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So as you know, I stopped writing lengthy reviews on this site this year, keeping the blog as more of a film diary of sorts.  Lo and behold,...

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Anyone having the blog freeze up on them after they click the "Read More" icon in my Best Picture post?  I've tested the post on three different computers -- granted, all Macs -- and can't get any freezing to happen.  Just curious as I've been told it's happened to two folks at this point...

The 2011 RyMickey Awards - Best Picture

And so the 2011 RyMickey Awards are coming to an end.  Sure, it's nearly July 2012, but it's better late than never.  2011 was a solid year over all.  Better than I probably gave it credit for initially.  I ended up with quite a lot of films that I enjoyed and making up these awards helped me to realize that.

133 movies boiled down to a Top 30 are listed below.  Links to my original reviews are also provided as well as info as to whether the film is available to instantly watch on Netflix.

Best Picture of 2011

Honorable Mentions
#30 - Warrior
#29 - Beginners
#28 - Last Night (currently streaming on Netflix)
#26 - The Help
#23 - Tyrannosaur (currently streaming on Netflix)
#22 - Red State (currently streaming on Netflix)
#21 - Moneyball

And the Top 20...

(currently streaming on Netflix)
I'm typically not a fan of westerns, but after True Grit placed #16 on last year's list and this film ekes out a spot on this year's Top 20, I have to think that maybe it's a genre that I can take in small doses.  This film will definitely not be for everyone.  It moves very slowly, but I found it fascinating -- almost a real-life horror story about the tremendous perils that faced the American pioneers exploring the western landscape.

#19 - X-Men: First Class
The best X-Men film to date.  The cool 1960s retro vibe coupled with some genuinely exciting action sequences and nice acting from the ensemble make this worth checking out.

#18 - Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol
I was shocked that the story behind Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol was as straightforward as it was...and I mean that in a good way.  This franchise can be way too convoluted for its own good (the whole spy genre can be that way, quite frankly).  However, this one sticks to a singular storyline that proves to be quite intriguing.  Add some great action sequences to the mix and some solid acting across the board and director Brad Bird's live-action debut is a winner.

#17 - The Artist
This Academy Award Best Picture winner is charming and its loving homage to silent cinema is the reason it won that coveted award (although there is another film that pays similar homage higher up on my list that deserved the award, in my opinion).  With a lovely lead performance, it's tough not to have a smile on your face while watching.

#16 - Young Adult
This flick is ballsy.  It's not often that a major film studio releases a movie in which the main character is utterly detestable and fails to "change" and "become a better person" by film's end.  Young Adult does just that.  A great performance from RyMickey Award Best Actress winner Charlize Theron, a witty script by Diablo Cody, and a director in Jason Reitman who likely knew that a lack of redemption would probably turn off the American public but still went with it anyway combine to give us something unique.

#15 - Trust
(currently streaming on Netflix)
Who knew that Friends star David Schwimmer had the directorial chops in him to helm a movie as emotionally gut-wrenching as Trust?  Admittedly, the film veers onto a shaky course towards the end thanks to Clive Owen's character's actions, but the movie is still a gripping look at the aftermath of sexual abuse and how it affects an entire family.

#14 - Winnie the Pooh
I have never been a devoted fan of the Winnie the Pooh characters.  I could take them or leave them...they were never really a piece of my childhood.  But something about this absolutely lovely animated film won me over.  Cute songs, a simple story, and an overall sense of good ole nostalgia for bygone days...take 62 minutes out of your day and watch.

#13 - Rise of the Planet of the Apes
One of the best action flicks of recent years.  Some really nifty special effects and a solid story made this one a summer popcorn flick to remember.

#12 - Martha Marcy May Marlene
An eerie psychological drama with a great debut performance from Elizabeth Olsen as a gal pulled into a cult whose true motives are much more devious than one could imagine.

#11 - Win Win
It's a shame they decided to throw in a few scattered F-bomb here to garner an R-rating, because Win Win is the kind of mature family movie that everyone can sit around together and enjoy.  A simple story about a wayward kid who finds hope with a family that decides to care for him, Win Win doesn't do anything special or over-the-top, but it's a nice tale that's worth checking out.

