Song of the Day: When the Levee Breaks (by Led Zeppelin)


c16f548f4fbcd77437f8aaa3fb70dfc2Who would’ve thought that Ben Affleck, the same guy who was in one of the most ridiculous romantic scenes ever put on film (hint: animal crackers), would be turning out to be one of the brightest directors these last few years. He hasn’t missed yet with two directing gigs with Gone, Baby Gone and The Town. With Argo he makes it three solid hits in a row.

One thing that really struck me about the film Argo was Affleck’s use of licensed music to cue up particularly important scenes throughout the film. One such musical cue used one of my favorite rock and blues song ever. It’s Led Zeppelin’s cover of the Memphis Minnie and Kansas Joe McCoy song of the same name. Most young people seem to know this song from it’s constant use to score scenes and sequences about the Katrina disaster, especially scenes of a flooded New Orleans when the levees broke during the hurricane. It was nice to hear the song used in a scene not dealing with the aftermath of Katrina but to highlight the mental situation of the characters in Argo. I won’t say which scene exactly, but for those who have seen the film will know what I mean and the lyrics to the song should become even more weighty once they put two and two together.

I really love this song. From the use of harmonicas by John Paul Jones (and probably another sessions player) to Robert Plant’s emotional wailing right up to one of the best drum work by the great John Bonham. You can almost literally feel those drum sticks drop heavy on those drums. One would almost think Bonham was using tree trunks to play this song.

When the Levee Breaks

If it keeps on rainin’ levee’s goin’ to break
If it keeps on rainin’ levee’s goin’ to break
When The Levee Breaks I’ll have no place to stay.

Mean old levee taught me to weep and moan
Lord, mean old levee taught me to weep and moan
Got what it takes to make a mountain man leave his home
Oh well oh well oh well.

Don’t it make you feel bad
When you’re tryin’ to find your way home
You don’t know which way to go?
If you’re goin’ down South
They go no work to do
If you don’t know about Chicago.

Cryin’ won’t help you prayin’ won’t do you no good
Now cryin’ won’t help you prayin won’t do you no good
When the levee breaks mama you got to move.

All last night sat on the levee and moaned
All last night sat on the levee and moaned
Thinkin bout me baby and my happy home.
Going go n to Chicago
Go n to Chicago
Sorry but I can’t take you.
Going down going down now going down.

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

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.

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.)

Dallas Snubs Lisa Marie


I’m now officially bored with groups of people voting for and handing out awards.  However, I do have to mention one more film critics group that announced their “best-of-2010” selections earlier today.

The Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association announced their picks and, while the winners are pretty much the same films and performances that everyone else has honored this year, I still find it fascinating that there is apparently a Dallas-Forth Worth Film Critics Association.  I mean, I live in Dallas and I love my city but it’s not like we’re Los Angeles or New York.  Dallas has two newspapers — the Dallas Morning News and the weekly Dallas Observer.  Forth Worth has the Star Telegram and that’s about it.  Of course, the towns surrounding the Dallas/Ft. Worth metroplex all have their own local papers but for the most part, everything is owned and published by the same company that puts out the Morning News.  So, regardless of whether its political endorsements or film reviews, we’re not exactly dealing with a lot of editorial diversity.

And, of course, I haven’t even start to get into the main issue — which is that I’m not a member!  I’m an opinionated, online film critic from North Texas!  Where’s my freaking membership!?  Is it because I’m a woman?  That’s it, isn’t it?  All you good old boys just don’t realize that the glass ceiling hasn’t just been cracked, it’s been shattered…

Oh, wait.  I just visited the official site of the Dallas/Ft. Worth Film Critics Association and apparently, 11 of the 32 members are female.  And apparently, once you join, you have to pay dues…

Never mind. 🙂

Plus, I noticed that Gary Cogill is a member and if you live in DFW then you know that Gary Cogill is just da man.

