Monday, February 28, 2011

The End of Oscar Season

I’m starting to realize something: it’s very possible that the run-up to the big night that is considered awards season or Oscar season may actually be more exciting and enjoyable than the Oscar ceremony. There’s also something about rooting for the film that wins, even if it’s not the best in the bunch. Last year, I rooted for “The Hurt Locker” even though I liked “Inglourious Basterds,” “Avatar,” and “Up in the Air” more, because it was a fun underdog choice. Somehow, “The Social Network” lost its frontrunner status and gave way to “The King’s Speech,” which admittedly is a great film, though not nearly as good as six or seven of the others (making this year’s list quite a strong one). When two of my Oscar viewing party attendees cried out with glee when Colin Firth won, it was clear that other people are behind “The King’s Speech” in that way. Tom Hooper’s win for Best Director caught me by surprise because I didn’t realize that everyone – with the exception of the editors and the musicians – had fallen into that camp. I scored what I believe has to be my personal best – 19/24 – topping my 2003 score, when I didn’t predict the short categories and scored 17/21. That does mean that this year was highly predictable, and in addition to Best Director, I missed only Best Art Direction and Best Costume Design, both of which went to “Alice in Wonderland,” and Best Animated Short, which preposterously went to the lackluster “The Lost Thing” over “Day & Night” and “Let’s Pollute,” and Best Documentary Short, which went to the inspirational and optimistic “Strangers No More,” about a multicultural school in Tel Aviv. I’m especially happy about two calls I did get right, for Best Foreign Film, the mesmerizing “In a Better World” from Denmark (see it when it comes out in April!), and for Best Live Action Short, the entertaining “God of Love,” whose director Luke Matheny first remarked how he should have gotten a haircut when he got up on stage. Hosts James Franco and Anne Hathaway were fun but not too funny, and I don’t feel like the show had many overly memorable moments besides Kirk Douglas announcing an early award. I think that the Golden Globes, for all their hosting horror, and the Screen Actors Guild Awards, may well have been more engaging and decently surprising, while the Oscars, with the wins for the predictable (and mostly deserving) actors feeling like just the final stretch in an already fulfilling and sufficient race to the finish line. I suppose we only have five months until Emmy nominations, so that’s something to anticipate.

In the meantime, here at Movies With Abe, the AFT Awards will be officially be wrapping up this week with an announcement of the Top 25 Films of the Year. After that, I’ll be returning to some weekly features such as Tuesday’s Top Trailer and looking for your suggestions on topics you’d like to read about for the other days of the week. Multiple TV reviews are still being posted every day over at TV with Abe, so feel free to head over there as well. Thanks as always for reading, and before you go, post in the comments and let me know what you thought of the show!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Your Guide to the Oscars

Movies with Abe presents your guide to tonight's Oscars. Click on each category heading for detailed analysis of every nominee. Below please find my final predictions for the winners. I'm not really predicting any surprises, and a good number of the categories are actually just a race between three films - the three I'm expecting to pick up a total of 13 trophies (over half of the total awards!). Post your own predictions in the comments, and enjoy the ceremony! I'm hosting a party so I won't be live-blogging, but good luck on your own pools and enjoy the show.


BEST PICTURE
The King's Speech

BEST DIRECTOR
David Fincher (The Social Network)

BEST ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
Colin Firth (The King's Speech)

BEST ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
Natalie Portman (Black Swan)

BEST ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Christian Bale (The Fighter)

BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Melissa Leo (The Fighter)

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
The King's Speech (David Seidler)

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
The Social Network (Aaron Sorkin)

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
Inception

BEST ART DIRECTION
Inception

BEST COSTUME DESIGN
The King's Speech

BEST FILM EDITING
The Social Network

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
The Social Network

BEST ORIGINAL SONG
“We Belong Together” (Toy Story 3)

BEST SOUND
Inception

BEST SOUND EDITING
Inception

BEST MAKEUP
The Wolfman

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
Inception

BEST FOREIGN FILM
In a Better World

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
Toy Story 3

BEST DOCUMENTARY
Inside Job

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT
Killing in the Name

BEST ANIMATED SHORT
Day & Night

BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT
God of Love


Predicted totals:
Inception - 5
The King's Speech - 4
The Social Network - 4
The Fighter - 2
Toy Story 3 - 2

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Oscar Winner Predictions: Best Picture


The competition: Black Swan, The Fighter, Inception, The Kids Are All Right, The King’s Speech, 127 Hours, The Social Network, Toy Story 3, True Grit, Winter’s Bone

Previous winners: The Hurt Locker, Slumdog Millionaire, No Country for Old Men, The Departed, Crash, Million Dollar Baby
Who should win Toy Story, The Social Network, or 127 Hours
Who will win: This ten-film Best Picture race is still untested, so it’s worth running through all of the contenders, even those without much of a chance, since anything could theoretically happen. “Winter’s Bone” is too independent, “127 Hours” too gritty, and “The Kids Are All Right” too light-hearted. “Toy Story 3,” popular as it is, is still an animated film and will get its consolation prize there. “True Grit” earned ten nominations but wasn’t nearly as praised as some of its competition. “Black Swan” and “The Fighter” did well with precursors and nomination totals, but those films will earn their acting trophies and that should be it. “Inception” would make for an awesome upset, but its snub in the directing and editing categories makes that nearly impossible. We’re down to the two legitimate contenders: “The King’s Speech” and “The Social Network.” The latter film was in the lead for such a long time, and now it seems the former has bolted far ahead. Yet it’s still within the realm of possibility that Oscar voters could agree with critics and members of the Hollywood Foreign Press. Given its recent DGA, PGA, SAG, and BAFTA victories, I’m calling this one in favor of “The King’s Speech.” It’s not a lock, but it’s looking pretty good right now.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Oscar Winner Predictions: Best Director


The competition: Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan), David O. Russell (The Fighter), Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech), David Fincher (The Social Network), Joel & Ethan Coen (True Grit)

Previous winners: Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker), Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire), Joel and Ethan Coen (No Country for Old Men), Martin Scorsese (The Departed), Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain), Clint Eastwood (Million Dollar Baby)
My winner: Giorgos Lanthimos (Dogtooth)
Who should win: Fincher or Nolan
Who will win: While we do have two films that are in fairly tight competition for the top prize, it’s hardly as cut-and-dry as it was last year. Let’s start with the three contenders that probably won’t win this award. The Coen brothers won this award just three years ago, so I find it hard to believe that, despite the ten nominations for “True Grit,” they would win again this soon. Both Aronofsky and Russell have their devoted fans, but it’s likely their films will get their recognition in the acting categories. Hooper won the Directors Guild of America prize, which was a bit of a surprise, and many might suggest that he’s on the same path that Bigelow was last year when she started eclipsing Cameron. What’s telling however, is that Fincher won the BAFTA Award even after “The King’s Speech” took pretty much every other category. Given the fact that Fincher won nearly every precursor, and that he’s a past nominee and has a striking filmography, I think he’ll still prevail. “The King’s Speech” is a film that can still win Best Picture without winning Best Director, and I think that “The Social Network” and David Fincher will ultimately get honored here.

