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“The Dark Knight Rises” Villains Revealed

January 19, 2011 Leave a comment

Well, it has been months and months of speculation about just what the hell the next Batman movie is going to be about and who’s going to be in it. We’ve been through Joseph Gordon Levitt to Marion Cotillard to Phillip Seymour Hoffman with rumors ranging from the Riddler to Harley Quinn and the Penguin. Now, we have the official news from Christopher Nolan, himself.

That’s right, Warner Brothers reports that it’s going to be Catwoman, and Anne Hathaway is playing the part. This will be the first time Catwoman has been portrayed on screen since 1992 (I refuse to acknowledge the 2004 film because, really, what’s the point?). Anne Hathaway won the part in a competition that included, well, virtually every young actress in Hollywood. A fantastic choice if I do say so, myself. Hathaway is not only, what I would consider, one of the top ten most gorgeous women in show business, but an amazing actress to boot. Whether or not this part will require the same level of acting chops as the Joker (if that’s even possible) is a big question. However, it should be interesting to finally have some real sexual tension, or sexuality in general, in a Nolan Batman film.

In other news, the lid is off on who Tom Hardy will be portraying. I reported back in October that Hardy would be rejoining Nolan in the new film after a very successful venture with “Inception.” We now know that Hardy will be portraying Bane, the teddy bear-wielding, prison-born villain with drug-induced super-strength. Bane is best known for breaking Batman’s back in the comic book series. Tom Hardy is probably one of the best casting choices in a film since, well, Heath Ledger in the “The Dark Knight.” He’s an extremely capable and versatile actor, known for supporting roles in “Black Hawk Down” and “Band of Brothers,” as well as a lead role in the British psycho-drama “Bronson.” He is now ready to break out into super-stardom, and a great turn in this closing Batman chapter could do the trick.

Now, many people remember Bane being portrayed in “Batman and Robin,” really quite stupidly, if I may say so. But really, what didn’t “Batman and Robin” portray, stupidly? Still, the enormous character of Bane is difficult to imagine fitting into the realistic, contemporary atmosphere of Christopher Nolan’s Gotham City universe. This is one of the more fantastical comic book characters and I have trouble imagining the villain without the movie descending into silliness. However, in Nolan I trust. If he can twist the Joker into completely different, yet wholly believable and terrifying concept, then I believe that he can knock this one out of the park, as well.

All of this news is a bit less exciting to me as I would like, given the studio’s recent decision not to shoot in Chicago. Rumors are circulating that principal photography will be shot in Los Angeles, the UK, Louisiana and probably Detroit. This just angers me on so many levels. It pisses me off that one of the best parts of watching the first two installments is getting to see so much my town featured, not to mention the fact that Chicago is a perfect backdrop. I’m also pissed that Chicago won’t pony up the same incentives that other cities, like Detroit, are. Screw all of the parties involved. But hey, maybe if we’re lucky, Detroit can get hit by a meteor, get wiped off the face of the Earth and the production will come home where it belongs. I will keep you updated.

But seriously, folks, how do you find a better location? It bleeds Gotham.

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.

Golden Globe Predictions

January 15, 2011 2 comments

Well, it’s that time of the year, and that time happens to be my least favorite. As much as I love and anticipate the Oscars, I absolutely loathe the Golden Globes. I feel that they are kind of a travesty to cinema and the entire awards tradition. If there was ever a group that completely sold out to bribery, star-fucking and just straight-up bad taste, it would be the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. That being said, they are still the second most publicized awards presentation of the year and I must give them some kind of credence.

If “The Social Network”‘s never-ending streak of victories was to falter at all during the season, I would hope it to be here. That way, I can chalk it up with the rest of the Globes’ terrible decisions over the years. If it wins, all the better for it. To be honest, I would almost feel more comfortable with it losing the HFPA’s Best Picture. In the last six years, the award for Best Picture has only criss-crossed between Oscar and Globe once, and that was for “Slumdog Millionaire.” Here’s a rough breakdown of the HFPA’s comparison to the Academy:

AMPAS
2009: “The Hurt Locker”
2008: “Slumdog Millionaire”
2007: “No Country for Old Men”
2006: “The Departed”
2005: “Crash”
2004: “Million Dollar Baby”

HFPA
2009: “Avatar”
2008: “Slumdog Millionaire”
2007: “Atonement”
2006: “Babel”
2005: “Brokeback Mountain”
2004: “The Aviator”

Outside of “Brokeback Mountain” and “The Aviator,” I think the Academy has picked the better film every year since then. Therefore, I almost take “The Social Network” losing Best Picture tomorrow night to be a compliment, as long as it goes on to win the Oscar.

