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The Films I Watched In 2013 Awards

It’s that time of the year again, folks! Time for me to take a look at the movies I watched this past year and determine which ones were the very best in a variety of silly categories. Other bloggers do Best of 2013 lists and accolades. Me, I’m as always way behind on my viewing of 2013’s movies, so I focus instead on what I actually saw this year, regardless of when it was released.

Not counting rewatches, I saw a total of 145 films during these past 12 months. A sharp drop-off from last year’s 209, but an expected one. Work and budding interests in other hobbies took some time away from the movies, something that has also contributed to a lower update rate on this here blog. To quote Vonnegut: So it goes.

But 145 movies are still quite a bit, and most of what I saw was good. It has been a fine movie year indeed. One well worth commemorating with these highly prestigeous awards of mine.

If you want to go back and see the awards for 2011 and 2012, the links are right here and here.

On that note: on with the show!

2011_jiro_dreams_of_sushi_003Most Explicit Food Porn Award
Winner: Jiro Dreams of Sushi

I’m not much of a fish eater, and I’ve never had sushi in my life. This movie could easily change that, because it makes the food looks absolutely mouth-wateringly delicious. And it’s all shot in intense tantalizing close-ups, too! Mmm…

Skärmavbild 2014-01-08 kl. 13.48.51Most Surprising Director Award
Winner: Compliance

A seriously creepy based-on-a-true-story thriller featuring dark manipulation and sexual abuse, directed by… Craig Zobel, co-creator of kid-friendly web series Homestar Runner?

CA.1205.top.shots.Alpha Award for Best Opening
Winner: We Need to Talk About Kevin
Runner-up: Les Misérables

Certain opening shots in movies just have a way of hooking you right from the start. They make you wonder what it is you’re seeing, then why it’s there, and finally what you’re about to see next. Tilda Swinton floating around in a sea of people all drenched in tomato sauce certainly manages to do all that.

Skärmavbild 2014-01-08 kl. 13.51.12Omega Award for Best Ending
Winner: Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
Runner-up: Martha Marcy May Marlene

You might think that a romcom set during the last days before the end of the world can only end in one conceivable way, and perhaps you’d be right. What I didn’t expect from this film, however, was the emotional reaction I had to its conclusion. When I sat down to watch the movie, I was looking for something easy to go along with my hangover. What I got was something far more impressive. Martha Marcy May Marlene earns the silver medal by initially making me go “What!? This is where you end it? Just like that?”, but then making me question what the film was really trying to tell me, and subsequently sticking with me for days afterward.

Skärmavbild 2014-01-08 kl. 13.51.54Best Worst WTF-est Use Of Fried Chicken Award
Winner: Killer Joe

Scenes that leave you dumbfoundedly staring at the screen wondering just what the hell you’re seeing are rare. Even rarer is when they do this in a good way. William Friedkin‘s Killer Joe certainly manages this with its most infamous scene, featuring Matthew McConaughey, Gina Gershon, and some fried chicken.

scarlett_johansson_1179511561Award for Excellence In Sexiness
Winner: Scarlett Johansson – Match Point

While not as overt or smoldering as previous winners in this category (the entire cast of Nine, and Clooney + J-Lo in Out of Sight), Scarlett Johansson’s turn in Woody Allen‘s infidelity thriller Match Point still has a ton of fire to it. Her pulling Jonathan Rhys Meyers into an affair with her certainly seems believable.

Skärmavbild 2014-01-08 kl. 13.53.51“What’s The Big Deal?” Award for A Beloved Film That Left Me Underwhelmed
Winner: Animal House
Runner-up: A Nightmare on Elm Street

Animal House is hailed as a comedy classic in most American writing I find online. I rarely if ever hear much reverence for it from Swedish writers. Maybe it’s a cultural thing. I didn’t find much to like about the movie, other than a few John Belushi moments. But if I want Belushi, I’ll just stick to The Blues Brothers, thank you very much.

Skärmavbild 2014-01-08 kl. 13.58.28Masticating The Environs Award for Most Acting
Winner: Keira Knightley – A Dangerous Method

Nobody tried harder on a screen I found myself in front of in 2013 than Keira Knightley in David Cronenberg‘s psychosexual drama slash biopic. Whether her chin-jutting and high-strung performance fully works is most definitely up for debate, but she certainly gave it her all.

11168823_800High Concept Award for Best Premise
Winner: Timer
Runner-up: Grabbers

Irish horror comedy Grabbers features invading monsters averse to alcohol, necessitating that the protagonist townsfolk stay drunk all the time. This is such a brilliant and obvious idea for the genre that I’m surprised I haven’t come across it before. But the best idea I saw this year was in Timer, a sci-fi romance set in the future where someone has invented a timer that counts down the seconds until you first meet your soul mate – but it only starts counting once they too get a timer. It might sound gimmicky, but to its further credit, the movie plays the premise for all its worth, exploring different angles of it right up to its logical yet surprising conclusion.