And the Top Ten Films of 2011...
can be found after the jump...click read more below to see my picks...

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The 2011 RyMickey Awards - Best Scene

Best Scene is my favorite RyMickey Award every year as it allows for those special moments from movies that I loved (or even movies I didn't love) to come to the forefront.  Moreso than the previous two years of this award, a large majority of 2011's best scenes came from 2011's best movies (which you'll discover in the next and final award given out this year)...I'm not sure what that says, but I thought it was interesting to note.

I've also gone overboard...all year I keep track of my favorite scenes and I ended up with a perfect rounded number of 25 and it was just too difficult to keep any of them off the list.  In order to not bog down the main page even further with pictures, be sure to click "Read More" at the bottom of this post to head to the Top 15.

It should be noted that there are some spoilers ahead...I will try and state them before I begin discussing the scenes.

Best Scenes of 2011

#25 - "I Wish It Were You..." - Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Dealing with his father's death couldn't be easy for young Oskar, but when he lashes out at his mother saying he wishes she had died on 9/11 instead of his dad, it was a moment that just hit me hard.  The line I mention above comes right at the tail end of this YouTube clip...and of course the clip stops right before it gets to that line.

#24 - A Surprising Revelation - A Separation
We've spent half of the movie believing that Nader could very well be responsible for Razieh's miscarriage and the courts seem to be siding in Razieh's favor.  However, when we discover that a car accident caused Razieh to lose her child, it shows that every single character in this movie is struggling with morality.

#23 - End Credits - Winnie the Pooh
It's tough to find a picture of end credits, but this image above is part of the little Easter egg at the very end that finishes this tale on a witty note.  But it's not just this little 45-second bit of animation that I loved (which can be seen here)...I literally loved the credit sequence.  Seeing the antique-looking stuffed animals reenacting scenes from the movie, followed by the incredibly cute and ingenious animated bits in the rolling credits (which unfortunately are not fully seen in this clip), coupled with a catchy tune from Zooey Deschanel combined to put a smile on my face and were a great way to end this charming movie.

#22 - Chase Scene - The Adventures of Tintin
Sure, it's animated, but a two-and-a-half minute single shot chase sequence is cool no matter whether it's drawn or not.  (Clip on YouTube)

#21 - Spilled Liquor - The Artist
There's a shot in The Artist in which a depressed George Valentin spills his liquor on a mirrored table top and we glimpse a distorted image of his sad face.  This is such an obscure moment that I've been unable to find clips or pictures, but even the second time around seeing the film, it was powerful to me for some reason.

#20 - Phone Call - Crazy, Stupid, Love.

If you speak Spanish, you can watch this clip here, but for those of you who don't have that talent, here we see Julianne Moore's Emily calling her husband Cal (Steve Carell) from whom she desired to be separated with some phony household emergency she invented just to hear his voice.  She misses him, he misses her, but neither are brave enough to tell each other that.  It's a tender moment.

#19 - Going for Game 20 - Moneyball
Even though the end result of this real-life story was already known, it's amazing how much tension was built during the A's final drive to twenty-straight wins thanks to the work of Billy Beane's work as the GM assembling an unconventional team.

#18 - First Date - Shame
I so easily could've chosen the first scene of the movie (seen here) which sets this film off to a riveting beginning, but the sexy yet awkward first date is kind of beautiful in its simplicity and authenticity.  The largely improvised scene that starts in a restaurant and moves out onto the streets of NYC felt so natural and provided a different side of a main character that we thought we already knew so much about.  The end of the date can be seen here.

#17 - Life's a Happy Song - The Muppets
This may seem silly, but the fact that this song starts thanks to the sound of brushing teeth is kind genius to me and as soon as this little ditty popped up less than five minutes into The Muppets, a smile was on my face that hardly ever left.  Shockingly, the only full clip of this I've been able to find is in Spanish, but here's fifty seconds of the happiness in English.

