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My 2011 Top Ten List

February 16, 2012 2 comments

My favorite time of the year has finally come. It’s the time when I can finally take a break from reporting on other individuals and groups choices for best of the year and actually focus on my own. If any of you missed last year’s, here’s a link to last year’s big list. Over the next week, leading up to the Oscars, I’ll be writing a series of posts that will encompass my feelings on the 2011 year in films. I’ll start things out with my Top Ten List, featured here, followed by two posts chronicling the nominations and winners of the 2nd Annual Edgy Awards. Hopefully, I can maintain concentration and get all of this done before the entire awards season comes to a head.

To be quite honest, this is probably my least favored year of films in terms of quality in at least a decade. I’m not sure what exactly went wrong or rubbed me the wrong way, but there was something lacking in the overall caliber of releases. Disappointing to say the least. Perhaps, it’s not even the overall batch of films, but rather some favorites of the film critic and connoisseur community just did not register in my book. Yet, even with the diminished standard, I still feel compelled to give a shout out of recognition to the films that were more than respectable. The following seven films, listed alphabetically, are some examples of damn fine filmmaking, but had just a few too many flaws that kept them out the final ten.

Here we go. The runners-up are as follows:

“The Artist”

Written and Directed by
Michel Hazanavicius

A delightful and sometimes intriguing romp into the throwback world of silent filmmaking, highlighted by some great design qualities and a stellar lead performance by Jean Dujardin. Yet, the film really suffers from having…well…nothing really important to say or leave us with.

Read more…

NYFCC Winners Announced LIVE

November 29, 2011 Leave a comment

Well, here we go. The NYFCC wanted to be first and now they definitely get their wish. They’re choices will either deify them for setting the tone of the next two months or make them look like fools. We shall see.

Keep checking back as I update this page with each award as they are announced and I’ll round it out with my insights when all is said and done.

BEST PICTURE: “The Artist”

BEST DIRECTOR: Michael Hazanavicius – “The Artist”

BEST ACTOR: Brad Pitt – “Moneyball” and “The Tree of Life”

BEST ACTRESS: Meryl Streep – “The Iron Lady”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Albert Brooks – “Drive”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Jessica Chastain – “The Help,” “Take Shelter” and “The Tree of Life”

BEST SCREENPLAY: “Moneyball” by Aaron Sorkin and Steven Zallian

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: “The Tree of Life” by Emmanuel Lubezki

BEST FIRST FEATURE: “Margin Call” dir. J.C. Chandor

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM: “A Separation” dir. Asghar Farhadi

BEST NON-FICTION FILM: “Cave of Forgotten Dreams” dir. Werner Herzog

2011 Venice Film Festival Lineup = WOW

There are four major film festivals that occur in the world which Oscar pundits eagerly anticipate. Sundance kicks things off in Utah during January. Springtime brings about the prestige and glory of the Cannes in southern France. The season is then capped off with bicoastal festivals in Venice, Italy and Toronto, Ontario, both occurring in the month of September.

Presently, we’re halfway through the year and September is fast approaching. While the TIFF announced its lineup last week, Venice has recently joined the club. Both showings are killer and contain more than a few likely contenders. Expect “The Ides of March,” “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” and “A Dangerous Method” to develop as Oscar contenders (as well as a good horse to bet on for the Festival’s prize). However, don’t count out “Carnage” (featured below) directed by European favorite Roman Polanski or “Shame” the sophomore effort by Steve McQueen to take home the Venice gold.

Here is the lineup for the 2011 Venice Film Festival:

Venice 2011  Competition

The Ides Of March – George Clooney (US) [opening film]
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy – Tomas Alfredson (UK, Germany)
Wuthering Heights – Andrea Arnold (UK)
Texas Killing Fields – Ami Canaan Maan (US)
Quando La Notte – Cristina Comencini (Italy)
Terraferma – Emanuele Crialese (Italy/France)
A Dangerous Method – David Cronenberg (Germany/Canada)
4:44 Last Day On Earth – Abel Ferrara (US)
Killer Joe – William Friedkin (US)
Un Ete Brulant – Philippe Garrel (France/Italy/Switzerland)
A Simple Life (Taojie) – Ann Hui (China/Hong Kong)
The Exchange (Hahithalfut) – Eran Kolirin (Israel)
Alps (Alpeis) -Yorgos Lanthimos (Greece)
Shame – Steve McQueen (UK)
L’ultimo Terrestre – Gian Alfonso Pacinotti (Italy)
Carnage – Roman Polanski (France/Germany/Spain/Poland)
Chicken With Plums – Marjane Satrapi, Vincent Paronnaud (France/Belgium/Germany)
Faust – Aleksander Sokurov (Russia)
Dark Horse – Todd Solondz (US)
Himizu – Sion Sono (Japan)
Seediq Bale – Wei Te-Sheng (Taiwan)