MORNING GLORYGrumpiest Old Man Award
Winner: Harrison Ford – Morning Glory

Veteran TV journalist Mike Pomeroy used to cover wars, politics and other high prestige stories. In Morning Glory, he finds himself having to host a breezy morning news show. This does not exactly sit well with him. Harrison Ford plays him almost like a parody of Clint Eastwood‘s Gran Torino character, where every word is delivered like a raspy grunt. “Are you drunk?” Rachel McAdams‘ distraught character asks him before a broadcast. “Insufficiently”, he replies.

the-50-greatest-movie-fights-ever--46-420-75Brains Over Brawns Award for Smartest Fighter
Winner: Paul Newman – Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

Sometimes, all you need to win a knife fight is some swift thinking and an even swifter kick to the groin.

catacombsShannyn Sossamon Award for Best Shannyn Sossamon Performance
Winner: Shannyn Sossamon – Catacombs

Shannyn Sossamon continues to dominate this category, taking home the award for the third year straight. Her work in humdrum horror flick Catacombs is hardly career-best stuff from her, obviously, but she does make for a fairly effective state of distress protagonist. It’s just a shame that the movie is still terrible.

pi_a_jeho_zivot_foto_01Best 3D Eye Candy Award
Winner: Life of Pi
Runner-up: Gravity

In 2013, Life of Pi became the first movie I ever paid to see more than once in theater. Part of the return trip was to watch the story unfold while knowing where it’s ultimately going, but the chief reason was simple: a film as gorgeous as this deserved to be seen on the big screen more than once.

ddb7e022b292016cf2b46f33ce5d609cBest Underwear Award
Winner: Sightseers

Because hasn’t everyone always wanted to type the phrase “knitted crotchless panties” at some point in their life?

sleepwalk-with-me-e1361469729824Most Forgettable Award
Winner: Sleepwalk With Me
Runner-up: Employee of the Month

The only thing I remember about Employee of the Month is that it had a bunch of twists near the end. This is more than what I recall about Sleepwalk With Me, which was one of those movies that showed up on Netflix and a lot of bloggers ended up watching for some reason. My scorecard tells me I gave it a decent score after watching it almost a year ago, but I remember nothing about it today.

les_miserable-people-singA Swede Loves This Movie Award
Winner: Les Misérables

As you may recall, I crushed pretty hard on this movie when it arrived in theaters here back in the early parts of 2013. My love for it hasn’t diminished since then, and I still rewatch it on Blu-ray every other month or so. It’s not the best movie I saw last year, but there is no movie that spawned such an obsession in me in a way that honestly no other movie has ever done. For that, it deserves a special award.

gravity-movie-review-sandra-bullock-shiopBest 2013 Film So Far Award
Winner: Gravity
Runner-up: Before Midnight

For sheer visceral power and physicality, no 2013 film seen by me could top Gravity this year. It has left nearby theaters by now, and I’m kicking myself for not rewatching it while I had the chance. It’s that kind of movie. I’m not ruling out the possibility that runner-up Before Midnight could surpass it when revisited on home media, though.

texte-fff13-03-04Worst 2013 Film So Far Award
Winner: Upstream Color
Runner-up: The Purge

The Purge squandered an intriguing idea by employing it in a repetitive and tired home invasion horror flick. It wasn’t very good. That said, Upstream Color takes the prize here for being a film that I just couldn’t wait for to be over. I know there are plenty who like the film, but it just wasn’t for me.

U2190P28T3D3314520F329DT20110522234015Best Swedish Film Seen By Me In 2013 Award
Winner: The Girl
Runner-up: Winter Light

With Winter Light, Ingmar Bergman came close to repeating the victory in this category that Persona brought him last year, but ultimately, I was more moved by Fredrik Edfeldt‘s story of a girl trying live by herself for a summer. The Girl is a touching and thoughtful movie, and one deserving to be seen by more people outside my country.

limousineWorst Film Seen By Me In 2013 Award
Winner: Cosmopolis
Runner-up: Valhalla Rising

I’ve described Winding Refn’s Valhalla Rising as a Bergman film without any of the things that make Bergman films interesting, but it does at least have some striking cinematography going for it. What does Cosmopolis have? Nothing.

shame-2011-movie

Best Film Seen By Me In 2013 Award
Winner: Shame
Runner-up: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

I think I died a couple of times while watching Shame, and I didn’t even care. A spellbinding movie with amazing acting, fully deserving of all the praise it got upon its release. Could Steve McQueen take home this award again next year through 12 Years a Slave? Time will tell.