If there was a film that could curry enough favor to take down “The Social Network,” it will probably be “The King’s Speech.” Aside from having not that great taste, the Globes also have a penchant for picking films with a little more international flair. At least, they seem to not go for films with thoroughly American themes, in the case of “The Departed,” “No Country for Old Men” and “The Hurt Locker.” I would definitely put “The Social Network” into this category.

However, I will not lose faith. Maybe, for once, the Globes will shock me with brilliance and “The Social Network” will edge out a victory. For sure, I cannot imagine any other film winning for Director or Screenplay, and if it can take down those two, why not the big one?

Here are my predictions:

BEST PICTURE, DRAMA
“The Social Network”
r/u: “The King’s Speech”

BEST PICTURE, MUSICAL/COMEDY
“The Kids Are All Right”
r/u: “Alice in Wonderland”

BEST DIRECTOR
David Fincher – “The Social Network”
r/u: Darren Aronofsky – “Black Swan”

BEST ACTOR, DRAMA
Colin Firth – “The King’s Speech”
r/u: James Franco – “127 Hours”

BEST ACTRESS, DRAMA
Natalie Portman – “Black Swan”
r/u: Nicole Kidman – “Rabbit Hole”

BEST ACTOR, MUSICAL/COMEDY (the most wide-open category; could really be anyone)
Johnny Depp – “Alice in Wonderland”
r/u: Paul Giamatti – “Barney’s Version”

BEST ACTRESS, MUSICAL/COMEDY
Annette Bening – “The Kids Are All Right”
r/u: Anne Hathaway – “Love and Other Drugs”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Christian Bale – “The Fighter”
r/u: Geoffrey Rush – “The King’s Speech”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Melissa Leo – “The Fighter”
r/u: Helena Bonham Carter – “The King’s Speech”

BEST SCREENPLAY
“The Social Network”
r/u: “The King’s Speech”

BEST ANIMATED FILM
“Toy Story 3”
r/u: “How to Train Your Dragon”

BEST FOREIGN FILM
“Biutiful”
r/u: “I Am Love”

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
“The Social Network”
r/u: “Inception”

BEST ORIGINAL SONG
“You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me” – “Burlesque”
r/u: “I See the Light” – “Tangled”

Critics Choice Awards – Postgame

January 15, 2011 1 comment

Damn it, David Fincher, why weren’t you at the Critics Choice Awards last night? I really want to know. If you tell me that you’re shooting “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” fine. Yet, if you tell me that it’s because you’re annoyed with the awards season coverage, grow up. The kind of awards sweep that you are experiencing right now, you probably won’t experience again for a long time, if ever again. You should appreciate it while you have it.

All right, I’m done with my personalized whine to “The Social Network”‘s director. Let’s move on to the awards themselves. The three films that definitely had the biggest nights were “The Social Network,” “The Fighter” and “Inception.” It was kind of a mute point that after winning 28 out of 31 (90 percent) of all of this year’s critics awards, it would have been kind of unlikely for “The Social Network” to lose the Critics Choice Award for Best Picture. The film also racked up awards for Director, Adapted Screenplay and Original Score.

“The Fighter” had the biggest night in regards to acting honors, as well it should have. Both Christian Bale and Melissa Leo took home their respective supporting awards, while the entire cast was given the Best Ensemble Cast Award. Meanwhile, “Inception” quite literally swept the technical categories. The film picked up awards for Best Action Film, Cinematography, Editing, Art Direction, Sound and Visual Effects. Certainly a good night for Christopher Nolan and his collaborative team.

The lead acting awards went to Colin Firth and Natalie Portman, who can now probably be considered locks for Oscar. Natalie Portman, I am thrilled about, being that she may even win my own personal award for Best Lead Actress. Yet, Colin Firth, I’m a bit disappointed about. The performance was great, but really nothing that I would consider sweep-worthy. I’d much rather have seen him win last year for “A Single Man,” which, in my opinion, was the best male performance of the year and a career-best for the actor.

