cwfilmbuff: (movies)
Movie 44: Another Year
Exactly what it says on the poster: the movie follows a year in the lives of an old married couple and their friends and family. The couple in question is my new answer to "what do you want to be when you grow up?": they're happy, stable, and still very much in love after 30 or 40 years together. The drama and conflict is in the lives of those around them, while they continue living their lives, helping wherever they can but knowing where to draw the line. There's no major event to make this seem like anything other than just another year, but by the end of it you are invested in all the characters and want the best for them.
cwfilmbuff: (movies)
Movie 33: Day & Night
This was still attached to Toy Story 3, along with a trailer for Tangled (which is apparently coming soon to theaters). Still entertaining, but starting not to hold up after multiple viewings.

Movie 34: Toy Story 3
This one, on the other hand, is still wonderful. The series goes out on a high note, and I look forward to watching them with my daughter (knowing the viewing habits of kids, probably many, many times).

Movie 35: 127 Hours
The first time I saw this I was the only one in the theater. Watching with a crowd definitely enhances the experience. Still love the editing and sound design, especially during the amputation scene. I've seen more graphic imagery in movies (shot some, too), but the way this is cut together makes the scene more visceral than the sum of its shots.

Movie 36: The Kids Are All Right
I'd forgotten how sharp the writing is in this, with a lot of subtle self-referential dialogue and foreshadowing that went mostly unnoticed the first time I saw it.

Movie 37: True Grit
Another one that was better the second time around. I definitely prefer it to the John Wayne version, but their approaches to the material are so vastly different it's almost apples and oranges.

Movie 38: The Fighter
A really good movie, and my least favorite of the ten. Which is a sign that the Academy managed to get this ten nominee thing right after only two tries.

Movie 39: Winter's Bone
John Hawks needs to play more creepy, potentially violent criminals. Jennifer Lawrence and Debra Granik just plain need to make more movies.

Movie 40: Black Swan
Still my favorite of the year. Most of the elements are done better by other nominees, but the effect of the film as a whole had even more of an impact the second time.

Movie 41: Inception
For a summer action movie the characters spend a lot of time talking and explaining things to each other. Also, the music and sound design that were so highly praised when it first came out don't really have as much impact the second time around. All that said, still a fun and well-made movie.

Movie 42: The Social Network
There were speaker issues in here at the start of Toy Story (21 hours ago as I type this), and I wonder if they never got resolved. The score of this film was less impressive than I remember too, which makes me wonder if that's what happened to Inception. Sleep deprivation may have me rambling about AMC's surround sound instead of rambling about the movie in question, but I'm not sure what to add to one of the most discussed movies of 2010, except to say that Jesse Eisenberg has perfected playing "young man quietly pissed off at the world".

Movie 43: The King's Speech
Two things I noticed this time that I hadn't the first time around: There are several instances of the "have a disagreement, stop working together, make amends, resume working together" cycle, which bordered on repetive toward the end (I had also been in the theater for 23 hours at that point, so my patience may have been slightly less than the average viewer). And it's a sports movie, complete with training montage, only instead of athletic competition it's public speaking (much like The Social Network is a rock n' roll movie with web design instead of music). Neither of which make it a bad movie by any stretch of the imagination.
cwfilmbuff: (movies)
I've seen all the nominated films I'm going to see (although I'm watching 10 of them again tomorrow), so all that's left is to get ready to enjoy the show.

Predictions )
cwfilmbuff: (movies)
Movie 32: Restrepo
Very straightforward look at a year with soldiers in one of the most dangerous areas of Afghanistan. I appreciated the concentration on the soldiers and what they were doing and going through, with no mention of any of the politics surrounding the war. They're there to do a job, and it's an extremely difficult and dangerous job, and that's more than enough to make a compelling movie. One of the complaints I've had about other documentaries was avoided here: in most the talking head interviews the camera stayed tight on the soldiers' faces, with no cutaways and a solid black background. Hearing what they're saying, and seeing them say it, is often more powerful than just listening to voiceover.
cwfilmbuff: (movies)
Movie 28: The Confession
Beautifully shot story of a Catholic kid who, nervous about not having anything to confess at his first confession, plays a prank that has unintended consequences. There's a lot to like about it, including effective performances and incredible cinematography & editing, but the pacing dragged a little and the ending didn't have the impact the filmmakers seemed to be going for.

