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14 actors I really dig

There’s a bit of a meme going on in Swedish film blogging circles. The idea is simple: list your seven favorite male and female actors. I’m participating too, although loosely. I’m not saying these are my very favorites, as that tends to change from day to day and I might have forgotten someone. These are, however, seven men and seven women whose work I really enjoy, either because they constantly deliver great performances, or because they possess some hard-to-define quality that makes my brain happily go “ding!” whenever I spot their names on a cast list.

First, some honorable mentions…

Kevin Spacey: Had I written this post 10 years ago, he’d be a shoo-in for sure. Alas, he hasn’t had many truly great roles lately.
Kirsten Dunst: She has been underrated ever since she lit up the screen in Interview with the Vampire in 1994, and only recently has she started getting the critical acclaim she deserves.
Al Pacino: Another one whose heyday is behind him, Pacino has tons of maniacally energetic performances on his CV.
Rosario Dawson: Effortlessly charming, possibly the hottest woman on this planet, and probably with her best work still ahead of her.
Jason Statham: The bona fide action star of the millennium.
Ellen Page: At 25 years of age, she has already amassed a number of impressive lead and supporting roles. What does the future hold for her?

On to the list proper. This is in randomly generated order.

MV5BMTMzODkzOTU4OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMzU0ODE5NA@@._V1._SX640_SY920_Catherine Keener

When I watch Keener play one of her evil characters, I can not imagine here ever being good. When I watch her play one of her good characters, I can not imagine her ever being evil. Her impressive range is perhaps her strongest quality and she has proven to only get better with age. When she got her first Oscar nomination for playing manipulative seductress Maxine in Being John Malkovich, she was already 40 years old. Since then – and before – she has kept putting in affecting performances no matter how small or large a part she plays.

3 great performances
Living in Oblivion – pulling off the difficult task of acting like you’re acting, both badly and well.
Being John Malkovich – toying with John Cusack with equal measures of bitchy and funny.
An American Crime – playing one of the most despicable abusive mothers in recent history.

Anthony_Hopkins_0001Anthony Hopkins

While there is a lot to be said for physical transformations and chameleon actors who are nigh-unrecognizable from one film to the next, perhaps even more impressive is someone like Hopkins. He always looks more or less the same, and yet he disappears into roles like few others. A master of mannerisms, body language, and voice, Hopkins portrays clearly defined characters utterly convincingly. Never one to turn down a paycheck, he appears in many films that might not make full use of his talents, but you will never see him slumming it or sleep-walking through a role. Hopkins always delivers.

3 great performances
The Silence of the Lambs – somehow making a mere 16 minutes of screen time into the one thing people associate the film with.
The Remains of the Day – redefining “emotionally restrained”.
The World’s Fastest Indian – completely inhabiting a man jovially dead-set on accomplishing his dream.

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Posted by on 18 January, 2013 in Misc.

 

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A decent Oscars ceremony + a self-plug

Watching the Oscars ceremony is always a special feeling for me. No, not because they’re “magical” or anything like that. Rather, it’s because they start in the middle of the night in my timezone. I went to bed around 9 PM, eventually settled down to sleep, then woke up at 1:30 AM or so to get everything ready for the viewing experience. With few hours of sleep followed by a couple more hours staring at a screen, swapping between watching, tweeting and forum discussions, my eyes get a bit exhausted, as does my brain. It’s a state I don’t often find myself in apart from this one day of the year, so I kind of associate the Academy Awards with it. So with that in mind, I apologize in advance for any weird typos or rambling thoughts in this blog post.

I thought this year’s ceremony was… okay. Not great, not terrible, but okay. There was a lack of really special moments, and not all of the humor worked. But there wasn’t much outright bad about the proceedings. The whole thing moved at a fairly brisk pace, finding a suitable balance between giving people time to thank everyone and not enough to get boring. Billy Crystal as the host did a decent job. There were stretches were his presence wasn’t felt much even when he was on the screen, and he had a few awkward “waiting for applause” pauses, but he was kind of funny, kind of charming, and certainly a step up from the past two years’ hosting duos. And now I resume my hopes for Kevin Spacey to host next year. Or maybe Fred Willard?

Some random thoughts on the show:

  • Speech of the night: The long overdue Christopher Plummer. Such a charming and funny man. “You’re only two years older than me, darling. Where have you been all my life?”
  • The Wizard of Oz focus group skit was quite funny, but more than anything, it was just a really pleasant surprise to see the Christopher Guest crew together again on my screen.
  • The Cirque du Soleil number was quite spectacular and impressive, though I question its relevance to the Oscars. The time could have been better spent elsewhere, I feel.
  • The interview montages with people talking about why they love movies were kind of a drag. No real insight or emotional impact was offered, so more than anything, this felt like padding.
  • Not everything in Crystal’s mind-reading spiel worked, but it was all worth it for the mumbling Nick Nolte bit which provided one of the few real laugh out loud moments of the broadcast for me.

