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


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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.

Lisa Marie Picks The 50 Best Films of The Past 3 Years


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As of this month, I have been reviewing films here at the Shattered Lens for 3 years.  In honor of that anniversary, I thought I’d post my picks for the 50 best films that have been released in the U.S. since 2010.

Without further ado, here’s the list!

  1. Black Swan (directed by Darren Aronofsky)
  2. Exit Through The Gift Shop (directed by Banksy)
  3. Hanna (directed by Joe Wright)
  4. Fish Tank (directed by Andrea Arnold)
  5. Higher Ground (directed by Vera Farmiga)
  6. Shame (directed by Steve McQueen)
  7. Anna Karenina (directed by Joe Wright)
  8. The Cabin In The Woods (directed by Drew Goddard)
  9. 127 Hours (directed by Danny Boyle)
  10. Somewhere (directed by Sofia Coppola)
  11. Life of Pi (directed by Ang Lee)
  12. Hugo (directed by Martin Scorsese)
  13. Inception (directed by Christopher Nolan)
  14. Animal Kingdom (directed by David Michod)
  15. Winter’s Bone (directed by Debra Granik)
  16. The Artist (directed by Michel Hazanavicius)
  17. The Guard (directed by John Michael McDonagh)
  18. Bernie (directed by Richard Linklater)
  19. The King’s Speech (directed by Tom Hooper)
  20. Bridesmaids (directed by Paul Feig)
  21. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (directed by Thomas Alfredson)
  22. Django Unchained (directed by Quentin Tarantino)
  23. Never Let Me Go (directed by Mark Romanek)
  24. Toy Story 3 (directed by Lee Unkrich)
  25. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (directed by Niels Arden Oplev)
  26. Young Adult (directed by Jason Reitman)
  27. Sucker Punch (directed by Zack Snyder)
  28. The Master (directed by Paul Thomas Anderson)
  29. Incendies (directed by Denis Villeneuve)
  30. Melancholia (directed by Lars Von Trier)
  31. Super (directed by James Gunn)
  32. Silver Linings Playbook (directed by David O. Russell)
  33. Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World (directed by Edgar Wright)
  34. The Last Exorcism (directed by Daniel Stamm)
  35. Skyfall (directed by Sam Mendes)
  36. Easy A (directed by Will Gluck)
  37. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Parts 1 and 2 (directed by David Yates)
  38. The Avengers (directed by Joss Whedon)
  39. How To Train Your Dragon (directed by Chris Sanders and Dean DeBois)
  40. Win Win (directed by Thomas McCarthy)
  41. Les Miserables (directed by Tom Hooper)
  42. Take This Waltz (directed by Sarah Polley)
  43. Cave of Forgotten Dreams (directed by Werner Herzog)
  44. Rust and Bone (directed by Jacques Audiard)
  45. Cosmopolis (directed by David Cronenberg)
  46. Ruby Sparks (directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valarie Faris)
  47. Brave (directed by Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman)
  48. Martha Marcy May Marlene (directed by Sean Durkin)
  49. Jane Eyre (directed by Cary Fukunaga)
  50. Damsels in Distress (directed by Whit Stillman)

Film Review: The Last Exorcism Part II (dir. by Ed Gass-Donnelly)


Though it was dismissed by a lot of critics and remains underrated to this day, The Last Exorcism is one of the best horror films of the past four years.  Featuring an excellent lead performance from Patrick Fabian and an intelligent, thought-provoking plot, The Last Exorcism was both a very creepy horror movie and a surprisingly effective character study.  It even managed to be effective despite being an example of a “found footage” horror movie.

The Last Exorcism‘s sequel — the unimaginatively titled The Last Exorcism Part II — was released this weekend.  Like a lot of people, I have to admit that I wasn’t expecting much from the sequel.  The first film’s success was such a surprise that I doubted that the sequel could come close to matching it.

To a certain extent, I was right.  The sequel is nowhere near as good as the first film.  However, that said, The Last Exorcism Part II is still an above average horror film.

Ashley Bell

Wisely abandoning the whole found footage format, The Last Exorcism Part II begins with Nell (played, again, by Ashley Bell) as the only survivor from the previous film.  After escaping the cult that previously attempted to sacrifice her, Nell finds herself put into group home in New Orleans.  The group home is run by Frank Merle (Muse Watson), a friendly (if vaguely threatening) man who encourages Nell to try to move on from her traumatic past.  With Frank’s help, Nell starts to recover.  She gets a job working as a motel maid, makes friends with some of the other girls at the home, and she even starts to flirt with shy Chris (Spencer Treat Clark).

Everything seems to going so well for Nell.

Or is it?

Despite her claim that she no longer believes that she was ever possessed, Nell still finds herself being watched by menacing, masked figures who pop up on random street corners.  She still receives mysterious phone calls.  She’s still haunted by visions of her dead father walking through the dark hallways of the group home.  Nell is still having nightmares where she’s seduced by an unseen creature and her roommate and new best friend Gwen (Julia Garner) still seems to be oddly amused by any type of human suffering.