Oscar Winner Predictions: Best Documentary


The competition: Exit through the Gift Shop, Gasland, Inside Job, Restrepo, Wasteland

Previous winners: The Cove, Man on Wire, Taxi to the Dark Side, An Inconvenient Truth, March of the Penguins, Born into Brothels
Who should win: “Inside Job,” though I haven’t seen two of them
Who will win: Unfortunately, this is one category where I haven’t had the opportunity to see all of the nominees. I’m missing both “Gasland” (a drilling exposĂ©) and “Wasteland” (about art from trash), so if you’ve seen either, please post your reactions and thoughts in the comments. I wasn’t entirely enthralled by either “Exit through the Gift Shop” or “Restrepo,” though I know both have their ardent fans and could easily pull off a win. The former is probably more likely given its rather unique, upbeat subject matter. The latter does have its passionate defenders, so watch out for a potential win there. I’m still going to go with my favorite, “Inside Job”, a biting, comprehensive, entertaining look at the financial crisis. It’s hardly a lock, but it has a strong shot.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Oscar Winner Predictions: Best Live-Action Short


The nominees:
The Confession (C)
A young boy searches for something bad to atone for when he’s told he has to go to confession.
The Crush (C+)
A student tries to win his teacher’s affection by challenging her fiancĂ©e to a duel.
God of Love (A-)
A lovestruck singer and dart thrower receives a mysterious gift of love-addled darts.
Na Wewe (C)
A bus is stopped by mercenaries near Rwanda and its passengers are interrogated about their ethnicities.
Wish 143 (B+)
A young man dying of cancer seeks to fulfill his last wish: to lose his virginity.

Previous winners: The New Tenants, Toyland, The Mozart of Pickpockets, West Bank Story, Six Shooter, Wasp
Who should win: “God of Love”
Who will win: Technically speaking, all five of these films could be considered comedies, though most of them do have some dramatic content as well. I think that both “The Confession” and “The Crush,” like “Miracle Fish” last year, put young children into dangerous situations, and that may alienate some viewers. The combination between deadly genocide and cautious comedy in “Na Wewe” doesn’t work so well, so I wouldn’t count on that film to pull off a win. “Wish 143” is true Oscar bait, and it’s a winning and moving film at that. I think the winner will be the underdog, the most entertaining and heartwarming of the five, the very funny “God of Love,” though it’s easily possible that any of these films could triumph.

Images are from Oscar.com

Oscar Winner Predictions: Best Animated Short


The nominees:
Day and Night (A-)
Day and night compete to show off their virtues in this short that played before “Toy Story 3.”
The Gruffalo (B)
A mother mouse tells her children the story of a fearless mouse and a fearful creature.
Let’s Pollute! (A-)
A guide to how you can do your part and pollute the world more efficiently.
The Lost Thing (B)
A man wanders around with a mysterious machine in a dystopian future.
Madagascar, a Journey Diary (B-)
Snippets from a journal chronicling a magical voyage to Madagascar.

Previous winners: Logorama, Le Maison en Petits Cubes, Peter and the Wolf, The Danish Poet, The Moon and the Sun: An Imagined Conversation, Ryan
Who should win: “Day and Night” or “Let’s Pollute”
Who will win: Each of these films has its considerable virtues that could help it win. “The Gruffalo” is a very traditional story with plenty of famous faces participating, and its plot trajectory reminds me of something like “Peter and the Wolf,” which won this award three years ago (it also boasts the longest runtime of this bunch, 27 minutes). “Let’s Pollute” is an inventive, extremely entertaining and funny mock infomercial. “The Lost Thing” is a creative vision of the future that’s heartfelt and pensive. “Madagascar, a Journey Diary” combines many styles and creates a veritable and unique storybook. I’m not sure any of those can eclipse the brilliant simplicity of “Day and Night,” a marvelous and fun visualization of daytime and nighttime.

Images are from Oscar.com

Oscar Winner Predictions: Best Documentary Short


The nominees:
Killing in the Name (B+)
A man whose wedding was bombed makes it his life’s work to attempt to de-radicalize Muslin extremists whose attacks have resulted in the deaths of Muslims.
Poster Girl (B+)
An Iraq war veteran speaks out against the war as she deals with her PTSD.
Strangers No More (B+)
A school in Tel Aviv brings together students from around the world.
Sun Come Up (B+)
Inhabitants of an island in the South prepare for global warming and try to find a new home on a neighboring island.
The Warriors of Qiugang (B+)
Environmentalists in China protest the presence and actions of factories that are poisoning their residents.

Previous winners: Music by Prudence, Smile Pinki, Freeheld, The Blood of Yingzhou District, A Note of Triumph: The Golden Age of Norman Corwin, Mighty Times: The Children’s March
Who should win: “Strangers No More” or “Killing in the Name”
Who will win: There isn’t a weak film in this list; it’s just a matter of which will impress voters most. "Strangers No More," a life-affirming, positive success story, is the only film in this bunch that isn't horribly depressing, so if it cheers enough people up, it could prevail. “Sun Come Up” isn’t quite as comprehensive as some of the others, often failing to explain some of its more intriguing back story. “Poster Girl” is powerful, but not as aesthetically well-made as the others. It’s a race, then, between “The Warriors of Qiugang” and “Killing in the Name.” Both are stories of motivated individuals determined never to give up until they’ve achieved their goals. Given the intense nature of the latter film, I think it’s the frontrunner.

Images are from Oscar.com

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Oscar Winner Predictions: Best Animated Feature


The competition: How To Train Your Dragon, The Illusionist, Toy Story 3

Previous winners: Up, Wall-E, Ratatouille, Happy Feet, Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, The Incredibles, Finding Nemo, Spirited Away, Shrek
Who should win: Toy Story 3
Who will win: It’s hard to imagine that “Toy Story 3” won’t win this category. The first two films in that ever-popular series were released before the advent of this category, so there isn’t much precedent there. However, Pixar has won this category for the past three years running, as well as twice before that. The only two times it lost, there were other films either in the lead (“Shrek”) or in close competition (“Happy Feet”). While “How to Train Your Dragon” is beloved by many, it’s not going to beat the Best Picture nominee in this category. The quieter “The Illusionist” won’t win, and though I did predict “The Triplets of Belleville,” from the same director, Sylvain Chomet, to beat “Finding Nemo” back in 2003, I’m not about to make that same mistake. This is the biggest lock of the night, and a deserve one at that.