I don’t have any strong personal feelings either way about what won and what didn’t, although I’m happy for all the winners. Respect and amiration from one’s peers is always great, so congratulations to everyone who went home with a statue. There were one or two real surprising announcements; sole non-BP nominee The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo picking up Best Editing was something few people had predicted, and I certainly did not see Meryl Streep‘s Best Actress win coming personally – she was always a possibility, but I still felt Viola Davis had that award fairly secured. Apart from those two, everything else fell within the realm of what could be expected. That’s not to say I did great with my predictions, ending up with 15 of the 24 categories right. An okay result, but not enough to win any pools or contests. It says something about how open many of the categories were when I can get 9 things wrong and still think there weren’t many proper shockers.

So now that the Oscars are in the books, Awards Season is officially over. Time to go back to my main interest: Movies.

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Oh! But before we move on, there is one more set of awards to take in: The 1st Annual Flickcharters’ Choice Awards. I talked a bit a while ago about being part of the nominating voters, and yesterday/tonight/today the winners were announced. There’s a post up about it on the Flickchart Blog where Ross Bonaime, Jandy Stone Hardesty and myself offer our thoughts on the categories. I think the internet will like our winners more than those of the Academy, so go have a look to end Awards Season on a highnote!

The 1st Annual Flickcharters’ Choice Awards Winners

What did you think of the Oscars this year?

 
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Posted by on 27 February, 2012 in Links, Oscars

 

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“Final” 2011 Oscars Predictions

I haven’t been keeping quite as close a look at the Oscars race this awards season as I have the last few years. I’m not entirely sure why this is, but the result is that I find it hard to make confident predictions in quite a few categories. And it’s not even like last year, where a lot of uncertainty basically boiled down to whether The King’s Speech or Alice in Wonderland would pick up the most arts and crafts wins, or just how strong The Social Network still was. This year, there are plenty of categories where I have trouble even boiling things down to two possible winners. Then again, I did really poorly with my guesses last year – thanks to overconfidence in The King’s Speech, stubborn and ill-conceived faith in Annette Bening, and those damn short categories – so perhaps being a bit aloof about things will turn out to be a blessing.

So for what it’s worth, here are my picks in the various categories. They’re final, unless I change my mind. My predicted winners are in BOLD CAPS.

BEST PICTURE

THE ARTIST
The Descendants
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
The Help
Hugo
Midnight in Paris
Moneyball
The Tree of Life
War Horse

Back in September when the race was still wide open, I made a baseless guess that the unseen War Horse would turn out to be the eventual Best Picture winner. At the end of 2011, The Artist had established itself as the front-runner, yet I had a hunch that it would run out of steam and not end up the victor. Well, here we are a few days away from the ceremony, and I have to concede that I was wrong on both of those occasions. It’s hard to see The Artist losing at this point.

BEST DIRECTOR

Woody Allen – Midnight in Paris
MICHEL HAZANAVICIUS – THE ARTIST
Terrence Malick – The Tree of Life
Alexander Payne – The Descendants
Martin Scorsese – Hugo

Most of the time, Best Picture and Best Director go hand in hand. Yet year after year, there’s always people predicting a split between the two. This is rarely wise, as when a split does happen, it’s always a major surprise – think Crash / Brokeback Mountain. So I’m playing it safe and going with Hazanavicius.

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Posted by on 22 February, 2012 in Oscars

 

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My Top 10 Favorite Movies of 2002

After the somewhat weak year that was 2003, we come to 2002. What is there to say about this year? Not much. It was a good year, thus making for a solid top 10. So with little to pontificate about regarding 2002, I’d like to take this space to talk about the fleeting nature of these lists.

I am by no means done with any year film-wise. Not yet, and I don’t think I ever will be. There are always more movies to see, from critically hailed modern classics to gems that have gotten lost in the shuffle and are waiting to be discovered. So it’s no wonder that the lists can get slightly dated with time. Not just in terms of the ranked order (which can change from day to day), but also in which films are included. For example, I hadn’t seen A Single Man when I made my 2009 list, but if I had, it would definitely have made the cut. The same goes for the wonderful documentary Best Worst Movie. Rather than going back to updating the lists when necessary, I’m fine with just leaving them as they are. All lists are windows into brief moments in time. “This is how Emil felt on this day”, is what they proclaim. Even if I see some 2002 movie later this week that would make the cut for this list, it doesn’t change the fact that this here is a collection of 10 movies I really enjoyed. To offer a general view of what kind of films I like has always been the purpose of these lists, and this goal is still accomplished by leaving them as they are.

