Random Factoid #558

6 02 2011

For about 7 years, I have been using a little book called “The Yogi Book” as a coaster on the dresser that sits directly next to my bed. (If you were wondering, the book features great sayings from America’s foremost philosopher, New York Yankees player Yogi Berra.)  I’ve always had it out, and it’s always been fun to pick it up and read a quote for a laugh.

But as of this week, “The Yogi Book” ended its run on my dresser.  It has now been replaced by a mousepad promoting “The Social Network.”  So now at night, when I reach for my glass of water, I see the upper right quadrant of Jesse Eisenberg/Mark Zuckerberg with the superimposed words “PUNK TRAITOR BILLIONAIRE.”

Just another way movies pop up all through my life.

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Random Factoid #556

4 02 2011

How did Mark Zuckerberg turn what looked like a PR nightmare 5 months ago into what’s now a PR bonanza?  “The Social Network” was supposed to make him look like an anti-social a-hole to the moviegoing public has made him a celebrity and household name, something surprising given the site’s country-sized population.  There’s no way that he would have been named TIME Magazine’s Person of the Year had it not been for the movie.

Danielle Berin offers up this theory:

“Oh what a difference an awards season makes. In the five months since opening, the film has lapped up box office success and critical acclaim, and, along the way, Zuckerberg’s image has undergone elaborate transformation. The once Machiavellian Harvard student has become the philanthropic humanitarian…. What began as a negative spin on Zuckerberg and his haughty conquer-the-world attitude had transformed into the most celebratory and useful publicity both Zuckerberg and his company have seen since Facebook’s founding. And to think, all it took was a little Oscar buzz. OK, a lot of Oscar buzz. The past few months of award-winning and Oscar campaigning have done more than cement the genius of the film’s cast and creators. Because of the spotlight cast on Zuckerberg, the young entrepreneur has had a chance to prove he isn’t the socially inept anti-hero portrayed by Eisenberg, but, rather, a benevolent titan of the digital age.”

Patrick Goldstein of The Big Picture wrote this:

“My theory is that all this kumbaya tub-thumping wasn’t just a spontaneous outpouring of awards-season good cheer. It was more likely the product of shrewd Oscar-season strategizing. Sorkin and ‘Social Network’ producer Scott Rudin were forging this rapprochement for one reason and one reason only–they believe that having an appearance of harmony between the film and its subject will help ‘Social Network”s Oscar chances. If Zuckerberg was still running around, bitching and moaning about his portrayal, as he was doing around the time of the film’s release last fall, it would inspire a new round of inflammatory media hit pieces about the film’s veracity, stories that could only do damage to the film’s Oscar chances.”

Either way, this whole ride for Zuckerberg has been fascinating to watch unfold.  I will say that five months ago, I never would have seen this coming.  Heck, the real Mark Zuckerberg could be the true underdog story of the Oscar race.

It’s always nice when we get a surprise.  I get so sick of hackneyed Hollywood plotlines being lived out by celebrities.





Oscar Moment: FINAL 2010 Predictions!

24 01 2011

Best Picture

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

In case you needed any reminder of why the movie in the top spot is comfortably perched there, look above.

“The Social Network” is way ahead in the lead, and I personally don’t think that anything is going to stop it.  But “The King’s Speech” threw an interesting twist into the race with its PGA victory on Saturday night with the help of a preferential ballot, and more discussion about this will be appropriate once the slate is officially set for February 27.

At this point, I honestly think that “The Fighter” could be the only movie with a chance to knock it out of the top slot.  It could easily take the SAG ensemble win, and it has popped up unexpectedly in many guilds.  The movie has also positioned itself to win two acting awards after victories with the BFCA and HFPA.  I just get a sinking sensation that this is the movie that has enough across-the-board love to pull an upset on a preferential ballot.

“Black Swan” has popped up on EVERY guild list this year, something that could make it the most nominated movie of the year.  This is obviously huge for the movie, but now that it’s assured a nomination, I’m thinking about how likely a win would be.  Given that the movie tends to polarize, the chances are small.  And as I’ve said about “The King’s Speech” all year, it’s not the Academy’s type of movie anymore, so I still have a hard time seeing it win.  “Inception” is out of the running because it missed out on a SAG ensemble nod despite being star-studded, and you need the support of the actors to win.

Those are the five certainties, and I’d be awestruck if any of those five miss.  I think “True Grit” and “Toy Story 3” are locks for nominations as well.  “The Kids Are All Right” is in, but I still stand by my assertion earlier this year that it would not shock me to see it left off.