What’s the best film you saw in 2013? And what did you think of my picks here?

 
5 Comments

Posted by on 8 January, 2014 in Year End Awards

 

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Monthly Report: October + November 2013

Another month or two, another bunch of movies seen. October was a bit middling with few real highlights, but November picked up in a big way. November 11 in particular was a great day, with two 5/5 movies seen, something I don’t think has ever happened before. Good times.

Fright Night (Craig Gillespie, 2011)
A solid horror movie, albeit one with few surprises along the way. What I really liked about it was how the characters and their reactions felt largely believable. They filled standard parts for a horror film, but they did in such a way that they didn’t come off as mere archetypes. That was cool, and a spark of just the kind of thing I’d expect from the director of Lars and the Real Girl.
3/5

Room 237 (Rodney Ascher, 2012)
I wouldn’t take any of the theories on Stanley Kubrick‘s The Shining presented in this documentary as anything resembling facts, but it’s nonetheless quite fun to listen to people talk about something they’re passionate about and have devoted a lot of time to. It’s all fairly well executed and presented, but it does get a bit samey at times. Perhaps a shorter run time would have been a nice idea.
3/5

ent-god-bless-americajpg-abbb-de-311965954

God Bless America (Bobcat Goldthwait, 2011)
As subtle as a bowling ball, and roughly as sharp, but at its best, it’s a really funny black comedy; at its worst, it’s Goldthwait soap-boxing in the guise of 10 minutes long montages of TV parodies. It’s a good movie, but hardly a step forward from his previous film World’s Greatest Dad.
3/5

Good Bye Lenin! (Wolfgang Becker, 2003)
A sweet story combined with an interesting look at East Germany at the time of the fall of the Berlin Wall. While the basic premise of a lie that needs to be upheld is far from rare, the setting and earnestness makes it work here. A fun and fairly touching watch.
4/5

Magic Mike (Steven Soderbergh, 2012)
The acting is the strong point of the film, with Channing Tatum doing everything right in the lead and Matthew McConaughey putting in a supporting turn that’s charisma all the way through. The story is fine, but you’d expect a Soderbergh movie about male strippers to either have more to say, or at least put a fresher spin on things. There’s a lot of angles that could be explored here, and it feels like there’s plenty of missed opportunities. Not the director’s bravest effort.
3/5

A Nightmare on Elm Street (Wes Craven, 1984)
Very 80s-y. Freddy is more goofy than anything, and the ending is awful, but it does have its moments. Although not many.
2/5

The Eye (David Moreau & Xavier Palud, 2008)
Jessica Alba sees something scary and freaks out. Repeat a thousand times. Roll credits. Weak horror movie with a story that moves at a snail’s pace.
2/5

Avalon (Axel Petersén, 2011)
Kind of dry, like many Swedish films tend to be. Johannes Brost puts in a strong lead performance, and really shines when his character is stricken by guilt. Those scenes are the highlight of the film. The rest, I could take or leave. The ending is pretty but weak.
2/5

side-effects1

Side Effects (Steven Soderbergh, 2013)
Twisty, tense and entertaining thriller that keeps you on your toes throughout. The antidepressant element of the plot helped introduce some welcome ambiguity to the proceedings, and Rooney Mara puts in a performance at least as good as the one in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Just a damn solid film.
4/5

The Innkeepers (Ti West, 2011)
Perhaps not so much a slow-burner as a late-starter, The Innkeepers lulls you into first thinking it’ll be one certain kind of horror film, only to carefully flip your expectations upside down – or at least 90°. By the end of it, the tension and atmosphere had me clutching my pillow tightly. Great pacing, wonderful execution, and a very compelling set of lead characters. Best horror film I’ve seen in quite some time.
4/5

Win Win (Tom McCarthy, 2011)
There’s little particularly new or noteworthy about the story and characters in this film, but fine execution goes a long way and makes this a solid and enjoyable watch regardless. With a lesser cast, this could have turned out really weak.
3/5

Martha Marcy May Marlene (Sean Durkin, 2011)
While there’s a lot to like about this film, the best reason to see it is to witness Elizabeth Olsen‘s terrific performance in the leading role. There’s a lot of tricky emotions at play for her character, and she nails it all. The rest of the movie can’t really hope to match it fully, but that says more about Olsen than anything else. It’s a fascinating character study, as much about paranoia as about cult life, and while the ending really caught me off guard, it did so in a way that made me reevaluate what the film was really trying to say. And that’s fine. As is the movie.
4/5

