Know Your Nominees: “Inception”

4 02 2011

The Oscars are a great cultural conversation for all to participate in, but it’s all too easy to only have surface knowledge of the nominees.  It’s all too easy to know “Black Swan” as the ballet movie, “The Fighter” as the boxing movie, and “The Social Network” as the Facebook movie.  But don’t you want to know more and stun your friends with your knowledge of the movies in the weeks leading up to the awards and ultimately during the broadcast itself?

That’s what my KNOW YOUR NOMINEES series hopes to do.  Every three days, I’ll feature ten interesting facts about the ten Best Picture nominees of 2010 that would be fascinating to pepper into any conversation.  My hope is that you will come away with an enhanced appreciation of the movies but also enjoy learning strange and interesting things about them.

So, as we proceed in alphabetical order, our next stop on the tour is “Inception.”

So what was the inception of “Inception?”  According to director/screenwriter Christopher Nolan, the movie began as a heist film mainly as a way to provide entertainment and exposition for the complicated dream structure.  But concerned with the cold emotional detachment to the characters in a heist film, he began to add the hero’s story to get the audience to connect with the movie.

What’s real and what isn’t was a big talking point about “Inception,” but it may interest you to know what was shot on location (real) and what was shot on a soundstage or studio lot (not real).  The snow fortress was a built set, as was Saito’s castle. With a few other exceptions, most scenes were shot on location in Tokyo, Paris, Mombasa, Los Angeles, and a small town in Nolan’s home country, England.

How about that spectacular anti-gravity fight scene in the hotel hallway.  According to Christopher Nolan, Joseph Gordon-Levitt did all his own stunts for the scene, only using a double out of necessity for one scene.  The scene was done by creating a spinning set, not through CG.

Another fantastically well-executed scene of mind-blowing visual proportions was the scene at the Parisian café where the city implodes.  How did they shoot that?  According to cinematographer Wally Pfister, they used a camera that captures 1,500 frames per second (in contrast to the average camera which captures 24) to create the slow-motion effect.  In post-production, the visuals team added effects to make the objects look like they were floating.  (Everything was shot out of air cannons for the explosion effect.)

Throughout the second half of the movie, we saw plenty of the van falling off the bridge.  But what you might not know about this scene is that it took months to film and entire days were dedicated to the shot.  But it gets better: the van was shot out of an air cannon and when the van hit the water, the actors actually had to stay underwater for four to five minutes holding their breath and taking air from a tank.  How’s that for dedication?

The ensemble cast turned out perfectly, but it wasn’t always what it was.  Before shooting, Evan Rachel Wood was slated to play Ariadne but dropped out and the role went to Ellen Page.  Another big casting shift was the exit of James Franco, who was originally cast to play Arthur, due to scheduling issues; the role ultimately went to Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

Fans of Marion Cotillard got a chuckle when they heard “Non, je ne regrette rien,” the closing song of the film “La Vie En Rose” which won her an Oscar for Best Actress.  The title means “No, I regret nothing” when translated literally into English.  Was it a clever nod to her previous role?  Actually, no.  Nolan and composer Hans Zimmer chose the song before Cotillard became attached to the project because of its booming rhythmic qualities, not because of its association with the actress.

Many people have seen “Inception” as a metaphor for filmmaking, and Nolan has said that these musings aren’t entirely off-base.  But the craft he was most interested in exploring was architecture.  In an interview with WiReD, he stated, “I’m very interested in the similarities or analogies between the way in which we experience a three–dimensional space that an architect has created and the way in which an audience experiences a cinematic narrative that constructs a three–dimensional -reality from a two-dimensional medium—assembled shot by shot. I think there’s a narrative component to architecture that’s kind of fascinating.”

NEWS FLASH: The kids at the end of the movie are not the same as the ones before! Adjust your explanations of “Inception” as necessary.

Don’t worry, no top theories here.  Only some insight on where the idea came from – not exactly inception.  Nolan gave a top as a gift to his wife and then rediscovered it, incorporating it into “Inception.”  The one used in the movie was symbolically designed by the prop department to represent Cobb’s universe.

Check back on February 7 as the KNOW YOUR NOMINEES series continues with “The Kids Are All Right.”





Oscar Moment: January 14, 2011 Awards Round-Up

14 01 2011

It’s been a relatively uneventful week in the Oscar world, although it’s about to get hectic with the BFCA announcing their favorites of 2010 at the Critic’s Choice Awards tonight and the HFPA doing the same at the Golden Globes on Sunday.  (This will probably require a new set of predictions.)

So, before I get started laying out what happened, let me present to you the beginning of my campaign for the LAMMY for Best Awards Season Coverage.  Last weekend, I led the LAMBcast in a discussion of the major categories of the Oscars this year.  Hopefully you can hear the knowledge that I impart through writing with this column.  So click on the picture below to download the podcast, or you could also check it out over at the LAMB or at Blog Cabins.  (A big thanks to Tom, James, Nick, and Dylan for being such great participants!)

We have our five. If were back in ancient times (think 2008), we would have a pretty good guess at what the five Best Picture nominees would be.  The Directors Guild and the American Cinema Editors, two incredibly reliable prognosticators of the field, have aligned perfectly.  They also happen to match the Golden Globes drama category as well.  In case you need those movies repeated (or can’t decode them from the convenient graphic above), here they are:

It was a little surprising to see David O. Russell get a nod from the Directors Guild as he has a pretty bad reputation thanks to his temper.  But his story runs parallel to the second chance aspect of “The Fighter,” and the Academy could be won over by that connection.  Or, they could give him the cold shoulder and include an old winner like Joel & Ethan Coen for “True Grit” or Danny Boyle for “127 Hours.”  Unfortunately, you can’t discount Nolan for a snub either as he has been recognized twice by the DGA but never before by the Academy.

As for the editing guild, it was probably most surprising to see “The King’s Speech” (or perhaps “The Fighter”) in the field over a really flashily edited movie like “True Grit,” “127 Hours,” or “Shutter Island,” the latter of which was directed by a hallowed industry veteran.  But since they sprung for both of the Best Picture frontrunners, it just makes things all the more clear for who to look at for the win.

ASC announces. The American Society of Cinematographers, on the other hand, did not adhere to the five.  It replaced “The Fighter” with “True Grit,” which is considered by many to be the frontrunner as Roger Deakins’ photography is stunning.  He’s won twice from the society but has never been rewarded by the Academy despite an astounding EIGHT nominations.  Forget Annette Bening, here’s a deserving candidate for a lifetime achievement Oscar.

