Bob and Justin's Mad Movie Blog

My name is Bob. My friend Justin and I are aspiring filmmakers and we have pretty similar tastes in movies. This will include our take on what's going on in film and television today as well as updating you on the status of our own work.

Friday, June 08, 2012

The Intouchables

It's not often that I can label a film as having universal appeal. Just looking at some of my favorite films of last year ("The Artist," "Drive," "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy"), it's clear that while I love them they're not for everyone. "The Intouchables" however, is that rare movie that I truly believe will be loved by everyone who sees it. Philippe (Francois Cluzet) is a wealthy and intelligent Parisian, but a widower who is paralyzed from the neck down. He has had difficulty maintaining a caretaker for longer than a month at a time and he is interviewing a long line of new applicants who are either inexperienced or view Philippe as though he is beneath them mentally. Tired of waiting in line, Driss (Omar Sy), a young man of Senegalese descent, storms into the room and instantly he is like a breath of fresh air to Philippe. Not because Driss is experienced or eager to get the position. In fact the only reason Driss has shown up to interview is so that he can keep getting unemployment benefits. He also openly flirts with Philippe's assistant Magalie (Audrey Fleurot). But Phillipe knows that the muscular Driss will be able to take care of him physically and just as importantly, Driss will never talk down to him. Driss is initially reluctant to accept the job but having been kicked out of his aunt's house and with a short prison term on his record he really has nowhere else to go. Given a one month trial period, Driss finds living in a Parisian mansion to be to his liking, but more importantly he comes to care for Phillipe and the two bond not over their similiarities (of which there are few), but their differences. Love, music, family, art, and cars are but a few of the things these two men debate and learn new things about from each other. Written and directed by Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano, "The Intouchables" is based on the memoir "You Changed My Life" by Abdel Sellou. As its opening scene unfolded and I laughed along as its filmmakers intended I knew that this movie and I were on the same wavelength. It's a feel good movie that earns our affections rather than manipulating us, thanks in part to moments such as Driss playfully mocking Philippe's handicap, which Philippe thoroughly enjoys. The filmmaking is gentle but brimming with life and Sy and Cluzet have magnificent chemistry. The building of their unlikely friendship is absolutely believable and we feel every laugh and moment of heartbreak with them. "The Intouchables" is a beautifully made film that I will recommend to anyone and everyone. It is in French with English subtitles. If you write this movie off because you're the sort of person who doesn't "like to read when I watch movies," then you are missing out my friend. Get over it for at least of a couple of hours and enjoy this heartfelt and thoroughly wonderful movie. In the Seattle area it is currently playing at the Metro, Pacific Place, and Bellevue's Lincoln Square. 9/10.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

In film the elderly tend to get about as much focus as they do in life. They're often marginalized, even belittled by younger generations, intentionally or unintentionally. With "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel," we get a rare film that focuses on the hopes and dreams of those who are still hoping and dreaming well into their golden years. Evelyn (Judi Dench) recently lost her husband and can only pay off his debts by selling their home. Graham (Tom Wilkinson) is a newly retired high court judge carrying an old emotional scar. Norman (Ronald Pickup) is endlessly enthusiastic, if slightly clueless, in his quest for love. Madge (Celia Imrie), wants to shake things up in her life, leaving her bad marriages behind her. Muriel (Maggie Smith) is an unabashedly racist woman in need of a hip replacement. Douglas and Jean (Bill Nighy and Penelope Wilton, last seen as a married couple in "Shaun of the Dead") have lost their savings due to a bad investment in their daughter's internet startup and are openly struggling in their marriage. These strangers are brought together during a trip from Britain to India where they end up staying at the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel for the Elderly and Beautiful. Sonny (Dev Patel, "Slumdog Millionaire") is the young owner of the dilapidated hotel, and while he may possess no business sense whatsoever, he has a passion for transforming his hotel (handed down to him from his father) into a place so wonderful that its guests "will refuse to die." The only thing he loves more than his hotel is his girlfriend Sunaina (Tena Desae), who seems to be the only person who really believes in him. Based on a novel by Deborah Moggach, "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" is written by Ol Parker and directed by John Madden (the one who made "Shakespeare in Love," not the one guy who used to shout, "BOOM!" and draw yellow circles on your television). It's a film that I very much wanted to like and one that really does have many good qualities. The cast is terrific across the board and Parker and Madden have a respect for their characters and for the elderly that isn't often seen on film. The movie falters due to its often by the numbers nature. It's not so much predictability as it is familiarity that's the issue. So much of what these characters experience feels as though it's come from many other movies before it. It lessens the emotional impact of many dramatic moments as well as the effectives of the comedic elements. What you get is a perfectly pleasant movie but one that you know full well had the potential to be much better than it is. This isn't helped by its length. It isn't the length itself that's the problem, it's the way the movie keeps stretching itself out. At 2 hours and 4 minutes and with almost as many endings as the third "Lord of the Rings" it's at least 20 minutes longer than it needs to be. While I appreciate that each character is developed and deserves to have his or her own story told without being shortchanged, it all just adds up to being too much. Each character's own story could have made a very good film so it's a shame they're all stuffed into the same movie. "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" is not a movie I would recommend to those who were not already interested but if you have been wanting to see it then you certainly should. There are some very good elements here. I wish they could have worked together to make a great film. 6.5/10.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

