Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: Redux

I've read the books and liked them.  Saw the original movies, liked them.  Agonized over whether I should see the American version of the movies.  And knew in my heart that I wouldn't be able to resist.  After all, David Fincher directs the first American version.  Daniel Craig plays Michael Blomqvist.  Rooney Mara reportedly does a good job as Lisbeth Salander though it is mind-boggling to imagine anyone coming close to Noomi Rapace's perfomance. 

The story involves the search for what happened to Harriet Vanger, the niece of Henrik Vanger, Swedish industrialist tycoon. Disgraced journalist Michael Blomqvist is hired by Vanger to research her disappearance and presumed death 40 years earlier after so many others have failed.  Blomqvist requests an assistant with computer/internet skills (read hacker) and Lisbeth Salander is hired.  Both are intense, intelligent, independent individuals who are quick to intuit and inevitably become involved.

Niels Arden Oplev's direction of the original movie, 152 minutes long, was very faithful to the book.  Its depictions of violence, sex and sexual violence leave nothing to one's imagination: it is very graphic and detailed indeed.  Fincher's version, six minutes longer at 158 minutes, while remaining true to the spirit of the novel and telling of the story, shows the sex, violence and sexual violence but assumes the American audience can neither tolerate it as much nor as long nor in quite so graphic detail.  The screenplay takes a few shortcuts that don't affect outcome of the story or the setup of the remainder of the series. 

Trent Reznor (of Nine Inch Nails fame) and Atticus Ross were responsible for the original music.  They have worked with Fincher before, most recently on The Social Network.

Positives:  Daniel Craig does a nice job.  Not a fantastic, Oscar worthy job, but he gets out of his clothes often enough to keep me interested.  Not sure if that does much for any of you folks, but it made me happy.  Rooney Mara was effective, her performance was more emotional than Rapace's, if it can be called that, as a character such as Lisbeth Salander is not one to show emotion.  Always nice to see Robin Wright, here as business partner to Daniel Craig's character.  Other actors were all good.

Overall, I give the movie a B+.  If I had to pick one movie, I would recommend the Swedish version.  But if you are a true fan of the novels, see both.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Hugo: You Should Go!

I was caught asleep at the controls.  Hugo was completely off my radar screen.  This has been a crazy year for me and I have not been concentrating on movies, I haven’t seen or reviewed as many as I would have liked, I haven’t kept up with what’s been released.  Then a friend told me he’d seen Hugo and it was wonderful.  I did some reading up on it and agreed that it was a must see.  So, off I went with one of my movie buddies.  My friend was right….. Definitely a must see movie and definitely worth seeing in the theatre, in 3D.

Hugo is based on the story written by Brian Selznick titled The Invention of Hugo Cabret.  It is a Caldecott winner (won in 2008).  The Caldecott is an annual award to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.  For more information concerning the book, the inspiration, the author, George Melies and early filmmaking, please feel free to go to and .  Both sites have a wealth of information.  I learned from my niece that Mr. Selznick’s books, both The invention of Hugo Cabret and his new one, Wonder Struck, are awesome.  Trust me, I have it on the best authority.

The story is about an orphan, Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield), who winds the clocks in Gare Montparnasse in Paris.    He was brought there by his sot of an uncle after Hugo’s father died.    Uncle Claude then wandered off after training Hugo to do his job of winding the clocks while diligently avoiding the Station Master (nicely played in a restrained manner by Sacha Baron Cohen).  Hugo also must avoid various adults while nipping food and supplies to keep the clockworks going.  This leads to Hugo being caught by the proprietor of the toy shop, played by Ben Kingsley (Papa George, Monsieur Melies), who confiscates Hugo’s precious notebook.  Young Isabelle(Chloe Moretz) is under guardianship of Papa George and Mama Jeanne and strikes up a friendship with Hugo when the toy shop owner confiscates Hugo’s notebook.  She introduces Hugo to Monsieur Labisse (Christopher Lee) the bookseller and Mama Jeanne (Helen McRory).  We slowly learn the story of George and Jeanne and how Hugo and his notebook fit in.  Throughout the film we watch the budding romances of the Station Master and Lisette (Emily Mortimer) and between Madame Emilie (Frances de la Tour) and Monsieur Frick (Richard Griffiths) and their two dogs.  Jude Law does a cameo as Hugo’s father and Johnny Depp pops in and out as a guitar player.  Martin Scorsese pops in too as a photographer.  One of the lovely parts of this film is the creation of a whole world inside this train station.  A world unto itself.  (I credit my on-line friend Hokahey for this succinct observation…. He expresses this sentiment well in his blog Little Worlds.  I suggest you wander over to check his out.   See my link.)

