Thursday, January 21, 2010

Oscar Predictions

The Oscar nominations will be read on February 2nd (and I cannot wait any longer! Oscar nomination day is like Christmas for me...well depending on who gets nominated, haha), so I thought I would post my own predictions on who I think will be nominated in the six major categories:

Best Actor:
George Clooney, Up in the Air
Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart
Colin Firth, A Single Man
Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker
Morgan Freeman, Invictus

I would say that Clooney, Bridges, and Firth are definite locks since they were all nominated for the three major precursor awards. Renner may have not been nominated for a Globe and Morgan may not have been nominated for a BAFTA, but unless there's some huge surprise, I'm pretty confident that this will be the list.

Best Actress:
Meryl Streep, Julie and Julia
Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side
Carey Mulligan, An Education
Gabourey Sidibe, Precious
Helen Mirren, The Last Station

Duh, of course Meryl and Sandy will be nominated. I'm pretty sure Carey and Gabby will be as well. Not as confident with Mirren; it could be Emily Blunt in her place, but now I'm going with this list.

Best Supporting Actor:
Christoph Waltz, Inglorious Basterds
Woody Harrelson, The Messenger
Stanley Tucci, The Lovely Bones
Alfred Molina, An Education
Matt Damon, Invictus

This one was more difficult because all the nominations in this category for SAG, Globes, and BAFTAs have been varying (except for Waltz and Tucci, who are locks, especially Waltz who will probably win anyway). I think Harrelson has a decent shot, but the other two slots are up in the air and I'm just completely guessing.

Best Supporting Actress:
Monique, Precious
Vera Farmiga, Up in the Air
Anna Kendrick, Up in the Air
Julianne Moore, A Single Man
Samantha Morton, The Messenger

Monique and the UitA women are definite locks. Moore is iffy, but I think she'll do it; she's Julianne Moore for Christ's sake! And not sure about the last spot, but I gave it to Morton. Remember back in '04 when she came out of nowhere when she was nominated for In America and everyone thought it was going to go to Nicole Kidman for Cold Mountain? (Well, I did anyway). So that's why I chose her!

Best Director:
Jason Reitman, Up in the Air
James Cameron, Avatar
Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker
Quentin Tarantino, Inglorious Basterds
Clint Eastwood, Invictus

Lee Daniels for Precious could get in instead of Eastwood, but the Academy loves Eastwood (well, even though they snubbed him last year), so I'm going with this list.

Best Picture:
Can I just say how much I hate that there are TEN movies nominated for best movie this year? I mean, is that really necessary? They're only doing this because people (LIKE ME!!) whined and bitched about The Dark Knight and Wall-E being snubbed last year, and yes, TDK should have been nominated (at the very least Nolan should have gotten a directing nod), I mean, who saw the friggin' Reader anyway? And don't get me started on Frost/Nixon! As for Wall-E, well it was nominated and won for Best Animated Picture, so I don't know why people are still bitching about it? So now we have to deal with this crap!

Well, here are my predictions:
Up in the Air
Avatar
The Hurt Locker
Precious
Inglorious Basterds
Invictus
Up
Nine
The Hangover
An Eduction

If there had only been five slots open, Nine wouldn't have made it because everyone hated it and it got completely shut out at the Globes, but since there's plenty of room and you know Harvey is campaigning like crazy, it will probably make it. I'm taking a risk and saying The Hangover since it won the Golden Globe. That's not always the case when a movie wins the GG for comedy/musical, though. When Walk the Line won the GG in '06, it wasn't nominated for an Oscar Best Pic, but, like I said, since there's more space available, I'll take a gamble and say it will get nominated. But won't win. But that would be kind of sweet if it did!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Let's Start at the End

Memento
Director: Christopher Nolan
Cast: Guy Pierce, Joe Pantoliano, Carrie-Anne Moss
Released: 3/16/01
I had to watch this movie twice because it's one of those films where it's beneficiary to watch it a second time (or perhaps even a third or fourth or fifth time...) It's hard to talk about this movie without revealing any clues or spoilers, but I will do my best not to ruin this movie for anyone who maybe hasn't seen it yet, although I would highly recommend you see it!