"The Avengers" and "Polisse"

I saw two movies this weekend. One that everyone in the world (except for me seemingly) had seen already and another that few outside of France have ever heard of. We'll start with the biggun. The Avengers - For the past few years I have been annoyed by "The Avengers." The need to set the stage for it found the makers of "Iron Man 2," "Thor," and "Captain America" making compromises that weakened their own films. "Captain America" in particular was harmed by not being allowed to have its own ending. All of that said, once I finally saw the first trailer for Marvel's superhero extravaganza I found myself very much looking forward to it. If somehow you haven't seen this box-office juggernaut yet the plot involves Loki (Tom Hiddleston), brother of Thor, and his quest for the Tesseract, a tremendously powerful energy cube. In fact, Loki is so keen on possessing it that he travels across dimensions for it and obtains it without much trouble. S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) sees only one way to get it back and to defeat Loki: the Avengers Initiative. If all goes according to Fury's plan, Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans), Dr. Bruce Banner/the Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), and Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.) will band together to save the world from Loki's plan to rule it. But personalities clash and when those personalities have superpowers the good guys find themselves in serious trouble. Written by Joss Whedon (who also directed) and Zak Penn, "The Avengers" is the movie you'd hope it would be. It's a ton of fun but there's more to it than that. The characters make sense. The early internal strife isn't there simply so they can have fights with one another. It comes from somewhere real and we understand why Tony Stark and Steve Rogers don't get along. This all makes the eventual moment they all become a real team all the more satisfying and believeable. Whedon does a fantastic job with the material and puts his stamp on the dialogue without making it sound like a glorified episode of "Buffy" or "Firefly." The performances of Downey, Evans, Hiddleston, and Ruffalo are terrific while Johansson never seems quite comfortable, which is odd considering she'd played her character previously in "Iron Man 2." "The Avengers" has been embraced the world over due to its sense of fun and its heart. It's a big smart blockbuster and that is exactly what it needed to be. 8.5/10. Polisse - For me there's just nothing quite like a great cop movie. Truly great ones however can be difficult to come by. In a subgenre with so many entries how often do you really see something unique? What is noteable about "Polisse" is that it at once feels very much like a cop film while simultaneously feeling like something else entirely. It won't end up ranking alongside "The French Connection" or "L.A. Confidential" but it is very good and brings a fresh take to the genre. Directed and co-written by Maiwenn, "Polisse" follows the Child Protection Unit of the Paris police force. Every day its members deal with the ugly side of humanity. What makes the film so engrossing is its focus on the ordinary lives of the people who do this emotionally draining job day after day. It's the lunchtime interactions, the home lives, and the mundane and even lighthearted moments on the job itself that Maiwenn and the ensemble cast beautifully bring to life. Another fascinating aspect of the film is its episodic nature. Many cases begin but we rarely see them through to resolution and it would appear that is also true for these characters who must look at each case with as much objectivity as possible. "Do you always believe the children?" one suspect asks during an interview, which is a perfectly reasonable question. When it comes to monstrous crimes involving children there is a tendency for many to assume guilt before a single fact is in. It really can take a special kind of person to be able to not jump to that knee jerk reaction and these characters are able to do that. "Polisse" packs a lot of content, characters, and tonal shifts into a single film. I found myself wishing it was a TV pilot instead of a movie as clearly these are all characters who have enough depth to be interesting week after week. I imagine that it will be one of the more well received films at this year's SIFF and I hope it will get a proper U.S. release soon. If you get the chance this is definitely one to see. 9/10.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Hunger Games

