Saturday, March 06, 2010

no clue movie review - fred's 2010 oscar picks

It's Oscar Sunday! I like watching the Oscars. Not too many award shows that I still enjoy watching, but for some reason I always watch this one from beginning to end each year. I even watch the Barbara Walters Special. I hear this is her last year for that special. Anyway, not sure what the show will bring, but I always like to post my Oscar Picks.

This year I downloaded an official ballot from You can too! I marked my picks with little stars and I think I did a pretty good job. District 9 for Best Adapted Screenplay could be a sentimental pick, but what the hell. Click on the picture to see my picks larger.
We'll see later today if I'm right.

I saw some of this year's nominated movies, but like every year I didn't see all of them. Here's a list of movies that I still need to see and want to see:
The Hurt Locker
Up In The Air
A Single Man
An Education
A Serious Man
Un Prophete
The Last Station
The Lovely Bones
Fantastic Mr. Fox
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
Julie & Julia
The Cove
Food, Inc.

There maybe more, but not sure. There are other movies that I didn't see too, but I may not see those at all. We'll see.

Now that you know what I didn't see, I thought I could give some mini-reviews of the nominated movies I did see this year.

Avatar: I absolutely loved this movie! Technologically, this is a masterpiece. What James Cameron is able to achieve with motion capture & animation is just brilliant. Brings this technology to a whole new level. I was able to feel completely immersed in his world as soon as the film began. I felt very connected to these characters and for the first time with motion capture the eyes of the characters really came alive. I mean Gollum in Lord of the Rings movies was fantastic, but this flick takes it to a whole new level. I think making this kind of a movie must have its appeal for actors as well in the same way an animated feature does. It's kind of odd to judge the acting, because some of it is enhanced by animation. Nonetheless, all the actors acquitted themselves well especially Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana and Sigourney Weaver. This film's story is simplistic - big bad corporation trying to steal from the natives and exploit their land & destroy nature. There's also the boy meets alien and feels more comfortable outside of himself storyline. Even though I feel the story isn't overly complicated, doesn't mean it isn't effective. I enjoyed the story in and out and personally felt it held up to repeated viewings. I've seen it 3 times now in different formats and enjoyed each viewing. Take the technology away and it's a different flick, but it's not all technology that makes this movie enjoyable. This flick has made a boat load of cash and I say good for Avatar. A good movie that really exploits the immersion of IMAX 3D in a whole new way. I highly recommend this movie.

UP: Another fantastic Pixar movie. I don't know how they keep coming up with these stories, but I throughly enjoyed this movie too. Saw it over the summer and the beginning where Carl is thinking about his life & his wife. Ugh, I definitely choked up. The movie is very touching and is very simple in story. The relationship between Carl & Russell is so well done though. Just another fantastic movie. And in a totally different way from WALL-E or Toy Story.

The Blind Side: Sandra Bullock has had quite the year! She was hilarious in the screwball romantic comedy The Proposal. This movie is definitely a different side of Sandra that we don't see very often. How can you not love this woman? This story of Michael Oher & the Toughys (especially Leanne) has been documented as not being completely true to life, but as a movie I don't give a crap. This is a heart warming feel good movie. I was in tears in many different parts of this movie. This flick definitely celebrates family however you define it. I defy you to watch this and not be moved emotionally. That being said, it's not a perfect movie by any means. Some very simple versions of things, like Leanne Toughy marching into the ghetto on more than 1 occasion without incident. Big giant clumsy Michael becomes a football star after Leanne telling him to protect her. But I don't care. This movie was made by the same director as The Rookie and that movie with Dennis Quaid also moved me. Bravo! Good luck to Bullock on Oscar night and I hope she wins Best Actress.

