A Kind of Olympic Film Review: Cloud 9 (dir by Paul Hoen)


Technically, 2014’s Cloud 9 is not an Olympics film.  Though it is a sports film and deals with a big competition and features a lot of talk about winning gold medals and all that good stuff, the film doesn’t take place at the Olympics.  Instead, it takes place at the annual “Fire and Ice” snowboarding competition in Summit Valley.

But let’s be honest.  Would I have watched this movie if not for the fact that I’m currently obsessed with the Winter Olympics?  Probably not.  Would the film have been made in the first place if not for the 2014 Sochi Games?  Again, probably not.  Cloud 9 may not take place during the Olympics but it might as well.

Cloud 9 was made for the Disney Channel, with everything that suggests.  It’s not a dramatic or realistic examination of the world of competitive snowboarding but then again, it never claims to be.  Instead, it’s a cute little romantic comedy about falling in love, pursuing your dreams, and not allowing your life to be determined by an overbearing parental figure.

Kayla Morgan (Dove Cameron) is a part of the Swift snowboarding team.  Since the Swift Team is known as the best in Summit Valley, that therefore makes Kayla the best.  At least, that’s what Kayla believes.  Of course, a lot of other people believe that Kayla isn’t that good and the only reason she’s been given a place on the team is because her father (Patrick Fabian) owns the local resort.

Kayla is also dating Nick Swift (Mike C. Manning), the son of Coach Sebastian Swift (Jeffrey Nordling).  Coach Swift is about as evil as you would expect someone named Sebastian Swift to be.  He believes in victory at all costs and he relentlessly pushes his son to be the best.  Coach Swift has reached the conclusion that the Swift Team will never be the best as long as Kayla is a member.  He tells his son to take care of it…

OH MY GOD, IS NICK GOING TO MURDER KAYLA!?

No, don’t worry.  Things never go that far.  Instead, Nick and the members of Team Swift frame Kayla for destroying an old sign.  When the sign collapses, it also manages to destroy a sled belonging to Will (Luke Benward).  Will used to be a champion snow boarder, until he attempted to pull off a new move called the Cloud 9.  Not only did Luke fail to pull off that move but he also broke his leg and ended up as the star of a YouTube video called “Epic Fail.”  Now, Will works at his family’s dog kennel.

And soon, Kayla is working at the dog kennel as well!  Her parents are willing to pay for the sign but Kayla is going to have to replace the sled herself.  Even worse, she gets kicked off the Swift Team…

So, what do you think happens?  Do you think Kayla eventually learns humility as a result of having to take care of a bunch of dogs?  Do you think Nick dumps Kayla?  Do you think Kayla and Will are going to fall in love and then form their own team to compete in the Fire and Ice competition?

Well, yes, all of that happens.  Of course, it does.  There’s not a single surprising moment to be found in Cloud 9 but it’s a sweet-natured movie and Dove Cameron and Luke Benward make for a cute couple.  Some of the snowboarding footage is impressive.  It was a nice and inoffensive way to spend 90 minutes.  When it comes to a movie like this, that’s all you can really ask for.

Horror Film Review: The Last Exorcism (dir by Daniel Stamm)


The_Last_Exorcism_Poster

First released in 2010, The Last Exorcism is one of the best films of the past 5 years.

I know that a lot of people are going to disagree with that statement.  When The Last Exorcism was released, a lot of people were so angered by the way the film ended that they dismissed the entire movie.  Add to that, The Last Exorcism is yet another found footage horror film and that genre has produced a lot of truly terrible movies.  Whether fairly or not, a lot of people have judged The Last Exorcism on the basis of the sins committed by films like The Devil Inside.  With all that taken into consideration, it’s perhaps not surprising that The Last Exorcism only has a rating of 5.6 on the IMDb.

However, those who casually dismiss The Last Exorcism are making a mistake.  The Last Exorcism is a hundred times better than it has any right to be.  If nothing else, it’s probably one of the best found footage horror films ever made.