Unlike most everyone I know, I have not yet read the wildly popular Suzanne Collins novel The Hunger Games. My initial impression based upon a quick synopsis of the story was that it was "The Running Man" with a teenage girl playing Arnold Schwarzenegger. As it happens there's a little bit of truth to that but as most everyone reading this review already knows it's far from the whole story.
For those of you unfamiliar with the story, "The Hunger Games" is set in Panem, a nation that sprang up after an unsuccessful uprising presumably in North America 74 years before. Panem's one real city, the Capitol is the seat of all wealth and power while twelve outlying districts languish in poverty. As punishment for the uprising the Capitol has an annual "reaping" from all 12 districts. These "reapings" entail choosing one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 to represent their districts in the annual Hunger Games. They are then sent out into the "arena" in which they are forced to fight to the death in front of a rabid television audience. Only one out of the twenty four will survive.Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence, "Winter's Bone") is a sixteen year old in District 12. She provides for her mother and twelve year old sister Primrose (Willow Shields) by hunting illegally in the woods with her friend Gale (Liam Hemsworth). Since her father was killed in a coal mining accident, her bow and arrow have been a lifesaver for her family. When Primrose is chosen as the girl from District 12 Katniss knows it is a death sentence for her little sister. Desperately she volunteers to go in Prim's place as "tribute." Meanwhile, sixteen year old Peeta (Josh Hutcherson, "The Kids Are All Right") is chosen as the boy.
Katniss and Peeta do not go immediately to the arena. First they must train and receive mentorship from a previous winner (Woody Harrelson), all while appearing on television with colorful host and Hunger Games commentator Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci, who's clearly having a lot of fun).Directed by Gary Ross ("Seabiscuit"), "The Hunger Games" is written by Ross, Billy Ray ("Shattered Glass"), and Collins herself. What they have created- at least from the standpoint of someone who's not read the books- is the perfect popcorn movie. Strangely for its dystopian premise it is actually extremely accessible which is no doubt the key to its mass appeal. Most every step of the way I felt I knew what was to come next and more often than not I was right. This wasn't disappointing however. The choices felt right as though most every decision is what you felt should happen. (I would imagine the book plays out the same way.) It's incredibly involving as well. When you finally do get into the arena, which seemed surprisingly far into the the movie, the sense of tension is remarkably strong. It's a real credit to the quality of the storytelling that the story is engrossing rather than horrifying. Remember, in this world 23 children are being sent to their deaths for the sake of entertainment.
All in all, the film is well cast. Established stars such as Tucci, Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, and Donald Sutherland give fine, often theatrical performances, while some of the younger actors such as Hutcherson and Amandla Stenberg (Rue) do good work. It's Lawrence's star making performance as Katniss that is truly remarkable. Already the recipient of a well deserved Oscar nomination for "Winter's Bone," Lawrence makes us truly believe that Katniss not only can but will win. Even when the situation is dire and she's outnumbered there's a sense that she's not really the one who's in trouble. It never comes off as a cheap "girl power" gimmick though. Katniss Everdeen isn't merely an archetypal tough girl, she's a real character with depth.
As the film ended I still had questions but questions that I feel confident will be answered in its subsequent sequels. "The Hunger Games" is a very entertaining film with far more intelligence than the average popcorn movie. I very much look forward to seeing what happens next. 8/10.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Lorax