Overall, there were more things about the awards that I liked then disliked. The highlights were obviously all of “The Social Network”‘s accolades. Let the train keep on chugging. I also could not be more thrilled about both Melissa Leo and Christian Bale. Phenomenal work that deserves recognition. Please let this also be a good sign that “Inception” might possibly be able to beat out “Alice in Wonderland” for Art Direction at the Oscars. That would make me ever so delighted.

Of all the things that I didn’t like, one was definitely a whopper. I simply cannot account for “Waiting for Superman”‘s victory in Best Documentary. I’ve heard the term “Year of the Doc” thrown around over the years, but I truly believe it to be a reality for the current annual. There is a wealth of incredible documentaries to choose from this awards season, and this is what they go with. “Superman” is a good film, but it is not a phenomenal film. There are too many holes in its argument and it just doesn’t have enough of an edge. With competition like “Inside Job,” “Restrepo” and “Exit Through the Gift Shop,” I have no idea how this film won, but I’m fairly sure that we can thank Oprah for it.

Here’s a full list of the BFCA winners:

Best Picture: “The Social Network”
Best Director: David Fincher – “The Social Network”
Best Actor: Colin Firth – “The King’s Speech”
Best Actress: Natalie Portman – “Black Swan”
Best Young Actress: Hailee Steinfeld – “True Grit”
Best Supporting Actor: Christian Bale – “The Fighter”
Best Supporting Actress: Melissa Leo – “The Fighter”
Best Ensemble: “The Fighter”
Best Adapted Screenplay: “The Social Network”
Best Original Screenplay: “The King’s Speech”
Best Foreign Language Film: “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”
Best Documentary Feature: “Waiting for Superman”
Best Animation: “Toy Story 3”
Best Comedy: “Easy A”
Best Picture Made for TV: “The Pacific”
Best Action Movie: “Inception”
Best Cinematography: “Inception”
Best Editing: “Inception”
Best Art Direction: “Inception”
Best Visual Effects: “Inception”
Best Sound: “Inception”
Best Makeup: “Alice in Wonderland”
Best Costume Design: “Alice in Wonderland”
Best Song: If I Rise – “127 Hours”
Best Score: “The Social Network”

As far as my predictions go, I was correct on 18 out of 25 categories. That’s about a 72 percent ratio, which I’ll take. I don’t think anyone could have predicted how well “Inception” was going to fare with the technical awards.

That’s it for the Critics Choice Awards. You can expect my predictions for the Golden Globes to come very shortly.

Critics Choice Awards – My Predictions

January 13, 2011 Leave a comment

So this weekend is chock-full of awards shows, with the Critics Choice Awards (voted on by the BFCA) premiering Friday night and the Golden Globes on Sunday. I’ll be bringing my predictions for the HFPA (which are always quite a question mark, even in a race like this one) at some point this weekend, but I thought I’d give a little preview of the Critics Choice tonight.

Ultimately, this is a no-brainer. Nearly every critic in the country and their mothers…hell their whole damn extended families have unanimously praised “The Social Network” as the best film of the year. The Golden Globes may pull a rabbit out of their ass and award either “The King’s Speech” or “Black Swan,” but that won’t pull much weight with the Oscars. Since the HFPA and the Academy have only made the same decision once in the last six years, it’s almost bad luck for a film to win at Golden Globes.

Here are my predictions for the Critics Choice Awards:

Best Picture
R/U: “Black Swan”
“The Fighter”
“Inception”
“The King’s Speech”
“127 Hours”
WINNER: “The Social Network”
“The Town”
“Toy Story 3″
“True Grit”
“Winter’s Bone”

Best Director
R/U: Darren Aronofsky, “Black Swan”
Christopher Nolan, “Inception”
Tom Hooper, “The King’s Speech”
Danny Boyle, “127 Hours”
WINNER: David Fincher, “The Social Network”
Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, “True Grit”

Best Actor
Jeff Bridges, “True Grit”
Robert Duvall, “Get Low”
R/U: Jesse Eisenberg, “The Social Network”
WINNER: Colin Firth, “The King’s Speech”
James Franco, “127 Hours”
Ryan Gosling, “Blue Valentine”

