REVIEW: The Railway Man

10 08 2014

The Railway Man“War leaves a mark,” states Jonathan Teplitzky’s “The Railway Man,” a film that ironically leaves very little mark on the viewer.  Two hours of events chug along like a train just pulling out of the station, and there’s hardly any rewarding byproduct from enduring it.

Frank Cottrell Boyce and Andy Paterson’s script moseys through Eric Lomax’s autobiography, cutting back and forth between his time as a young soldier (Jeremy Irvine) trapped in a Japanese POW camp and his life as a haunted older man (Colin Firth) unable to connect with his wife (Nicole Kidman).  The format feels a little clunky, sure, but that fault pales in comparison to how blandly they present the story.  Nothing about “The Railway Man” seems meant to inspire thought about larger ideas, unless that’s what you’re making for dinner after the movie is over.

Firth does a nice job conveying the damage of his traumatic wartime experience; it’s almost as if he’s just doing a more reserved, understated reprise of his Oscar-winning role as Bertie from “The King’s Speech.”  But “The Railway Man” does a better job of conveying that isolation and sense of smallness with its striking, emotionally detached long shots than Firth does with any acting.

Teplitzky clearly knows how to make a film like this by the book, yet as a result, it comes across as rather cold and unfeeling.  I would have loved to have seen it delve more into the psychology of Eric, both when he’s emotionally scarred as a prisoner and when he embarks on a mysterious quest for revenge as a veteran.  Without such insight, “The Railway Man” just feels like a placeholder for a truly hard-hitting World War II flick to really sweep us off our feet.  C+2stars





Oscar Moment: Final 2012 Predictions, Part 2 (Supporting)

6 01 2013

With the 2012 Oscar race now immobile until nominations are announced Thursday morning, January 10, now it’s time to take one last look at the contenders and the pretenders before the dust settles.  Today, I’ll be looking at Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress, two categories replete with former winners and nominees all vying for Oscar glory.

See my predictions for Best Original Screenplay and Best Adapted Screenplay.

Best Supporting Actress

  1. Anne Hathaway, “Les Misérables
  2. Sally Field, “Lincoln
  3. Helen Hunt, “The Sessions
  4. Amy Adams, “The Master
  5. Nicole Kidman, “The Paperboy

The race is Anne Hathaway’s to lose, and I’d be amazed if she did.  Even though so many critics are against “Les Misérables,” few can deny the power of her performance.  Some of the snootier groups have snubbed her, but take a look at this impressive domination of the category!

Hathaway Dominance

Safe to say, wins from the Critics’ Choice Awards, Golden Globes, and SAG Awards should lead her charge to take the stage at the Kodak Theatre.  Or they will hear the people scream.

FYC Anne HathawayAlthough, in the event of a “Lincoln” sweep (and me sticking my head in an oven), Sally Field could go 3-for-3 and win here for “Lincoln.”  She’s certainly had her fair share of recognition along the precursor circuit, including a high-profile win from the New York Critics’ Circle.

But in a year that could crown Daniel Day-Lewis (and maybe Robert DeNiro) a three-time champion, people will be aware that they would be ranking Field in an elite pantheon with Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson, I bet they think twice and vote Hathaway.

Or maybe they vote Hunt, who’s all but assured a nomination for her work in “The Sessions.”  It’s the kind of role the Oscars eat up (good-hearted woman who likes to let loose), and the Best Actress of 1997 for “As Good As It Gets” has picked up the Big 3 nominations (Critics’ Choice, Golden Globe, SAG) along the way.  I think lukewarm support for the movie hurts her chances to win.  So does the fact that she’s competing against Anne Freaking Hathaway.

Beyond Hathaway, Field, and Hunt, the other two nominations are pretty much up for grabs.  The way I see it, there are 3 women vying for those two spots are Amy Adams for “The Master,” Maggie Smith for “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” and Nicole Kidman for “The Paperboy.”  Each has missed a key stop on the circuit: Adams crucially at SAG, Smith with the Globes and Critics’ Choice, and Kidman only with Critics’ Choice.

The PaperboyOn paper, the smart money would be on Nicole Kidman to snag a nomination.  SAG is always the best indicator of actors’ sentiment, and she also has a key Globe nod.

