Posts Tagged ‘Up in the Air

08
Mar
10

And the Winner Is . . .

Nicolas Cage made a splash last year with a gritty performance in Bad Lieutanant: Port of Call New Orleans. Did he make the Best of 2009 list?

So last night the Academy awarded its Oscars for the “Best of’s” for last year. I figured if they could wait two months to come out with their ‘Best of 2009’ list, then why couldn’t I? What follows is a list of movies that I enjoyed the most last year, movies that I missed and still want to see, as well as what I’m looking forward to for the rest of 2010. So here we go . . .


I want you to listen to me very carefully, if they gave Academy awards for ‘Best Popcorn Movie,’ you’d have to think that Taken would take home the statue. While I expected Liam Neeson to kick some major butt and not take any names, what you get is a solid performance of a man trying to get his daughter back. Neeson IS that worst nightmare that every bad guy dreams of. What sells you on the movie is that phone call between him and his daughter right before she gets Taken when he tries to calm her down and tells her what to do. After that, all you need to know is that nothing will stop this guy from getting her back . . . not even the French.


After long last we finally got to see what kind of magic JJ Abrams would yield over the Star Trek franchise with the much anticipated reboot that sprang into theaters last May. As I mentioned in a previous post, I wasn’t totally into the reboot on first viewing. However, after viewing it a few more times, I think Abrams hit a homerun. I think he did a good job of acknowledging the previous incarnation of Trek while also carving out a new niche with this version. What’s to like? Well for starters the essence of all the characters are there, and updated for the new millenium. Another thing that was bold was to totally hit the reset button by destroying Vulcan–a move that sent fanboys spinning I’m sure. Throw in a dose of action and you’ve got Star Trek 2.0. Thrusters ahead full, I’m ready for 2.1!


I’m not really a Tarantino kinda guy, but you have to admit that he did put together a pretty solid movie and rewrote history in the process. I know the movie geeks geeked out to all the film references that Tarantino put into the flick, but as a non movie geek I thought the storytelling was masterful. I mean, the opening sequence when you have Hans Landa talking with a simple farmer trying to hunt down Jews, you can literally smell the tension going on in the scene. While it had a killer hook, the Basterds were not the stars of the movie (which was fine by me). In Basterds, everyone contributes to the film and Tarantino challenges us to join him in the journey, whether we believe it or not.


I feel that anytime you have George Clooney in a movie, you’re going to get a decent movie just on the sheer fact that he is starring in it. While that is usually the case, what makes this movie stand out is that not only do you get Clooney’s great showmanship, but you also get two great performances from his two costars as well. Combine that with a great story and great story telling from young, up and coming director, Jason Reitman and you have yourselves a pretty darn good flick. The chemistry between everyone really draws you into the story. It’s no wonder this movie was up for multiple Oscar noms.


Call it being awe-inspired all over again, but seeing ‘This Is It’ definitely reiterated why Michael Jackson was the King of Pop. His attention to the detail of his performances, everything from his moves, to his dancers’ moves, to how musical notes and chords were heard—everything needed to be perfect. It’s this determination and attention to detail that I think really struck me in this film. There were no crazy antics, no media swarming him, no hype at all. It was just Michael and the performance, something that sadly, I think we all could have seen more of . . . the man behind the music.


What else can you possibly say about a production company that has put out solid films for the past, I don’t know, how many years? With UP, Pixar hits another homerun out of the park. It’s got everything you could possibly want in a film: drama (if the first 15-20 minutes don’t get you, then the end will), comedy (talking dogs, how can that NOT be funny?), and action (being chased by said talking dogs). Oh yeah, and by the way, this is an animated film we’re talking about here. Up is quite literally one of those movies that will make you laugh and cry. To do it authentically, now that’s skill.