Coraline: I went to see this movie and saw it in 3D. It was really good. It's definitely not a little kids movie, not that they wouldn't enjoy it, but I think it's mainly animation buffs that would appreciate it. It's very dark and reminded me of The Nightmare Before Christmas of course that Tim Burton Henry Selick combo. It's really nice storytelling and the animation was fantastic. I'm sure it was better in 3D, since that looked amazing. I appreciated that there weren't a bunch of 3D gags to pull you in, I believe the days of 3D being used as gags maybe over. Most 3D these days are used to just enhance the film and add to your cinematic experience. I do enjoy animation of all sorts but this kind of stop motion animation is not seen a lot these days and I really appreciated the detail that they put into this. If you enjoy animation, then you'd probably like this flick.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen: Not much to say about this popcorn movie. It's loud, has tons of cool explosions and lots of giant robots from the get go. It's not much of a story that's realistic anyway. Is it fun? Sometimes. It's a very similar movie to the first Transformers and has all the same players. And yes Megan Fox looks amazing. This isn't the kind of movie that holds up to repeated viewing. Shia LeBeouf, Josh Duhamel and others are fine, but this movie is about big budget effects and big robots. I think it's too long, but other than that it was OK.

Star Trek: I'm not a huge Trekkie, but I've always enjoyed watching these movies. This blows all those other Star Trek flicks out of the water. It pays homage to the original films and doesn't try to ignore their existence while still rebooting the franchise with the original characters from the original series and films. This isn't an easy task considering the history and the fans. I loved Chris Pine as Kirk. He's funny and heroic. He plays well with Zachary Quinto as Spock who's stoic, but also is conflicted. In fact the whole cast is great. Zoe Saldana looks amazing in this movie. I also liked how the filmmakers showed us some tidbits from Kirk & Spock's childhoods. This movie has it all. Action, effects, crazy worlds, time travel and lots of fun storytelling. I was hoping that this movie would get a nomination for Best Picture this year since there were 10 nominees, but I'm glad it's getting some technical recognition. I really enjoyed this movie and this is already a part of my Blu-Ray collection and it holds up well to repeated viewing. I can't wait to see where they take these characters next. It was a blast. This isn't just a movie for Trek fans, this is a movie for fans of good movies.

District 9: I really enjoyed this movie. It is an original piece of sci-fi that isn't always sci-fi. I loved that the effects were seemingly organic to the picture. I loved that the effects didn't feel like effects. Motion capture with those aliens I believe, and boy did it rock! The best motion capture I think since Gollum in Lord of the Rings (besides Avatar, since I hadn't seen that movie yet when I saw this movie). This movie was well acted, well scripted, extremely interesting and engaging. I liked that the mockumentary piece is there, but then kind of abandoned. It really is a truly inspiring well done movie. I would watch this many times over. If you haven't seen it, you should! Really glad to see this one in the Best Picture race, even though it won't win, it's cool to see it among the nominees.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: Great effects. Beautiful looking film. I found it exciting and well executed. These movies are highly enjoyable for me. I must admit that I think the last 2 Potter films haven't been extremely faithful to the books, but that doesn't bother me so much since I feel like they can exist outside of each other. I loved reading this book for different reasons than I enjoyed the movie. I think the movie plays up the teen angst much more than the book. The book was a bit more dark and sinister I think. Was it the best Potter? No. But it was an enjoyable Potter. Liked this a lot better than Transformers this summer.

Inglourious Basterds: This was a really great movie. Not as much blood as I had assumed in a Tarantino movie. just the right amount of violence for me. Lots of quiet sections too which surprised me. Acting was good but as usual the writing was fantastic. The language and the time taken between actors to speak the words are pitch perfect. Christoph Waltz deserves the supporting actor win. I'd also like to see it win Best Original Screenplay. A must see for Tarantino fans and maybe for those who aren't. I think it's his best movie since Pulp Fiction.

The Princess and the Frog: Disney's return to traditional 2D animation. I thought this movie was great. Fun, romantic, heart warming. All in the style of the modern classic Disney movies. Music wasn't as memorable I don't think, but it was good. Story is more of a dreams come true and always follow your heart type of story. I just felt good after watching this movie. I don't think it was as good as UP, but better than most animated movies out there.