Oscar Winner Predictions: Best Foreign Film


The competition
: Biutiful (Mexico), Dogtooth (Greece), In a Better World (Denmark), Incendies (Canada), Outside the Law (Algeria)

Previous winners: The Secret in their Eyes (Argentina), Departures (Japan), The Counterfeiters (Austria), The Lives of Others (Germany), Tsotsi (South Africa), The Sea Inside (Spain)
Who should win: “Dogtooth” or “In a Better World” – they’re both so good!
Who will win: Unlike the past few years, we don’t have a clear frontrunner or two films pitted against each other. Regarding the contenders, I unfortunately haven’t had the chance to see “Outside the Law,” which comes from Algeria, which has won this award once out of four nominations. Films with other nominations don’t always prevail, so that doesn’t necessarily give “Biutiful,” form Oscar-nominated director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (“Babel”), an edge over the competition. Mexico has never won despite seven nominations. I think people might find both “Dogtooth” and “Incendies” rather objectionable and disturbing, preventing Greece (4 nods, 0 wins) and Canada (4 nods, 1 win) from taking this home. I’ll go then with the awe-inspiring film that won the Golden Globe, “In a Better World,” which comes from Denmark, a two-time winner and seven-time nominee.

Oscar Winner Predictions: Best Visual Effects


The competition: Alice in Wonderland, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1, Hereafter, Inception, Iron Man 2

Previous winners: Avatar, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Golden Compass, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, King Kong, Spider-Man 2
Who should win: Inception
Who will win: This is the first time since 1979 that there are five nominees in this category. I don’t think that “Hereafter,” which boasts one strong scene, has a shot at all. The visuals of “Alice in Wonderland” were fairly divisive, and others were unimpressed with “Harry Potter” (for the record, only the third film in the series was nominated before, and it didn’t win). The first “Iron Man” didn’t win, so I’m not sure the second one will, though the second “Pirates of the Caribbean” did just that. I still think the obvious frontrunner, “Inception,” just can’t not win, so I’ll go with logic on this one.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Oscar Winner Predictions: Best Makeup


The competition: Barney’s Version, The Way Back, The Wolfman

Previous winners: Star Trek, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, La Vie en Rose, Pan’s Labyrinth, The Chronicles of Narnia, Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events
My winner: Daybreakers
Who should win: The Way Back or Barney’s Version
Who will win: We have here a scenario that hasn’t happened in over twenty years: none of these films are nominated in any other category. That means there isn’t much of a frontrunner. The competition is aging vs. desert influence vs. fantasy special effects. I’m tempted to give the edge to the latter film since, with only two exceptions, a fantasy film has won this award every year for the past ten years. That puts “The Wolfman” in the lead, though I wouldn’t be surprised if the effects of heat and starvation in “The Way Back” were rewarded. Though it would be deserving, I wouldn’t count on “Barney’s Version” to be recognized, though the fact that “La Vie en Rose” won three years ago gives it a decent chance.

Oscar Winner Predictions: Best Sound Editing


The competition: Inception, Toy Story 3, Tron: Legacy, True Grit, Unstoppable

Previous winners: The Hurt Locker, The Dark Knight, The Bourne Ultimatum, Letters from Iwo Jima, King Kong, The Incredibles
Who should win: Inception
Who will win: This category doesn’t always match up with the Best Sound winner, though when there’s a technical film in the running, it sometimes does. Only one animated film, “The Incredibles,” has ever won, so that doesn’t speak well to the chances for “Toy Story 3.” In some cases, Best Picture nominees that don’t win anywhere else, such as “Letters from Iwo Jima,” triumph here, so “True Grit” could do that as well. We have two films nominated in only in this category, “Tron: Legacy” and “Unstoppable,” that might win here, since it is possible for solo nominees to score in this race. I think it’s going to go to “Inception,” since even non-fans will have a hard time debating its sound editing strengths.

Oscar Winner Predictions: Best Sound


The competition: Inception, The King’s Speech, Salt, The Social Network, True Grit

Previous winners: The Hurt Locker, Slumdog Millionaire, The Bourne Ultimatum, Dreamgirls, King Kong, Ray
Who should win: Inception
Who will win: The big question here is whether we’ll have a tech-focused film as the winner or the Best Picture frontrunner. That happened in 2008, and so it’s very possible that “The King’s Speech” could prevail here. Lone nominees never prevail here, so count out “Salt.” It’s possible that either “The Social Network” or “True Grit” could win, but it’s unlikely. I think that the most evident audio achievement, “Inception,” will manage to win.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Oscar Winner Predictions: Best Original Song


The competition: “Coming Home” (Country Strong), “If I Rise” (127 Hours), “I See the Light” (Tangled), “We Belong Together” (Toy Story 3)

Previous winners: “The Weary Kind” (Crazy Heart), “Jai Ho” (Slumdog Millionaire), “Falling Slowly” (Once), “I Need To Wake Up” (An Inconvenient Truth), “It’s Hard Out There For A Pimp” (Hustle & Flow), “Al otro lado del rio” (The Motorcycle Diaries)
Who should win: “I See the Light” or “We Belong Together,” though they’re all great
Who will win: Without Cher in the race, this category is hardly all sewn up. The frontrunner, however, is Randy Newman, who lost in this race for his tunes in the first two “Toy Story” films and likely won’t lose this time around. Newman has only once out of nineteen nominations, for “Monsters Inc,” so I’m fairly confident that this will net him his second win. Another past nominee is actually an eight-time winner, Alan Menken, who co-wrote “I See The Light” and has won for classic songs like those from “The Little Mermaid,” “Beauty and the Beast,” and “Aladdin.” A.R. Rahman, one of the writers of “If I Rise,” won in this category two years ago for “Jai Ho” from “Slumdog Millionaire.” Also in the running is one of the songs from “Country Strong.” Technically, anything could win here, but I think “We Belong Together” will come out ahead.

Oscar Winner Predictions: Best Original Score


The competition: How to Train Your Dragon, Inception, The King’s Speech, 127 Hours, The Social Network

Previous winners: Up, Slumdog Millionaire, Atonement, Babel, Brokeback Mountain, Finding Neverland
Who should win: Inception
Who will win: This is a three-way race with no clear frontrunner. “The Social Network,” scored by first-time nominees Trent Rozner and Atticus Ross, won the Golden Globe and has the “cool” factor. Hans Zimmer, who won for “The Lion King” back in 1994, is up for “Inception,” which utilizes music heavily in relation to its storyline. Alexandre Desplat, a four-time nominee who has yet to win, is up for “The King’s Speech,” which may make a clean sweep of all its nominated categories. Also in the running is first-time nominee John Powell, whose thunderous score for “How to Train Your Dragon” doesn’t have a chance at winning. A.R. Rahman had his time in the sun when he wrote the music for the film of the year back in 2008, “Slumdog Millionaire,” and therefore “127 Hours” will have to settle for just a nomination here. My bet to win this thing is The Social Network in a tight race over “The King’s Speech.”