And that’s not even taking into consideration the voodoo priestess who follows Nell up and down the streets of New Orleans…

As opposed to the first film, The Last Exorcism Part II is a pretty conventional horror film.  Whereas the first film kept you constantly wondering whether Nell was actually possessed and made some surprisingly intelligent observations regarding the battle between faith and reason, The Last Exorcism Part II never gives you any reason to doubt that both the demon and the possession are real.  Whereas The Last Exorcism was a horror film that could be appreciated even by people who hated horror films, The Last Exorcism Part II is pretty much a film for horror fans only.

Fortunately, I happen to be a horror fan and I was pleasantly surprised by The Last Exorcism Part II.  While director Ed Gass-Donnelly shows little interest in rewriting the rules of the horror, he also shows that he can effectively work within the conventions of the genre.  He even uses the PG-13 rating to the film’s advantage, making up for the lack of gore by emphasizing the otherworldly atmosphere of New Orleans.

It also helps that Ashley Bell returns in the role of Nell.  As is typical of other possession movies (like the Exorcist, to cite an obvious example), the demon inside Nell can just as easily be taken as a metaphor for Nell’s emerging sexuality.  Ashley Bell gives a performance that walks a perfect line between innocence and carnality.  Much as Patrick Fabian’s performance elevated the first film, Bell’s performance elevates the second.

That said, The Last Exorcism Part II is ultimately the type of film where people tend to spend a lot of time wandering around dark hallways in the middle of the night without ever bothering to turn on a light.  It’s up to each individual  member of the audience to decide whether they’re going to demand to know why nobody turns on the lights or whether they’re simply going to enjoy waiting for the inevitable “jump” scene that we all know is coming.  If the audience is willing to set aside logic and enjoy a movie for what it is, then they are the ideal audience for a film like this one.

Perhaps not surprisingly, The Last Exorcism Part II has not received a lot of critical praise.  The film was not screened for critic prior to release and now that it has been released, it has a 15% overall rating over at Rotten Tomatoes.  However, you could have guessed that without me even telling you.  Everyone knew that the professional critics were going to hate The Last Exorcism Part II.  This is the type of film that most critics feel almost duty-bound to condemn.  This is also the type of film that reminds us of just how little the critical consensus really matters.  When judged on its own (admittedly limited) terms,The Last Exorcism Part II is an effective and creepy film.  It’s the epitome of a fun and occasionally stupid horror film, the type of movie you want to see with a group of friends who enjoy jumping at things that go bump in the night.

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Top 25 Films of 2010


I’ve been slacking off about getting this particular list down and posted, but with film news being quite slow outside of Oscar-related items I thought it was time to get my lazy ass to get this done. Some of the titles I’ll mention are favorite films of 2010 for me while others only made it onto the list not because I liked or even enjoyed them, but they were just well-executed and made.

A couple of the titles I’ve listed also made their premiere’s in their home country earlier than 2010, but it wasn’t until this past year that they were shown here in the U.S. thus it qualifies as a 2010 for me. For those who have seen the very final title on my list should know that this is one title that I definitely didn’t find entertaining at all, but found it to be as daring and as subversive as another film made decades before it which received similar negative reactions from many: Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Salo.

  1. Black Swan
  2. True Grit
  3. Inception
  4. Restrepo
  5. Winter’s Bone
  6. The Fighter
  7. The King’s Speech
  8. Kick-Ass
  9. The Last Exorcism
  10. Animal Kingdom
  11. Un prophète
  12. Lebanon
  13. Let Me In
  14. Despicable Me
  15. The Social Network
  16. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
  17. Toy Story 3
  18. Waiting for Superman
  19. How To Train Your Dragon
  20. The Town
  21. Mesrine
  22. Mother
  23. Carlos
  24. Blue Valentine
  25. A Serbian Film

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.)

Lisa Marie’s Top 26 Films of 2010


Since it’s awards season and all, here’s my personal picks for the 26 top films of 2010.

(This post has been updated since it was originally posted in order to include two films — Somewhere and Easy A — that I saw after making out the list below.)  

1) Black Swan

2) Exit Through The Gift Shop

3) Fish Tank

4) 127 Hours

5) Somewhere

6) Inception

7) Animal Kingdom

8) Winter’s Bone

9) The King’s Speech

10) Never Let Me Go

11) Toy Story 3

12)  The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

13) Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World

14) The Last Exorcism

15) Easy A

16) How To Train Your Dragon

17) The Fighter

18) Rabbit Hole

19) A Prophet

20) Let Me In

21) True Grit

22) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

23) City Island

24) Made in Dagenham

25) Kick-Ass

26) Faster

27) Nowhere Boy

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.