Perhaps you know, even if you haven't seen Memento, that the whole movie's gimmick is that it starts at the end and ends at the beginning. Now I'm sure this isn't the first movie to do that (I'm assuming; I do know that they did an episode of Seinfeld in this manner, lol), but it's probably one of the most well-known films to do this formula. With each scene, the audience is given a piece to a clue that they didn't have before.

The film starts (or ends, I should say) with Leonard (Pierce) a man who can only retain his memory for a short period of time before he forgets what just happened to him. The last thing he does remember is his wife being murdered and after he attacked the perpetrator, his head was banged against the floor and that's how he developed his memory loss. His mission in life becomes to find the man who murdered his wife. Through detective work he finds out the man he is looking for is someone named John G. and he tattoos all the facts he finds on his body, so he's always reminded of what he's looking for. In fact, he has a tattoo across his chest that reads "John G. raped and murdered my wife". Now can you imagine if you were a tattoo artist and some guy wanted you to tattoo that across his chest? I'd be like, Ummmmm.....maybe you should talk to the police? Just saying.

While that plot of the film is told backwards, there's another subplot in the movie (shown in black and white) that moves forward where Leonard is talking on the phone to someone about a man named Sammy Jankins, who has a similar condition to his. Now I can't comment too much about this subplot without giving too much away, but it's a vital part to the story.

After watching Memento, you will no doubt have million of questions. I've read many very interesting theories about what really happened in the movie and they're all pretty plausible. I would suggest watching this movie (if you haven't already), give yourself a few days to mull it over, then watch it again and pay extra close attention to the black and white scenes.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Brave Blue World

Avatar

Director: James Cameron
Cast: Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Signourey Weaver, Stephen Lang
Released: 12/18/09
Viewed in theaters: 1/13/10

Oscar nominations:
Best Picture
Best Director - James Cameron
Best Score - James Horner
Best Art Direction
Best Cinematography
Best Visual Effects
Best Editing
Best Sound
Best Sound Editing
I have to admit; when I first heard about Avatar, I really had no desire to see it because sci-fi really isn't my thing. But when all my Facebook friends and the celebs I follow on Twitter were raving about how great it was, I decided it was worth a watch. After all, it's from the same guy who directed Titanic, The Abyss, and Aliens, all movies that I love, so at least I know Cameron has a good track record. I have to say, I'm quite glad I did see it. For one thing, I really liked it and for another, this is definitely a movie you have to see on the big screen. Your TV screen won't do this film justice. In fact, Cameron told EW that he wasn't making a movie to watch on your phone. (I've watched the trailer on my phone and he's right...watching the full feature on a phone wouldn't have the same effect). I also caught this movie in 3-D, the first feature film I've ever seen in 3-D. (I've seen those educational Imax movies in 3-D, but never an actual movie). While the 3-D is cool, it's not necessary for you to see it. About halfway into the movie, my ears were starting to hurt because my glasses were starting to get too tight, so I probably won't be seeing anymore 3-D movies in the future unless they're essential.
In a way, Avatar kinda reminded me of Titanic. Yes, sure, there are major differences: Titanic is based on historical events while Avatar is an original story and Titanic takes place in the past while Avatar takes places many years into the future, but it has that epic feel that Titanic did and of course there's the love story. I also had that same feeling of awe when I saw Titanic while watching Avatar.

Taking place in the year 2154 on a planet called Pandora, Worthington plays Jake, a paralyzed marine who travels to this other world to take over a mission for his twin brother who was killed in battle. Pandora is beautiful, but deadly. It's also home of a very valuable mineral worth $200 million an ounce. The only thing standing in their way is the native Na'vi, these ten-feet tall, blue aliens with cat-like features. The only way they can talk to them and negoatiate with them is to look like large blue human-cats themselves, so they create avatars where they can virtually control their own Na'vi alien. I'm probably not explaining it clearly, but don't worry, it makes perfect sense when you watch the movie and the story is easy to follow. In fact, I have heard complaints that the story is too simplistic. Hey, at least Avatar has a plot unlike some movies. :::coughcoughTransformers2coughcough:::


It took me awhile to get used to the big blue aliens at first, but once you get past the first initial shock, it's easy to accept them and their world. The special effects of Pandora are absolutely amazing with some crazy scary creatures. I have to wonder, though, how this movie will hold up 10-20 years from now. The problem when you have a movie chock full of GGI is that it doesn't age very well. But for now, in 2010, the film is quite revolutionary and Cameron proves he is a master at the technical aspect of film and there is no doubt in my mind Avatar will sweep all the technical awards at the Oscars.


