Friday, February 25, 2011

Black Swan (2010) (2nd time)

A ballet dancer wins the lead in "Swan Lake" but slowly loses her mind as she becomes more and more like the Black Swan. [imdb]
Nominated for 5 Oscars:

Best Picture
Best Director: Darren Aronofsky
Best Actress: Natalie Portman (WINNER)
Best Cinematography

Best Editing

You can write a lot about Black Swan and indeed, it's a film that you should maybe watch twice to fully appreciate it, especially the technical part, which is quite superb. The cinematography seemed even more fabulous the second time, and I'm happy it received a much deserved Oscar nomination. The editing is just what the film needed, and the sound & sound editing would've definitely been worth some recognition.
And still, I didn't change my grade for it. While it looked better, I still had some problems with the screenplay, which I consider to be the one problematic element of the film. Maybe it's because it doesn't dig deep enough into the characters, maybe it's because of the over-explaining (poor Vincent Cassel, he gets the worst lines) or because of the ending, which is disappointing to me. As always, Darren Aronofsky's direction is above the material, and he fabulously puts the film together in a manner that few would've managed. I'll write tomorrow about Natalie, Barbara Hershey is quite cool and, sorry lovers, but I am still thrilled that Mila Kunis didn't get nominated, it would've been a coaster.
My rating for the film: 8/10. It's pretty cool, so I understand the passionate fans. Also worth mentioning: the entire collection of film posters for Black Swan is incredible!!! Some of the best I've ever seen.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010)

Seen on January 6th, 2011

The story of how an eccentric French shop keeper and amateur film maker attempted to locate and befriend Banksy, only to have the artist turn the camera back on its owner. [imdb]
Nominated for 1 Oscar:
Best Documentary Feature
I blame Kris Tapley of for me seeing this film. I knew nothing about it, then, suddenly, it was his number one film of 2010... and I said: oh, shit, then it must be good. I knew already that it was the cool [eyes rolling] film of 2010, because people kept writing about it. And truth is: it's an interesting experiment, but I'll be damned if this is a real documentary. Plus, not to be ignored: it had the most annoying person/character on screen that anyone could ask for.
Those who've seen it know who Thierry Guetta is; didn't that asshole just annoy you? :) how can you watch a documentary when its center person is such a loser. That's why I never watch Jackass. The good stuff about Exit is that to me it felt more like a film than a documentary, and if you look at it as a film, Banksy's direction is pretty awesome.
My rating for the film: 7.5/10. Yes, I think the second part is quite directed and this is not a documentary about art, it's a directed experiment about how to trick people. That's why it shouldn't win Documentary Feature, in my opinion.

Inside Job (2010)

Takes a closer look at what brought about the financial meltdown. [imdb]

Nominated for 1 Oscar:

Best Documentary Feature (WINNER)

I sometimes watch documentaries because they make me feel smarter. That's true: except when I see them for pure fun, like The September Issue or Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work - both of them terrific stuff. But back to Inside Job: I don't usually follow the Oscar race in this category, but this documentary caught my attention and I'm glad I saw it. It made me furious, but I'm happy it opened my eyes.
Someone called it the best horror film of the year or the scariest, and he was right. It's a terrifying documentary telling the truth about how American bankers fucked-up the world, and they're still doing it (yes, with Obama's approval). Nothing has changed, nothing will change towards better. What I appreciated about it is that it hits on both sides, Democrats and Republicans and that it was a very insightful material. It will probably win, but I can't judge on its competition, because the only other one I saw is Exit Through the Gift Shop.
My rating for the film: 8/10. Good stuff, especially in the second part.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

TRON: Legacy (2010)

Seen on December 18th, 2010

The son of a virtual world designer goes looking for his father and ends up inside the digital world that his father designed. [imdb]

Nominated for 1 Oscar:

Best Sound Editing

If there was a 2010 film other than Inception that required a big screen experience, this was it. To fully appreciate its fabulous moments, you need to see it on the big screen, with crazy sound all around you. Because when it's good, TRON: Legacy is fantastic; when the screenplay drops the ball, it's still interesting.
Arguably, the first 30 minutes of the film are the best I've seen all year. There's a fabulous cool mystical easiness to the beginning that makes the experience really special. The visual effects (minus Clu), the art direction, the costume design, the cinematography - all are fabulous and would've deserved Oscar nominations. And the original score, oh the original score: I still get excited about Son of Flynn - Daft Punk did an AMAZING job, so stupid that they were snubbed.
My rating for the film: 7.5/10. The film loses its focus in the second half, and I admit some might think I was too generous. But the visuals and the potential of the film - hard not to consider. Of course it deserves the Sound win, which will not happen.