Oscar Winner Predictions: Best Film Editing


The competition: Black Swan, The Fighter, The King’s Speech, 127 Hours, The Social Network

Previous winners: The Hurt Locker, Slumdog Millionaire, The Bourne Ultimatum, The Departed, Crash, The Aviator
My winner: Inception
Who should win: The Social Network
Who will win: Without “Inception” here, this category is relatively up for grabs. Had it maintained its awards season lead, “The Social Network” would be a lock here, but it’s important to watch out for “The King’s Speech.” When two films are vying for Best Picture, it’s possible for one to take the top prize and the other to end up here, as occurred in 2004, 2000, and 1998, most recently, especially since “The Social Network” is still primed to take home Best Director. The other three nominees don’t stand too much of a chance, even though the editing in “127 Hours” and “The Fighter” is rather superb and many loved the headache-inducing “Black Swan.” The only past nominees in this category, coincidentally enough, are those at the head of the competition: Tariq Anwar edited “American Beauty” before “The King’s Speech,” and editing team Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall were previously nominated for “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.” I’m calling this one in favor of “The Social Network.”

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Oscar Winner Predictions: Best Costume Design


The competition: Alice in Wonderland, I Am Love, The King’s Speech, The Tempest, True Grit

Previous winners: The Young Victoria, The Duchess, Elizabeth: The Golden Age, Marie Antoinette, Memoirs of a Geisha, The Aviator
My winner: A Woman, a Gun, and a Noodle Shop
Who should win: The King’s Speech
Who will win: I said last year that designing royalty is the pathway to winning in this category. That would put “The King’s Speech” ahead, and I think that its victory is highly likely. Jeanne Beavan won for “A Room with a View” back in 1986 and should take home her second trophy this year. Watch out for two-time winner Colleen Atwood, though “Alice in Wonderland” infuriated far more people than it excited, especially in the costume department. Sandy Powell is a three-time winner, and this is one category where a film like “The Tempest,” nominated nowhere else, could in fact win. This is the first nomination for both Mary Zophres (“True Grit”) and Antonella Cannarozzi (“I Am Love”). Excited as I would be by the idea of the latter winning, it’s highly unlikely, if not impossible.

Oscar Winner Predictions: Best Art Direction


The competition: Alice in Wonderland, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1, Inception, The King’s Speech, True Grit

Previous winners: Avatar, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Sweeney Todd, Pan’s Labyrinth, Memoirs of a Geisha, The Aviator
Who should win: Inception
Who will win: The Art Directors Guild breaks down nominees into genre categories, and so “The King’s Speech” won the period film award and “Inception” took the fantasy prize. The race should be down to those two. For the record, this category tends to favor films that with nominations in non-technical categories, though that’s a trend just waiting to be broken. “Alice in Wonderland” isn’t going to win here because its production design was fairly divisive, and many were unimpressed with the visuals of “Harry Potter.” I wouldn’t count out “True Grit” since some might have liked its Western settings. I’m not sure whether “Inception” will sweep the technical categories or if “The King’s Speech” will sweep them all. Tentatively, I’ll throw my backing behind the more visually striking of the two, “Inception.”

Oscar Winner Predictions: Best Cinematography


The competition
: Black Swan, Inception, The King’s Speech, The Social Network, True Grit

Previous winners: Avatar, Slumdog Millionaire, There Will Be Blood, Pan’s Labyrinth, Memoirs of a Geisha, The Aviator
Who should win: Inception
Who will win: Films aside, there are two veteran Oscar nominees in this category vying for the win. Roger Deakins has been nominated nine times now and has never won. “True Grit” may well be the frontrunner here, and his main competition is a four-time nominee, Wally Pfister, who beat Deakins in the ASC race, which included the same five films. Pfister’s nod, for “Inception,” marks his fourth nomination, as well as his fourth nomination for a collaboration with Christopher Nolan. The other three cinematographers nominated are all first-time nominees. “The King’s Speech” could take it, and “The Social Network” is an unlikely potential spoiler. Don’t count on “Black Swan,” despite whatever fans it might have. This category is somewhat up in the air, and I think I’ll optimistically go with “Inception” as my predicted winner.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Oscar Winner Predictions: Best Adapted Screenplay


The competition: 127 Hours, The Social Network, Toy Story 3, True Grit, Winter’s Bone

Previous winners: Precious, Slumdog Millionaire, No Country for Old Men, The Departed, Brokeback Mountain, Sideways
Who should win: The Social Network
Who will win: Last year, this category provided one of the only major surprises as the one trophy thought to be reserved for “Up in the Air” went to “Precious.” This year, the frontrunner is so far ahead that there’s no way it can’t win. Aaron Sorkin has never even been nominated for an Oscar before this, meaning he’s way overdue, and incredibly deserving. Plus, this is the one place where “The Social Network” doesn’t have to compete with “The King’s Speech.” The animated feature category will be the consolation prize for “Toy Story 3.” There’s not enough support behind small indie “Winter’s Bone,” and “127 Hours,” if it was going to be recognized anywhere, would be honored in a technical category. The script for “True Grit” might be strong according to some, but not beloved enough to beat “The Social Network,” probably the surest sure thing of the night.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Oscar Winner Predictions: Best Original Screenplay


The competition: Another Year, The Fighter, Inception, The Kids Are All Right, The King’s Speech

Previous winners: The Hurt Locker, Milk, Juno, Little Miss Sunshine, Crash, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
My winner: Four Lions
Who should win: Inception
Who will win: Last year, Best Picture champ eclipsed presumed frontrunner “Inglourious Basterds” to take home this award. That makes even more confident about predicting “The King’s Speech” to win this time around. “Inception” took the WGA Award, though TKS wasn’t eligible for that race. While I would be so thrilled with an “Inception” win, the fact that Christopher Nolan lost for “Memento” in this race nine years ago to Julian Fellowes, scripter of “Gosford Park,” I wouldn’t count on it. “The Kids Are All Right” has some spoiler potential if Oscar voters love it as much as Globe voters. “The Fighter” is a hard film not to like, but that doesn’t mean it will garner any top votes in this category. I’d be pleasantly shocked if Mike Leigh could rally enough support to take home his first Oscar, but it’s highly unlikely, especially given the fact that his film is only nominated in one category where his previous movies have placed in other races as well. This is going to “The King’s Speech.”

Oscar Winner Predictions: Best Actress in a Supporting Role


The competition: Amy Adams’ supportive girlfriend (The Fighter), Helena Bonham Carter’s royal wife (The King’s Speech), Melissa Leo’s manager mother (The Fighter), Hailee Steinfeld’s mature fourteen-year-old (True Grit), and Jacki Weaver’s criminal matriarch (Animal Kingdom).

