Posts Tagged ‘Academy Awards’

Kleeb’s 10 Best Films of 2010

February 27, 2011

Tonight is Oscar Night, which means I’ve been holed up watching all of the nominees. I have to say, I’m not really impressed with a lot of the front runners. Since we’re betting on the winners tonight, I’ll make my own predictions of the winners. However, I’m also going to list my favorite 10 films of the year, regardless of the Academy.

First off, I want to talk about films that didn’t make my list. I enjoyed The Fighter but it didn’t make my list. I still think Christian Bale is a shoe-in for Best Supporting Actor and Melissa Leo has a good shot at Best Supporting Actress. I don’t think Russell will win Director, but he might have a shot at Original Screenplay.

127 Hours is the story of Aron Ralson (James Franco), who gets trapped while mountain climbing and is forced to cut off his own arm. While Franco was great, and I love Danny Boyle, I think the only person that has a shot here is AR Rahman, the guy who won all the Original Score awards for Slumdog Millionaire. Boyle brings him back for 127 Hours and I have a sneaking suspicion he’ll do it again. He may even edge out Randy Newman for Original Song for “If I Rise.”

I enjoyed The Kids Are Alright and Blue Valentine but I don’t think they really have a shot. Man, Blue Valentine is a depressing watch. Also, if you’re looking for a crazy mind-fuck of a film, go watch Enter The Void. I have a feeling I’ll like that one a lot more if I watch it a second time.

Okay, let’s get to the list:

10. The King’s Speech

Here’s everyone’s favorite period piece about King George VI’s speech impediment and his plebeian speech therapist. I’m not usually one for dramatic historical films, but I can’t deny that Colin Firth deserves the Best Actor award, hands-down. If, for some reason, Christian Bale doesn’t win, Geoffrey Rush might also scoop up Best Supporting Actor. I know this is one of the front-runners is every category, but it should only really get Original Screenplay and possibly Costume Design. I’ll be angry if this takes home Best Picture or Director.

9. Kick-Ass


Kick-Ass rules. It’s not an Oscar movie, but it’s more fun to watch than a lot of them. You’ve got a nerdy kid who wants to be a half-assed superhero, and also a weapons-crazed Nicholas Cage and his deadly daughter (Chloe Moretz). Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Mark Strong make for a deadly and hilarious Father-son team as the evil villains. For a comic-book movie, it’s pretty violent. This is also one of the few films where I don’t hate Nicholas Cage with a burning passion. He’s actually pretty awesome.

8. True Grit


Joel and Ethan Coen have me by the balls. I think they’re the best directors of our time, and will watch any film they make, whether it’s a mystery, comedy, or western. True Grit is a modern western done in the dry wit of the Coen style. Hailee Steinfeld should really take home Best Supporting Actress, but I think it’s a long shot. I’ve also got a place in my heart for Jeff Bridges as Best Actor, since his character is a cross between The Dude and Bad Blake. Matt Damon and Josh Brolin are great as well. This is just an all-around amazing cast and if I was a little more into westerns, I might have liked it a bit more.

7. Toy Story 3


We watched all three Toy Story movies in a row, making it more like an epic Star Wars trilogy than an animated Pixar film. I have to say, I enjoyed Part Three the most, as Andy goes off to college and the toys struggle to stay relevant as donations to a nursery. Pixar has a way of tugging at your heartstrings, and while Toy Story 3 wasn’t as tear-jerking as Up, it has its moments (trash compactor, anyone?). This is definitely going to snag Best Animated Feature and most likely Best Original Song for Randy Newman’s “We Belong Together.” Also, for anyone who saw this in theatres, the short Day & Night is probably going to take Best Animated Short

6. Winter’s Bone


Here’s the surprise film of the year. Based on the synopsis, we put Winter’s Bone off until last, watching all of the other Best Picture nominees first. It’s the story of a young Ozarks girl raising her dysfunctional family’s two children because her mom is unresponsive and her father is missing due to involvement with a brutal drug ring. In order to keep her house and her family together, she has to figure out what happened to her father by probing some of the most dangerous mountain people in her area. Jennifer Lawrence deserves Best Actress for this breakout performance, but I doubt she’ll win over the big names in this category. John Hawkes is also intense as her dangerous, yet protective uncle.

5. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World


A video game movie? Complete with extra lives, bosses, and 8-bit music? Oh man, you can imagine how many times I re-watched Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. Michael Cera plays Scott Pilgrim, vying for the heart of Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). In order to win her over, he has to battle all of her ex-boyfriends (and girlfriends), while simultaneously playing with his punk rock band, Sex Bob-omb. His battles become increasingly difficult, until he reaches the final boss, record producer Gideon Graves (Jason Schwartzman). Not really an Oscar contender, but it rules nonetheless.