Rabbit Hole (2010) (2nd time)

Life for a happy couple is turned upside down after their young son dies in an accident. [imdb]

Nominated for 1 Oscar:

Best Actress: Nicole Kidman

Unlike in the case of Blue Valentine, watching this for the second time wasn't as difficult - which is part compliment, part not. Rabbit Hole is meant to be a film that moves you, something both heartbreaking and funny at times, a good character study and all of that. Unfortunately, I wasn't moved by it, not the first time, not the second time.
Nicole cries her eyes out, and while I can sense good acting all around, I wasn't touched by it and never really cared about the dead child storyline. What's to blame for that? I dunno, because I'm not sure what the purpose of the film is. John Cameron Mitchell's direction (I adored him in Hedwig) is quite special, quite subtle but, in my opinion, the pace that he sets for the film somehow stops it from being moving... something's too simple. Does that make sense? Rabbit Hole is like a beautiful painting for the most of it, and while I think the screenplay is quite smart, I didn't care for the film and the story as a whole, just for bits and parts.
Yes, Nicole is good. Aaron is ok and I was more impressed with him pulling off the perfect husband image - which I completely bought. The screenplay is ok, and the best scenes for me were easily the ones in the park. But Rabbit Hole is still difficult to rate, and I go back and forth, trying to figure out how I really feel about it.
My rating for the film: 7.5/10. It was a 7 after the first viewing, but the dialogues between the teen and Nicole's character really are something. However, the film never gets the emotional punch it needs, in my opinion.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Blue Valentine (2010) (2nd time)

The film centers on a contemporary married couple, charting their evolution over a span of years by cross-cutting between two time periods. [imdb]

Nominated for 1 Oscar:

Best Actress: Michelle Williams

I'm usually all for movies that make you think and are meaningful, but Derek Cianfrance's love child film is a bit too much for me; it goes too deep on the depressing chapter, making it terribly uncomfortable at times. For me, it's the classic example of a film that I much respect, but that I would never be able to love. Seeing it for the second time was even more difficult: yes, because it's real and on the spot, but so damn sad.
It's beautifully directed, the cinematography is lovely, the editing is efficient, the two performances are simply beautiful: Ryan especially, as he delivers one of his best. The screenplay is not the highlight, but there were scenes that I adored, most of them in the happy days part: "you always hurt the one you love" of course, their final love scene and the wise words of the grandmother. It's an honest film, but too pessimistic too often.
My rating for the film: 8/10. In all fairness, I think you need to be a bit of a snob to give this film an A. :)

Unstoppable (2010)

With an unmanned, half-mile-long freight train barreling toward a city, a veteran engineer and a young conductor race against the clock to prevent a catastrophe. [imdb]

Nominated for 1 Oscar:

Best Sound Editing

Of course, I wouldn't have seen this film had it not been for the Oscar nomination, and not because it's an action film: but because it's that type of action film, with a plot that you can easily figure out from the trailer, and that is simply filled with cliches.
And I was right: however, the Oscar nomination is really worthy, and the sound is fascinating in its own way; I liked the small touches of weirdness, like giving the train a monsterous sound and making it a character of its own. There's also a lot of editing going on, so I wouldn't have been surprised with a nomination for that also. Other than that, there are few special elements. The screenplay especially is quite challenging: they could've stopped the train in many different ways, but then we wouldn't have had a film, right?!
My rating for the film: 6/10. The acting is decent, the final chapter has one or two thrilling moments, but the rest is just predictable.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Toy Story 3 (2010)

Seen on December 4th, 2010

The toys are mistakenly delivered to a day-care center instead of the attic, and it's up to Woody to convince the other toys that they weren't abandoned and to return home. [imdb]