But the Golden Globes are notorious for sucking up to stars so they have to show up to the ceremony.  They are also notable for having many favorite actresses who seem to get nominated for just about anything they do, and this goes well beyond your obvious Meryl Streep.  Nicole Kidman has been nominated for a whopping 10 Golden Globes and has won 3.  So I take their nomination with a grain of salt.

SAG also usually throws a major out-of-left-field nominee into the fray, which at first sight could be considered Kidman.  (Then again, since Maggie Smith has shown up nowhere else, maybe that would be her.)  Last year, it was Armie Hammer for “J. Edgar,” although most thought it was Demian Bichir for “A Better Life” … until he got an Oscar nomination.  In 2010, it was Hilary Swank for “Conviction.”  2009 gave us Diane Kruger for “Inglourious Basterds.”

But “The Paperboy” is, well, quite frankly a bad movie.  And a part of me thinks the Academy will recoil at just how trashy and terrible it is.  There’s certainly precedent for an actor being nominated for a bad movie: Cate Blanchett got a Best Actress nomination for “Elizabeth: The Golden Age,” which had a 35% on Rotten Tomatoes, and Sean Penn was nominated for the 34% fresh “I Am Sam.”  “The Paperboy” currently sits at 39%.

I predicted the snob factor would keep out Melissa McCarthy of “Bridesmaids” last year because she was crass and defecated in a sink.  I was wrong.  McCarthy didn’t even have the Globe nod that Kidman earned.  So, with that in mind, I will predict Nicole Kidman to get a bizarre Best Supporting Actress nomination for a role that involves her urinating on Zac Efron’s face.

The other spot, I believe, will go to Amy Adams for “The Master.”  Yes, the SAG snub hurt.  But she’s a new Academy darling, garnering three Best Supporting Actress nominations in six years.  And I’ll continue to assert that the Academy, though perhaps not quite ready to anoint her with a statue quite yet, wants to increase the inevitability of her win.  At four nominations, the cries of “why hasn’t she won yet?” will grow louder and louder.

Best ExoticAlthough don’t get me wrong, maybe they will not go with a perennial Oscar bridesmaid but rather a crowned Oscar queen.

Two-time winner Maggie Smith’s SAG nod makes her a formidable foe, though the fact that the Globes didn’t nominate her is troubling.  They were big fans of “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” nominating it for Best Picture (musical/comedy) and Judi Dench for Best Actress.  If they loved it so much, where was Maggie Smith?  I suspect SAG got sentimental for a more senior member, like they did in 2010 for Robert Duvall in “Get Low.”

Another possibility I wouldn’t count out is Judi Dench for “Skyfall.”  It’s a sentimental swan song for Dench in the M role, and it will be one of her final roles since she’s going blind.  She won in 1998 for “Shakespeare in Love,” which she was in for all of six minutes.  In this meaty, tragic role, could the Academy be won over?  The BFCA was and gave her a Critics’ Choice Award nomination, although that was in a field of six.  I don’t think Dench is out of the question, but I would still be shocked if she cracked this field.

The BFCA also nominated Ann Dowd of “Compliance,” a character actor who has paid her dues … and now is paying for her own campaign.  She won Best Supporting Actress from the National Board of Review, although that group has faded in relevancy since they are no longer first out of the gate.  Perhaps a surprise nomination is in store for a hard-working non-star, in the Demian Bichir/Richard Jenkins mold?  A more relevant precedent, however, might be Jacki Weaver in “Animal Kingdom.”  However, she had the awards machine of Sony Pictures Classics working for her all fall.

But I’m sticking with Adams and Kidman.  I don’t have strong enough of a gut feeling to predict Dench or Dowd, and I don’t think Smith has enough heat to make it in the field.

Best Supporting Actor

  1. Robert DeNiro, “Silver Linings Playbook
  2. Tommy Lee Jones, “Lincoln
  3. Alan Arkin, “Argo
  4. Philip Seymour Hoffman, “The Master
  5. Javier Bardem, “Skyfall

Arkin

There are four set nominees in the field: DeNiro, Jones, Arkin, and Hoffman.  The latter three all scored the trifecta of nods from the BFCA, SAG, and HFPA, which essentially assures them nominations.  Last year saw two such actors, Leonardo DiCaprio and Tilda Swinton, get snubbed by the Academy.  I can’t pinpoint precisely why they got knocked out other than a strong field for DiCaprio in Best Actor and a strong competitor for Tilda Swinton in Rooney Mara.