It’s down to three movies – “127 Hours,” “The Town,” and “Winter’s Bone” – to battle it out for the final two slots.  There could, of course, be lurking surprises like “The Blind Side” last year, but no movie seems to have positioned its chips to make a big move on nominations day.  Every critical darling is underseen, and all the box office smashes are poorly reviewed.

I think “127 Hours” is in because it has a passionate base of supporters that should be able to overcome the faction of the Academy that simply won’t watch the movie.  It’s from Danny Boyle, who is clearly an Academy favorite after his “Slumdog Millionaire” orchestrated a sweep of the Oscars in 2008 that we only see once or twice a decade.  This a powerful movie, and those who can sit through it walk out with an enhanced appreciation of life.  I think they can easily power it to a nomination.

Previously, I had predicted “Winter’s Bone” to take that final slot.  But ever since the PGA left it on the outside looking in, I’ve been more inclined to favor “The Town.”  As I said on the LAMBcast, putting Ben Affleck’s movie in the field would make for a perfect 50-50 split between indies and blockbusters.  It would give a nice sense of “something for everyone” to Best Picture, which is kind of what I think the idea was when they expanded the field.

But “Winter’s Bone” does have a few things going for it.  While I don’t think many people LOVE “The Town,” I do think that there is a significant handful of people that do love “Winter’s Bone.”  It’s nothing like any of the other Best Picture nominees this year; it’s understated, quiet, stars no-name actors, and is truly of an independent sensibility.

The other so-called “indies” in the race feature recognizable actors and have largely entered mainstream consciousness.  I wouldn’t count out the desire to represent a part of the industry that isn’t manifest in the first 9 nominees, but my pick is still on “The Town.”  For better or for worse.

In case you were really hankering for my no guts no glory pick for a Best Picture nominee, it would be “Shutter Island.”  But I don’t think that’s likely.

Best Director

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

No real change in the field here.  If there’s any surprise in this category, it will likely come at the expense of David O. Russell, a prickly figure in Hollywood.  But since this would be his first nomination, and those likely to replace him have won in the past three years (Danny Boyle/The Coen Brothers), he seems like a good bet.  I’d also say that Christopher Nolan isn’t as safe as most would like him to be; the DGA has shortlisted him twice and the Academy has yet to recognize him in this category.  A snub would be shocking but not unforseeable.

For the win, it’s Fincher way out in front.  Even if “The King’s Speech” or “The Fighter” makes headway in the Best Picture race, there is no doubt that this award will be going to “The Social Network” and its genius helmer.  It would be foolish to place your money anywhere else.

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Random Factoid #536

15 01 2011

I’ve been meaning to enshrine this article in factoid ink for about 7 months now, and the opportunity has finally risen for me to do that!  Huzzah!

Now that I’m 18 and can legally see any movie I want, I get a little PO’d when movies that look promising to me get a PG-13 rating.  Call it selfishness, which it probably is, but I want the movies to be targeted to me, not the little 12-year-olds who get dropped off at the theater.  Now that I’m on the other side of the age divide, I simply don’t want movies to be dumbed-down to be appropriate enough for everyone to buy a ticket.  I understand that it’s all for commercial reasons, but this often leads to a decline in quality.

I’m not talking about the obvious editing that cut the F-bomb out of “The Social Network” to get it a PG-13; I’m talking about the lower-caliber action movies that drop down a few notches so parents feel OK dropping off their 10-year-olds to see it.  It’s unsatisfying for those of us who like watching GOOD action that you can only get in an R-rated movie, and once you’ve seen it done at its most violent, it’s hard to respect the kiddie version.

Which brings me to a piece Entertainment Weekly posted in June 2010 about “The A-Team,” asking if the PG-13 rating ruined yet another action movie, much like “The Green Hornet” did this week.  They not only dialed down the action for the Seth Rogen vehicle, but they also had to dim the drunk/stoner humor which could have added a lot more to the movie.  Author Darren Franich described “The A-Team” experience as something that “could have been an enjoyably coarse testosterone-fest [but] felt pruned and bland.”  The same words can easily describe this week’s opener, which has put up unspectacular numbers at the box office.

So, for the viewing pleasure of everyone who earns money to pay for movies, let’s make all action movies R-rated!  Kids just sneak into them anyways; it’s not like the rating is any sort of an unmovable barrier.

(I will add as a caveat to this piece that the standards for what’s permissible in a PG-13 seems to have really dropped in recent years, probably to the point that something rated R a few years ago could probably get a PG-13 now.)





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!