Nominated for 5 Oscars:

Best Picture
Best Adapted Screenplay
Best Animated Feature (WINNER)
Best Original Song (WINNER)
Best Sound Editing

The Toy Story trilogy was the best discovery I've made in 2010, and one that I am so very happy about. The first 2 films were fabulous: very creative and funny, and Toy Story 3 was no exception. The guys who wrote the screenplay are instant idols of mine, because I can only imagine how difficult it is to still make it sound fresh and create such wonderful dialogue.
This animated film is so well directed, there's not a single boring moment. Of course, I am subjective, because I was already a fan of the characters when I saw this - but when you get great writing and professionals working on it, how can you not be charmed. Its Best Picture nomination is one of the very few reasons I can accept a line-up of 10 films there, and of course: it will have an easy win for Animated Feature.
My rating for the film: 9/10. The almost-perfect, super funny animated movie.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

How to Train Your Dragon (2010)

Seen on November 20th, 2010

A young Viking who aspires to hunt dragons becomes the unlikely friend of a young dragon himself, and learns there may be more to the creatures than he assumed. [imdb]

Nominated for 2 Oscars:

Best Animated Feature
Best Original Score

2010 seemed to be another good year for animated, at least on a nominee level. I was a bit skeptical while approaching Dragon, because I suspected (and I was right) that the story was gonna be rather predictable, at least on the humans level of the screenplay. But even so: the writing was never meant to be its strength; the success of the film is mostly due to the incredible visual effects.
As much as I adore Toy Story 3, nothing can compete with the visuals from Dragon, which are simply spectacular: those scenes with the flying and big battle scene make for some of the year's best film moments. The direction is great, the film is well-balanced, with mostly just the right amount of cheesy. It's a worthy nominee in the animated category and the score nom is a nice touch, even though it has no chance of winning for either.
My rating for the film: 8/10. An entertaining film experience.

The Social Network (2010)

Seen on November 14th, 2010

A chronicle of the founding of Facebook, the social-networking Web site. [imdb]

Nominated for 8 Oscars:

Best Picture
Best Director: David Fincher
Best Actor: Jesse Eisenberg
Best Adapted Screenplay (WINNER)
Best Cinematography
Best Editing (WINNER)
Best Original Score (WINNER)
Best Sound Mixing

This used to be the next Best Picture winner, but it sure isn't anymore. Had it reached that title, it would've been both a worthy one, but also quite the unusual film to make history. David Fincher has created another special film; David Fincher, in my opinion, is definitely one of the top 5 best directors working right now. The Social Network is not a favorite of mine, I don't see it as a classic, but it's damn well made.
As I said: the biggest strength is the direction, because otherwise how could you really sell Sorkin's screenplay (fabulous, but so difficult to do the right way); Fincher should've won 2 years ago for Benjamin Button imo, and I still hope he has a chance this year. The other nominations are more or less worthy, even though it's hard to believe they've ignored the best supporting male performance of the year: Andrew Garfield should've been there, he's the soul of the film and so good at it. I'm not that crazy about Eisenberg, but maybe it's just the type of character.
My rating for the film: 8/10. Not my favorite of the 10 BP nominees, but in the top 5 definitely. I'm not crazy about it because of its subject matter which didn't always grab my attention, because otherwise it's a fine film. And how cool are the visuals with Armie Hammer? :)

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Kids Are All Right (2010) (2nd time)

Two children conceived by artificial insemination bring their birth father into their family life. [imdb]

Nominated for 4 Oscars:

Best Picture
Best Actress: Annette Bening
Best Supporting Actor: Mark Ruffalo
Best Original Screenplay

The film definitely felt a bit better the second time around: it's because looking at it again made me appreciate the performances more. Of course, Annette is fabulous, Julianne delivers a good performance, but Mia Wasikowka's acting seemed much better & more touching to me upon a second viewing. Don't start me on Ruffalo, though, I don't understand the buzz around his performance.
The screenplay is quite good, with good dialogue and a nice story. While the direction is mostly subtle, you can notice small elements that make it special and the editing of the film is dead on. Had we had 5 BP nominees, it wouldn't have made it: but I'm glad it did, it'a a small, special movie - and it might just hold Annette's all time best.
My rating for the film: 8/10. It has a good pace, it's never boring.