Best Actress
R/U: Annette Bening, “The Kids Are All Right”
Nicole Kidman, “Rabbit Hole”
Jennifer Lawrence, “Winter’s Bone”
WINNER: Natalie Portman, “Black Swan”
Noomi Rapace, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”
Michelle Williams, “Blue Valentine”

Best Supporting Actor
WINNER: Christian Bale, “The Fighter”
Andrew Garfield, “The Social Network”
Jeremy Renner, “The Town”
Sam Rockwell, “Conviction”
Mark Ruffalo, “The Kids Are All Right”
R/U: Geoffrey Rush, “The King’s Speech”

Best Supporting Actress
Amy Adams, “The Fighter”
Helena Bonham Carter, “The King’s Speech”
Mila Kunis, “Black Swan”
WINNER: Melissa Leo, “The Fighter”
R/U: Hailee Steinfeld, “True Grit”
Jacki Weaver, “Animal Kingdom”

Best Young Actor/Actress
Elle Fanning, “Somewhere”
WINNER: Jennifer Lawrence, “Winter’s Bone”
Chloe Grace Moretz, “Let Me In”
Chloe Grace Moretz, “Kick-Ass”
Kodi Smit-McPhee, “Let Me In”
R/U: Hailee Steinfeld, “True Grit”

Best Acting Ensemble
WINNER: “The Fighter”
“The Kids Are All Right”
“The King’s Speech”
R/U: “The Social Network”
“The Town”

Best Original Screenplay
“Another Year”
“Black Swan”
“The Fighter”
“Inception”
R/U: “The Kids Are All Right”
WINNER: “The King’s Speech”

Best Adapted Screenplay
“127 Hours”
WINNER: “The Social Network”
“The Town”
R/U: “Toy Story 3″
“True Grit”
“Winter’s Bone”

Best Art Direction
R/U: “Alice in Wonderland”
“Black Swan”
WINNER: “Inception”
“The King’s Speech”
“True Grit”

Best Cinematography
R/U: “Black Swan”
“Inception”
“The King’s Speech”
“127 Hours”
WINNER: “True Grit”

Best Costume Design
WINNER: “Alice in Wonderland”
“Black Swan”
R/U: “The King’s Speech”
“True Grit”

Best Film Editing
“Black Swan”
R/U: “Inception”
“127 Hours”
WINNER: “The Social Network”

Best Makeup
R/U: “Alice in Wonderland”
WINNER: “Black Swan”
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I”
“True Grit”

Best Score
“Black Swan”
R/U: “Inception”
“The King’s Speech”
WINNER: “The Social Network”
“True Grit”

Best Song
“You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me” from “Burlesque”
“If I Rise” from “127 Hours”
R/U: “I See the Light” from “Tangled”
“We Belong Together” from “Toy Story 3″
WINNER: “Shine” from “Waiting for Superman”

Best Sound
“Black Swan”
WINNER: “Inception”
“127 Hours”
R/U: “The Social Network”
“Toy Story 3″

Best Visual Effects
“Alice in Wonderland”
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I”
WINNER: “Inception”
R/U: “TRON Legacy”

Best Animated Feature
“Despicable Me”
R/U: “How to Train Your Dragon”
“The Illusionist”
“Tangled”
WINNER: “Toy Story 3″

Best Action Movie
WINNER: “Inception”
“Kick-Ass”
“Red”
R/U: “The Town”
“Unstoppable”

Best Comedy
“Cyrus”
“Date Night”
WINNER: “Easy A”
“Get Him to the Greek”
R/U: “I Love You Phillip Morris”
“The Other Guys”

Best Foreign Language Film
R/U: “Biutiful”
“I Am Love”
WINNER: “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”

Best Documentary Feature
R/U: “Exit Through the Gift Shop”
WINNER: “Inside Job”
“Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work”
“Restrepo”
“The Tillman Story”
“Waiting for Superman”

Best Picture Made for Television
R/U: “The Pacific”
WINNER: “Temple Grandin”
“You Don’t Know Jack”

“The Fighter” Review

January 6, 2011 2 comments

Every year, there seems to be a film that I go into not expecting anything from and not really looking forward to, whatsoever. Then, I see it, and my opinion of the film couldn’t shift more radically. This year, that film is David O’Russell’s “The Fighter.”