I knew I was in trouble during the opening song of "The Lorax." It stunk with the kind of smug preachiness that never goes over well for me. "Will the whole movie be like this?" I asked myself. Unfortunately the answer turned out to be (mostly) yes.
Young Ted Wiggins (voice of Zac Efron) has a crush on Audrey (Taylor Swift), a neighbor a few years older than he is. The two have only ever known a world made entirely of plastic, which even includes trees. Aloysius O'Hare (Rob Riggle), the mayor of their home town of Thneedville, also owns the most powerful corporation in town. He's so powerful in fact that he's able to sell the people of Thneedville air in a bottle and the citizens love him for it. Audrey has a fascination however. A fascination with real trees and a great desire to see one. Ted of course makes it his mission to find a real tree and bring it to her. This sends him on a journey outside of town to a wasteland inhabited only by the Once-ler (Ed Helms). The Once-ler explains to Ted that he is responsible for the disappearance of real trees from Thneedville and he tells his story of how he met the Lorax (Danny DeVito).
The Lorax was a friend to all of the creatures of the world, but most of all, to the trees. When the young Once-ler chopped a single one down to begin his business of selling "thneeds," the Lorax appeared to mourn its loss and to prevent another one from being cut down. The Once-ler promised him that he wouldn't chop down another tree but his greed got the better of him and before long he'd cut down every truffula tree in sight.
Ted hopes that he'll be able to find another tree to show Audrey, while O'Hare will do anything in his power to stop the potential threat to his business.
I've always been a Dr. Seuss fan but my familiarity with this particular story was limited to seeing the 1972 TV special about 20 years ago. I accepted going in that its message might be laid on a little thick but this went well beyond the bounds of say, even "Cars 2." Watching it is like being awash in a sea of liberal guilt for 86 minutes to the point where you wonder how the filmmakers thought anyone could possibly enjoy it. There's nothing wrong with having a message in a film but you wrap it up inside a story that's entertaining or moving because we enjoy its world and care about its characters. "Wall-E" accomplished that with flying colors. The makers of "The Lorax" seemed to take the opposite approach. Its preachiness causes much of the comedy to fall flat and inspires us to either not care about its characters or dislike them altogether.
One of the reasons Dr. Seuss was so great was that he understood that one has to care about what happens to the people, animals,...trees in a story in order to get anything out of it. On that count this movie gets it wrong. 4/10.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

"The Secret World of Arrietty" and "Act of Valor"

The Secret World of Arrietty - Studio Ghibli is considered by some to be the Pixar of Japan (or is Pixar the American Studio Ghibli?). Its films, comprised mainly of the work of Hayao Miyazaki, have dazzled children and adults around the world for decades. Their latest, based upon the popular Mary Norton novel, The Borrowers, tells the story of miniscule people who live in the walls and under the floorboards of human homes. Arrietty (voiced for the American release by Bridgit Mendler) is about to be thirteen and is very excited about her "first borrowing." She'll be accompanying her father Pod (Will Arnett) on a mission to get some necessary items from the kitchen of their hosts. Her mother Homily (Amy Poehler) frets for her daughter's safety.
The venture seems to be successful until a human child, Shawn (David Henrie), who is around Arrietty's age, sees her from his bed. Arrietty has been taught all her life to fear humans but Shawn is a gentle soul and she seems to know it. The frail, bed-ridden Shawn seeks out a new friend, while Arrietty tries to reconcile what she's been told her whole life with her own intuition.
Written by Miyazaki and Keiko Niwa, "The Secret World of Arrietty" is directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi. It's a very quiet and thoughtful film and tells a nice, if somewhat slight, story. If you're a Miyazaki fan it probably won't top your list but you will enjoy it. 7/10.

Act of Valor - Going into this unique film I knew that it starred real active duty Navy Seals. This would mean it would have spectacular action sequences, the likes of which we've never seen before. It also meant that I would lower my expectations as far as acting and dialogue were concerned. These guys put their lives on the line in dangerous situations and kill terrorists for a living. I'm willing to look past the fact that they don't possess the acting chops of Edward Norton. This movie would have to be judged by a different standard.
Having said all of that it's difficult not to judge it by well, the same standard as anything else. As expected, the action scenes in which the Seals really get to show what they can do, are incredible. It's the inclusion of a narrative that is problematic. Making a documentary style drama that didn't require these men to act outside of the action scenes surely would have worked better. As it is, the non-combat dialogue scenes amongst the Seals are limited but it's still asking more of them than should have been asked and the scenes are meant to be powerful. I don't blame the non-actor actors for this, I blame the filmmakers who asked them to do that kind of dramatic heavy lifting.
There is, it should be said, one moment in which one of these non-actors gets to shine in a one on one face off. Senior Chief Petty Officer Miller (we are given no full names of characters or Seal actors), whose overall performance is a little less wooden than the rest of the Seals, interrogates a captured suspect (played by actor Alex Veadov) aboard the suspect's own yacht. In this moment, we see a man with a playful streak to his menace. ("You've never seen 'Star Trek?' That's insane.") As the scene progresses he becomes more terrifying by the second, using nothing but his words. Knowing he interrogates real terror suspects for a living made me feel that much safer. It's the one genuinely good piece of Seal acting in the film and it is the most memorable scene in the entire movie.
Honestly, I feel bad saying anything negative about a film that so positively portrays the people who protect this country every day. There are many things to recommend here but I can't go so far as to say that "Act of Valor" is a truly good movie. You just can't ask non-actors to carry emotionally powerful scenes like so many key moments in this film are meant to be. While I certainly never expected them to be great actors, the filmmakers shouldn't have expected them to be either. It's a glaring fault that I just can't ignore. 6/10.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Sound of Noise