So now, on to the list for 2002. As always, this goes by the release dates listed on IMDB.

10 – CHANGING LANES (Roger Michell)

“I can live with myself because at the end of the day I think I do more good than harm. What other standard have I got to judge by?”

Two strangers collide in a traffic accident. One is a lawyer at the cusp of his big break, the other a recovering alcoholic trying to gain custody of his children. The meeting causes a delay for both of them, setting them off on a spiralling path through the day where both will try to exact revenge on each other and struggle with determining who is right and who is wrong. A cleverly written film where we can sympathize with both sides of a conflict. Ben Affleck puts in one of his best performances, while Samuel L. Jackson is as fun as always.

9 – ONE HOUR PHOTO (Mark Romanek)

“No one ever takes a photograph of something they want to forget.”

A thriller that really gets under your skin, through a protagonist who’s troubled both psychologically and socially. Loner Sy (played expertly by a subdued Robin Williams) lives through the photos he developes for his customers, experiencing their joys that he himself has none of in his own life. But when he discovers that injustice is done to people he care about, he gradually snaps. It’s a story of morality and a reminder of how little we know of others, of the things we keep from them ourselves, and of how the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.

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Posted by on 9 January, 2012 in Lists, Top 10 of a year

 

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My Top 10 Favorite Movies of 2008

2008 saw The Dark Knight crush everything at the box office, with Iron Man picking up what super hero crumbs were left over. WALL-E charmed the pants off of everyone, becoming both a critical darling and a major crowd-pleaser. Standard procedure for Pixar, of course. Teenage girls packed theaters for the first Twilight film, while their mothers came out in droves for Sex and the City and Mamma Mia. Slumdog Millionaire hit the film festivals and began one of the least-threatened journeys to the Best Picture Oscar in recent memory. Mickey Rourke had his career resurrected through The Wrestler, Titanic co-stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet reunited in Revolutionary Road and Harrison Ford donned the iconic hat once more in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. More saddening, 2008 also had the deaths of Heath Ledger, Sydney Pollack, Bernie Mac, Paul Newman, Charlton Heston, trailer voice-over guy Don LaFontaine and others.

This was an important year for me as a movie-watcher, since it was in 2008 that I went from very casually interested to becoming the movie-nut I am today. And what a good year it was for cinema, with plenty of wonderful films arriving from all corners of the world. Culling these films into a mere 10 was not the easiest task.

As usual, this is 2008 strictly as listed on IMDB. And do note it’s a list of my favorite films, and nothing else.

10 – IN BRUGES (Martin McDonagh)

“Of course you can’t see! I just a shot a blank in your fucking eye!”

Who’d have though a film about two assassins on vacation in a quiet Belgian town could be so great? Director/writer Martin McDonagh crafts a tale filled with black humor, sadness, guilt and violence, helmed by two great performances by Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson. One of the funniest films of the year, only strangely enhanced by the thick melancholic atmosphere.

9 – LAKEVIEW TERRACE (Neil LaBute)

“I am the police! You have to do what I say!”

This choice is sure to raise a few eyebrows, but I really dug this film. It might not have anything revelatory to say about racism (“Did you know that black people can be racist too?”), but it walks the fine line between mumbling and top-of-the-lungs screaming regardless. It also works really well as pure entertainment. There’s lots of fun to be had watching Samuel L. Jackson‘s bigot LAPD cop character troll his new neighbors, an interracial couple played by Patrick Wilson and Kerry Washington. Many disagree with me and say this movie is nothing special. I found it surprisingly great.

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Posted by on 12 October, 2011 in Lists, Top 10 of a year

 

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Some Oscars thoughts this early in the race

With Venice, Toronto and Telluride over and done with, awards season is underway. This is always a fun time of the year for me as a movie fan, so I’m sure I’ll be chiming in as the journey to the Kodak Theatre progresses. What fascinates me is of course the films themselves (though I won’t be seeing any of them anytime soon myself, unfortunately), but also the race. The PR strategies employed by the studios. The jockeying for position. The films that fail to gain traction despite heavy pre-hype. The contenders that arrive from out of nowhere. Trying to gauge the Academy’s taste is something people often say is easy to do (hence the idea of Oscar bait), but AMPAS can be very fickle indeed. Always be prepared for the unexpected.

