BEST PICTURE NOMINEE: The Help

The Help
Directed by: Tate Taylor
Written by: Tate Taylor (screenplay), Kathryn Stockett (novel)
Starring: Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, and Bryce Dallas Howard

More than anything- its Civil Rights message, its 60s send-back, its self-awareness of both- Tate Taylor’s film adaptation of The Help is more proof that female-driven movies outside the rom-com purgatory are infiltrating the mainstream.   That is the edgiest thing about it by far. As many critics have already remarked, it is a fairly safe movie.  It tackles racism in Jackson, Mississippi in the time period surrounding the assassination of Medgar Evers and John F. Kennedy.

Like AMC’s Mad Men, it dresses its stars (or the white ones at least) in irresistibly colorful dresses and tortures their hair into ridiculously smoothed-out contortions.  Unlike that show, it is aware of when it takes place.  This script, written by the director Tate Taylor, anticipates everything it’s going to throw at you.

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2012 Oscar Nominations: Matt’s Picks

I don’t really take the Oscars seriously, though they are interesting to look at and fun to lambast.  This year’s nominees are chock-full of the typical awards-seeking fodder (War Horse, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close) and the usual pleasant surprises (Tree of Life, Gary Oldman) and snubs (DiCaprio, Dunst).  These are my picks for this year’s ceremonies, though like I said, I don’t particularly care.

Best 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 a cute gimmick that should’ve been a short film, but I was sold on it winning as soon as people started bringing up that if it won it’d be the first silent to film to win since the actual Silent Era.  Blah blah blah.

Should Win: The Tree of Life was the most ambitious and beautiful film to be released last year, though it was lucky to score a nomination.  I also wouldn’t mind seeing Hugo take top honors.  It does what The Artist tried to do so much better.

Left out: Melancholia, A Dangerous Method, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Certified Copy and Young Adult are all more worthy than most of the nominees.

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BEST PICTURE NOMINEE: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Directed by: Stephen Daldry
Written by: Eric Roth (screenplay), Jonathan Safran Foer (book)
Starring: Thomas Horn, Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock and Max von Sydow

The opening image of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is of a man falling to his death, with papers behind him that fade into the title; its closing image is of a boy swinging upward on a swing, triumphant.  It freezes on this image, asking the audience to pause and share in that triumph.  This is hard to do for many reasons, but mostly because that man who was falling to his death wasn’t doing so because he wanted to.  He is falling from the Twin Towers, and it is Septermber 11th, as the movie and its director, Stephen Daldry, will remind you of several times.

Oskar (Thomas Horn), the troubled boy at the film’s center, torments himself endlessly with the messages his father (Tom Hanks) left on their answering machine while he was trapped in the World Trade Center on what Oskar calls “The Worst Day.”  After finally working up the courage to enter his father’s room, he searches the top shelf, knocking over a blue vase in the process.  Inside that vase is a key whose mysteries occupy the remainder of the narrative.

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Oscar Nomination Predictions 2012

Best Picture: While The Artist is this year’s clear frontrunner with big wins at the Golden Globes and Producer’s Guild Awards, The Descendants and The Help are close on its heals. If this were a year with five nominations Midnight in Paris and War Horse would round the pack. But this isn’t a five-film year, nor is it a ten. Rather than explain the complicated, new system, just note that there could as many ten or as few as five films nominated pending on the number of votes a film receives. The totally will likely be around seven or eight with the sheer number of worthy-contenders. Odds favor darker dramas (like our pick for best film of the year, The Tree of Life) over an already largely comedic selection of sure-bets. Continue reading

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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REVIEW: The Help

The Help
Directed by: Tate Taylor
Written by: Tate Taylor (screenplay), Kathryn Stockett (novel)
Starring: Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, and Bryce Dallas Howard

More than anything- its Civil Rights message, its 60s send-back, its self-awareness of both- Tate Taylor’s film adaptation of The Help is more proof that female-driven movies outside the rom-com purgatory are infiltrating the mainstream.   That is the edgiest thing about it by far. As many critics have already remarked, it is a fairly safe movie.  It tackles racism in Jackson, Mississippi in the time period surrounding the assassination of Medgar Evers and John F. Kennedy.

Like AMC’s Mad Men, it dresses its stars (or the white ones at least) in irresistibly colorful dresses and tortures their hair into ridiculously smoothed-out contortions.  Unlike that show, it is aware of when it takes place.  This script, written by the director Tate Taylor, anticipates everything it’s going to throw at you.

Continue reading

ARCHIVE REVIEW: Doubt

Doubt
Directed by: John Patrick Shanley
Written by: John Patrick Shanley (screenplay & play)
Starring: Meryl Streep, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, and Viola Davis

Power resonates through every frame of this film.  The themes, the characters, and the film making are all powerful gusts of wind sent forth from the mind of John Patrick Shanley to shake you to your core.  However, it is not without one of the finest ensembles of the past several years that he achieves this.

What’s so great about this movie is that it speaks to something in everyone.  Looking at Doubt as an allegory for our times, when unsubstantiated certainty lands us in an unwinnable war in the Middle East, you see something totally different than if you look at it as a critique on Catholicism’s unwillingness to change.  You have to respect the material’s power to mean so much to so many different perspectives.

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