Movie 29: The Crush
Another film about a school kid taking things too far; this time it's his desire to win the heart of his teacher, away from her fiancé. At first I was worried that the ending was too heavily foreshadowed, then it went in a different direction that came off as forced and contrived. The flat performance of the lead actor doesn't help either. There was a good idea in there, but the execution was lacking.

Movie 30: God of Love
A dart-throwing crooner is granted Cupid-like powers, which he uses to try wooing his drummer. Combined with the black & white cinematography this could have come off as a pretentious art film, but it's so absurdly funny that it's instead enjoyable from start to finish. The characters and situations more than make up for the story's lack of surprises.

Movie 31: Wish 143
A dying teen tries to use his Make-a-Wish to lose his virginity. The movie does a good job developing its main character instead of defining him by his disease, but it has trouble finding a balance between humor and pathos. Both are done well, but the transition between the two is often jarring.
cwfilmbuff: (movies)
Movie 23: Killing in the Name
After losing family members to a suicide bomber, a man begins a mission to convince Muslim terrorists that what they're doing goes against the teachings of their faith. At times depressing (the most effective argument seems not to be that killing innocent people is wrong, but that it's wrong when some those other people are Muslims), and at times infuriating (one of the interview subjects is an unapologetic recruiter for al-Qaeda), it manages to put a human face on the people affected by the violence most of us only see in the news.

Movie 24: Sun Come Up
Follows the residents of Carteret, who are looking for somewhere to relocate as their island is swallowed by rising ocean levels. Without ever being preachy, the film touches on issues of personal and social responsibility, community identity, and well-meaning but ineffective government intervention. Where it falls short is the decision to subtitle everything, even when subjects are speaking English. I see this a lot when filmmakers assume someone's accent is too thick for the average moviegoer to understand; that's rarely the case, and it's definitely not true here. It's a minor quibble, but it provides a constant distraction from an otherwise well-made documentary.

Movie 25: The Warriors of Qiugang
A small village in China bands together to try to get their government to either clean up or close down a local factory that has polluted their air, water, and land. A great story of what people can and can't accomplish when taking on someone more powerful. The villagers are powerful and moving when discussing their situation, but the gravity of the situation is diluted by computer graphics and animations that don't fit with the rest of the movie.

Movie 26: Poster Girl
Sgt. Robynn Murray, an Iraq War veteran, struggles to overcome her PTSD. It's a fairly straightforward story, but the emotional highs and lows make Sgt. Murray's journey much more gripping than it would seem on paper. While the subjects of the three documentaries that preceded this tended to keep themselves composed on camera, Sgt. Murray has no such filters; everything she's feeling is right there on the surface. Because her struggles aren't hidden, the feeling of victory when she makes advances in dealing with her PTSD has a much bigger impact.

Movie 27: Strangers No More
A year at a Tel Aviv school that teaches the children of refugees. Shorts International, the company that distributes these theatrically, was smart to put this last in the program. While the other four look at terrible situations and end on only slightly optimistic notes, this one had me smiling from start to finish. Watching children go from looking lost and alone to finding confidence and strength in a few short months is a joyful experience. The film occasionally missteps, most notably by intercutting stock footage into interviews with the kids, when their presence on camera is much more effective than what the filmmakers cut away to. Thankfully this is largely limited to the beginning of the movie, letting the rest of the story be dominated by the victories in the present rather than the struggles in the past.
cwfilmbuff: (movies)
Movie 22: I Am Love
Tilda Swinton is quickly becoming one of those actresses I will watch in just about anything (even when she's clumsily shoehorned into Narnia movies). She's great here as the wife and mother of an upper-class Italian family. While the family is the focus of the movie, there is plenty of attention paid to their servants, providing an interesting contrast (Swinton's character acts as the audience's bridge between the two worlds; at times it seems she's closer to the head maid than to most of her family). The movie starts and finishes strong, bookended with two dinner parties and the repercussions of what happens at them, but the middle gets a little muddled. Not bad by any stretch of the imagination, it just doesn't live up to what comes before and after. Still, a visually beautiful film with an interesting story and great performances throughout.
cwfilmbuff: (movies)
Movie 15: Madagascar: A Journey Diary
Exactly what it says on the tin. The novelty of the various animation styles wears off a few minutes in, and after that you're just watching someone else's vacation, with no real story or reason to care what's happening.

