Academy Award predictions

Hey everyone, it’s Ryan. So, the Oscars are approaching (March 7 on ABC), and I’ve opted to make predictions for all the major categories. So without further ado, here’s my picks. (PS: I intentionally misspelled “The Blind Side”.)

Best Picture:
Will Win: The Hurt Locker
Should Win: Inglourious Basterds
Could Win: Inglourious Basterds

Best Director:
Will Win: Kathryn Bigelow, “The Hurt Locker”
Should Win: Quentin Tarantino, “Inglourious Basterds”
Could Win: James Cameron, “Avatar”

Best Actor:
Will Win: Jeff Bridges, “Crazy Heart”
Should Win: Colin Firth, “A Single Man”
Could Win: Colin Firth, “A Single Man”

Best Actress:
Will Win: Meryl Streep, “Julie and Julia”
Should Win: Gabourey Sidibe, “Precious”
Could Win: Sandra Bullock, “The Bland Side”

Best Supporting Actor:
Will Win: Christoph Waltz, “Inglourious Basterds”
Should Win: Christoph Waltz, “Inglourious Basterds”
Could Win: Woody Harrelson, “The Messenger”

Best Supporting Actress:
Will Win: Mo’Nique, “Precious”
Should Win: Mo’Nique, “Precious”
Could Win: Sorry, Mo’Nique is an absolute lock to win here.

Best Animated Film:
Will Win: Up
Should Win: Fantastic Mr. Fox
Could Win: Fantastic Mr. Fox

Before I go, allow me to lament: How was “Where the Wild Things Are” not nominated for anything?!?

-Ryan

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‘Shutter Island’ review

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The finest of American directors, Martin Scorsese, directs the new thriller ‘Shutter Island’, and it’s the finest film in several months. Leonardo DiCaprio plays a U.S. marshal, Teddy Daniels. Daniels is sent to investigate the disappearance of a patient on an island solely for holding the criminally insane. However, when a hurricane hits the island and leaves him stranded there, questions arise about the purpose of the asylum, the intentions of the staff, and Teddy’s motives for being there. Daniels must also deal with recurring hallucinations of his dead wife.

There’s a large amount of reasons that I adored this film so much but I’ll start out by saying: This is a gorgeous movie for both sight and sound. The cinematography framed so perfectly by Robert Richardson, is nothing less than Oscar-worthy. Throughout the film I stopped paying attention for intervals of about 15 seconds, just to marvel how beautiful it is. And the music? Impeccable. Scorsese opted to use previously-written pieces for the soundtrack instead of composing one, and the music is alternately beautiful, booming, mysterious, yet always chilling.

Leonardo DiCaprio is one of America’s finest actors. He portrays a man wracked with guilt and pain, and a plot revelation within the last several minutes casts his performance in a new light. He is simply amazing here. Scorsese assembled a simply fantastic cast: Mark Ruffalo as Leo’s partner has a fairly minor yet ultimately vital role, and pulls it off perfectly. Ben Kingsley as the mild-mannered yet mysterious head of the asylum doesn’t have a particularly large part, but remains really quite good here.

Emily Mortimer and Patricia Clarkson both portray Rachel Solando, the escaped patient that brings Teddy to Shutter Island. I can’t overstate how good both of them are. Mortimer is unhinged, is loose, and genuinely terrifying in her scene as Rachel, and Clarkson…For the sake of plot spoilers I won’t give away the details of her appearance, but it’s one of the film’s stand-out moments for sure. Michelle Williams as Daniels’ deceased wife is excellent, as is Jackie Earle Haley as an inmate who has unfinished business with Daniels.

The film is being widely promoted as a horror film and although its undoubtedly creepy, there’s not a scary moment in the film. That said, its often unbearably tense, although its not out of worry that someone will leap at the screen, its out of worry that the protagonist may not retain his sanity. The film is often dream-like, and has many surrealistic qualities. I can’t give away how these adjectives apply into the film, but they add a great deal to it.

In a genre such as this, the ending often makes or breaks the film. And the last 15 minutes will undoubtedly divide audiences. I adored the ending. It casts all the characters’ actions in a brand-new light, and will no doubt fuel repeat viewings in order to fully comprehend it all. The final shot of the film is truly heartbreaking.

So, all in all, ‘Shutter Island’ is an excellent film. The performances are uniformly fantastic, Leonardo DiCaprio and Emily Mortimer in particular. The cinematography and score to the film are amongst the finest in years, and the film builds to a truly fantastic ending that has stayed with me, a week after I saw it. ‘Shutter Island’ isn’t for everyone, to be sure, but I think it’s yet another masterpiece from Martin Scorsese.

4

‘Valentine’s Day’ review

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There is no genre in the medium of film as cliched, as boring, or as insipid as the romantic comedy. In theory, blending the element of love with humor should be a much more interesting, enlightening experience than what modern audiences are generally being offered these days. But charmless, humorless, generally boring scripts are often the force that drags down the genre. The latest romantic comedy to hit theaters, “Valentines Day”, offers a lot in terms of star power, but very little in terms of interesting characters, a decent story, or even entertainment: Believe it or not, “Valentines Day” is really boring.

The film covers about 18 hours on Valentines Day in Los Angeles, in an apparently alternate universe where the romantic holiday actually holds meaning in peoples’ lives. Ashton Kutcher, Jessica Alba, Jessica Biel, Julia Roberts, Bradley Cooper, Anne Hathaway, Jamie Foxx, Taylor Swift and Taylor Lautner are amongst the actors that show up in this film, all of which have small parts that if removed from the film, would make no difference to the plot. There aren’t any interesting plot developments throughout all 120 minutes of the film, which drag on unlike any other film I’ve ever seen. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen such a blatant attempt to make money.