There were many aspects that I had stacked up against this film before viewing it. One was, let’s face it, it’s a boxing movie, and not since “Raging Bull” has a film about that particular sport ever come close to blowing me away. Boxing films are also usually a bit too sentimental for my taste. Also, I wasn’t sure if maverick director David O’Russell would be able to hold on to his originality for this venture, or if he would effectively sell out in the face of potential box office success. All of these questions would be answered.

“The Fighter” tells the very true story of Mickey Ward, played by Mark Wahlberg, a street cleaner from Boston with dreams of being a boxer. However, his career has been managed, or rather mis-managed, his whole life by his over-bearing mother (Melissa Leo) and former boxer turned crack-addict brother, Dickey Ward (Christian Bale). One day, he meets his golden ticket in the form of a sexy bartender (Amy Adams) who convinces him to ditch his dysfunctional family in order to succeed at his dream. However, his loved ones refuse to go quietly and the odd group must find a way to work together to achieve any hope of victory.

This film is phenomenal. It had me from the opening shots of Dickey air-punching Mickey from a POV approach. It had me from Mickey calling his father a silverback gorilla after he chases down his stoned son through a backyard. It had me when it literally made fun of me, and other film snobs, when Mickey tries to show off by taking Adams to a snooty, French arthouse film. This film had me for nearly the entire film.

David O’Russell (“Three Kings,” “I Heart Huckabees”) has never quite made a movie like this before. Even when his former fare occasionally gets serious, it never loses its quirky, tongue-in-cheek essence. Here, the director is not necessarily fearless or even experimental, in a word, but not beholding to expectations of what this should be like if he made it. It’s somewhere between a crowd-pleasing, fist-pounding extravaganza and a subtle character study into the depths of family, addiction and self-worth.

One thing’s for sure about both the writing and direction of “The Fighter.” It’s all heart. Despite a few hitches in regard to how Mickey’s motley crew of an entourage comes together, the film almost never feels superficial or forced. The characters and their relationships all feel real and this family dynamic is one that will not soon be forgotten in the world of cinema. Another important note pertains to the setting. It seems that everywhere one turns now, there is a “Boston-themed” movie. “The Departed,” “Gone Baby Gone,” “The Town” and “Mystic River.” Many of these are phenomenal films. Yet of all of them, it’s “The Fighter” that truly uses the community atmosphere of Boston as not only a setting, but a character in itself. The streets and their people breathe the material and give it new life.

If the Oscars had ever got around to creating a “Best Ensemble Cast” award (they won’t, but there’s always wishful thinking), I don’t see how any film could possibly be more deserving of such an honor this year than the one in question. Every performance pulls its weight and is worthy of recognition. Even the bit parts, from Ward’s half dozen sisters, his rebellious father and a charismatic cop-turned-trainer whose character actually played himself in the film. Wahlberg is obviously the weakest link, and yet it is still one of his best turns.

Amy Adams, who has never had a more rebellious or fiery part, makes the audience fall head over heels for her. Meanwhile, the other female performance is one for the ages. I remember back when Melissa Leo had a much smaller and unrecognized role in Alejandro Gaonzalez Inarritu’s “21 Grams,” and I was the only one who was noting her performances as one of the highlights. Now, she’s two steps away from potentially winning an Academy Award. To go from obscurity to recognition this late in life cannot be the easiest feat, and yet Leo has more than proven that it can be done.

It’s no joke, however, that this film belongs to Christian Bale. Bale has had a long career with ups and downs and some very fine performances dating all the way back to his incredible childhood role in Steven Spielberg’s “Empire of the Sun.” Fans of his have long wondered when he would finally come across the role that would land him an Oscar nomination. I have a feeling that with this role, the buck won’t stop with just a nomination. This is the crowning jewel of Bale’s relatively young career. He walks a thin character tightrope between an overbearing, drug-addicted older brother whom the audience loathes and a sympathetic, washed-up father and former boxer who can’t seem to catch a break. Both elements of the role he has nailed down to a “t” and his work makes the audience await his every emotion with eager anticipation.

Probably the biggest question on my mind when entering into this film was whether it would be a “Rocky” or a “Raging Bull,” as it seems that nearly all boxing movies are in one way or another. I was pleasantly surprised to discover the answer: neither. “The Fighter” is an almost wholly original concept for a boxing film, or any film. It’s as gritty as it is lofty and as exciting as it is dramatic. It’s as much an in-depth character-study as it is a gloriously narrative-driven journey of hope and adventure. Throw in a few phenomenal performances, and you’ve got one of the best films of 2010.