Movie 16: Let's Pollute
Cheerful propaganda-style cartoon satirically encouraging you to pollute as much as possible. Amusing for almost a full minute before you get tired of having the message repeatedly driven in with a sledgehammer.

Movie 17: The Gruffalo
A very nice and amusing adaptation of a children's book about a mouse bluffing his way out of getting eaten by various predators. Nice animation style, good voice work, and all-around fun to watch.

Movie 18: The Lost Thing
Wonderfully strange story about a man finding something inexplicable on the beach. The story's pretty straightforward, but the look of the film is like Dr. Seuss and Salvador Dali had designed Terry Gilliam's Brazil, with refreshingly original results.

Movie 19: Day & Night
If you saw Toy Story 3 in the theater, you saw this short before it. Very nice mix of CG and hand-drawn styles, telling a fun little story while having a blast with the medium.

Movie 20: Urs
Now we're into the ones that didn't get nominated, but were thrown in so the program would be long enough to justify the ticket price. Predictable attempt at emotional manipulation, well animated but without any real substance to back it up.

Movie 21: The Cow Who Wanted to be a Hamburger
Just the opposite of Urs, this one had a really entertaining story but was dragged down by terrible animation.
cwfilmbuff: (movies)
Movie 14: Animal Kingdom
A little slow to get going, but once it does it's a riveting story of a young man getting tangled up in the battle between his family of criminals and the police. Jackie Weaver steals every scene she's in as the family's matriarch, and Ben Mendelsohn is effectively disturbing as her dangerously off-balance son. One of the really interesting things here is how the violence is handled - there's rarely any build-up, it's not lingered on, and the action itself is shot in a very matter-of-fact manner: no dramatic music or camera angles, no slow-motion, nothing to add any emphasis to what's happening beyond how the characters and story are affected. It's refreshing when a crime movie doesn't feel the need to rely on spectacle to engage its audience.
cwfilmbuff: (movies)
Movie 13: Gasland
Interesting look at the effects of lack of regulation in the natural gas industry. The filmmaker is clearly not coming at the subject from an objective standpoint, but he makes a point of at least trying to get both sides of the story. It's the writer/director's first feature, and he has a few missteps (he puts too much of himself in, when the people he's interviewing are much more effective, and the first ten minutes or so suffer the Michael Bay syndrome of too many fast edits and whip pans; thankfully that pace doesn't persist for the full movie, and it quickly settles into a more watchable rhythm), but on the whole it was well enough made that I found myself interested in a subject I hadn't really been aware of before popping in the DVD (the "one man crew" feel of it also had me missing the documentary work I'd done back in San Diego, but that's another subject).
cwfilmbuff: (plate)
Movie 12: The Illusionist (L'illusionniste)
I hear a lot about how this stands out as a traditionally animated film compared to the computer animated features that are the norm, but I think it's more interesting to compare it to Sylvain Chomet's previous film, Belleville Rendezvous. While the basic art style is the same, and both tell their stories with a minimum of dialogue, the calm, deliberate pace of The Illusionist is a stark contrast to Belleville's manic energy. This is a movie of quiet moments, most shared between only a handful or people so that we, as the audience, feel like we're being treated to something the rest of the busy, fast-paced world is missing out on. These moments, like the characters, the English and Scottish countrysides, and the movie as a whole, are beautiful for their simplicity. The fact that the title character is being crowded out of his profession by louder, more attention-grabbing entertainers gives the film a sense of pathos that, while sad, is wholly satisfying.
cwfilmbuff: (movies)
Movie 11: The King's Speech
Great movie with great acting all around. Writer David Seidler does a great job of making potentially dry subject matter entertaining, and director Tom Hooper keeps a movie that is literally about people talking visually interesting. The unconventional framing and heavy use of narrow depth of field could have come off as gimmicky or amateurish, but neither technique was overused, and in every case it added something to the shot. The filmmaking here was much more innovative than I expected, and it makes me want to seek out more of Hooper's work.
cwfilmbuff: (movies)
Movie 10: Dogtooth
All I knew about this going in was that it involved a family whose children had been completely isolated from the outside world. I'm glad I went in with such a blank slate, because it made every new surreal, absurd, shocking, creepy, and disturbing development that much more effective. It left me trying to absorb what I had just seen, and I'm still mulling it over several hours later, but I know it's one of the most original movies I've seen in the past year.
cwfilmbuff: (movies)
Movie 9: Exit Through The Gift Shop
Once I got past the "defacing other people's property is a good thing" mindset this one had some entertaining bits, but on the whole it had credibility issues and was too self-important for my taste.
cwfilmbuff: (movies)
Movie 8: Blue Valentine
Around the edges of this movie are hints of a better movie that might have been, one that shows two people falling in and out of love as a natural, if tragic progression. Instead, either through lazy writing or poor acting/directing choices, we see a woman falling in love with a manipulative jerk, then years later divorcing an emotionally abusive jerk. There are moments of really good filmmaking, but they get buried under a story and characters that range from boring to off-putting. And while Michelle Williams' performance is the best thing about the movie, her nomination for a Best Actress Oscar in a year with so many better performances speaks more of Harvey Weinstein's marketing abilities than her acting talent.

