Back to School #72: Fish Tank (dir by Andrea Arnold)


fish_tank_katie_jarvis_michael_fassbender_1

Released in 20o9 (and appearing in American theaters in 2010), the British film Fish Tank is another one of those films that I love but occasionally have trouble watching.  Much like Thirteen, it’s a film that, in some ways, hits pretty close to home for me.  Though the film might be about a 15 year-old English girl living in a London council estate and I’m a Texas girl who grew up all over the Southwest, there’s a lot about Fish Tank to which I related.

The film tells the story of 15 year-old Mia (Katie Jarvis).  Mia lives in a tiny flat with her mother (Kierston Wareing), who appears to be only a few years older than her daughter, and her younger sister (Rebecca Griffiths).  She has recently been kicked out of school and is facing an undeniably bleak future.  She spends her time wandering around the estates, an oppressive atmosphere of concrete, poverty, and hostility.  When we first meet Mia, she is arguing with another girl over a dance routine.  The argument quickly turns violent and, as the film makes clear, that violence isn’t particularly shocking.  Mia is an angry girl, one who cannot relate to her family or her surroundings without striking out.  That’s what you do when you don’t have a future to look forward to.  You strike out at the present.

In fact, the only time that Mia is happy is when she’s dancing.  She breaks into deserted apartments so she can practice her routine and have a few moments of freedom.  And it’s not so much that Mia is a great dancer or that she’s had any training.  (In fact, actress Katie Jarvis was reportedly not comfortable with having to dance on camera.)  Instead, there’s a raw power to the way that Mia dances.  It’s the only non-destructive way that she has to get out her anger and to express herself.  It’s the only way that she has to let the world know that she’s special and, when she’s dancing, she’s in control of the future.

Things briefly look better when Mia’s mother starts to date the handsome Connor O’Reilly (Michael Fassbender).  At first, Connor seems almost perfect.  Along with bringing some momentary peace to the household, Connor is one of the few characters in the film to show anything resembling kindness to Mia.  Connor encourages her to go to an audition.  Connor takes the entire family out to the countryside, giving Mia a break from the oppressive atmosphere of the estates.  When Mia wades out into a pond and cuts her foot, Connor is the one who bandages it.  Connor seems to be perfect.  Of course, it helps that he’s played by a pre-12 Years A Slave Michael Fassbender.

But, of course, Connor isn’t perfect.

About halfway through the film, Fish Tank takes a disturbing turn and things proceed to get even more disturbing from there.  And I’m not going to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t seen Fish Tank. 

(I will however say that, much as Juno made it difficult for me to ever truly trust Jason Bateman, Fish Tank had the same effect as far as Michael Fassbender is concerned.)

Directed by Andrea Arnold in a semi-documentary style, Fish Tank works mostly because of the performance of Katie Jarvis.  This was her film debut and she was apparently asked to audition after a production assistant saw her having a loud argument with her boyfriend at a train station.  To a certain extent, you could argue that she’s largely playing herself but I think that does a disservice to both Katie Jarvis as an actress and the film itself.  It’s a great performance, one of the best acting debuts in the history of film.

Earlier, I compared Fish Tank to Thirteen, both in its portrayal of an angry teenager and the fact that I could not help but relate to both film’s lead characters.  Also like Thirteen, Fish Tank ends on a deeply ambiguous note.  I’ll just say that I hope things work out well for Mia and, despite all of her troubles, I think they will.  If Mia can survive, then there is hope for us all.

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Lisa And The Academy Agree To Disagree


The Oscar nominations were announced today and, for the most part, it’s pretty much what you would expect.  Below is the list of nominees.  If a nominee listed in bold print, that means they also appeared on my own personal list of nominations.

Best motion picture of the year

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

(The Academy and I agree on five of the ten nominees.  That’s actually more than I was expecting.)

Performance by an actor in a leading role

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

(The only real surprise here is Bardem.  I haven’t seen Biutiful but I’ve heard amazing things about it.)

Performance by an actor in a supporting role

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

(Yay for John Hawkes!  Some people are surprised that Andrew Garfield wasn’t nominated for The Social Network.  I’m disappointed he wasn’t nominated for Never Let Me Go.)

Performance by an actress in a leading role

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

(I’m happy to see Lawrence and Portman recognized but I still so wish that the Academy had recongized Noomi Rapace and Katie Jarvis as well.  I knew it wouldn’t happen but still…)

Performance by an actress in a supporting role

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

(Weaver — Yay!) 

Achievement in directing

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

(The snubbing of Christopher Nolan for Inception is probably the closest thing to an outrage that the Oscars will produce this year.)

