hollering unsubtitiled Chinese gibberish.

Disappointingly, the final fight with Bill is almost talking, and it's a little weak compared to the Crazy 88 finale in Vol. 1. The conclusion, however, is very heartfelt. It's amazing how two flawed films like Vol. 1 and Vol.2 stand together. I'm glad to say both together complete Quentin's original dream.

Kill Bill, Vol. 1- 3/4 Stars
Kill Bill, Vol. 2- 3.5/4 Stars
Kill Bill: The Whole Bloody Affair (The two films put together,)- 4/4 Stars

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (2009), 1.5/4 Stars

,It was a wonderful kids book. But why, oh why, is it a movie?

The book starts off as a story told by a grandfather. The old fellow tells his kids, while he flips pancakes, about a town called Chewandswallow. There were no main characters in the senior's story. There were events.

The movie, however, starts off with a little kid. Flint dreams of being a scientist, after a failed class experiment that disfigures his feet for the rest of his life. He fails as a scientist, until he builds a machine in Swallow Falls that makes hydration into food.

I don't know what happened in the movie, but after the machine is successful, the town's name is Chewandswallow. Continuity, or my blindness, either way I won't watch the movie again.

The book had a nice, comic book-like 2D art style. I have know idea why Sony Animation chose to make the movie look 3D, or let alone make the movie.

There are multiple characters not from the book that are shoved in the movie: Flint (as stated above),Reporter Sam Sparks and Mr. T's cop character. Were you supposed to feel romance between Sparks and Flint? I feel it was a more like melodramatic sap to appeal to a younger generation.

Mr.T. What a character. Was this cop made to chase Flint around, like Sacha Baron Cohen being able to chase Asa Butterfield? It looked almost pathetic, seeing animated men of a similar age chase another.

In another scene, the cop and his family is seen riding in a piece of pizza. His son almost died a few minutes ago. But with a piece of pizza as a raft, does it make the mood comical, or sentimental? I would say pathetic.

Sure the colors dazzle, but it means jack to those who liked the book. Suffice to say, the point of the film is hard to swallow.

1.5/4 Stars

The Tree of Life (2011), 4/4 Stars

The Tree of Life is an odyssey. It's a low budget epic masterpiece. Maybe not low budget (32 Mil.), but epic masterpiece still fits. Brad Pitt delivers a great performance as a tough luck dad, and newcomer Chastain also delivers.

There are themes in the movie that make it feel like a religious Hallmark movie, but it should feel like so. The movie is religious, from quoting the bible to asking mystifying questions about God. In fact, it goes so far that you could even call the movie "A prayer".

Part of the movie has a "yin-yang" feel. As Chastain narrates, there's two ways through life: the way of Nature and the way of Grace. Nature only wants to please itself, and Grace wants to please others. In the end, the two paths need each other.

The first hour of the movie is what I call "The Nature Part". As earlier described by Chastain, Nature wants others to please it, to make benefit for itself. Throughout the part, there's the divisive "Beginning of Earth" sequence.  Toward the end of the scene, there's the dinosaur head stomp. To me, it represents the climax of the part: Grace gives in to Nature, so it could be pleased.

The next hour and a half is a dizzying epic. This is what I call "The Grace Part". There are lovely scenes with no dialouge, instead just classical music. The main focus now is Mr. and Mrs. O’brien, played by Pitt and Chastain, respectively. Pitt's performance, as Mr. O'brien is the current embodiment of Nature, and Chastain is Grace. Together the family works, not always in harmony. They are almost like the two dinosaurs, except Pitt and Chastain look much better than their respective dinosaur representations. The kids are pressured by the Senior O’brien, who needs his kids to be perfect in his eyes. The Misses instead lets them be their own embodiment, and her action pleases others. Sequence play out, and the kids are challenged by their parents to choose a side. Toward the end of the part, Mr. O'brien consults the oldest son. He tells him he's sorry for how he treated him. Maybe he also becomes Grace. The opinion is open-ended, for the scene cuts to present day, with Jack, the oldest son, contemplating the end of his brother's life.

If the two paths (nature and grace), created harmony, and Mr. O'brien also became Grace, did that create an imbalance? We may never know the path life takes to affect others, but in the end, the imbalances may create a perfect harmony: a path for life.

4/4 Stars