I have to admit, the first trailer for this movie had me chomping at the bit to find out what the hell was going on in Johannesburg, South Africa. The premise was simple, what would happen if aliens crashed landed on Earth . . . and were just, well, here? How would we react? What would we do? What would the people of Johannesburg do? Rookie director Neill Blomkamp mixes docu-style cinematography to make it feel like these were actual events. It’s this novel approach and somewhat different story that draws you in. And the aliens . . . they looked and interacted pretty darn good. The alien effects were definitely realistic.


You know the part in Avatar where the guys see the floating mountains for the first time? Well, it wasn’t quite like seeing flying mountains, but their expression in that scene echoed the sentiment I felt as I watched this movie the first and second time I saw it. I have to admit, after seeing the footage from Comic Con I was somewhat excited, but still didn’t quite know what to expect. And then December came,  and we all put on those 3D glasses. The rest as they say, is history. What can you say about James Cameron’s Avatar that hasn’t already been said? The visuals are simply ‘outstanding’ and have ushered in a boom in 3D movie viewing. Oh yeah, and the storytelling and acting aren’t half bad either. I definitely got taken to Pandora viewing this movie.


What I really liked about this movie is that I think every guy at some point can identify with something that Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) goes through. Believe me when I say that this is doesn’t have to be ‘chick flick.’ This movie is for any time a guy has had that “stupid girl” experience and thought, ‘what the hell just happened?’ Well, now you know you’re not alone. Not only is the story great, but the two leads have great chemistry together (acting wise, not relationship wise) and really make you feel for this guy. Besides, how could you possibly not a like a movie where there’s a fantasy musical number set to Hall & Oats’s You Make My Dreams Come True?

and that leads us to . . .


Now I know what you might be thinking, “duh, of course this is the number one movie of the year, it won Best Picture.” Let me just tell you that when I first heard about this movie back in April of last year, I knew it was going to be good. Now granted, I am a sucker for war movies, but after having seen it in theaters last July, I would have been shocked if it wasn’t nominated for best picture (luckily though it did). In any case, believe what you will. The director Kathryn Bigelow masterfully tells the story of an army bomb disposal unit in Iraq. The experience you get is if you were actually embedded with this team. Their stress is your stress and the film oozes suspense in the scenes where they have to go in to diffuse the bombs. There’s no political agenda here, just a straight up experience of what these guys have to go through. It’s up to the audience to decide how you want to feel.

So yes, it is the best flick of last year, in my own personal opinion.

Still to See


Believe it or not, viewing 50 plus movies last year, you don’t get to see everything you would like to.  Here’s a couple of movies that I’m looking to Netflix or purchase once they come out:

  • An Education – There was a reason why Carey Mulligan was nominated for Best Actress, and I still need to find out
  • Precious – A heart wrenching and powerful story, with not one, but two Oscar nominated performances
  • Crazy Heart – Did anyone else think this was just going to be another Ray or Walk the Line? If Jeff Bridges is that good and Colin Farrell sings then I guess I have to see it.
  • Ponyo – Anytime Hayao Miyazaki comes out with a film, do yourself a favor and see it.
  • Red Cliff – Wanted to see John Woo’s epic at HIFF but just didn’t have the time. Thankfully both parts come out on DVD this month!
  • Bad Lieutanant: Port of Call New Orleans – Yeah so I don’t even think this film made it to Hawaiian shores. Like I mentioned earlier, I heard that Nick Cage gives a gritty and startling performance not seen since Leaving Las Vegas.