The Guard (John Michael McDonagh, 2011)
Brendan Gleeson is in fine form here, playing a somewhat grumpy policeman. He and Don Cheadle have plenty of fun interactions with one another, rising above your usual “buddy cop” routines. The plot itself might be somewhat familiar, but that’s not what you should be here for; the Irishness of both the humor and the tone is what makes the film stand out.
4/5

We Need to Talk About Kevin (Lynne Ramsay, 2011)
The opening scene had me immediately enthralled. 10 minutes in, I had found 10 or so things about this film I really loved. And then it just kept on going at that same high level. A horrific tale to be sure, but it’s impossible to tear one’s eyes from the screen. A top-notch performance by Tilda Swinton, and Ramsay’s directing is flawless. Had I seen this when I was first getting into movies some years ago, it would have blown my damn mind. Even watching it now, it still does.
5/5

gravity-movie-review-space-2

Gravity (Alfonso Cuarón, 2013)
I wasn’t all that enamored by Cuarón’s much-beloved previous film Children of Men, finding it visually impressive but sterile to a fault in terms of story and characters. I was thus a bit wary of Gravity, in spite of all the praise it has been receiving. Well, Gravity is good. It’s really good. Great, in fact. The visuals are certainly the highlight here too, but they’re combined with solid characters (Sandra Bullock has probably never been better), thematic food-for-thoughts, and more suspense and excitement than you can shake a stick at. Wonderful.
5/5

Headhunters (Morten Tyldum, 2011)
Cool Norwegian thriller that ramps up and transforms as it moves along. Some of the more comedic parts feel a bit out of place, but that’s about the only major gripe I have with the film. Everything else is pulled off really well, which makes for a captivating ride.
4/5

Skyfall (Sam Mendes, 2012)
Exhilarating action scenes, solid plot and characters, interesting theme of old vs new, expert pacing, and visually stunning. That last thing is almost done to a fault, as there were times when the flashy cinematography took me out of the moment. Overall, however, this is a very fine action film, one of my favorite Bond movies, and another winner from Sam Mendes.
4/5

Six Degrees of Separation (Fred Schepisi, 1993)
Six Degrees of Separation somewhat fails to get its point across, and the transition from stage to screen is not a particularly smooth one. Whether Will Smith is just ill-suited for this kind of theater material or whether it was just too early in his career for him to tackle it, I’m not sure. He’s not bad, but his part is one that ought to sparkle, and it doesn’t here. The cast is fine for the most part, though the acting is lacking in “oomph” until Stockard Channing‘s big emotional scene towards the end.
2/5

Total # of new films seen: 18
Average score: 3.4 / 5
Best film of the months: We Need to Talk About Kevin
Worst film of the months: The Eye

 
2 Comments

Posted by on 1 December, 2013 in Monthly Report

 

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My Top 10 Favorite Movies of 2011

Remember when I made a list of 22 movies I needed to see before making my Top 10 of 2011 list?

Remember when, in December of 2011, I said that it would be half a year or so until I got around to making said Top 10?

Well, as it turns out, that was what we in Sweden call “being a time optimist.” Better late than never though, right?

The funny thing is that there are still movies from 2011 that look really good which I haven’t gotten around to yet. Into the Abyss, This Must Be the Place, Damsels in Distress, Weekend, Warrior, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Another Earth, and A Separation are all unseen by me still, to name but a handful. I could have held off on making this list longer to get even more stuff in, but I feel like I’ve waited enough already. These lists are never set in stone, so it’s not like I’m committed to these being the year’s best for ever and ever.

For those wondering how I’m doing on my 2012 backlog, well… Let’s just say that my Top 10 for that year is probably still a good 12 months or so away.

But this is 2011. On with the show!

Honorable mentions: 50/50, Attack the Block, Carnage, Headhunters, Young Adult, Your Sister’s Sister

 

hanna-movie-saoirse-ronan-1

10 – HANNA (Joe Wright)

“Adapt or die.”

Equal parts stylish action flick and off-beat coming-of-age story, mixed in with plentiful fairy tale elements, Hanna is a unique beats of a movie. Saoirse Ronan is great in the lead, playing a girl who knows all about survival, little about human interaction, and who has to rely on both to escape the bad people who are chasing her.

 

Innkeepers1

9 – THE INNKEEPERS (Ti West)

“Let’s go to the basement and find out what that fucking ghost’s problem is.”

The Innkeepers is kind of like what Clerks could have been if 1: it had been a horror film, and 2: if the lead characters had been interesting, entertaining, and brought to life by gifted actors. The work by the lead duo Pat Healy and (especially) Sara Paxton really helps to make you invested in protagonists, so that when the frights start piling up, you actually care about what’s going to happen, rather than just jump because something said “boo!”. This is a quality horror film.

