Cover photo by Rachel, used under Creative Commons license

Lost inside her captain station

Every year the Academy Award nominees are announced, and every year the lists are picked apart. There’s always a name or two from each category that the punters think should have made it, but this year I noticed one that struck me as particularly off: best actor in a leading role. The actual nominees are:

  • Christian Bale for American Hustle
  • Bruce Dern for Nebraska
  • Leonardo DiCaprio for The Wolf Of Wall Street
  • Chiwetel Ejiofor for 12 Years A Slave
  • Matthew McConaughey for Dallas Buyers Club

But really, would anyone have been surprised if the list had been these five?

  • Tom Hanks for Captain Phillips
  • Oscar Isaac for Inside Llewyn Davis
  • Michael B. Jordan for Fruitvale Station
  • Joaquin Phoenix for Her
  • Robert Redford for All Is Lost

Or Matthew McConaughey for Mud, come to that?


Cover photo by Rachel, used under Creative Commons license


A few days ago I was looking at the list of new-release movies I’ve watched this year. It was alarming. There was a grand total of 16, 5 of which played at TIFF and — apart from Let Me In — haven’t even hit North American theatres yet:

  1. Date Night
  2. The Book Of Eli
  3. Green Zone
  4. Inception
  5. The Runaways
  6. Kick-Ass
  7. Trust (tiff)
  8. Blame (tiff)
  9. Let Me In (tiff)
  10. Confessions (tiff)
  11. 13 Assassins (tiff)
  12. Robin Hood
  13. The Social Network
  14. The Crazies
  15. Iron Man 2
  16. Rush: Beyond The Lighted Stage

That’s not good.  Apart from Inception, Let Me In, 13 Assassins and The Social Network (which were excellent) and Kick-Ass, Trust, Confessions and the Rush documentary (which were good) I’d done a shit job of seeing movies in 2010. I should also point out that I saw only three of those in a theatre.

But I read an article in Eye today called “2010: The Year That Wasn’t There” in which they suggested the movies on offer this year have been rather shit to begin with:

But here’s the thing: other than Inception—which was less of a pop-cultural event than The Dark Knight and frankly less of a mind-fuck than Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters—who can remember any of this year’s other big-ticket items? In a piece published this past July in The Wall Street Journal, critic Joe Queenan exercised his inner Comic Book Guy by asking if this was, cinematically speaking, the Worst. Year. Ever.

So maybe it wasn’t just me then. I’m gonna say…50% Hollywood, 50% Dickinson. Still, surely there’ve been films released this year worth seeing that I was just too busy to get to, and which will challenge for Academy Awards. Off I went to Rotten Tomatoes, who helpfully compiles lists of top-rated movies by year. And, from that, I created the list of nineteen movies which we’ll try to see before the Oscars, if not by the end of the year.

  • 127 Hours
  • A Single Man
  • Black Swan
  • Blue Valentine
  • Buried
  • Easy A
  • Exit Through The Gift Shop
  • Get Low
  • Inside Job
  • The Kids Are All Right
  • The King’s Speech
  • Restrepo
  • Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
  • Somewhere
  • The Fighter
  • The Tillman Story
  • The Town
  • True Grit
  • Winter’s Bone

Yesterday we got started with The Kids Are All Right (imdb | rotten tomatoes), mainly because it’s available on demand and we’re lazy. It was okay, though a little too long, and I did think it was going to be funnier than it turned out. And then today we watched Winter’s Bone (imdb | rotten tomatoes) which was dirty and cold and gritty and realistic and excellent.

That should have been a bingo.

Last night I won my Oscar pool when The Hurt Locker (imdb | rotten tomatoes) was named best picture. I wasn’t picking with my heart, mind you, I simply played the odds and picked the film which had won the Producer’s, Director’s and Writer’s Guild award. Only eight times has a film won all three of those awards, and seven of those eight films went on to win the best picture Oscar.

However, as I said, I didn’t pick what I wanted to win, I picked what I thought would win. It’s not that I disliked The Hurt Locker, but after a second viewing Friday night I could confirm what I felt upon first seeing it some 18 months ago: that it was good, but not great. That it had some terrific moments, but that it also veered into a tone-deaf section (which at the time I called “the John Wayne factor”) and glossed over the psychological impacts. That it just didn’t rock me back the way Slumdog or No Country did.