Out of Competition

Vivan las Antipodas! – Victor Kossakovsky
(Germany/Argentina/Holland/Chile/Russia) [opening film]
Damsels In Distress – Whit Stillman (US) [closing film]
La Folie Almayer – Chantal Akerman (Belgium/France)
The Sorcerer And The White Snake (Baish Echuanshuo) – Tony Ching Siu-Tung (China/Hong Kong)
Giochi D’estate – Rolando Colla (Switzerland/Italy)
La Desintegration – Philippe Fauchon (Belgium)
The Moth Diaries – Mary Harron (Canada/Ireland)
Alois Nebel – Tomas Lunak (Czech Republic/Germany)
W.E. – Madonna (UK)
Eva – Kike Maillo (UK)
Scossa – Francesco Maselli, Carlo Lizzani, Ugo Gregoretti, Nino Russo (Italy)
La Cle Des Champs – Claude Nuridsany, Marie Perennou (France)
Il Villaggio Di Cartone – Ermanno Olmi (Italy)
Wilde Salome – Al Pacino (US)
Tormented – Takashi Shimizu (Japan)
Contagion – Steven Soderbergh (US)
La Meditazione Di Hayez – Mario Martone (Italy) (short)
Tahrir 2011 – Tamer Ezzat, Ahmad Abdalla, Ayten Amin, Amr Salama (Egypt)
The End – Collectif Abounaddara (Syria)
Vanguard – Colleftif Abounaddara (Syria)
Evolution (Megaplex)(3D – Marco Brambilla (US)

Out of Competition Events


Questa Storia Qua – Alessandro Paris, Sibylle Righetti (Italy)
Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has To Travel – Lisa Immordino Vreeland (US)
Golden Career Lion – Nel Nome Del Padre – Marcho Bellocchio (Italy)

The Toronto Fest includes some of the same titles, but in addition will also feature some stellar contenders such as:

“The Descendants” by Alexander Payne,
“Albert Nobbs” by Rodrigo Garcia
“360” by Fernando Merielles
“Moneyball” by Bennett Miller
“Corolianus” by Ralph Fiennes
“Drive” by Nicolas Winding Refn
“Machine Gun Preacher” by Marc Forster
“Melancholia” by Lars von Trier
“Rampart” by Oren Moverman
“The Skin I Live In” by Pedro Almodovar
“Take Shelter” by Jeff Nichols
“Twixt” by Francis Ford Coppola

There are more than a few that I did not even bother to mention, so, just from looking at this list, I’m beginning to realize that this movie season has potentially quite a bit to offer. I look forward to covering it.

Is AFI Missing Their Opportunities?

As everyone knows, each year for nearly four decades, the American Film Institute has awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award to a single individual. The honor is meant to reflect that person’s “lifetime contribution to enriching American culture through motion pictures and television.” When looking at the list of recipients over the years, it’s enough to fill the Kodak Theater several times over. Some of my personal favorites include Orson Welles in ’75, William Wyler in ’76, James Stewart in ’80, Steven Spielberg in ’95 and Al Pacino in ’07.

This year, the Institute has chosen to honor Morgan Freeman for his body of work as an actor. For sure, not an unusual choice for such an award. He received his first Oscar nomination in 1988 for “Street Smart” and has been captivating audiences, multiple times a year, ever since. For me, performances simply don’t get much better than his work in “The Shawshank Redemption.” The speech in his final parole hearing is the stuff that legends are made out of.

All in all, though, aside from a few great decisions, the AFI award seems kind of tainted and lazy, as of late. The whole picture seemed to change around the time that Tom Hanks won what many called his “mid-life” achievement award ten years ago. It seems that the award is being given more on account of how popular the recipient has been in recent years instead of, say thirty years ago. There are many, MANY performers, directors and producers who are much more deserving of the award than recent fare.