Produced by Eli Roth and directed by Daniel Stamm, the film opens with footage of the Rev. Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian) leading a revival meeting.  We quickly see that Marcus is a showman, a born actor who knows how to manipulate and control an audience.  In interviews with a mostly unseen film crew, Rev. Marcus also explains that he’s both a highly successful exorcist and a complete fraud.  As he explains it, he has lost his faith and is participating in a documentary to reveal how he and other evangelical exorcists con and exploit their followers.  He’s agreed to perform one last exorcism, specifically so he can reveal just how much of a fraud that he really is.

One of the more interesting aspect of this setup is that it’s based on an actual documentary.  Released in 1972, Marjoe followed a former child evangelist named Marjoe Gortner as he conducted his last revival tour.  Talking directly to the camera, Marjoe would explain the tricks that he and other preachers would use to cheat the faithful out of their money.  The documentary, which won an Oscar for Best Documentary Feature in 1973, painted an intriguing picture of a con artist and The Last Exorcism does the same thing.

Marcus and the documentary film crew go out to a small rural community where farmer Louis Sweetzer (Louis Herthum) claims that his daughter, Nell (Ashley Bell) has been possessed by a demon.  Nell’s brother, Caleb (Caleb Landry Jones)  is openly hostile to both Marcus and the documentary film crew.  Marcus, meanwhile, is convinced that Nell is faking.

However, as both the film and the exorcism progress, we are given reasons to suspect that Nell might actually be possessed.  While a good deal of the film’s scares will be familiar to anyone who has ever seen a found footage horror film (there’s the usual loud noises in isolated parts of the house and the menacing shadows glimpsed in the corners), the question of whether or not Nell is possessed is given extra importance by what the answer means to Cotton Marcus.  If Nell is faking, then Marcus’s own loss of faith will be justified.  However, if it turns out that Nell actually is possessed than it will mean that Marcus hasn’t merely been a con artist for his entire life.  If Nell actually is possessed, it’ll prove the existence of a God that Marcus claims to no longer believe in.

Indeed, it’s the character of Cotton Marcus who elevates The Last Exorcism over other entries in the found footage horror genre.  Much like Father Karras (as played by Jason Miller) in the original Exorcist, Marcus is a conflicted protagonist, a former man of faith who isn’t quite as ready to give up on his belief as he originally seems.  As played by Patrick Fabian, Cotton Marcus is an intriguingly ambiguous hero.  At the beginning of the film, Fabian is spell-binding and believable as a fire-and-brimstone evangelist.  (In perhaps his best scene, he impishly sneaks a recipe for banana bread into his sermon.)  As the film progresses, Cotton Marcus goes from being an arrogant charlatan to being a very vulnerable and scared man and Fabian is both believable and compelling throughout the entire film.  Patrick Fabian elevates The Last Exorcism from being just an average (if effectively atmospheric) horror film to being a truly intriguing piece of pulp art.

As for the film’s ending, I may be in a minority but I think it works.  The most common complaint about the film’s final 15 minutes is that they tend to contradict everything that came before them.  I’m not sure that’s necessarily true.  You have to remember that we’ve only seen the film’s events through the perspective of the documentarians and we’ve only heard Marcus’s admittedly biased interpretation of what’s going on.  Perhaps the worst possible thing that you can really say about the ending is that it reveals that Marcus wasn’t as clever as we previously assumed him to be.

The Last Exorcism was followed by a far less successful sequel, which I reviewed here.

6 Late Reviews: Atlas Shrugged: Part II, Project X, This Means War, A Thousand Words, Trouble With The Curve, The Vow


2012 is quickly drawing to an end and seriously, where has the time gone?  I’m seriously running behind in reviewing all of the films that I’ve seen in 2012 so, in the interest of getting caught up, here are six quick (and late) reviews of some of the film that I saw earlier this year.

(Fortunately, seeing as how we live in a world of Netflix, DVD, Blu-ray, and On Demand service, it’s never too late to review any film.)