Previous winners: Mo’Nique, Penelope Cruz, Tilda Swinton, Jennifer Hudson, Rachel Weisz, Cate Blanchett
Who should win: Leo or Adams
Who will win: This is one category where a surprise win could happen. Leo seems to have taken home a good amount of the precursors, and she’s seemed genuinely grateful every time she’s picked up an award. Adams, clearly an Oscar favorite after earning her third nomination in six years, isn’t going to beat her costar, so she’ll have to hold out for a future film to earn her a trophy. Carter won the BAFTA this past weekend without Leo in the race, and the only way she could win is if enthusiasm for “The King’s Speech” paves the way for a huge sweep. Weaver could definitely pull off an upset, which would be awesome, though lack of any other attention for her film isn’t a good sign. Steinfeld is Leo’s steepest competition, and the ten nominations that “True Grit” accrued show that it’s definitely popular. My main instinct is that there’s no reason for Leo not to win, and any time upsets have happened in the past few years, it’s been for lack of a frontrunner, like in 2007. It will still probably be Leo.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Oscar Nominee: In a Better World

In a Better World
Directed by Susanne Bier
To Be Released April 1, 2011



This year’s Oscar submission and nominee for Best Foreign Film from Denmark is acclaimed director Susanne Bier’s Danish language follow-up to the incredible “After the Wedding.” If possible, “In a Better World” is just as affecting and powerful as that film. It’s a story that centers on two young boys and their parents, dealing with questions of morality, retribution, and good and evil. It’s one of those rare films that works just as well as a metaphor as it does without any analysis on the surface. Mikael Persbrandt delivers an especially terrific performance as third-world country doctor and often-absent father Anton, and the entire cast, including the two young children, is exceptionally strong. “In a Better World” is a gripping, meaningful, and altogether moving film.

A-

Oscar Winner Predictions: Best Actor in a Supporting Role


The competition: Christian Bale’s troubled former fighter (The Fighter), John Hawkes’ terrifying uncle (Winter’s Bone), Jeremy Renner’s loose cannon buddy (The Town), Mark Ruffalo’s restaurateur sperm donor (The Kids Are All Right), and Geoffrey Rush’s eccentric speech therapist (The King's Speech).

Previous winners: Christoph Waltz, Heath Ledger, Javier Bardem, Alan Arkin, George Clooney, Morgan Freeman
Who should win: Bale, Rush, or Hawkes
Who will win: As has been the case the past three years, there’s one actor whose chances are all sewn up, and, for the fourth year in a row, he actually deserves the award. I had thought that Bale’s reputation might get the best of him, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Rush did win a BAFTA Award this past weekend, but that has more to do with the fact that Brits absolutely loved “The King’s Speech,” which was up for 14 awards, as opposed to “The Fighter,” up for a measly three. Hawkes’ film was just too small, and there isn’t much chance at all that he could upset. Renner might yet win an Oscar as he earns his second consecutive nomination, though this is not his year. Ruffalo just doesn’t have a shot; his nomination is his win. This is going to be Bale.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Oscar Nominee: Incendies

Incendies
Directed by Denis Villeneuve
To Be Released April 22, 2011



This year’s Oscar submission and nominee for Best Foreign Film from Canada is the excessively depressing and difficult “Incendies,” which follows two adult twins as they search for the father and the brother they never knew they had as a testament to the final will of their deceased mother, whose intense back story is told simultaneously. It’s an impressively-lensed and carefully constructed story which manages to keep its threads sensible and comprehensible as it traverses time to give the viewer more information just as its younger female protagonist gleans it. It’s a burdensome experience to get through this painful and heart-wrenching film, but its tragic tale is well-told and exceptionally realized. It’s not for the faint of heart, or even those who can stomach more, and it’s just as hard to forget.

B

Oscar Winner Predictions: Best Actress in a Leading Role


The competition: Annette Bening’s high-strung life partner (The Kids Are All Right), Nicole Kidman’s grieving mother (Rabbit Hole), Jennifer Lawrence’s tough young caretaker (Winter’s Bone), Natalie Portman’s overworked ballerina (Black Swan), and Michelle Williams’ long-suffering wife (Blue Valentine).

Previous winners: Sandra Bullock, Kate Winslet, Marion Cotillard, Helen Mirren, Reese Witherspoon, Hilary Swank
My winner: Lesley Manville (Another Year)
Who should win: Lawrence, Bening, or Kidman
Who will win: The clear frontrunner is Portman. Bening would have been a superb challenger given her overdue status if “Black Swan” wasn’t so popular. She’s still a possibility given the fact that she’s never won, and if there’s a Portman backlash, she’s in. Lawrence would win a breakout category if there was won, and Kidman has already won her Oscar. It seems that Williams just made it in, and the lack of enthusiasm for other aspects of her film should effectively discount her. One of the most important factors in Portman’s favor is that her film probably won’t win any other awards, meaning all the love for the film will go to her. It doesn’t hurt anything that she’s so well-liked.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Home Video with Abe: Glorious 39

Glorious 39
Directed by Stephen Poliakoff
Released on DVD February 15, 2011



In the mood for a light, occasionally foreboding thriller about a young actress who suspects that her friends are being systematically picked off by English nationalists with potential secret alliances to the Nazi party? This is your movie. At times, “Glorious 39” feels like a cross between “Black Book” and “Inglourious Basterds,” though it’s considerably more normative than either of those two very stylized films. Present is the token lead heroine, Anne, here played by Romola Garai, perhaps best known as the teenage Briony in “Atonement.” Anne’s dramatics, energy, and paranoia are the driving forces of the film, and this is a great follow-up film role for the actress. Anne is also the focus of part of the film’s visuals, adorned with marvelous colorful costumes that help her stand apart from her surroundings. She’s a very sympathetic character, and it’s easy to become just as obsessed with finding the truth as she is. While it’s not a superb film, it remains enthralling throughout its rather lengthy runtime of 129 minutes.

B-

Oscar Winner Predictions: Best Actor in a Leading Role


The competition: Javier Bardem’s overburdened father (Biutiful), Jeff Bridges’ drunken bounty hunter, Jesse Eisenberg’s Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg (The Social Network), Colin Firth’s stuttering King George (The King’s Speech), and James Franco’s trapped climber (127 Hours)

Previous winners: Jeff Bridges, Sean Penn, Daniel Day-Lewis, Forest Whitaker, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jamie Foxx
My winner: Edward Norton (Leaves of Grass)
Who should win: Eisenberg, Franco, or Bardem
Who will win: The race seems pretty sewn up at this point, with Firth firmly in the lead. Last year, Firth was the lone nominee from his film, and now he’s starring in the nominations leader with barely any true competition. Bridges is out because, despite the apparent popularity of his film, he won last year and his performance isn’t great enough to propel him to a repeat victory. Franco might have been a spoiler but he hasn’t upset Firth in enough places. It’s sort of like how Sean Penn beat Mickey Rourke – sometimes the classical choice triumphs. In any other situation, Franco’s hosting duties would be a plus, though even Neil Patrick Harris couldn’t win an Emmy (and still hasn’t) from HIMYM when he was hosting. Eisenberg needed to peak a long time ago, and the fact that “The “King’s Speech” has eclipsed “The Social Network” as the likely Best Picture winner diminishes his chances even more. Bardem is a wild card, but he won recently enough that he’s not overdue. Mainly, of course, Firth is just too far ahead for anyone to catch up to him.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Oscar Nominee: Dogtooth

Dogtooth
Directed by Giorgos Lanthimos
Released June 25, 2010

This year’s Oscar submission and nominee for Best Foreign Film from the country of Greece is easily the most captivating film of the year. This tale of three adult children who have been sheltered and lied to all their lives to think that the entire world accessible to them is contained in their family’s property boundaries is a unique, fascinating exploration of human behavior. Marvelously acted and even more diligently and carefully directed, “Dogtooth” is an astonishing portrait of a family way beyond dysfunctional that is consistently captivating from start to finish, and long after the film has ended.