I’d much rather have seen men the likes of Gene Hackman, Robert Duvall, David Lynch, Francis Ford Coppola or, for crying out loud, Woody Allen receive distinction above the likes of George Lucas, Harrison Ford, Michael Douglas, Sean Connery or Morgan Freeman. The talent ratio is nearly incomparable. I mean, in terms of weight in Academy Award recognition is 49 nominations to 13 (Douglas, Ford and Connery only sharing 4 nominations between them).

What’s even more disturbing is the complete disregard to female contributions to cinema. In the last two decades, three women have received this award. Meryl Streep is completely understandable. Elizabeth Taylor cannot be argued with. Barbara Streisand…really? Meanwhile, the following women are still living and more than deserving of this award: Faye Dunaway, Vanessa Redgrave, Maggie Smith, Julie Christie, Sissy Spacek, Diane Keaton, Glenn Close, and Jessica Lange. Perhaps the most ridiculously passed over women are Ellen Burstyn and Jane Fonda who have delivered some of the most phenomenal performances Hollywood has ever seen and have been doing so for upwards of forty years.

The greats are passing away left and right. Paul Newman, Robert Altman, Marlon Brando and, of course, Sidney Lumet are the most recent to leave this world without receiving this prestigious honor. AFI needs to keep its eyes on the prize and award some of these more-deserving folk before it’s too late.

My Final 83rd Oscar Predictions

February 27, 2011 Leave a comment

Well, folks, it’s all come to an end. These will be my final predictions for this year’s Academy Awards. It has been a long year and a tough year, one with one of the biggest tide-turnings in the history of film. It’s hard to see the best, as well as my favorite, movie go from being on top of the world to fighting for its life. I still believe that it will come out victorious in the end, but I will be hanging on to that prediction by my fingernails until the first ballot is called.

This year, some of the races are a foregone conclusion. Both lead acting categories were practically finalized months ago, and the supporting awards are pretty close to sewn up, as well. You can probably take both of the screenplay awards to the bank, as well, along with animated feature. I also feel pretty confident calling both sound categories and visual effects for a single film to capture.

Several awards are thoroughly nagging on me and will be to the very end. One will be the very first ballot called, so we won’t have to wait long. Art Direction is in a very close. “The King’s Speech” is definitely the front runner with both “Inception” and “Alice in Wonderland” biting at its heals. It’s interesting to note that in all the times that a Tim Burton film has been nominated for this particular award, it has never lost. That statistic goes hand in hand with another, in that every time one such movie has been nominated for Best Costume Design, it has never won. I plan to go against that logic tonight, even as it faces a very strong contender in “The King’s Speech.”

Along with Design, both of the music categories have been severely nagging at me, as well. In Original Score, there is a showdown between the two Best Picture frontrunners, the stylish and innovative music in “The Social Network” vs. the quiet, beautiful, but really quite boring tones of “The King’s Speech.” Meanwhile, “Inception” and “How to Train Your Dragon” both have potential as spoilers. In Best Original Song, Randy Newman is looking for his second Oscar with the song “We Belong Together” from “Toy Story 3,” while A.R. Rahman seeks his third (he won two for “Slumdog Millionaire). Either has potential.

Finally, we come to the big one. It’s funny how after everything else, Best Picture ends up being the closest race of all. In one corner, there’s “The King’s Speech,” the heart-warming, generally-appealing historical epic. In its pocket are the PGA, the DGA and the SAG Ensemble. It’s opposition: “The Social Network,” is the original, stylized, cold-shouldered work of art. Behind it is the Golden Globe, the BFCA, the WGA, the ACE and basically every critics award for Best Picture that exists. It will be a fight to the finish. The one question the Academy has to ask themselves now.

Do they want to be smart or do they want to be saps? I still have faith.

My final predictions:

BEST PICTURE
Winner: “The Social Network”
Runner-Up: “The King’s Speech”

BEST DIRECTOR
Winner: David Fincher – “The Social Network”
Runner-Up: Tom Hooper – “The King’s Speech”

BEST ACTOR
Winner: Colin Firth – “The King’s Speech”
Runner-Up: Jesse Eisenberg – “The Social Network”

BEST ACTRESS
Winner: Natalie Portman – “Black Swan”
Runner-Up: Annette Bening – “The Kids Are All Right”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Winner: Christian Bale – “The Fighter”
Runner-Up: Geoffrey Rush – “The King’s Speech”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Winner: Melissa Leo – “The Fighter”
Runner-Up: Hailee Steinfeld – “True Grit”