It was also quite surprising to see “The King’s Speech,” which did not have a very flashy visual style, take a nomination over “127 Hours.”  Danny Boyle’s movie had two directors of photography, one of which has won an Oscar and ASC award for his work.  But it shows a surprising amount of technical admiration for “The King’s Speech,” which seems to be an across-the-board favorite.  The only problem is that “The Social Network” and “Black Swan” have pretty much matched it step by step.  Look for “The King’s Speech” to take the most nominations simply because it will have three actors going for the gold,  but all three movies could have 10 nominations.

“The Social Network” piles it on. The movie continued its domination of the critics circuit by taking home top honors from the National Society of Film Critics.  Aside from the usual holy Best Picture/Director/Screenplay triumvirate, Jesse Eisenberg won Best Actor.  I’d still say that he could pull an Adrien Brody come Oscar night, the young actor taking down some more established contenders.

It also took Best Picture honors from the Alliance of Women Film Journalists and the Toronto Critics, although “Inception” did take the North Texas Film Critics, who have an ENORMOUS say on the state of the Oscar race as we know it.

Fincher chimes in with his take on the race. Interestingly enough, the man considered the frontrunner for Best Director doesn’t engage in hyperbolizing his movie.  Here’s what he had to say about “The Social Network” and awards season.

“I hate the awards part of the moviemaking process…And besides, on ‘[The] Social Network,’ I didn’t really agree with the critics’ praise. It interested me that ‘[The] Social Network’ was about friendships that dissolved through this thing that promised friendships, but I didn’t think we were ripping the lid off anything. The movie is true to a time and a kind of person, but I was never trying to turn a mirror on a generation…Let’s hope we strove to get at something interesting, but Social Network is not earth-shattering.”

I think his honesty will ultimately go a long way as some people have been overdoing and exaggerating the praise for the movie from dramatic effect.

Ditto Helena Bonham Carter. I was not a big fan of Carter in “The King’s Speech,” not because I don’t like the actress but because I thought she just showed up.  I didn’t really see much of a performance.  Apparently, she thinks similarly:

“I thought it was a boys’ film … Sometimes you get nominated for the wrong things. I’m not knocking it, because I want the good roles, so if it helps me get another really good part, that’s great.  For that moment, when you’re nominated, you get offered parts you wouldn’t otherwise be offered.  After ‘Wings of a Dove’ [sic], I got ‘Fight Club.’ When you are up for awards, they remember you’re still alive.”

She will still get nominated, but it’s interesting that she’s even willing to admit the misplaced politics of the Oscar season.

“Black Swan” and “True Grit” roll. Oscar season can turn independently-spirited movies into box office smashes, and this year has two beneficiaries of this phenomenon.  “True Grit,” after three weeks, has shot to the #1 slot and has exceeded almost every expectation set out for it.  The movie will soon become one of the highest-grossing westerns ever.

And “Black Swan” has only been gaining more steam with time.  Last weekend, it only dropped 6% in the standings and entered the top 5.  With curiosity about the movie building (due somewhat in part to its high-profile parody on “SNL“), Fox Searchlight has added about 700 theaters this weekend, expanding “Black Swan” into nearly 2,500 theaters nationwide.  For such a small indie, this is huge.  It has about $65 million in its coffers now and should cruise to $100 million with more buzz coming with inevitable high-profile wins for Portman and loads of Oscar nominations.

If you told me at the beginning of the year that a movie about “Swan Lake” would make more money than a movie about Facebook, I wouldn’t have believed you.  But “Black Swan” is becoming a big audience favorite and has entered pop culture consciousness in a way that no one could have expected.  Obviously it’s a nominee, but it could be a dark horse to win the prize.

“Toy Story 3” stands resolute. The underdog everyone’s secretly rooting for, “Toy Story 3” is the one movie outside the five worth taking seriously for the win.  Thanks to the preferential voting system now in place, it could be the greatest common denominator for Academy members as there’s really no one who didn’t like the movie.  The ad campaign for the movie has been aggressive yet never hitting a sour note.  It’s the highest grossing and best reviewed movie of the year.  If it weren’t animated, it would be a lock for Best Picture.

We talk about it being “time” for a lot of things; last year, it was a woman winning Best Director.  It’s been a muted theme throughout the year, but maybe it’s time for an animated movie to win Best Picture.  It’s the most deserving candidate from the genre in a long time, perhaps ever.  It would be a well-earned salute to Pixar, which has served to redefine the boundaries and scope of animation as we know it.  The “Toy Story” series is what started it all, and its touching farewell may be the best chance ever for an animated movie to win Hollywood’s biggest honor.

It popped up as a BFCA and PGA nominee for Best Picture, but since it’s animated, it can’t pick up much steam with the guilds.  It has to glide on heart, something that is unfortunately immeasurable in the awards season.  A “Toy Story 3” win isn’t out of sight, but it’s impossible to predict.  Some jaws would drop on Oscar night, but out of those mouths would come cheers.

Golden Globe Predictions

I mean, why not?  There’s not much else to talk about this week.

Best Picture (Drama): Smart money is on “The King’s Speech,” but I’m going to stick by “The Social Network” even with less nominations and being less of a Globes film.  I think the movie is going to steamroll through the season much like “Slumdog Millionaire” did in 2008, but if it loses, then we have a fun race.  I wouldn’t count out “The Fighter” here.

Best Picture (Musical/Comedy): “The Kids Are All Right” in a landslide.  Next?

Best Director: David Fincher has won pretty much every award so far, this should be no exception.

Best Actor (Drama): Firth all the way.  Perhaps an Eisenberg upset could be at works here, which would make this an interesting race.  But at the moment, we have a clear frontrunner and an apparently clear winner.

Best Actor (Musical/Comedy): This category has been slim pickings for many years, and they bounce between choosing fluffier movies (Downey for “Sherlock Holmes“) and artistic movies (Farrell for “In Bruges”).  There are two low-brow performances here (Johnny Depp and Johnny Depp) and two high-brow, little-seen performances (Kevin Spacey and Paul Giamatti).  Big money says Depp for “Alice in Wonderland,” high art says Giamatti for “Barney’s Version.”  I’m saying they’ll meet at a middle ground and reward Jake Gyllenhaal for his great and very agreeable performance in “Love & Other Drugs.”

Best Actress (Drama): No contest for Natalie Portman, if not for it being the performance, then at least because she’s the only actress in a Best Picture candidate.  The Globes do love Nicole Kidman and could shock us by giving her a fourth trophy, but it seems doubtful at best.

Best Actress (Musical/Comedy): Annette Bening had better be practicing her acceptance speech because she’s the biggest lock of the night.  However, I’d sure love to see Julianne Moore take her down.

