Sunday, January 30, 2011

17th Annual SAG Award Winners

Colin Firth accepting his SAG for Best Actor

Last night's 17th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards ended with the definitive sound of the Oscar chances for "The Social Network" going out the window. The awards climate has now significantly changed.

First, here's a look at the winners:

Best Actor - Colin Firth, "The King's Speech"

Best Actress - Natalie Portman, "Black Swan"

Best Supporting Actor - Christian Bale, "The Fighter"

Best Supporting Actress - Melissa Leo, "The Fighter"

Best Ensemble Cast - "The King's Speech"

All of these wins were obvious except for the last one. "The King's Speech" taking Best Ensemble Cast last night was the equivalent of it winning Best Picture considering the current upswing that movie is experiencing right now.

Within the past few weeks, "The King's Speech" garnered a win from the Producers Guild of America, a harbinger of the Best Picture recipient. This was not enough evidence to push "The Social Network" aside, though, which before that had been sweeping the awards.

Then came Oscar nominations where "The King's Speech" reigned with 12 awards total trumping "The Social Network" with only 8 nominations. Number of nominations doesn't always guarantee victory, so this still wasn't a total concern.

Even more recently, however, Tom Hooper made an upset by winning the Directors Guild of America award for "The King's Speech" over David Fincher for "The Social Network." While people were considering David Fincher might still take Best Director if "The King's Speech" won Best Picture, that thinking was immediately dashed with this announcement.

All of this combined with last night's SAG win makes "The King's Speech" the new frontrunner of the Oscar race. It's amazing that just a few weeks can change the race like that, and now comes the time the predictions all shift back to what was originally considered--all the way back in October and November--the academy favorite.

Though I don't agree with it as I'm one of those who believe "The Social Network" is the best film of the year, it does make sense. David Fincher's Facebook movie is cold and hip, and it's not a movie the academy can easily get behind; we were just blinded by all of its critical acclaim. The academy is a different crowd than who was awarding it at the Golden Globes and the Critics' Choice.

A heartwarming and lightly humorous period piece about how an unlikely king overcame his crippling speech impediment to go on and lead his country? Sounds like an Academy Award Best Picture winner to me, as much as I hate to admit it.

Check here for a full list of 17th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards winners.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

83rd Annual Academy Award Nominations

Without fail, the announcement of the 83rd Annual Academy Award nominations this morning has left people in a frenzy of frustration. The biggest complaint on everyone's plate this year? The snub for Christopher Nolan in the category of Best Director for his work on "Inception." How did the Academy think it was OK to snub him again after already snubbing him back in 2008 for "The Dark Knight" is beyond me.

Sure some can argue about the other five Best Picture nominees who don't have a Best Director nominee to match, but it just felt like--with his film garnering eight total nominations and all--his work deserved to qualify for a nod.

In any case.

"The King's Speech" led the pack with 12 nominations total followed by "True Grit" with 10, "The Social Network" and "Inception" tied at eight and "The Fighter" with seven.

In for Best Director over Nolan was David O. Russell for "The Fighter," Tom Hooper for "The King's Speech," David Fincher for "The Social Network," Darren Aronofsky for "Black Swan" and--who wasn't expected to make it in but did--Joel and Ethan Coen for "True Grit." It's pretty clear David Fincher has this one.

I'm proud to announce I predicted the 10 slots for Best Picture nominees correctly. They are as follows: "127 Hours," "Black Swan," "The Fighter," "Inception," "The Kids Are All Right," "The King's Speech," "The Social Network," "Toy Story 3," "True Grit" and "Winter's Bone." I'm glad that Debra Granik's film made it in over the last minute prediction that Ben Affleck's "The Town" would be able to edge it out. This came as a surprise considering many predicted it would do better in major categories.

Best Actor nominations included the suspected four with front-runner and clear winner Colin Firth for "The King's Speech" along with Jesse Eisenberg for "The Social Network," James Franco for "127 Hours" and Jeff Bridges for "True Grit" who won last year. The fifth spot was rather up for grabs, and it ended up going to Javier Bardem for "Biutiful" over both Robert Duvall for "Get Low" and Ryan Gosling for "Blue Valentine."

The Best Actress category held the least amount of surprise with the nominees of Nicole Kidman for "Rabbit Hole," Annette Bening for "The Kids Are All Right," Jennifer Lawrence for "Winter's Bone," Natalie Portman for "Black Swan" and Michelle Williams for "Blue Valentine." Strange to note Williams got in but Gosling didn't; one must note, though, that the year was indeed stronger in actor over actress performances. Williams had less of a chance in being edged out over Gosling although both performances were at an equal caliber. Natalie Portman is the front-runner here and probable winner over Bening.