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Winner: “The King’s Speech”
Runner-Up: “Inception”

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Winner: “The Social Network”
Runner-Up: “Toy Story 3”

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
Winner: “In a Better World”
Runner-Up: “Incendies”

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
Winner: “Toy Story 3”
Runner-Up: “How to Train Your Dragon”

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
Winner: “Inside Job”
Runner-Up: “Exit Through the Gift Shop”

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
Winner: “True Grit”
Runner-Up: “Inception”

BEST EDITING
Winner: “The Social Network”
Runner-Up: “The King’s Speech”

BEST ART DIRECTION
Winner: “The King’s Speech”
Runner-Up: “Inception”

BEST COSTUME DESIGN
Winner: “Alice in Wonderland”
Runner-Up: “The King’s Speech”

BEST SOUND MIXING
Winner: “Inception”
Runner-Up: “The Social Network”

BEST SOUND EDITING
Winner: “Inception”
Runner-Up: “TRON: Legacy”

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
Winner: “Inception”
Runner-Up: “Alice in Wonderland”

BEST MAKEUP
Winner: “The Wolfman”
Runner-Up: “Barney’s Version”

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
Winner: “The Social Network”
Runner-Up: “The King’s Speech”

BEST ORIGINAL SONG
Winner: “We Belong Together” from “Toy Story 3”
Runner-Up: “If I Rise” from “127 Hours”

BEST ANIMATED SHORT FILM
Winner: “The Gruffalo”
Runner-Up: “Day and Night”

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT FILM
Winner: “Strangers No More”
Runner-Up: “Poster Girl”

BEST LIVE-ACTION FILM
Winner: “Na Wewe”
Runner-Up: “The Confession”

Enjoy the Oscars folks!

Arcade Fire and Muse Win at The Grammys!

February 14, 2011 1 comment

Okay, I know that this is a film site, and normally, I could give a flying crap about the Grammy Awards. Not exactly my cup of tea. However, I just had to post this in congratulations. I’d say that I have about a three-way tie for what I would call my favorite band, and tonight two of those bands took home big awards. Muse won Best Rock Album and The Arcade Fire somehow managed to take down BEST ALBUM OF THE YEAR, beating out much more popular (and dare I say unimpressive) artists Lady Antebellum, Eminem, Lady Gaga and Katy Perry. What a hell of a great night.

Muse fans aren’t that hard to come by anymore, but if you haven’t heard any of Arcade Fire’s three CDs, then you should do yourself a favor and listen to them, now. I’ve provided a couple of videos to make the job easier.

This is one of my personal favorites from their 2nd CD, “Neon Bible”:

And here is a song off of their now Grammy Award-winning album “The Suburbs”:

All right. Now back to movies.

Golden Globes – Postgame

January 17, 2011 Leave a comment

Okay. I will admit that the HFPA really did do all right by me, last night. Overall they made some pretty good decisions, especially in officially solidifying “The Social Network” as the frontrunner for the Best Picture Oscar. If “The King’s Speech” can’t win here, I really can’t imagine it winning anywhere.

However, even if the Golden Globes released a list of their Top 100 favorite films, and their list happened to match mine movie per movie, I would still not take up with them. An organization that will accept bribery and star-fucking as good reasons to nominate “Burlesque” or “Alice in Wonderland” as Best Picture of the Year is no friend of mine.

Here is the full list of winners from last night:

BEST PICTURE, DRAMA
“Black Swan”
“The Fighter”
“Inception”
“The King’s Speech”
“The Social Network”

Best Picture (Musical/Comedy)
“Alice in Wonderland”
“Burlesque”
“The Kids Are All Right”
“Red”
“The Tourist”

Best Director
Darren Aronofsky, “Black Swan”
David O. Russell, “The Fighter”
Christopher Nolan, “Inception”
Tom Hooper, “The King’s Speech”
David Fincher, “The Social Network”

Best Actor (Drama)
Jesse Eisenberg, “The Social Network”
Colin Firth, “The King’s Speech”
James Franco, “127 Hours”
Ryan Gosling, “Blue Valentine”
Mark Wahlberg, “The Fighter”

Best Actress (Drama)
Halle Berry, “Frankie and Alice”
Nicole Kidman, “Rabbit Hole”
Jennifer Lawrence, “Winter’s Bone”
Natalie Portman, “Black Swan”
Michelle Williams, “Blue Valentine”