Best Supporting Actor: Bale takes it to cement his status as a lock to win.  Perhaps Rush if they really like “The King’s Speech.”

Best Supporting Actress: The Globes aren’t the greatest mirror of the Oscar race with their winner.  They usually skew younger, so I’m inclined to discount Melissa Leo, who wasn’t recognized here in 2008 for her Oscar-nominated turn in “Frozen River,” and Jacki Weaver on those grounds.  I’m probably out of my mind declaring this a race between Adams and Kunis, but I’m getting a sinking sensation that Mila Kunis will win here.  They gave this statue to Natalie Portman for “Closer” back in 2004 at a younger age, so I don’t think it’s all that crazy to predict her as the victor.

Best Screenplay: Aaron Sorkin’s script for “The Social Network” should continue its domination here, although since it does face some original scripts, it could lose to “The King’s Speech.”

What are your thoughts on the Oscars at the moment?  On the Golden Globes?  Does “Toy Story 3” have a chance?  Sound off below in the COMMENTS!





10 for ’10: Best Movies (The Challenge)

31 12 2010

Catch up with the idea behind this series here.

By the time the clock runs down on 2010, I will have seen over 90 movies.  Most of them were average, nothing special but nothing horrible.  An alarming number were downright terrible.  But, as always, there are enough gems that shine above the coal to fill out a top 10 list.  It wasn’t quite as agonizing a process this year, but that’s beside the point.  I want to leave 2010 smiling because, for the most part, it was a good year for the movies – provided you were willing to look off the beaten path.

What I found in common with these 10 special movies released in 2010 was a challenge.  Each movie, in an entirely different way, issued a challenge to the moviegoer.  These movies weren’t complacent just providing two hours of escapism; they went so far as to engage our minds, hearts, and souls in the moviegoing experience.  They provided something that stuck with me, the movie watcher and reviewer, long after they ended and will continue to stick with me well into 2011.

So, here’s to the challenge, here’s to 2010, and here’s to movies!

#10

Easy A
(A Challenge to High School)
Directed by Will Gluck
Written by Bert V. Royal
Starring Emma Stone, Penn Badgley, and Amanda Bynes

It was about time that a movie like “Easy A” came along and perfectly encapsulated what it’s like to be a high school student in the era of texting and Facebook.  I was scared that my generation wasn’t going to get a Hollywood spotlight until twenty years later, and that would make us look like some kind of hokey antiques like the kids in “Grease.”  What makes “Easy A” so brilliant is how it incorporates the modern with the past, be it as distant as the Puritans or as recent as the Breakfast Club, to show how fundamentally different the high school experience has changed even since 2004’s “Mean Girls.”

For me, very few moments were so beautifully authentic this year as the movie’s high-speed mapping of the rumor mill, which now moves at the speed of light (or a 3G connection).  Propaganda posters after World War II suggested that loose lips cost lives, but in 2010, “Easy A” shows how it can cost reputations, something much more precious in high school.  Technology may have evolved, but high school hasn’t.  Society may have improved thanks to these innovations, so why haven’t we?

#9

Rabbit Hole
(A Challenge to Coping)
Directed by John Cameron Mitchell
Written by David Lindsey-Abaire
Starring Nicole Kidman, Aaron Eckhart, and Dianne Weist

Grief is either overdone or understated.  In “Rabbit Hole,” it’s presented in a manner so raw that it manages to be both at the same time, making for one of the most moving experiences of the year.  A story about a husband and wife, played to brilliance by Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart, grieving their lost child, the movie shows many ways to cope.  Kidman’s Becca wants to move on, Eckhart’s Howie wants to live with it, and in the middle of it all is Becca’s mother, played by Dianne Weist, offering her advice on how to get to the peaceful state in which she resides.  There’s no answer to the question of who handles it best or which way is best; in fact, there’s not even an attempt to answer it.  But there’s something beautiful about an unanswered question, and maybe that’s why the grace of “Rabbit Hole” has stuck with me for so long.

#8

Get Him to the Greek
(A Challenge to Remain Silent)
Written and Directed by Nicholas Stoller
Starring Jonah Hill, Russell Brand, and Sean Combs

Okay, you can forget the challenge here.  It’s not coming from “Get Him to the Greek,” it’s coming from me – I dare you not to laugh at this movie.  Between the dynamite comedic pairing of Jonah Hill and Russell Brand, the scene-stealing farce that is Sean Combs’ foul-mouthed music exec Sergio, the ridiculous and totally awesome music of Infant Sorrow, and the hilarious situations that drive the movie, “Get Him to the Greek” was my favorite comedy of 2010.  It’s filled with endless quotables and capable of many repeat viewings without any diminishing laughter.

#7

Fair Game
(A Challenge to Patriotism)
Directed by Doug Liman
Written by Jez and John-Henry Butterworth
Starring Naomi Watts and Sean Penn

Rather than fall into the pile of scathing movies about America’s involvement in Iraq, “Fair Game” takes its anger in a fresh and different direction and funnels it into something constructive.  The story of Valerie Plame Wilson, a scapegoat for the federal government in the wake of their exposure, is meant to rouse us, not to dismay us.  We are proud that there are still people in this country who believe in the Constitution and the principles on which we were founded, and staying silent is simply not an option.  While it hits you with rage, the knockout punch is of pride in Valerie and her courage to stand up for herself.  “Fair Game” stands out as an exuberant flag-waving fan while all other movies of the same vein just mope in dreary cynicism.

#6

Inside Job
(A Challenge to Care)
Written and Directed by Charles Ferguson
Narrated by Matt Damon

Who is responsible for the financial collapse of 2008?  Charles Ferguson lets us know who he thinks in the activist epilogue, which you can more or less disregard if you choose to do so, but in the hour and 40 minutes prior, he points the finger at just about everyone possible.  Including us.  Sure, there were many factors leading to a worldwide meltdown of the economy that were out of our control, but a little bit of oversight, we could have seen it coming.  By his systematic explanation of everything you need to know to understand what went down (call it “Global Meltdown for Dummies” if you must), he is challenging us to be the oversight that was lacking two years ago.  And judging by how things have developed since then, we are going to need a whole lot of it.

#5

Inception
(A Challenge to Imagination)
Written and Directed by Christopher Nolan
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Marion Cotillard

For as much as I love the four movies I’m ranking ahead of “Inception,” none had such a monumental impact on the way movies are perceived and made quite like it.  Christopher Nolan successfully redefined what imagination means for millions of moviegoers, many of whom had to see the movie multiple times to figure out what was going on in his labyrinthian dreamscape.  With a massive spending allowance, he brought the spectacle to life and managed not treat the audience like children, which proved to be one of the most thrilling and psychologically satisfying experiences ever.  If a movie like this can’t change the fabric of filmmaking, maybe we are headed for the dark ages like Roger Ebert cries.

#4

The Social Network
(A Challenge to Modernity)
Directed by David Fincher
Written by Aaron Sorkin
Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, and Justin Timberlake

As an old adage goes, “Every time history repeats itself, the price goes up.”  David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin’s “The Social Network” may appear to be a movie planted in the digital era, but as has been said many times, it’s a movie about age-old themes like power, greed, and betrayal.  In essence, we’ve seen it before.  Yet retold as the story of the site we visit every day, it’s fascinating.  And it’s sublime thanks to brilliantly sculpted characters who never fit traditional hero/villain roles driving the narrative.  However, this is not just a rehash; it’s a brilliant cautionary tale for our times about individuality, innovation, and solitude.  “The Social Network,” along with its cryptic leading man Mark Zuckerberg, is the best movie of 2010 for serious conversation that’s relevant away from the screen and out of the theater.

#3

Toy Story 3
(A Challenge to Feel)
Directed by Lee Unkrich
Written by Michael Arndt
Voices of Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, and Joan Cusack

So maybe the whole prison escape plot wasn’t the most original thing in the world.  But “Toy Story 3” has a heart so big that nothing else matters.  I have no shame in admitting that I cried like the child that the movie made me feel like.  For the last 20 minutes of the movie, I felt the most beautiful mix of nostalgia, sadness, and joy that may just be the most powerful potion Pixar has brewed.  To be my age and watch this movie is like an ultimate realization that childhood can’t last forever.  But the tears aren’t just mourning, they are happy as the torch is passed to a new generation.  I pray, for their sake, that no technology can ever replace the comfort that a toy and a little bit of imagination can bring to any child.

#2

127 Hours
(A Challenge to Live)
Directed by Danny Boyle
Written by Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy
Starring James Franco

Life-affirming isn’t a word I get to use to describe movies very often, and that’s precisely what makes “127 Hours” one of the most special experiences of 2010.  The perfect combination of Danny Boyle’s superhuman directing with James Franco’s rawly human acting makes for a movie experience defying the odds.  Who would have thought that a movie about a man losing his arm would be the movie that made me most glad to be alive?  The movie that made me most appreciative for the relationships in my life?  The movie that took me on the most gut-wrenching yet blissfully rewarding roller-coaster ride?  I don’t know if I’ll be able to watch “127 Hours” again, but I’m so glad I watched at least once because it truly was a movie I’ll never forget.

#1

Black Swan
(A Challenge to EVERYTHING)
Directed by Darren Aronofsky
Written by Mark Heyman, Andres Heinz, and John MacLaughlin
Starring Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, and Vincent Cassel

It’s such a fantastic irony that “Black Swan” is a movie about the inability of humans to achieve perfection, yet Darren Aronofsky’s movie is the closest thing to cinematic perfection in 2010.  Behind Natalie Portman, who delivers one of the finest, if not the finest, performances I’ve ever seen from any actress, the movie soars to heights that I had previously thought unfathomable.  It challenges just about every cinematic boundary that still exists and then proceeds to demolish them.  But “Black Swan” doesn’t just destroy these boundaries for fun; it’s a purposeful and intelligent movie that gives a reason to change the boundaries of cinema for better and for good.  Fearless director Darren Aronofsky choreographs a master ballet of a movie that weaves together horror, beauty, and psychological breakdown with such poise that you’ll wonder why every movie can’t be as thrilling as his.  “Black Swan” is a glorious exaltation of cinema and a monumental achievement that will go down in history.





10 for ’10: Criticism

29 12 2010

Catch up with the idea behind this series here.

If someone classified this blog (good luck trying to do that, anyone that might attempt to) as one thing, I bet they’d be likely to say it’s a movie review site.  While I do much more, and I urge you to check out all the other things I do, it’s probably true that I am most prominently a movie critic.

So how can I look back on a year of blogging without retrospectively looking at my own writing?  So here are excerpts from 10 of what I believe were my best reviews this year – 5 good movies, 5 bad movies – that I believe best demonstrate my love of writing, language, and some good wordplay.

(NOTE: I’m only putting excerpts because I want you to go read the whole review!  So don’t be afraid to click the links!)

The Good

Black Swan

There’s really no one else but Aronofsky who could pull off a big, brassy movie like this.  He’s simply the best visual filmmaker out there.  As if his first two movies, “Pi” and “Requiem for a Dream,” weren’t powerful enough, “Black Swan” is Aronofsky in full bloom, showing absolute command of all cinematic vocabulary.  There is no boundary too sacred or stiff for him to toy with, and he doesn’t so much push them as he does eradicate them.  Thus, “Black Swan” isn’t just a victory for Aronofsky and the rest of the crew; it’s a victory for the craft of filmmaking as we know it.

127 Hours

But overall, it’s the humanity that Danny Boyle brings to the screen that makes this a cinematic achievement unlike any other.  He manages to engage our senses on frightening levels.  The pain we feel as we watch the boulder crush Ralston’s arm.  The disgust we feel when Ralston is left with no alternative but to drink his own urine.  The fear we feel as Ralston slowly loses his mind and begins to have delusions.  The gut-clenching agony we feel as Ralston amputates his own arm – and the catharsis we feel when he at last emerges from the canyon and finds refuge.  Ultimately, Franco and Boyle’s commitment do more than engage our senses.  They engage our souls.

Inception

Nolan pulls out all the stops to make sure that this world comes to vibrant life, beginning with his own script that never fails to captivate us.  It’s heavy on the hard-hitting drama, and he always makes sure to remind us that no matter what’s going on around these people, they are still humans with emotions as complex as the world around them.  These characters are fully realized, with rivalries, passions, and hatreds.  Sometimes it’s hard to figure out what’s going on when a movie exists in four different layers of reality, but we manage to stay grounded through these characters and Nolan’s impeccable sense of direction.

The Town

Over the course of two well written hours, “The Town” explores and analyzes this question all the while providing fantastic drama and thrilling chases, robberies, and shoot-outs.  It has Affleck written all over it, and not just because of the location.  He makes Charlestown a character in itself, and we get to know it just as well as any of the people populating the set.  Very few directors have the dexterity to capture a city in all of its glory and sordidness, and it’s a credit to Affleck’s prowess that he can make it feel so authentic.  He also gets the best out of an extraordinary cast, and everything working together towards Affleck’s vision provides one dynamite moviewatching experience.

Toy Story 3

As the movie chugged towards an ending, I realized that I hadn’t just grown up with the toys.  I’ve grown up with Andy, too.  I was too young to remember seeing the first movie, but I was around Andy’s age at the release of the second installment.  And as Andy prepares to move away from home and go to college in “Toy Story 3,” I am only one year behind, getting ready to make the decisions that will push me farther away from home and the innocence of my childhood.  The movie is especially resonant for the generation of children that grew up with the “Toy Story” movies, allowing us to reminisce about the times where we didn’t need laptops or iPods to entertain us.  Once, it only took a few toys and an unbounded imagination to make us happy, and “Toy Story 3″ gives us a window back into the simpler times of our youth.  It’s a feeling both joyous and sad, but overall, it’s beautiful.

The Bad

The Bounty Hunter

The movie is an action comedy – well, if you count Butler punching a few people as action and a few pity sneer as comedy.  We’ve never quite seen a plot like this, where exes fight with stakes as high as prison, but it never feels the slightest bit original.  In fact, it just feels like an old trip down Memory Lane, mimicking every sort of used gimmick with ex-lovers.  But boy, Memory Lane has never looked so run-down or shabby.  It’s time for some renovation.

The Crazies

Sound familiar?  It’s not just a remake of the 1973 George A. Romero original; it’s a rehash of every horror movie since.  Eventually, enough is enough, and cheap jumps and thrills only spell out boredom.  The movie gets harder and harder to enjoy as it drags on … and on … and on.  We know exactly what’s going to happen just from hearing the premise.  Maybe the perceived lack of originality speaks to how influential the first movie was.  But I missed the memo that the original was some kind of cultural watershed, so I’m just going to interpret this rendition of “The Crazies” as the latest dull entry into the woefully overflowing “been there, done that” category.

Dinner for Schmucks

At “Dinner for Schmucks,” the real schmuck is you, the unsuspecting moviegoer who is lured in by the wattage of comedic stars Steve Carell and Paul Rudd.  With your money, you’ve financed a dinner for sadists, the executives who will make a profit off of your pain.  Perhaps a more fitting title is “Movie for Morons” because that’s exactly what you’ll be if you see this movie.

Edge of Darkness

“Edge of Darkness” is more of an epitaph than a movie. Gather here to mourn these fallen talents, it seems to cry. Perhaps Monahan needs Scorsese’s vision to succeed; perhaps Campbell needs the stakes of a hero like James Bond to make a movie work; perhaps Mel Gibson just needs some help.

MacGruber

There are movies that beg you not to be taken seriously, and then there are those that beg you not to take the craft of cinema seriously.  ”MacGruber” is the latter of the two, trying to fly on the flimsy premise that a sketch that can barely sustain two minutes on TV could make an entertaining movie that’s 45 times bigger.  Perhaps Lorne Michaels will come up with a more clever way to make money off this movie in the future: take “MacGruber” off the case and slap on the title “The Worst of Will Forte.”





10 for ’10: Quotes

28 12 2010

Catch up with the idea behind this series here.

A single line can have so much power in a movie.  It can make us laugh, make us think, or make us cry.  It can delve profoundly into the soul, give insight into a character’s mind, provide a perfect punch of beautiful language, or be so foolish that we can’t help but repeat it endlessly.

2010 gave us many great quotes from many great movies.  Here’s just a sampling of how the power of the written word was wielded this year from 10 fantastic lines that served a great deal of purposes.


“Dating you is like dating a Stairmaster.”
– Erica Albright (Rooney Mara) in “The Social Network

“I just want to be perfect.”
– Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) in “Black Swan

“That Charlene … she’s one of them MTv girls!”
– Micky Ward’s sisters in “The Fighter

“It’s so fluffy I’m gonna die!”
– Agnes in “Despicable Me

“This rock has been waiting for me my entire life.”
– Aron Ralston (James Franco) in “127 Hours

“It was almost as if … I had a love that was all mine.”
– Olive Penderghast (Emma Stone) referencing Natasha Bedengfield in “Easy A

“You’re waiting for a train, a train that will take you far away. You know where you hope this train will take you, but you can’t be sure. But it doesn’t matter … because we’ll be together.”
– Mal (Marion Cotillard) in “Inception

“When the world slips you a Jeffrey, just stroke the furry walls.”
– Aldous Snow (Russell Brand) in “Get Him to the Greek

“Stop trying, SURRENDER!”
– Richard from Texas (Richard Jenkins) in “Eat Pray Love

“Thanks, guys.”
– Andy in “Toy Story 3





Random Factoid #509

19 12 2010

We’re getting to that point of 2010 where we can look back in retrospect at things.  Most critics are issuing their top 10 lists (or call them “The Social Network” and others given the unanimity this year), but Cinematical made a very different list this week: the most boring titles of 2010.

I had never really thought of it, but a good title really does make a difference.  If “Inception” had been called “The World of the Dream,” I probably wouldn’t be nearly as excited about it as I was.  If “How to Train Your Dragon” had been called “Vikings and Dragons,” I would have easily written it off.  Those are some of the best of 2010, but what about the worst?

The bland and the irrelevant usually make the worst titles.  For example, as much as I loved “Michael Clayton,” that title told me NOTHING about the movie.  As for 2010, we had plenty of culprits: “I’m Still Here,” the Joaquin Phoenix documentary, would have sent up no flags for the average moviegoer.  “The Lost Year of Joaquin Phoenix” would have been a significantly better choice.  “The Bounty Hunter” sounds like an action movie, not a revolting Jennifer Aniston rom-com.  “The Joneses” is a family name, not the title for a very perceptive social commentary.

There are many more of 2010 (see a much more complete list at the link above), but that’s just a sampling of how a movie’s title can have a significant impact on moviewatching.  Did it make a difference for you at all this year?





Oscar Moment: December 17, 2010 Awards Round-Up / New Predictions

17 12 2010

Well, folks, if you had any doubt that Oscar season was here before this week, you can’t now.  Nearly every critics group chimed in with their best of the year, and we got two massively important nominations lists from the Golden Globes and the Screen Actors Guild.  The puzzle is really starting to come together, and since there was so much going on, the format of the last two weeks just didn’t really work.

In place of the usual “here’s the group, here’s what they selected” rambling, I decided to issue a new set of predictions based on what we saw over the past week.

A few notes before I begin: there’s no poll this week, and I’m debating whether or not to include one at all from here on out because there has been so little participation.  Also, please click the links! I spend a lot of time linking the titles of movies to other posts I’ve written that might be of interest.  The first time I mention a movie, it links to the trailer on YouTube.  The second mention goes to my Oscar Moment on the movie.  The third mention goes to my review, if applicable.

Past predictions: Early December 2010November 2010September 2010.

Best Picture:

  1. The Social Network
  2. The King’s Speech
  3. The Fighter (7)
  4. Inception
  5. Black Swan (3)
  6. Toy Story 3 (5)
  7. The Kids Are All Right (10)
  8. Winter’s Bone
  9. True Grit
  10. 127 Hours (6)

No change in my top 10, but some big trends have emerged.  It’s clear that “The Social Network” is the critics’ group darling of 2010.  Do you want me to name all the cities and organizations who named it their Best Picture?  I’m proud to say my own city of Houston named it theirs (updated on Saturday).  Ok, here’s the list:

  • African-American Film Critics
  • Boston Society of Film Critics
  • Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association
  • Detroit Film Critics Society
  • Houston Film Critics Society
  • Indiana Film Journalists Association
  • Las Vegas Film Critics Society
  • Los Angeles Film Critics Association
  • New York Film Critics Circle
  • New York Film Critics Online
  • San Francisco Film Critics Circle
  • Southeastern Film Critics Association
  • Toronto Film Critics Association
  • Washington, D.C. Area Film Critics Association

In addition, it picked up nominations from nods from critics in Chicago, St. Louis, and Phoenix who have yet to announce their winners.  On top of the previous win from the National Board of Review, “The Social Network” clearly has a ton of heat heading into the home stretch.  It received 6 Golden Globe nominations including Best Picture (Drama), 9 Critics Choice Award (BFCA) nominations including Best Picture, and 2 Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Award nominations including Best Ensemble, their version of Best Picture.  Critics make a difference, but they don’t decide Best Picture.  It helps, though, that it won top prize from the incredibly influential film centers of New York and Los Angeles.

However, “The King’s Speech” set itself up for a second-stage surge by scoring more nominations than “The Social Network” at all three of the major groups that announced this week.  It received 7 Golden Globe nominations, the most of any movie in 2010, including Best Picture.  It received 11 BFCA nominations including Best Picture.  It received 4 SAG Award nominations, tied for the most of any movie in 2010, including Best Ensemble.

These voters are not necessarily like critics in their taste, and it would only take a win of one of these big awards to hoist Tom Hooper’s film to the top spot. I wouldn’t be surprised to see it win the Globe for Best Picture simply because they almost always choose the most nominated movie.  Then again, that strategy didn’t work out in 2008 when “Slumdog Millionaire” with 4 nominations triumphed over the pack leader “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” with 5 nominations.  “Slumdog” swept the critics awards that year, so there could be an interesting parallel forming.

But for me, one of the big stories of the week was the emergence of “The Fighter” as a serious contender.  We had heard good things, but most called it somewhat predictable and formulaic.  No one was jumping up and down with joy, yet we saw an unprecedented outpouring of support this week.  It received 6 BFCA nominations including Best Picture, 4 SAG Award nominations, tied for the most of 2010, including Best Ensemble, and 6 Golden Globe nominations including Best Picture.  I got a chance to catch the movie this week, and it’s feel-good surface could make it a dark horse to watch out for in the race.

Then again, so could “Inception,” which picked up 4 Golden Globe nominations including Best Picture, something Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” couldn’t do back in 2008.  It has also been a staple on the critics circuit, although taking second fiddle to “The Social Network” of course.  The summer blockbuster has been a part of every top 5 or 10, practically the only certainty outside of a movie not involving Facebook. With 10 BFCA nominations as well, it could make a play for Best Picture as well.  It could easily wind up the most nominated film of 2010 at the Oscars given its impressive technical aspects.

“Black Swan” is also making strides in the race, scoring a record 12 nominations from the BFCA, 4 nominations from the Golden Globes including Best Picture, and 3 SAG Award nominations including Best Ensemble.  The box office has helped too, and as it expands into more theaters, expect it to be the audience favorite art-house movie.  I think it’s got to be a shoo-in for a nomination now, although the win will be tricky given the subject matter.

“The Kids Are All Right” goes up thanks to its great showing with the New York Film Critics Circle, winning more categories than “The Social Network,” and receiving 4 Golden Globe nominations including Best Picture (Musical/Comedy) as well as 3 SAG Award nominations including Best Ensemble.  It had a big miss with the BFCA, though, failing to score a Best Picture nomination.  It should easily win the Globe for Best Picture, and the prospects are looking much better than they did last week.  But I’m still not entirely certain that it’s going to get an Oscar nomination…

“Winter’s Bone” continues to stride nicely towards a Best Picture nomination, notable for being the only movie to win a Best Picture prize from a critics group other than “The Social Network” (kudos to San Diego for the originality).  It missed with the Golden Globes, but they rarely delve THAT indie.

Slipping this week are “True Grit” and “127 Hours,” neither of which found much love from the Golden Globes.  The former was completely shut out while the latter received three nominations but not for Best Picture or Director.  The one-man show was unlikely to score a SAG nomination apart from Franco, but “True Grit” missed big by not receiving a Best Ensemble nomination given its star-studded cast.  They did manage to score with the BFCA, both receiving a nomination for Best Picture.  “True Grit” received 11 total nominations from the group while “127 Hours” scored an impressive 8.  Neither look very strong at this stage, and if there are going to be any surprises on nomination morning, it could come at the expense of these two movies.

Worth noting: all movies predicted (with the exception of “The King’s Speech” because it was ineligible) appeared on the American Film Institute’s Top 10 films of the year.  Ben Affleck’s “The Town” was also included.

Best Director:

  1. David Fincher, “The Social Network” 
  2. Christopher Nolan, “Inception”  (4)
  3. Darren Aronofsky, “Black Swan” 
  4. Tom Hooper, “The King’s Speech”  (2)
  5. David O. Russell, “The Fighter”  (NR)

Dropping off: Danny Boyle

Barring some massive surge of appreciation for the boldness of Nolan or Aronofsky’s work this year, Fincher has this in the bag simply because he’s the only prior nominee with his eyes on the prize and he deserves it.  (Nolan took home Best Director from the African-American Critics Association and the Indiana Film Journalists Association, and Aronofsky won with San Diego and San Francisco critics.)

Tom Hooper moves down because the actors are the star of the campaign, not him.  Since so few people know of him and his other movies, there’s no rush to recognize him.

Boyle departs the list this week as love for “127 Hours” has grown soft, replaced with reservations by David O. Russell.  Given that he’s not the most popular man in Hollywood, it’s going to be hard for him to score a nomination.  But if the love for “The Fighter” continues, the goodwill could push him into the race.