Catch up

Jan. 29th, 2011 01:25 am
cwfilmbuff: (movies)
Forgot to post a couple movies last week, and one from yesterday:

Movie 5: Lovecraft: Fear of the Unknown
Interesting, if one-sided, look at H.P. Lovecraft. A lot of good information well-presented, but I would have been interested in hearing some criticism scattered in among the 90 minutes of praise.

Movie 6: Hamlet 2
A couple funny moments, but I don't quite see why it was getting such great reviews when it came out.

Movie 7: 127 Hours
Franco does a great job carrying the movie as the only person on screen for the majority of the runtime, but what really impressed me was the editing and sound design. Boyle's usual flashiness is there, but he knows when to slow things down and let the stillness and silence sink in. All in all a very effective and entertaining movie.
cwfilmbuff: (movies)
Nominated movies I haven't seen yet
127 Hours
Animal Kingdom

Another Year
Barney's Version
Blue Valentine
The Confession
The Crush
Exit Through the Gift Shop
God of Love
The Gruffalo

I Am Love
The Illusionist

In A Better World
Inside Job
Killing in the Name
The King's Speech
Let's Pollute
The Lost Thing
Madagascar, carnet de voyage

Na Wewe
Outside the Law
Poster Girl
Rabbit Hole
Strangers No More
Sun Come Up

The Tempest
The Warriors of Qiugang
Waste Land
The Way Back
Wish 143
The Wolfman

I suspect I'm not going to get to all 38 of them between now and February 27.
cwfilmbuff: (movies)
Before I get to the nominations themselves, ABC managed to lower the bar with the announcements. I didn't really want to be reminded that Monique has an Oscar, but it would have been nice to see the names of the movies instead of having them cut off on the sides of the screen (ironically this was because I was watching on a TV with a 4:3 aspect ratio, which is the Academy standard). Also, someone might want to tell the president of the Academy that there's no one named "Helen A. Bonham Carter" among the nominees.

Anyway, first and foremost, the role of Mattie Ross in True Grit is not a supporting role. She is the main character of the story, and there is not one scene in the film that she isn't in. This is a lead role and Hailee Steinfeld deserved a leading nomination.

I wasn't expecting How To Train Your Dragon to get a nomination for Score, but I'm glad it did. The music was a huge part of what made that movie great.

It's a shame that Barbara Hershy, Armie Hammer, and especially Noomi Rapace weren't recognized for their acting.

Alice in Wonderland is up for art direction and visual effects. Is it award-worthy for Tim Burton to trot out the same bag of tricks he's been using for the past five years, and not as effectively as in any of his previous efforts?

I've got a lot of movies to see in the next 30 days. Time to load up the old Netflix queue. At least I've seen all but two of the Best Picture contenders, so I'm slightly ahead there.

Anyway, breaktime over. Back to work, with more reactions as I see more of the nominated films.
cwfilmbuff: (movies)
So that big event that takes place on a Sunday in February is coming up. Not the football game/advertising showcase, the one I get excited about. And before the nominations get announced tomorrow morning I, as always, have opinions )

Last minuite edit: Never Let Me Go won't get a screenplay nomination, but it should.

Really last-minute edit: Armie Hammer and John Hawkes for supporting actor.


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