True, there were few other films which could have legitimately challenged for the best picture title. Up was a sure thing in the animated feature category. The Blind Side, An Education, District 9 and Up In The Air were too light. A Serious Man was too obscure and Precious was too not. And Avatar…no way. Stunning as it was to watch, there’s no way that thing should be feted as a standout film. It should just win every technical award up for grabs.

That leaves the film I think should have won it all: Inglourious Basterds. From eight nominations it took one award — Christoph Waltz, a no-brainer for best supporting actor — but in my opinion it got robbed on original screenplay. I don’t think they were ever really in it for best picture though. Maybe the academy doesn’t consider Tarantino a worthy Oscar winner, or maybe they just didn’t want a remade/re-imagined film to win the big prize. Or maybe it just didn’t have the votes. Whatever the case I wish they’d reconsidered. I found it far more epic, inventive, entertaining and memorable than The Hurt Locker, and would’ve liked to see the Bear Jew climb onstage and take his victory.

You knew it was him

Maclean’s (who I’ve been going to a lot lately) reviews the new book about John Cazale, and makes it sound very interesting. I might pick it…

Wait, who?

This guy. The guy who only acted in five films, all five of which are considered to be among the best American cinema ever made: The Godfather, The Godfather II, The Conversation, Dog Day Afternoon and The Deer Hunter.

More than three decades after his death, this unsung talent is now being hailed as one of the most brilliant and influential actors of his generation. Those doing the hailing include Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Gene Hackman and Meryl Streep, who all worked with Cazale. Their opinion is seconded by younger actors who never knew him but cite him as a crucial influence, notably Philip Seymour Hoffman, Steve Buscemi and Sam Rockwell. These testimonials are part of a remarkable new HBO documentary titled I Knew It Was You, which is showing this week as part of the Worldwide Short Film Festival in Toronto.

I noticed his impressive credentials a couple of years ago, but I didn’t grasp the level of respect Cazale still commands among the top actors of his generation.

I feel ashamed that I haven’t seen The Conversation, even though it’s by far the least well known of the five on that list. If you haven’t seen one of the other four, you should hang your head.

Bling When You're Minging

Definitely the most confusing headline I’ve read all day: Dustin the Turkey plucked to represent Ireland at Eurovision. OK then.


Today’s been a great Sunday, for one simple reason: I have done dick all. Having finished my marketing assignment yesterday, I decided today would be a rest & mental health day. I took it easy all morning and watched a movie (After The Wedding, a pretty good Danish drama) while Nellie slept, then went to have some brunch at a nearby pub. Brunch turned into a veggie burger and three beers each, and now we’re home finishing up the last little errands before Nellie starts her annual Oscar freak-out. I had a nap (this is a freakish occurrence; I never nap) on the couch before we called my niece for her birthday. I ate some ice cream. That’s as exciting as it got today.

Lazy Sunday = awesome.

[tags]dustin the turkey, eurovision, oscars, academy awards, after the wedding[/tags]

"I am Shiva, the god of death."

Quite an abnormal Saturday so far: Nellie was a) up before me, and b) up before 7AM. While I slept for another half hour she was off picking up breakfast & dinner from St. Lawrence Market and returning the movie we watched last night. We wanted to see Michael Clayton (imdb | rotten tomatoes) before the Oscars tomorrow night as it was only best picture nominee we hadn’t yet watched. It was very good, and shied away from convention just enough to be interesting but not weird, but I wouldn’t call it great. It wasn’t on the same scale as, say, There Will Be Blood or No Country For Old Men, but it’s definitely better than Atonement (which was described perfectly by Johanna Schneller in today’s Globe: “I’m not a big fan of Atonement. To me it’s like a local news anchor, handsome but hollow.”) and more typically-Oscar, so it’s hard to argue that it shouldn’t be on the list.

Still, all in all, what a list of best picture nominees. Atonement wasn’t awful by any stretch, it just didn’t wow me; in any other year it’d probably be a strong nominee. In that same Globe article when Elizabeth Renzetti lists a few recent best picture nominees — “Fatal Attraction, Working Girl, The Prince of Tides, in the name of all that’s holy” — you realize just how good a year for movies 2007 was.

[tags]michael clayton, st. lawrence market, academy awards, oscars[/tags]