The cop film, while being one of my favorite genres, rarely yields true originality anymore. But this highly inventive Swedish comedy takes the cop film in a direction we've never seen- or heard- before.
Amadeus Warnebring (Bengt Nilsson) was raised by musical prodigies and his younger brother is now the conductor of the most respected orchestra in Sweden. But being tone-deaf meant Amadeus and his family knew from a young age his future would lay elsewhere. Now he's a detective on the trail of a group of musical terrorists, whose aim is to shake up the world around them through vigilante acts of percussion.
The terrorists in question include four remarkably talented drummers with a disdain for the average piece of music and the law. They are led by a conductor named Magnus (Magnus Borjeson) and Sanna (Sanna Persson), whose wild musical experimentation got her kicked out of music school years earlier. This hasn't deterred her exploration in the least. The plan the six hatch is to perform a concert in four movements around their city. Not to kill anyone, not for money, but to bring exciting music to a world they feel sadly lacks it. The lengths they go to however are what make this a big case for the music hating Amadeus.
Written and directed by Ola Simonsson and Johannes Stjärne Nilsson, "Sound of Noise" has a spirit of fun that makes its premise really fly in ways that it wouldn't have had its creators been too smugly impressed with their own work. It has its flaws but they're largely forgiveable as the film as a whole is just so likeable. Its score, written by Bjoreson, and actually performed by his character's gang of "terrorists," is unlike any film score you've ever heard and perfectly captures the movie's world.
I'm very happy to recommend "Sound of Noise." Its one week run at the Varsity in Seattle ends tomorrow night but look for it soon on DVD and Blu-ray. 8/10.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Bob Awards

It’s that time again. Time for the film industry to be shaken up by the long and mighty arm of the Bob Awards. And time for me to reaffirm my nerdiness for yet another year. As you may remember, there are no trophies but winners will be receiving Red Robin gift certificates in the mail. Colin Firth squealed with delight upon receiving his last year. Squealed! Unfortunately they don’t have Red Robin in the UK and it expired. He was very sad. The winners are…

Art Direction: “The Artist” – Robert Gould and Laurence Bennett

Cinematography: “The Tree of Life” – Emmanuel Lubezki

Costume Design: “Hugo” – Sandy Powell

Film Editing: “Drive” – Mat Newman

Makeup: “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2” – Nick Dudman, Amanda Knight, Lisa Tomblin

Original Score: “The Artist” – Ludovic Bource

Original Song: “The Muppets” – “Man or Muppet” by Bret McKenzie

Sound: “Drive”

Visual Effects: “The Tree of Life”

Animated Film: “Winnie the Pooh” – In a time when animated studios are more and more concerned with appealing to adults, Disney and directors Stephen J. Anderson and Don Hall made something unabashedly intended for five year olds. In doing so they captured the true spirit of Milne’s characters and created a film for anyone who’s ever loved the Hundred Acre Wood. This is a wonderful little movie.

Supporting Actor: Albert Brooks – “Drive” – For decades Albert Einstein (his given name) has made us laugh and cringe in equal measure in the brilliant comedies he has written, directed, and starred in. This role is perfect for him because it is exactly what we’d never expect from him. I’d hate to say anything more to spoil it for those who’ve yet to see his work here. But what. A. Performance.

Supporting Actress: Elle Fanning – “Super 8” – In the movie within the movie, Fanning’s Alice Dainard is cast to give the film an emotional core. At just 13, Fanning provides this summer blockbuster with just that.