Adapted screenplay

127 Hours – Danny Boyle & Simon Beaufoy
The Social Network – Aaron Sorkin
Toy Story 3 – Michael Arndt (screenplay); John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich (story)
True Grit – Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
Winter’s Bone – Debra Granik & Anne Rosellini

Original screenplay

Another Year – Mike Leigh
The Fighter – Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy and Eric Johnson (screenplay); Keith Dorrington, Paul Tamasy and Eric Johnson (story)
Inception – Christopher Nolan
The Kids Are All Right – Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg
The King’s Speech – David Seidler

Best animated feature film of the year

How to Train Your Dragon
The Illusionist
Toy Story 3

 (I haven’t seen The Illusionist yet but I’m looking forward to it because the previews look great, it’s based on a script by Jacques Tati, and I love all things French.  Still, I kinda wish that Despicable Me had been nominated just so Arleigh could see the minions at the Academy Awards.)

Best foreign language film of the year

Biutiful (Mexico)
Dogtooth (Greece)
In a Better World (Denmark)
Incendies (Canada)
Outside the Law (Hors-la-loi) (Algeria)

Art direction

Alice in Wonderland – Robert Stromberg (production design), Karen O’Hara (set decoration)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 – Stuart Craig (production design), Stephenie McMillan (set decoration)
Inception – Guy Hendrix Dyas (production design), Larry Dias and Doug Mowat (set decoration)
The King’s Speech – Eve Stewart (production design), Judy Farr (set decoration)
True Grit – Jess Gonchor (production design), Nancy Haigh (set decoration) 

Achievement in cinematography

Matthew Libatique (Black Swan)
Wally Pfister (Inception)
Danny Cohen (The King’s Speech)
Jeff Cronenweth (The Social Network)
Roger Deakins (True Grit) 

Achievement in costume design

Colleen Atwood (Alice in Wonderland)
Antonella Cannarozzi (I Am Love)
Jenny Beavan (The King’s Speech)
Sandy Powell (The Tempest)
Mary Zophres (True Grit)

(That’s right, I ended up going 0 for 5 as far as Costume Design is concerned.  Which I guess goes to prove that I have better taste than the Academy.)

Best documentary feature

Exit Through the Gift Shop (Banksy and Jaimie D’Cruz)
Gasland (Josh Fox and Trish Adlesic)
Inside Job (Charles Ferguson and Audrey Marrs)
Restrepo (Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger)
Waste Land (Lucy Walker and Angus Aynsley)

 (If Banksy wins, I’ll be happy.  I have a feeling the award will go to Inside Job, however.  As a documentary, Inside Job reminded me a lot of Capt. Hindsight from the South Park Coon Vs. Coon And Friends trilogy.  Also, I’m a little bit surprised that Waiting for Superman wasn’t nominated.  I’m even more surprised that I actually saw enough feature documentaries last year to even have an opinion.  Also, interesting to note that Restrepo — a very nonpolitical look at military in the mid-east — was nominated while The Tillman Story, a much more heavy-handed and stridently political documentary was not.)

Best documentary short subject

Killing in the Name (Nominees to be determined)
Poster Girl (Nominees to be determined)
Strangers No More (Karen Goodman and Kirk Simon)
Sun Come Up (Jennifer Redfearn and Tim Metzger)
The Warriors of Qiugang (Ruby Yang and Thomas Lennon)

(It’s always interesting that nobody knows what these movies are about yet their producers always end up giving the longest speeches at the Oscars.  I’m hoping that Poster Girl wins because the actual producers have yet to be determined.  I imagine that means there might be some sort of legal action going on which means that, if it wins on Oscar night, there might be a big fight at the podium.  Plus, I like the title.  It makes me want to walk up to people I barely know, lean forward, and go, “Can I be your poster girl?”)

Achievement in film editing

Andrew Weisblum (Black Swan)
Pamela Martin (The Fighter)
Tariq Anwar (The King’s Speech)
Jon Harris (127 Hours)
Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter (The Social Network) 

Achievement in makeup

Adrien Morot (Barney’s Version)
Edouard F Henriques, Gregory Funk and Yolanda Toussieng (The Way Back)
Rick Baker and Dave Elsey (The Wolfman)

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (original score)

John Powell (How to Train Your Dragon)
Hans Zimmer (Inception)
Alexandre Desplat (The King’s Speech)
AR Rahman (127 Hours)
Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (The Social Network)

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (original song)

Coming Home (from Country Strong, music and lyrics by Tom Douglas, Troy Verges and Hillary Lindsey)
I See the Light (from Tangled, music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Glenn Slater)
If I Rise (from 127 Hours, music by AR Rahman, lyrics by Dido and Rollo Armstrong)
We Belong Together (from Toy Story 3, music and lyrics by Randy Newman)

(I’ll just say it now — 4 nominations and I didn’t agree with a single one of them.  Seriously, they could have nominated up to 5 songs but instead of giving at least one nomination to Burlesque, they just nominated 4 songs.  What a load of crap.)