Sherlock Holmes: Robert Downey Jr. is a great actor, but this film just wasn't fun enough. It was OK, but it just didn't hold up for me. I got bored in a lot of spots. I thought it was a great attempt at bringing a classic character to a modern day audience. But for the most part it fell a little flat for me. CG wasn't the greatest either. Action is a thumbs up though and saves this film from becoming a real snoozer. Great funny dialogue, but I think that is mostly Robert Downey's delivery. Probably the best Guy Ritchie movie in a long time, but that's not saying much since I didn't care for most of this other films.

The Messenger: I had a short post about this movie yesterday. A good flick, but overall disappointing and really depressing. Ben Foster delivers a great performance, but it doesn't go all the way since I felt a lot of it was one note and very angry. Woody Harrelson is great as the mentor and a former soldier who is at odds with his current profession and his attitude at living life. In the end, I didn't feel like over the course of the movie I learned too much more about these characters. I just kind of existed with them in an interesting set of circumstances.

Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire: I said it before I'll say it again. A powerful movie and some brave and bold performances by the actresses Gabourey Sidibe and Mo'Nique. This is an excellent portrait of an abused teen and an unflinching look at families that just don't always make it. Blood is thicker than water is the saying, but in this film, escaping abusive family life is just as important in stopping the cycle of abuse. A very tough and hard movie to watch, but such an important one to see. Lee Daniels directs a masterpiece but one that will be tough for me to watch over and over again.

Crazy Heart: Jeff Bridges delivers the performance of a lifetime! Bad Blake is a beat down drunk who is only a fraction of his former self. He is leading his life down a path of destruction until he falls in love with a reporter who changes his life. Fantastic original music overseen by T Bone Burnett and great delicate direction by newcomer Scott Cooper. Maggie Gyllenhaal is fantastic too and so are all the other performances. Again, this is a tour de force performance by Jeff Bridges and that carries this movie. If you haven't seen it, you should check it out.

Thanks for reading the reviews and I'm going to enjoy the Oscars tonight. I hope you do too.

no clue movie review: 2010 Spirit Awards - winners & impressions

I’m a Film Independent member so each year I get to vote for the Independent Spirit Awards. I usually watch the show too on IFC since it’s a breezy show and there’s an open bar and it’s always interesting seeing free booze and speeches mixing. Also, each year, since I do get a vote, I get to see all kinds of nominated movies. It’s usually a mixture of big exciting finds, lots of depressing films, some really lame boring movies that I can't wait to end and finally a few I actually had found on my own and really enjoyed. I thought I’d offer my comments on the winners, the show itself and the many nominated movies I saw and the ones that I still want to see.

You can get a list of all the nominees and winners here since I’m bound to not hit all the categories and movies.

Precious was the big winner. 5 nominations and 5 wins. Best Feature, Best Director, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress and Best First Screenplay. The official film title is Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire. This was an extremely powerful movie. It hit me seriously in the heart. It has fantastic performances by Gabourey Sidibe, Mo'Nique, Sherri Shepherd, Mariah Carey & Lenny Kravitz and many more. Gabourey Sidibe plays Precious. An overweight illiterate teenager with an awful home life. Her whole life has been filled with horrific physical, mental and sexual abuse. It shows her struggle to put a life together for herself and her children. This movie is carried by the performances of Gabourey and Mo’Nique. They are powerful and for Mo’Nique - who knew she had that in her. She’s been getting tons of recognition for this role and rightfully so. The movie is amazingly tough to watch, but really should be watched. It’s raw and emotional and gut wrenching. I don’t know what else to say. This is the kind of powerful movie that I loved and may only watch it once. It’s that tough, but I would recommend it.