The person I would assume is in the worst position is Philip Seymour Hoffman for “The Master” since it isn’t a slam-dunk Best Picture nominee like DeNiro, Jones, and Arkin’s movies are.  But Hoffman, the movie’s only SAG nominee, appears to be the one performance everyone can line up behind for the film.  And he’s been nominated for movies that did not play well with the Academy at large, as demonstrated by his nod for 2007’s “Charlie Wilson’s War.”

Argue as you might about the former being a sure thing because he missed out on a Golden Globe nomination, but watch his acceptance of their highest honor, the CecilB. DeMille.  Now tell me if you think the voting body of less than 100 would want to nominate someone after he essentially slapped them in the face a la Ricky Gervais?

If he’s nominated, I think DeNiro could win.  Though he has won twice, he hasn’t been nominated in two decades.  There’s a comeback narrative for one of the greatest actors of our time, and it may be too soon for Arkin and Hoffman to win again.  In the event of a “Lincoln” sweep, a rising tide could lift all ships including that of Tommy Lee Jones.

But who gets the fifth slot to compete against these four prior winners?  I had hoped it would be Eddie Redmayne or Russell Crowe for “Les Misérables,” but those are highly unlikely now.  If they were to pop up, put all your money on “Les Misérables” to win Best Picture.

Magic MikeCould it be Critics’ Choice nominee Matthew McConaughey for “Magic Mike?”  He’s had quite the career turnaround in 2012, and a nomination would be a nice pat on the back.  A nomination would be in the pattern of Robert Downey, Jr. in 2008 for “Tropic Thunder,” another unconventional comedic role from a resurgent actor.

McConaughey is unlikely, however, because the SAG Awards and Golden Globes overlooked him, two groups key to making people take Downey, Jr. seriously.  Though he won prestigious prizes from the New York Film Critics’ Circle and the National Society of Film Critics, McConaughey might have to wait until next year for his shot at Oscar glory.  Something tells me his massive weight loss for “The Dallas Buyer’s Club” is screaming Oscars 2013.

SAG didn’t leave off Javier Bardem for “Skyfall,” on the other hand.  Bardem, himself a prior winner in the category, would fit right in with the rest of the nominees.  His Silva from the movie would be the first Bond villain ever to be nominated for an Oscar, and though I was averse to his creepiness, others don’t seem to share my reservations.

Villains have been dominating the Best Supporting Actor category since Bardem’s win for “No Country for Old Men” in 2007.  There was Heath Ledger’s posthumous win for “The Dark Knight” and Christoph Waltz’s victory for “Inglourious Basterds.”  We’ve also seen nominations for Josh Brolin’s murderous monster in “Milk,” Stanley Tucci’s creepy rapist in “The Lovely Bones,” and Jeremy Renner’s tough-as-nails Jem from “The Town.”  Being bad has never been so good.

But the same argument could be made for Leonardo DiCaprio’s vile slave owner Calvin Candie in “Django Unchained.”  Tarantino wrote the despicable Hans Landa, the character that won Christoph Waltz an Oscar.  Could he earn DiCaprio his fourth Oscar nomination – or perhaps his first win?  I’d love to see it, but I’m worried about vote-splitting between DiCaprio and Christoph Waltz, back in the race for a character in “Django Unchained” not all that different than his Oscar-winning Hans Landa.

DjangoBoth DiCaprio and Waltz received nominations from the Golden Globes, but neither showed up on the Critics’ Choice list nor the SAG.  The latter can be explained by a lack of screeners being sent to the nominating committee, but the former is troubling.  I considered “Django Unchained” to be a non-factor in the season until it found some very vocal critical supporters and a large audience.  So I have to think at least one actor from the movie will show up, but I don’t think there’s a consensus on who that should be.