Everything in the world that exists within “Dogtooth” is artificial, and therefore making the film feel organic and believable is a considerable challenge. Yet the film succeeds with flying colors, thanks mostly to the amazingly committed performances by all the cast members, including the rebellious elder daughter (Aggeliki Papoulia), the more submissive younger daughter (Mary Tsoni), the loyal son (Hristos Passalis), the subservient mother (Michele Valley), the commanding father (Christos Stergioglou), and the woman who has the misfortune of coming into their very closeted lives to provide the son with a sexual companion (Anna Kalaitzidou). There is no weak link in this ensemble, and these actors work hard to ensure that their relationships with their family members make sense given their unconventional existence.

This is a film where strong production values and a stunning script come together to form an extremely well-rounded product. Most of the scenes are rather long, proceeding at a tepid pace to fully flesh out the emotions, more often than not suppressed, of the personages involved. Stark art direction helps to create color codes for emotions and intensity of scenes. There’s one particularly memorable and haunting scene towards the end of the film where the eldest daughter demonstrates her own energy and yearning to be free through an intensely-choreographed dance sequence inspired by “Flashdance” set to a far slower, more melodic score played on the guitar by her brother. The film is full of similarly hypnotic, thought-provoking moments, making this one foreign entry that should not be missed.

A-

AFT Awards: Top 15 Scenes of the Year

This is a special category of the 4th Annual AFT Film Awards, my own personal choices for the best in film of each year and the best in television of each season. The AFT Film Awards include the traditional Oscar categories and a number of additional specific honors. These are my fifteen favorite scenes of the year, listed in alphabetical order by film title. Click here to see previous years of this category. Beware spoilers for these films. This year I’ve chosen to limit the nominees to one scene per film.

Animal Kingdom
Early on in the film, the first shocking murder sets things in a whole new direction for the Cody family. Confronted by the cops in the parking lot and asked about Pope, Barry responds comically and is shot in cold blood for his troubles.

Biutiful
In a film full of devastating scenes, the toughest one to bear has to be when Uxbal discovers that the cheap heaters he bought for the illegal workers pumped out poisonous air and suffocated all of them to death.


Blue Valentine
The song-and-dance show that also serves as the setup for the film’s trailer is also the film’s strongest and most intoxicating scene, showing a new couple completely sucked into their romance in an absolutely authentic way.

District 13: Ultimatum
While a case could certainly be made for Damien fighting with a painting as a weapon or him and Leito driving a car out a window, the most awesome scene in the film featured Tao fending off enemies with nothing but a hairpiece, and making sure to pop in headphones first so that she’d have the right music to gear her up for the fight.

Dogtooth
As the son strums along with the melody, the eldest, joined at first by the youngest, performs an exuberant, overly-energetic set of dance moves taken from “Flashdance” in her ultimate expression of herself, paired with entirely inappropriate accompaniment, tiring herself out and being chastised by her mother in the middle of her ferociously enthusiastic performance.

Down Terrace
This quiet, sedated film snuck up expectedly as Bill and Valda took the ultimate revenge on Bill’s parents, teaming up to take them both out in rather brutal manners. It’s hard to decide which murder is more violent, though the image of a blood-soaked Valda is particularly startling.

The Eclipse
After terrifying encounters with his near-dead father-in-law, Michael finally wakes up to see his dead wife sitting in front of him. Instead of being scary, it’s a beautiful and understated confrontation that helps to provide him with such much-needed closure.

Four Lions
Barry’s debate and Omar shooting a rocket launcher in the wrong direction were funny, but nothing was quite as hilariously brilliant as Waj and Mahmood shaking their heads back and forth in order to ensure that they would come out blurry if video cameras were capturing them.

Handsome Harry
A film full of powerful reunions between strong-willed, aging men had to lead to the meeting that Harry had been awaiting throughout his long journey, as a hurt but forgiving David tells him what really happened over a meticulously-prepared candlelight dinner.

Heartbreaker
For a man who puts far too much effort and acting into all of his charades, none was more perfectly executed than the hilarious shot of Alex running to catch the dastardly thief who had taken Juliette’s car.

I Am Love
Plenty of beautiful cinematography and art direction can’t beat the marvelous and subtle facial expressions of Tilda Swinton, who one-ups her entire film in one glorious scene where a bite of her forbidden fruit’s food excites her senses and seemingly transforms her world.

Inception
A whole bunch of cool scenes are topped by Arthur’s mid-air, sideways fight as his dream world is affected by the level right on top of him and he’s forced to fend off attackers and come up with a clever way to ensure that everyone else makes the kick.

Micmacs
A clever and inventive cast of characters succeeds most impressively in their elaborately-crafted deception for the two moguls who messed with Bazil’s life, tricking them into thinking that they were being threatened by terrorists in the Middle East and forcing them to confess their sins.

Of Gods and Men
In the ultimate show of faith, the monks gather together and sing as loudly and passionately as they can as they hear helicopters flying overhead and fear for their livelihood and their lives.

The Social Network
Long before some of the film’s most memorable lines are heard, the film opens with a magnificent interaction between Mark and Erica, as the former insults her status and her intelligence and is taken down equally scathingly by the wronged party.


That's all for now for the 4th Annual AFT Awards. Come back after the Oscars for the top 25 films of the year.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

AFT Awards: Best Director


This is the twenty-eighth category of the 4th Annual AFT Film Awards to be announced. The AFT Awards are my own personal choices for the best in film of each year and the best in television of each season. The AFT Film Awards include the traditional Oscar categories and a number of additional specific honors. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them. Click here to see previous years of this category.

Honorable mentions (in alphabetical order):
Alice in Wonderland, The American, Another Year, Biutiful, Blue Valentine, City of Your Final Destination, Daybreakers, The Disappearance of Alice Creed, District 13: Ultimatum, Down Terrace, Easy A, The Eclipse, Fair Game, The Father of My Children, The Fighter, Fish Tank, Flipped, Four Lions, The Freebie, The Ghost Writer, The Girl on the Train, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, The Girl Who Played with Fire, The Good Heart, The Greatest, Handsome Harry, Harry Brown, Heartbreaker, I Am Love, Iron Man 2, It's Kind of a Funny Story, The Joneses, The Killer Inside Me, The King's Speech, Kisses, The Last New Yorker, Leaves of Grass, Leaving, Lebanon, Life During Wartime, Looking for Eric, The Losers, Mother, Mother and Child, Of Gods and Men, Ondine, Please Give, Rabbit Hole, Red Riding: 1974, Red Riding: 1980, Red Riding: 1983, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Shutter Island, Tamara Drewe, Tangled, Toy Story 3, Wild Grass, Winter's Bone, Youth in Revolt

Runners-up:
DAVID MICHOD (Animal Kingdom)
SOFIA COPPOLA (Somewhere)
DANNY BOYLE (127 Hours)
JACQUES AUDIARD (A Prophet)
JUAN JOSE CAMPANELLA (The Secret in their Eyes)

The winner:
Giorgos Lanthimos (Dogtooth) presented a gripping, fascinating portrait of an unconventional family that demanded the entirety of its viewer’s attention.

