Posts Tagged ‘2010 Oscars’


The King’s Speech (2010)

February 23, 2011

Starring: Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter
Director: Robert Schwentke (“John Adams” mini-series)
Quick Thoughts: The King’s Speech opens with Colin Firth’s character, the future King George VI, preparing to address an audience of thousands over a megaphone. There’s sweat on his brow, his eyes are watering, and he’s visibly shaken. You know this isn’t going to end well. It’s actually painful watching him stammer helplessly, unable to even complete a sentence, embarrassing himself in front of his legions. Part of you wants to laugh, but most of you is horrified. Can you imagine being a man of enormous power, required to be the voice of your people, when speaking publicly is your absolute worst nightmare? I’ve actually heard criticism of The King’s Speech claiming that the story isn’t particularly strong or interesting, but I personally find the King’s predicament absolutely fascinating. If this story was about a regular Joe with a speech impediment the dilemma wouldn’t be nearly as dire nor the impact as strong, but this is royalty we’re talking about here and his problem is severe. Though The King’s Speech is clearly a dramatic film, it had numerous hilarious moments. I was laughing out loud through numerous scenes, including this exchange:

Lionel Logue: I believe sucking smoke into your lungs will kill you.
King George: My physicians say it relaxes the throat.
Logue: They’re idiots.
King George: They’ve all been knighted.
Logue: Makes it official then.

And the script is filled with funny moments like that. Obviously, Colin Firth’s performance is phenomenal here. Successfully pulling off the stammering dialogue is impressive enough, but he does it while exuding the body language of someone that is completely void of self-confidence. Amazing. Anything short of a Best Actor statue is CRIMINAL. Nothing comes close. The entire acting ensemble is solid, from Helena Bonham Carter in an oddly subdued role (sedatives?) as George’s hopeful and supportive wife, to the excellent Geoffrey Rush as his speech therapist, all the way down to Timothy Spall in a small, but great role playing a smug Winston Churchill. The King’s Speech has more Oscar nominations than any 2010 film and deserves all of them. The Social Network is favored to win Best Picture and even though I love that movie, I know I wouldn’t bet my money against The King’s Speech. An excellent movie with a triumphant story and great acting, and easily one of the best films of the year.
Viewings: 1
Replay Value: Character dramas don’t tend to have a ton of replay value, but the script is funny enough and Firth’s performance is so good that repeat viewings are a must. I know I’ll be buying it.
Sequel Potential: N/A
Oscar Potential: 12 nominations, including Best Picture, Best Screenplay and acting noms for Firth, Carter and Rush.
Nudity: None
Grade: 8/10 (Excellent)
Recommendation: Obviously, this is must see cinema.


Precious: Based On The Novel Push By Sapphire

August 5, 2010

I’d been avoiding Precious for a while before I finally got around to watching it. Something was telling me it was going to be slow… and boring… and I just couldn’t muster up the stomach to watch it. Even the title of the movie was holding me back. The fact that someone as obnoxious and seemingly untalented as Mo’Nique won an Oscar was extremely intriguing, however, and I just couldn’t ignore the accolades thrust upon this film any longer. I’m glad to say it was my most pleasant surprise of any 2009 film.

I was right about one thing… Precious is not an easy film. The story is dark and some of the characters are hard to watch, particularly Mo’Nique as Precious’ abusive, alcoholic mother Mary. Precious’ circumstances are grim; she’s pregnant with a second child from her own father, a fact that creates even more tension in her relationship with her mother. Rather than realizing the traumatic experience of her child, Mary blames Precious for tempting her husband and takes out her own feelings of inadequacy on her daughter, often physically. Meanwhile, Precious is struggling to fit in at school and is recommended to try alternative schooling, where she meets her new teacher Ms. Rain. Once here, Precious begins a quest to break free of her violent and demoralizing upbringing.

I never read the book this film was adapted from, so I have no idea how faithful the script is to the source material. Either way, the story here is one worth watching. Yeah, it’s not an easy watch, but most films dealing with tough themes aren’t. Sapphire has created a character that is easy to root for because at her core, she seems like a good person and is clearly a victim of circumstances. You will definitely be rooting for her.

