2012 Oscar Nominations: Luke’s Picks

Unlike Matt (whose predictions can be found here), I take the Oscars a little seriously. My numbers are usually pretty good too, but I’ve yet to win any big predictions competitions and that bums me out just a little. That being said, this year’s race looks pretty flat and uncompetitive, with most of the nominees and frontrunners decided months ago. There are, however, a few nominees that could steal the scene from The Artist, which is expected to sweep.

2012 Academy Award Best Picture predictionsBest Picture

Nominees: War Horse, The Tree of Life, Moneyball, The Artist, Hugo, Midnight in Paris, The Descendants, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, The Help

Will Win: The Artist. It’s the frontrunner because it’s an easy pick for Hollywood. While most of the other best picture nominees have a few deterrers, The Artist is unanimously adored at least to some fashion. The nostalgia crowd pleaser also happens to have strong technical components AND a few acting nominations, which sets it apart from other possible winners like Hugo, The Help and The Descendants that only fare well with one of the two. Don’t be too surprised if The Help crashes the party with an upset. Continue reading

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REVIEW: The Iron Lady

The Iron Lady
Directed by: Phyllida Lloyd
Written by: Abi Morgan (screenplay)
Starring: Meryl Streep, Jim Broadbent, Alexandra Roach and Iain Glen

It’s no surprise at all that Meryl Streep’s portrayal of Margaret Thatcher is amazingly conceived and executed, worthy of any acting trophy that exists.  Everything from the posture to the voice and especially those trademark darting eyes are in full force in a movie that unfortunately fails to capture the true gravity of its subject.

Phyllida Lloyd, whose credentials include the much-maligned screen adaptation of Mamma Mia!, brings a typical biopic aesthetic to The Iron Lady.  Every character fits in its appropriate place and blends in with the environment unless they aren’t supposed to.  Abi Morgan’s screenplay, the biggest thing to blame for this film’s mediocrity, often extenuates Thatcher’s struggle to be taken seriously as a female politician.  Everything else is glossed over.

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Our Favorite Movies of 2011

1. The Tree of Life– Terrence Malick’s epic tone poem weaves in and out of the life of a typical American family in 1950s Texas, zig-zagging between the creation of the universe and the afterlife in the process.  By placing the location of his own childhood at the center of these celestial events, he puts a very personal spin on his warring perceptions of creation; the way of nature and the way of grace.  As his camera weaves in and out of the O’Brien family’s lives (a three son household run by Brad Pitt’s nature and Jessica Chastain’s grace), the element of visual improvisation makes their everyday life and afterlife beautiful.  Even if you hated it, you’ll never forget it. Read our review.

2. Certified Copy- Unexpected in every way, the romance film by Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami follows two strangers as they meet up in Tuscany one afternoon and divulge into their passionate opinions on art, originality, philosophy and love. Over the course of a single afternoon, their relationship takes twists and turns, leaving the audience in awe of the puzzle laid out before them and clinging to the aesthetic beauty of its settings and characters to reveal clues. Sophisticated filmmaking technique brilliantly interlaces heavy academic, multilingual conversation with a flowing narrative to sculpt this as one of the most unique and thought-provoking films of the year. Read our review.

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Our Favorite Performances of 2011

1. Kirsten DunstMelancholia– In Lars von Trier’s apocalyptic new film, Dunst creates one of cinema’s most fully realized portraits of numbing depression.  In all of her performances, Dunst has shown a skill sometimes greater than the films she is in.  Here, she takes the role of Justine, a woman who self-destructs on her wedding night and takes shelter with her sister as the planet Melancholia goes on a collision course with Earth.  Key Scene: In the deepest part of her depression, Justine even needs help getting down to the dinner table.  Her sister Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg) made meatloaf, her favorite dish.  When Justine tastes it, her face crumbles, and she says it tastes like ash.  That’s all that will be left of the planet in a couple days, and she can’t wait.

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Debatable: Do most moviegoers dislike art movies?

Debatable, one of our newest series piloted earlier this year with a discussion on video-on-the-go, pins CyniCritics contributors together to tackle big picture movie-related topics through back-and-forth dialogue. The latest prompt asks editors if general movie audiences dislike art movies and if so, why.

Matt: I don’t think the “general public” is opposed to art movies in general. It’s mostly about distribution and marketing. The biggest marketing tool for successful art movies is the Academy Awards. However, the taste of Oscar voters leaves out many films that don’t fit into a specific mold or go too far away from narrative convention. That taste then translates to the public, who has limited choice and is more likely to look for stars or be influenced by a memorable trailer.

Luke: I think you bring up an interesting point with the Academy Awards as a marketing tool. There are countless art movies released in the year that find little commercial success until the holiday and awards season. Once the Academy, critics and marketing push a handful of “must-see” films, they start making a lot of money at the theaters because audiences feel these are good films they shouldn’t miss out on. No one would have seen Slumdog Millionaire without the buzz. Nominations and such also translate into good DVD rentals, which explains why Netflix’s top 10 rented movies are mostly Best Picture nominated films. Before then, people just don’t know what is good or don’t know how to find what is good and are too afraid to take a chance. This might explain why it’s easier to go see Mission: Impossible over Hugo. Continue reading

The 11 Best Movie Posters of 2011

After reading a few eye-rolling best movie posters of 2011 lists and questioning the rationalities behind fans and writers picking their favorite posters, I took the time to compile our own own list, putting two years of ad school skills with a fellow designer / colleague to practice. Here is a look at some of the best that came to mind. Honorable mentions: Bridesmaids, Scream 4, The Dark Knight Rises, Shame and Weekend.

11. The Run Diary: Commercially the long-awaited Johnny Depp film was a flop and critically it still disappointed. Most of the blame goes to marketing execs, who didn’t quite know how to sell the film despite a mildly attractive trailer and this copy clever typographical poster.

10. J. Edgar: Most might argue the other way on this, claiming Leo in an unflattering, oddly cropped portrait missed the mark, however, the still demands much attention and captures the character brilliantly. The hand-written signature title at the top quiets the image to match the tone of Eastwood’s film. Continue reading

SPOTLIGHT: Leonardo DiCaprio

One of the biggest box office cash-ins in Hollywood today is also one of the boldest talents.  The career of Leonardo DiCaprio has had many growing pains, but now that he’s grown up and knows exactly what he wants out of his career, he appears unstoppable.  His gift is to take us inside the often harrowing mind of the male psyche by manipulating and subverting the things that make people sympathize with it.  He often yearns for connection in his films, whether it be from an unrequited love (Inception, Shutter Island) or just a human to be normal around (The Departed), he takes us to these places with ferocious skill and unbreakable humanity.  Rarely does he crack a smile these days, but that makes them all the more meaningful when he does.  If there is any hope that the art house can continue to have a big budget, it’s because stars like him appreciate the art they work in, and not just the huge salary it gives them.

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