The debate of whether Hailee Steinfeld constituted as lead or supporting finally got put to an end as she was placed as a nominee within the Best Supporting Actress category. Joining her was Amy Adams and Melissa Leo both for "The Fighter," Jacki Weaver for "Animal Kingdom" and Helena Bonham Carter for "The King's Speech." A notable snub here comes with the lack of a nomination for either Mila Kunis or Barbara Hershey for "Black Swan." Many figured Kunis would go on to receive a nomination here considering the love for her at other award shows. Not here. Melissa Leo is still, in my mind, the one to win.

Predicted winner Christian Bale for "The Fighter" led the way in the Best Supporting Actor category. Joining him was not Andrew Garfield for "The Social Network," which was in my opinion one of the larger snubs of the morning. He was just astonishing in that film. Edging him out was Mark Ruffalo for "The Kids Are All Right," Geoffrey Rush for "The King's Speech," Jeremy Renner for "The Town"--the film's only nominee--and, an unexpected twist, John Hawkes for "Winter's Bone." This nomination acknowledges the Academy's love for that film.

Mike Leigh received recognition in Best Original Screenplay for his "Another Year." Other nominees in that category were a whole bunch of folks for "The Fighter," Christopher Nolan for "Inception," Lisa Cholodenkos and Stuart Blumberg for "The Kids Are All Right" and David Seidler for "The King's Speech." At least Nolan didn't get snubbed here, but I'm predicting Seidler to take the win.

Best Adapted Screenplay nominees were the front-runner Aaron Sorkin for "The Social Network" along with Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy for "127 Hours," Michael Arndt for "Toy Story 3," Joel and Ethan Coen for "True Grit" and, more love for this one, Debra Granik and Anne Rosellini for "Winter's Bone."

"Burlesque" got entirely left out of Best Original Song, which came as a surprise. Instead the nominations went to "Coming Home" from "Country Strong," "I See the Light" from "Tangled," "If I Rise" from "127 Hours" and "We Belong Together" from "Toy Story 3."

"Waiting for Superman" got left out of the nominations for Best Documentary which went to "Exit Through the Gift Shop," "Gasland," "Inside Job," "Restrepo" and "Wasteland."

"The Illusionist" got its well-deserved nomination for Best Animated Feature along with "How to Train Your Dragon" and, of course, "Toy Story 3."

"Inception" managed to garner a lot of its technical awards aside from one glaring absence of a nomination for Best Editing. The nominees instead were "Black Swan," "The Fighter," "The King's Speech," "127 Hours" and "The Social Network."

The category of Best Makeup was an entirely mixed bag bringing in the likes of "Barney's Version," "The Way Back" and "The Wolfman."

"TRON: Legacy" got left out of both Best Score and Visual Effects only making it in as a nomination for Sound Editing.

"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1" and "Alice in Wonderland" received two nominations each. The former for Visual Effects and Art Direction and the latter for Visual Effects and Costume Design.

Though it got left out of the Best Foreign Language category--which went to "Dogtooth," "Biutiful," "In a Better World," "Incendies" and "Outside the Law"--Italy's "I Am Love" did receive notice with a nomination in Costume Design.

John Powell's wonderful score for "How to Train Your Dragon" received a surprise nomination for Best Score along with Hans Zimmer for "Inception," Alexandre Desplat for "The King's Speech," A.R. Rahman for "127 Hours" and Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross for "The Social Network."

The nominations for Best Cinematography were Matthew Libatique for "Black Swan," Wally Pfister for "Inception," Danny Cohen for "The King's Speech," Jeff Cronenworth for "The Social Network" and Roger Deakins for "True Grit."

This morning leaves us with quite a few surprises and snubs considering how the award season had been previously going up until now. These shocks, however, do not detract from the predictability of the larger picture overall. My bets are still firmly placed on "The Social Network" taking the top prizes even though "The King's Speech" received the most nominations.

And, my closing words: Poor Christopher Nolan.

Check here for a full list of the nominees for the 83rd Annual Academy Awards.

Check back for further analysis down the line, and be sure to tune in for the Oscar telecast on Feburary 27th to find out who the winners are!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Best Films of 2010

At long last this is my list of the best movies of 2010. Keep in mind that I clearly don't see everything, though I try my very best to see as much as I can. So, considering what I have seen and what I found to be good, here's the list. Did I miss anything crucial or include anything you thought to be a real stinker? Let me know! But without any further delay, we begin at #20 and go from there:

20. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

With some of the best, most clever editing in any film this year, director Edgar Wright's pop culture-infused coming-of-age tale is a literal knockout with cues from comic books to TV shows to video games pumping energy and vivacity into every scene. Hilarious, fun and original, it is accented by Kieran Culkin as Scott Pilgrim's gay roommate.

19. The Illusionist

From Sylvain Chomet ("The Triplets of Belleville"), this hand-drawn animation delight is a blend of whimsical charm and deep sadness. Showcasing the lovely city of Edinburgh, containing little to no dialogue and created from an unfinished script belonging to the late French comedian and filmmaker Jacques Tati, this is a gorgeous contemplation on the possibility of finding magic in one's own life.

18. Easy A

The revelation of a breakthrough role for Emma Stone in this sharp-witted teen comedy is simply awesome. She's hilarious and surrounded by a surplus of talent from the great supporting cast of Stanley Tucci, Patricia Clarkson, Thomas Haden Church, Lisa Kudrow and Amanda Bynes.

17. How to Train Your Dragon

Behind "Toy Story 3," this is easily the most accomplished and thrilling animated feature of the year. A story of a boy and his dragon, it boasts amazing visuals that rival even those of "Avatar" along with a heartwarming tale of generational ties, values and bravery.

16. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1

This is the slowest, saddest and best installment in the "Harry Potter" franchise yet. The gifted British actors we've followed since they were kids--Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint--all have reached a new level of emotional maturity, and their nuanced performances show it. For the beginning of the end to a magical and involving journey, this was pitch-perfect.

15. Blue Valentine

Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams are raw and riveting in this dissection of a marriage gone wrong. Intense and painful scenes aplenty, this film from director Derek Cianfrance is purposely claustrophobic in the way it shows this relationship and where it could have gone astray.

14. 127 Hours

Danny Boyle's kinetic direction and Dodd's flashy cinematography turns a true life tale of a man whose arm gets stuck by a boulder--which could have felt claustrophobic--into a life-affirming journey of spirituality about the strength of the human condition. It's a one-man show with James Franco in a convincing portrayal of a man in need of personal courage.

13. Rabbit Hole

A trio of exquisitely nuanced performances from Nicole Kidman, Aaron Eckhart and Dianne Wiest highlight a remarkable film about loss and simply coping to move on and keep living. The melancholic subject matter of a child's death is presented with a keen sense of humor and warmth from director John Cameron Mitchell.

12. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

The first installment of the Swedish trilogy from Stieg Larsson is easily the best and most notable. Dark and riveting, this thriller is pulpy and rich with a lead performance from Noomi Rapace which stands as one of the best of the year. She plays Lisbeth Salander, a gothic bisexual hacker, and Rooney Mara has big shoes to fill when she will appear in the role next December. The American remake as a whole from director David Fincher has a big task ahead to live up to this great adaptation.

11. The King's Speech

Colin Firth deserves the Oscar he deserved last year in this magnificently told historical drama. The lifelong friendship between a speech therapist named Lionel Logue and King George VI is aptly handled from director Tom Hooper. That final scene where the king must give his first wartime speech fighting his way through his insistent stammering is one of the finest and most emotionally impacting moments on the screen this year.

10. Winter's Bone

Debra Granik's look into the world of the Minnesota Ozarks is realism at its best. Powerful and bleak, newcomer Jennifer Lawrence gives the best young performance of the year.

9. I Am Love

At this Italian melodrama's center is an amazing bilingual performance from Tilda Swinton. This film from director Luca Guadagnino is a sensation for the senses, a lovingly observed film about an affair that tears apart a family dynasty.

8. Never Let Me Go

This is a painfully sad dystopia where people are forced to give up their lives when their time is not even up. Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield and Kiera Knightley are all emotional powerhouses in this desperately sad film about love and loss with an exquisitely gorgeous score from Rachel Portman.

7. The Kids Are All Right

Here's a film that nonchalantly legalizes gay marriage and follows the trials and tribulations of one lesbian couple living in California who have issues that, get this, are the same as any straight couple. Lisa Cholodenkos and her co-writer Stuart Blumberg tell a story that is relatable to any famliy dynamic and in such creates a winning political statement without even trying. It also helps that the cast is phenomenal with Annette Bening, Julianne Moore and Mark Ruffalo all turning in great performances.

6. Somewhere

Sofia Coppola's quiet, reserved and deeply observational film about loneliness and sadness is like a poem. With exceptional performances from Stephen Dorff and the young Elle Fanning, this film rewards patience and perception through its long takes, still moments and beautiful images.

5. True Grit

Here are the Coen brothers transcending their own style we have come to known, and they do it with distinguished grace through the telling of a straightforward western. The directors' first entry into a strict genre picture is absolutely a wonder to behold with superb filmmakers simply putting their craft toward great storytelling. It's easily one of the year's best with memorable performances from veteran Jeff Bridges and newcomer Hailee Steinfeld.

4. Inception

Christopher Nolan delivers a Hollywood blockbuster the way they should all be made. It's an intelligent and demanding film set to the backdrop of an action thriller. A brassy and pounding score from Hans Zimmer leads the charge in this journey into the state of dreams and reality. Leonardo DiCaprio, Marion Cotillard, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy and Joseph Gordon-Levitt all shine in a film that will be remembered and studied for years to come. The screenplay itself is an intricate and unsolvable maze and to craft such a thoroughly engaging film from such a complex layout is astounding in itself.

3. Toy Story 3

Pixar's best, a masterpiece sharing themes of generational ties, family, friends, nostalgia and childhood. It's remarkable the weighty themes this film pulls off while giving such a carefree and frivolous tone. For pure moviegoing bliss for all ages--especially those looking fondly back on "Toy Story" and "Toy Story 2"--this is it.

2. Black Swan

Natalie Portman astounds with the best performance of the year in the best horror film in years. Darren Aronofsky's flawless direction with gorgeous cinematography from Matthew Libatique creates the world of professional ballet into something sinister. Clint Mansell's score thunders through every scene turning this melodrama into an opera in itself. Great supporting work from Mila Kunis, Barbara Hershey and Vincent Cassel is also magnificent in a haunting and powerful provocation of a woman losing her mind in the pursuit of perfection.

1. The Social Network

This is a film of our time. Some argue this film lacks an emotional punch, but that may be exactly the point. Our lives have gone to the digital age, to social networking. "The Social Network" is about this transformation, a meditation on the way we live today and how our relationships have become so ambivalent. And with a seething score from Atticus Ross and Trent Reznor and astounding performances across the board from Jesse Eisenberg and Andrew Garfield to Justin Timberlake and Rooney Mara, this is the best movie of the year.

Best Picture Nominees Prediction 2011

It's about that time. The time for all the speculation to come to an end and finally see who the nominees for this year's Oscars will be. And while we're still a few more days away from that, it's also time to revisit my predictions for what films will make it into the ten Best Picture slots. A few things have changed--not many, though--since the last time I predicted, so here's the official update:

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

I'm sticking to my gut and keeping in "Winter's Bone" over "The Town," though the latter could definitely make its way in.

Until the nominations in just two days!

Saturday, January 22, 2011


"Somewhere" (2010)

A black Ferrari roars around a looped track in the middle of a barren desert as a stationary camera watches. This is the opening shot of Sofia Coppola's "Somewhere," her fourth feature that is a quiet, reserved and deeply perceptive film about a father and his daughter. This opening shot prepares viewers for two things. First, to be patient because this shot resembles others to come that last longer than one would ordinarily assume; look beyond what's immediately happening as there's a lot going on within these shots. Second, the man driving the car, Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff), is a tired B-list movie actor whose life is idling by. Whether he's an existentialist or just depressed is uncertain.

Much like Bill Murray's character of "Lost in Translation," Johnny is a man separated from his family due to his career. He sits bored in his hotel room within the Chateau Marmont where celebrities take refuge in Hollywood. Johnny bumps into Benicio del Toro on the elevator, but it hardly matters. He has lost all sense of pleasure because it comes so easily to him; one glance, and any woman is willing to sleep with him--he merely just falls asleep on top of them. Two early scenes show blond twins pole dancing an amateurish routine for Johnny while he lies in bed. It's not so much turning him on as it is giving himself something more to stare at than just the wall.

The film is partly a wry comedy about the show-business world. Johnny spends his time at the Chateau smoking, drinking, meeting up with strangers all within the same sphere of celebrity and having nameless sex. Apart from this, he is occasionally woken up by phone calls from his publicist and whisked off to different events such as a photo shoot and press conference for his upcoming film. Johnny is no longer interested in any of this; he shows up to each event looking like he just woke up.

Johnny has an 11-year-old daughter named Cleo (Elle Fanning) who comes for a brief visit. She shows up again for a longer stay due to an undisclosed crisis in her mother's life. Cleo and Johnny are wonderful together having fun and making each other laugh. A cumbersome trip to Italy for an eccentric award show turns into something enjoyable with Cleo's presence. She mothers Johnny to a certain extent making eggs Benedict in the morning for him and his brother. She also observes him with a watchful and sometimes judgmental eye well knowing that her own father still hasn't quite grown up yet.

Elle Fanning is heartbreaking, sweet and nimble conveying so much in her character while appearing to show so little, which is like the film itself. Sofia Coppola ("Lost in Translation," "Marie Antoinette") is an endlessly fascinating and talented director; she observes with grace and finds the smallest of details to bring out in each moment. "Somewhere" is a string of beautiful and poetic images. They arise from slow observational shots that unfold a sad and lonely story before our eyes. Coppola doesn't play to our emotions but, rather, rewards us for paying close attention.

Monday, January 17, 2011


"Blue Valentine" (2010)

"Blue Valentine" is about the presence and absence of love, the start and end of a marriage. What makes this sad and painful observation of a failed marriage so genuine is that any moral compass gets erased. There is no contemplation of who was right or wrong in the relationship. Ryan Gosling plays Dean, and Michelle Williams plays Cindy, a couple who feels real. You don't walk out wondering whether it was Dean or Cindy's fault as to why they didn't work. They just didn't, it is life, and it happens to people.

There are two pivotal scenes in the film, one of which was the reason the MPAA nearly gave it an NC-17 rating. Dean and Cindy take a romantic night off, or what was supposed to be, and check in to a sleazy hotel room that is futuristic themed. In an attempt to rekindle their love, Dean puts on an old, scratchy song from the 70s, one that clearly must've meant something to them back in the day. We don't discover until later it was their song. Meanwhile, they choke down vodka slowly crawling to the moment where they have to make love. Not want to make love but have to. It's a nearly unbearable scene to watch but absolutely crucial in understanding how far this couple has come since their original spark.

The other pivotal scene comes at the beginning of their courtship. Standing outside what looks to be a floral or bridal shop, Dean twangs a playful tune on his guitar and sings along as Cindy performs an impromptu tap dance for him. It is touching yet heartbreaking knowing how the couple ends up.

Director Derek Cianfrance leaps back and forth in time interspersing between showing the audience what brought Dean and Cindy together and what tore them apart. We watch Dean as a charming, funny and handsome young man with a scrappy sense of workman promise; we understand what Cindy sees in him. Jump ahead to Dean as a 30-year-old with a receding hairline, thick-rimmed glasses and a misconstrued mustache. He works as a painter not bothering to wash his hands with a cigarette always dangling from his lips, but in the way he interacts with his daughter we see his kindness and why Cindy might still love him. Cindy begins as a shy and attractive young woman striving to become a doctor, but she eventually gains a little weight losing her vivacity and glow.

These physical transformations reveal a deeper inner shift of character, and the raw and brutal performances from Gosling and Williams portraying this should be, and most likely will be, nominated for Oscars. These two actors have the chemistry and understanding of the human condition to provide us with two characters who don't feel like characters at all but like real people of flesh and blood.

"Blue Valentine" asks the demanding questions of what we ask for in a spouse and what the meaning of true love is. As we watch Cindy and Dean, we wonder whether they should've been together. Were they right for each other, or was it something out of necessity? The filming is purposefully claustrophobic both in the way their relationship is told and the way shots are framed with the frequent use of close-ups on the two actors.

While a brave and ugly portrait of a marital decline, I couldn't help but think we weren't getting anything more than snapshots of Dean and Cindy's life together; the full picture felt missing. We aren't clear exactly how they got from point A to point B, but maybe the point is that even they don't know how.


"Rabbit Hole" (2010)

Given its subject material, going in to see "Rabbit Hole" one would probably not expect room for anything else in the film except grief. It is about Becca (Nicole Kidman) and Howie (Aaron Eckhart), a couple who experienced the death of their 4-year-old son, Danny, eight months ago. He ran out into the street chasing the family dog and got struck by a car. They were immediately leveled with grief and still wrestle with it eight months later where the film begins. The film itself, however, while touching on grief, doesn't dwell on it. Instead director John Cameron Mitchell ("Hedwig and the Angry Inch," "Shortbus") uses humor and a surprising level of warmth, an accomplished feat while navigating such grim terrain.

There is a trio of beautiful and exquisitely nuanced performances. Nicole Kidman presents immense clarity in Becca's emotional state, and we immediately understand the conflicting thoughts inside her head. She is a confused woman whose life used to be controlled by her state of mourning. Now she has turned to anger and through anger rises humor, sharp and searing humor that may unintentionally hurt others. Kidman's performance shines above the requirements of the script; she morphs her character into a truly complicated and multi-layered individual.

Aaron Eckhart is equally as good playing Howie whose desire to hold his son within his memory outdoes his wife's. Becca begins removing items from around the house that remind them of Danny: pictures off the fridge and clothes hanging in his closet. Howie and Becca feel the need to move on in different ways. While trying to recharge their sex life and perhaps try to have another baby, Howie is pushed back by his wife's desire to simply forget. Howie therefore turns to anger, as well, especially when his favorite video of Danny gets deleted off his iPhone, but his anger comes from a different source. Each party within this relationship is looking for something different.

The third performance comes from Dianne Wiest ("Synecdoche, New York") as Becca's mother, Nat. The story between Becca and her mother has arrived at a point where anything you say is taken the wrong way. And, beyond that, it feels there is nothing left to say at all even between Becca and Howie. What then? Nat tries to console her daughter, but Becca doesn't want to hear it anymore; her emotional state has gone beyond the need for any consolation. It has moved on to coping, especially now that Becca's sister (Tammy Blanchard) is pregnant.

Written by David Lindsay-Abaire and adapted from his Pulitzer Prize-winning play of the same name, the film is a careful observation of the separate paths Becca and Howie begin to take. They begin going to group therapy together where they meet Gaby, played casually by Sandra Oh. Becca, however, can't stand the "God talk" at the sessions and opts out of going. She then one day comes across a young man named Jason who drove the car ending Danny's life.

A caring relationship blossoms between Becca and Jason and remains private from Howie who still holds resentful feelings toward him. They meet in a park to simply hear each other out, and Becca also learns Jason is working on a comic book, one that tells of parallel universes, alternate realities and rabbit holes. This intrigues Becca as she thinks of a version of herself out in the world, a version of herself that is happy.

Meanwhile Howie finds comfort in Gaby as they enjoy each other's company and smoke pot together. He resorts to another woman when even his own wife has run out of things to say to him.

The moving and deeply perceptive "Rabbit Hole" is more than a film about the loss of a child. It could be about any monumental moment of pain in a person's life as similar emotions and reactions would apply. This is more accurately a film about what we all do as human beings, which is simple enough: just try to get on with things. It takes one small step at a time in learning to just deal with it in order to keep living.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

68th Annual Golden Globe Awards Recap

Host Ricky Gervais takes aim with a drink at the ready.

Aside from those few in the television categories, the fact that the biggest surprise at the 68th Annual Golden Globe Awards last night came in the category of Best Foreign Language Film really shows the night was one of predictable winners.

Though I predicted the HFPA would stray off the path and give the award for Best Picture Drama to "The King's Speech" over "The Social Network," this didn't turn out to be the case.

David Fincher's Facebook movie was the big winner of the night nabbing the highest number of awards at four. Along with Best Picture Drama, its wins included Best Director for Fincher--who took a break from his "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" filming to accept his award in a rather ungrateful speech--along with wins for Aaron Sorkin for Best Screenplay and Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross for Best Score.

Following "The Social Network" were "The Fighter" and "The Kids Are All Right" tied at two wins leaving "The King's Speech" and "Black Swan" with one win each.

Ricky Gervais hosted again and was out for blood in his sharp jokes aimed at specific actors/actresses, the HFPA itself and, yes, "The Tourist." He was almost unreasonably harsh--yet undeniably the highlight of the entire show--and probably won't be invited back to host next year considering he ended the show with, "And God, for making me an atheist."

Melissa Leo and Christian Bale won their respective supporting acting awards for "The Fighter" while Colin Firth for "The King's Speech" and Natalie Portman for "Black Swan" took home their respective lead acting awards. These four are all now locked for the acting awards at the Oscars, no questions asked.

Annette Bening rightfully took her award for Best Actress in a Comedy or Musical for "The Kids Are All Right" while Paul Giamatti beat a double Johnny Depp nomination for Best Actor in a Comedy or Musical for his role in "Barney's Version," which was a welcome win for the evening.

Bening's speech was among the best of the night along with Portman's which made me desire to hear them both give Oscar acceptance speeches come February. If only. Another memorable speech came from Melissa Leo simply because she was bursting at the seams and perhaps had a bit too much to drink.

Along with acting came the obvious winners of "Toy Story 3" for Best Animated Film and "The Kids Are All Right" for Best Comedy or Musical.

"Burlesque" earned an award for Best Original Song.

Without any technical awards to hand out, Christopher Nolan's "Inception" was completely left in the dark. And lest we forget the lack of nominations altogether for "True Grit" meanwhile Jeff Bridges and Hailee Steinfeld were both invited to present. Except the latter was a bit of a slap in the face as she was forced to present next to Justin Bieber.

From a rather mean-spirited tone set by the host and one retaliated by the presenters to a rambling Robert De Niro accepting his Cecil B. DeMille Award cracking jokes about his own crappy career in recent years and to counting the number of times the camera cut to Brangelina and catching that eye-roll from Helena Bonham Carter, it was a night not lacking in entertainment.

In terms of the actual awards, though, there is no mystery left. At this rate "The Social Network" will without a doubt go on to win Best Picture at the Oscars, and the awards we've already been seeing will fall right into place. Here's to one of the most predictable award seasons in years.

Full list of winners for the 68th Annual Golden Globe Awards.

See you in a week for the announcement of the 83rd Annual Academy Award nominations!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

16th Annual Critics' Choice Awards Recap

The cast and crew of "The Social Network" accepting for Best Picture

The 16th Annual Critics' Choice Movie Awards last night indicated a surefire lock for the top four acting categories that will more than likely happen at the Academy Awards.

Colin Firth took his well-deserved award for Best Actor for "The King's Speech" as well as a radiant and pregnant Natalie Portman of "Black Swan" for Best Actress. It is clear these two will move on to win the Oscar.

Before these two awards, however, "The Fighter" started off dominating the acting prizes by starting off the night with winning Best Acting Ensemble. This was followed by a Best Supporting Actor win for Christian Bale and a Best Supporting Actress win for Melissa Leo.

Although "Black Swan" received a whopping 12 total nominations, Natalie Portman was unfortunately the film's singular win. "Inception" won a total of six awards nabbing Best Action Film along with all technical awards including Best Editing, Visual Effects, Art Direction, Cinematography and Sound.

Though I predicted "Inception" winning these aside from Editing which I had "The Social Network" winning, I labeled "Black Swan" as taking at least Best Art Direction and Cinematography. Instead it looks like it might be a technical sweep for "Inception" come Oscar time.

Following "Incpetion" was "The Social Network" with four wins which included the two top prizes of Best Director and Best Picture as expected. Its other two wins came in the categories of Best Adapted Screenplay for Aaron Sorkin and a surprise win for Best Score for Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, a win that was widely expected to go to Hans Zimmer for "Inception."

"The Fighter" came next with its three acting wins followed by "The King's Speech" and "Alice in Wonderland" each with two. Best Makeup and Costume Design went to the latter.

Along with the win for Colin Firth, the other award for "The King's Speech" went to Best Original Screenplay for David Seidler, a win that I had predicted would go to Christopher Nolan for "Inception."

With an Original Screenplay win for "The King's Speech" matched up against an Adapted Screenplay win for "The Social Network," this perpetuates the battle of these two films at the Oscars as both will likely go on to win these respective prizes there.

Some small surprise wins arrived in the categories of Best Song which went to "If I Rise" from "127 Hours" over songs from "Burlesque" and Best Foreign Language Film for "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" over "Biutiful" and "I Am Love."

"Easy A" won Best Comedy, "Toy Story 3" won Best Animated Feature, "Waiting for Superman" won Best Documentary and Hailee Steinfeld of "True Grit" managed to defeat Jennifer Lawrence of "Winter's Bone" in the category of Best Young Actor/Actress.

How will the 68th Annual Golden Globe Awards line up as a predictor? I'm guessing not as well therefore continuing the trend of the Critics' Choice Awards being a better indicator of the Oscars' outcome. I predict the HFPA will award "The King's Speech" the top prize tomorrow night just as the HFPA incorrectly awarded "Avatar" over "The Hurt Locker" last year.

Full list of winners from the 16th Annual Critics' Choice Movie Awards.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Golden Globe/Critics' Choice Predictions

This weekend is a big awards weekend, perhaps the biggest to precede the coming Oscars. Before the winners of the Critics' Choice Awards get announced on Friday night and the winners of the Golden Globe Awards get announced on Sunday night, it's time for some predictions of who those winners from each award ceremony will be.

The 16th Annual Critics' Choice Award Predictions

Best Picture: The Social Network

Best Actor: Colin Firth, "The King's Speech"

Best Actress: Natalie Portman, "Black Swan"

Best Supporting Actor: Christian Bale, "The Fighter"

Best Supporting Actress: Melissa Leo, "The Fighter"

Best Young Actor/Actress: Jennifer Lawrence, "Winter's Bone"

Best Acting Ensemble: The Social Network

Best Director: David Fincher, "The Social Network"

Best Original Screenplay: Christopher Nolan, "Inception"

Best Adapted Screenplay: Aaron Sorkin, "The Social Network"

Best Cinematography: Matthew Libatique, "Black Swan"

Best Art Direction: Black Swan

Best Editing: The Social Network

Best Costume Design: The King's Speech

Best Makeup: Alice in Wonderland

Best Visual Effects: Inception

Best Sound: Inception

Best Animated Feature: Toy Story 3

Best Action Movie: Inception

Best Comedy: Easy A

Best Foreign Language Film: I Am Love

Best Documentary Feature: Inside Job

Best Song: "I See the Light" from "Tangled"

Best Score: Hans Zimmer, "Inception"

The 68th Annual Golden Globe Award Predictions

Best Picture Drama: The King's Speech

Best Actress Drama: Natalie Portman, "Black Swan"

Best Actor Drama: Colin Firth, "The King's Speech"

Best Picture Comedy or Musical: The Kids Are All Right

Best Actress Comedy or Musical: Annette Bening, "The Kids Are All Right"

Best Actor Comedy or Musical: Johnny Depp, "Alice in Wonderland"

Best Supporting Actress: Melissa Leo, "The Fighter"

Best Supporting Actor: Christian Bale, "The Fighter"

Best Animated Feature: Toy Story 3

Best Foreign Language Film: I Am Love

Best Director: David Fincher, "The Social Network"

Best Screenplay: Aaron Sorkin, "The Social Network"

Best Original Score: Hans Zimmer, "Inception"

Best Original Song: "You Haven't Seen the Last of Me" from "Burlesque"

So there you have it. For the most part between the two award ceremonies coming up this weekend, the acting wins match up. The main difference I have is "The Social Network" taking the top prize at the Critics' Choice Awards while the HFPA awards "The King's Speech." Likewise, I have the HFPA awarding Best Director to Christopher Nolan while the Critics' Choice follows their suit with David Fincher.

Tune in this weekend to find out who the winners are when the 16th Annual Critics' Choice Awards air on Friday, January 14 at 9 p.m. on VH1 and the 68th Annual Golden Globe Awards air on Sunday, January 16 at 8 p.m. on NBC!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Portman/Kunis Rom-Com Battle

"No Strings Attached" is a movie starring Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher about two friends who decide to have sex without a relationship.

"Friends With Benefits" is a movie starring Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake about two friends who decide to have sex without a relationship.

It's happened again. We've entered 2011 and already there are two movies being released with the exact same premise. Why have these two seemingly inconsequential rom-coms caught my attention? Well, look at the leads.

One stars Natalie Portman, the other Mila Kunis. These two lovely ladies are clearly riding on the tailwind of their noteworthy performances in "Black Swan"--they're now in high demand. But why have these two taken a step backward into such territory rather than further expanding their boundaries as gifted actresses?

Natalie Portman is opposite Mila Kunis' ex-costar from "That 70's Show" meanwhile Kunis is opposite Justin Timberlake who is also riding the tailwind of his acclaimed performance in "The Social Network."

I think it would be a really funny joke if the twist at the end of both movies is that the actors from each make cameos in the other's movie. Portman gets with Timberlake while Kunis gets with Kutcher. Perfect!

Check out the trailer for "No Strings Attached" and the trailer for "Friends With Benefits," and ask yourself, which looks like the better mediocre rom-com?

"Friends With Benefits," at least in the trailer, appears to be kicking up the raunchiness and is shooting for an R-rating perhaps in the same vein as "Love & Other Drugs." This I can appreciate. "No Strings Attached" looks a little too tame.

In any case, only time will tell who comes out on top in the Portman vs. Kunis rom-com battle. Actually, there's no suspense there because it's probably neither.