I found the cinematography wonderful.  The sets were well imagined.  The filming was lovingly done.  The story was well-told.  I learned a great deal about early movies.  This is Martin Scorsese’s homage to movies.  I was drawn in and kept there for the most part.  I must admit there were moments here and there that I checked the time.  At the end of movie I loved it.  How does the film rate?  One of the best I’ve seen this year.  But that’s damning with faint praise.  But this was a good movie.  And, Marty knows how to end a movie.  Something that’s been missing from the last few films that I’ve seen.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Martha Marcy May Marlene- My, My, My, My!

I wanted to be clever and try to write this review with words all beginning with the letter M.  I quickly rethought that as it would be so very, very annoying to both you and me.  But not quite so annoying as I found the end of this movie.  The end wouldn't have been quite so annoying except that the previous two movies I had seen in a theater (Drive and The Ides of March) had not been entirely satisfactory in their endings.  Is this a trend?  I'm not liking it.  I tend to be a conventional person.  I like Bach.  I like old fashioned rock and roll.  I like stories to have a beginning and an end.  Is that too much to ask for?  Oh, but I am giving you the impression the movie was not good.  I shouldn't do that.  There were many good points that made this movie worth seeing.  It's just that the end didn't quite satisfy and was, well..... but let's leave this for the end.

Please:  BE AWARE- SPOILER ALERT!  This review discusses the movie at length.  Including the end.

Martha Marcy May Marlene is the story of a young woman (Elizabeth Olsen, younger sister of the twins) who finds herself living on a farm somewhere in upstate New York (really, this covers basically all of New York State except New York City and immediate suburbs when you think about it) with quite a few young women, a few young men and an apparently charismatic older man named Patrick (I'm thinking Patriarch here) played here by John Hawkes.  I am a big fan of John Hawkes.  He played Teardrop in Winter's Bone, my favorite film of 2010.  He was also in The Perfect Storm.  I do like John Hawkes- a great actor to watch.  He brings life and character to each role.  I like Elizabeth Olsen as well.  I enjoyed her performance, very "informed, nuanced and (I want to say gritty)" but that word doesn't really feel right here.  I've just written a few cliches but what I really mean is that I loved her performance and she was a joy to watch.  So natural and real.  But I have wandered off a little, well maybe not since the actors are important but back to the story.  Life on the farm is communal though hierarchal - Patrick at the top, then the men, then the women who serve the men.  Martha, when she joins the community, is given a new name by Patrick- Marcy May.    The name Marlene is the name given to any woman answering the telephone at the farm.

Sean Durkin wrote and directed this story.  It is told in segments, present and past.  Marcy May escapes from the commune and calls her sister Lucy (Sarah Paulson who was so delightful as Harriet Hayes on Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip).  It has been over two years since Lucy has heard from Martha and Lucy has married Ted (Hugh Dancy).  Lucy and Martha mother's had passed away we learn.  It seems Martha wanders off and is gone for two years before Lucy receives the phone call.  In the interim,  Lucy has, of necessity, "moved on" with her life.  Martha only discloses that she spent these last two years with a boyfriend, not divulging that she has been living with a communal cult.  The story moves between the present and the past.  As Martha jumps into the water from the boat on the lake to swim, we see Marcy May in the water swimming in the secluded swimming hole with her communal cohorts. The film continues to move back and forth in this manner. 