But it’s very early in the race, and speculating about what’s going to win at this point still seems a bit premature to me, especially considering all the films that haven’t been seen by anyone yet. As I said, I haven’t seen any of the films myself, and I don’t have any juicy inside info to offer. There are other sites than mine that offer more up-to-date news and analyses of the whole thing (I highly recommend In Contention).

So what do I have to offer Oscars-wise at this time? Just my own random thoughts and observations.

We still have no clear frontrunner for Best Picture, which is a pleasant development. Anything can still happen. By this time last year, The King’s Speech was the film to beat already (though doubts would arise as the year came to a close). Same with Slumdog Millionaire three years ago. But now there’s still life in the race. The Descendants is looking strong so far, but it’s a comedy, and AMPAS are generally reluctant to give films like that their big prize. There’s summer’s big surprise hit The Help, but it’s going to need a good push to stay fresh in people’s minds. Political drama The Ides of March seems like it would be right up the Academy’s alley, but it has met with solid-but-not-great critical reception. The Tree of Life remains a big question mark. And there are plenty of big ones still unseen, such as Clint Eastwood‘s J. Edgar, Stephen Daldry‘s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and Steven Spielberg‘s War Horse.

Gary Oldman, Oscar hopeful

In contrast, the Best Actor field seems to be stabilizing somewhat. George Clooney (The Descendants), Jean Dujardin (The Artist) and Gary Oldman (looking for a long overdue first nomination for Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy) have all gotten the necessary praise and seem safe bets, along with recently unveiled Moneyball‘s Brad Pitt. And barring a complete flop by J. Edgar, Leonardo DiCaprio appears likely to join them. Who could oust any of them? Michael Fassbender, for one. Both Shame and A Dangerous Method could do it for him. Ryan Gosling maybe, whether it’s through Drive or The Ides of March.

Speaking of Drive, I have no idea what it will have any chance at being nominated for. Critics have loved the hell out of it, but what branches of the Academy will take a liking to it? Maybe none at all. I could easily see that happening.

People have been talking for way too long about how Best Actress will come down to Glenn Close vs Meryl Streep. The latter’s The Iron Lady still hasn’t shown, but I’d put my money on Close of the two. There’s a better story to be told with her winning for Albert Nobbs. Hopefully something will heat up this discussion though, because it’s been stale for months. I’m hoping for a late resurgence of Tilda Swinton love myself. What happened to We Need to Talk About Kevin anyway?

And what’s going to happen to Woody Allen‘s Midnight in Paris? It raked in more money at the box office than any of the director’s previous films and was being called the first possible Best Picture contender of the year. But therein lies the problem: it arrived way back in spring. What can be done to keep it in the running? An Original Screenplay nod seems likely, in any case.

Not happening.

Remember when people were talking about Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2, Super 8 and Rise of the Planet of the Apes as possible Best Picture nominees? Oh the joys of summer speculating. None of them seem very likely anymore, do they?

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo seems to be a return to his dark 90s thriller roots for David Fincher. Which is great, because those movies of his were excellent. Don’t expect the Academy to fawn all over it, though. They were very happy to ignore Fincher until he started playing to their tastes with The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. I am not expecting The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo to be an Oscars contender at all, except possibly for star Rooney Mara.

Pixar’s Cars 2 made tons of money this summer but is by far the studio’s worst received film yet. This means that their usual playground Best Animated Feature might be an exciting category for once. Will The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn strike gold, or will its motion capture make the Academy deem it ineligible? If that one’s out of the running, Rango might be the horse to beat.

Nobody’s talking about Sweden’s submission to the Best Foreign Language Film category, Pernilla August‘s Beyond (Svinalängorna). We haven’t won that Oscar since 1983. I don’t think that’ll change this time around.

Finally, some largely baseless early Oscars picks. Please don’t hold me to these even a week from now. I’m just guessing. I still reserve rights to proudly proclaim “I told you so!” if I happen to be right, however.

Best Picture: War Horse

Best Director: Steven Spielberg – War Horse

Best Actor: Brad Pitt – Moneyball

Best Actress: Glenn Close – Albert Nobbs

Best Supporting Actor: Nick Nolte – Warrior

Best Supporting Actress: Shailene Woodley – The Descendants

Best Adapted Screenplay: The Descendants

Best Original Screenplay: J. Edgar

Best Animated Feature: Rango

Best Foreign Language Film: Poland – In Darkness

 
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Posted by on 20 September, 2011 in Oscars

 

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