Anyway, here’s their list of winners:

TOP TEN:
1. The Social Network
2. The King`s Speech
3. Black Swan
4. 127 Hours
5. Winter`s Bone
6. Inception
7. The Fighter
8. True Grit
9. The Town
10. The Kids Are All Right

(Really?  The Town and The Kids Are All Right make the top ten?  I don’t know, maybe I should demand membership becaue it seems like they kinda need me…)

BEST PICTURE: The Social Network

BEST DIRECTOR: David Fincher, The Social Network

BEST ACTOR: James Franco, 127 Hours

BEST ACTRESS: Natalie Portman, Black Swan

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Christian Bale, The Fighter

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Melissa Leo, The Fighter

BEST SCREENPLAY: The Social Network (Bleh, give a mainstream, elitist like Aaron Sorkin all the awards you want, he’s still going to hate on us for being from Texas…)

BEST FOREIGN FILM: Biutiful

BEST DOCUMENTARY: Waiting for Superman

BEST ANIMATED FILM: Toy Story 3

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: 127 Hours

RUSSEL SMITH AWARD: Winter`s Bone

Hey SAG! Where’s Jacki?


Is there any organization out there right now that isn’t handing out either awards or nominations?  Earlier today, The members of the Screen Actors Guild became the latest organization to join in the fun when they announced their nominations for the best film performances of 2010.

Here’s the nominees.  I apologize, in advance, for the lack of sarcastic commentary but I have a headache and, as a result, my wit is sleeping on the couch for now.

Ensemble:
Black Swan
The Fighter
The Kids Are All Right
The King’s Speech
The Social Network

Actress, Lead:
Annette Bening, The Kids Are All Right
Nicole Kidman, Rabbit Hole
Jennifer Lawrence, Winter’s Bone
Natalie Portman, Black Swan
Hilary Swank, Conviction

Actor, Motion Picture
Jeff Bridges, True Grit
Robert Duvall, Get Low
Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network
Colin Firth, The King’s Speech
James Franco, 127 Hours

Supporting Actor
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

Actress, Supporting
Amy Adams, The Fighter
Helena Bonham Carter, The King’s Speech
Mila Kunis, Black Swan
Melissa Leo, The Fighter
Hailee Steinfeld, True Grit

Well, okay, maybe I’ll make a few comments along the lines of “Yay for the love shown to Natalie Portman, John Hawkes, James Franco, Jennifer Lawrence, and Mila Kunis!”

But seriously, SAG, where’s Animal Kingdom’s Jacki Weaver?  I mean, I can understand why Noomi Rapace was snubbed.  The Mainstream doesn’t want to remind people that there was a perfect Lisbeth Salander before Rooney Mara.  That’s how the game is played.  That’s why the people over at awardsdaily.com are already trying to claim David Fincher’s remake of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo as the film to beat for best picture next year.

But nobody’s remaking Animal Kingdom.  There’s nothing wrong with admitting that, in a year of excellent female performances, few were as a note perfect and unexpected as Jacki Weaver’s.

The National Board Of Review: I Give Up!


The rather enigmatic National Board of Review announced their selections for the best films of 2010 today.  The NBR is traditionally considered to be the first precursor to how the actual Oscar race will shape up.  Typically, those honored by the NBR are, at the very least, nominated by the Academy.  Strangely, nobody seems to be sure just who exactly makes up the membership of the NBR.  As far as I can tell, it appears to be a collection of film professors and cable tv executives.  It wouldn’t surprise me to discover that the NBR is actually some sort of Illuminati conspiracy or MK-Ultra experiment designed to keep American filmgoers from thinking for themselves.

Anyway, as I look over this year’s award winners, all I can say is that I give up.  If my reaction to Avatar indicated to me that I’m totally out-of-step with mainstream opinion, then the current Pavlovian acclaim of the Social Network proves it.  I will never be a part of the mainstream and it’s not by choice.  It’s just I am apparently thoroughly incapable of understanding how the mainstream brain works. 

So, that’s what the National Board of Review taught me today.  I am destined to always be alone, railing against the dying of the light.  Thank you for the insight, assholes.