Crazy Heart won 2 Spirit Awards. It was up for 3. This movie was excellent too I thought. Not as tough to watch as Precious, but also featuring a really flawed lead character who undergoes a transformation. It deals with a country singer, down on his luck called Bad Blake. Bad is played by Jeff Bridges in what I would call a role of a lifetime that he was born to play. Brilliantly understated and tragic performance. You see Bad go through so much and out of those experiences some great music emerges as well. Maggie Gyllenhaal, Colin Farrell and Robert Duvall among others follow Bridges’ lead with their fantastic performances but this movie revolves around Jeff Bridges. It’s a fantastic little movie and I urge you to see it. And enjoy the music where Jeff Bridges and Colin Farrell both sing too.

Winner for Best Screenplay was my favorite find of the Spirit Awards season - (500) Days of Summer. I had wanted to see this movie when it was in theaters, but I missed it. It was a truly fantastic movie and unlike Precious, this could be easily added to my DVD/Blu-Ray collection. Interestingly enough, it’s the type of movie that doesn’t normally get honored at the Spirit Awards. It’s funny, heart warming, unromantic romantic comedy. It was really well done, but it’s not your typical romantic comedy since it’s story telling is kind of all over the place. It’s a very non-linear story but it works so well and delivers so much emotion - laughter, tears, excitement - all kinds. It’s a really well done well written movie that everyone should watch. Great performances by Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel among others. Gordon-Levitt has really made a name for himself in the indie film circuit. I’ve loved him in recent years in Mysterious Skin, Brick, The Lookout and others. He was also in what I can only assume is awful, but haven’t seen it, G.I. Joe movie from last summer. Again, I don’t want to give away too much, but this is a fantastic movie in all regards and I look forward to watching it again someday.

Woody Harrelson won Best Supporting Male for The Messenger. He plays a soldier who notifies next of kin when a soldier dies. It’s an Iraq war drama about another soldier played by Ben Foster (who’s really good in this movie, but needs to show more of a range next time. Too angry all the time, even when he’s maybe looking happy. He was the kid in the Disney Channel series Flash Forward. He's also been in Six Feet Under and Freaks and Geeks.) who starts to fall for a widow of a deceased officer. This movie I found to be good. Not great. I think it’s a movie that is trying to say too much sometimes, not sure. Good performances and good story, but maybe a little too much of the same tough emotions all the time. I think the romance part was done well and brave to not go too far and stay poignant. Those scenes show real emotions but the characters only let you see what's on the surface. The rest is left up to the audience. This movie is worth watching, but it’s another tough and for me ultimately depressing movie even though I felt like the director tried to offer us hope at the end of the movie.

THE SHOW: I thought it was OK. Eddie Izzard was a bit crude and rude, but that’s Eddie Izzard isn’t it. Maybe a little too much polished looking show, but that isn’t 100% accurate. It was enjoyable and still moved at a good pace. I guess the polished part was that it’s starting to feel like a big awards show. They had a set this time and normally it’s just some podiums and a screen. Since it was on Friday night instead of Saturday afternoon, the mood was maybe a bit more glamorous too. Usually this is a T-shirts and jeans crowd, but they were all decked out this time around. I did miss the really corny singing silly songs about the nominated features. I always hated that, but found myself missing it. All in all, it was a fun show I guess. Maybe uneven. OH, and my one pet peeve was the fact that everyone kept saying “independent film” like it was some sort of virus. Once I’d like to watch this show and have them talk about the movies as movies. I understand that they want to highlight that a lot of these movies are done on small budgets and outside of the standard studio system. But most of the winners get released in theaters by Fox Searchlight, Lionsgate, etc. These aren't movies we only saw at festivals. Maybe if we just stuck to the idea that these are good movies that deserve to be celebrated and people should go out and see them or watch them on DVD. I did like the fact that I felt like we got to see more clips this year of the movies, so if you hadn’t seem them, then maybe you were intrigued by the clips to go seek them out.

Overall, I guess the movies this year were of a good quality. Here’s a few more mini-reviews of films that I got to see this year.