2010: The Year In Film So Far


Everyone views history in their own individual way.  Some people remember past years by what they saw on the evening news (hence, 2004 becomes “the year Bush was reelected”) but I define them by what was playing at the nearest movie theater.  Ask me when I was born and I won’t tell you, “1985.”  Instead, I’ll tell you that I was born the same year that Terry Gilliam’s Brazil was butchered by Sid Shienberg.  For me, the quality of a year is determined by the quality of the movies that were released during those twelve months.  You may have hated 2009 because of the economy.  I hated it because it was the year of the overrated movie, the year in which otherwise sensible people ignored great films like An Education, A Serious Man, District 9, and Inglorious Basterds (which, praised as it was, deserved considerably more) in favor of Avatar and The Hurt Locker.

2010, however, is shaping up to be a far better year.  Though a final judgment can’t be passed on 2010 until 2011, here’s a few thoughts on the year so far.

Best Film (so far): Exit Through The Gift Shop, a quasi-documentary that might just be one of the most perfectly executed mindfucks in modern history.  Runners-up: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Fish Tank, Please Give, Winter’s Bone, A Prophet, Toy Story 3, and Inception.

Best Male Performance of the year so far: John Hawkes, in Winter’s Bone.  Hawkes has been overshadowed by Jennifer Lawrence but he dominates every scene that he appears in.  Just consider the scene where he “talks” his way out of a traffic stop. Runners-ups: John C. Reilly in Cyrus, Ben Stiller in Greenberg, Leonardo DiCaprio in Inception and Shutter Island, and Sam Rockwell in Iron Man 2.

Best Female Performance of the year so far: Noomi Rapace as the Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Played With Fire.  Rapace is my new role model, a Ms. 45 for the 21st century.  Runners-up: Jennifer Lawrence in Winter’s Bone, Katie Jarvis for Fish Tank, Rebecca Hall in Please Give, Greta Gerwig in Greenberg, and Chloe Grace Moretz in Kick-Ass.

Best Ending: The final shot of Inception.

Best Horror Film: The Wolf Man, which should have been oh so bad but instead turned out to be oh so good with Anthony Hopkins and Hugo Weaving both giving brilliant supporting performances. 

Best Bad Movie: Sex and the City 2.  Yes, if I’m going to be honest, it was a horrible movie.  But it was fun. the clothes were to die for, and the film managed to bring new depths of shallowness to the examination of the oppression of women in the Middle East.

Worst Film Of The Year (so far): Chloe.  Oh, Atom Egoyan, poor baby, what have you done, sweetheart?  You made a trashy, campy softcore movie and then you forgot that these things are supposed to be fun!  Runner-up: Robin Hood, because the entire freaking movie was a lie.  However, it did feature Oscar Isaac screaming, “Outlawwwwww!” and that saves it from being named the worst.

Worst Horror Film So Far: The Black Waters On Echo’s Pond.  So.  Fucking.  Bad.

The Get-Over-It-Award For The First Half Of 2010: The makers of Prince of Persia, who just had to try to turn an otherwise entertainingly mindless action film into yet another half-assed cinematic allegory for the Invasion of Iraq.  Ben Kingsley will probably be playing thinly disguised versions of Dick Cheney for the rest of his life.  I was against the Invasion of Iraq from the start but seriously, I’m so bored with every movie released using it as a way to try to fool the audience into thinking that they’re seeing something more worthwhile than they are.

The Read-The-Freaking-Book-Instead Award: The Killer Inside Me.  A lot of viewers are disturbed by the violent way that the main character deals with the women in his life.  I’m more disturbed by the fact that all the women in his life are presented as being simpering idiots.  The original novel is by Jim Thompson and it is a classic.

The worst ending of 2010 so far: Splice with the Killer Inside Me as a strong runner-up.

Future Film I’m Not Looking Forward To: Roland Emmerich’s Gusher, an ecological thriller based on the BP oil spill, starring Will Smith as the President, Dev Patel as the governor of Louisiana, Paul Bettany as the head of the evil oil company, and Ben Kingsley as Dick Cheney who will be seen cackling as oil-drenched doves wash up on the shores of California.  (How did the oil get to California?  Emmerich magic.)  Of course, the nominal star of the movie will be Jake Gyllenhaal as the young engineer who says stuff like, “This well is going to blow!” and who is trying to reconcile with his estranged wife (played by — does it really matter?  Let’s just say Emily Blunt gets the role this time around).  And let’s not forget Robert Duvall, who will play a grizzled old-timer who says a lot of grizzled old-timer stuff.  Look for it in 2012.

My prediction for which film will be the most overrated of 2010: The Social Network, which has not opened yet but Sasha Stone at awardsdaily.com seems to think that it’s a slam dunk for greatness which is usually a pretty good indication that the end result is going to be a predictable, bourgeois crapfest.

So, that’s 2010 so far.  It’s shaping up to be a good year.  I’m still looking forward to the release of Blue Valentine, Animal Kingdom, Get Low, The Disappearance of Alice Creed, The Last Exorcism, Wall Street, and the rerelease of Godard’s classic Breathless, which is one of my favorite movies and now I’m going to get a chance to see it in a theater!  Life is good.