Best animated short film

Day & Night (Teddy Newton)
The Gruffalo (Jakob Schuh and Max Lang)
Let’s Pollute (Geefwee Boedoe)
The Lost Thing (Nick Batzias, Shaun Tan and Andrew Ruhemann)
Madagascar, carnet de voyage (Madagascar, a Journey Diary) (Bastien Dubois)

(I’ve actually seen Day & Night since it was shown before Toy Story 3.  I thought it went on a little bit too long, to be honest.)

Best live action short film

The Confession (Tanel Toom)
The Crush (Michael Creagh)
God of Love (Luke Matheny)
Na Wewe (Ivan Goldschmidt)
Wish 143 (Ian Barnes and Samantha Waite) 

Achievement in sound editing

Inception (Richard King)
Toy Story 3 (Tom Myers and Michael Silvers)
Tron: Legacy (Gwendolyn Yates Whittle and Addison Teague)
True Grit (Skip Lievsay and Craig Berkey)
Unstoppable (Mark P Stoeckinger)

Achievement in sound mixing

Inception (Lora Hirschberg, Gary A Rizzo and Ed Novick)
The King’s Speech (Paul Hamblin, Martin Jensen and John Midgley)
Salt (Jeffrey J Haboush, Greg P Russell, Scott Millan and William Sarokin)
The Social Network (Ren Klyce, David Parker, Michael Semanick and Mark Weingarten)
True Grit (Skip Lievsay, Craig Berkey, Greg Orloff and Peter F Kurland)

 (I would have probably had more matches in the sound category if I actually knew the difference between sound editing and sound mixing.)

Achievement in visual effects

Alice in Wonderland (Ken Ralston, David Schaub, Carey Villegas and Sean Phillips)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 (Tim Burke, John Richardson, Christian Manz and Nicolas Aithadi)
Hereafter (Michael Owens, Bryan Grill, Stephan Trojanski and Joe Farrell)
Inception (Paul Franklin, Chris Corbould, Andrew Lockley and Peter Bebb)
Iron Man 2 (Janek Sirrs, Ben Snow, Ged Wright and Daniel Sudick)

So there you go.  I went 50/50 on the Best Picture nominations and — well, it all pretty much went downhill from there, didn’t it?  Oh well.

If Lisa Marie Determined The Oscar Nominees…


With the Oscar nominations due to be announced this week, now seems like a good time to indulge in something I like to call “If Lisa Marie Had All The Power.”  Listed below are my personal Oscar nominations.  Please note that these are not the films that I necessarily think will be nominated.  The fact of the matter is that the majority of them will not.  Instead, these are the films that would be nominated if I was solely responsible for deciding the nominees this year.  Winners are listed in bold.

Best Picture

Animal Kingdom

Black Swan

Exit Through The Gift Shop

Fish Tank

Inception

The King’s Speech

Never Let Me Go

127 Hours

Somewhere

Winter’s Bone

Best Actor

Patrick Fabian in The Last Exorcism

Colin Firth in The King’s Speech

James Franco in 127 Hours

Andy Garcia in City Island

Ben Stiller in Greenberg

Best Actress

Katie Jarvis in Fish Tank

Jennifer Lawrence in Winter’s Bone

Natalie Portman in Black Swan

Noomi Rapace in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

Emma Stone in Easy A

Best Supporting Actor

Christian Bale in The Fighter

Aaron Eckhardt in Rabbit Hole

Andrew Garfield in Never Let Me Go

John Hawkes in Winter’s Bone

Ben Mendelsohn in Animal Kingdom



Best Supporting Actress

Elle Fanning in Somewhere

Rebecca Hall in Please Give

Chloe Grace Moretz in Kick-Ass

Hailee Steinfeld in True Grit

Jacki Weaver in Animal Kingdom

(That’s right, everyone.  It’s a tie between the youngest nominee and the oldest nominee.  Don’t you just love the Oscars?)

Best Director

Andrea Arnold for Fish Tank

Darren Aronofsky for Black Swan

Danny Boyle for 127 Hours

Sofia Coppola for Somewhere

Christopher Nolan for Inception

Best Original Screenplay

Animal Kingdom

Black Swan

Fish Tank

Inception

The King’s Speech

Best Adapted Screenplay

Never Let Me Go

127 Hours

Rabbit Hole

Toy Story 3

Winter’s Bone

Best Editing

Black Swan

Exit Through the Gift Shop

Inception

127 Hours

Somewhere

Best Cinematography

Black Swan

Somewhere

True Grit

Twelve

Winter’s Bone

Best Art Direction

Black Swan

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part One

Inception

The King’s Speech

Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World

Best Sound Mixing

Black Swan

Inception

Secretariat

Stone

Toy Story 3

Best Sound Editing

The Expendables

Inception

Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World

Secretariat

Toy Story 3

Best Costume Design

Black Swan

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part One

Robin Hood

The Wolf Man

Best Original Score

Black Swan

Inception

Machete

127 Hours

Tron: Legacy

(Yes, I know that the Academy has ruled that the original score for Black Swan is not eligible to be nominated.  However, these are my nominations and I make the rules.)