Martha's story begins to unfold in this present/past storytelling manner.  Through this device, we begin to learn her journey and rigor/controlled circumstance of the life on the farm.  Part of Patrick's control is the drugging then rape of the young women, performed as part of ritual.  The day after Marcy May is "indoctrinated", Patrick shares a song he has written about her to the group.  This flatters Marcy May and lulls her into acquiescence.  Eventually, Marcy May assists in the "indoctrination" of another young woman that includes the administration of the drug and reassurance that this will be a wonderful night.  In another scene, young men and women of the commune are having sex in the same room, while Patrick observes, though not in an orgiastic way. 

Once Martha has escaped the commune and is living with Lucy and Ted, she criticizes them for their essentially capitalistic attitudes.  Later, Martha walks into their bedroom and lays down in bed with them while they are having sex, though not as if joining them.  This clearly upsets Lucy as well as Ted. 

The film does a wonderful job telling the story and unfolding the pieces bit by bit.  It keeps one's interest.  As the story goes on, little by little, it gets a bit more disturbing as the members of the commune stray a little from the home front.  We also watch Martha/Marcy May/Marlene try to cope or maybe we don't.  Maybe she's in denial.  We watch her story, we watch as Lucy and Ted become more baffled because Martha doesn't open up.  The decision that Martha needs professional help is not an easy one.  Does this lead to the end?  What is the end? And then as the film ends, it all gets ambiguous.  Did she see this or that?  Who was that on the shore?  Or is that just an hallucination?  Who was in that car?  Or is MMMM just plain crazy? This is my complaint...... it's like the end of Memento:  who was calling on that damn phone?

I liked the movie.  It was interesting, intriguing, the acting was good.  The story was moving along with an interesting device to go back and forth.  Then POW!  It has to end.  Why is it no one can write a satisfactory ending anymore?
Oh, my, my, my, my!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Ides of March: George, you should have heeded the warning

Yes, the ladies went to the movies once again.  Our friend from VT joined us and it was all good.  Except the movie was boring.  (Mostly Jane's fault- sorry Joanne- as Jane was asked her opinion and well, I'll explain another time, no wait, why not now?  Jane likes political movies and George.)  Jane also forgot Joanne doesn't.  Joanne picks next time and Jane has to grin and bear it.  But I've digressed.

The movie is loosely based on John Edwards' folly, the Democratic party's inability to run an effective campaign and general politics.  Ryan Gosling was good, playing a neophyte with a conscience (or was he?) and Paul Giamatti is always fun.  Add to this mix Evan Rachel Wood, Marisa Tomei, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Jeffrey Wright (Look up Jeffrey Wright- he played Peoples Hernandez in the remake of Shaft among other roles 'cause he takes care of his peoples).  Here we have some fine acting talent and yet the arc of the movie leaves one cold.  Yeah it has an ending but it leaves one wanting a better ending.  Something more satisfying.  Meatier, even if you are a vegan. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Drive: Yeah, try that in Boston.

And Jane's back!  Sorry it has been a slow year for posts.  Life has been ultra-busy and I had been occupied finding alternate ways to descend stairs.  But I'm giving up that new pastime for the safer, easier and more entertaining hobby of watching movies again.  Takes less of a toll on my body.  Anyway, the ladies and I finally got together again, celebrated one of our birthdays and saw Drive.  While I didn't know anything about the movie (see, that other pastime was knocking things out of my head) I did know that Ryan Gosling was in it.  It also had Albert Brooks, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston and Ron Perlman.  Rounding  out the cast were Oscar Isaac and Christina Hendricks.  The director is Nicolas Winding Refn from Denmark.

The plot of the movie involves a Hollywood stuntman (Gosling) who moonlights as a wheelman for heists.  He gives his clients a five-minute window to go in, do what they do and get out.  He leaves after five minutes.  So the beginning of the movie has some nice, dark atmospheric scenes with some interesting action and a little chase scene.  Oh, be forewarned.  There will be spoilers.  Especially toward the end of this post.  But the reason to see or not see this movie is based more on the how it was filmed than the story.  And if you like the cast.  At least that's my take.  Actually, you can stop reading here after I tell you that the movie gets very, very bloody and the violence is very up close and personal in the second half.  Tarantino's Kill Bill Volume II is an easier film by far to watch than this was.  So, from here on in there may be SPOILERS.