Waltz has won from a number of critics’ groups across the country, but none of them are particularly worth noting.  DiCaprio won from the National Board of Review, which is a far more significant accolade than anything Waltz has received.  If it was just Waltz from “Django Unchained” that DiCaprio had to contend with, I would predict him to receive his first Oscar nod since 2006’s “Blood Diamond.”  But there’s also Samuel L. Jackson from the movie, and many people are also a big fan of his performance.

Had “Django Unchained” unfurled earlier in the season, perhaps there would have been time for consensus to form around one actor.  DiCaprio could have helped himself by doing some press for the movie, yet he’s been remarkably silent.  The moment just doesn’t feel right for him either; I suspect 2013 will be more fortuitous for him with a juicy role in ‘The Great Gatsby” and another re-teaming with Martin Scorsese in “The Wolf of Wall Street.”

So, in the absence of consensus, I think vote splitting will knock out all Tarantino’s performers, paving the way for Javier Bardem’s fourth Oscar nomination.

Check back tomorrow, January 7, for my final predictions in the leading acting categories!





LISTFUL THINKING: 2012 Superlatives

1 01 2013

New Year’s Day always marks a very interesting balancing act, reflecting on the old while also ringing in the new.  So while people are still thinking about 2012, let me offer up the first annual Superlatives post for the films of 2012.  I’ve already weighed in with the best and worst 10 of 2012, but what about the other 80 movies of the year?  What about the performances?  What about all sorts of other things?  This is the post where I get all sorts of stuff floating in my mind out there.

For the sake of review, I’ll go ahead and re-list my 10 best and worst of 2012.

Top 10 of 2012

10 Best of 2012: “21 Jump Street,” “Argo,” “Hitchcock,” “Killing Them Softly,” “Looper,” “Bernie,” “Zero Dark Thirty,” “Les Misérables,” “The Master,” “The Queen of Versailles

Prometheus

Honorable Mentions: “Rust and Bone,” “Prometheus,” “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” “Wreck-It Ralph,” “End of Watch,” “Holy Motors

Worst 10 of 2012

10 Worst of 2012: “The Grey,” “The Bourne Legacy,” “John Carter,” “Gone,” “The Vow,” “Killer Joe,” “The Paperboy,” “The Deep Blue Sea,” “The Watch,” “Casa De Mi Padre

pitchperfect2

Honorable Mentions: “Pitch Perfect,” “Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap,” “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter,” “First Position,” “Keep the Lights On,” “Being Flynn

10 More 2012 Releases I Still Need to See: “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” “The Impossible,” “Promised Land,” “The Intouchables,” “Seven Psychopaths,” “Hyde Park on Hudson,” “Not Fade Away,” “Smashed,” “The House I Live In,” “Searching for Sugar Man”

Vanellope

5 Most Surprising Movies of 2012: “Wreck-It Ralph,” “Bernie,” “End of Watch,” “Hitchcock,” “21 Jump Street

Denzel Washington in Flight

5 Most Disappointing Movies of 2012: “The Dark Knight Rises,” “Django Unchained,” “Lincoln,” “Flight,” “The Bourne Legacy

Bachelorette

10 Most Forgettable Movies of 2012 (in alphabetical order): “Bachelorette,” “Hysteria,” “Jeff, Who Lives at Home,” “Lola Versus,” “Man on a Ledge,” “Men in Black III,” “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen,” “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World,” “Take This Waltz,” “Trouble with the Curve

Silver Linings Playbook

5 Most Rewatchable Movies of 2012: “21 Jump Street,” “Silver Linings Playbook,” “Wreck-It Ralph,” “Argo,” “Ted

Lincoln

5 Movies of 2012 I’m Glad I Saw But Will Never Watch Again: “Lincoln,” “Amour,” “The Invisible War,” “Compliance,” “ReGeneration

Killing Them Softly

5 Most Underrated Movies of 2012: “Killing Them Softly,” “Les Misérables,” “Prometheus,” “Safety Not Guaranteed,” “End of Watch

The Avengers

5 Most Overrated Movies of 2012: “The Sessions,” “Lincoln,” “Django Unchained,” “Life of Pi,” “The Avengers

PSH

5 Movies That Got Better with Distance and Time: “Killing Them Softly,” “Zero Dark Thirty,” “The Master,” “Silver Linings Playbook,” “Prometheus