Oscar Moment: January 7, 2011 Awards Round-Up

7 01 2011

It’s been 3 weeks since I last ran this column (thanks to Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve, and a general lack of events in the awards sphere), and I sure have missed writing.  In a ways, a lot of things have happened since then.  Yet, at the same time, not a whole lot has happened.

So, without further ado, here are some developments in the Oscar race worth nothing:

The Producers Guild nominates. A group representing the interests of Hollywood producers, the Producers Guild is generally a pretty good indicator of how the Academy will ultimately shape their field.  They ultimately solidified that we have eight almost sure-fire nominees, leaving the two remaining spots up for grabs by a few movies.  In case you don’t know which eight movies I’m referring to, here they are in a convenient bulleted list (in alphabetical order):

Some might argue that “The Kids Are All Right” isn’t a lock since it missed a BFCA nomination and wasn’t a big audience favorite; others might say that “True Grit” isn’t certain because it was totally snubbed at the Golden Globes.  I think that both will ultimately get nominated, but “True Grit” is safer because of its robust box office numbers.

But for their last two nominees, they chose Danny Boyle’s “127 Hours” and Ben Affleck’s “The Town.”  Both were BFCA nominees for Best Picture that missed Golden Globe nominations for the same award.  Neither were big hits with the SAG, only garnering one nomination.

The big story is that Debra Granik’s “Winter’s Bone” was left out in the cold after garnering a BFCA nod for Best Picture and two SAG nominations.  It’s been basically narrowed down to “Winter’s Bone,” “127 Hours,” and “The Town” to fight for those last two spots, and missing out on the PGA nomination really hurt here.  It’s not a big movie for producers being the tiny budget indie that it is.

I’d also say that the indie portion of Best Picture has been covered without “Winter’s Bone.” Three nominees for the Best Independent Film at the Independent Spirit Awards, “127 Hours,” “The Kids Are All Right,” and “Black Swan,” will likely be represented in the Academy’s field.  These three movies had better box office than “Winter’s Bone,” which only made $6 million this summer.  So, in other words, “The Town” has leap-frogged “Winter’s Bone” in my predictions.

For historical reference, the PGA chose 8 of the Academy’s 10 selections, choosing “Invictus” and “Star Trek” over “The Blind Side” and “A Serious Man.”

The Writers Guild nominates. Before listing the nominees, it’s worth noting that there were many high profile ineligibilities this year.  In original screenplay, “Another Year,” “Blue Valentine,” and “The King’s Speech” were among the most notable; in adapted screenplay, they excluded “Toy Story 3” and “Winter’s Bone.”

In original screenplay, the surprise nominee was “Please Give,” which will compete against probable Best Picture nominees “Black Swan,” “The Fighter,” “Inception,” and “The Kids Are All Right.”  I envision this race as a battle between the latter two movies; the winner will then have to go head-to-head with “The King’s Speech” at the Oscars.  (All three were nominated at the Golden Globes but will probably lose to “The Social Network.”)  As for “The Fighter,” it will probably be fighting “Another Year” for the final slot in the category – and will most likely be snubbed due to the Academy’s worshipping of Mike Leigh.

In adapted screenplay, they threw a total curveball by throwing “I Love You Phillip Morris” into a field that included “127 Hours,” “The Social Network,” “The Town,” and “True Grit.”  Aaron Sorkin is going to run away with this category, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see “The Town” and “True Grit” make way for “Toy Story 3” and “Winter’s Bone” at the Oscars.

The USC Scripter finalists announced. An award for film adaptations of literature, the USC Scripter award is a nice award for screenwriters to pick up on the way to Best Adapted Screenplay.  (In case you couldn’t deduce it, “Toy Story 3” was ineligible.)

The surprise nominee was “The Ghost Writer” among potential Oscar nominees “127 Hours,” “The Social Network,” “True Grit,” and “Winter’s Bone.”  It’s a nice boost for Roman Polanski’s movie, and it certainly gives it a blip on the awards radar.  But given how unofficial the award is, it’s probably unwise to look to much into it.

Besides, as I already said, it’s the year of Aaron Sorkin.  However, many people believe it to be practically an original screenplay as Sorkin finished his screenplay before Ben Mezrich finished his book, “The Accidental Billionaires.”  Mezrich sent Sorkin his notes and research while he was writing the book, and “The Social Network” is based on those – NOT the final book.  So perhaps as an adaptation, it’s not the kind of movie that could win this.

BAFTA longlists announced. The real nominations for the BAFTAs (the British version of the Oscars) aren’t announced until January 18, but for some strange reason, they choose to announce a field of 15 in each category that they will ultimately select their nominees from.