GRADES:           A-            * * * * 1/2 / * * * * *           9.0 / 10.0

Chicago Film Critics Pick “The Social Network”

December 20, 2010 Leave a comment

So, some nice news from the home front. It’s just been announced that my town of Chicago has picked “The Social Network” as its number one film of the year. I can now rest easy.

Aside from that, however, I’m afraid that these awards are really kind of boring. Nice to see “Exit Through the Gift Shop” getting a consistent amount of love. Hopefully, it will gain enough traction to at least make it to a nomination for Best Documentary. Hailee Steinfeld is really starting to rack in the awards, as well, though I don’t think she has much of a chance. The Academy loves to nominate child actors, but only once in a blue moon do they actually hand over the gold to them.

Aside from the possible backlash that might be headed it’s way, I still see absolutely no boredom or regret over this unprecedented domination of the awards season. As I’ve said since the first time I saw it, this is one of the best films I’ve ever seen. It is nearly flawless, down to the last detail. I also don’t think there has ever been a film that better defines my generation. I don’t think that we’re likely to see a film this good come along for some time.

Check out the continuing tally of “The Social Network”‘s critical wins and nominations here.

I have the full list of winners after the jump or you can read the official press release from the CFCA.

Best Picture
“Black Swan”
“Inception”
“The King’s Speech”
“The Social Network”
“Winter’s Bone”

Read more…

Screen Actors Guild Nominations: My Thoughts

December 16, 2010 Leave a comment

While trying not to put the cart before the horse, it is important to realize that the SAG is the real deal. What we have here is the most accurate precursor in regards to matching up to what the Oscar nominations will look like.

First of all, the actors make up, 3 times over, the largest contingent of the Academy, with producers and executives in 2nd, sound personnel in 3rd and writers in 4th. And while Best Ensemble does not always line up with Best Picture, the singular achievement nominations have lined up with Oscars, per say, about 80 to 90 percent of the time. Last year, was perhaps the most similar, with only 1 nominee in Best Supporting Actress not making it to Oscar (Diane Kruger). Best Actor, Actress and Supporting Actress lined up perfectly.

That being said, I’m mostly happy with these nominations, despite a few hiccups. Without a doubt, the most shocking and disturbing omission is Andrew Garfield in “The Social Network.” I thought that, if anything, he would be locked and Jesse Eisenberg would still have an uphill battle, despite all of the critical love. However, Garfield was the heart and soul of the film and anyone who can blaze through Sorkin dialogue, while still maintaining that level of emotion and integrity, deserves recognition.

The trouble is, who is to blame for this slight. If it is John Hawkes, then I cannot mourn for too long, because he is the one man that I want to appear in the eventual Oscar lineup ahead of Garfield. John Hawkes gives, quite simply, one of the best performances of the year and a true underdog story to boot. However, if it is Jeremy Renner who passed Andrew Garfield by, then I am appalled. Renner was absolutely stellar in “The Hurt Locker,” realistic, unique and all heart. In “The Town,” he is good, maybe the best performance in the film, but really nothing special at all. I still cannot believe the amount of buzz he’s receiving.

Another weird turn this morning was Hilary Swank getting in for her only slightly above average performance in “Conviction,” knocking out critical favorites Lesley Manville in “Another Year” and Michelle Williams in “Blue Valentine.” What’s really weird about this is her inclusion, but not Sam Rockwell or Juliette Lewis, the individuals in the film that people have actually been talking about. A true out-of-the-blue nomination, and really kind of a hilarious one seeing that she is once again up against Annette Bening, who lost the Best Actress race to Swank twice in the last 11 years.

A little known fact, if Lesley Manville is not nominated for an Oscar, she will be the first woman to win the National Board of Review award for Best Actress and not go on to an Oscar nod since the year 1990 when Mia Farrow failed to secure a nomination for Woody Allen’s “Alice.” In superstitious terms, that’s a long streak to be broken.

Mila Kunis made a surprise appearance here. Kind of boggled by that, because as funny and peppy as she is, it’s really not that solid of a performance. Barbara Hershey was a standout, if ever anyone could stand out around Natalie Portman’s brilliance.