The best thing about Precious is the acting. I would have bet a lot of money against Mo’Nique if someone ever suggested she would win an Oscar, but she KILLS her role in this movie. She’s brutal and heart-wrenching as Precious’ troubled mom. It’s one of those performances, like Heath Ledger in last year’s The Dark Knight or Anne Hathaway in Rachel Getting Married, that make you go “where did that come from?” Gabourey Sidibe plays the title character and watching the movie you think she’s doing a decent job, but only because you have no idea who this actress really is. I was watching Sidibe in her audition and in various other extras on the DVD and it’s pretty clear that she has some serious acting chops. Her real personality sounds more like a white valley girl than a troubled, black woman so her transformation makes the performance all the more spectacular. As if Mo’Nique wasn’t surprising enough, I found myself enthralled by the woman playing Mrs. Weiss, Precious’ welfare counselor, and was somewhat shocked and appalled to discover that it was Mariah Carey. I really thought she did a terrific job and even though she looked like a Plain Jane in this movie, her beauty still shown through, as I found myself attracted to her and wondering who the actress was. I was wondering after the movie what I would have thought of her performance if I had known who she was from the jump. I feel like I would have been inclined to hate on her… but alas, I will never know.

Precious is a tough movie, but it’s one worth sitting through. It’s not my favorite movie of 2009 and probably not the best, but I’ll be damned if it isn’t the most powerful. As it stands, Precious would probably find a spot in my top five films of 2009. Highly recommended, if only for Mo’Nique’s brilliant performance.

Grade: A-
Viewings: 1
Replay Value: Not much… a great, one time film, but nothing I’d add to my DVD collection.
Oscar Watch: Nominated for six Oscars, including Best Picture and Director, with wins for Mo’Nique in Best Supporting Actress and Geoffrey Fletcher for Best Adapted Screenplay. Gabourey Sidibe was nominated for Best Actress.
Nudity: A couple of rape scenes that are obviously more stomach-turning than erection-inducing.


2009 Movie Reviews Updated

February 6, 2010

I updated my 2009 Movie Reviews with grades for all the movies I can remember seeing in 2009. I added brief thoughts for most of the movies and the movies with no added thoughts can be clicked on for full reviews.


My Avatar Experience

January 25, 2010

What I’m about to say doesn’t really make any sense. I’m a self-proclaimed movie buff and lover of great film-making. James Cameron has been one of the most successful and talented directors in my lifetime. There was tons of hype prior to the film’s release and it has recently passed The Dark Knight as the nation’s second highest grossing film of all-time, only trailing Cameron’s Titanic . Word of mouth for the film has been pretty spectacular. Yet, somehow, six weeks after its release, I woke up this morning and I still hadn’t seen Avatar.

2009 hasn’t exactly been the most active movie year for me. It’s almost February 2010, but I’ve only seen a handful of movies from last year and nearly all of the films on Oscar’s radar are unseen by me. Perhaps life has finally gotten in the way of my hobbies. I broke up with my girlfriend (and movie-watching partner) in March and I’m yet to find a reliable replacement or someone that watches movies and appreciates them the same way I do. My role at my job has also become much more demanding and time-consuming. I only work nights, so I prefer to spend the few precious morning and afternoon hours I do have, either sleeping or catching up with responsibilities unrelated to my job. Or maybe I’ve simply become a lazy bum. Needless to say, getting to the theaters has been tough.

Well, the Avatar hype machine finally caught up to me this past week and woke me from my slumber. Somehow I had managed to dodge any news of the film’s success and critical praise for five weeks. My former roommate and fellow film afficionado informed me of Avatar’s record-breaking box-office results, a clear sign of great word of mouth. He also chimed in with his own opinion, saying it was a great movie and I absolutely had to see it in 3D. I went ahead and put it on my To Do List. The last straw was when a group of ladies in their 50s and 60s sat at one of my tables at work and raved about how amazing the movie was. They insured me that I needed to see it immediately. I made plans to see it the next day.

Despite my buddy’s insistence, I still wasn’t sold on the idea of seeing it in 3D. Sure, it sounded interesting, but I wasn’t about to travel out of my way to make it happen and the idea of wearing some goofy ass red and blue glasses for roughly three hours didn’t sound all that awesome. Luckily, the theater closest to me was showing it in 3D, a technology I didn’t even know it was capable of. I can say with confidence that no one I talked to about Avatar did the 3D in this film justice. I don’t know what I was expecting. The only film I’ve ever seen that had any 3D in it was Freddy’s Dead almost 20 years ago, so I really wasn’t prepared for what was in store. I was sold before the trailers were finished. The advances that have been made in 3D technology since my initiation 20 years ago are astronomical. The Cheshire Cat was within reach despite the fact that I was sitting in the middle of the theater.