The result is ultimately a bunch of clutter not worth looking too much into.  “The King’s Speech” and “Black Swan” led the long list with 15 mentions each.  Obviously the former, being such a prominent British title, stands a pretty good chance of taking the most nominations when the real ones are announced.

They did star the top five vote-getters in the preliminary rounds which do provide some interesting insight into their ultimate nominees.  So with that in mind, here are some highlights from the list so you don’t have to look at it yourself:

  • “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” made their Best Picture longlist.  (They didn’t star any nominees in the category.)
  • Danny Boyle was one of the starred directors.  This is a good sign for Boyle, who seems to be slipping with his movie in the Best Director race.  If the British contingent is behind him, he could outmuscle the Coen Brothers for the final slot.
  • Aaron Eckhart was longlisted for “Rabbit Hole” (personal favorite, sorry) as were both Leonardo DiCaprio performancesi in 2010.  Starred were the usual suspects Eisenberg, Firth, and Franco as well as Jeff Bridges and surprisingly Javier Bardem, who could use a boost right now other than an endorsement of “Biutiful” by Julia Roberts.
  • Among likely Best Actress nominees Annette Bening, Natalie Portman, and Michelle Williams, starred selections included Carey Mulligan for “Never Let Me Go” and Julianne Moore for “The Kids Are All Right.”  This is big for the latter, who seems to be bullied out of the Best Actress category by her co-star Bening.
  • Justin Timberlake was longlisted for “The Social Network,” but co-star Andrew Garfield was starred, along with favorites Bale, Rush, and Ruffalo.  Also starred was Bob Hoskins in the British movie “Made in Dagenham.”
  • All three of the supporting females in “Black Swan” were on the longlist, including Winona Ryder.  Surprisingly, it was Barbara Hershey and not Mila Kunis who was starred.  (Fingers crossed Hershey could score an Oscar nod!)
  • Melissa Leo, the apparent frontrunner in Best Supporting Actress for her role in “The Fighter,” was not starred.  Her co-star Amy Adams was starred, as was Miranda Richardson was starred for “Made in Dagenham.”
  • Category fraud was seemingly corrected by placing Hailee Steinfeld in leading actress for “True Grit” and Lesley Manville in supporting actress for “Another Year.”
  • Don’t trust them too much – “Alice in Wonderland” was listed as a potential Best Director and Best Actor nominee.

See the full longlists HERE at In Contention.

Technical guilds chime in. The Cinema Audio Society announced its five picks for Best Sound Mixing, which included “Black Swan,” “Inception,” “Shutter Island,” “The Social Network,” and “True Grit.”  Perhaps the most surprising nominee is “The Social Network,” which isn’t perceived as a big technical movie.  Yet if it continues to pick up nominations, it will prove how widely appealing the movie is – and make it that much more likely to win Best Picture.  The more nominations it can pick up, the better.

The Art Directors Guild recognized excellence in three categories as follows:

Period Film
Get Low
“The King’s Speech”
Robin Hood
Shutter Island
“True Grit”

Fantasy Film
Alice in Wonderland
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I
“Inception”
TRON Legacy

Contemporary Film
“Black Swan”
“The Fighter”
“127 Hours”
“The Social Network”
“The Town”

Again, it’s good for “The Social Network” that it picked up a mention.  But perhaps the movie most in need of technical guild support is “Inception,” which came up blank at the SAG Awards.  To take home Best Picture, it’s going to need to make a strong showing with these guilds.

“Shutter Island” showed up on both guild lists, setting it up as a dark horse Best Picture nominee.  I doubt it happens, but now it can’t be totally unforeseen.

Critics groups all but wrap up. In case you didn’t hear, “The Social Network” swept pretty much all of the critics groups in 2010.  It earned its status as “critical darling,” taking home Best Picture from just about everyone.  Here are those that dared to be different:

  • Austin – “Black Swan”
  • Central Ohio – “Inception”
  • Dublin – “A Prophet”
  • Phoenix – “The King’s Speech”
  • San Diego – “Winter’s Bone”
  • Utah – “127 Hours” (tied with “The Social Network”)

So as you can see, there was no clear second place movie for critics to “The Social Network.”  But someone with the time to calculate the results wrote that “Black Swan” took the second-most honors from critics groups.

The first phase of the Oscar race in 2010 is over, and “The Social Network” has clearly won.  But can it keep the lead?  Or will another movie come and steal awards from the BFCA, Golden Globes, or SAG?  Check back next week as phase two begins.





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.