Shannon (Bryan Cranston) is Gosling's boss.  He wants to borrow $300,000 from Bernie Rose (Albert Brooks) a local gangster type to buy a race car so that Gosling can drive in races.  Bernie likes what he sees but his partner/associate Nino (Ron Perlman) doesn't.  Meanwhile, Gosling strikes up a friendship with Irene (Carey Mulligan) and her son Benecio who live in the same apartment building as he does.  Eventually Gosling learns that Irene is married and that her husband, Standard (Oscar Isaac) is  in prison.  Gosling, Irene and Benecio do develop a bond despite this.  Then, Standard returns home much earlier than expected.  Standard is quick to see the connections but makes an effort to befriend Gosling as well.  Soon, Standard is beaten and Gosling finds him.  The beating was a warning to Standard from his protectors in prison to remind him he needs to come up with repayment money.  Gosling agrees to help Standard get the funds.  Through an arrangement with Bernie, Standard and Gosling hook up with Blanche (Christina Hendricks) and attempt to rob a pawn shop with Gosling as driver.  Blanche comes out of the pawn shop with a big duffel bag, then Standard comes out but the proprietor is shooting and they watch Standard die.  As Gosling and Blanche drive off, they are chased by another car.  They lose their followers only for Gosling to find out that Blanch has double-crossed them and there is $1 million in the duffel bag, not the $40,000 they thought they'd get.  More importantly, that money has to belong to SOMEONE who wants it back.  Mayhem starts ensuing and the blood starts flowing.  Meanwhile, we find out that Nino had setup Standard and Gosling and was responsible for the mob money.  Remember Nino?  turns out he really, really didn't like Gosling. 

At this point in the story, people start dying, many of them dying very gruesomely with knives.  Because no one can be left alive to betray the other person to the mob who owns the money.  This goes on for a while.  Gosling, as the lead, of course, deftly manages to stay alive to accomplish what he wants..... protect Irene and Benecio. 

Ryan Gosling's character is very quiet, both literally and figuratively - until he explodes during certain scenes.  In one such scene, this is jolting, not only to the viewer (though this is telegraphed to us as blatantly as possible) but to another actor in the scene.  Indeed, the movie is very visual, the cinematography is done well as is the atmosphere and the scene set-ups. 

A.O. Scott of the NY Times said the supporting cast saves the movie from tedium and I agree.  Certainly Albert Brooks and Bryan Cranston were well worth watching, but then I usually find them so.  I am also a fan of Carey Mulligan's but I don't think this role stretched her very much.

Overall, the first half of the movie was engaging but the as the plot moved into the second half, it became more gruesome and bloody.  Perhaps it was the nature of the violence.  The arc of the story with the anti-hero driving away just didn't leave me satisfied.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Tree of Life; The Help, A Good Life

Yes, I did promise more movie reviews.  So, here goes Jane.
I went to see The Tree of Life with the ladies.   Interesting film.  Mostly enjoyable with an interesting slant and point of view.  Brad and Sean were very good.  What didn't make sense and, I think, ruined it for most people was the long "creation of the universe" sequence that interrupted the film near the beginning and went on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on.......
Quite frankly, I prefer the evolution of the universe as done in 15 seconds at the beginning of "Big Bang Theory".  It works for me. 

Otherwise, there were some interesting moments and a story to be heard.  But we were that long interlude that didn't make sense.  Some of the items that we discussed after the movie were why didn't the parents seem to age.  Perhaps told through a child's eye.  But the whole film was tainted by that long, boring evolution of the universe which ruined the film for me.

The Help:  First I have to tell you that I read the book and loved it.  Also, it is the type of book I like.  The author and the director of the film are good friends so this ensured a good translation of the book onto film.  Which it was.  I should note that the book was written in a manner that it would easily "morph" onto film without losing the story.  Actually, it had some great moments that were great on film.  The best of the film were the actresses.  All well chosen for their roles.  I do have hopes that this may be nominated for Oscar.  Probably will all considered.