1) Atlas Shrugged: Part II (dir by John Putch)

Picking up where the first Atlas Shrugged ended, Atlas Shrugged: Part II continues to tell the story of how America was ruined by elitist do-gooders and how the smartest people in the world responded by uttering the phrase, “Who Is John Galt?” and then vanishing.

There’s a lot of bad stuff that I could say about Atlas, Shrugged Part II.  I could point out how close to nothing actually happens in the film.  I understand that this is the second part of a proposed film trilogy but, seriously, that’s all that Atlas Shrugged Part II has in common with The Two Towers.  With the exception of the great Patrick Fabian (who has a lot of fun playing a weasel), the cast isn’t memorable and the film is full of slow spots.

Part II was made by a different director and with a far more professional cast than Part I but that proves to be a mistake.  Part of the odd charm of Atlas Shrugged, Part I was that it was such a low-budget, pulpy affair.  Atlas Shrugged, Part II is a lot more slick and, as a result, it feels a lot less sincere.

That said, I couldn’t help but enjoy Atlas Shrugged, Part II because, much like For Greater Glory, the film flew so completely in the face of conventional cinematic political statements.  Atlas Shrugged Part II might not be a great (or even a good) film but it annoyed all of the professional film critics and it’s always amusing to watch the same critical establishment that embraced Avatar whine about how any other film is too heavy-handed.

Am I, therefore, recommending Atlas Shrugged, Part II?  Not really.  I tend to learn towards the Libertarian point of view when it comes to politics and even I found the film to be tedious.  That said, if you ever really want to annoy your wannabe hipster friend (the same one who leaves a hundred comments a day over at the A.V. Club), Atlas Shrugged, Part II might make the perfect holiday present.

2) Project X (dir by Nima Nourizadeh)

In California, two loathsome high school students — Costa (Oliver Cooper) and J.B.(Johnathan Daniel Brown) — throw a birthday party for their friend Thomas (Thomas Mann).  Thomas is a stereotypical nice guy but he’s also friends with Costa and J.B. and that makes him loathsome by association.  The party quickly gets out of control and eventually, houses are destroyed and a SWAT team is called in to restore order.

Oh!  And the entire film is presented as being a bunch of “found footage.”  What that means is that we have to sit through all the usual stuff of people acting awkward in an attempt to convince us that we’re not watching a movie, despite the fact that we clearly are.

Project X fails on so many levels that it’s hard to even know where to begin.

It’s impossible to sympathize with the film’s three main characters and let’s just say that Oliver Cooper is no Jonah Hill.

There’s no real build-up to the party getting out of control and hence, most of the film’s comedy falls flat.  This is the type of film where a midget happens to show up at the party just so he can then be tossed into an oven.  Uwe Boll would probably call that genius but, for the rest of us, it just feels like desperation on the part of the filmgoers.  (You can just here them going, “Midgets are always funny!”)

Finally, worst of all, Project X is the latest film to use the whole found footage gimmick as a way to try to explain away the fact that it’s just not a very good movie.  Seriously, mediocre filmmakers of America — it’s time to move on to a new gimmick!

3) This Means War (dir. by McG)

Two CIA Agents (Chris Pine and Tom Hardy) set aside their friendship and go to war when they realize that they’re both attempting to win the heart of the same woman (played by Reese Witherspoon).   Fortunately for them, they’ve both managed to fall in love with the one woman in the world too stupid to realize that there’s anything strange going on.  Chelsea Handler is also in this film.  She plays Witherspoon’s best friend and delivers all of her lines in this kind of depressed monotone that seems to suggest that she’d rather be co-starring with Whitney Cummings.  Eventually, a lot of things explode and well, anyway … bleh.

Seriously, This Means War has absolutely no right to be as boring as it is.  Outside of this film, Chris Pine and Tom Hardy are both hot, Reese Witherspoon is likable, and even Chelsea Handler still makes me laugh on occasion.  And yet, when all four of these people are put together in the same film, the end result is a mess that just gets more and more annoying with each passing second.

Most of the blame has to be put on the director.  McG never finds a consistent tone for his film and never seems to be sure whether he’s parodying or celebrating the conventions of both action films and romantic comedies.

