Sunday, March 7, 2010

Actor in a Leading Role

Actor in a Leading Role
  • Jeff Bridges in “Crazy Heart”
  • George Clooney in “Up in the Air”
  • Colin Firth in “A Single Man”
  • Morgan Freeman in “Invictus”
  • Jeremy Renner in “The Hurt Locker”

The lead acting category is tight this year, with some potent actors and roles. Bridges, Clooney and Freeman have well demonstrated their worth as actors being guys with multiple nominations to date. Bridges is believed by many to be overdue for a win, while both Clooney and Freeman have each won one, both in a supporting role. Firth and Renner are newcomers to the world of Oscar nods.

All five of these movies are wonderful and all roles are powerful, but my sense is that this is a race between Bridges and Firth. Bridges likely has an edge for a couple of reasons. As I said, he is perceived to be due. Also, his movie has a wider audience appeal.

My preference in this category is Firth. Bridges was indeed brilliant, but it did remind me of Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler last year… a washed up performer trying to make a comeback in the midst of significant lifestyle issues. If we were to run back through our movie minds, there likely has been a few roles of this variety, and a few actors we could see pulling off the current role. I see Firth’s role as more unique. His use of tone, body language and facial expressions transcends a screenplay. His performance made the role memorable.

My preference is Firth, but my prediction is Bridges.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Bright Star

Bright Star was released in Canada on September 11, 2009 at the Toronto International Film Festival. Its cast consists of Ben Whishaw, Abbie Cornish and Paul Schneider.

Bright Star is a period piece, a plot built around the life of nineteenth century poet, John Keats. A romantic relationship develops between Keats and a neighbour when she learns he is nursing his ill brother. While the two had previously openly criticized one another, a romance develops over poetry lessons. A best friend and a mother try to distract the two, without success. Ultimately, it is Keats' own illness that dissolves the relationship.

The film has just one Oscar nomination, in the category of Costume Design, and this is appropriate. The costumes are indeed fabulous. Otherwise, the movie is not really Oscar material. But there is more to this film than the fabrics and fashions of an era. The acting is decent and the storyline emotional. However, it is very slow-paced and pensive for the most focused, and an adrenaline junkie movie generation will not appreciate its merits.

Bright Star is another UK item that is worth the view for sure.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Young Victoria

The Young Victoria was released in Canada on September 19, 2009 at the Toronto International Film Festival. Its cast consists of Emily Blunt, Rupert Friend, Paul Bettany and Miranda Richardson.

The Young Victoria is a period piece, capturing the early years of the reign of Queen Victoria. The plot revolves first around her rise to power, despite the attempts of her mother and her chief attendant to delay her coronation. It then shifts to the romantic life of the Queen, as well as the political forces that would strive to manipulate her. The story is ultimately about her maturation into a full-functioning sovereign with a full life and her own mind.

With three nominations, The Young Victoria is another epic that has found the attention of the Academy. Art Direction, Costume Design and Makeup are the categories. It is unlikely it will defeat Avatar in Art Design, or Star Trek in Makeup. It may be favored in the costume category, but I am yet to see two of the contenders.

This is a charming film. Despite the era of its setting, its themes are strikingly relevant for the twenty-first century. You won't find it life changing, for sure, but it was certainly appealing on a snowy Saturday.

The Messenger

The Messenger was released in Canada on February 26, 2010. The primary cast consists of Ben Foster and Woody Harrelson.

The story of The Messenger is quite captivating. Foster is an injured war veteran who will finish his service in the Casualty Notification Department. His mentor is Harrelson. The result is a unique look at the impact of war, with some very gifted acting and a wonderful screenplay. I just loved this movie. It is sentimental, it is raw, it is grim, it is funny.

The Messenger is nominated for two Academy Awards. Harrelson gets the nod for Best Supporting Actor. Certainly we have seen him both wacky and wonderful down through the years, but this is truly his best work. The nomination is well deserved, and a win would not be out of place. Harrelson also has great chemistry with Foster, who was neglected, but could have easily been nominated in the Best Actor category. Again, the performance of his career to date, for sure. The second nomination is for Original Screenplay, and this is no mystery. The lines are just brilliant, and the storyline provokes both cognitively and emotionally. Both the nominations come in tough categories, but I must say, this one was pure genius.

I am not a fan of war movies, but this year the writers have gotten creative on us. First it was The Hurt Locker that took us to a new place in war world. Now The Messenger does the same. This movie is not well marketed to date, but you should search until you find it. Great film.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen was released in Canada on June 24, 2009. The cast consists of Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox... and perhaps some others if you could stand to watch it.

The plot of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen... well, that's 150 minutes I am never getting back. It's Transformers versus Humans. Enough said. The plot is drivel, the acting sucks, and the special effects... well, it's like buying a car because it has 500 hp only to find out it does not come with tires. Just painful.

I suffered through this baby because I am an Oscar buff and it has been nominated for Sound Mixing, and in watching it I cleared the category. Now truthfully, the sound mixing was very good... competitive even. But I cannot imagine it will compete with Avatar, The Hurt Locker, Inglourious Basterds or Star Trek. All of these movies have sound contributing to a bigger picture, whereas Transformers could have just submitted a sound track, since not much else comes with the package. Giving this picture a nod is an insult to the rest of the field. I would have preferred an incomplete field.

I've been trying to think who would enjoy this film and I'm coming up empty. Even my young adolescent nephews thought it was dumb. There is exactly no good reason, no matter how Academy-committed you are, to watch Transformers:Revenge of the Fallen.

Coco Avant Chanel

Coco Avant Chanel was released in Canada on September 25, 2009. The cast consists of Audrey Tautou, Benoit Poelvoorde and Alessandro Nivola.

Coco Avant Chanel is a French film about the early years of Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel, before her rise in the fashion industry. Unfortunately, the plot is a little listless, and the impact of her early years may have been more felt if we saw more of who she became.

The film has been nominated for the Oscar for Costume Design. The costumes were very, very good. It is a period piece that is captured well in the clothing. Again, had they given a little more plot time to Coco's career, success in this category may have been a certainty. That said, I have not yet seen three films in this category, so I will reserve judgment.

Coco Avant Chanel is not the kind of film that will keep you glued to the screen, but it is entertaining enough to rent as I did.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A Single Man

A Single Man was released in Canada on September 14, 2009 at the Toronto International Film Festival. The cast consists of Colin Firth, Julianne Moore, Matthew Goode and the newbie, Nicholas Hoult.

The plot of this film revolves around a college professor, handled by Colin Firth, in Los Angeles in 1962. He has lost his partner of 16 years to a tragic car accident, and has not recovered. We join him on the day he has planned to commit suicide, and walk with him through the day, and the individuals he encounters. Strangely, a movie about a grieving, suicidal man is not lacking in inspiration.

A Single Man has been recognized in just one Oscar category, with a Best Actor nod for Firth. Truly, this was the performance of a genius. The tone of his voice, the look in his eye, the droop in his step... they are pull you into the experience of this despondent man who has not found a reason to continue his life. I have seen all of the contenders in this category, and it is truly a toss up between Firth and Bridges. The Bridges movie is certainly more mainstream, and therefore may have an edge. But there is no justice in a movie world where Firth's performance in this one is not rewarded. Then there is Julianne Moore. With four previous nominations to her credit, perhaps this should have been the fifth. Especially when you consider the Farmiga and and Kendrick nominations. Of course, it is debatable whether I am so impressed with Moore or so unimpressed with the other two.

This movie pretty good, but the Firth performance is not to be missed.