A Good Year:  This film I rented from Netflix on recommendation.  It turns out that it is based on a book by Peter Mayle who wrote several books that I have enjoyed starting with A Year in Provence and Toujours Provence.  It stars Russell Crowe who is not a favorite actor of mine but easily performs this role and perhaps sways me back into admiring his skills.  Overall, a very enjoyable film.  Basic plot is a high-powered investment banker inherits his uncle's vineyard in Provence and learns a different way of life.  A few different characters roam through the movie.  I liked it a lot.  

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Where have we been?

Jane and Geri met up a week ago and agreed we have been most lax in posting over the past four months.  Where have we been?  Anywhere but here!  Geri has been very busy with teaching dance classes and her home life (all going well there, of course).  Jane has been off the grid so to speak.  She has been listening to lots and lots of new rock 'n' roll.  All composed quite loudly in her basement.  Then attending the shows at which it is played.  For her stamina in listening to all these sessions of composition, practice and refinement of the music, Jane is generally put on the guest list to the various musical performances and she is thankful for that.  Now that we have reached the second half of 2011, it is time we re-charge and see some movies.  So, it is our aim to tell you...... We're back!  Stay posted for movie reviews..... Coming to a blog near you!

Monday, February 28, 2011

The Oscar Results: How did we do?

I just took a look at our predictions.  How did Jane and Geri do?  Not bad.  Just looking at the major categories, Jane was wrong once (thought Geoffrey Rush would win Best Supporting Actor over Christian Bale, though Bale deserved the award).  Geri had two:  Social Network for Best Picture and Aronofsky for Best Director (Black Swan).  It was quite the race, rumor had it (over the news reports) that Social Network did have a good chance at winning as a large amount of academy ballots were mailed in at the last moment and may have been influenced by the unrest in the Middle East supported by social networks.  Aronofsky is always good.

I, for one (Jane) don't like the ten picture/five director nomination style.  I'd like to see the Academy go back to five nominations.  This is not kindegarten.  Does every ego in Hollywood need to be stroked?  Really?  My opinion, and of course I have one, is that the ten movie nominations is to get more people into movie theaters thus making more money for more people.  Plain and simple.  If Hollywood was serious, it would also nominate 10 directors, 10 actors, 10 actresses, etc.  You get my point.  Hollywood, stop it.  Those who love movies will still go see the good ones, maybe some of the bad ones, share their thoughts and encourage their friends.  Perhaps even more so as social networks continue to expand and do their work.

There, I'm done. 
Happy 2011 and enjoy the movies and popcorn.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Jane's Oscar picks

Yes, it is that time of year.  I've thought and thought about this.  There are some very good films and actors/actress' that deserve the acknowledgment and praise.  Also, directors and writers.  So, without further ado, here is my opinion.

Best Picture:  Should win- Winter's Bone.  Will win- The King's Speech
Best Director:  Darren Aronofsy (Black Swan), Will win- Tom Hooper, The King's Speech
Best Actor:  Colin Firth, The King's Speech (should and will win)
Best Actress:  Natialie Portman- Black Swan (should and will win)
Best Supporting Actor:  Should win- Christian Bale, The Fighter, Will win- Geoffrey Rush-The King's Speech
Best Supporting Actress:  Melissa Leo, The Fighter (should and will win)
Original Screenplay:  Should win- Inception; Will win- The King's Speech
Adapted Screenplay:  Should Win- Winter's Bone; Will win-The Social Network.

I am not going to offer an opinion on any of the other categories as I didn't pay that much attention to them when watching the films, I may not have seen all films in that category, and/or I have no expertise in those areas.