Myself, I just find it funny that people actually address him as “McG.”

4) A Thousand Words (dir by Brian Robbins)

Jack (Eddie Murphy) is a literary agent who talks too much.  So, one night, a tree with a thousand leaves magically appears in his back yard.  Every time that Jack says a word, a leaf falls off of the tree.  Luckily, Jack happens to know a new age guru (Cliff Curtis) who explains that once every leaf has fallen, Jack will die.  As a result, the formerly glib Jack learns the importance of saying just the right thing and he becomes a better husband, father, and son as a result.

A Thousand Words is just as bad as the above plot synopsis suggests and that’s all that really needs to be said about it.  Wasting a thousand words talking about A Thousand Words would be a mistake indeed.

5)  Trouble With The Curve (dir by Robert Lorenz)

Widower Gus (Clint Eastwood) is an aging baseball scout who is slowly losing his eyesight.  Mickey (Amy Adams) is Gus’s daughter, a driven lawyer who has a strained relationship with her father.

And together … they solve crimes!

No, not really.  Instead, Gus is given one last assignment and Mickey, who is both concerned for her father’s well-being and wants to try to repair their fractured relationship, accompanies him.  At first, Gus doesn’t want Mickey around but she eventually proves her worth to him and gets to flirt with a young scout played by Justin Timberlake as well.  So, it’s a win-win.

 I don’t know much about baseball (beyond the fact that my sister Erin yells at the TV a lot whenever the Rangers are playing) but Trouble With The Curve is such a predictable movie that you really don’t have to know much about the game to be able to follow the plot.  That said, Trouble With The Curve might be predictable but it’s also a genuinely sweet and likable film.  Timberlake and Adams make for a really cute couple and it’s always fun to watch Eastwood growl at a world that never fails to disappoint him.

6) The Vow (dir by Michael Sucsy)

Paige (Rachel McAdams) and her husband Leo (Channing Tatum) are in a horrific car accident.  Paige is sent flying through the windshield and when she recovers consciousness, she no longer remembers being married or anything else about her life after she first met Leo.  While Leo attempts to get Paige to fall in love with him for a second time, Paige’s parents (Sam Neill and Jessica Lange) attempt to convince her to divorce him and return to her previous life as a pampered law student with a rich fiancée (played by Scott Speedman).

The Vow is a lot like Trouble With The Curve in that it’s totally predictable but, at the same time, it’s so sweet and likable that anyone who complains about the film being too predictable probably doesn’t have a heart.  Rachel McAdams and Channing Tatum have a lot of chemistry and anyone who complains that this film is too much like a Lifetime movie has obviously never experienced a really great Lifetime movie.

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.)

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 Independent Spirit Awards


This year’s Independent Spirit Award nominations were announced yesterday.  The Spirit Awards are basically the Oscars for independent films.  By independent, of course, we means films that were not directed by David Fincher, written by Aaron Sorkin, and embraced by mainstream toadsuckers who should know better.

Anyway, you can find a complete list of the nominees at the IFC web site but that site — at least on my hard-working little laptop  — had been taking forever to load.  You can also find a nearly complete list over at AwardsDaily.com but just be careful not to actually read any of Sasha Stone’s opinions while visiting the site.  Because seriously, she’ll turn you into a Roger Ebert-obsessed Stepford Wife.

Anyway, here’s the main nominees:

BEST FEATURE

  • 127 HOURS
  • BLACK SWAN
  • GREENBERG
  • THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT
  • WINTER’S BONE

BEST DIRECTOR

  • DARREN ARONOFSKY – Black Swan
  • DANNY BOYLE – 127 Hours
  • LISA CHOLODENKO – The Kids Are All Right
  • DEBRA GRANIK – Winter’s Bone
  • JOHN CAMERON MITCHELL – Rabbit Hole

 

BEST SCREENPLAY

  • STUART BLUMBERG & LISA CHOLODENKO – The Kids Are All Right
  • DEBRA GRANIK & ANNE ROSELLINI – Winter’s Bone
  • NICOLE HOLOFCENER – Please Give
  • DAVID LINDSAY-ABAIRE – Rabbit Hole
  • TODD SOLONDZ – Life During Wartime

