Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Just watched my 20th film this year...review of what was the best so far

I've been working on some posts and because they haven't been completed yet, i didn't post them yet. In the meantime, here's a list of the 20 films I've seen so far in approximate order of best to worst, and my attempt to do a short list of the best i've seen so far.

1. Up in the Air
2. Inglolriouos Basterds
3. Soloist
4. Star Trek
5. In the Loop
6. Up
7. Hangover
8. Funny People
9. Extract
10. Invention of Lying
11. Night at the Museum 2
12. Angels and Demons
13. Invictus
14. Proposal
15. Whip It
16. Julia
17. Wolverine
18. Brothers Bloom
19. Land of the Lost
20. Bruno

Actor:
Rob Downey Jr., The Soloist-I will admit that because it was released before Summer, it stands virtually no chance of getting nominated, but there’s plenty to appreciate here. His role of a beat reporter was entirely without glamour and in the hands of many other actors, he would easily be upstaged by Jamie Foxx’s more showier role of a schizophrenic artist. Downey commanded attention through consistency. It was a solid character whose presence felt heartfelt and inspirational in every scene. He also
took on a real-life character and changed him significantly to alter the story while keeping the general spirit of the story alive.

Morgan Freeman, Invictus-I put Downey Jr. first because this was one was a little Oscar-baity. He’s Morgan Freeman playing Mandela, what are you going to expect but something sincere? It was probably technically perfect and a pretty good stretch for Freeman so I’d say he deserves a nom. It just moved me a little less than Downey Jr.

George Clooney, Up in the Air-For the record, I’m still pretty sick on all the Clooney love in Hollywood. He’s a good guy and good actor, but I’m so tired of all these mushy speeches about how he’s the reincarnation of Mr. Smith Going to Washington. Clooney is so overexposed that when I see him on the screen, I get pretty bored pretty quick. As a result, Clooney practically has to mix it up at this point to hold my attention, and that he did in this film. Reitman said iin an interview that he was looking to actually put Clooney in an emotionally vulnerable stage and have him fall in love, and he succeeded. Clooney played a character I could emotionally get behind in his mentoring scenes of Natalie and in his love scenes with Vera. You even felt that heartbreak when he finally got that 10,000,000th mile. Deserves an Oscar nom by a hair, in my opinion.

Jamie Foxx, Soloist-Foxx is usually always on my lists for films I wasn’t even expecting him to be on (Jarhead, Dreamgirls, etc.) and in the Soloist he played it just right. There was one particular scene that I felt was awkward in the wrong way and one scene after that, that didn’t entirely make sense with me (when he proclaimed Steve Lopez was like God, and went a little delusional with singing about how ballerinas are graceful and dance around) and detached me from the character.

(tie) Ricky Gervaise, Invention of Lying and Adam Sandler, Funny People- These aren’t serious Oscar contenders although I wouldn’t have been disappointed to see either of them as Golden Globe nominees in the comedy category. Sandler played moments of sadness very well and on its own would be worthy on my very short list, at least. Gervaise, himself, I admired for taking his comic persona and fine-tuning it just the right amount to meet the demands of this movie.

Actress: Because I don’t watch a lot of Jane Austen films, I always worry that I couldn’t possibly produce a list of 5 leading actresses but I managed 5.
Rachel Weicz, Brothers Bloom-Not a particularly good film but Rachel Weicz’ wide-eyed recluse who is discovering adventure for the first time is practically the only reason she holds your interest. She’s the stand-in for the audience as you’re watching everything unfold for her eyes and if she wasn’t taken in by what she was experiencing you wouldn’t either
Tilda Swinton, Julia-It’s a role reminiscent of Anne Hathaway last year in Rachel Getting Married: Essentially it’s a messed-up woman with addiction problems going nowhere in life. It’s not something I’d endorse for Oscar because it didn’t captivate me but relative to the other 19 films on this list, it’s good enough for 2nd here.
Sandra Bullock, The Proposal-Maybe I’m buying into all the hype of Sandra Bullock’s career comeback, but I do have to admit that while it wasn’t too much more than a standard rom-com role, I was reminded of how fresh Sandra Bullock makes a tired script and how challenging it might have been to pull that off with her increasing age and the number of times I’ve seen it done before..
Anna Chlumsky, In the Loop-As someone who lives in D.C., I see interns like Liza Weld: knows everything, ridiculously ambuitious, and underneath it all, probably a little unsure of what to do with their power.
Anna Friel, Land of the Lost-She’s in the absolute worst film I’ve seen this year. Sometimes you see someone play a role so charmingly that you have to applaud them for making due with a terrible script and leaving it unscathed

Supporting Actor: (this list is not yet fully formed)
Christophe Waltz, Inglorious Basterds-With Javier Bardem and Heath Ledger winning the last two years for being the worst of villains, I imagined before watching Christophe Waltz that he would be equally villainous. What I saw instead was an interesting man of contradictions: A Nazi who is a sophisticated man with a refined sense of manners. He’s not so much defined by his villainy as he is defined by being a worthy opponent to the protagonist.