Actor: Jean Dujardin – “The Artist” – A few years ago Dujardin was a Bob Award nominee for “OSS 117.” At the time it was apparent he had more talent in his eyebrows than most actors do in their whole bodies. It’s incredible what a true talent can do without dialogue. With silence Dujardin makes us laugh, breaks our hearts, and then simply dazzles us. I don’t know how many other performers today could carry a silent film on their shoulders. Dujardin proves he can not only carry one, he can make it look easy.

Actress: Charlize Theron – “Young Adult” – Mavis Gary is delusional, incredibly unlikeable, and sadly unable to accept that she’s no longer 17. But there is so much more to this 37 year old ghost writer than that. Theron provides this character with a wealth of depth that keeps us from turning away in disgust, whether she’s trying to destroy a marriage or indulging in the Pile of Despair meal at the Kentacohut.

Monty Python Award for Best Ensemble Cast: “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” – Gary Oldman’s career best performance as cerebral British intelligence officer George Smiley isn’t the only exceptional work in this Cold War espionage tale. Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hardy, Colin Firth, Toby Jones, Mark Strong, Stephen Graham, and John Hurt are all in top form in this superb piece of filmmaking.

Adapted Screenplay: “Moneyball” – Steven Zaillian & Aaron Sorkin and Stan Chervin – The scribes behind “Schindler’s List” and “The Social Network” took a non-fiction book about the cold world of baseball statistics and turned it into an inspiring story about finding the value in every individual. The dialogue is artful yet completely realistic. Baseball fans (like me!) and non-baseball fans alike have united in their love of this film.

Original Screenplay: “Young Adult” – Diablo Cody – As critical as I was of some of the cringe-worthy dialogue in “Juno,” I never thought I’d ever truly be a Diablo Cody fan. But she has grown tremendously as a writer. She doesn’t just shove uncomfortable moments in front of us and “dare” us to laugh. This is a dark, cynical comedy, but one with empathy for its characters and an underlying sadness that gives it a sense of reality missing from “Juno.”

Director: (tie) Michel Hazanavicius – “The Artist,” Nicolas Winding Refn – “Drive” – The two most ambitious pieces of filmmaking last year were also the two most outstanding. Hazanavicius took a tremendous risk making a silent, black and white film in 2011. But his confidence shines through every beautiful frame of “The Artist.”
Refn meanwhile played with our expectations and displayed an understanding of the film buff’s mind that few directors show. Throughout “Drive” you told yourself that you knew what was going to happen next and he was counting on that, making it all the more exciting when he showed you how wrong you were.

Best Picture: “The Artist” – This is the first time in a long time that my favorite movie of the year is also (probably) Oscar’s. Most of its detractors haven’t seen it, believing that a silent black and white film will be too boring, staid, and self-important. The reality is that “The Artist” is a highly entertaining, vibrant, and joyous celebration of film and life. This is a wonderful movie that proves that a true work of art can be a joy to watch.

And now the fun stuff…

Funniest Movie: “Horrible Bosses”

Funniest Performance: Colin Farrell – “Horrible Bosses”

Most Entertaining Movie: “Super 8”

Favorite Quote: “How can you not be romantic about baseball?” – “Moneyball”

“Mind-bottling” Award for Best New Word: Kentacohut – “Young Adult”

Funniest Moment: Breaking into Pellitt’s house – “Horrible Bosses”

Best Dramatic Moment: Hatteberg pinch hits – “Moneyball”

Favorite Scene: (tie) Freeing Joey from No Man’s Land - “War Horse,” “Vladimir Claus” leads British intelligence in the singing of the Soviet anthem – “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”

Best Action Sequence: Scaling the Burj Khalifa – “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol”

Best Fight Scene: Harry vs. Voldemort – “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2”

“Sky Captain” Award for the movie that makes you feel like you’re 10 years old again: “Super 8”

“Hoosiers” Award for Inspirational Movie that’s actually inspiring: (tie) “Moneyball,” “War Horse”

“Withnail and I” Award for Best Friendship: Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, and Jason Sudeikis – “Horrible Bosses”

Nick and Nora Charles Award for Best Couple: Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo – “The Artist”

Asta Award for Best Supporting Dog: Uggie – “The Artist”

Best Family Film: “The Muppets”

Most Loveable Movie: “The Muppets”