 

the-adventures-of-tintin-secret-of-the-unicorn-image

8 – THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN (Steven Spielberg)

“Give me those oars! I’ll show you some real seamanship, laddie! I’ll not be doubted by some pipsqueak tuft of ginger and his irritating dog. I am master and commander of the seas!”

Speaking of creating investment in characters, that’s an area where The Adventures of Tintin had it easy, since I’ve been invested in Tintin, Captain Haddock and the others since childhood. But Spielberg’s film doesn’t prey on nostalgia. It feels very much like a modern thing, especially in the clever shots and action sequences where it really takes advantage of its animated form by pulling off stuff that would be hard to do with live action. Pure entertainment, this one.

 

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE - GHOST PROTOCOL

7 – MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – GHOST PROTOCOL (Brad Bird)

“A crude drawing, but by your description, that could be Kurt Hendricks. 190 IQ. Served in Swedish Special Forces. Professor of physics, Stockholm University. Specialist in nuclear endgame theory. Asked to resign… well, because he’s crazy.”

It has been about 10 months since I saw this film, and I still haven’t recovered from that tower climbing scene.

 

Take Shelter screen2

6 – TAKE SHELTER (Jeff Nichols)

“You think I’m crazy? Well, listen up, there’s a storm coming like nothing you’ve ever seen, and not one of you is prepared for it.”

An affecting drama with some real power acting on display, particularly from the always commanding Michael Shannon. I love the story in Take Shelter, about a man whose chief want is to keep his family safe, but who can’t be sure whether he’s justified, paranoid or delusional. And it looks great too.

 

the-raid-2

5 – THE RAID (SERBUAN MAUT, Gareth Evans)

“Pulling a trigger is like ordering takeout.”

It’s amazing how much variety you can have with your badass action when it all takes place within an apartment building. Evans here mixes gunplay with martial arts to craft an action film that keeps you on your toes from start to finish, and where every scene could be the stand-out scene in most other movies of its kind.

 

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4 – DRIVE (Nicolas Winding Refn)

“From now on, every word out of your mouth is the truth. Or I’m going to hurt you.”

At the end of 2011, I called this the best movie of 2011 that I had seen so far. Almost two years later, only three have managed to top it, and even then, it’s a close call. Drive remains an excellent and tense experience, like a spring that just keeps getting pressed and pressed and pressed until it explodes into scenes of horrific violence. Ryan Gosling in the lead is superb.

 

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3 – BRIDESMAIDS (Paul Feig)

“It’s the first time I’ve ever seen you look ugly, and that makes me kind of happy.”

The only real comedy to make the cut this year, Bridesmaids is everything that’s good about Judd Apatow comedies; it’s absolutely hilarious, but there’s also a lot of heart and emotional resonance with the characters, here focusing on the nature of friendship. Kristen Wiig deserves the lion’s share of praise for this one, both putting in a pitch-perfect performance and having co-written the script.

 

kev4

2 – WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN (Lynne Ramsay)

“Just because you’re used to something doesn’t mean you like it. You’re used to me.”

In a long line of great performances, the one as distraught mother Eva in this movie might be the best work Tilda Swinton has ever done. This is a character stuck in awful circumstances, and just how Swinton mined the necessary emotions for the part, I have no idea. Remarkably, the story and directing is every bit as good as Swinton’s performance. As I’ve written (though not yet posted) in my Monthly Report for November, this is a film that would have blown my mind had I seen it when I was first getting into movies. And even now, it still does.

 

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1 – SHAME (Steve McQueen)

“We’re not bad people. We just come from a bad place.”

While we’re still on the subjects of awesome performances and blowing my mind, there’s Shame, the best movie of 2011. This is a truly spellbinding film with a number of utterly convincing role portrayals, none sharper than Michael Fassbender‘s powerful performance as sex addict Brandon. McQueen peppers the movie with impressive long takes that, unlike many usages of them, feel like a part of the complete package rather than a cool gimmick. What’s not to like about this movie? Nothing.

What are you favorite films of 2011? What do you think of the movies on this list?

 
10 Comments

Posted by on 14 November, 2013 in Lists, Top 10 of a year

 

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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.

Read the rest of this entry »

 
4 Comments

Posted by on 18 January, 2013 in Misc.