Now, the good things. I’ve already addressed my absolute elation for John Hawkes come-from-behind nomination, even if he has a long shot, even if hell does freeze over, of actually winning. I must also congratulate Jesse Eisenberg, who has now all but engraved his nomination in cement. Truly brilliant work. and while I haven’t seen “True Grit,” it’s nice to see Jeff Bridges show up here, especially after his snub at the Golden Globes.

While I wasn’t really expecting any kind of showing for it, it’s kind of sad to see yet another Christopher Nolan film snubbed from the Ensemble Cast category, let alone any other category in the case of “Inception.” True, the first thing the mind goes to when it comes to this film is the visuals, the story and the direction. Yet, it is an ensemble piece, through and through, with so many actors (Leonardo DiCaprio, Ellen Page, Joesph Gordon Levitt, Ken Watanabe, Cillian Murphy, Marion Cotillard, and, of course, Tom Hardy) all pulling their weight more than needed. And while “Black Swan” does have decent performances all around, it’s really Natalie Portman’s show. One deserved this nomination more than the other, and it’s going home empty-handed.

My longshot predictions for the win would probably go like this:

BEST ENSEMBLE CAST
“The King’s Speech”
alt: “The Fighter”

BEST ACTOR
Colin Firth – “The King’s Speech”
alt: James Franco – “127 Hours”

BEST ACTRESS
Annette Bening “The Kids Are All Right”
alt: Natalie Portman – “Black Swan”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Christian Bale – “The Fighter”
alt: Geoffrey Rush – “The King’s Speech

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Melissa Leo – “The Fighter”
alt: Helena Bonham Carter – “The King’s Speech

We shall see.

17th Screen Actors Guild Nominations

December 16, 2010 Leave a comment

All I will post my full reactions in the next few hours. In the meantime I leave you with one thought: John Hawkes, John Hawkes, JOHN GODDAMN HAWKES!!!!!!! Thank you very much.

BEST ENSEMBLE CAST
“Black Swan”
“The Fighter”
“The Kids Are All Right”
“The King’s Speech”
“The Social Network”

BEST ACTOR in a LEADING ROLE
Jeff Bridges – “True Grit”
Robert Duvall – “Get Low”
Jesse Eisenberg – “The Social Network”
Colin Firth – “The King’s Speech”
James Franco – “127 Hours”

BEST ACTRESS in a LEADING ROLE
Annette Bening – “The Kids Are All Right”
Nicole Kidman – “The Rabbit Hole”
Jennifer Lawrence – “Winter’s Bone”
Natalie Portman – “Black Swan”
Hilary Swank – “Conviction”

BEST ACTOR in a SUPPORTING ROLE
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”

BEST ACTRESS in a SUPPORTING ROLE
Amy Adams – “The Fighter”
Helena Bonham-Carter – “The King’s Speech”
Mila Kunis – “Black Swan”
Melissa Leo – “The Fighter”
Hailee Steinfeld – “True Grit”

68th Annual Golden Globe Nominations

December 14, 2010 Leave a comment

Well, here they are. Some good things and bad things. It appears that “The King’s Speech” leads with 7, while “The Social Network” and “The Fighter” in a close second with 6.

More later, but I leave you with this. Leave it to the HFPA to nominate one of the worst-reviewed and worst received films of the year for 3 awards including Best Picture for the sole reason that it has Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie in it. I don’t know if it’s better to use that excuse, or to just say they have bad taste. Starfuckers, we salute you.

Best Picture, Drama
Black Swan
The Fighter
Inception
The King’s Speech
The Social Network

Best Picture, Comedy/Musical
Alice in Wonderland
Burlesque
The Kids Are All Right
Red
The Tourist

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

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
Michelle Williams, Blue Valentine
Natalie Portman, Black Swan

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

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

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

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
Aaron Sorkin, The Social Network
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

Best Original Score
Alexander Desplot – The King’s Speech
Danny Elfman – Alice in Wonderalnd
A.R. Robin – 127 Hours
Trent Reznor – The Social Network
Hans Zimmer – Inception

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

Best Animated Film
Tangled
Toy Story 3
How To Train Your Dragon
Despicable Me
The Illusionist

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