One aspect of “Valentines Day” that REALLY, really bugged me: The film is really, really repetitive. Sure, there’s different variations of love in the film, but its basically 120 minutes of uninteresting, good-looking people either in love or looking for love. And there aren’t any interesting stories in the entire bunch, aside from a really poignant, sweet bit with Bradley Cooper and Julia Roberts.

The film doesn’t have a story, it has a series of events that almost completely fail at any emotional resonance. I have no other way to equate this: “Valentines Day” sucks.

5

‘Dear John’ review

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Nicholas Sparks makes teenage girls cry for a living: Look no further than the films inspired by his books, ‘The Notebook’ and ‘Walk to Remember’ for shameless tearjerkers. The latest film based on one of his novels, ‘Dear John’, pulls some fairly decent performances out of its young lead actors. That said, its a dull, repetitive offering that serves more as a list of things that happen, rather than an interesting, coherent plot.

The male lead, Channing Tatum isn’t a particularly skilled actor, although he has a very devoted fan-base amongst teenage girls. He simply mumbles his lines, in various tones according to what the scene demands. Amanda Seyfried, the female lead, is far better an actress, but her talent is essentially squandered here: What her role demands is as one-note as Tatum’s. Richard Jenkins so good in 2008’s ‘The Visitor’, is wasted here as the idiosyncratic father of John. The film is essentially a cycle of the same two characters meeting and leaving each other for increasingly melodramatic reasons.

John and Savannah meet on a West Virginia beach in 2001, and almost immediately fall in love. However, he’s a Special Forces soldier, and she’s in college, so soon they part ways. They correspond with letters over the years, only being together briefly.

The film has very little of an actual storyline, and never really has any dramatic closure. Honestly, it’s not so much an attempt at film-making as an attempt to manipulate one’s feelings. The film annoyingly eschews realism to make everything somehow positive. Cancer? Made into an inspirational plot point. 9/11? An excuse to keep the characters apart, but Channing Tatum is glad to re-enlist in the army.

‘Dear John’ is a really mediocre attempt to re-capture the magic of past romantic hits like ‘The Notebook’. It’s emotionally manipulative, the dialogue in this film frankly sucks, and although the performances aren’t terrible, there’s really nothing so interesting about them to as to deduce exactly why they are so deeply in love. There’s little reason to emotionally or financially invest in this mess.

15

The best films of 2009

To avoid a big, long, pretentious speech about what the year 2009 meant for film, here’s my favorites of the year.

First up, several honorable mentions. “Adventureland”, “Anvil! The Story of Anvil”, “Brothers”, “Bruno”, “500 Days of Summer”, “Food, Inc.”, “The Hangover”, “Julie and Julia“, “The Messenger”, “Moon”, “Paranormal Activity”, the directors cut of “Watchmen”, “Zombieland”, and especially “Star Trek”.

The best film of 2009 was “Inglourious Basterds”. Brad Pitt, Melanie Laurent, Diane Kruger, and especially Christoph Waltz are all fantastic here. The cinematography is gorgeous, the dialogue is the year’s best, and the ending isn’t afraid to re-write history. This ranks as one of the great men-on-a-mission films, and simply as great entertainment.

The second-greatest film: “Up in the Air”. Funny, angry, romantic, tragic, relevant. This is an old-fashioned Hollywood film that also documents living in these tumultuous modern times. They truly don’t make them like this anymore.

At three: “Where the Wild Things Are” was probably the one of the most purely joyful children’s films ever made, and it’s literally a crime that it received no Academy Award nominations.

Four: “Fantastic Mr. Fox” and “Up” compose some of the great animated films of our time: Each unique in its own way, each impeccably written. Not just great children’s movies, or great entertainment, but truly fantastic films in their own right.

Five: “Precious” is an almost unbearably tragic film, but also incredibly uplifting. Gabourey Sidibe and Mo’Nique each deserve Academy Awards for their portrayal as an abused, obese daughter and her vicious mother.

Six: Joel and Ethan Coen’s “A Serious Man” is their best film in a decade. It concerns a Jewish professor under-going a mid-life crisis. It poses a great deal of questions, offers few answers, and is wickedly funny. Unmissable.

At seven: You’ve seen “Avatar”. I’ve seen “Avatar”. I really needn’t explain its greatness to you.

Coming in at number eight, Jeff Bridges and Maggie Gyllenhaal are fantastic in “Crazy Heart”, a film about an alcoholic country singer inspired to clean himself up when he falls in love.

The moving coming-of-age story “An Education” is my ninth favorite film of the year: With stunning performances by Carey Mulligan, Peter Saarsgard and Alfred Molina, it’s probably the most well-acted film of 2009. Funny, poignant, but above all moving, the film masterfully displays the cultural turmoil in 1960’s-era Britain.

And the tenth best of the year: Two very different action movies. “District 9” is a science fiction film set in Johannesburg, where an alien ship has floated in the sky for 30-odd years whilst the aliens are put in refugee camps below. It’s likely to be remembered for years to come, amongst the likes of “Alien” and “Star Wars” for original, ground-breaking science-fiction. “The Hurt Locker” follows a team stationed in Iraq, whose sole purpose is to defuse bombs. Its scenes depicting the defusing of such bombs are almost unbearably tense. Emotionally involving, expertly directed by Kathryn Bigelow and very well-acted from relative newcomers like Jeremy Renner and Anthony Mackie.