I can't wait to find out the results.  Let me know what you think!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

My Oscar Picks for 2011

With Academy Awards Night less than 4 weeks away, it's time for those annual predictions. I had a very good year with my predictions last year, so here we go:

Best Picture: The Social Network
Best Actor: Colin Firth (The King's Speech)
Best Actress: Natalie Portman (Black Swan)
Best Supporting Actor: Christian Bale (The Fighter)
Best Supporting Actress: Melissa Leo (The Fighter)
Best Director: Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan)
Cinematography: True Grit (I've heard it's spectacular)
Original Screenplay: The King's Speech
Adapted Screenplay: The Social Network
Visual Effects: Inception
Best Animated Movie: Toy Story 3
Best Foreign Film: Biutiful (Mexico)
Original Score: Inception
Original Song: We Belong Together (Toy Story 3)

I reserve the right to change these predictions until I see True Grit. I am planning on seeing it soon!

My thoughts on Blue Valentine, Another Year, and Winter's Bone

Now that the Oscar race is in full swing, Ray and I have been pushing ourselves to see every Best Picture nominee and as many of the acting performances as we can.

To that end, we saw Blue Valentine last weekend, Winter's Bone last night, and Another Year today. I'm sorry to report that neither one of us can give stellar recommendations to two out of the three movies and we really wanted to, given the caliber of actors in both movies.

We did enjoy Winter's Bone, which tells the story of a teenage girl in the Ozarks searching for her drug-cooking father, who has put their house up for bail bond money and subsequently disappears. Winter's Bone takes a hard look at life in the Ozarks and brings the desperate qualities of poverty to light. At first, the townspeople seem to be divided into good and bad, but as the movie progresses, the two extremes become blurred. Jennifer Lawrence is outstanding as Ree, the teenage girl living with her mentally and emotionally absent mother and her two younger siblings. Ree serves as teacher, nurse, and moral compass in her family. Her uncle (wonderfully portrayed by John Hawkes) is reluctant to get involved in the search for his brother (he is also a meth drug cooker), but ultimately decides to do the right thing and help his family. You can't help but root for Ree to find out what really happened to her dad while keeping her family intact.

Of the remaining two movies, I liked Blue Valentine better. Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams made the best of a mundane, cliched script and rudimentary direction from Derek Cianfrance. Their gritty performances in a movie that explores the history and decline of a marriage were quite good. However, I don't understand how Ms. Williams scored a best actress nomination and Mr. Gosling was omitted from the best actor category considering that both of them have equal screen time. I could have done without the gratuitous, racy scenes which I don't feel added to the storyline.

Another Year has one of my all-time favorite actors, Jim Broadbent, on board in this movie which explores a year in the life of a family. Unfortunately, the movie strays from this premise rather quickly and fixes itself on exploring the life of a desperately lonely friend and colleague of the wife, played to exquisite perfection by Lesley Manville. I believe the Academy made a mistake in not nominating Ms. Manville for Best Supporting Actress. Her performance was the only bright light in this movie. Mr. Broadbent is under-utilized in the movie, but I blame that on the change of focus in the screenplay. Another Year had the capability to be a memorable movie, but it fell far short of its goal.

The only Best Picture nominee I haven't seen is True Grit, but I hope to remedy that soon.

Keep grabbing that popcorn and go to the movies!

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Kids Are All Right- no, not the Who Album

Lisa Cholodenko directed and co-wrote this movie.  I am unfamiliar with her work, which includes directing some TV (The L Word, Six Feet Under) and some movies (Cave Dweller, Laurel Canyon).  You can get the rest from IMDB.  While I liked the movie, to a certain extent, it is not one of my top five.  But then, the Academy has decided to nominate ten films again this year.  What I find more interesting is whether the Academy is going to keep this up or not.  Not so interested in writing this review.  Like I said, not my favorite.  So, why?

The acting was great.  This means, in some part, the directing had to be good.  Annette Bening won the Golden Globe for Best Actress in this type of movie (meaning I can't remember and I'm too lazy to look it up).  Her competition included her co-star, Julianne Moore.  The ladies were believable.  Very.  They play a committed couple that has been together for a long, long time, in fact they have two children together, ages 18 (Joni) and 15 (Laser).  The young actors, Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson, were good.  Mark Ruffalo played sperm donor Paul.  Yes, in the movie is referred to as exactly that.  And, Mark is good.