Other nominees:
Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Micmacs) brought his latest jovial, inventive imagined universe to his life with a ragtag bunch of individualistic characters. David Fincher (The Social Network) transformed an ordinary story about college nerds into a must-see movie experience. Christopher Nolan (Inception) crafted layers upon layers of realities into a coherent and magnificent maze. Niels Arden Oplev (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) turned into a complicated mystery into a magnetic thriller.

AFT Awards: Best Trailer

This is the twenty-seventh category of the 4th Annual AFT Film Awards to be announced. The AFT Awards are my own personal choices for the best in film of each year and the best in television of each season. The AFT Film Awards include the traditional Oscar categories and a number of additional specific honors. Even if the movies weren’t great, the trailers definitely were. Watch them for yourself below.

The winner:



Other nominees:







AFT Awards: Best Ending


Beware spoilers for “Inception,” “District 13: Ultimatum,” “Of Gods and Men,” “Red Riding: 1980,” and “A Prophet.”

This is the twenty-fourth category of the 4th Annual AFT Film Awards to be announced. The AFT Awards are my own personal choices for the best in film of each year and the best in television of each season. The AFT Film Awards include the traditional Oscar categories and a number of additional specific honors. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them. Click here to see previous years of this category.

The winner:
Inception capitalized on one of the film’s biggest questions – how do you know what reality is? After succeeding in his mission, Cobb returns home and finally gets to see his children’s faces. As he goes to see them, his totem continues to spin on the table, and we never get to see whether it falls or not, leaving the possibility of Cobb still being asleep very much open.

Other nominees:
District 13: Ultimatum dealt a game-changer as all of the leaders from District 13, after putting in so much effort to ensure that their home would not be destroyed, agree that it should in fact be razed so that they can start over from the ground up. It’s rare to find a public figure so eager to listen to his constituents.

Of Gods and Men did the best it could with unknown history, showing the monks being led up a snow-covered hill, disappearing into the ether since their true fates are undetermined. Adding voiceover from Christian describing how everyone would be better served to put their differences aside served as a tragic, fitting eulogy.

Red Riding: 1980 revealed to its protagonist that everything he had been working for was for naught. Peter’s face-to-face with the alleged serial killer resulted in his own staged death, as he was killed by the officers involved in the grand conspiracy. When viewed immediately before its sequel, this ending serves as the perfect noir transition into the even darker 1983 chapter.

A Prophet made clear in its final sequence that all of Malik’s actions in prison had resulted in all three of the rival gangs being loyal to him alone. Seeing that resolution after Malik’s shaky start in prison was all the more meaningful, and indicative of just how successfully subtle the film was.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

AFT Awards: Worst Movie of the Year


This is the twenty-fifth category of the 4th Annual AFT Film Awards to be announced. The AFT Awards are my own personal choices for the best in film of each year and the best in television of each season. The AFT Film Awards include the traditional Oscar categories and a number of additional specific honors, or dishonors in this case. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them. Click here to see previous years of this category, which includes films that received an F grade.

Runners-up:
THE OTHER GUYS
HEMINGWAY’S GARDEN OF EDEN
SALT
COP OUT
HOT TUB TIME MACHINE
AFTER.LIFE
HAPPINESS RUNS
DADDY LONGLEGS


The winner:
Knucklehead was appallingly bad, and one of its worst offenses was that it was so unbelievably unclear who was supposed to be its target audience, since jokes seemed to be aimed alternately at adults and at babies.

Other nominees:
Skyline tried to be inventive in its alien invasion storyline but failed so miserably, valuing senselessness over dialogue, characters, and, you know, plot. The Last Airbender, by far M. Night Shyamalan’s worst project, should have been dazzling and exciting. Instead it was deathly boring and hopelessly childish. Clash of the Titans featured superhuman beings and therefore didn’t feel as if it needed to be grounded in logic or coherence, emphasizing stupidity instead. Centurion gave way to violent tendencies and one of its characters’ senses of smell rather than a compelling epic wartime survival story.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Movie with Abe: Cedar Rapids


Cedar Rapids
Directed by Miguel Arteta
Released February 11, 2011

Every once in a while, a little gem of an independent comedy comes along. Often there’s a semi-famous star attached, who might have done notable television work and also be breaking into big-budget comedy film at the same time. In recent years, “Little Miss Sunshine” and “Juno” have been sparking examples of this kind of film, and “Cedar Rapids” is the latest to join them in the ranks of surprisingly heartwarming and entertaining cinema. Ed Helms, star of NBC’s “The Office” and one of the four buddies in “The Hangover,” stars as Tim Lippe, just about the nicest and most genuine insurance salesman you’re ever likely to meet.

It’s hardly a stretch to compare Helms to another actor from “The Office,” Steve Carell, who snagged his first leading film role in Judd Apatow’s “The 40-Year-Old Virgin.” Both comedians play quiet, mild-mannered, well-intentioned men with awkward social skills and a naive sense of trust in others who desire to manipulate them. Instead of a forty-year-old man who has never had sex, Lippe is a polite, childlike gentleman who has never ventured out of his small town. Circumstances propel him via plane for the first time to the city of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where he must face the world at an insurance convention.

The simple premise of “Cedar Rapids” lends itself to colorful characters and understated comedy, which mesh well to form an enthralling tale of one man’s exposure to more than just what’s contained in his little bubble. Assembled around the wonderfully sedated and charming Helms is a magnificent cast whose standout is an energetic and inappropriate John C. Reilly as fellow salesman Dean Ziegler. Isiah Whitlock Jr. and Anne Heche are fun as less ferocious convention attendees who also bond with Lippe, and Kurtwood Smith and Alia Shawkat provide entertainment as the convention’s tyrannical chair and a local prostitute. The cast is fresh and fun, and all are performing at their best.

It’s not right to group “Cedar Rapids” in with fare produced by Judd Apatow since there’s considerably more heart and spark to this than the typical already-above-average film like “Knocked Up” or “Superbad.” The surprise about this film is that it’s just as funny as those, though it sneaks up on its audience with its unexpectedly vulgar tendencies, most of which comes from Reilly’s Ziegler. There’s something very accessible about the film that makes it all the more enjoyable. It teeters on the verge of ridiculous every once in a while, but, for the most part, it’s a tempered and winning mature comedy.

B+

Movie with Abe: Orgasm Inc. (Capsule Review)



Orgasm Inc.
Directed by Elizabeth Canner
Released February 11, 2011

This movie’s provocative title isn’t the only controversial thing about it. This investigation into the obsession with female sexual dysfunction reveals that this disease that supposedly afflicts 43% may not actually be grounded in actual medical diagnosis and more so in pharmaceutical speak designed to drum up an artificial need for its products. “Orgasm Inc” is a light, bubbly, occasionally scathing portrait of the pharmaceutical industry and the considerable evils which it has undertaken in its pursuit of increased cash flow. The energy of the film ebbs and flows, and at its height, it’s marvelously entertaining. It may not have the overall appeal of the similarly-titled “Food, Inc,” but it’s still a worthwhile venture that’s relatively eye-opening.