Best Actor (Musical/Comedy)
Johnny Depp, “Alice in Wonderland”
Johnny Depp, “The Tourist”
Paul Giamatti, “Barney’s Version”
Jake Gyllenhaal, “Love and Other Drugs”
Kevin Spacey, “Casino Jack”

Best Actress (Musical/Comedy)
Annette Bening, “The Kids Are All Right”
Anne Hathaway, “Love and Other Drugs”
Angelina Jolie, “The Tourist”
Julianne Moore, “The Kids Are All Right”
Emma Stone, “Easy A”

Best Supporting Actor
Christian Bale, “The Fighter”
Michael Douglas, “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps”
Andrew Garfield, “The Social Network”
Jeremy Renner, “The Town”
Geoffrey Rush, “The King’s Speech”

Best Supporting Actress
Amy Adams, “The Fighter”
Helena Bonham Carter, “The King’s Speech”
Mila Kunis, “Black Swan”
Melissa Leo, “The Fighter”
Jacki Weaver, “Animal Kingdom”

Best Screenplay
Christopher Nolan, “Inception”
Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg, “The Kids Are All Right”
David Seidler, “The King’s Speech”
Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy, “127 Hours”
Aaron Sorkin, “The Social Network”

Best Foreign Language Film
“Biutiful”
“The Concert”
“The Edge”
“I Am Love”
“In a Better World”

Best Animated Feature
“Despicable Me”
“How to Train Your Dragon”
“The Illusionist”
“Tangled”
“Toy Story 3”

Best Original Score
Danny Elfman, “Alice in Wonderland”
Hans Zimmer, “Inception”
Alexandre Desplat, “The King’s Speech”
A.R. Rahman, “127 Hours”
Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, “The Social Network”

Best Original Song
“Bound to You” from “Burlesque”
“You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me” from “Burlesque”
“There’s a Place for Us” from “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader”
“Coming Home” from “Country Strong”
“I See the Light” from “Tangled”

Cecil B. De Mille Award
Robert De Niro

As far as my predictions go, I had a very good night. Some of these weren’t the most difficult awards to predict, but I still amassed a record of 12 out of 14, or 85 percent. That might be the best record that I’ve ever had on this particular award show. If it hadn’t have been Johnny Depp getting screwed by two nomination vote-splitting or an absolute upset like no other in Best Foreign Language Film, I would have had a perfect score.

If you had been within one hundred feet of my apartment at one o’clock in the morning (I had to DVR the show since I was working on set during the airtime), you would have heard a chorus of whoops and hollers at every “Social Network” victory. I was particularly ecstatic upon hearing Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ names being called, for not only was that one of the film’s most difficult nominations to win, but that moment pretty much sealed its Best Picture victory.

The acting victories were literally identical to the BFCA wins, with Firth, Portman, Bale and Leo all going home with awards. In the Musical/Comedy section, Annette Bening made her last stand at putting up a fight against Natalie for the Oscar, but I really don’t think it will be enough (despite Bening getting a full ovation and Portman only a few random stands). Paul Giamatti pulled out a not-so-surprising but really cool win over Johnny Depp and Jake Gyllenhaal.

Obviously, the talk of the night was Ricky Gervais’ absolutely no-holds-barred hosting job which bordered on a Comedy Central Roast. I’ve heard things such as network executives swearing that it will be the end of the comic’s career, but for me, the best part of the show was waiting for what he was going to say next. I mean, come on. When you’re that rich and that famous, there is absolutely no reason not to verbally macerated on national television. I haven’t laughed as hard in a long time as when Ricky referred to Bruce Willis as Ashton Kutcher’s dad.

The best part of the night, and ironic for me, since I really don’t care much about the television portion of the awards, was Chris Colfer’s win for “Glee.” Sometimes you see a performer put on their phony “I never would have imagined” face. You could tell that this kid had expected hell to freeze over and then thaw again before he would win this award. The shock, awe and pure joy in his face was just a memorable sight. And while I really don’t enjoy “Glee” so much, both Colfer and Jane Lynch’s performances are far and away the only things that keep it afloat in my attention span. Congrats to both of them.

Well, the critics have officially had their say. All that’s left are those in the industry, and I can only hope that they greet “The Social Network” with as much warmth and gratitude as their judges have. And since it has now received nominations, at least, from every single Hollywood guild, the horizon is looking pretty damned bright.