So, the story.  Without spoiling too much, the kids contact and meet the sperm donor.  What gets to me is how close, in terms of location, he is to them.  Does that really happen?  After all, based on the license plates, this takes place in California.  I'm just thinking about how mobile the USA can be.  I've lived in four different states and in 13 different homes over my life.  The character Paul was 19 when he donated sperm.  What are the odds, 18 or 19 years later, he lives so close that the kids can see him at lunch time, visiting back and forth is not a time and mileage issue?  It just seems improbable to me.  There, that's off my chest.  This may have had a great influence on what I think about the film, as it distracted me the first time I watched it. 

Without spoiling this for those of you who actually read this blog and haven't seen the movie, issues arise and are resolved.  It was nicely done for most part.  I feel there are some unnecessary scenes as well as parts of the story where I wanted more details.  And one scene, pivotal to the movie, that felt so manufactured it really, really bothered me.  This movie has left me unsatisfied.  But I really enjoyed the acting.

Last but not least, how do I rank this film, in comparison to its competition?  This year has seen some interesting movies.  Of the ten nominated films, I have yet to see Toy Story 3.  My bad.
Winter's Bone (not all my friends agree with me).  I think The Kids Are All Right comes in after The King's Speech and before Social Network.
Winter's Bone
The Black Swan
The Fighter
The King's Speech
Social Network
True Grit
127 Hours

And those films not nominated:
Never Let Me Go (really, it should have been, instead of True Grit and/or 127 Hours)
RED (Retired, extremely dangerous:  Helen Mirren, Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman and John Malkovich.
Ghost Writer
Iron Man II

And also this year, not my favorites, but some I enjoyed quite a bit:
The Expendables (has one wonderful scene that you can't miss!)
Jonah Hex
Knight and Day (hilarious)
9 (or was that last year's film?)

So, one movie left to see.  I can't wait for Oscar night, can you?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Oscar Nominations! 2011

Here's the list!  Ten movies are nominated for Best Picture.  Is the Academy making this a permanent change?

Oscar Nominations:  January 2011
Best Picture
'Black Swan'
'The Fighter'
'The Kids Are All Right'
'The King’s Speech'
'127 Hours'
'The Social Network'
'Toy Story 3'
'True Grit'
'Winter’s Bone'

Best Director
Darren Aronofsky, 'Black Swan'
David O'Russell, 'The Fighter'
Tom Hooper, 'The King's Speech'
David Fincher, 'The Social Network'
Joel and Ethan Coen, 'True Grit'

Best Actor
Javier Bardem, 'Biutiful'
Jeff Bridges, 'True Grit'
Jesse Eisenberg, 'The Social Network'
Colin Firth, 'The King's Speech'
James Franco, '127 Hours'

Best Actress
Annette Bening, 'The Kids Are All Right'
Nicole Kidman, 'Rabbit Hole'
Jennifer Lawrence, 'Winter's Bone'
Natalie Portman, 'Black Swan'
Michelle Williams, 'Blue Valentine'

Best Supporting Actor
Christian Bale, 'The Fighter'
John Hawkes, 'Winter's Bone'
Jeremy Renner, 'The Town'
Mark Ruffalo, 'The Kids Are All Right'
Geoffrey Rush, 'The King's Speech'

Best Supporting Actress
Amy Adams, 'The Fighter'
Helena Bonham Carter, 'The King's Speech'
Melissa Leo, 'The Fighter'
Hailee Steinfeld, 'True Grit'
Jacki Weaver, 'Animal Kingdom'

Best Animated Feature Film
'How to Train Your Dragon'
'Toy Story 3'

Best Foreign Film
Mexico - 'Biutiful'
Greece - 'Dogtooth'
Denmark - 'In a Better World'
Canada - 'Incendies'
Algeria - 'Outside the law'

Best Original Screenplay
'Another Year'
'The Fighter'
'The Kids Are All Right'
'The King's Speech'

Best Adapted Screenplay
'127 Hours'
'The Social Network'
'Toy Story 3'
'True Grit'
'Winter's Bone'