The film is nearly three hours long and while my ears became sore from the 3-D glasses, I found myself completely immersed in this world. I found myself becoming emotionally involved with the characters and there were a few times where my eyes started brimming with tears. Now I never flat-out bawled like I did when I saw Titanic, but I came very close several times.



It will probably be awhile before we see another film like this again, so I highly recommend you see it (on the big screen!) before it leaves your theaters. This film 'blue' me away!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Flying High

*minor spoilers*

Up in the Air
Director: Jason Reitman
Cast: George Clooney, Vera Farmiga, Anna Kendrick
Released: 12/23/09
Viewed in theaters: 1/12/10

Oscar nominations:
Best Picture
Best Director - Jason Reitman
Best Actor - George Clooney
Best Supporting Actress - Vera Farmiga
Best Supporting Actress - Anna Kendrick
Best Adapted Screenplay - Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner



Up in the Air follows Ryan Bingham (Clooney), a businessman who travels around the country terminating employees from their companies and giving speeches at conferences. He lives out of a suitcase and has all the tricks and the trades of air traveling down to a science. He lives an isolated existence, but it's the only way he knows how to live and enjoys his lifestyle. However, his career is turned upside down when his boss hires a fresh ivy league college grad, Natalie (played by Kendrick who was also in the Twilight movies, but I don't remember her since she plays a human, so therefore, she's non-important in those movies), who devises a plan to fire people over the Internet, and therefore, no more air travel is necessary.

This scares Bingham and he is not convinced this new plan will work and that Natalie needs "real" experience with terminating people. His boss agrees and sends her with him on one of his firing excursions.

The movie uses real people who were fired from their jobs; if I remember correctly, Reitman placed an ad in a few national papers saying he needed people who had been recently laid off for a documentary. I thought that was a nice touch and added realness to the film. It was actually quite heartbreaking seeing those people get fired. I've never been terminated from a company I've been at for years, but I do know what it's like to be without a job and it sucks! I've been down that road, people! And if I were ever in that situation and had a Natalie telling me the news, I'd probably lean across the table and slap her!

There was one woman they fired who calmly stated that she had plans for the future; she was going to jump off the bridge near her house. This is when Natalie starts to see the personal side of the terminations and stops treating the people like electronic objects she's just turning off. She asks Bingham if they should be concerned about her and he replies that's a common threat they get all the time, which I'm sure is true, but I had a feeling we would be hearing about her again. She was way too calm when she said it; like she knew exactly what she had to do. If she had said the same thing, but had been hysterical, it would have just been for attention.

Bingham starts an affair with Alex (Farmiga), a woman he meets, who also travels a lot for a living. Even though their relationship is casual at first, he starts to develop feelings for her and invites her to his sister's wedding. Halfway through the movie I figured out what he discovered about her in Chicago. I mean, it wasn't that hard.

The movie was shot in several different cities, including, wait for it...Omaha, which is where yours truly resides! It was kinda exciting seeing some of the familiar (well, to me) landmarks. I had to laugh though when they got a shot of Omaha Steaks behind Clooney. Can you believe I've never had an Omaha steak before? Well, maybe I've had; I don't know, but that gave me a little chuckle. The Omaha scenes were actually longer than I was expecting, so that was pretty exciting. I will tell you, it was a pretty exciting day in Omaha when Clooney was here. We don't get much excitement in Omaha. Now I can say I've been to an airport that was featured in an Oscar-nominated (hell, maybe even winning) movie. (We all know it's going to be nominated for an Oscar!)

I liked Up in the Air, but I left the theater feeling quite depressed.

Golden Globe nominations

The Golden Globes are this Sunday and while I haven't seen much of the competition (blame it on the alcohol weather), I present my predictions for the major categories for film. Remember, folks, I'm not a professional!