#16 - Final Scene - Martha Marcy May Marlene
Having finally escaped the clutches of the cult, Martha thinks she's safe until she sees a man whom she believes may be from the group watching her swim at her sister's lakeside home.  Cut to a few minutes later and Martha's sister and brother-in-law are driving her to get some psychological help to get over the horrors she experienced at the cult.  We then discover that the mysterious guy is following them.  Cut to black.  We have no idea what happens and we can only speculate as to whether Martha gets away safe or if the mysterious man was even a cult member to begin with.  A great ending that I rewatched immediately after the credits popped up.

The Top Fifteen can be found after the jump.  Click "Read More" below to get the rest of the list.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The 2011 RyMickey Awards - Best Actor

Like the ladies, there was some great work from the men in 2011 with my Top Five really being performances that have surprisingly still stayed with me since I've seen them.

Best Actor 2011

Paul Giamatti - Win Win
Owen Wilson - Midnight in Paris
Peter Mullan - Tyrannosaur
Mel Gibson - The Beaver

Honorable Mentions
#10 - Mel Gibson - The Beaver
Poor Mel...likely never again to be taken seriously as an actor and it's a shame.  Despite his anger problems, he really is solid onscreen and he elevates this rather disappointing film to another level.

#9 - Michael Shannon - Take Shelter
I would agree with some who have said that Michael Shannon is turning into a fairly one-note character actor, playing seemingly the same intense (some would say "crazy") roles again and again.  However, he plays them so darn well that it's tough to complain and he succeeds again in Take Shelter.

#8 - Michael Parks - Red State
Michael Parks has a very lengthy monologue at the beginning of Red State in which his preacher character denounces the sordid direction of society.  Juxtapose what he's saying against the fact that he's got a panicked guy gagged, wrapped in plastic wrap, and tied to a pole standing behind him and you've got a role that so easily could have been laughable that it's rather amazing that Parks is able to play it straight.  Yes, it may be an over-the-top role, but Parks brings it down to earth.

#5 - Brad Pitt - Moneyball
No denying that Brad Pitt is a "Movie Star" of the highest caliber (whether that's deserved or not, I'm not debating at the moment), but somehow while watching Moneyball I forgot that this was "Brad Pitt" up on the screen.  Pitt completely embodies the real-life character of Billy Beane and while there isn't necessarily anything extraordinary about the role itself, Pitt helps to make this flick more interesting than its premise should probably allow.

#7 - Joseph Gordon-Levitt - 50/50
Joseph Gordon-Levitt's role in 50/50 may not be the most complex...in fact, it's probably the most straight-forward of anyone on this list.  But he manages to play a young guy going through cancer treatment with such believability and heart that it's hard not to be won over by him.

And the Top Five...

#5 - Michael Sheen - Beautiful Boy
Much like his onscreen counterpart Maria Bello, Michael Sheen is riveting in Beautiful Boy.  Sheen starts the film as the more level-headed of the couple whose son just committed a horrible mass killing at his college, but as the film progresses he begins to spiral out of control taking his character on quite an interesting journey.

#4 - Thomas Horn - Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
I'm not sure whether young Thomas Horn will ever be able to branch out of the awkwardness he displays in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, but having read the book on which this film is based, this kid did a fantastic job with a very difficult character.  For a first-time actor to have to carry this heavy movie on his own and be so darn effective in it is a feat I'm not sure many others would have been able to achieve.

#3 - Jean Dujardin - The Artist
The Oscar winner gets a place on my list as well as Jean Dujardin completely embodies the old-style (often melodramatic) acting techniques so common in silent film.  With facial expressions that convey everything we need to know, it takes talent to express emotions solely through physicality without stooping to overacting.

#2 - George Clooney - The Descendants
Simply put, this is George Clooney's best role to date.  Portraying perhaps the most "regular guy" I've seen him play, it was rather refreshing to see him take on the role of both parent and grieving widow, providing some of the most emotional and understated work he's given to date.

