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Tangled

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****

…frankly, I’m too scared to ask about the frog.

This is a well animated cute movie. I love Zachary Levi–Chuck–but had no expectations from Mandy Moore. There are a few other great choices for the voice actors, but I feel bad when regular actors, like Ron Perlman, get such roles. I was very impressed with the horse too, Maximus.

Safe House

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***

You’ve done a fine job, Son. We’ll take it from here. That’s when you know you’re screwed.

This is my kind of movie. I love Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds and Brendan Gleeson.  The story is that Denzel is kinda bad and Ryan is good and somebody else is really bad. It’s the good, the bad and the Denzel. The action takes place in South Africa and there is action-a-plenty.

The movie does not break new ground in the action/spy genre, but it is not a ripoff of The Bourne Identity as some have said. It is in fact a two-hour version of the Bourne Identity/Supremacy/Ultimatum. Perhaps that was too much to bite off for Director Daniel Espinosa in his first big budget American film, particularly with a novice screenwriter in David Guggenheim. That said, I think that both showed the potential to go on to make movies that could be mentioned in the same breath as The Bourne Identity.

Best of 2011

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1. Hugo
2. Bridesmaids
3. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
4. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
5. The Guard
6. The Artist
7. I Saw the Devil
8. The Trip
9. Cedar Rapids
10. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

Honorable Mentions: Margin Call, Hanna and The Muppets.
Best Documentary: Waste land

Worst movie of the year–that I saw: Unknown.

I saw 33 new movies this year. I generally see movies that I think I will enjoy, so I choose to see Bridesmaids and await the enjoyment, but last May I would have thought that Horrible Bosses had the same chances of dominating that Bridesmaids did. Thus I expect that this year for my list to hold up even better than usual.

Unlike last year, which was an amazing year for drama, the nostalgic romances, comedies, and British flics caught up. I do not know what the best “foreign” movie should be. I Saw the Devil is in Korean, but is that any more foreign than a silent film? The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is  in English, but was filmed abroad and pretty damn strange. Tinker Tailor and The Guard was both very British, but that seems to count as almost domestic. Even Hugo took place in Paris. And in 3D. I guess I will just split the difference and pick Bridesmaids as best foreign (female led) film.

Oscar 2011 predictions

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I cannot predict who will win the Oscars this year with 100% certainty. I cannot even predict with 100% certainty whom I want to win—I haven’t seen all of the movies yet. What I can predict is that I will be moderately depressed by how old Billy Crystal looks. I loved him in City Slickers and everything since—of course, I never did watch My Giant and Forget Paris kind of sucked—so it is with mixed emotions that I consider the upcoming Oscars.

Best shorts and best documentaries (and best song): I have no dogs, ponies, or other animals in this fight. I have not seen any of the nominated films and thus will pick no favorites.

Best Achievement in Visual Effects: I want Hugo to win because it was gorgeously shot and had a pop that few films have. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 had a few shots, like the giant defensive shield that did not live up to my expectations. Will win—Transformers: Dark Side of my butt.

Best Achievement in Sound Editing: I do not know who should win, maybe I should just make fun of Transformers again, but I will say that the sound effects for the transformers transforming is the only redeeming part of those embarrassments to the phrase “shitty summer movies.”

Sound Mixing: I want The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo to win this, and I think it will win this.

Best Original Score: The Artist. I look at this like Philip Glass’s soundtrack to Dracula. His task was a different one than that of any other composer. In his case, Dracula was a quiet film with its own 1930’s style soundtrack, which he knew people would watch with his score to hear something different. As for Ludovic Bource, his music got to tell the story in a way that the rest of the talkies did not.

Best Movie with British People Looking British or olde-fashioned (Best Achievement in Makeup): Albert Nobbs will win. No mean jokes about Glenn Close or Meryl Streep.

Best Achievement in Costume Design: Totally different nominees than makeup this year. But the same joke could have been made. The Artist will win it.

Best Achievement in Art Direction/Cinematography: What the hell is art direction? I guess War Horse will win. As for cinematography, I know what that is. That is the look of the film, the way it is shot, for lack of a better term I would call it ART DIRECTION. All of nominees seem amazing so it just comes down to which one got more votes. I hope that The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo wins, but I think that The Tree of Life will win, since even the people who hated it thought it looked pretty. And I do not think that it has a prayer in any of the main categories.

Best Editing: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo should win and is the most likely to win.

Best Foreign Language Film: A Separation is going to win.

“Best” Animated Feature Film: One of the foreign/indie films will win, since the big dogs are sequels. Does anyone really think that Kung Fu Panda 2 will be the last sequel to win best (animated) picture since The Godfather: Part II.

Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published: Yeah, because adapted screenplay sounds lame. I want Hugo to win, but Moneyball will win, since it’s a very good movie about baseball as a business. Oh and everyone just loves Sorkin who co-wrote it.

Best non-adapted screenplay: I want Bridesmaids to win. It is just the best written comedy in ages. The Artist will beat out Midnight in Paris because enough people remember that Woody Allen shows no respect for the Oscars.

Best Director: Martin Scorsese will and should win. At least I hope so. Otherwise, this is wide open.

Supporting Actress: I think that Melissa McCarthy is the one I want to win, but Bérénice Bejo–The Artist–was amazing too. I think that Octavia Spencer pulls this one out for The Help.