Best Projectile Vomiting: (tie) Gabriel Basso – “Super 8,” Kate Winslet – “Carnage”

Best Cameo: Jon Hamm – “Bridesmaids” (I know he’s in a few scenes, but still…)

“Unforgiven” Award for Most Badass Movie: “Drive”

Clint Eastwood Award for Most Badass Performance: Ryan Gosling – “Drive”

“XXX” Award for Best Absurd Action Extravaganza: “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol”

Best Trailer: “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”

Best Poster: “Winnie the Pooh”

Best Opening Credits Sequence: “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”

Best Movie You Probably Missed: “Carnage”

Best Car Chase: The opening of “Drive.”

Best Sequel: “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2”

Worst Sequel: “Cars 2”

Best Remake: “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”

Best Title for a bad movie: “Hobo with a Shotgun”

Movie that everyone seemed to like but me: “Attack the Block”

Biggest Disappointment: “The Rum Diary”

Worst Trailer: “Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star.” Yes, even worse than “Zookeeper,” “Chipwrecked,” and “Jack and Jill.”

Best Soundtrack: “The Muppets”

Best Vocal Performance: Bill Nighy – “Arthur Christmas”

Performer of the Year: Ryan Gosling for his three excellent and vastly different performances in “Crazy, Stupid, Love,” “The Ides of March,” and “Drive.”

Best Ending: “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” (Not the resolution of the plot. The final few minutes to the sounds of “La Mer.”)

Thursday, February 02, 2012

The Bob Award Nominations

It's that time again. Time for me to overthink the past year in movies and try to rectify what Oscar got wrong. Because clearly I know better. Here are the nominations for this year's Bob Awards. The winners will be announced within the next couple of weeks.

Art Direction:
The Artist
Captain America: The First Avenger
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

The Artist
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
The Tree of Life

Costume Design:
The Artist
The Iron Lady
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
X-Men: First Class

Film Editing:
The Artist
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Super 8

The Artist
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2
X-Men: First Class

Original Score:
The Adventures of Tintin – John Williams
The Artist – Ludovic Bource
Drive – Cliff Martinez
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 – Alexandre Desplat
Super 8 – Michael Giacchino
War Horse – John Williams

Original Song:
Captain America: The First Avenger – “Star-Spangled Man”
The Muppets – “Life’s a Happy Song”
The Muppets – “Man or Muppet”
Winnie the Pooh – “So Long”

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol
Super 8
The Tree of Life
War Horse

Visual Effects:
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2
Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol
Super 8
The Tree of Life

Animated Film:
Arthur Christmas
Winnie the Pooh

Supporting Actor:
Albert Brooks – Drive
Colin Farrell – Horrible Bosses
Jonah Hill – Moneyball
Patton Oswalt – Young Adult
Christopher Plummer – Beginners
Alan Rickman – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2

Supporting Actress:
Jessica Chastain – The Tree of Life
Elle Fanning – Super 8
Melanie Laurent – Beginners
Melissa McCarthy – Bridesmaids
Octavia Spencer – The Help
Shailene Woodley – The Descendants

George Clooney – The Descendants
Jean Dujardin – The Artist
Ryan Gosling – Drive
Gary Oldman – Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Brad Pitt - Moneyball
John C. Reilly – Carnage

Berenice Bejo – The Artist
Viola Davis – The Help
Kirsten Dunst – Melancholia
Jodie Foster - Carnage
Rooney Mara – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Charlize Theron – Young Adult

Monty Python Award for Best Ensemble Cast:
The Artist
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2
Horrible Bosses
Super 8
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Adapted Screenplay:
Carnage – Yasmina Reza & Roman Polanski
The Descendants – Alexander Payne and Nat Faxon & Jim Rash
Drive – Hossein Amini
Moneyball – Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin & Stan Chervin
The Muppets – Jason Segel & Nicholas Stoller
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy – Bridget O’Connor & Peter Straughan

Original Screenplay:
The Artist – Michel Hazanavicius
Beginners – Mike Mills
Horrible Bosses – Michael Markowitz and John Francis Daley & Jonathan Goldstein
Midnight in Paris – Woody Allen
Win Win – Tom McCarthy & Joe Tiboni
Young Adult – Diablo Cody