B

AFT Awards: Best Opening


This is the twenty-third category of the 4th Annual AFT Film Awards to be announced. The AFT Awards are my own personal choices for the best in film of each year and the best in television of each season. The AFT Film Awards include the traditional Oscar categories and a number of additional specific honors. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them. Click here to see previous years of this category.

Note: This category is for opening sequences. Full scenes like those in “The Social Network” are represented in the upcoming Top 15 Scenes of the Year.

The winner:
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World established its distinctive style with its visually-assisted musical performance of “We Are Sex Bob-Omb!”

Other nominees:
Please Give hilariously began with a montage of mammograms set to “No Shoes” by The Roches. District 13: Ultimatum offered a crash course in its universe with an exciting, pulsating introduction to its colorful characters. The Disappearance of Alice Creed started out as a taut thriller with a scored, silent assembly line preparation for an abduction. The Killer Inside Me was moody and old-fashioned fun in its splattered credits sequence.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

AFT Awards: Best Ensemble Cast


This is the twenty-second category of the 4th Annual AFT Film Awards to be announced. The AFT Awards are my own personal choices for the best in film of each year and the best in television of each season. The AFT Film Awards include the traditional Oscar categories and a number of additional specific honors. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them. Click here to see previous years of this category.

Honorable mentions (in alphabetical order):
Cyrus, The Disappearance of Alice Creed, Down Terrace, The Eclipse, Fair Game, The Father of My Children, Fish Tank, Flipped, The Ghost Writer, The Girl on the Train, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, The Girl Who Played with Fire, The Greatest, Heartbreaker, I Am Love, Inception, It's Kind of a Funny Story, The Joneses, The Kids Are All Right, The King’s Speech, The Last New Yorker, Leaves of Grass, Leaving, Looking for Eric, The Losers, Mother and Child, Ondine, Please Give, A Prophet, Red Riding: 1974, Red Riding: 1980, Red Riding: 1983, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, The Secret in their Eyes, Tamara Drewe, White Wedding, Wild Grass, Winter's Bone, Youth in Revolt

Runners-up:
THE FIGHTER
FOUR LIONS
ANIMAL KINGDOM
MADE IN DAGENHAM
ANOTHER YEAR

The winner:
Handsome Harry assembles a magnificent generational group of players that help to shape the film’s journey towards meaning for the title character.

Other nominees:
Of Gods and Men
The Social Network
Micmacs
The City of Your Final Destination

AFT Awards: Best Limited Performance – Female


This is the twenty-first category of the 4th Annual AFT Film Awards to be announced. The AFT Awards are my own personal choices for the best in film of each year and the best in television of each season. The AFT Film Awards include the traditional Oscar categories and a number of additional specific honors. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them. Click here to see previous years of this category. Due to a surplus of nominees this year, I’ve decided to split it into two categories, male and female.

The winner:
Jessica Barden (Tamara Drewe) portrayed a young girl with a major crush who was very believably willing to take her feelings way too far.

Other nominees:
Rooney Mara (The Social Network) did a magnificent job of delivering Aaron Sorkin’s dialogue as a jilted girlfriend incredibly capable of chewing out her egotistical ex-boyfriend. Charlotte Christie (The Social Network) was a great foil to Barden’s more proactive character, providing plenty of sarcastic commentary. Emily Mortimer (Shutter Island) delivered a fantastic blend of haunting and tragic as a mysterious patient. Alexandra Maria Lara (The City of Your Final Destination) was short, cruel, and completely compelling as a woman with considerably little faith in her partner.

AFT Awards: Best Limited Performance – Male


This is the twentieth category of the 4th Annual AFT Film Awards to be announced. The AFT Awards are my own personal choices for the best in film of each year and the best in television of each season. The AFT Film Awards include the traditional Oscar categories and a number of additional specific honors. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them. Click here to see previous years of this category. Due to a surplus of nominees this year, I’ve decided to split it into two categories, male and female.

The winner:
Ted Levine (Shutter Island) was the perfect degree of mysterious and chilling as a very creepy security guard.

Other nominees:
Hiroyuki Sanada (The City of Your Final Destination) did a marvelous job of conveying humility and gratitude in the midst of extreme wealth and comfort. Garrett Dillahunt (Winter’s Bone) provided a cautionary voice of reason and safety net amid dangerous characters. Jackie Early Haley (Shutter Island) played a volatile prisoner whose insanity may not have been entirely an act. Campbell Scott (Handsome Harry) was subdued, heartbreaking, and most of all forgiving as a man whose life was affected by a cruel act.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

AFT Awards: Best Breakthrough Performance


This is the nineteenth category of the 4th Annual AFT Film Awards to be announced. The AFT Awards are my own personal choices for the best in film of each year and the best in television of each season. The AFT Film Awards include the traditional Oscar categories and a number of additional specific honors. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them. Click here to see previous years of this category.

Honorable mentions (in alphabetical order):
Jessica Barden (Tamara Drewe), Alison Barry (Ondine), Charlotte Christie (Tamara Drewe), Shane Curry (Kisses), Kelly O’Neill (Kisses), Sarah Steele (Please Give), Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit)

The winner:
Katie Jarvis (Fish Tank) burst onto the screen with a fierce intensity and enormous opposition to authority.

Other nominees:
Jennifer Lawrence (Winter’s Bone) played a child taking on the role of an adult and was unflinching in her dedication to the part. Tahar Rahim (A Prophet) believably conveyed the transformation of a fresh young man in prison into a hardened, smart convict. Madeline Carroll (Flipped) stole a film away from all of her elders while managing to play a character who, for once, acted exactly her age. Portia Doubleday (Youth in Revolt) seduced Michael Cera’s character and made his quest to be with her a perfectly understandable, reasonable one.

AFT Awards: Best Documentary


This is the eighteenth category of the 4th Annual AFT Film Awards to be announced. The AFT Awards are my own personal choices for the best in film of each year and the best in television of each season. The AFT Film Awards include the traditional Oscar categories and a number of additional specific honors. Nominees are pictured in alphabetical order. This is a new AFT category, added because I had the privilege of screening twenty-three documentaries from 2010.

Honorable mentions (in alphabetical order):
Casino Jack and the United States of Money, Countdown to Zero, 11/4/08, Freakonomics, Harlan: In Shadow of Jew, Highwater, Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist, Rebel, The Lottery, Precious Life, Saint Misbehavin: The Wavy Gravy Movie, Severe Clear, Smash His Camera, Waiting for Amageddon, When You're Strange

The winner:
The Art of the Steal was a thoroughly-researched, delightfully entertaining chronicle of an astonishing theft.

Other nominees:
The Most Dangerous Man in America
Inside Job
Waiting for Superman
Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer