“Conviction” Poll Results

25 10 2010

With a good-not-great 65% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a 61 on Metacritic, it doesn’t look like “Conviction” has the goods to make in the Best Picture race.  However, this ship is hardly the Titanic, and all is not sunk for Fox Searchlight.

There is still an incredibly viable contender in Sam Rockwell, who has been the favorite aspect of the movie across the board.  If he gets a nice push from the studio, the underrated Rockwell could get the moment in the sun he deserves.  In my Oscar Moment on “Conviction,” I asked you all whether Rockwell will get a nomination.

You seemed to have faith.  Four voters said yes; one said no.  That’s a whopping 80% in favor of a potential nomination for Sam Rockwell.  The movie opened in Houston over the weekend, and I haven’t been able to see it yet.  Hopefully I’ll be able to join the chorus of adulation soon.

Oscar Moment: “Conviction”

1 10 2010

With the Oscars expansion to ten Best Picture nominees, it’s truly unfortunate that within the first year, the term “The Blind Side slot” became a legitimate phrase.  We now know that certain movies of less Academy-caliber filmmaking have a shot at Best Picture.  “The Blind Side” brought a mixture of inspiration and sports to the table and wound up on the Academy shortlist.

However, those two elements seem to go hand-in-hand nowadays.  Could this same slot be for a movie that is just inspirational?  What I am suggesting is that perhaps “The Blind Side slot” in 2010 is destined to go to “Conviction,” not the presumed heir apparent “Secretariat.”

It’s a legal drama, a genre that has been more traditionally up the Academy’s alley that sports.  Betty Anne Waters, played by two-time Oscar winner Hilary Swank, spends a decade earning a law degree to prove the innocence of her brother Kenneth (Sam Rockwell), who is jailed on a murder conviction.  The struggles are many, but the underdog story prevails as always.

On paper, the plot seems to good to be true – and it may turn out to be exactly that way. “Conviction” may be hitting theaters a few years too late as many will feel like they have seen this exact same story several times before.  We’ve seen audience backlash on banality before, and the Academy have echoed their sentiments.  Just look at how they scoffed at “Invictus” last year, a movie everyone thought was safe on the virtue of being about sports and Nelson Mandela.

The movie premiered at the Toronto Film Festival a few weeks ago to fair reviews. Here’s what Brad Brevet of Rope of Silicon had to say:

“‘Conviction’ is a rather simple film, but the emotional impact of the story comes through in the end after what is a rather mundane and cliched story of the innocent man in jail and the person working hard on the outside to get them out. At no point does this seem like new territory, but outside of being about ten minutes too long it’s a decent film despite its rather traditional dramatic nature.”

This might be an alarming review or an almost immediate disqualifying flaw if the same words could not be used by most critics to describe “The Blind Side.”  Nowadays, if the audience is moved and critics aren’t, the former can win out.  I think a Best Picture nomination is a possibility if the reviews can get into the 70% range on Rotten Tomatoes and the box office take exceeds $25 million.  But sorry, Tony Goldwyn, the Best Director field is too talented to make room for you.  (I haven’t seen “A Walk on the Moon,” but “The Last Kiss” was kind of lame, so he can start proving himself here.)

“Conviction” also stands a chance in the acting categories as well.  While I have nothing against Hilary Swank, there are plenty of people up in arms that she has the same amount of Oscars as Meryl Streep.  I think backlash and a strong field of Best Actress candidates will keep her out of the race.

Sam Rockwell, as the convict of “Conviction” (punny, I know), seems to be the movie’s best shot at Oscar glory.  He has been coming into his own as a star as of recent, and movies like “Moon” have made him a cult favorite.  This could be his chance to show the mainstream how talented he truly is, and I think an aggressive campaign could easily get him into the relatively unformed Best Supporting Actor race.

Rockwell seems to be the one part of “Conviction” that everyone can rally around.  According to Katey Rich at Cinemablend, “every scene in the prison interview room and especially flashbacks gives the film a jolt of electricity.”  I think we can expect some sort of representation from the movie, be it just Rockwell or the movie as a whole.

BEST BETS AT NOMINATIONS: Best Supporting Actor (Rockwell)

OTHER POSSIBLE NOMINATIONS: Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Original Screenplay

REVIEW: Iron Man 2

10 05 2010

Iron Man 2” may not have all that much to offer us as a movie, but it provides significant fodder for conversation about what it means to cinema in general.  In my mind, it marks the first comic book movie of the post-“Dark Knight” era.  Filmmakers have seen what made Christopher Nolan’s film such a hit on multiple fronts, and they are trying to strike gold using the same tools: namely, character development and strong plot over explosions and action.  Jon Favreau and the other minds behind “Iron Man 2” had time to adapt their series in an attempt to replicate that success.

One thing this sequel gives us is confirmation of a theory that many have been advocating for almost two years: “The Dark Knight” really does mark a revolution in the way we watch movies and the way they are made.  As soon as we saw it, we knew that we would never watch comic book or action movies the same way.  We instantly scorned “Transformers 2” and other movies that only emphasized the visuals.  But now, similar movies are trying to shift the focus to plot.  That’s a really good thing for the average moviegoer because it means that studios are recognizing our intelligence!