Anyway, here’s this year’s award winners:

Best Picture: The Social Network (Don’t get me wrong, the Social Network is a good movie.  It’s just not that good.) 

Best Director: David Fincher, The Social Network

Best Actor: Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network (I am so sick of hearing that this is Jesse’s “breakthrough” role.  Jesse’s breakthrough was in Adventureland, long before the mainstream ever decided to embrace him.)

Best Actress: Lesley Manville, Another Year (Haven’t seen it yet)

Best Supporting Actor: Christian Bale, The Fighter (Another movie that I will see when it opens later this month.  Still, Bale should have been nominated for American Psycho back in the day.)

Best Supporting Actress: Jacki Weaver for Animal Kingdom (Yay!  This award gives me hope.)

Best Animated Feature: Toy Story 3 (yay!)

Best Documentary: Waiting For Superman (Yes, my favorite movie of the year —Exit Through The Gift Shop — was totally ignored.)

Best Ensemble Cast: The Town (Bleh.  So I guess that would include Jon Hamm, who gave such an amazingly bad performance in this film?)

Breakthrough Performance: Jennifer Lawrence, Winter’s Bone (Another yay but you know all the mainstream is going to offer her is a role in a Twilight rip-off and maybe a Maxim cover shoot.)

Best Adapted Screenplay: Aaron Sorkin for The Social Network (Fuck Aaron Sorkin and his elitist, sexist, technophobic script.)

Best Original Screenplay: Chris Sparling for Buried (which I didn’t see, mostly because I’m claustrophobic and the movie is called Buried.)

Ten Best Films Of The Year (in alphabetical order):

Another Year

The Fighter

Hereafter (which sucked!)

Inception (yay!)

The King’s Speech (I’m actually really looking forward to seeing this)

Shutter Island (kinda bleh but enjoyable)

The Town

Toy Story 3

True Grit (another one I can’t wait to see)

Winter’s Bone (yay!)

Yep, you read that right.  No awards for such presumed favorites as James Franco and 127 Hours, Black Swan, or The Kids Are All Right.  But you better believe they found room to honor a shallow, pandering film like Hereafter.

Finally, here are the Top Ten Independent Films of 2010, according to the toadsuckers at the National Board of Review:

Animal Kingdom (yay!)

Buried (Now I guess I have to see it)

Fish Tank (yay!)

The Ghost Writer (yay — kinda)

Greenberg (bleh)

Let Me In (another kinda yay)

Monsters (shrug)

Please Give (yay!)

Somewhere (going to see it when it opens down here, Sofia Coppola is my role model)

Youth in Revolt (shrug, it’s neither bleh nor yay)

You can read the full list of winners at The Wrap.

Anyway, in order to show just how exactly I feel when confronted with mainstream thought and opinion, here’s an old picture of me with a tampon stuck up my nose.

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.

Quickie Review: The Town (dir. by Ben Affleck)


If someone just five years ago told me that Ben Affleck would turn out to be a director whose work has been some of the better crime drama/thrillers of the past decade then I would declare shenanigans on that individual. Ben Affleck might have won an Oscar for helping write the screenplay for Good Will Hunting, but his career since could be labeled as being one of a joke (Gigli) interspersed with huge paycheck projects (Armageddon) that showed his range as an actor.

This is not to say that Affleck has no talent in front of the camera. I just believe that early in his career after winning his Oscar he got fooled into thinking that everything else since would be Easy Street paved in gold (financially and critically). To say that it hasn’t turned out to be that way (though he did make a ton of money) would be an understatement. But one thing happened while Affleck’s acting career was heading nowhere but down. He got behind the camera as a director and his very first time directing a feature-length film he would make one of 2007’s best films. I speak of his film adaptation of the Dennis Lehane crime drama, Gone Baby Gone. He didn’t just direct the life out of that film, but he also the screenplay with the help of Aaron Stockard.