Best Art Direction
'Alice in Wonderland'
'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I'
'The King's Speech'
'True Grit'

Best Costume Design
'Alice in Wonderland'
'I Am Love'
'The King's Speech'
'The Tempest'
'True Grit'

Best Original Song
'Coming Home' - 'Country Strong'
'I See the Light' - 'Tangled'
'If I Rise' - '127 Hours'
'We Belong Together' - 'Toy Story 3'

Best Original Score
'How to Train Your Dragon' John Powell
'Inception' Hans Zimmer
'The King's Speech' Alexandre Desplat
'127 Hours' A.R. Rahman
'The Social Network' Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross
Best Film Editing
'Black Swan'
'The Fighter'
'The Kings Speech'
'127 Hours'
'The Social Network'

Best Makeup
'Barney's Version'
'The Way Back'
'The Wolfman'

Best Sound Editing
'Toy Story 3'
'TRON: Legacy'
'True Grit'

Best Sound Mixing
'The King's Speech'
'The Social Network'
'True Grit'

Best Visual Effects
'Alice in Wonderland'
'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1'
'Iron Man 2'

Monday, January 17, 2011

The K-K-K-K King’s Speech

King George VI succeeded his brother, King Edward VIII upon Ed’s abdication of the throne in 1936 so that he could marry the love of his life, a twice divorced woman.  George (hereafter G VI) was born Albert Frederick Arthur George; on December 14, 1895 and reigned until his death at the young age of 56 (1952).  He was married to Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, a descendent of Robert the Bruce.  They had two daughters, Elizabeth (later Elizabeth II) and Margaret.  So, we have G VI, his wife, later known to us as the Queen Mum, as well as the princesses Elizabeth and Margaret.  G VI (or Bertie as he was called by family) had never expected to be king.  But, due to his brother’s abdication, there he was. 

Unfortunately, G VI had a small problem:  he stammered.  That is what this movie is about.  After many different doctors and consultations, he still stammered.  Then, someone found Lionel Logue, an Australian speech therapist who had relocated to England.  They forged a relationship that was unusual for a monarch and a commoner, became friends and remained so for the remainder of their lives.  This we all know and thus, we know that G VI will be able to give a speech by the end of the movie.

The movie sounds boring.  A real snooze.  But it’s not.  Thanks to Colin Firth (G VI), Helena Bonham-Carter (Queen Mum) and Geoffrey Rush (Lionel Logue), there is a human story here.  Colin does a wonderful job with a character that must be difficult to play- having to stammer, stutter and trip over words he wants and needs to say.  He is very, very believable.  Geoffrey Rush is great as the speech therapist, Logue.  He is a helpful but stubborn character.  G VI must follow his rules:  first names only (no HRH here, just Bertie), do his exercises and relax enough to follow instructions.  G VI is combative at first….. as one would expect.  Mr. Rush’s comportment as Logue also is a wonderful performance.  I want to say the character is reserved, but it’s not.  Low-key, respectful but assured.   Very different that his role of Barbossa (Pirates of the Caribbean), Trotsky (Frida), Philip Henslowe (Shakespeare In Love) and David Helfgott (Shine).  I haven’t seen any of his other roles, but he does a marvelous job of making me believe the character.  Helena Bonham-Carter is good, not overly noticeable but a caring helpmeet to G VI.  And it is always nice to Derek Jacobi (Archbishop). 

It is a good film.  My attention didn’t wander, I didn’t get “antsy” and the performances and writing were good.  As it is now awards season, I do think this may be Oscar worthy.  As far as my ranking of favorite films:  it’s still Winter’s Bone; Inception; Never Let Me Go, The Fighter and Black Swan ( three-way tie); The King’s Speech.  I don’t think True Grit is Oscar worthy.  I liked The Social Network, but I don’t think it’s as good as my favorite five.  (The Hollywood Foreign Press disagrees with me.)  The Town and 127 Hours are just not that good, in my opinion.  But, many people don’t agree with me.  Let me know what you think.