Brave

5 Movies That Got Worse with Distance and Time: “Brave,” “Lincoln,” “Flight,” “The Sessions,” “The Dark Knight Rises

Argo

5 Movies That Felt Shorter Than Their Runtime: “Zero Dark Thirty,” “Les Misérables,” “The Dark Knight Rises,” “Argo,” “Django Unchained

Keira Knightley in "Anna Karenina"

5 Movies That Felt Longer Than Their Runtime: “Lincoln,” “Anna Karenina,” “This Is 40,” “Damsels in Distress,” The Five-Year Engagement

BOTSW

Breakout Performances: Quvenzhané Wallis in “Beasts of the Southern Wild,”  Eddie Redmayne in “Les Misérables,” Ezra Miller in “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” Garrett Hedlund in “On the Road,” Scoot McNairy in “Argo

Silver Linings Playbook

Breakthrough Performances: Bradley Cooper in “Silver Linings Playbook,” Michael Pena in “End of Watch,” Jack Black in “Bernie,” Channing Tatum in “21 Jump Street,” Elizabeth Banks in “People Like Us

Best Exotic

Breakdown Performances: Anna Kendrick in “Pitch Perfect,” Salma Hayek in “Savages,” Tom Cruise in “Rock of Ages,” Emile Hirsch in “Killer Joe,” Dev Patel in “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

frame 01021605R

Best Body of Work in 2012: (tie) Anne Hathaway in “The Dark Knight Rises” and “Les Misérables,” Jennifer Lawrence in “The Hunger Games” and “Silver Linings Playbook

The Deep Blue Sea

Worst Body of Work in 2012: (tie) Rachel Weisz in “The Bourne Legacy” and “The Deep Blue Sea,” Taylor Kitsch in “John Carter” and “Savages

Jessica Chastain in Zero Dark Thirty

Best Heroes: Jessica Chastain as Maya in “Zero Dark Thirty,” Mark Ruffalo as The Hulk in “The Avengers,” Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean in “Les Misérables

John Carter

Worst Heroes: Andrew Garfield as Spider-Man in “The Amazing Spider-Man,” Taylor Kitsch as John Carter in “John Carter,” Jeremy Renner as Aaron Cross in “The Bourne Legacy

Catwoman

Best Villains: Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle/Catwoman in “The Dark Knight Rises,” Russell Crowe as Javert in “Les Misérables,” Leonardo DiCaprio as Calvin Candie in “Django Unchained

Skyfall

Worst Villains: Tom Hardy as Bane in “The Dark Knight Rises,” Javier Bardem as Silva in “Skyfall,” Rhys Ifans as Lizard in “The Amazing Spider-Man

Joaquin

Best Possessed Performance: Joaquin Phoenix in “The Master

The Paperboy

Worst Possessed Performance: Nicole Kidman in “The Paperboy

Bernie

Best Comedic Performance: (tie) Jack Black in “Bernie,” Channing Tatum in “21 Jump Street

The Watch

Worst Comedic Performance: The cast of “The Watch

Uggie

Best Cameo: Uggie in “The Campaign

Ryan Reynolds

Worst Cameo: Ryan Reynolds in “Ted

Eddie Redmayne

Best Singing: Eddie Redmayne in “Les Misérables

Alec

Worst Singing: Alec Baldwin in “Rock of Ages

That’s about all I can come up with for now … may add to this later!  Happy 2013, everyone!





REVIEW: The Paperboy

12 12 2012

The PaperboyThere’s no way Lee Daniels’ “The Paperboy” came from the same director as “Precious.”  A film this sweaty, steamy, and trashy simply does not follow a movie so emotionally searing and poignant.  And not only is the movie purely sordid, it isn’t even done artfully or tastefully.

I pray you haven’t seen director Lee Daniels’ debut film, “Shadowboxer,” because your eyes will never forgive you for it.  There’s a reason you probably haven’t heard of it, and that’s because the movie is an absolute mess from beginning to end.  Oh, and there’s also the matter of Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Helen Mirren having a pretty graphic sex scene.  Thanks, but no thanks.