Michel Hazanavicius – The Artist
Alexander Payne – The Descendants
Nicolas Winding Refn – Drive
Bennett Miller – Moneyball
J.J. Abrams – Super 8
Tomas Alfredson – Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Best Picture:
The Artist
The Descendants
The Muppets
Super 8
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Young Adult

Monday, January 30, 2012

"Carnage," "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" (take 2), and "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows"

Carnage - 2011 was not a particularly strong year for comedy so thankfully one of the last great movies to be released in it turned out to be pure comic gold. Black gold really.
The Cowans, Nancy and Alan (Kate Winslet and Christoph Waltz) are visiting the New York City apartment of the Longstreets, Penelope and Michael (Jodie Foster and John C. Reilly). These couples are not however, old friends. A few days earlier their children had gotten into an argument which led to Zachary Cowan hitting Ethan Longstreet in the face with a tree branch, costing Ethan two teeth. The intention is to discuss the situation as civil adults and decide how best to move forward for the sake of their kids. Things do not go as planned.
Directed by Roman Polanski (who co-wrote the screenplay with Yasmina Reza who wrote the original play), "Carnage" spends all of its 79 minutes in the Longstreet home (with a moment or two out in the hallway). It examines the systematic breakdown of civility and how these four seemingly intelligent and evolved adults devolve into behavior more childish than that of their own children. Reza and Polanski examine all of this in the funniest way imaginable.
All four performances are stellar and it's wonderful fun to watch the shifts in mood and alliance. Two characters at each others throats one moment bond the next at the drop of a hat. Reilly and Waltz are particularly funny, Reilly as the character who seems to change the most over the course of the film, while Waltz's Alan seems to have been the most honest from the beginning.
"Carnage" is sharp as a razor and often howlingly funny. It's one of the best films of the year and sadly the most overlooked, critically and commercially. 9/10.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy - I don't know if I've ever written two separate reviews of a movie before but with this film I felt it necessary.
This British spy film set during the height of the Cold War follows the brilliant ice cold intelligence veteran George Smiley (Gary Oldman) and his search for a mole in MI-6. In my initial review I declared that while I liked the film it was, "incredibly difficult to follow" and "a little too subtle even for me." The movie stuck with me for a couple of weeks though and I was convinced if I saw it again that I'd have an easier time following it and I hoped that by extension I would come to love it.
As it happened I understood for the most part how all of the pieces fit this time around but I came to love the film for reasons other than that. The world the film (directed by Tomas Alfredson of "Let the Right One In") places you in is incredibly absorbing. Being set in 1974 allows us to see a fascinating time in the intelligence community. The old guard who has been at the forefront of the Cold War since it began (including Smiley and John Hurt's Control) is being pushed aside by younger officers who think they know better (played by Toby Jones, Ciarin Hinds, and Colin Firth), causing an internal pettiness that only further muddies the already murky waters.
With a career best performance by Oldman, "Tinker" also has an excellent supporting cast. Firth, Hurt, Tom Hardy, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Mark Strong are all pitch perfect. Alfredson's direction and the screenplay by Peter Straughan and the late Bridget O'Connor make the Cold War spy game come alive and the challenge of following the film ultimately makes it more rewarding. I look forward to watching it a third time and understanding even more.
I can't quite put the stamp of perfection on it but such as it is, "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" is very high on my list of the best films of 2011. 9/10.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows - If you saw Guy Ritchie's first "Sherlock Holmes" in 2009 then you know what to expect from this sequel which re-teams Sherlock (Robert Downey, Jr.) and his dear friend, Dr. Watson (Jude Law).
When Watson's honeymoon is rudely interrupted by Holmes's nemesis, Professor Moriarty ("Mad Men's" Jared Harris), Watson reluctantly agrees to join Holmes on one final case. There's more plot than this but why bother trying to explain it? Ritchie's "Holmes" movies are about fun and he delivers it well this time. While not as fresh as its predecessor, it doesn't suffer from the "kitchen sink" syndrome that so many action oriented sequels suffer from. Yes, there are a lot of frenetic action set pieces here but none more than in the first movie. Noomi Rapace (the original "Girl with the Dragon Tattoo") and Stephen Fry as Sherlock's brother Mycroft add to the fun as well.
It's not award winning stuff but it's quite entertaining and that's all I wanted. 7/10.