 

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Disliking actors

It’s safe to say that actors get more attention than any other position involved with making a movie. People like Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Julia Roberts, Tom Cruise and so on are mega-celebrities, household names and constantly in the public eye. Those of us who are more into film than the average movie-goer can rattle off the names of this director or that screenwriter, but most people tend to focus on the actors. The Descendants isn’t “the new Alexander Payne film.” It’s “the new George Clooney film.” This line of thinking often seeps back to critics and bloggers in a way. I can only speak for myself (though I see this in the writings of many people), but I know I certainly spend some time in my reviews talking about the actors. He was great, she was awesome, this guy did the best work of his career, etcetera. Even a brief cameo can be worth mentioning. But when was the last time I talked about, say, the sound mix of a movie? I don’t think I ever have, which seems unfair. The sound of a movie is always present, affecting me from beginning to end. And yet I’ll still be more inclined to mention the performance of an actor with 15 minutes of total screentime. I don’t have any real reason for this, other than the fact that it’s an established way of thinking that I rarely reflect over.

Since the actors is what many people care the most about when they see a film, they get a lot of passionate support. Everyone has their favorites, whether they’re Ryan Gosling, Robert De Niro, Catherine Deneuve, Tilda Swinton, Humphrey Bogart or what have you. The ones that make you want to see everything they’ve ever been in, or whose mention in the opening credits always puts a smile on your face.

"No no no no no no no!"

But then there’s the other side of the coin: the actors you hate. They keep popping up in movies you see, and you’re never impressed by them. You find them distracting, boring, annoying, overbearing. You wonder how they keep getting work and why people would pay to see them. Whether they’re leading stars or supporting players, you wish they would just retire. Some oft-mentioned targets for derision nowadays seem to be Megan Fox, Michael Cera and Shia LaBeouf. Others have more unusual dislikes. For instance, a real life friend of mine thinks Peter O’Toole is pretty much the worst thing in the world. To each their own.

I try to maintain a positive attitude as much as I can when it comes to film. That’s not to say that I won’t point out stuff I don’t like, but I do try to focus on the good things. This goes for acting too, especially since acting is a two-man job. A great performance is the result of a collaboration between the actor and the director. The director needs to convey just what it is they want from the actor. Some director-actor pairings just don’t function, because the people work in ways that don’t gel. Time constraints during shooting can mean that there’s just not enough time to get that one really great take. There can be many factors at play, and a lackluster performance can not always be blamed solely on the actor. Actors are among the many tools a director uses to craft a film. Is the hammer to blame when a nail bends? Some actors can shine in anything. Others need the right project and motivation. That doesn’t mean that the latter group is bad at what they do.

All I need from an actor to convince me that they have talent is one good performance. No matter how many hum-drum rom-coms Kate Hudson stars in, I’ll always have Almost Famous to remind me of how good she can be. Adam Sandler can be in as many unfunny films as he likes, because Punch-Drunk Love still tells me he has real chops. And while I went a long time thinking that Keira Knightley was pretty much useless, that changed once I got around to seeing Atonement. Another example: Keanu Reeves. Often described as wooden and life-less, but what if he had stuck to comedies a la Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, a film many seem to like him in? He’d be much more loved today, I reckon. On a side-note, I thought he was pretty good in Thumbsucker too.

Anna Faris. Not one of my favorites.

As such, there are few actors I find unbearable. Few, but they’re there. Two examples stand particularly tall – or low. One is Orlando Bloom, who is just boring as all hell. Boring in Lord of the Rings, boring in Pirates of the Caribbean, boring in Troy, boring boring boring. The other is Anna Faris, a particularly annoying example as she happens to be in my favorite film Lost in Translation. Her effort there isn’t terrible, but then it boils down to nothing but a caricature of Cameron Diaz (would it be unfair to label her entire career as that?) with maybe 5 minutes of total screen-time. She tends to stick to comedies, despite the fact that she’s never funny or charming. Even when she ventures out of that comfort zone to try out different stuff, the results aren’t pretty. Evidence A: her turn in quirky horror film May, where she plays a seductress with a tone so disconnected from the rest of the movie. Highly jarring, and a blight on what is otherwise a very fine film.

That said, I’d be happy to be proven wrong about both Bloom and Faris. If you know of any great performances they’ve turned in somewhere, please let me know.

What actor(s) do you dislike?

 
16 Comments

Posted by on 22 March, 2012 in Discussions

 

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Why I remain zen about the Oscars nominations

Me on Twitter, being a fool

Click here for a full list of the Oscar nominations.

As I was watching the live stream of the Oscar nominations announcement, here is what went through my head:

“Wow, this is fun. A screenplay nod for A Separation, Rooney Mara getting nominated for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Tree of Life up for both Best Picture and Best Director, Gary Oldman finally scoring his first acting nomination… A fair share of surprises and interesting oddities. I bet there’s going to be a lot of happy people on the internet today.”

Re-read that last sentence. Yeah, I don’t know what I was thinking either.