But it’s Lee Daniels of “Shadowboxer” who showed up to direct “The Paperboy,” not Lee Daniels of “Precious.”  Now we are all left to wonder if Oprah directed “Precious” for him or something.  I’m serious, watch “The Paperboy” and try not to let these types of conspiracy theories bubble up in your head.  Well, actually don’t watch “The Paperboy” and just take my word for it that you would feel this way.

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REVIEW: Just Go With It

12 02 2011

Adam Sandler sure has fallen a long way since the glory days of “Billy Madison” and “Happy Gilmore” – and those days weren’t even that good.  Fifteen years later, we are invited to just go wherever with the comic who has long since worn out the welcome mat with “Just Go With It,” a typical Sandler comedy that might have been fairly amusing if it had been made a decade ago.  It’s a step above last summer’s “Grown Ups” but probably only because there is a strong female presence to whip him in line.

Taking a fairly unique premise, the movie follows Sandler’s Los Angeles plastic surgeon (cue some scary and derivative jokes involving lots of Joan Rivers-esque figures) Danny and his morally suspect way of picking up women without a hitch – pretending to be married.  It works out great for him until he meets the incredibly well-endowed, good-natured, and much younger Palmer (Brooklyn Decker), and he has to start an elaborate lie to keep her.  The ruse, which eventually requires index cards, grows to include his divorced assistant Katherine (Jennifer Aniston) and her two annoyingly precocious children as well as his horndog brother (Nick Swardson).

All things considered, this could have been more than just mildly entertaining, which is what the end product settles for.  There are a few chuckles, usually accompanied by a groan but thankfully not with eye-rolling.  So by all means, if you want to see Adam Sandler re-enact the movies from his prime, “Just Go With It” should provide you with what you’re looking for.  But you’re probably better off dusting off one of his older flicks so you can have the faintest hint of nostalgia of a time when these jokes and formulas weren’t stale.  C





Oscar Moment: December 10, 2010 Awards Round-Up

10 12 2010

Welcome back to another exciting awards round-up post!  It’s been a whole week since I’ve said anything about the Oscars, which is the longest I’ve gone since September!  It’s a good thing this week has been pretty stagnant aside from a few minor critics groups and some top 10 lists out in the mix.

Please remember to take the poll at the end of the discussion!  It will help to make these posts more community-driven – it’s fun just reading it and writing about it, but I sure do enjoy it more when I get your feedback!  You don’t have to live and breath Oscars like I do to take part!

As for last week’s poll, you all think that “The Social Network” will beat “The King’s Speech” for Best Picture.  And by you all, I mean all one voter that took the poll.  So let’s shoot for higher this week!

(And another reminder: I spent a lot of time linking the titles of movies in this post to their respective Oscar Moments/reviews if you want to know more about them.  So don’t hesitate to click!)

Awards

Washington, D.C. Film Critics announce. Generally not a very exciting bunch; Kris Tapley of In Contention said their picks are usually just guessing what the Oscars will nominated in about 7 weeks.  Like myself and several others, they think “The Social Network” is going to be the cup that the Academy sips from when picking their awards.

Their Best Picture line-up was absolutely stellar though: “Black Swan,” “Inception,” “127 Hours,” “The Social Network,” and “Toy Story 3.”  If those were Oscar’s five (way back when they only nominated that many movies for Best Picture), I would be a very happy man.  Since many are already boiling the race down to a horserace, it’s curious not to see “The King’s Speech,” but it got plenty of love, including a win for Best Actor for Colin Firth and Best Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, and Original Screenplay nominations.

Jennifer Lawrence took Best Actress for “Winter’s Bone,” which definitely showed some strength from the win as well as nominations for Supporting Actor (John Hawkes) and Adapted Screenplay.  I think we could definitely be looking at a critical favorite in Lawrence, although this is a very similar trajectory to Carey Mulligan last year who wound up not taking home any major prizes.

Predictable wins for Christian Bale and Melissa Leo in “The Fighter” in the supporting categories, with the former looking more and more like a lock with each passing day.  “The Social Network” also won Best Director and Adapted Screenplay, neither of which was surprising given the group’s love for the film.

Interestingly, “Inception” won Best Original Screenplay over the field of “The King’s Speech,” “The Kids Are All Right,” “Another Year,” and “Black Swan.”  This category has played out interestingly at the Oscars over the past two years.  2009 brought us “The Hurt Locker” ultimately triumphing over “Inglourious Basterds” with “Up” as a dark horse looming in the background.  2008 was the horse race between two totally different types of movies, “Milk” and the almost non-verbal “Wall-E.”  Given what’s been going on recently, “Inception” makes a fascinating wild card.  “The King’s Speech” is like past winner “Milk,” and “The Kids Are All Right” gives off “Juno” vibes.  There hasn’t been a movie like “Inception” in the race in a long time (unless you want to compare it to the mind maze of “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”).

For a historical reference point, last year the group picked “Up in the Air” as their Best Picture.  Aside from the slam dunk supporting categories, the only Oscar winner they selected was Kathryn Bigelow as Best Director for “The Hurt Locker.”  Since 2002, they haven’t been a very reliable predictor at all of the ultimate selections of the Oscars.

For a full list of nominees, see the official press release from the WAFCA.

The British Independent Film Awards. Predictably, “The King’s Speech” cleaned house at the British Independent Film Awards, the equivalent of the Independent Spirit Awards across the pond.  The very British story of King George VI took home Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Screenplay.  Curiously, director Tom Hooper lost Best Director to Gareth Edwards for his work on the ultra-low budget “Monsters.”  Mike Leigh was also nominated for “Another Year” in this category.

These awards don’t really show us much other than that the British are firmly allied over their love of this movie.  Last year, “Moon” triumphed over eventual Best Picture nominee “An Education,” the movie considered to have the “British vote” going into the Oscars.  This faction will be crucial to “The King’s Speech” if it is to prevail in the Best Picture category, and this is a very reassuring ceremony for the movie.

Also worth noting: “Never Let Me Go” may be almost entirely forgotten, but apparently Carey Mulligan isn’t.  She won Best Actress for her performance, and I still wouldn’t count her out as a dark horse Oscar nominee.  I don’t think a Golden Globe nomination is entirely out of the question (a la Tobey Maguire in last year’s “Brothers“).

The European Film Awards. Not much to report here as the only awards contender really in play was “The Ghost Writer,” and it capitalized on its seven nominations by winning a stunning six categories.  Lesley Manville was in contention for “Another Year” but lost Best European Actress to an actress I’ve never heard of in a movie I’ve never heard of.

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REVIEW: Rabbit Hole

20 11 2010

Losing a child is painful in the real world, but in the sphere of cinema, it’s hardly breaking new ground.  In order to communicate the emotional trauma of such an event, movies have to take the material in different and unexpected directions.  “Rabbit Hole” is a success story, presenting the story of husband and wife affected by the preventable death of their four-year-old son in entirely different ways.  John Cameron Mitchell takes the great theatrical aspects of David Lindsey-Abaire’s Pulitizer Prize-winning play and reminds us the power that great dialogue can have while also using the great resources of film to supplement the already incredibly powerful film.

Nearing the one-year anniversary of their son Danny’s passing, Becca (Nicole Kidman) and Howie (Aaron Eckhart) are still reeling.  Caught in the unenviable conundrum of choosing to mourn or move on, each find a different way to cope with the void in their lives.  Becca tries to find life by acting like the hole isn’t there, removing the traces of Danny that remind her that he is gone.  She finds solace, strangely, through talking with the teenager that hit her son.  Becca also has to deal with the pregnancy of her irresponsible sister (Tammy Blanchard), which only complicates her volatile emotional state, and the intervention of her mother (Dianne Wiest), eager to offer advice after going through the loss of a son in her own right.

Howie, on the other hand, tries to hang on to the fading memories of his son, particularly by watching a video of Danny on his phone.  Rather than try to adjust to life without his son, he advocates starting a new life altogether.  He pitches selling their house and having another child, neither of which are received well by his wife.  Howie has faith in the traditional methods of dealing with grief, holding onto the belief that the group therapy sessions can work long after Becca gives up on them. When those who look to religion to solve their problems finally drive her away from the group for good, he strikes up a friendship with an eight-year veteran (Sandra Oh) still looking to make peace with the loss of her child.

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