4. Exit Through The Gift Shop


Mysterious street artist Banksy produces this hilarious documentary about graffiti, centered around French filmmaker Thierry Guetta. As Thierry follows around artists like Space Invader, Shepard Fairey, and Andre, it becomes pretty evident that he’s not really a filmmaker, and more like a guy with a camera. Whether or not this entire film is just an elaborate prank setup by Banksy, it still resulted in a moderately successful art career for Thierry, as well as an Oscar nod for Best Documentary Feature. I haven’t really seen any of the other docs, so it’s hard to make my own judgment call, but I love this film and would love to see how Banksy accepts an award while not revealing his identity.

3. The Social Network


David Fincher’s depiction of Mark Zuckerberg’s rise to power is dark, intelligent, and ruthless. Jessie Eisenberg is fantastic as a young, opportunity-driven Zuckerberg, first cultivating his idea at Harvard, then moving out to California with the help of Napster founder Sean Parker (a hilarious Justin Timberlake). This is probably going to win Best Picture, and I bet Fincher takes home Best Director as well. Aaron Sorkin’s screenplay is also a sure win for Best Adapted Screenplay. If it’s between Social Network and King’s Speech, I’m hoping Social Network cleans house. It’s a modern story of betrayal, ruthlessness, and power. It would be sweet to see Trent Reznor also take home Best Original Score but that might be a long shot.

2. Black Swan

If the Coen Brothers are the best directors of our time, Darren Aronofsky isn’t far behind. The fast-paced psychological thrillers Pi and Requiem For A Dream started him off on the path to make the sprawling The Fountain and 2008’s The Wrestler, where Mickey Rourke’s performance as an aging wrestler earned him an Oscar nod and put Aronofsky in league with names like Scorsese, Lynch, and Tarantino. Black Swan has a similar plotline to The Wrestler, in which an emaciated Natalie Portman plays a ballet dancer who will do anything to achieve the lead role in the Swan Lake musical, regardless of the tole it exerts on her body and her mind. Portman is a favorite for Best Actress and I’m sure Aronofsky’s creepy and disturbing imagery and fast-paced editing will earn him Best Film Editing and Best Cinematography. I look forward to anything Aronofsky has planned for the future, especially now that he is a household name.

1. Inception


I know, I know, you’re all thinking really??. It’s true, I’m a sucker for Christopher Nolan’s inner maze of the human mind. I saw Inception while I was in the midst of reading Godel, Escher, and Bach, a dense book about the “strange loops” involved in contemporary music, MC Escher’s artwork, and mathematics. While watching the “nested dream worlds” of Inception, I couldn’t help thinking I was in familiar territory. The plot was complex, but laid out in such a way that you couldn’t possibly get lost in the theory. Immediately, we are thrust into DiCaprio’s dream world as he applies for a job with Saito (Ken Watanabe). Ellen Page, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tom Hardy, and Dileep Rao fill out his crack team of mind-spies. Inception is a roller coaster ride through layers of action, as the team drives deeper and deeper into the mind of Cillian Murphy. While no one here is up for an Oscar, and it sure as hell doesn’t have a shot at Best Picture, I’m sure Inception will bring home Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing. It may even take Best Visual Effects or Best CInematography. Of course, most action films sweep the categories of special effects and sound. It’s rare that an action film has the complexity and intelligence of Inception, though.

10 Best Films of 2009

February 22, 2010

Around February last year, I posted a 2009 Movie Preview, which took 10 upcoming films that looked the most promising for the upcoming year. I wrote a short review on each one, and except for Shutter Island, all were released to a wide range of expectations. Some were extremely impressive, some were terribly mediocre, and others were downright terrible (I’m looking at you Peter Jackson).

As the Academy Awards approach, I’ve been watching as many of the nominees as I can. Some were pretty great, others didn’t impress me very much. Though I did not get to see all of the movies I previewed last year (The Road, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Nine, Taking Woodstock), there were a lot of surprises this year. Also, I wasn’t so much a fan of Avatar as everyone else on the planet. It was entertaining to watch in 3-D, but I felt like the story lacked something. It gets an honorable mention here.

Honorable Mentions for 2009:
Avatar
Drag Me To Hell
The Hangover
The Hurt Locker
9
Up In The Air
Where The Wild Things Are

Here are my favorite ten films from 2009. Many of these won’t even get recognized at the Oscars, but I think they are all worth watching for one reason or another.

10. A Serious Man

A Serious Man

The latest Coen Brothers film, loosely based on the Biblical story of Job, follows Jewish professor Larry Gopnik (Michael Stuhlbarg) through a particularly horrible streak of bad luck. He fails to achieve tenure he’s been seeking, while dealing with a rocky divorce, and an unemployed brother who is under investigation for gambling fraud. Simultaneously, his son is approaching his bar mitzvah while habitually smoking weed, and his daughter complains constantly about her looks. As Larry seeks advice from three rabbis, he is frustrated that there is no meaning behind his run of bad luck. The film leaves off in pure Coen Brothers fashion, abruptly and with no resolve. It’s not my favorite Coen Brothers film, but it was better than a lot of the other films from this year.