Of course everyone was angry. My Twitter feed quickly filled up with outcry about what was snubbed, what undeservedly got in, and how the Academy members are a bunch of idiots with no taste. “Why no love for Drive!?” “No Michael Fassbender!? #OscarsFail” “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close for Best Picture!? #lol #smh” “Melissa McCarthy and Jonah Hill are now Oscar nominees? Kill me now.” “Transformers: Dark of the Moon – 3 nominations. Shame – ZERO. WTF?” “Somewhere in a bar, Tilda Swinton is drowning her sorrows. What the HELL, AMPAS?”

I do not begrudge people for being passionate about films they love. It’s what being a movie fan is all about. Here it was mostly expressed in negative ways, however. Many were happy about so-and-so being nominated for this-or-that, but a majority of the comments I read were focused on complaining about the nods and snubs they disagreed with. It got a bit tiresome. Surely we should be celebrating the good stuff instead of dwelling on the bad, no? But whatever. Everyone is entitled to their opinion.

Speaking of opinions: did you know that they’re subjective? And that there’s no such thing as “right” or “wrong” when it comes to taste? And that not everyone likes the same stuff that you do? And that the Academy members are people with their own opinions?

I like awards season. At times, I even love it. But it’s for the brain, not for the heart. I like seeing the ebb and flow of the race, sussing out which films have buzz going for them, spotting the dark horses, and trying to determine which of my hunches should be followed up on. This is completely separated from how I feel about the movies themselves. The truth is that I haven’t seen most of the films nominated for anything yet. Hell, I’ve only seen two of the Best Picture nominees at this point: Midnight in Paris and The Help, both of which I enjoy but wouldn’t put on my own ballot were I an Academy member. Don’t take my lack of personal viewing as a reason for why I remain so detached, though. I was more caught up last year and had more horses I loved in the race, and I still had no problem remaining zen about the nominations.

The Academy voters like what they like. There is no reason for me to be neither overjoyed nor sad if their opinions do or do not match my own. I don’t need Nicolas Winding Refn to be nominated for Best Director to know that I thought Drive was a great piece of movie-making. I thought Super 8 had jaw-dropping visual effects and a teriffic performance by young Elle Fanning, but I’m fine with AMPAS not nominating that film for anything. And the fact that Corey Stoll wasn’t nominated in Best Supporting Actor for playing Ernest Hemingway in Midnight in Paris doesn’t mean he didn’t steal in the film in my eyes.

If there is such a thing as “objectively good film” – and I doubt it more for each passing year – it’s clear that the Academy voters don’t concern themselves too much with the concept. I assume that’s what gets people so riled up: that “Best Picture” is supposed to go to what is objectively the year’s best movie – hence the outrage that Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close was surprisingly nominated when most critics found it lacking. It’s currently at 48% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, a fact that many people have cited the past few hours. Many haven’t seen it themselves, probably because of the lukewarm critical reception and, if I may be a bit presumptious, because it was written off as not likely to score any Oscar nominations.

But now more people probably will check it out, if only to see if it’s “worthy” of its Best Picture nomination. Which brings me to the good aspect of awards season: the way it brings attention to movies that otherwise wouldn’t be seen by as many. If not for awards season, there’s little chance that something like The Artist – a French black & white silent film – would have ever been talked about outside of hardcore cinephile circles. Smaller films from previous years like An Education and Winter’s Bone also garnered more attention thanks to the whole Oscars thing, which has lead to more interesting roles being available for their stars Carey Mulligan and Jennifer Lawrence. The Oscars and other awards ceremonies can thus do good things for movies. Perhaps this is why many people get so emotionally invested. We all want the films we love to be seen by as many as possible. Both for the sake of people seeing good movies, and so that the men and women who made them will gain added exposure and be allowed to make more great films in the future. Still, the point is diluted when you go from “I hope Fassbender gets nominated so that he’ll get more awesome roles” to “By snubbing Fassbender, AMPAS once again proves that their members have their heads up their asses.”

To me, words like “worthy” and “deserving” tend to be misused in Oscars discussions. It’s a contest to get the most votes from the Academy members. If you do well in this contest, you get in. That’s the mark of being deserving of an Oscar nomination. I get what people are saying, though: this or that movie does not deserve to be called one of the best films of the year. What I feel often goes wrong is that the sentiment gets warped by the wording and context. A movie can be worthy of attention, accolades and acclaim in our eyes, yes. But what tends to be conveyed instead is that “this film does not deserve to be liked by the Academy members”, which is something I don’t think we have any right to say.

By all means, express love for the films you adore and spew bile on the films you hate. You are definitely entitled to. Your opinion is as important and valid as anyone’s. But allow the same courtesy to the Academy members. They’re often the same people who make the movies you enjoy seeing.