Best Visual Effects

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part One

Inception

Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World

Splice

Tron: Legacy

Best Makeup

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part One

Let Me In

127 Hours

Splice

The Wolf Man

Best Song 

“Better Days” from Eat Pray Love

“Bound Together” from Burlesque

“Dear Laughing Doubters” from Dinner For Schmucks

“Sticks and Stones” from How To Train Your Dragon

“You Haven’t Seen The Last of Me” from Burlesque

Best Documentary Feature

Best Worst Movie

Exit Through the Gift Shop

Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work

Restrepo

Winnebago Man

Best Animated Feature

How To Train Your Dragon

A Town Called Panic

Toy Story 3

(Again, I am aware that the Academy ruled that A Town Called Panic isn’t eligible and again, I don’t care.)

Best Foreign Language Film

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (Sweden)

Mother (South Korea)

OSS 117 – Lost in Rio (France)

Police, Adjective (Romania)

A Prophet (France)

(While the Academy considers one submission per country for this award, I’m simply using it to recognize the best foreign language film released in the U.S. last year.  Or, at least, the best one that I got a chance to see.)

So, since I love lists, here’s a final tally of films by nominations:

10 Nominations — Black Swan

9 Nominations — Inception

7 Nominations — 127 Hours

5 Nominations — Somewhere, Winter’s Bone

4 Nominations — Animal Kingdom, Fish Tank, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, The King’s Speech, Toy Story 3

3 Nominations — Exit Through The Gift Shop, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Never Let Me Go, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World

2 Nominations — Burlesque, How To Train Your Dragon, Rabbit Hole, Secretariat, Splice, Tron: Legacy, True Grit, The Wolf Man

1 Nomination — Best Worst Movie, City Island, Dinner For Schmucks, Easy A, Eat Pray Love, The Expendables, The Fighter, Greenberg, Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work, Kick-Ass, The Last Exorcism, Machete, Mother, OSS 117 — Lost in Rio, Please Give, Police, Adjective, A Prophet, Restrepo, Robin Hood, Stone, A Town Called Panic, Twelve, Winnebago Man

0 Nominations — The Social Network

And lastly, here’s a tally by imaginary Oscars won:

5 Oscars — Black Swan

2 Oscars — Toy Story 3

1 Oscar — Animal Kingdom, Burlesque, Exit Through The Gift Shop, Fish Tank, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Inception, Never Let Me Go, 127 Hours, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, Somewhere, Tron: Legacy, Twelve, Winter’s Bone, The Wolf Man

0 Oscars — The Social Network

(One final note: A big thank you to my sister, Erin Nicole Bowman, who created the banners used in this post.)

The Worst Female Images In A Movie


Did you know that there’s a group known as The Women Film Critics Circle and, much like the DFW Film Critics, I am not a member despite being 1) a woman, 2) a film critic, and 3) a feminist?  I swear, I am feeling so rejected right about now…

Then again, looking over their 2010 movie awards, I’m not sure I would want to be a member.  Check out their selections and then see if you can guess which one has got me all annoyed and profane.

BEST MOVIE ABOUT WOMEN
Mother And Child

BEST MOVIE BY A WOMAN
Winter’s Bone

BEST WOMAN STORYTELLER [Screenwriting Award]
The Kids Are All Right: Lisa Cholodenko

BEST ACTRESS
Annette Bening/The Kids Are All Right

BEST ACTOR
Colin Firth/The King’s Speech

BEST YOUNG ACTRESS
Jennifer Lawrence/Winter’s Bone

BEST COMEDIC ACTRESS
Annette Bening/The Kids Are All Right
BEST FOREIGN FILM BY OR ABOUT WOMEN: *TIE*
Mother
Women Without Men

BEST FEMALE IMAGES IN A MOVIE
Conviction

WORST FEMALE IMAGES IN A MOVIE
Black Swan

BEST MALE IMAGES IN A MOVIE: *TIE*
Another Year
The King’s Speech

WORST MALE IMAGES IN A MOVIE
Jackass 3D

BEST THEATRICALLY UNRELEASED MOVIE BY OR ABOUT WOMEN
Temple Grandin

BEST EQUALITY OF THE SEXES: *TIE
Another Year
Fair Game

BEST ANIMATED FEMALES
Despicable Me

BEST FAMILY FILM
Toy Story 3

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
Helen Mirren

ACTING AND ACTIVISM
Lena Horne [posthumous]

*ADRIENNE SHELLY AWARD: For a film that most passionately opposes violence against women:
Winter’s Bone

*JOSEPHINE BAKER AWARD: For best expressing the woman of color experience in America
For Colored Girls

*KAREN MORLEY AWARD: For best exemplifying a woman’s place in history or society, and a courageous search for identity
Fair Game

COURAGE IN ACTING [Taking on unconventional roles that radically redefine the images of women on screen]
Helen Mirren/The Tempest

THE INVISIBLE WOMAN AWARD [Performance by a woman whose exceptional impact on the film dramatically, socially or historically, has been ignored]
Q’Orianka Kilcher/Princess Kaiulani

BEST DOCUMENTARY BY A WOMAN
A Film Unfinished

WOMEN’S WORK: BEST ENSEMBLE
Mother And Child

BEST SCREEN COUPLE
Another Year: Jim Broadbent/Ruth Sheen as Tom and Gerri

Did you catch it?  Yes, that’s right.  With all of the demeaning, insulting, sexist crap that both the mainstream and the independent film industries have released this year, Black Swan wins the award for “Worst Female Images In A Film.”

Uhmm, really?

Yes, Natalie Portman dealing with a society that forces an unrealistic expectation of perfection on young women — this is a far more negative image than every female  character in The Social Network turning out to either be a bitch, a whore, or an idiot.  Natalie Portman suffering from bulimia because she knows the consequences if she doesn’t maintain the right body type — this is a far more insulting image than Anne Hathaway being charmed by Jack Gyllenhaal pretending to be a doctor while leering at her exposed breast in Love and Other Drugs.  This was the year that Rebecca Hall fell in love with a man who kidnapped her in The Town while The Killer Inside Me lingered lovingly on scenes of Casey Affleck beating both Jessica Alba and Kate Hudson to death.  But no, out of all this, Black Swan featured the worst images of women on screen.

What utter and total bullshit.

I am a feminist and I am proud to be fiercely pro-woman (though never blindly anti-male).  I have always been very aware of the fact that, regardless of intent, most movies are basically sexist fantasies.  And, like a lot of women, I’ve come to accept that as the price I pay for loving movies.  It’s something that I’m more likely to laugh at than to get outraged over.  But that doesn’t mean that I don’t sometimes get tired of it, that I don’t sometimes wish that just for once, I could see a movie where the female lead didn’t need to be rescued by a man or where she wasn’t expected to epitomize some sort of stereotype.

To be honest, male filmmakers are not solely to blame.  Some of the most demeaning images of women have come from films that were directed by women and which were advertised as being “feminist” films.  Sometimes it seems like movies are either so busy trying to either keep women down or to build women up that they forget that most of us just want to be seen as human beings.

So no, Natalie Portman is not some sort of “feminist ideal” in Black Swan.  She cuts herself, she’s bulimic, she fears her own sexual desires, she’s too hard on herself, and she’s manipulated by the men around her.  And you know what?  That’s not a sexist fantasy.  For far too many women, present and past, that’s the life that has been forced upon them by an inherently sexist society.  If anything, that’s the type of life that feminism was supposed to provide an escape from. 

Instead, the stridency and judgmental attitudes of far too many so-called “feminists” has simply turned into another way to trap us into that life of guilt and shame and idealized demands of perfection.

The female images in Black Swan are not negative.  They’re honest and that’s why Black Swan meant more to me, as a woman, than every single self-conscious, strident “feminist” film ever made. 

As for the worst female image in a movie — give that award to Eat Pray Love for being yet another movie that basically gives us a spoiled, immature, rich, elitist lead character and then insults women everywhere by trying to present her as some sort of practical model for liberation. 

Julia Roberts traveling across the world without once waking up with dark circles under her eyes might be the ideal but Natalie Portman being leered at by an old pervert on the subway is the reality.

For once, this has been a good year for strong women on American film screens.  Whether it was Noomi Rapace as The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo or Jennifer Lawrence in Winter’s Bone, Katie Jarvis in Fish Tank, or even Angelina Jolie as Salt, this has been a year of strong female images.  This has been a year of films that left me feeling empowered — not in the wishy-washy way that so many insultingly condescending films claim to empower but in an honest way that made me feel, for once, that I didn’t have to accept the idea of any limitations on my own dreams or desires. 

It wasn’t just a good year to be a girl who loves movies.  It was a great year.

And Black Swan was the best part of a great year.

(You can read my original review of Black Swan here.)

20 Cinematic Moments That Will Define 2010 For Me


Every year, there’s a handful of film scenes that come to define the entire year for us.  At their best, these scenes can leave such an impression that they become a part of our shared history.  For some people (though not me), 2009 will always be the year of Avatar.  Meanwhile, for me (but not others), 2010 will always be the year I realized it was okay to admit how much I love to dance.  Listed below are 20 of the many film moments that I will remember whenever I look back on this current year.

20) Carey Mulligan and Andrew Garfield discover what really happened to all of their childhood artwork in Never Let Me Go.

Permeated with an atmosphere of nonstop melancholy, Never Let Me Go never quite found the audience is deserved but I think it’s one of the best films of 2010 and the scene mentioned above is one of the reasons why.

19) Scott Pilgrim says, “Oh cool, coins!” in Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World.

And Lisa Marie suddenly realizes that she has fallen in love with a movie.

18) Keifer Sutherland says, “Tap that ass” in Twelve.

Truth be told, I don’t even remember what was happening on-screen.  I just remember Keifer, as the film’s narrator, saying “Tap that ass” in that sexy, nicotine-fueld growl of his and thinking to myself, “Well, okay…”

17) Jake Gyllenhaal chases down a bus full of dying old people in Love and Other Drugs.

Yes, the old people desperately need to get up to Canada so they can get their prescriptions filled but unfortunately for them, Anne Hathaway happens to be on the bus as well and Jake — apparently realizing that he’ll never get to see her breasts again if they break up — chases the bus down in his Porsche so he can reconcile with her.  And, of course, the old people are just so adorably excited at the idea of a 15-minute delay while these two deeply damaged characters stand outside and talk about their relationship.  I mean, fuck it — who cares about getting these people their medicine when there’s a disposable pop tune playing in the background and Jake wants to talk to his ex-girlfriend?  In so many ways, this scene represents everything I hate about mainstream filmmaking.

16) Joseph Gordon-Levitt flies through the corridors of a dream hotel in Inception.

Inception was a film full of amazing images but my personal favorite was perhaps the simplest — Joseph Gordon-Levitt (looking rather adorable in his dark suit) floating down those Argentoesque hallways while trying to figure out how to wake everyone up.

15) Jacki Weaver delivers the line of the year in Animal Kingdom.

“And you’ve done some bad things, sweetie.”

14)  John Hawkes “talks” his way out of a traffic stop in Winter’s Bone.

While Winter’s Bone should rightfully make Jennifer Lawrence a star, John Hawkes also contributed some of the film’s best moments.

13) Patrick Fabian slips a recipe into his sermon in The Last Exorcism.

Cast as a modern-day Marjoe Gortner in this underappreciated film, Fabian gives one of the best performances of the year, if not the best.

12) Chloe Grace Moretz saves Kick-Ass from the mafia in Kick-Ass.

As far as women kicking ass was concerned, 2010 was a good year.  Sure, the majority of cinematic female portraits were — as always — sexist to the extreme but there were a few rays of hope.  Angelina Jolie in Salt, Noomi Rapace in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo films, Mila Jovovich in Resident Evil — all were among the women who got to do something more than just look pretty while the boys saved the day.  Seeing as how I’m honoring Rapace further down the list, I’m going to allow Chloe Grace Moretz (in the role of Hit Girl) to serve as a stand-in here for every single woman who was allowed to kick a little ass in 2010.

11) Christian Bale and Mark Wahlberg walks down the streets of Lowell at the beginning of The Fighter.

Seriously, this entire sequence — set to Heavy’s How You Like Me Now? (or “The Sock Monkey Song” as I call it) — could be a short film in itself.  Call it: “Men and why we love them.”

10) Colin Firth fearfully waits to give a speech at the start of The King’s Speech.

One look at Firth’s terrified eyes and I was in tears.  From that minute on, this unexpected gem of a film had me.

9) Jennifer Lawrence fishes for her dad’s hand in Winter’s Bone.

Southern gothic at its best!

8) James Franco is rescued by a purifying storm in 127 Hours.

Helpless and hopeless, Franco is suddenly freed by a sudden storm.  Both Franco and director Danny Boyle handle this scene with such skill that the audience finds itself just as saddened as Franco when it all turns out to be a hallucination.

7) Katie Jarvis dances in an abandoned apartment and finds a momentary glimmer of hope in Fish Tank.

Between this movie and Black Swan, 2010 was the year that reminded me of just how much I love to dance and why.  2010 is the year that I realized it was okay for me to love to dance again.

6) Andy gives away his toys at the end of Toy Story 3.

And Lisa Marie cries and cries.

5) Lisbeth Salander (played by Noomi Rapace) gives her abusive guardian a tattoo in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.

For any and every girl who has ever been used, abused, hurt, spoken down to, insulted, manipulated, or betrayed by someone who claimed to only be looking after her best interests, this scene was truly cathartic.  When I say that Noomi Rapace’s Lisbeth will be iconic, it’s largely because of scenes like this.  In that one scene, Lisbeth is established as a woman who will never be victimized and it gives hope any for those of us who don’t have dragon tattoos. 

4) Footage from Theirry’s completed “documentary” is revealed in Exit Through The Gift Shop.

And the audience is  suddenly forced to question just how much of anything they’ve seen is the truth.

3) The spinning top wobbles at the end of Inception.

Or does it?

2) Kathryn Bigelow becomes the first woman to win the Oscar for best director while her ex-husband glowers in silence.

I wasn’t a huge fan of The Hurt Locker but I still squealed with delight as Kathryn Bigelow accepted the award that should have gone to Sofia Coppola back in 2004.  Not only did Bigelow make history but she did it by beating her soulless jerk of an ex-husband, James Cameron.  And then she gave one of the best acceptance speeches in Oscar history, all the while looking about 20 years younger than she actually is.  In short, Kathryn Bigelow showed every Oscar winner — past, present, and future — exactly how it’s done.

1) The final fifteen minutes of Black Swan

In 15 minutes, Darren Aronofsky reminded me of how much I love ballet and audiences of why we love movies in the first place.

The New York Toadsuckers Have Spoken


As I mentioned in my last post, the New York Film Critics Circle voted on and announced their picks for the best films of the year today.  Looking over the winners, all I can say is — YAWN!

Best Film:
The Social Network

Best Director:
David Fincher, The Social Network

Best Screenplay:
The Kids Are All Right

Best Actress:
Annette Bening, The Kids Are All Right

Best Actor:
Colin Firth, The King’s Speech

Best Supporting Actress:
Melissa Leo, The Fighter

Best Supporting Actor:
Mark Ruffalo, The Kids Are All Right

Best Cinematography:
Black Swan

Best Animated Film:
The Illusionist

Best Non-fiction Film:
Inside Job

Best Foreign Language Film:
Carlos

Best First Feature:
Animal Kingdom

Over on Awardsdaily.com, the response to the New York Critics was: “NO ONE  wrote a better screenplay than Aaron Sorkin this year.” 

(And yes, they specifically put that statement in bold print with NO ONE capitalized, just to make sure that the point came through.)

Really?  NO ONE?  It’s time to admit the truth — The Social Network has gone from being a movie to being a cult.  Apparently, even suggesting that any other movie might deserve an honor or two this year is an act of heresy.  Sorry, New York Film Critics.  Prepare yourself to be eaten by lions while the Sorkinites watch and cheer.

That said, the screenplay for The Kids Are All Right had all the depth of a sitcom.  And Mark Ruffalo’s supporting performance was good but nothing that couldn’t have been done by just about any other scruffy actor in Hollywood.  And while Annette Bening did a good job with her role, this is the year of Natalie Portman in Black Swan, Noomi Rapace in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Katie Jarvis in Fish Tank, and Jennifer Lawrence in Winter’s Bone.  This was a year in which so many actresses gave unique, unexpected performances in roles that redefined the stereotypical cinematic female lead.  Annette Bening was good but so many were great.

It’s also interesting to note that The Illusionist (which I haven’t seen and know very little about) was named best animated feature as opposed to the presumed favorite, Toy Story 3.  Just a few months ago, the general assumption seemed to be that Toy Story 3 would easily pick up a best picture nod but it seems like that storyline’s been forgotten in all the hype surrounding The Social Network.

For Your Oscar Consideration


It’s November and that means that we have now officially entered Oscar season.  For the next two months, movies specifically designed to win awards will be released in theaters across America.  Movies like Fair Game, The King’s Speech, True Grit, For Colored Girls, Another Year, and 127 Hours will be presented for “your consideration,” as they always put it in the Oscar ads.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m looking forward to seeing quite a few of those films.  Fair Game looks like its going to be a bit of a pain (seriously, Sean Penn, it’s great you were right about Iraq and all but get over yourself)  and For Colored Girls seems like it’ll be one of those films that people are scared to admit disliking.  However, The King’s Speech looks like it might be a funny and sweet little movie and  127 Hours looks like it might be the film that proves that James Franco is a major hottie who could use and abuse me in any way he…uhmm, sorry, where was I?  Oh yeah — Oscar season!

The unfortunate thing about Oscar season is that often it seems that movies that were released before the end of the year are either totally forgotten or only given a few sympathy nods.  So, here’s my personal list of a few contenders that, though released pre-Oscar season, I think are just as deserving of consideration as Fair Game.

1) Best Picture — Exit Through The Gift Shop

People either love this film or they hate it.  I love it.  I think it’s a great mindfuck and, as of now, it’s my favorite film of 2010.  In a perfect world, it would not only be the first documentary to be nominated for best picture but the first one to win as well.  Unfortunately, the Mainstream hates having its mind fucked.  Which is why I say — Grindhouse Victory for Exit Through The Gift Shop!

2) Best Picture — Animal Kingdom

This grim yet compelling Australian crime thriller plays like an unromanticized version of The Town, which is probably why it will be no where to be seen once the nominations are announced.  Animal Kingdom also features award worthy work from actors Jacki Weaver, Ben Mendelsohn, Guy Pearce, and director David Michod.

3) Best Picture — Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World

Yes, it crashed and burned at the box office and it’s been the victim of an anti-Michael Cera backlash but Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World was one of the best and most original films of the summer.  If the best movies succeed by creating their own unique worlds, then Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World deserves to be recognized as one of the best.

4) Best Picture — Never Let Me Go

Mark Romanek’s low-key but affecting adaption of Kazou Ishiguro’s award-winning novel takes a familiar Sci-Fi plot — clones are raised in seclusion so that their organs can eventually be harvested — and turns it into a haunting meditation on life, death, love, and fate.  Carey Mulligan, who deserved the Oscar last year for An Education, holds the film together with quiet strength while Kiera Knightley and Andrew Garfield make the most of the more showy supporting roles.

5) Best Actor — Patrick Fabian, The Last Exorcism

Yes, Fabian will never be nominated because The Last Exorcism was a box office flop, a horror film, and it had an ending that generated a lot of negative word of mouth.  However, I believe that Fabian gave the best performance of the year (so far) in this film.  One reason why that over-the-top ending upset so many viewers was because Fabian had kept the film so grounded in reality that the sudden appearance of the supernatural almost felt like a betrayal.  Incidentally, I think that Fabian’s performance was meant to be an homage to former child evangelist Marjoe Gortner.  (And yes, I realize that’s like the 100th time I’ve casually mentioned Marjoe Gortner on this site.  It doesn’t mean anything.  Or does it?)

6) Best Actress — Noomi Rapace, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

The Mainstream has pretty much already declared Annette Bening to be the winner for her work in The Kids Are All Right but the Grindhouse knows that 2010 was the year of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.

7) Best Actress — Katie Jarvis, Fish Tank

Fish Tank probably played too early in the year to be properly remembered by the Academy but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s one of the best films of the year.  Playing an angry but naive British teen, Katie Jarvis gives a fearlessly vulnerable performance.  Just consider the harrowing scene where, after kidnapping her older lover’s daughter, she realizes what a mistake she’s made.

8 ) Best Supporting Actor — John Hawkes, Winter’s Bone

While I hope Winter’s Bone, at the very least, receives nominations for best picture, best actress for Jennifer Lawrence, and a best director nod for Debra Granik, I fear that John Hawkes will be forgotten.  That’s a shame because Hawkes, arguably, gives the strongest performance in the film.  As Lawrence’s drug addicted uncle, Hawkes is both scary and heroic.  If Lawrence represents hope for the future, Hawkes epitomizes the doom of the present.

9) Best Supporting Actress — Chloe Grace Moretz, Kick-Ass

If Moretz is nominated, it’ll probably be for her performance in Let Me In.  However, good as she was in that film, I think her performance in Kick-Ass is even better.  Playing the controversial character of Hit-Girl, Moretz was the film’s foul-mouthed, borderline-psychotic heart.

10) Best Cinematography — Twelve

Yes, Twelve is a dire film that manages to turn a good book into a silly melodrama but the movie is gorgeous to look at.

11) Best Original Score — Machete

As performed by the band Chingon (which features the film’s director, Robert Rodriguez, on guitar), Machete’s score was much like the film itself: over-the-top, shameless, and a lot of fun.   In much the same way that Hans Zimmer’s score made you believe in the world of Inception, Machete’s score literally forces the viewer into the proper Grindhouse mindset.

12) Best Original Song — “Pimps Don’t Cry” from The Other Guys

Oh, why not?

13) Best Feature-Length Documentary — Best Worst Movie

A charming documentary about the making of that infamous film, Troll 2, Best Worst Movie is also a look at how a movie can be so amazingly bad that it eventually becomes a beloved classic.

14) Best Animated Feature — A Town Called Panic 

This surreal, French, stop-motion film only played for a week down here in Dallas and I nearly didn’t get to see it.  I’m glad I did because, seriously, this movie — oh my God.  The best description I’ve heard of it comes from Empire Magazine where it was referred to as being “Toy Story on absinthe.”  Of course, since apparently California can’t even handle legalized weed, it’s probably hoping too much that they’ll be willing to drink the absinthe.

As just a sidenote, isn’t the poster for A Town Called Panic just adorable?  I swear, just looking at it makes me feel happy.