And here are the top five movies I’m looking forward to in 2010:

  • Iron Man 2 – Robert Downey Jr returning as Tony Stark/Iron Man and fighting with War Machine? Need I say more? // May 7
  • Toy Story 3 – The Pixar guys are going to try go for the trifecta of giving us a damn good triology. I hope it works out. // June 18
  • Inception –  Take the guy who single handedly made comic book movies relevant (Christopher Nolan, director of the Dark Knight) and throw in the self proclaimed ‘King of the World’ (Leonardo DiCaprio) and you’ve got the most eagerly anticpated non-Batman movie of the year. // July 16
  • The Social Network – Take director David Fincher (Fight Club, Panic Room, and Benjamin Button), throw in screen writer Alan Sorkin (The West Wing, A Few Good Men), the guy that brought sexy back all by himself (Justin Timberlake), and throw in a plot about social media giant Facebook; and you have the perfect storm for a pretty interesting movie. // October 1
  • Tron Legacy – The cult classic gets the new millenium treatment and a visual upgrade. Should be interesting. // December 17

That about wrap things up for 2009. How’d you like my picks?

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02
Feb
10

OW: First Impressions

Finally, after long last, Oscar nominations came out at 3:30 am Hawaii Standard Time. Since I value my sleep, here are my first thoughts (literally) on a few of the Oscar categories. Keep in mind that I haven’t seen all the films.

BEST PICTURE – 7/10 nominees viewed*
Avatar* :: The Blind Side* :: District 9* :: An Education :: The Hurt Locker* :: Inglourious Basterds* :: Precious :: A Serious Man :: Up* :: Up in the Air*

Ok, let’s get this out of the way . . . the ten best picture nominee experiment, it’s going to bring in a few more viewers. I mean, just look at how balanced these picks are. You have big studio pictures in Avatar, Up, and The Blind Side, but you also have indies (An Education, Precious, The Hurt Locker), the usual Coen Brothers nom (A Serious Man), and even some sci-fi for you there on the side (District 9). If this isn’t balanced, I don’t know what is.

As I talked about in my previous post, does having ten nominated pictures even matter in the grand scheme of things? To be honest we won’t actually know until after we know the outcome of this year’s awards. The only way it won’t is if one of the big four (Avatar, Hurt Locker, Basterds, Up in the Air) don’t win Best Picture.

Final thoughts . . . while my favorite has always been Hurt Locker, glad to see that An Education, Up, and District 9 got some academy love this year, even though it may only be token nominations.

BEST DIRECTOR – 4/5 nominees viewed*
James Cameron, “Avatar”* :: Kathryn Bigelow, “The Hurt Locker”* :: Quentin Tarantino, “Inglourious Basterds”* :: Lee Daniels, “Precious” :: Jason Reitman, “Up in the Air”*

No surprises in the nominations here. I actually think this could be a pretty close race and can’t really give a clear favorite as I enjoyed most of these pictures.

BEST ACTOR – 3/5 nominees viewed*
Jeff Bridges, “Crazy Heart” :: George Clooney, “Up in the Air”* :: Colin Firth, “A Single Man” :: Morgan Freeman, “Invictus”* :: Jeremy Renner, “The Hurt Locker”*

Not having seen Crazy Heart or A Single Man, I have to go with my boy Jeremy Renner. You can’t deny he delivers a tour-de-force in Hurt Locker. I think Bridges might be the front runner though as I heard a lot of good buzz about his performance in late 2009. Clooney and Freeman . . . both are good actors and the parts they had in these movies, while good, didn’t make them shine.

BEST ACTRESS – 2/5 nominees viewed*
Sandra Bullock, “The Blind Side”* :: Helen Mirren, “The Last Station” :: Carey Mulligan, “An Education” :: Cabourey Sidibe, “Precious” :: Meryl Streep, “Julie & Julia”*

I’m going to admit it, I’m seriously behind in this category having seeing only two of these performances. Don’t get me wrong, Meryl is fantastic as Julia Child, but I hear Mulligan and Sidibe give great performances as well. And don’t forget the unofficial actress of the year . . . Sandra Bullock. Her portrayal of Leigh Anne Tuohy made her a mom everyone would want.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR – 2/5 nominees viewed*
Matt Damon, “Invictus”* :: Woody Harrelson, “The Messenger” :: Christopher Plummer, “The Last Station” :: Stanley Tucci, “The Lovely Bones” :: Christoph Waltz, “Inglourious Basterds”*

For this category it’s going to be harder to pick the runner up than it is to pick the winner. Christoph Waltz  was one of the best things about Basterds and every time you saw him on screen he made you want to hate his character. Matt won’t get it, I kind of thought he was phoning in his performance. And while Stanley Tucci is a great actor, I hear the material he was given in Bones wasn’t the greatest. Runner up goes to Harrelson who I also her gives a nice performance in Messenger. Come on, you have to give it to the Jew Hunter right?