A few closing notes on the nominations…

Max von Sydow

  • A big congratulation goes out to my fellow Swede Max von Sydow, who got an unexpected Best Supporting Actor nomination for Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. It’s always nice to see Swedish actors recognized internationally.
  • Drive, which I’ve seen at the top of more 2011 Top 10 lists than any other film, got its sole nomination in the Best Sound Editing category. 12 years ago, this very same fate befell another film with lots of devoted fans: Fight Club. They both made roughly the same amount of money at the box office, too.
  • It has been 30 years since a film won Best Picture without also being nominated for Best Editing. If this holds true this year too, there are only four conceivable Best Picture winners: The Artist, The Descendants, Hugo, and Moneyball.
  • Yes, Transformers: Dark of the Moon got three nominations: Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Visual Effects. Don’t be upset about how it doesn’t deserve to call itself an Oscar nominee. The Oscars are meant to reward great crafts work within their respective fields. The overall quality of the film is irrelevant.

What nomination were you the happiest over?

 
18 Comments

Posted by on 24 January, 2012 in Oscars

 

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I’m making a list, to check twenty-twice…

As you may know, I haven’t made a Top 10 of 2011 list yet, for two reasons. 1: There have been so many of them published in the blogging world lately that mine wouldn’t add anything new to the discussions. 2: I just haven’t seen enough films for the list to really mean much. Such a list made now would nigh-assuredly look vastly different to the same list made a year from now. While it’s true that all ranked opinionated lists are fleeting by nature, this would probably be a particularly big shift.

So when will I have seen enough to make my list? I didn’t make my 2010 list until just this past September. It was right after catching up with Scott Pilgrim vs the World, which I then haphazardly decided was the last 2010 film I had really high hopes for. In hindsight, I could have waited a bit longer. I have since seen some movies that could might well have made it onto the Top 10, such as Easy A and Cyrus. While the latter wasn’t really on my radar at that point, I had been wanting to see Easy A for quite some time. I really should have held out for that one. It slipped my mind.

So for 2011, I’m getting organized. I have compiled a list of films I must see before making my Top 10 for the year. These are films I figure there’s a good chance I might really like, and thus would have a good shot at making my 2011 list. After some reminding research, I ended up with a collection of 22 movies. For some, it’s because they’re by a director whose prio work I admire. For others it’s because of the actors involved, an intriguing premise, strong word of mouth, or just a gut-feeling. Many are among the current slew of Oscar hopefuls.

By no means are these all the 2011 films I want to see, or the ones I’ll see before any others. Some haven’t been released here in Sweden yet. Many I’ll catch up with through rentals, so the randomness of Lovefilm will also play a part (unlike Netflix’s neatly ordered rental queues, Lovefilm only offers a tiered system of organizing). Also, this list was put together on the spur in 10 minutes or so. There might be films that have slipped by my attention, so there could be later additions.

Here is the current list in alphabetical order.

The Artist – because crowd-pleasers can be pleasing.

The Beaver – because as polarizing as the response has been, the premise fascinates me.

Bridesmaids – because it’s Judd Apatow.

Carnage – because it’s Roman Polanski.

A Dangerous Method – because why wouldn’t I want to see Keira Knightley get a beating?

The Descendants – because it’s Alexander Payne.

The Future – because I have never been able to forget Me and You and Everyone We Know.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – because while I think it’s an unnecessary idea, it’s still David Fincher doing a thriller.

Hanna – because it sounds fresh and people I trust have recommended it to me.

Horrible Bosses – because I’m a big fan of comedies and Kevin Spacey.

Hugo – because of a gut-feeling and Martin Scorsese.

The Ides of March – because of Ryan Gosling.

Martha Marcy May Marlene – because too many people have talked about it for too long for it not to be worth seeing.

Melancholia – because it’s Lars von Trier.

Rampart – because The Messenger showed great potential in the Oren Moverman, Woody Harrelson and Ben Foster trinity.

The Skin I Live In – because I can’t look at that poster without being thoroughly intrigued, plus I haven’t seen many Pedro Almodóvar films.

Sleeping Beauty – because I need more Emily Browning to wash the taste of Sucker Punch out of my mouth.

Submarine – because I like the main character’s coat.

Take Shelter – because I want to be prepared for the end of the world.

We Need to Talk About Kevin – because of Tilda Swinton.

Win Win – because the trailer made it seem so by-the-numbers, yet everyone has so much love for it.

Young Adult – because Jason Reitman seems incapable of making films that aren’t great.

What 2011 films do you still really want to see?

 
13 Comments

Posted by on 14 January, 2012 in Lists

 

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