#1 - Michael Fassbender - Shame
This is one heckuva performance tackling a difficult subject matter that many actors may not have been brave enough to take on.  Fassbender's Brandon is very quiet in this movie, but we're always well aware of what his sex addict character is thinking and the pain he's inflicting upon himself.  I keep going back to one scene in particular that I've discussed before (which will certainly show up in the upcoming RyMickey Award Best Scene category) in which Brandon is in the midst of a threesome and after a bit of a focus on the writhing bodies, we shift to viewing only Brandon's face.  In that visage, we see that this menage a trois is the furthest thing from a pleasurable experience for Brandon.  It's painful for him...and it's painful for us as well.  Amazing work from an on-the-rise actor.

Previous RyMickey Award Winners

Monday, June 25, 2012

The 2011 RyMickey Awards - Best Actress

After two years of a rather weak Best Actress field (in my opinion) in 2010 and 2009, things took a turn for the better in 2011 with an abundance of really great roles being given to some fantastic actresses.  All of the roles below are certainly worth checking out even if some of the movies they come from are a little lackluster.  ***Note:  There are a few moderate spoilers ahead, although nothing I didn't discuss in my original reviews of the films.***

Best Actress 2011

In the running...
Mia Wasikowska - Jane Eyre
Mia Wasikowska - Restless
Michelle Williams - Meek's Cutoff

Honorable Mentions
#10 - Tilda Swinton - We Need to Talk About Kevin
Tilda Swinton rarely disappoints and her starring role in We Need to Talk About Kevin is no exception.  Her face alone in the above picture is one of the reasons I really like her as an actress (she was the winner of 2009's RyMickey Award for Best Actress).  She's able to convey so much with just her eyes that she always manages to fascinate me.

#9 - Kristen Wiig - Bridesmaids
Perhaps it helped that Kristen Wiig co-wrote the script for Bridesmaids herself, but she has crafted a very nice role for her big screen debut as a leading lady.  Wiig excels at presenting both Annie's happy-go-lucky attitude and her angst and worry about losing her soon-to-be-married best friend.  She does carry over some of her typical Saturday Night Live mannerisms, but there's a substantial enough character here that it never feels two-dimensional.

#8 - Rooney Mara - The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
I may have felt that the film itself was a completely unnecessary retread, but Rooney Mara gives us a rawness as Lisbeth Salandar that is surprisingly exciting to watch.

#7 - Keira Knightley - A Dangerous Method
I've come to realize that Keira Knightley may not be the most versatile actress.  She's often twitchy and has an insane tendency to jut out her jaw in order to convey whatever form of emotion -- usually frustration or anger -- she wants to display.  She uses these quirks to her advantage in A Dangerous Method, however, and it makes her psychologically damaged character quite intriguing and compelling.

#6 - Maria Bello - Beautiful Boy
Maria Bello had a place in my Top Five until a week ago, but she still gives a riveting performance in Beautiful Boy.  Bello runs the gamut of emotions from heartbreak to grief to anger to guilt after she discovers that her son committed a heinous murder spree at his school.  A great performance in a too little seen movie.

And the Top Five...
#5 - Olivia Colman - Tyrannosaur
A quiet and subdued performance for the most part, Olivia Colman's Hannah in Tyrannosaur is one of the major reasons to watch this little-heard of and little-seen flick on Netflix Instant.  A woman who despite her deep Christian faith is having a difficult time living in a marriage that is emotionally and physically wounding her, Hannah is a character who on the surface doesn't appear nearly as deep as she truly is and Colman (an actress who is new to me) does a fantastic job with the complex character.

#4 - Viola Davis - The Help
This performance was heralded by many throughout the awards season and it's certainly deserving of the praise.  Much like Olivia Colman above, Davis' performance as Aibileen is a very quiet one -- and the subdued stoic nature of it may be the reason she lost out on the Oscar -- but it's one that is impossible to ignore.  There's a pain and anguish always present in Aibileen's eyes and although she may not express all her feelings verbally, there's an intensity that certainly comes through.

#3 - Meryl Streep - The Iron Lady
Meryl Streep was a somewhat surprise Oscar winner this past year beating out her major competition Viola Davis, and while The Iron Lady may be a truly godawful film, Ms. Streep's performance is pretty darn great.  Loyal readers know I hate the biopic genre and I hate rewarding people simply for mimicking a famous person, but goshdarnit, Meryl Streep just inhabits her characters with such ease.  From the opening shot in which Ms. Streep was able to make me truly believe I was watching an 85-plus year old woman shuffle home from the store, I knew that despite the movie being one of the most boring experiences of 2011, the performance would be something to be remembered.

#2 - Liana Liberato - Trust
Trust is Ms. Liberato's first feature film and the young actress somehow manages to believably craft a complex character whose emotions and actions never seem fake or forced.  Liberato's Annie has both a naive innocence and an advanced maturity which I realize is wholly contradictory, but somehow true, and the viewer wishes that those two distinct characteristics would have somehow given her the smarts to not fall victim to a heinous pedophile, but that unfortunately is not the case.  As Trust barrels down a dreadful path, Liberato is at the forefront, proving herself to be a formidable presence who will hopefully appear in many more movies to come.

#1 - Charlize Theron - Young Adult
I fully understand why Charlize Theron's excellent performance in Young Adult fell by the wayside this season:  her Mavis Gary is an all-out bitch who literally has no redeeming values and fails to become a better person by film's end.  The very reason others deemed it not worthy for recognition is the very reason I loved it so much.  It takes a ballsy actress to create a character as unappealing as this one and Theron was up for the challenge.  Mavis may be childish in her actions, but she's always thinking and planning out her next moves.  Thanks to things as simple as a furrowed brow or a slight eye movement, we become well aware that we are constantly watching the Mavis Gary "It's All About Me" show.  It takes talent to make a reprehensible character desirable to spend 110 minutes with, and Theron fully succeeds. 

Previous RyMickey Award Winners

Friday, June 22, 2012

The 2011 RyMickey Awards - Best Supporting Actor

Probably the least successful of the acting categories this year, I must admit that it was almost a struggle to come up with a top five.  Nothing screamed "awards worthy" for me this year.

Best Supporting Actor 2011

In the Running...
Nick Krause - The Descendants
Christopher Plummer - Beginners
Patton Oswalt - Young Adult

Honorable Mentions
#7 - John C. Reilly - Carnage
Featuring a talented quartet of stars, John C. Reilly manages to steal the show in Carnage.  By almost being the voice of the audience, you get the sense that Reilly's character understands the absurdity of his predicament and his humorous jabs at the rest of the cast ring true.

#6 - Alex Shaffer - Win Win
I came away from this little-seen arthouse flick most impressed by Alex Shaffer.  His role is the typical moody teenager, but he imbues his character with a sweetness and kindness that struck me as somewhat unique.  Especially impressive is the fact that this was his first film role.

And the Top Five...

#5 - Kenneth Branagh - My Week with Marilyn
I genuinely don't know much about Sir Laurence Olivier at all, so I can't say whether Kenneth Branagh is performing a spot-on imitation or not.  What I can say is that I found Branagh to be a hoot as the exacerbated director/star who has many a problem with his slightly more famous co-star Marilyn Monroe.

#4 - Max von Sydow - Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
A very nice performance that manages to be quite moving despite Max von Sydow not speaking a word throughout the film.  Able to express everything with the raise of an eyebrow or the shrug of a shoulder, von Sydow's friendship with the film's young protagonist was one of the oddest though most believable relationships depicted on film in 2011.

#3 - Ben Kingsley - Hugo
Although initially a rather one-note curmudgeon, as the layers of Ben Kingsley's toy shop owner Georges are pulled back and his hidden past is revealed, we realize the true reasons for his glum and harsh attitude.  Although the film is titled Hugo, it's really about Georges, his nostalgia for better days gone by, and a longing to return to what once was. 

#2 - Andy Serkis - Rise of the Planet of the Apes
I'm not here to debate whether motion capture performances should be able to be nominated for an acting Oscar.  In fact, I lean more towards the notion that they probably shouldn't considering the fact that computer programmers are half responsible for what is seen onscreen.  However, I'm not afraid to recognize them for a RyMickey Award and Andy Serkis' portrayal of Caesar is probably the most impressively emotional performance I've seen come from the mo-cap technique.  I don't know where the work of Andy Serkis ends and the work of the technicians begins, but combined they created the most realistic computer-generated being I've seen on the big screen.