Best Actor:

  1. Colin Firth, “The King’s Speech” 
  2. Jesse Eisenberg, “The Social Network”  (3)
  3. James Franco, “127 Hours”  (2)
  4. Mark Wahlberg, “The Fighter”  (NR)
  5. Ryan Gosling, “Blue Valentine” 

Dropping off: Robert Duvall

Firth still stands steadfast at the top amidst all.  He has made a decent showing with the critics, winning top marks from Detroit, San Francisco, Washington D.C., the Southeastern critics, and the incredibly important groups in New York and Los Angeles, both of which chose “The Social Network” as their Best Picture.  If all else fails, he should be the one way the Academy knows they can reward “The King’s Speech.”

But the real story of the season so far is massive surge of love for Jesse Eisenberg, whose performance in “The Social Network” could easily have been overlooked due to his age.  That has not been the case so far as Eisenberg has dominated the critics circuit, winning top prizes from Boston, Houston, and Toronto in addition to taking the first prize of the year from the National Board of Review.  If the movie starts dominating everything in its path a la “Slumdog Millionaire,” Eisenberg could surprise and win.

Yet James Franco has won more awards on the critics circuit, taking the prize from Dallas-Fort Worth, Indiana, Las Vegas, and the New York Film Critics Online.  This is the kind of performance that the critics really love, and its adulation from this corner doesn’t necessarily translate to Oscar gold.  Apparently a lot of people simply won’t watch the movie because they are scared (which is a terrible reason), and the overall buzz for the movie has plummeted thanks to that and Fox Searchlight’s clumsy release strategy.

Firth, Eisenberg, and Franco are all locks at this moment, their status solidified by appearing on nearly every Best Actor shortlist including from the BFCA, Golden Globes, and SAG Awards.  After that, there are essentially four actors vying for the final two slots – Jeff Bridges, Robert Duvall, Ryan Gosling, and Mark Wahlberg.  The first two are the conservative picks; the last two are riskier.

Bridges and Duvall both received nominations from the SAG Awards and the BFCA but were overlooked by the Golden Globes.  The SAG is usually a good indicator of the Academy’s ultimate selections, but they are also notorious for getting sentimental for older actors.  Given the tepid support for “True Grit” and the absence of support for “Get Low,” I don’t know if the Academy can justify to itself the inclusion of two prior winners in movies they didn’t really like.

Mark Wahlberg, a prior nominee for 2006’s “The Departed,” only managed to score a nomination from the Golden Gloves and a win from the African-American Film Critics Association, but the surge for “The Fighter” bodes well for his chances despite missing nods from the BFCA and the SAG Awards.  The leading actor usually gets swept along for the ride in scenarios like these, and that feels likely for Wahlberg.  However, since the heart of the film is Christian Bale, not leading man Wahlberg, he could still be overlooked.

And then there’s Ryan Gosling, Best Actor nominee in 2006 for “Half Nelson,” whose raw performance I still keep in my top 5.  There are two interesting trajectories Gosling has taken through awards season: in 2006, he was nominated by the BFCA but snubbed by the Golden Globes and SAG Awards on the way to an Oscar nomination.  In 2007, his work in “Lars and the Real Girl” was recognized by all three organizations yet not nominated by the Academy.  “Blue Valentine” is an entirely different path, as Gosling was nominated by the BFCA and Golden Globes but not by the SAG Awards.  I have faith … for now.

Best Actress:

  1. Natalie Portman, “Black Swan” 
  2. Annette Bening, “The Kids Are All Right” 
  3. Jennifer Lawrence, “Winter’s Bone”  (4)
  4. Michelle Williams, “Blue Valentine”  (5)
  5. Nicole Kidman, “Rabbit Hole”  (3)

No change in my top 5 this week as the same four actresses – Portman, Bening, Lawrence, Kidman – seeming to dominate the circuit collected nominations from the BFCA, the SAG Awards, and the Golden Globes.  Unfortunately, due to the conflicting genre of their movies, we won’t get a Bening/Portman face-off at the latter ceremony.  (And as a note, Kidman is at #5 because I just don’t think she will win.  I see her as the Helen Mirren in “The Last Station” of 2010, a prior winner collecting every nomination but never with a real shot to win.)

I’m still picking Portman as I feel her performance is too good to be denied, and the love for “Black Swan” is high.  She has also established herself as a critical favorite, winning awards from groups in Boston, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, Indiana, Las Vegas, the Southeast, and the New York Film Critics Online.  She has appeared on every shortlist for Best Actress, minor as a critics group or major as the BFCA, Golden Globes, and SAG Awards.

As I discussed last week, Portman has the performance but Bening has the respect.  To win, she doesn’t need to be collecting all these awards, although it would help.  She took home a very important Best Actress prize from the New York Film Critics Circle, a very influential group in the race.  Until we see her go up against Portman, I see no reason to say she’s entitled to an Oscar victory for her career.  She will need to win from the BFCA or the SAG Awards to assert her authority.

Jennifer Lawrence has also shown up on nearly every list made by critics, and she’s been winning her fair share of awards too, including from Detroit, San Diego, Toronto, and Washington D.C.  She’s a critical darling in her own right, but I think she’s too young and too fresh a face to win.

There are several actresses vying for that last spot – Hilary Swank for “Conviction” who received a surprise SAG nomination, Halle Berry for “Frankie & Alice” who received a Golden Globe nomination, Julianne Moore for “The Kids Are All Right” who received a Golden Globe nomination, dark horse Swedish actress Noomi Rapace for “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” who received a BFCA nomiation, and Lesley Manville for “Another Year” who won the National Board of Review’s prize for Best Actress.

But I still think that last spot will be filled by Michelle Williams for “Blue Valentine” who was recognized by the Golden Globes and the BFCA as one of the best actresses of the year.  She’s been an Oscar nominee before, and I think she has what it takes to sneak in.

Best Supporting Actor:

  1. Christian Bale, “The Fighter” 
  2. Geoffrey Rush, “The King’s Speech” 
  3. Jeremy Renner, “The Town”  (5)
  4. Andrew Garfield, “The Social Network” 
  5. Mark Ruffalo, “The Kids Are All Right”  (NR)

Dropping off: Matt Damon

Christian Bale has become the closest thing to a lock we can get this season, winning nearly everything in sight.  In addition to picking up Best Supporting Actor nominations from the BFCA, Golden Globes, and the SAG Awards, he won the award from Boston, Dallas-Fort Worth, Detroit, Houston, Indiana, Las Vegas, New York Film Critics Online, and Washington D.C.  If nothing else, Oscar socialism could be at work here to give “The Fighter” a trophy.