Best Drama and Musical/Comedy predictions:
video

Best Actor predictions:
video

Best Actress predictions:
video

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Be careful what you wish for

Coraline
Director: Henry Selick
Voice talent: Dakota Fanning, Teri Hatcher, Ian McShane
Released: 6/09/09

Oscar nominations:
Best Animated Picture

For some reason I thought Tim Burton directed this film. For one thing, it has a very Burton-esque vibe to it and this is also from the same guy who directed The Nightmare Before Christmas, another movie I thought was directed by Burton (well, when they call it Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas, can you blame me?) But apparently he wrote and produced that one. I don't think he had anything to do with Coraline.

I enjoyed this film because it reminded me of one of my favorite flicks, Pan's Labyrinth, which was my second favorite movie of 2006. Like that movie, this one features a young girl who's not happy with her reality (although her problems are pretty mundane compared to those of the girl in Pan's) and escapes into an alternate fantasy world. Coraline (there's a running joke where all the characters call her Caroline) is voiced by Dakota Fanning and if I didn't already know it was her, I don't think I would have known who was voicing her as Fanning has a pretty generic sounding voice and sounds just like any other American teenaged girl. However, if I didn't already know she voiced the mother, I would have instantly recognized Teri Hatcher's voice. (Probably because I watch Desperate Housewives every Sunday).

Coraline, who resents her parents for being too busy with their work, finds a small door in the huge old rickety house she and her parents have recently moved into, but when she opens it she finds a layer of bricks blocking passage. Eventually she gets through and ends up in another world that is exactly like the one she already lives in except everyone has buttons for eyes and her neighbor's cat talks. At first everything is great and perfect: her "other" mother cooks these fabulous feasts and her "other" neighbors put on these fantastic shows for her and her "other" friend. Of course those sayings "too good to be true" and "be careful what you wish for" apply to this movie and Coraline soon wishes she had never entered that world.

I have to say, for an animated movie, there was creepy and disturbing images (the stuffed Scotties for one). Of course not all animated movies are geared towards children and this is one of them.

Coraline doesn't use traditional hand-drawn animation or computer animation. Instead it is stop-motion which I found was essential and added to the story. Had the same story been done with computer animation, it just wouldn't be the same.

There is no doubt that Coraline will be nominated for Best Animated Feature at the Oscars this year and if I didn't love Up so much, I would be rooting for it. Actually, 2009 has been a great year for animation. I haven't seen The Princess and the Frog or Fantastic Mr. Fox yet, but I've heard good things about them.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Favorites from the '00s

Here are my fifty favorite films from the last ten years, "favorite" being the operative word. This isn't a list of the best movies of the decade, just a list of the ones I enjoyed the most.

Since it's too damn difficult to rank fifty movies (hell, it's hard enough when I have to rank ten!), I'm going to rank them alphabetically in chronological order. However, my five top movies of the decade would have to include the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Brokeback Mountain, Slumdog Millionaire, Pan's Labyrinth, and the Kill Bill movies. I haven't seen many movies from 2009, so my list could change in about six months!

1. Almost Famous (2000) - because even though it takes place before I was even born, there's something about it that makes me feel nostalgic.

2. Bring It On (2000) - (DON'T LAUGH!) because this is possibly the best teen movie of the '00s and one of my guilty pleasures.

3. Center Stage (2000) - because it's another one of my guilty pleasures of this decade and the entire Michael Jackson dance routine was ridiculously awesome. It also launched the career of Zoe Saldana.

4. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) - because the martial arts moves were really cool.

5. Erin Brockavich (2000) - because Julia Robets really did deserve the Oscar for this.

6. Memento (2000) - because it's one of the greatest movies ever to play with your mind and I'm still not exactly sure what happened...

7. Nurse Betty (2000) - because it has my favorite performance from Renee Zellweger and the story is wickedly original and funny.

8. The Patriot (2000) - because it's the best movie about my favorite time period, the Revolutionary War (okay, it's the only (non-musical) movie about the Revolutionary War).

9. Legally Blonde (2001) - because Elle Woods proves you can be bubble-headed and smart.

10. The Lord of the Rings trilogy: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), The Two Towers (2002), The Return of the King (2003) - because despite never having read the books and thinking I would be beyond bored watching the first film, I absolutely fell in love with the story and it had my full attention from beginning to end.