#1 - Ryan Gosling - Crazy Stupid Love
It was tough to find a picture of Ryan Gosling in Crazy Stupid Love with his shirt on as he's probably best known for the abs he displays multiple times throughout the film.  But while that may have impressed the ladies, what impressed me was this typically dramatic actor's sly and effortless take on comedy -- a genre I'd like to see Gosling further explore in future films.  Sure, he's playing an over-the-top lothario, but he's a ladies' man with a lot of heart.  Debonair guys can get old real quick on film, lacking any type of endearing characteristic to latch onto.  Gosling is able to buck that trend, however, and play a slick guy who still is able to have the audience root for him.  

Previous RyMickey Award Winners

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The 2011 RyMickey Awards - Best Supporting Actress

Admittedly, both Supporting Actress and Supporting Actor categories were a tad weak for me in 2011.  While there are some good performances listed below, I wasn't really wowed by any of them, and although my vote would've went a different way if I had the final Oscar ballot, I can't fault the voters for going the way they did.

Best Supporting Actress of 2011

In the Running...
Anna Kendrick - 50/50
Vanessa Redgrave - Coriolanus

Honorable Mentions
#8 - Shailene Woodley - The Descendants
Although her character starts off the stereotypical teenage bitch, the transformation she undergoes to a more kind and caring daughter is believable and shows this newcomer has some decent acting chops.

#7 - Amy Ryan  - Win Win

Amy Ryan is "just" playing a mom here, but she is near perfect in the role which proves to be incredibly effective in its simple normalcy.

#6 - Nicole Beharie - Shame
Sexy, yet exuding sophistication and intelligence, Nicole Beharie manages to take a small, though important, role in Shame and be a part of two scenes that are still vividly in my mind over a month later thanks to her understated and authentic work.

And the Top Five...

#5 - Melissa McCarthy - Bridesmaids
Certainly the showiest and most bombastic role in the Bridesmaids cast, it was a pleasure to see Melissa McCarthy get nominated for the Oscar this past year.  Without a doubt, McCarthy was a big piece of what made Bridesmaids click with the audience thanks to her no-holds-barred go-for-broke attitude when it came to raunchy humor.

#4 - Rose Byrne - Bridesmaids
Despite the praise heaped on the aforementioned Ms. McCarthy this year, Rose Byrne took on the steely bitch role in Bridesmaids and managed to craft a character that not only provided humor, but also helped to provide a lot of the film's heart -- one of the reasons the movie is so successful to me.  Byrne (who landed on my list of Worst Performances two years ago...so this is a big step up) takes a role that could have very well been a nasty stereotype and ends up able to gain deserved sympathy by the film's end.

#3 - Octavia Spencer - The Help
The third comedic role on this Top Five, Oscar-winner Octavia Spencer provided several light moments whenever The Help veered a bit too heavy.  Her Minny was sassy and spunky, but she's hamstrung by the fact that her role is a bit too one-note at the film's beginning.  The character eventually becomes a bit more fleshed out (thanks to Jessica Chastain's character coming into the picture and giving Spencer's role a bit more heft and substance) and that's certainly what helped this charming actress win the Academy Award this year.

#2 - Sareh Bayat - A Separation
Sareh Bayat's performance in A Separation is a complicated one despite coming from a rather simple, though heavy, film.  Initially, I thought Ms. Bayat's role as a nursemaid (of sorts) was going to be a bit part, but as the layers of this familial drama are slowly pulled back, we begin to realize that her character is the pivot point around which much of the ensuing conflict will arise.  There is a huge internal struggle going on inside her character and once it is placed into the open Bayat's acting becomes even more impressive.

#1 - Jessica Chastain - The Help
Jessica Chastain was ubiquitous in 2011 and while some could say her role in The Help was the lightest-weight of her acting jobs, I think it showcased the actress at the top of her game.  The role so easily could have been a scenery chewing dim bulb comedic stereotype who also happens to have that "dramatic moment" that seals one's awards fates, but instead she gives Celia Foote some depth and helps to make all who surround her character (like the previously mentioned Octavia Spencer) shine even brighter.

Previous RyMickey Award Winners