Salt (2010)

A CIA agent goes on the run after a defector accuses her of being a Russian spy. [imdb]

Nominated for 1 Oscar:

Best Sound Mixing

Talk about getting surprised once in a while by an action flick... there's not a single break moment in Salt or a lazy scene, as the action never stops: one great scene after another. Of course, it's not always that believable, but it's a decent screenplay, with twists and turns all the way. Hardly what I expected from the trailer.
Angelina delivers an unexpectedly good, profound, touching performance and she's so damn cool in those chase scenes. While it's not really one of the year's best, Salt is still an underrated film, as it was one of the most enjoyable 2010 films I saw.
My rating for the film: 7.5/10. Yes, it will get more than The King's Speech on my list :))

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Iron Man 2 (2010)

Seen on October 24th, 2010

Because of his superhero alter ego, Tony Stark must contend with deadly issues involving the government, his own friends and new enemies. [imdb]

Nominated for 1 Oscar:

Best Visual Effects

It sounds hard to believe, but I actually liked this film more than the original Iron Man; not that I'm that crazy about this movie, but I thought it was more entertaining and also more relevant & creative when it came to the special effects. It's a standard action movie, with some parts better than others, but the action scenes worked quite well.
Its visual effects, of course, cannot compete with Inception's, but it's a worthy nominee in this category. Robert Downey Jr. is just as fun as always and it's incredible how he can bring humanity and personality even in the most thin-written characters. The much underrated Sam Rockwell is a nice touch to the cast and all supporting players make the best they can.
My rating for the film: 7/10. You can't blame it for the action flick it is, and how exciting was the Grand Prix scene.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Alice in Wonderland (2010)

Seen on August 21st, 2010

19-year-old Alice returns to the magical world from her childhood adventure, where she reunites with her old friends and learns of her true destiny: to end the Red Queen's reign of terror. [imdb]

Nominated for 3 Oscars:

Best Art Direction (WINNER)
Best Costume Design (WINNER)
Best Visual Effects

Was this film bad, or what? :) Of course, I'd never adventure with it the second time around, but what was Tim Burton thinking... Even if it would've been technically successful, which it certainly isn't, how could anyone get past the bad presentation of the story and the lack of rhythm that the film has.
I don't care what it's based on, but the screenplay in its final print is Razzie-worthy; the cinematography is too colorful, too fake, the art direction hardly impresses and the visual effects... sure, the giant head looks nice, but how about that fake countryside sky: can't they even film regular trees in the part of the movie connected to reality?! The background was a mess all throughout the film. However, the 2 good achievements are worth mentioning: the beautiful costumes, and I hope Miss Atwood wins, and the makeup which went unrewarded.
Strangely enough, the acting was not the biggest problem for me. I thought Johnny was just ok, nothing terrible about his acting and Helena Bonham Carter really delivered a fabulous performance - the whole film should've been just about her, no doubt about it. :)
My rating for the film: 3/10. Boring, boring, boring; Burton should've known better and he should've cared more.

The Illusionist (2010)

A French illusionist finds himself out of work and travels to Scotland, where he meets a young woman. Their ensuing adventure changes both their lives forever. [imdb]

Nominated for 1 Oscar:

Best Animated Film

Coming back home from it last night, I wrote on the other blog: "The most beautiful animation I have ever seen; technically flawless. But it doesn't have enough soul" - and I stand by it, now, the day after. Because it did look gorgeous, like nothing I had seen before: the cinematography, if I can call it like that, it's incredible, the colors, the shots, the care for detail - hard to put into words.
But it still left me unsatisfied, especially the ending. Part of the fault, I think, is in the screenplay: I wish there would've been more of a story and I suspect it might've been an instant classic all around, had it had more dialogue and a writing I could relate to. The direction is great and I can only imagine the work that was put into the making of this film. Also, how silly it is that the Academy didn't recognize the marvelous music: which goes all throughout the film, without bothering at all.
My rating for the film: 7.5/10. How could I rate it? It's impressive, but I didn't emotionally relate to it. Hey, at least Despicable Me wasn't nominated.