11. Moulin Rouge! (2001) - because it's like being high without actually taking any illegal substances!

12. The Mummy Returns (2001) - because it's fun and I invented the acronym "PLEM" - Precious Little English Muffin.

13. Ocean's 11 (2001) - because it's a fun caper movie.

14. The Royal Tennenbaums (2001) - because watching a movie about a dysfunctional family makes me feel a little better about my own.

15. Y Tu Mama Tambien (2001) - because we were introduced to Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna, Mexico's equivalent to Matt and Ben.

16. Chicago (2002) - because it's a fun musical with catchy songs.

17. Rabbit-Proof Fence (2002) - because it's the amazing true story of three Aboriginal children who escape from a prison camp and walk 1500 miles back to their home.

18. Spirited Away (2002) - because it's the best anime movie I've ever seen.

19. Big Fish (2003) - because it's a movie easy to fall in love with.

20. Camp (2003) - because the soundtrack is awesome and Vlad is pretty awesome for being the only straight guy to attend that camp.

21. Elf (2003) - because it's one of my favorite Christmas movies.

22. Finding Nemo (2003) - because the animation is visually stunning and it's such an adorable story.

23. In America (2003) - because it's a sweet, small film.

24. Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003), Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (2004) - because it was just so damn fun and over the top!

25. The Magdalene Sisters (2003) - because it's a powerful movie that gets your blood boiling.

26. Mystic River (2003) - because it's a great actor's movie with a wonderful ensemble and the story catches you from the beginning and holds you until the end.

27. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003) - because who knew a movie based on a Disneyland ride could be so much fun and garner Johnny Depp an Oscar nomination?

28. Criminal (2004) - because it's a fun movie with a twist I didn't see coming.

29. Hotel Rwanda (2004) - because it's a powerful movie that will stay with you for a long time.

30. Mean Girls (2004) - because it's the other great teen movie of the decade and one of the very few fond moments we have of Lindsay Lohan. Plus it gave us the great line, "Gretchen, stop trying to make fetch happen! It's not going to happen!"

31. National Treasure (2004) - because, okay, so sue me, I love those kinds of movies!

32. Brokeback Mountain (2005) - because it was one of the decade's best love stories (traditional or unconventional) and perhaps, maybe just a little, brought some understanding and tolerance to the world. Plus Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal make out! A lot!

33. Grizzly Man (2005) - because that guy was nucking futs! He was so insane he got mauled by a bear!

34. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005) - because it's from the most movie-friendly Potter book and therefore my favorite of the franchise.

35. In Her Shoes (2005) - because it's one of those rare movies that's just as good as the novel it was adapted from.

36. Walk the Line (2005) - because it made me a fan of Johnny Cash.

37. Children of Men (2006) - because any movie that can keep the same shot in motion for five minutes is pretty amazing.

38. The Devil Wears Prada (2006) - because of the clothes! And Meryl!

39. Little Miss Sunshine (2006) - because I loved it even more the second time I saw it.

40. Pan's Labyrinth (2006) - because I was astonished, absolutely astonished by the great fantasy journey this film takes you on.

41. Across the Universe (2007) - because it's a musical based on Beatles' music!

42. The Mist (2007) - because it has one of the most craziest twists I've ever seen.

43. No Country For Old Men (2007) - because that scene with Anton Chigurh and the gas station proprietor was one of the most chilling I've seen.

44. The Dark Knight (2008) - because without Christopher Nolan directing and Heath Ledger as the Joker, this movie would probably be just mediocre.

45. Frozen River (2008) - because even Indie movies can have you biting your nails.

46. Gran Torino (2008) - because it's the first Clint Eastwood movie I really liked where he both directed and starred.

47. Slumdog Millionaire (2008) - because it was the little movie that could, winning film's most coveted award, the Oscar, and who is the last character you can remember rooting for as hard as you did for Jamal?

48. Tropic Thunder (2008) - because the fake trailers at the beginning (Satan's Alley, anyone?) set the tone for the movie and it only gets funnier and better from there.

49. Wall-E (2008) - because who couldn't fall in love wit Wall-E and Eva?

50. Up (2009) - because Pixar shows us there's no shame in crying during an animated movie.