Tom Hollander, In the Loop-The straight man in the middle of a scene of complete chaos is an always underappreciated role (see Jason Bateman, Arrested Development or John Ritter, Three’s Company). Hollander played it very well

Ed Asner, Up-I don’t usually feel that animated films deserve a shot for acting noms. I still don’t. He’s just #3 on my list because it wasn’t as good of a year for supporting actors as it was for actresses.

Matt Damon, Invictus-I love Matt Damon and think he has one of the best seven or eight bodies of work this decade for an actor (behind Depp, Blanchett Streep, Crowe, DiCaprio and Penn). He absolutely deserved nominations for Good German (over Ryan Gosling) or Talented Mr. Ripley (over Richard Farnsworth) or possibly Bourne Ultimatum (over Virgo Mortgensen). What’s done is done, however, and if we’re simply looking at the best five actors this year, I don’t believe he’s it. Other than donning an accent, there’s nothing particularly notable about Damon here except that he’s in a Clint Eastwood film and everyone in Eastwood’s films get noms. Still, Damon in a weaker performance is good for about 4th here.

Saul Rubineck, Julia-There was one perfectly delivered scene where Julia was accusing Rubineck’s character of sleeping with her when she was drunk, and he’s answering her in a way that is all at once alleviating himself of any guilt, blaming her for her illness, reaching out to help her, and avoiding the question entirely. It’s a scene that was one of the most memorable of my year, and wouldn’t have worked without him pulling it off so well.

Supporting Actress:
Melanie Laurant, Inglorious Basterds-Her character has many facets: Direct and uninterested when being approached by a German soldier smitten with her; uncomfortably nervous when approached by the man who killed her family; and empowered when she and her immigrant lover plot revenge.

Vera Farminga, Up in the Air-Without disclosing a spoiler, I’ll just say she’s a woman with a secret. You can measure how great of a job she does simply by noting that up until the big reveal, she has us looking the other way on first viewing and see the obvious on second viewing.

Zoe Saldana, Star Trek-I heard she was great in Avatar. Star Trek’s cast members are all great in replicating the original roles while reinvigorating them at the same time (something that is very hard to do). Saldanna’s might have possibly been my favorite performance of the cast. The scenes where she approaches Spock in the elevator (and we’re not even sure if they’re together) was a moment that resonated a lot.

Anna Kendrick, Up in the Air-Something that I have no objection to taking home the Oscar. If the film is considered comedic, then she was the big scene stealer. She was someone who could be given a spinoff as far as I’m concerned. She had less moments in the script that she could take off and run with as Farminga did as far as I’m concerned.

(tie) Catherine Keener-The Soloist-Keener can make a big impression in a few scenes and make you want to see more of her.
Amy Admas-Night at the Museum-If they gave an Oscar to Cate Blanchett for channeling Katherine Hepburn, why not Amy Adams? Even though her film wasn’t supposed to be taken seriously for Oscar consideration, she was a fantastic homage to Hepburn in Bringing Up Baby.

Screenplay:
Up In the Air (adapted)-Major changes had to made to the book including adding the two female characters. The spirit of the book which is about the transience of being permanently on business travel is also on display there very well.

Soloist (adapted)-From Steve Lopez's book, the film takes and adapts the two characters to fit a more cinematic mold

Inglorious Basterds (original)-I've always heard Tarantino had a knack for dialogue and that sounds most appropriate. Negative points for not making Brad Pitt's part much different than his comedic turn in Burn After Reading. Writing Dianne Kruger, Christophe Waltz and Melanie Laurent's parts alone do deserve big points, however.

In the Loop (adapted)-It was a great film, but it could have felt just a little more cinematic, so a few negative points for that.

Funny People (original)-I had to respect it for integrating all that comedy and finding truth in so many funny moments.

Hangover (original)-It just won best comedy at the globes. It's a great movie that grows on me in time. I'm not going to knock it down

Director:
Jason Reitman, Up in the Air-Kept it at the right length and made what could have been flat material come alive. His chances of winning the Oscar might be significantly lower but has a good chance of winning as producer as well as screenwriter

Quentin Tarantino, Inglorious Basterds-Anyone could see that the film is artfully done so there's little convincing to do

Armando Ianoucci, In the Loop-The director went all handheld on us to give us an indie feel. It worked well.

J.J. Abrams, Star Trek-It's hard to establish a unique voice in your directing style as a director of a summer blockbuster when you've only done one film before. I think he set the tone for the revived franchised just right on his first go and that's really when you need it.

Mike Judge, Extract-I liked this film very much. It wasn't as flat-out funny as Office Space but it was interesting and its characters felt real. Bravo to him for following up Office Space with something that feels interesting in its own right but retains the charm of the original.

1 comment:

Adam said...

Are you planning on watching Avatar?