Friday, February 25, 2011

My 2011 Oscars Predictions

Ready for some gambling? Here are my predictions for tomorrow night's show:

* * *

Best Picture:

(Black Swan, The Fighter, Inception, The Kids Are All Right, The King's Speech, 127 Hours, The Social Network, Toy Story 3, True Grit, Winter's Bone)

In my humble opinion, Inception was not only the year's best film, it was one of the best movies ever made. Unfortunately, it was screened too early in the year for the Academy to remember, and even though the Oscar buzz for Best Picture initially started going for The Social Network, the awards year ended with a huge push for The King's Speech.

Should win: Inception

Will win: The King's Speech

Best Director:

(Darren Aronofsky for Black Swan, David O. Russell for The Fighter, Tom Hooper for The King's Speech, David Fincher for The Social Network, Joel Coen and Ethan Coen for True Grit)

Midway through the movie, The Social Network has a sailing contest sequence that is incredibly well-directed. Almost all of Darren Aronofsky's movies are that well-done. So if it was me, I would have gone for Aronofsky. But who ever asked me? To compensate for the The Social Network's Best Picture to loss to The King's Speech, Fincher will take the award home.

Should win: Darren Aronofsky

Will win: David Fincher

Best Actor:

(Javier Bardem in Biutiful, Jeff Bridges in True Grit, Jesse Eisenberg in The Social Network, Colin Firth in The King's Speech, James Franco in 127 Hours)

Can we not waste any time on this one?

Should win: Colin Firth

Will win: Colin Firth

Best Actress:

(Annette Bening in The Kids Are All Right, Nicole Kidman in Rabbit Hole, Jennifer Lawrence in Winter's Bone, Natalie Portman in Black Swan, Michelle Williams in Blue Valentine)

This will be so sad. Annette Bening is such an incredible actress, she's been nominated four times already, and lost the prior three to a younger actress (once to Jodie Foster, twice to Hillary Swank). This year, she'll probably lose again to another young hottie (Natalie Portman), while she's obviously done a better job in The Kids Are All Right.

Should win: Annette Bening

Will win: Natalie Portman

Best Supporting Actor:

(Christian Bale in The Fighter, John Hawkes in Winter's Bone, Jeremy Renner in The Town, Mark Ruffalo in The Kids Are All Right, Geoffrey Rush in The King's Speech)

Again, not much of a competition here.

Should win: Christian Bale

Will win: Christian Bale

Best Supporting Actress:

(Amy Adams in The Fighter, Helena Bonham Carter in The King's Speech, Melissa Leo in The Fighter, Hailee Steinfeld in True Grit, Jacki Weaver in Animal Kingdom).

Every year's wild card is buried in this category. Hands down, none of the nominees top Jacki Weaver's "Godmother" role in Animal Kingdom. Among the other four, until two weeks ago everything was going for Melissa Leo, but then ... she pulled a sleazy act, advertising herself in a tacky picture. Ever since, there's been a rush of attention around the 16-year old first-timer Hailee Steinfeld.

Should win: Jacki Weaver

Will win: Hailee Steinfeld

Best Original Screenplay:

(Another Year, The Fighter, Inception, The Kids Are All Right, The King's Speech)

Another tragedy will happen here. Christopher Nolan's 9-year-in-the-writing Inception screenplay, one of the most intelligent scripts ever written, will be passed over for The King's Speech - again because of bad timing in the case of Inception.

Should win: Inception

Will win: The King's Speech

Best Adapted Screenplay:

(127 Hours, The Social Network, Toy Story 3, True Grit, Winter's Bone)

Aaron Sorkin all the way. The Social Network is a movie running 2 hours purely on dialogue. Can't get any more exciting than that.

Should win: The Social Network

Will win: The Social Network

* * *

And predictions for other categories:

- Best Foreign Language Film: In a Better World (Denmark)

- Best Animated Feature Film: Toy Story 3

- Best Animated Short Film: The Gruffalo

- Best Documentary Feature Film: Inside Job

- Best Documentary Short Film: Killing in the Name

- Best Live Action Short Film: The Confession

- Best Editing: The Social Network

- Best Art Direction: Alice in Wonderland

- Best Cinematography: True Grit

- Best Makeup: The Wolfman

- Best Original Score: Inception

(I'm taking a real risk on this one. If it's going to be a King's Speech sweep tomorrow night, Alexander Desplat who has never won an Oscar should win for his soundtrack on this one. But I feel Hans Zimmer's soundtrack for Inception is too good to lose, even though Zimmer has already won an Oscar before, for The Lion King.)

- Best Original Song: 127 Hours ("If I Rise")

- Best Costume: Alice in Wonderland

- Best Sound Editing / Sound Mixing: Inception

- Best Visual Effects: Inception

* * *

The Oscar season started out as a Social Network year, but apparently, King's Speech will be the one.

See you after the show.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Breakfast Club (1985)

Director: John Hughes. Cast: Emilio Estevez, Molly Ringwald, Paul Gleason, Anthony Michael Hall, Judd Nelson, Ally Sheedy. 97 min. Rated R. Drama.

An oldie but goodie. The brutal honesty run amuck among five teenagers punished to a weekend 8-hour confinement in a high school library, strongly resonates even today - especially the worry: "Will we end up like our parents?". Even though this is an accurate time capsule of the 80's (correct me if I'm wrong), I'm glad I watched this John Hughes classic for the first time three decades later, to enjoy the cinematic representation of never-ending generation gaps, and the dilemma of peer trust/mistrust. If you haven't watched this, do so. If you have; watch it again.