The two of the them would collaborate once again on Affleck’s latest Boston-based crime drama, The Town. He wrote the screenplay and directed the film and pulled in some wonderful performances from an ensemble cast which included Jeremy Renner, Jon Hamm, Rebecca Hall, Blake Lively, Titus Welliver and Pete Postlethwaite. Fellow site writer Lisa Marie already reviewed the film in detail and her review pretty much put down into words exactly what I thought of the film. I will say that I would swerve slightly away from what she considered some of the flaws in the film.

The Town was adapted from Chuck Hogan’s novel, Prince of Thieves. I would consider the screenplay and dialogue as a major strength of the film. While at times it did seemed to follow the step-by-step and by-the-numbers heist thriller story the screenplay itself didn’t ring false. I liken this film to another heist film which shared some themes and similarities. Michael Mann’s Heat also dealt with the cops-and-robbers foundation. Where Mann’s film had a much larger and epic scope to its storytelling it still boiled down to two groups of determined men playing a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse. The women in both film were written just enough that they had distinct personalities, but in the end they were motivations for the men in the film.

Affleck shows that he doesn’t just know how to direct, but continues is reputation as being one very good screenwriter. One just has to be reminded that he is now 3-for-3 when it comes to screenplays he has written which have turned out to be great ones. While he doesn’t have the same flair for words as Tarantino or Mamet when it comes to the screenplay. What he does well was to create an efficient script which flowed from scene to scene. Tarantino’s screenplays are great, but at times he does allow himself to overindulge his inner-film geek and create dialogue that might be Sorkin-like in execution. What I mean is that as great as the dialogue sound there’s no way people really spoke like this to each other. Affleck’s screenplay for The Town felt very natural and even with Jon Hamm’s less than great performance the film had a natural and genuine sound to it’s dialogue.

That’s one flaw pointed out by Lisa Marie that I would disagree with her on. The other two I can see her point, but it bothered me none. Though if I ever took on a life of crime I would hope I find someone just like Rebecca Hall’s Claire. Now there’s a woman who stands by her man no matter what.

I think in the long run this film might just be seen as one of the best of 2010 and some critics have already dubbed it so. While it’s prospects come awards season time is still up in the air I wouldn’t be surprised if it ends up nabbing one of the ten Best Picture nominations when the Oscar nominations get announced. It would be well-deserved and would just prove that Affleck’s career in the film industry might just be hitting its stride. Who would’ve thought it would be as a writer-director and not as an actor.

Film Review: The Town (dir. by Ben Affleck)


Before I get to my review, you should understand that I nearly didn’t see The Town last night.  Earlier, on Friday morning, I had to leave work early because I was so sick and nauseous that I was on the verge of passing out.  Once I got home, I had to 1) convince my aunt that I wasn’t pregnant (“Are you sure?” she said after I reassured her) and 2) had to convince myself that my appendix wasn’t about to burst (and it’s not so don’t worry).  After all that, there was a part of me that said, “The Town can wait.  I’ll go on Saturday or maybe even later in the week.”

But I ignored that part of me and I went and saw the movie anyway.  Why?  Well, I wanted to review it for this site.  (That’s dedication for you!)  Plus, I knew my friend Jeff wanted to see it with me and I wanted to see it with him and since when has a little thing like a ruptured appendix ever been an excuse not to have a good time?  Last but not least, The Town is Ben Affleck’s second movie as a director.  His first was 2007’s Gone, Baby, Gone.  Personally, I think Gone, Baby, Gone is one of the best crime films ever made.  It’s certainly one of my favorite.  I was curious to see if The Town would be a worthy follow-up or would it just prove Gone, Baby, Gone to have been a fluke.

The Town takes place in the Charlestown section of Boston.  At the opening of the film, we’re told that Charlestown apparently produces more professional armed robbers than any other place in the entire world.  It’s a practice that is handed down from father-to-son.  (Or, in the case of this movie, from Chris Cooper to Ben Affleck.)