Geoffrey Rush received the trifecta of nominations this week as well, although his only win on the critics circuit has come from the Southeastern Film Critics Association.  He was the runner-up, though, for the Los Angeles critics, a very influential group.  If Bale’s temper flares up soon, expect Rush to capitalize and take the trophy.

Rising this week is Jeremy Renner, last year’s Best Actor nominee for “The Hurt Locker,” who also received the three crucial nominations that Bale and Rush did.  He’s a quick way to recognize the movie if they don’t want to give it a Best Picture nomination.

Andrew Garfield, while being recognized by the BFCA and Golden Globes, was snubbed by the SAG Awards.  While I think the success of “The Social Network” will keep him afloat, I don’t think his nomination is any certainty.  Worth noting – some much deserved love went the way of Armie Hammer, Garfield’s co-star who breathed life into the Winklevi, from the Toronto Film Critics for Best Supporting Actor.  Two nominees from the same movie hasn’t happened in this category for almost 20 years, but perhaps if “The Social Network” hits big, it could happen.

Mark Ruffalo finally makes it into my shortlist after receiving the Best Supporting Actor prize from the influential New York Film Critics Association as well as nominations from the BFCA and SAG Awards.  It’s still a little strange that he missed out on a Golden Globe nomination (at the inclusion of Michael Douglas in “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps,” no less), but the surge of love for the movie looks to power him into the race over John Hawkes in “Winter’s Bone,” who received a SAG Award nomination in addition to his prizes from San Francisco and San Diego.

Best Supporting Actress:

  1. Melissa Leo, “The Fighter”  (3)
  2. Mila Kunis, “Black Swan”  (NR)
  3. Helena Bonham Carter, “The King’s Speech”  (2)
  4. Amy Adams, “The Fighter” 
  5. Jacki Weaver, “Animal Kingdom”  (NR)

Dropping off: Hailee Steinfeld, Dianne Weist

I still have no idea what to make of this category.  Melissa Leo seems to be an across-the-board favorite, so I’m inclined to favor her.  She received nominations from all three major groups announcing this week and won the award from Dallas-Fort Worth, Washington D.C., the New York Film Critics Online, and most importantly the New York Film Critics Circle.  In a year where there appears to be no clear favorite, she may be the consensus choice that everyone can agree on.

Amy Adams was also on board with Leo for the big three this week, also winning Detroit and Las Vegas’ prize.  She could ultimately be Leo’s foil as vote-splitting becomes an issue.  Of the six movies that received dual Best Supporting Actress nominations over the past decade, only one managed to win (Catherine Zeta-Jones over Queen Latifah in “Chicago”).

Mila Kunis stormed onto the scene this week, capturing nominations from the BFCA, Golden Globes, and SAG Awards.  For a girl who this time last year was best known in cinema for her roles in “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” and “Max Payne,” this is a startling turnaround.  The love shows that they love her performance, and I think the Oscars will reciprocate the love in a few weeks.

Helena Bonham Carter continues to ride on the coattails of the success of “The King’s Speech,” also popping up in all three major groups announcing their nominations this week.  I see her much like Taraji P. Henson for “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” or Catherine Keener for “Capote” – great actresses turning in fairly good performances in beloved movies.  Fairly good can’t win, but it’s sure going to get nominated.

The campaign for Jacki Weaver worked, so pat yourself on the back, Sony Pictures Classics.  The “Animal Kingdom” actress was cited by the BFCA and Golden Globes as one of the five best supporting performances of the year, and she won the title outright from the  Los Angeles critics, an extremely good sign that she’s headed for a nomination.  The SAG snub hurt, and she still has to deal with lack of notoriety.  But if it’s about the performance, she stands a good chance.

Dark horse Juliette Lewis won Boston’s prize for her work in “Conviction,” but I think it’s too small of a part to get nominated.  Hailee Steinfeld took home top honors from Houston and Indiana for her work in “True Grit” and managed to net nominations rom the BFCA and SAG Awards.  However, category confusion and lack of familiarity could keep her out.  And for some strange reason, Dianne Weist has gone totally unnoticed this season save a meaningless Golden Satellite Award nomination.  Bye, bye…

Best Original Screenplay:

  1. Inception  (3)
  2. The Kids Are All Right 
  3. The King’s Speech  (1)
  4. Black Swan  (5)
  5. Another Year (4)

Another pick that’s pretty far out there, but I’m getting a feeling that “Inception” will win Best Original Screenplay.  The critics are all over its originality, and everyone seems on board the train.  If “The Social Network” takes Best Picture, how else to reward this movie other than a few technical awards?  Best Original Screenplay, of course, as the movie redefined originality and creativity for millions of moviegoers.  The BFCA and Golden Globe nominations don’t hurt either.

Hot on its heels is “The Kids Are All Right,” which was recognized for its screenplay by the same two organizations.  It also won the prize from the New York Film Critics Association (over “The Social Network,” I might add).  There was a two-year comedy streak from 2006-2007, and we just hit a two-year drama streak.  Perhaps it’s time for the pendulum to swing back…

While “The King’s Speech” also received the same two nominations, I just don’t feel like anyone is jumping up and down with love for the script.  It’s an actor’s movie, not a writer’s movie, and the mentions feel more like courtesy than necessity.  However, it did win the prize from the Southeastern critics and San Francisco and was a runner-up for Toronto, and Los Angeles’ prize, so maybe I’m wrong.

“Black Swan” is in because everyone likes the movie, and it got the nod from the BFCA.  “Another Year” stays in because the Academy loves Mike Leigh.

Best Adapted Screenplay:

  1. The Social Network 
  2. Toy Story 3 
  3. 127 Hours  (NR)
  4. Winter’s Bone  (5)
  5. True Grit  (3)

Dropping off: Rabbit Hole

“The Social Network” is still in peak condition, winning nearly every Best Screenplay award there is.  But I hesitate to call it a lock as “Precious” surprised the heavily favored “Up in the Air” last year.  The heart is a factor in this category, and the heart belongs to “Toy Story 3.”

“127 Hours” soars to #3 thanks to its recognition by the BFCA and the Golden Globes in spite of my prior qualms that it wasn’t a movie that succeeded because of its writing.  But if Danny Boyle can’t get a Best Director nomination, it sure looks like he will get one for Best Adapted Screenplay.

“Winter’s Bone” has been collecting plenty of screenplay nominations along the critics circuit, and it seems like a solid choice for a nomination.

“True Grit” slips to #5 and only stays in because the Academy loves the Coen Brothers’ writing.  If “The Town” shows some might, it could easily replace the Western.

So, what do YOU think?  Who do you think is cruising towards an Oscar nomination?