Amreeka: Great movie about a single mother moving to America from Palestine. Great understated movie about a family struggling to realize the American dream and caught between the culture they knew and the world they live in. Really a movie concerned greatly with identity. Well done and deserves a look. Nisreen Faour is a great find of an actress and there a lot of good performances by actors I had never seen. (Except Maeby from Arrested Development)

Paranormal Activity: Good little low budget psychological horror. I had seen this one in theaters in October. I thought it was a good movie with OK performances that scared the bejesus out of me. It’s one of those horror movies where you don’t see any blood or killing, but it’s what you don’t see that’s interesting. I left the theater feeling kind of nauseous. I find that the mark of a good flick. The problem is that this movie will probably not repeat well since the shock of it all has worn off. Who knows. Big indie hit though. Hope the filmmakers and actors get more opportunities after this.

Easier With Practice: This is a fucked up little film. The story of a guy on a book tour who receives an anonymous phone call from a woman in a hotel room and he continues on with a phone sex affair with her that kind of takes over his life. It’s whacked out and weird! Creepily enjoyable though. Shot with the RED camera it looks great. It’s also fairly well acted and feels like you’re watching real people. It’s worth a look, but the tagline for this movie would never had got me to watch it. Luckily, they sent me a DVD. The director is someone to look out for in the future. His name is Kyle Patrick Alvarez.

Zero Bridge: This movie deserves a mention for many reasons. It’s a fascinating movie. Shot by a director, Tariq Tapa, with a camera and no other crew and a bunch of non-professional actors in the war torn region of Kashmir. It deserves a look by anyone who likes watching different kinds of movies (notice I didn’t say “independent”). It’s a slow moving story, but riveting and held my attention. I wanted to know more about these characters throughout the movie and after the movie I thought about it for a few hours still. Interesting flick.

Humpday: I just didn’t get it. It was boring, seemed like interesting people having stupid conversations. I did find a few scenes humorous, but not enough to say go see this movie. It won the John Cassavetes Award for best movie made for under $500,000. This is one of the “mumblecore” movies. It’s the story of 2 straight guy friends that decide to make an amateur gay porn film. Again, I just didn’t get it and I was bored the whole time. Stars Mark Duplass of The Puffy Chair. Another flick I just didn’t get.

The Vicious Kind: This was a movie filled with good performances, but sadly for me, the movie wasn’t good. It was just an all negative portrayal of family life. The characters were too screwed up and to me did things that didn’t match themselves. Actors Adam Scott (he was in Party of Five), Brittany Snow (gorgeous girl from American Dreams & Hairspray (2008) ) and others are good, but can’t save this depressing ugly movie.

October Country: Real life family that have a lot of problems. Delicate and beautifully filmed movie that doesn’t ever seem exploitive, but is really depressing. Just reminds you of all the crazy things that can happen in your family. I recommend seeing it, especially if you like family portrait documentaries. Just don’t do a double feature day with this and Precious.

Anvil! The Story of Anvil: Winner of Best Documentary, this is a great real life film. Good find! It’s the story of a Canadian heavy metal band that was very inspirational to a lot of bands like Metallica & Slayer but never hit the big time. They struggle to bring new music to their audience. It’s really an inspirational story about never giving up and always keep working toward your dreams. I highly recommend this movie. Great movie and makes you want to bang your head to some heavy metal hard rock music.

Here’s a few movies that I haven’t seen yet, but want to:
Sin Nombre, The Last Station, Two Lovers, A Serious Man, A Single Man, The New Year Parade, Big Fan, Adventureland, Cold Souls, Downloading Nancy, Goodbye Solo, Fifty Dead Men Walking, That Evening Sun, Gentleman Broncos, Me and Orson Welles, An Education, A Prophet, Food, Inc., and More Than A Game.

Thanks for reading some mini-reviews and I’ll post my 2010 Oscar Picks tomorrow morning.