Mo says:

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Them (Ils) (2006)

Director(s): David Moreau, Xavier Palud. Cast: Olivia Bonamy, Michaël Cohen. 77 min. Rated R. France/Romania. Horror/Thriller.

A French couple is terrorized in their house in the Romanian woods by a few sadistic strangers. The 2008 Hollywood horror film named, ahem, The Strangers, is probably the dumbed-down remake of this film, as the director here artistically uses shadows and bright lights to instill horror, rather than show the hecklers themselves (which makes me wish I had seen this before the Hollywood version). Without spoiling anything, the movie almost carries the same message as Hostel: What's up with some of the former Eastern Bloc people's upbringings? This would have gotten a Mojo if I hadn't seen The Strangers.

Mo says:

Machete (2010)

Director: Robert Rodriguez. Cast: Danny Trejo, Robert De Niro, Jessica Alba, Steven Seagal, Michelle Rodriguez, Jeff Fahey, Cheech Marin, Don Johnson, Lindsay Lohan. 105 min. Rated R. Actin/Comedy.

Inspired by one of the "fake" trailers from Tarantino's Grindhouse, this Rodriguez feature follows the same Tarantino-style funny gruesome violence, and post-modern homages to old trashy movies. The story makes a nice tie-in to the scenes seen in the trailer, but I was expecting more comedy than story. Unfortunately, Rodriguez takes the movie too serious, and makes it more an upgrade of his own Mexico trilogy (especially Once Upon a Time in Mexico) and a satire about illegal immigration, rather than a fun idiotic flick about nothing (which I was hoping for). Doesn't deliver what the Grindhouse trailer had promised.

Mo says:

Red (2010)

Director: Robert Schwentke. Cast: Bruce Willis, Mary-Louise Parker, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren, Karl Urban, Morgan Freeman, Rebecca Pidgeon, Richard Dreyfuss, Brian Cox, Ernest Borgnine. 111 min. Rated PG-13. Action/Comedy.

There are some actors whose mere presence in a movie is a pleasure; and Red has two of them: Willis, and Malkovich. So that makes this already a winner. Watching them joined by Freeman and Mirren as a group of oldie CIA agents (Retired, Extremely Dangerous) planning on bringing down a dirty government official, together with an heavenly ensemble of performers (just look at the names), makes the ride even more fun. Great for a two-hour weekend entertainment - but nothing beyond that.

Mo says:

Friday, February 11, 2011

Biutiful (2010)

Director: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu. Cast: Javier Bardem, Maricel Alvarez. 148 min. Rated R. Mexico/Spain. Drama.

Inarritu does not reproduce his love for parallel stories here, but definitely re-demonstrates his obsession with death. A petty criminal with a heart of gold running a bootleg-movie business and a Chinese sweatshop in Spain takes care of his two kids, is dying from cancer, has a manic-depressive wife, and whatever he ventures on leads to disaster. As though that wasn't enough, he can communicate with the dead too. Bardem was probably the only actor in Spain powerful enough to transcend such emotional depth. And I never thought Spaniards considered butterflies the physical embodiment of the dead also.

Mo says:

Lebanon (2009)

Director: Samuel Maoz. Cast: Yoav Donat, Itay Tiran, Oshri Cohen, Michael Moshonov. 93 min. Rated R. Israel/France/Lebanon /Germany. War.

Being an Israeli soldier must really suck. Following Wolfgang Peterson's masterpiece Das Boot (almost an entire movie in a submarine), this is the tank version of the same claustrophobic event. In itself, that is quite a feat. The director clearly demonstrates the human side of Israeli soldiers - their hesitations, feelings of guilt, and that the enemy in war is war itself. But the way the screenplay tries to limit the whole story into the confines of a tank makes some moments difficult to believe, if not logistically impossible. Worth a try - if you can take some gut-wrenching violence.

Mo says:

Stone (2010)

Director: John Curran. Cast: Robert De Niro, Edward Norton, Milla Jovovich, Frances Conroy. 105 min. Rated R. Drama.

Norton is a convicted jailbird, De Niro his prison counselor, and Jovovich his wife seducing De Niro into a scandalous affair, presumably to blackmail him into offering her husband a get-out-of-jail-free card. The story and characters are quite fuzzy here. Is Norton trying to prove De Niro's hypocrisy, justify torching of his own grandparents, or both? And if so, where does Jovovoich come in? Is she working for Norton (they don't seem to be colluding much), or conspiring on her own to prove ... what? Motivations don't add up here. Wish I'd listened to a friend's advice to stay away.

Mo says:

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Buried (2010)

Director: Rodrigo Cortes. Cast: Ryan Reynolds (and voices of Stephen Tobolowsky, Samantha Mathis). 95 min. Rated R. Spain/USA/France. Thriller.

How is that possible?! How in the world is that possible?! Making an entire movie, with only one actor, in a one cubic meter coffin buried underground (repeat after me: How is that possible?!). Now that's what I call filmmaking. This a modern times Hitchcockian experience - a study in using the least elements possible, and appointing all other responsibilities to the viewer's imagination. A once in a lifetime event, never to be repeated in any movie again. And the ending will keep your mouth wide open. Claustrophobics beware.

Mo says:

Mo Magic!