Thursday, February 12, 2009

Top Ten : Films of 2002


1. Spirited Away
2. Adaptation & The Hours (tie)
3. The Pianist
4. Bowling For Columbine
5. Solaris
6. Russian Ark
7. About a Boy
8. 25th Hour & Talk to Her & Ripley’s Game (tie)
9. Spider-Man
10. Signs & The Lord of the Rings : The Two Towers (tie)

Razzies 2008

The Razzies are an annual mirror to the Oscars in that they are the awards for the worst films of the year. This year’s nominees certainly deserve to be a part of the ceremony.

No Razzie award year would be complete without a film by Uwe Boll, the director of such video game adaptations as Alone In the Dark, Bloodrayne and House of the Dead. This year he directed both Postal and In the Name of the King. Not exactly masterpieces.

Leading the nominations this year is the Mike Myers vehicle The Love Guru, with seven nods, including one for worst picture along with In the Name of the King, The Hottie and the Nottie, The Happening and Disaster Movie and Meet the Spartans, which are nominated together (as it says on the official Razzie Awards website “Two Movies-One Badly Beaten Dead Horse of a Concept!”)

In this particularly weak movie year, it was certainly hard to pick the worst of the worst, but the Razzies is one awards program that always seems to get it right. The official ceremony will be held on February 21st, one night before the Oscars.

Oscars 2008

To be blunt, the Academy blew it this year. The 2008 Oscar ballot is plagued by undeserving nominees and glaring omissions.

Although this was Kate Winslet’s year, the actress was snubbed in the best actress category for her performance in Revolutionary Road, her first film with costar Leonardo DiCaprio in eleven years since 1997’s Titanic. The Academy chose instead to nominate her for The Reader, in which she plays an illiterate Nazi who has an affair with a fifteen year-old boy. Not to say her performance is bad, it’s quite the opposite in fact. She gives a subtle, stunning air to the deceptive character, but to nominate her in the lead actress category is a joke. She is barely even onscreen in the last half of the film.

The Reader also racked up nominations for best cinematography, directing, adapted screenplay and best picture, the latter of which being the least deserved. The film brings nothing new to the category of World War II drama. The film lacks emotional power. It’s simply a fairly solid retread of an overused subgenre.

Another undeserving best picture nominee is David Fincher’s overblown The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, a long, melancholy epic about a man who ages backwards. The movie was practically a shoe-in for a best picture nomination from the moment the trailer first appeared. It’s has everything the Academy loves; a long running time, big-name stars, a period piece romance and a huge budget. In the end though, the plot-hole filled film is just a Forrest Gump retread (the two films were both written by Eric Roth) that shares many of the same plot-points and themes as that movie.

Brad Pitt gives a wooden performance in the film, which is why it’s a shame to see him get nominated for best actor. The usually great actor plays the title character like a robot, muttering his lines in a solidly dry pitch with no emotions visible. His nomination is clearly a cheap attempt by the Academy to draw more viewers to the Oscar broadcast by including a big name on the ballot.

The most obvious snub of all this year was The Dark Knight, which was missing from almost all of the major categories. Many thought TDK was a shoe-in for best picture, but in the end the Academy refused to recognize the film as one of the year’s best.

The nominations weren’t all bad though. It’s good to see no-name actress Melissa Leo get recognized for her stunning portrayal of a woman smuggling illegal immigrants from Canada into the States in Frozen River. The film was a hit at the Sundance Film Festival, at which it took home the Special Jury Prize.

Maybe this year’s nominees are a sign that the Academy is sticking to its roots and nominating the same clich├ęd types of movies it always has, but hopefully not. At least there’s always next year.

Jake’s Picks :
BEST ACTOR – Sean Penn in MILK
BEST ACTRESS – Meryl Streep in DOUBT
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR – Phillip Seymour Hoffman in DOUBT

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Top Ten : Films of 2001

1. In the Mood For Love
2. Donnie Darko & Vanilla Sky (tie)
3. The Lord of the Rings : The Fellowship of the Ring
4. A Beautiful Mind
5. Mulholland Drive
6. Waking Life
7. The Piano Teacher
8. Zoolander
9. Moulin Rouge
10. Monsters, Inc.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

I'll go ahead and say it; David Fincher is one of the best filmmakers working today. The modern epitome of the auteur theory, Fincher is one-of-a-kind. His films are dark, provocative and somewhat quirky (Fight Club was pretty cute), and unlike anything else you're likely to see from recent American cinema.

That's why it pains me so much to say that The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is a huge misstep in director's otherwise blemish free filmography. And it stings even more when you realize that TCCBB was probably supposed to be his masterpiece.

This odd tale of a man who ages backwards from an old man into a baby tries hard to be a robust, heart-breaking love story. Overwhelmingly so. It ends up feeling overblown, overlong and at times just plain dull.

This is due in part to Brad Pitt's wooden performance. He mutters his lines off robotically, like a half-awake Forrest Gump (a fine film by any account, but one TCCBB shares too many plot-points with, both having been written by Eric Roth.)

To be honest, I think this film would be more enjoyable were it not for the gapingly obvious plotholes concerning the way Benjamin ages. He starts his life off in a baby-sized body with wrinkled skin and a baby's brain, but ends it in a baby-sized body with baby's skin and brain disorders that only affect the elderly. He goes from tiny to big to tiny again. For the plot to make any sense he would have to be born at adult size. This and his muscles are the only things that truly age backwards.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button received 13 Academy Award nominations, including nods for Best Picture, Director and Actor. While it doesn't deserve these, it certainly deserves its technical nominations. The film is a visual wonder, from the superb special effects right down to the costume design. Not to mention Benjamin's aging effects, which are unlike anything we've seen in movies thus far.

The visuals are really the only element of the film which are worth paying the $9 ticket price to see it in theaters. Otherwise, skip it if you want to view David Fincher as a filmmaker that can do no wrong.


Top Ten : Films of 2000

I've been a cinephile for quite some time now. To catch up on lost time I'll be posting my top ten favorite films from each year from the year 2000 to 2007, leading up to my top ten for 2008. So lets get started, shall we...


1. Traffic
2. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
3. Shadow of the Vampire
4. Meet the Parents & Best in Show (tie)
5. Werckmeister Harmonies
6. High Fidelity
7. Cast Away
8. The Emperor’s New Groove
9. Billy Elliot
10. O Brother, Where Art Thou?

Monday, February 9, 2009

The Wrestler

Myself, I'm not a fan of one Mr. Darren Aronofsky. Requiem For a Dream? Nah. Pi? No thank you sir. The Fountain? Are you kidding me?
But I found myself strangely drawn to his latest film, The Wrestler. Maybe it was the violence. I sure have an insatiable thirst for spilt blood. Aw, who am I kidding. It was probably the super foxy Marisa Tomei. Mmm mmm mmm.

But maybe, just maybe, it was the idea that a film could mean more to an actor than just a paycheck. This was after all, Mickey Rourke's comeback performance. He is, in fact, just basically playing himself in this film; a broken, beaten old bull just trying to get by on his own.

Rourke is Oscar-worthy in his role. He may just win come the 22nd, and for good reason.

Besides him though, the film is not much that we haven't seen before. It truly thinks it's more inspiring than it really is. It is, however, a step-up for the director. You're on your way kid.