Movies have always had the capability of taking you on an adventure. Even so, films still didn’t have the means of fully immersing you in their world like a book can. Not anymore. Avatar plunges you right in the middle of Pandora with the rest of the characters. Creatures were screeching right in front of my face, debris was flying at me, and actors were jumping off the screen. It was amazing. The action sequences were more exhilarating than any roller coaster I’ve been on. I was stunned. I can’t imagine watching this movie in any other format. I’m curious to see how they are going to handle the DVD and if it’s going to hold up on my piece of shit TV. I can’t even fathom how awesome this movie would be in IMAX 3D. I might have to make that my next priority.

From a technical standpoint, Avatar is going to be remembered as a ground-breaking film. I can’t say it’s the first film to fully realize the potential of 3D, but it’s certainly the first mainstream blockbuster film to utilize it successfully that I’m aware of. In my lifetime there are a few films that stand out in my mind as bullet points in changing the way movies are made. The first one to really wow me with special effects and film-making trickery was Robocop. Not only was the protagonist made of metal and bad ass, but the robot Alex Murphy fought against was particularly awesome and unique for the time period. Half a decade later, another James Cameron film, Terminator 2: Judgement Day did things with special effects that had never been seen before. The T-1000, to this day, is still one of the dopest things I’ve ever seen on screen. Two years later, Steven Spielberg made dinosaurs look real in Jurassic Park. Can you imagine seeing that movie in 3D on an IMAX screen? Even though the quality of the JP franchise has diminished greatly since the original, the possibility of a T-Rex in 3D and Spielberg’s alleged increased involvement has me looking forward to the fourth installment. The next movie to stand out in my mind is The Matrix and the introduction of bullet time photography. Movies were trying to mimic Neo’s dance moves for years to follow. I should also mention Toy Story and Pixar for changing the way animation is done. The 2000s brought us CGI, which seems to have limitless possibilities and the tremendous advances in technology the past decade have kind of spoiled us to the point where it has become hard to truly impress us. Avatar and Real D 3D has managed to do just that, which is a pretty remarkable feat in this day and age. Trust me, unless I missed out on something major the past few years, you’ve never seen anything like this and you absolutely must watch Avatar… in theaters… in 3D. I seriously can’t emphasize this enough.

Fortunately, Avatar doesn’t rely completely on 3D to sell its tickets. All around, it’s a very well made and unique film. The world and creatures of Pandora are equally different and breath-taking. Cameron’s Navi civilization is strangely beautiful; it’s hard to tell where the make up ends and the computer generated effects begin, as even the slightest facial tics are finely detailed and loyal to the creatures’ emotions. Not only that, but the relationships of the characters with the animals and manipulation of the environment around them reminds me of JK Rowling’s ridiculously layered Harry Potter universe. Even the humans get to ride around in machines that make Robocop’s nemesis look like Bender from Futurama.

While Avatar is going to receive most of its accolades due to its presentation, the story is pretty damn good too. James Cameron deserves an Oscar nomination for the writing he did on this movie. Clearly, his imagination and talent goes beyond how to film a great movie. Sure, it’s hard to distinguish some of the minor Navi characters from each other, but the core of this story stems from Jake Sully’s relationship with the Navi Neytiri and both of these characters are fully realized and developed. You get emotionally invested in their adventure and there were at least a few moments that actually sent chills throughout my body, a sign that separates the great movies from the truly amazing ones.

Talking with a friend after the movie and hailing Avatar as one of the best films I’ve ever seen while predicting it as a lock for this year’s Best Picture Oscar, he quickly downplayed the flick’s greatness by claiming unoriginal themes and weak characters. Okay, sure, we’ve seen technologically disadvantaged and repressed societies overcome their suppressors hundreds of times before… but not like this… in 3D! And yeah, some of the Navi and human characters are shallow and quickly forgotten, but all of the important ones make their expected impact. So yes, I’m calling Avatar the best movie of 2009 and one of the most innovative films I’ve ever seen. I fully expect this movie to get a dozen Oscar noms and I’ll be shocked to see anything better in the near future.

Grade: A+