Affleck plays Doug, a former hockey player who is now the head of a gang of Charlestown bank robbers.  His second-in-command is Jem (played by Jeremy Renner).  Over the course of the film, we learn Doug’s father (Chris Cooper) is a career criminal who is currently serving a life sentence in prison.  When his father went to prison, Doug was taken in by Jem’s family.  Doug even ended up dating Jem’s sister (Blake Lively) and might be the father of Lively’s daughter.  For this reason, Doug and Jem are fiercely loyal to each other despite the fact that Doug is essentially a nice guy and Jem is not.

(As a sidenote, why is it in the crime films that people are always shocked when the psychotic supporting character ends up doing psychotic?  I mean, have these people never gone to the movies before?  Have they never checked out Goodfellas from Netflix?  Did they miss the whole Joe Pesci “How am I funny?” thing?)

At the start of the film, Doug, Jem, and the gang rob a bank.  Doug is a model of professionalism.  Jem goes a little bit crazy and beats one bank employee nearly to death.  This gives the bank manager, Clare (Rebecca Hall), just enough time to set off a silent alarm.  Realizing that the police are on the way, Jem responds by taking Clare hostage as the gang flees.  Clare is later released on a desolate beach.

However, there’s a problem.  Before releasing her, Jem stole Clare’s ID.  Looking at it after the robbery, he discovers that Clare lives in Charlestown and, as a result, there’s now a risk that she might simply see one of the gang on the street and identify him.  Jem wants to kill her but Doug says that he’ll take care of her himself.

By “taking care of,” Doug means that he’ll follow her around town, eventually strike up a conversation with her, and then end up pursuing a romance with her (while declining, of course, to mention that he already knows her).  Jem, however, was under the impression that “taking care of” meant to kill.  So, needless to say, he’s a little bit miffed when he stumbles across Doug and Clare having a lunch date.

Soon, Doug finds himself trapped in the life he’s created for himself.  In love with Clare but torn by his loyalty to the increasingly unstable Jem, Doug agrees to one more big job.  All the while, he is pursued by two relentless FBI agents (Jon Hamm and Titus Welliver) and he has to deal with an Irish mob boss (Pete Postlewaite) who has an agenda of his own.

The Town works largely because Ben Affleck has, unexpectedly, turned out to be an intelligent, no-nonsense director.  The movie features three robbery scenes and, in each one of them, Affleck creates genuine tension and excitement without ever once resorting to outlandish stunts or random slow motion.  Unlike a lot of (bad) actors turned director, Affleck never seems to feel the need to toss in any showy (but ultimately empty) tricks to try to convince us that he’s a director.  This is a confident movie that shows that Gone, Baby, Gone wasn’t a fluke.  (That said, Gone, Baby, Gone remains the superior film for reasons that I’m getting to.)

Also, as with Gone, Baby, Gone, The Town benefits from Affleck’s obvious love for the city and people of Boston.  Shot on location and featuring a number of local actors, The Town has a wonderful sense of place to it.  By the end of it, you feel as if you know Charlestown even if, like me, you’re just a country girl from Texas.

Ben Affleck the director also manages to do something truly surprising — he gets a good performance out of Ben Affleck the actor.  In the past, I’ve always enjoyed looking at Ben Affleck on-screen but I never really wanted to hear him talk.  Because as soon as he would open his mouth, whatever appeal that Affleck possessed would immediately dissolve.  In the past, as an actor, Affleck often epitomized that whole concept of “there’s no there there.”  However, in this film, he gives a low-key, subtle performance that really helps to hold the entire film together.  I still wouldn’t call Affleck a good actor.  Instead, he’s one of those rare directors who (like fellow bad actor Quentin Tarantino) knows how to get good performances even from the most unlikely of performers.

