“Animal Kingdom” Poll Results

23 01 2011

With all the hype around Jacki Weaver’s performance in “Animal Kingdom,” I just had to see what all the fuss was about this week.  And to be honest, I wasn’t all that impressed.  In my review, I wrote:

“As for Jacki Weaver, the reason I plopped this movie in my DVD player, I saw why she needed an Oscar campaign but not why she deserved a campaign.  She plays a one-note character that doesn’t play much of a part in the storyline until the conclusion.  Her big emotional scene falls pretty flat, unless, of course, you consider changing her facial expression ever so slightly compelling enough for an award.  Had I not heard all the buzz around Weaver, I would have forgotten about her as quickly as I’ll forget ‘Animal Kingdom.’  Neither have any teeth, something necessary to make a crime thriller bite.”

But with the campaign in high gear, she seems to be making a mark.  So back in December, I polled readers on an Oscar Moment, asking them if they thought Weaver would receive an Oscar nomination.

The jury was in favor of Weaver as both voters said she would be nominated.  If I were an Academy member, I wouldn’t vote for her.  But I’m not an Academy member, and I think she will probably make it.  But I’m not confident or positive in that assertion.

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REVIEW: Animal Kingdom

19 01 2011

A poor man’s version of Martin Scorsese’s crime classic “GoodFellas” with Australian accents, “Animal Kingdom” is a tale from down under that’s quite a few rungs down from the movies it so desperately wants to be.  Considering that it’s a debut film from writer/director David Michod, it’s somewhat more impressive, and I have a feeling that we can look for big things in the future.  But for now, we’re left with a movie that’s filled with one-dimensional characters played by actors without any gusto.

After the death of his mother, twenty-ish J (James Frecheville) is forced to take up residence with his estranged grandmother “Smurf” (Jacki Weaver), the matriarch of a crime family who’s grizzly enough to make Sarah Palin cower.  He unwittingly gets caught up in the exploits of his uncles, whose activities jeopardize his chances for a normal life with his girlfriend.  J is recognized by a cunning police officer (Guy Pearce, the movie’s only familiar face) as pliable, and he is faced with the choice between blood loyalty or the comforts available within the law.

The problem with “Animal Kingdom” is that it starts off really slow, and it takes a long time to get acquainted with the characters enough to care about them.  The movie starts getting really interesting around the hour mark, but by then, it feels like we’ve spent an abysmally long time in the Aussie underworld.  Michod throws plenty of action and twists at us in the second half, yet without dynamic characters, it ultimately goes in one ear and out the other.

As for Jacki Weaver, the reason I plopped this movie in my DVD player, I saw why she needed an Oscar campaign but not why she deserved a campaign.  She plays a one-note character that doesn’t play much of a part in the storyline until the conclusion.  Her big emotional scene falls pretty flat, unless, of course, you consider changing her facial expression ever so slightly compelling enough for an award.  Had I not heard all the buzz around Weaver, I would have forgotten about her as quickly as I’ll forget “Animal Kingdom.”  Neither have any teeth, something necessary to make a crime thriller bite.  B





Oscar Moment: “Animal Kingdom”

11 12 2010

Who is Jacki Weaver?  The Oscars could force you to know who she is on February 27 by awarding her Best Supporting Actress.

Sony Pictures Classics saw a performance in Weaver in “Animal Kingdom” that they thought was awards-worthy but knew it would never be considered unless they campaigned the heck out of her.  The movie is a little-known specialty release straight from Australia with Guy Pearce as its only faintly recognizable name.  It received a small release in the United States after winning a big prize at Sundance but garnered little buzz except for the raves it drew for Weaver as a crazy mother.

Trying to capitalize on this goodwill, SPC started campaigning her early seeing how wide-open the Best Supporting Actress category was (and to a large extent, still is).  They sent out “Animal Kingdom” screeners on September 30, remarkably early and the first of the year’s to arrive.  To Oscar bloggers, they sent out T-shirts with Weaver’s face plastered on the front.  They also put up FYC advertisements on major pundits’ sites starting in September, noticeably before any other movie this year.

Sure enough, their work hasn’t gone unnoticed: in the first week of awards precursors, she has won Best Supporting Actress from the National Board of Review, the first big group to announce their year-end favorites.  She was nominated by the Washington D.C. Area Film Critics in the same category but lost to Melissa Leo for “The Fighter,” and she was also recognized by the Golden Satellite Awards.  Back in her native Australia, she won Best Actress in an across-the-board “Animal Kingdom” sweep.

So clearly the goodwill for Weaver is there, but the question still remains: can an unknown foreigner win, or receive a nomination, for an Oscar?

Marion Cotillard went all the way for “La Vie en Rose” back in 2007; few knew her name then.  The same year, Amy Ryan dominated the critics circuit, winning almost every group’s Best Supporting Actress prize for her work as a negligent mother in Ben Affleck’s “Gone Baby Gone.”  She was hardly on the map, but thanks to Miramax’s campaigning and her widespread support, she entered the field at the Golden Globes, SAG Awards, and Oscars.  The NBR’s pick for Best Supporting Actress has gone on to receive an Oscar nomination 6 out of the last 10 years, although only once did they manage to pick the winner (Penelope Cruz in 2008).

I think in order to get past the issues with name recognition, Weaver is going to need a strong showing from the critics groups in the weeks to come.  If they like her, then nominations from the Golden Globes and SAG Awards should ensue, making an Oscar nomination highly likely.  All signs point towards this trajectory now, but the momentum could easily shift away from Weaver.  One thing’s for certain: she makes a dull Best Supporting Actress category in 2010 a little bit more exciting.

BEST BET FOR NOMINATION: Best Supporting Actress





What To Look Forward To in … August 2010

7 07 2010

It’s the day after three days after (didn’t finish the post quite in time) July 4th, which means that summer is basically half-over. Everyone make a sad face.

It’s also July, which means it’s time for me to make my August preview post for some movies that few people want to see. Everyone make a sadder face.

But I think there is some potential for some hits in August, some fueled by estrogen and others by testosterone.

August 6

And the winner for the most unnecessary 3D treatment in the history of movies is “Step Up 3D!” Honestly, Hollywood, stop making the third installment of every series in 3D just because it sounds nice in the title. Who wants to see people breakdancing in 3D? I’m just waiting for the straw that will break the camel’s back on the technology … getting closer …

It’s make or break career-wise for Will Farrell with “The Other Guys.” After last summer’s “Land of the Lost” tanked hard, it’s up to this movie to help him save face in the industry. Thankfully, he has Mark Wahlberg, The Rock, and Samuel L. Jackson to help him. My bet is on the latter, though, to provide the most laughs.

The last two decades were not exactly good to Rob Reiner, so maybe “Flipped” can turn the tables in his favor again. This is the man that gave us “This is Spinal Tap,” “The Princess Bride,” and “When Harry Met Sally.”  It’s time for a return to form, and I think his adaptation of Wendelin Von Draanen’s book can do it for him.  I read the book as a kid, and it still to this day is one of my favorites.  I’ll forgive him for the slap in the face to my generation though – he moved its setting to the 1950s because it is more “innocent.”

On the indie side of things, the most interesting release looks to be “Middle Men,” which chronicles the birth of the Internet pornography industry. It’s a curious choice for Luke Wilson, former comedic star.

There’s also the quiet “Cairo Time” with Patricia Clarkson, the film festival hit “Lebanon” that provides hard-hitting war drama, and “The Oxford Murders” which seems to have little to offer aside from Elijah Wood.

August 13

“Eat Pray Love” is this year’s “Julie & Julia,” that is, a late summer movie aimed at the oft looked-over women. Particularly middle-aged and older women, AKA not the kind that lined up for “Twilight.” With Julia Roberts, a huge star who makes herself pretty scarce, and a literary phenomenon to its name, this could be poised to reap in some big money.

But all the guys seem to be hungering for “The Expendables,” Sylvester Stallone’s new movie that features just about every ’80s action star, be they fresh or washed up. All I can say is thank goodness it is rated R.

And then aiming somewhere in between is “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World,” a different kind of comic book movie. The usual hero is someone awesome; here, the hero is pathetic Michael Cera fending off seven evil ex-boyfriends of his new girlfriend. Anna Kendrick makes an appearance in the movie in some aspect, so that’s probably enough to get me to see it. Don’t be surprised if this is an out-of-nowhere smash hit. The style looks pretty irresistible.

These movies are probably not opening anywhere else other than New York or Los Angeles this day, but look for them in late August or September. Hopefully “Animal Kingdom,” a foreign crime drama released by Sony Pictures Classics, isn’t the new “Gommorah.” And then there’s “Tales from Earthsea,” the latest Japanese anime movie. One of these days I’ll get around to watching “Spirited Away”…

August 20

“Lottery Ticket” would fall in a pile with other urban movies I don’t pay much attention to if it weren’t for one tiny detail: Ice Cube is playing an old man. He was a hip father only five years ago … it’s a little soon for a grandpa role.

“The Switch” is in an interesting place. Jennifer Aniston was once a draw, but her rep has taken some hits after a series of movies that were not very well received. Jason Bateman is still a rising star, still looking for that movie to really put him on the A-list. Can they meet in the middle? A comedy with a serious concept could do it for them.

I don’t get excited for documentaries, but “The Tillman Story” looks great. A little un-American, sure. But it’s a movie about the truth, and that’s usually a good thing.

Maybe your local megaplex will keep “Toy Story 3” in its 3D theaters to save you from “Piranha 3D,” yet another unnecessary movie looking to profit off the premium ticket prices.  And “Nanny McPhee Returns” because apparently we didn’t get enough of her the first time.

I really hope that “happythankyoumoreplease” finds its way to Houston sometime. It’s directed by Josh Radnor of “How I Met Your Mother” fame and stars the gorgeous Malin Akerman. I love me some indie comedy, and the movie found some love at Sundance. But since no real trailer is out there and it’s being released by some distributor I’ve never heard of, I have my doubts.

August 27

And now we get to those crummy last official week of summer releases.  “Takers,” despite a fairly impressive cast, just looks dumb.  “The Last Exorcism” provides enough chills to tide that crowd over until Halloween.

Indeed, the only movie that looks redeemable this weekend is “Going the Distance,” the rom-com starring real life couple Drew Barrymore and Justin Long.  The movie explores a long-distance relationship, territory that has seldom been tread.  If the women have seen “Eat Pray Love” too many times, they could make this a hit.

So, whatcha wanna see in August?  Lemme know in the poll.