9. Thirst

Thirst

One of the biggest tragedies in recent years is the downfall of the vampire film. Twilight has turned the entire genre into a teenage soap opera, and films like Underworld have done nothing but keep the goth subculture from dying. In 2009, Korean director Chan-wook Park (Oldboy, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance) brings us a twisted vampire saga worthy of revitalizing the genre. Thirst follows an infected doctor who deals with his “disease” by drinking the blood every night from one of his comatose patients. When his girlfriend learns of his plight, she sees an opportunity for revenge, and things start to spiral out of control.

8. Star Trek

Star Trek

Wow, I never saw this coming. I avidly avoided Star Trek as a kid, disinterested in the campy costumes and any association with Vulcan language or gestures. I even put off watching the 2009 film for the same reasons, until we were left with no other options. I’ve now seen the film 3 times and it is one of my favorite action films of the year. J.J. Abrams reinvents the series, with a reckless Chris Pine as Captain Kirk, and a respectable Zachary Quinto as Spock. The special effects aren’t distracting, and the plot is engaging. Who knew? Maybe I’m a Star Trek fan after all.

7. The Informant!

The Informant!

Steven Soderbergh latest film, based on the true story of ADM and the lysine price-fixing scandal of 1992, couldn’t have been a bigger surprise. Matt Damon plays Mark Whitacre, a pathological liar acting in his own delusional self-interests while working with the FBI and bringing down the heads of his own company. Whitacre’s fantasy is his downfall, as more and more scandals are revealed during his stint with the FBI. The audience benefits from his short attention span, and many times throughout the movie, a serious business meeting will switch to a Whitacre voiceover about polar bears or avocados. This was one of the funniest movies of the year, and Damon is brilliant in his fat, mustachioed role.

6. District 9

District 9

Half mockumentary, half sci-fi action movie, District 9 has a relatively unknown South African cast, led by Sharlto Copley as the bumbling alien correspondent for the local government. As he tries to relocate over a million alien “prawns,” he finds himself exposed to a strange fluid that begins to transform his body. While not a groundbreaking film, it’s a novel concept and an accurate parallel to the way our own government treats immigration today in some places. It also splices some entertaining action scenes between formal interviews of government officials and family members of the protagonist.

5. Moon

Moon

A little-known release by Duncan Jones, son of David Bowie, Moon starts as a 2001-esque story set in the future, where Sam Rockwell is a lone astronaut mining an important resource. His computer is voiced by Kevin Spacey, and he is approaching the end of his 3-year expedition. Before he can go home, he learns about a dark secret surrounding his mission, and not even his lighthearted robotic companion will tell him the truth.

 

4. The Cove

The Cove

My documentary choice of the year, The Cove tracks Ric O’Barry, former dolphin trainer on the set of Flipper and subsequent activist against the methods used to capture dolphins, due to the popularity of his own show, as he works to shut down a dolphin slaughterhouse in Taiji, Japan. Working undercover, against the local law enforcement, and using cameras hidden in rocks, he is able to show the graphic deaths of over 2,000 dolphins. Two months after the film was released, Taiji was actually shut down.

3. Up

Up

Pixar’s latest film has one of the most depressing moments in any animated film since Mufasa died in The Lion King.
Our abandoned protagonist Carl Frederickson departs all alone in his floating balloon house for South America. Or so he thinks. Annoying boy scouts, talking dogs, and exotic birds seem to be holding him back (in some cases literally) from reaching his destination. It’s such a feel-good film, and I said this after Wall-E, that I trust Pixar to tug at my heartstrings and make a damn good family film every year.

2. Zombieland

Zombieland

I know what you’re thinking. Number 2? The premise was a pretty basic archetype and the characters weren’t that deep, but damn this movie was fun to watch! Zombie movies get points for creativity, and Zombieland had some of the most creative kills I’ve ever seen: Banjo, hedge clippers, hammer, not to mention a variety of amusement park rides. It’s like someone proposed the idea of zombies in an amusement park, and they wrote a movie around that concept. The addition of Woody Harrelson as a disgruntled twinkie addict helps the plot, as well as a timid Jesse Eisenberg for Woody to rip into the whole time. Oh yeah, and there’s that cameo too.

1. Inglourious Basterds

Inglourious Basterds

Ah, refreshing Tarantino. After the pile of garbage called Grindhouse, he comes back and hits us with a witty rendition of the German occupancy of France. And who needs accuracy? Tarantino writes his own ending, the way everyone wants to see it. Brad Pitt plays another stellar role with Lieutenant Aldo Raine, a Tennessean with a drawl looking for one thing: Nazi scalps. He’s known as “Aldo the Apache” to the Germans. On the other side, Christoph Waltz plays an Oscar-caliber Hans Landa, the general of the Nazi regime. They call him the “Jew Hunter.” Simultaneously, Melanie Laurent is a fugitive Jew working in a movie theatre that plans to show a German propaganda film. As the stories converge in a mix of violence, witty dialogue, and a self-indulgent tribute to cinephilia (did you know that old nitrate film reels can be used to ignite a building?), the explosive ending is a triumphant end to the war – Tarantino style.