Affleck is well-supported by Hall, Lively, and Renner.  Hall has a difficult job because she’s not so much playing an actual human being as much as she’s playing an idealized concept.  Her character really doesn’t have any purpose beyond offering Doug a chance at redemption and (this is obvious more in retrospect than during the actual film) really doesn’t have much of an identity beyond how her life touches Doug’s.  Hall, however, is so vulnerable in the role that, while you’re watching the film, that none of this really becomes obvious until a few hours after the movie ends.  Lively (better known for her role on Gossip Girl) is only in a few scenes and, in many ways, her character is even less developed than Hall’s.  If Hall has to represent the Madonna part of the Whore/Madonna complex, guess what Lively represents.  Still, Lively brings some much needed humor to the role and to the film.  She’s having fun playing her drunken, drug-addled character and she steals almost every scene that she’s in.

However, the film is ultimately dominated by Jeremy Renner.  With his angelic voice and deceptively soft voice, Renner is the psychopath that you can’t help but love.  Movie psychos are a dime-a-dozen so when an actor comes along and actually finds something new to do with the role, it’s impossible not to be impressed.

So much works in The Town that I almost feel guilty talking about what doesn’t.  For all its strengths, it also has three rather glaring flaws.  As with all things, the final verdict on this film depends on just how willing the viewer is to overlook these flaws.

First off, Ben Affleck proves himself to be a better director than writer.  The Town’s story is well told but the majority of it will still be awfully familiar to anyone who has ever seen a heist film.  Unlike Quentin Tarantino, Martin Scorsese, or Michael Mann, Affleck doesn’t embrace the conventions in order to deconstruct them.  Instead, he uses the conventional storyline as an excuse to explore the Charlestown culture.  As a result, this flaw arguably works to the film’s advantage.  Still, those viewers who are expecting to be surprised by the film’s plot should consider themselves warned.

As well acted as the movie is, there is one big exception in the cast and that is Mad Men’s Jon Hamm.  Hamm plays the FBI agent who is determined to capture Affleck.  He’s the Javert to Affleck’s Valjean.  Unfortunately, as played by Jon Hamm, he’s also a cinematic black hole.  Hamm may be an excellent television actor but, playing a key supporting role and surrounded by actual film actors, it’s obvious that Hamm has no idea how to act for the big screen.  As a result, he never comes across as a worthy or even dangerous adversary and his pursuit of Affleck never becomes compelling nor do we ever worry that Affleck might not be able to outsmart him.  There’s a scene, towards the end of the film, where Hamm yells something like, “Drop your weapon, asshole!”  I have to admit that I stunned just about everyone in the theater when I burst into laughter at the sound of Hamm shouting “asshole” and sounding, more or less, like an overgrown kid on a playground.

(Hamm’s sidekick, by the way, is played by another tv actor, Titus Welliver.  Welliver is probably best known for playing the Man In Black on the final season of Lost.  Though he gets next to nothing to do, Welliver dominates every scene that he’s in.  Unlike Hamm, he knows how to act on a big screen.)

The most glaring flaw with The Town, however, is that the entire plot pretty much depends on the viewer accepting that Hall’s character, just days after being traumatized by being held hostage and seeing one of her co-workers nearly beaten to death because he attempted to protect her, would so easily trust and open up her life to a stranger (even if that stranger is Ben Affleck).  Never mind the fact that we are then expected to believe that she would stay loyal to Affleck even after learning the truth.  Realistically, this would seem to indicate that the character’s something of a sadomasochist but the film really doesn’t explore that (or really anything else that might make Hall’s character anything more than just an idealized Madonna figure).

I mean, I’m always open to experimentation in a relationship.  Different people enjoy different things and I’ve never been one to judge anyone else’s particular fetish.  However, just speaking for myself, the day that you stick a gun in my face, put a blindfold over my eyes, and then abandon me out on the beach is the same day that I decide that there’s probably not going to be a long-term relationship there.

So, once again, it’s all a question of whether or not you can accept these flaws.  I have to admit that, as I watched the film, I occasionally had a hard time doing so.  If you can agree to overlook the flaws, however, then The Town is an entertaining, well-acted crime thriller with an authentic sense of place.  And if you can’t overlook those flaws, than The Town is a good but imperfect movie that still indicates that Ben Affleck has got quite a future as a director.