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS – 2/5 nominees viewed*
Penélope Cruz, “Nine” :: Vera Farmiga, “Up in the Air”* :: Maggie Gyllenhaal, “Crazy Heart” :: Anna Kendrick, “Up in the Air”* :: Mo’Nique, “Precious”

I absolutely love the fact that both Farmiga and Kendrick BOTH got nominated for their supporting roles in Up in the Air. I thought they both gave really solid performances. Unfortunately I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that Mo’Nique takes it home. While I haven’t seen Precious, you can’t have miss footage from previews and all the buzz surrounding her performance as an abusive mother. In the same vein that Christoph Waltz takes home the statue for a “love to hate” performance, so should Mo’Nique.

———————————————-

Well, there you have it. Am I totally off base or did the Academy actually get things right this year? Off the top of my head I can’t figure if anyone got snubbed. I’m sure some will show up though.

Up next, My Favorites of 2009 . . .

26
Jan
10

OW: And the Nominees Are . . .

Academy award nominations come out next week Tuesday, and the big change that was announced was that the Best Picture category was going to be expanded from five nominees to ten nominees. According to then Academy President Sid Ganis, the decision to expand the list was to “allow Academy voters to recognize and include some of the fantastic movies that often show up in the other Oscar categories, but have been squeezed out of the race for the top prize.”

Now, it’s been debated for months what the actual impact of this decision will be (if any) by bloggers and critics alike, but now that the votes are already in (they were due by Saturday, January 23) is the addition of five more nominees enough to make a difference?

LA Times columnist Patrick Goldstein sets us straight:

“As virtually every breathless Oscar prognosticator will tell you, there are only four movies that have even a remote chance of winning best picture, and all four of them — “Avatar,” “The Hurt Locker,” “Inglourious Basterds” and “Up in the Air” — would’ve made the final cut anyway, regardless of whether the academy had five or 10 best picture nominees this year . . . . it’s safe to say that all the other films in the discussion are glorified also-rans. It’s a four-film race. Period. . . . none of the films outside of the Fab Four is going anywhere.”

In essence Goldstein figures that with these four movies a shoo-in for noms and one most likely to take home the award, having ten nominations changed little if anything at all. When posed the question on whether or not it was still a bad move to expand the nominees, current Academy president Tom Sherak had this to say:

“I know it’s the oldest cliche in the world but, by and large, if people are talking about you, it’s always a good thing. The move to expand the nominees has created an enormous amount of buzz about the Oscars and the movies that are in contention. A lot of people think it’s a good idea, a lot of people don’t, but regardless of the pros and cons, it’s ignited a debate that been good for the Oscars.”

Now I know this has been debated to death, but Goldstein makes a valid point. What was the purpose of this exercise if there are sure fire Oscar noms? Is being “talked about” as Sherak implies simply enough? Or will the six other nominees “being recognized” be satisfied with that?

In these quotes from two different Academy presidents we have different reasonings for having nominations–with only one of them supporting the benefit of the nominees. When it comes down to it, I tend to agree with Goldstein, adding five more nominations doesn’t do all that much. In this specific scenario this year, I’m sure that the other six movies that are nominated would be talked about just as much if they hadn’t been nominated before this change was made (they probably still would have been talked about just as much–but mainly because why they’re good but not included).

This is of course all hypotheticals. We’ll just have to wait and see after the awards come out whether or not this decision proved fruitful.




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