Supporting Actor: I have only seen Jonah Hill in Moneyball, but I bet that Christopher Plummer will win and probably deserves to.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role: Michelle Williams will probably win this category because she played a beloved famous person, who was very attractive. Viola Davis played a real person too, but not a famous one. Meryl Streep has not won an academy award SINCE I WAS BORN so I doubt she will win one this year and Glenn Close cross dressed and if Felicity Huffman could not win for her role in Transamerica over the competent Reese Witherspoon, I do not see Glenn Close winning. Rooney Mara will probably have the “Lord of the Rings” problem, where voters assume that they will have two more movies to reward her for her great performance.

Best Acting by an Actor in a Motion Picture: I want Gary Oldman to win for his amazing George Smiley, but I do not think it has enough kick to win. I predict that Jean Dujardin beats out George Clooney.

Best Picture: I want Hugo to win, but The Artist will win.

Please feel free to weigh in with any predictions that you have.

Moneyball

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****

People who run ball clubs, they think in terms of buying players. Your goal shouldn’t be to buy players, your goal should be to buy wins. And in order to buy wins, you need to buy runs.

What kind of movie expects us to root for the Oakland Athletics? I mean, against the Yankees? As a Yankees fan, why would I be upset when the Yankees won the ALDS in 2001? Madness! So this is an uphill battle for me to care, but it is already the victor in the eyes of critics—SEVEN academy award nominations.

Brad Pitt for best actor: he is very, very good. He saw something in Billy Beane’s story that made him want to, or even need to, tell it. I think that hunger and passion came through in his performance.

Jonah Hill: I do not see what all the fuss is about his performance. He did a great job with an easy role. I think that Chris Pratt’s Scott Hatteberg deserves almost as much fan fare.

Best Picture: the little picture that could, about the little team that shouldn’t have. An enjoyable film.

Adapted Screenplay: This is a good story that is well told, but some of the speeches were too melodramatic, or too deep for the moment. I guess some screenwriters cannot resist it.

Film Editing/Sound Mixing: there are some interesting usage of silence in the film, which always showcases the sounds that you do hear. In fact, I liked the score better than the sound editing…whatever that means. Still, unless the movie is an adapted play that means it was well edited.

Lastly, it is incredibly difficult to create drama when the outcome is known. Yet, most people probably do not know or remember as much about baseball as I do, so I imagine that they enjoy the movie a little more than I did. Still, whose fault is that?

I Saw the Devil

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****½

If it were easy, I would’ve killed you already. I’ll kill you at your most painful moment. When you most tremble in pain and fear, I’ll kill you then!

Who do you think said that? The protagonist, Kim Soo-hyeon—The Good, The Bad and The Weird’s Byung-hun Lee—or the villain, Kyung-chul—Oldboy himself, Min-sik Choi? That questions goes directly to the name of the film. I. Saw. the. Devil.

But first, here is what the film is about. Most Korean films I watch are frightening and revolve around revenge. Despite having The Good, The Bad and The Weird’s Jee-woon Kim for a director, this is no different. Soo-hyeon’s fiancée gets assaulted, violated, and finally murdered, despite her pleas for reprieve as she is pregnant. The murder, Kyung-chul is a serial rapist, murderer who chops up his victims to avoid detection, which he has succeeded in. Soo-hyeon is some sort of government agent and his love’s father is the chief of police. They hatch a plan to torment their victimizer before turning him over for prosecution. Off Soo-hyeon goes with four suspects and rage in his heart.

It is important to differentiate this film from something like Taken. Taken is revenge porn for white people. This is a film about revenge with a message. Jee-woon Kim neither glamorizes nor stylizes the violence. This amounts to witnessing horrible actions, but I could not take my eyes off the screen.  Partially that comes from the excellent acting performances, particularly from the two leads. The other aspect is the occasional, yet effective use of nature.

Returning to original question, who is the “I”? Certainly the fiancée. Soo-hyeon too. But perhaps even Kyung-chul does too. “Saw” goes to the importance of eyes, of looking, or watching. “Devil” fits Kyung-chul, but he is not the only serial killer in the film. Which makes the most interesting word in the title “the.” Is it just Kyung-chul? Is it something inside of bad men? Is it something inside all of us? Is it some force that affects what happens in the world? Since this movie is far too graphic and violent for most people—if you did not like A History of Violence then there is 0% chance you can sit through this—it should be a relief to know that the film does not answer the question, but merely provides a lesson on revenge and more to consider.

The Artist

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****½

That dog just saved his life.

I love the dog in this movie. He is the perfect animal. It’s that kind of cutesy thing that makes The Artist a beautiful film, but also a bit too spot on. The biggest star of his era, George Valentin–Jean Dujardin has nowhere to go but down. Meanwhile he meets the charming Peppy Miller–Bérénice Bejo–and helps give her a start in the moving picture business.

The message of the film is very straightforward, do not be too proud. Despite the simplicity of the message, the movie is imaginatively done. There are sight gags and some particularly clever satire of silent movies. The music is fantastic. It is all together a well cast, well acted, well edited, well, well, well… In many ways this is the Spider-man 2 of this year where there are no flaws in the film and all critics of the critics like it. Except that this will not be airing on FX every weekend two years from now. I hope that Dujardin, Bejo and the director, Michel Hazanavicius each bring me more joy. More than that, though, I hope that Uggie, the dog, lives a long and happy life.