BEST FIRST FEATURE
(Award given to the director and producer)

  • EVERYTHING STRANGE AND NEW
  • GET LOW
  • NIGHT CATCHES US
  • THE LAST EXORCISM
  • TINY FURNITURE

BEST FIRST SCREENPLAY

  • DIANE BELL – Obselidia
  • LENA DUNHAM – Tiny Furniture
  • NIK FACKLER – Lovely, Still
  • BOB GLAUDINI – Jack Goes Boating
  • DANA ADAM SHAPIRO & EVAN M. WIENER – Monogamy

JOHN CASSAVETES AWARD
(Given to the best feature made for under $500,000;
award given to the writer, director, and producer)

  • DADDY LONGLEGS
  • LOVERS OF HATE
  • OBSELIDIA
  • THE EXPLODING GIRL

BEST FEMALE LEAD

  • ANNETTE BENING – The Kids Are All Right
  • GRETA GERWIG – Greenberg
  • NICOLE KIDMAN – Rabbit Hole
  • JENNIFER LAWRENCE – Winter’s Bone
  • NATALIE PORTMAN – Black Swan
  • MICHELLE WILLIAMS – Blue Valentine

BEST MALE LEAD

  • RONALD BRONSTEIN – Daddy Longlegs
  • AARON ECKHART – Rabbit Hole
  • JAMES FRANCO – 127 Hours
  • JOHN C. REILLY – Cyrus
  • BEN STILLER – Greenberg

BEST SUPPORTING FEMALE

  • ASHLEY BELL – The Last Exorcism
  • DALE DICKEY – Winter’s Bone
  • ALLISON JANNEY – Life During Wartime
  • DAPHNE RUBIN-VEGA – Jack Goes Boating
  • NAOMI WATTS – Mother and Child

BEST SUPPORTING MALE

  • JOHN HAWKES – Winter’s Bone
  • SAMUEL L. JACKSON – Mother and Child
  • BILL MURRAY – Get Low
  • JOHN ORTIZ – Jack Goes Boating
  • MARK RUFFALO – The Kids Are All Right

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

  • ADAM KIMMEL – Never Let Me Go
  • MATTHEW LIBATIQUE – Black Swan
  • JODY LEE LIPES – Tiny Furniture
  • MICHAEL McDONOUGH – Winter’s Bone
  • HARRIS SAVIDES – Greenberg

BEST DOCUMENTARY
(Award given to the director)

  • EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP
  • MARWENCOL
  • SWEETGRASS
  • RESTREPO
  • THUNDER SOUL

BEST FOREIGN FILM
(Award given to the director)

  • KISSES (Ireland)
  • MADEMOISELLE CHAMBON (France)
  • OF GODS AND MEN (Morocco)
  • THE KING’S SPEECH (United Kingdom)
  • UNCLE BOONMEE WHO CAN RECALL HIS PAST LIVES (Thailand)

ROBERT ALTMAN AWARD
(Given to one film’s director, casting director, and its
ensemble cast)

  • PLEASE GIVE (DIRECTOR: Nicole Holofcener)

To be honest, the only thing that really surprises me on this list is that Greenberg was 1) remembered and 2) an independent film.  Still, Greta Gerwig was wonderful in the film and it’s good to see here getting some recognition along with Dale Dickey, John Hawkes, Ashley Bell, and the cast of one of the year’s most underrated films, Please Give.

To be honest, it’s kind of nice — in these Social Network dominated times — to see that the majority of the films nominated here deal with, feature, or were made by strong women.  (Not to mention that 127 Hours is about a man who eventually has to chop off his arm because he wasn’t properly in touch with his feminine side.)

One last note — yay! for that Last Exorcism nomination though it would have been nice to see a nomination for Patrick Fabian as well.  Still, the Spirit Awards are as close as a deserving but out-of-the-mainstream film like this one can hope to get to the Oscars.

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.