Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Ten Best Picture Nominees criticized, summoned, dissected and rated




The Social Network (PG-13)

A kind of critics darling for the new decade, David Fincher's film has the best script of the ten nominees. A critical depiction of our generation and the lack of communication that has happened in the process. A story about friendship, betrayal and connection. Was it the best picture of the year? I wouldn't say that but it sure is one hell of a triumph for all the artists that were on board this incredible picture. Jesse Eisenberg with his face that represents a whole generation and Andrew Garfield as Eduardo Saverin, the true hero of the story. Aaron Sorkin's script is layered, so much so that with every viewing you find a new sentence or a new word that you didn't notice the first time around and that brings even more resonance to the story's structure and plotting. A-

Inception (PG-13)

You can certainly find flaws in the script or in the film's action but there's no denying that Christopher Nolan's hire wire act of a movie had guts and a vision that lacked in all other Hollywood pictures. All the better for us since the film represents something we haven't really seen before. A film that certainly demands attention and multiple viewings to fully grasp its puzzling intricacies. In going deep into the realm of dreams, Nolan single handedly invented a world from scratch and a flawed hero -Leonardo Dicaprio's Cobb- that remained haunted by the death of his wife. It all came down to that last frame, the spinning of a totem and the never ending conversations that followed afterwards. What more can you ask for in a movie? A-


Black Swan (R)

My favourite of the ten nominees. Darren Aronofsky's ballet nightmare is an intense film that had a hypnotic intensity which truly took my breath away. As Nina, Nathalie Portman gives the performance of the year in a role that demanded heart and soul. Paving the way is Matthew Libatique's breathtaking cinematography, the best of the year & a script that honors everything from Cronenberg to the classic Red Shoes. What Black Swan did for cinema in 2010 is revitalize our perceptions of it and make us believe again in the power of movies. Following his masterful The Wrestler, Aronofsky's film is yet another study of an artist pushing his or herself to their limits and potential. The final shots of both films are raw, haunting and similarly planned. So much so that they can easily be seen as companion pieces to one another. This is art. A-

The Fighter (PG-13)

Here is a film that is more about family than boxing. I could have done without the last 15 minutes or so but the first 2/3 of the film are dynamite and essential viewing for any movie fan. David O' Russell's film might look to be about Mark Whalberg's Mickey Ward but I saw it differently. It is Christian Bale's movie. It is Melissa Leo's movie. It is Amy Adams' movie. They all steal the show and give us good reason as to why they got nominated in the acting categories and Whalberg was left in the dust. Bale's Dickie is a rundown junkie that still thinks about that famous night where he knocked out Sugar Ray Leonard. He is a man that has run out his luck by hanging out in crack houses and bringing down his brother with him. It is Bale's movie and I'll be darned if he doesn't come out of it with an Oscar tonight. B+

Winter's Bone (R)

This is such a small movie with such a microscopically small budget that it was already surprising to see it get nominated in this category. All the better for it. We need more movies like this one. Director Debra Granik creates an atmosphere that is grim and darkly lit in nature. Her film is one in which its heroine -indelibly played by Jennifer Lawrence- goes through the wooden passages of the Ozarks to find her junkie father. Surprising consequences happen and the girl is transported into an underground world that left me both shaken and disturbed. Winter's Bone is all about the small moments the heroine endures. The biblical boat trip that climaxes the film, her capture to the hands of corrupt bloodless people and even the smallest of moments, such as the gutting of a squirrel and the way she handles herself so proudly and so courageously in spite of things. Great movie. B+

The Kids Are All Right (R)

I had problems with Lisa Cholodenko's film. Mostly in the way it climaxes itself. But through and through this is a solid effort from her and has some of the most spectacular performances of 2010. As a married couple, Annette Benning and Julianne Moore are incredible and show us the creation of a couple that experience the ups and downs of a marriage. Mark Ruffalo as their kids' sperm donor gives the performance of his life. With charisma to spare, he has become one of the great character actors of the last 10 years and for good reason, his natural way of acting is both a permanent fixture of his style and a freshly credible counter to Holywood. But for me the highlight of the film is Julianne Moore, who's smart and sexy performance is right up there with her very best. B+

127 Hours (R)

Featuring one of the most memorable scenes of any movie from last year -the amputation of an arm and the freedom of a life- Danny Boyle's visionary true life tale brims with energy and the twitching speed of 10 red bulls. Sometimes he goes way overboard and infuses an overtly glamorized amount of style to his context but his movie is too damn good to be faulted for that. James Franco as Aaron Ralston is smashingly good, especially considering he's practically alone on screen for close to 90% of the time. It's a bold, daring performance that has garnered him a well deserved acting nomination and pushes what could have been a one trick film into a triumphant journey of hell and back. Don't listen to the naysayers, Don't look away in 127 Hours cause you might just miss the beginning of a new life B+


Toy Story 3 (G)

We have come to expect nothing but greatness from the wizards over at Pixar. What with the great streak they got going the last 10 years (Up, WALL-E, Ratatouille, The Incredibles, Finding Nemo) This threequel to a popular film series is no exception. With its brightly popped out colors and resonant theme of growing up Lee Unkrich's film is designed to thrill you and that it does. I was on the edge of my seat as I saw a shade of darkness I never thought I'd see in the series, especially when the time comes for the toys to escape and for the brimmed out furnaces of fire to stop them. If that doesn't convince you that this isn't ordinary kiddie fare, I don't know exactly what will. B+

True Grit (PG-13)

I was underwhelmed by the Coen Brothers' remake of the John Wayne film. Nothing much was happening throughout and there was a certain deja vu feeling that kept popping out of my head. Not to say the performances weren't great, they most certainly were. What was lacking was a sense of boldness that appeared in the brothers' previous efforts, especially their Jewish nightmare 2009's A Serious Man. This film certainly has its fans but one can't help but think it might have more to do with the artists involved than by the actual movie itself. A true disappointment from major artists. C+

The King's Speech (PG-13)

Here's the film people say will win. A movie packaged and designed for the Oscars. Which doesn't mean it's a good thing. Listen, I know there have been many who believe this was in fact the best film of the year but -as The Social Network-ing people would write- IMHO there is no vision to Tom Hooper's The King's Speech, especially when comparing it to the incredible worlds the Nolans, Finchers and Aronofskys created this past year. If it in fact wins the big prize it will be the worse Best Picture winner since Crash's surprising victory in 2006. A huge backlash happened that year that caused Academy voters to rethink their priorities and start voting more smartly and artistically. The Kings Speech's win would bring it all back to square one. C+

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