But “Iron Man 2” also reminds us of an unfortunate reality: some revolutions are only revolutionary once.  Some are meant to repeated; the American Revolution, for example, inspired similar uprisings in France, Haiti, and all over Latin America.  “Iron Man 2” incorporates many elements used in “The Dark Knight,” hoping to continue the pattern of success.

But its inability to recreate what made Nolan’s film so incredible signals the dawning of an era in comic book movies not favorable to anyone.  From now on, there will be “The Dark Knight” and every other movie who wishes they were “The Dark Knight.”  These movies cannot simply try to concoct their own version as if there is some sort of a formula.  Nolan’s movie worked for so many reasons.  Now, filmmakers have to find their own way if they want to make a movie that doesn’t play like a cheap ripoff of “The Dark Knight.”  A key factor to the success of Nolan’s film was originality.  Any movie that tries to use that originality will end up creating banality.

Read the rest of this entry »


17 02 2010

It’s pretty obvious that Duncan Jones’ “Moon” draws a great deal of inspiration from sci-fi classics like “Alien.”  Jones manages to nail one aspect of these movies: their simplicity.  However, this works directly against Jones’ ambitious movie, which tries so hard to have nuances and complexities.  But the unfortunate reality is that the story is actually quite vapid and dull.

Jones’ script is most urgently lacking in emotion.  Sure, it’s a subtle portrait of Sam Bell, the Lunar Industries employee on the moon base, and the steep toll that three years of solitude takes on his mental state.  But is it too much to ask for hints of passion or fire?  I don’t mind a build-up, yet Jones doesn’t give us much of a payoff for our waiting.  “Moon” is tormentingly boring to a point where I had to repeatedly wake myself up while watching it.

The only fascinating thing to watch here is Sam Rockwell.  The movie is his soliloquy, and the only actor that I can think gave a comparable performance in such a situation is Tom Hanks in “Cast Away.”  Hanks he is not, but Rockwell manages to command and excite where the script and movie in general doesn’t.  The two forces effectively cancel each other out, and we are left with a product that is just a smidgeon above average.

I can see “Moon” becoming a cult hit in the future.  It has the fan base, as shown by the great volume of people who signed Jones’ Internet petition for Rockwell’s consideration for the Best Actor Oscar.  It lacks the flavor or originality to score any sort of large public following, but I think a select group sees a lot more in this directorial debut than I do.  B- /


2 08 2009

Believe it or not, I really don’t mind talking animal kids movies.  I risk my credibility in saying this, but I actually kind of liked “Beverly Hills Chihuahua.”  I would rather watch “Alvin and the Chipmunks” than several movies nominated for Best Picture this decade.  But “G-Force” does not have the stuff to be a guilty pleasure; in fact, it doesn’t really give any sort of pleasure whatsoever.  There were only small giggles in the theater, even from the kids.  It’s a hodgepodge of kids movie clichés that fails to provide anything new and worthwhile.

The talking animals this time are guinea pigs (voiced by Salma Hayek, “30 Rock”‘s Tracy Morgan, and “Frost/Nixon”‘s Sam Rockwell) who call themselves “G-Force” and are trained to be FBI operatives.  I had struggled over a brief plot summary for the movie, but when I realized that I had written more for this dreadful movie than I had for “(500) Days of Summer,” I decided not to be so magnanimous and to make some massive cuts.  Because anybody who reads this blog would surely not in their right mind go see this movie by choice but rather because they are being dragged by their kids.  In addition, the movie really doesn’t have much of a plot.  So, to summarize, the first half involves G-Force’s escape to a pet store after a failed mission and their eventual reunion, and the second half plays out like a bad parody of “Transformers” where Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox are replaced by guinea pigs.

I know that well-developed characters might be too much to ask from a kid’s movie, but it honestly feels like each of the guinea pigs just say the same thing every time their tiny mouths open.  Tracy Morgan’s is always trying to get Salma Hayek’s to go out with him, Salma Hayek’s is always cryptically speaking about who she likes, and Sam Rockwell’s is always trying to sound valiant.

I do appreciate that kid’s movies try to add a little bit of adult humor to make it enjoyable for all.  The “Shrek” movies are infinitely funnier now that I have grown up and get every little joke.  However, in “G-Force,” it just falls flat on its face.  I have never rolled my eyes so many times in such a short span.  The absolute worst comes whenever one of the guinea pigs fights a coffeemaker that has come to life, it jumps in the air and yells, “Yippie-ki-yea, coffeemaker!”  Yeah, it’s THAT bad.

I was always peeved growing up by how the critics reviewed kids movies.  I thought that they overanalyzed everything as if they expected it to be the eventual Oscar winner for Best Picture.  And although they might have been a little overly critical, I now see it from their perspective.  But I also try to consider the perspective of the target audience, the tykes.  And even they didn’t seem to be riveted by “G-Force.”  It is possible to make a kids movie that is fun for all ages (see: Pixar), and this one doesn’t satiate any age.  C- / 1halfstars