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.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Star Trek

Star Trek was released in Canada on May 8, 2009. It has a huge cast. The prime roles are filled by Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Leonard Nimoy, and Zoe Saldana. Other notables are Winona Ryder, Karl Urban, Rachel Nichols, Eric Bana, John Cho and Bruce Greenwood.

This is not your garden variety Star Trek. It takes us back to the birth of James Kirk, while his father is dying in combat against a mysterious alien vessel. We also get a look at the maturation of Spock, and the first encounter of these two iconic Star Trek characters. Despite its genre, Star Trek always seems to pull off a relatively good plot.

Star Trek has been nominated for four Academy Awards; makeup, sound, sound editing, and visual effects. In three of those categories, Avatar is the competition. Interestingly, I think it's a pretty close competition in the sound categories. The acting is not Oscar material, but the young guys playing earlier versions of Spock and Captain Kirk are very well cast, and they pull it off nicely.

I can't believe it, but I absolutely loved Star Trek.

Fantastic Mr. Fox

Fantastic Mr. Fox was released in Canada on November 25, 2009. The voice cast for this movie is just brilliant, featuring George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Bill Murray, Willem Dafoe and Owen Wilson.

This is another wonderful animation. What I love about it is not the usual bells and whistles that have become standard for animations. In fact, this film is severely lacking in this area. For that reason, I can't imagine it really grabbing the attention of most kids who have become accustomed to constant silver screen eye candy. What I loved about it was the screenplay. Adapted from the Roald Dahl novel, it is the story of Mr. Fox (Clooney) who is struggling to transition from the wild ways that come natural to him to the responsibility of fatherhood. On a side note, perhaps there was not a lot of acting involved for Clooney. Mr. Fox develops a plot to carry out "just one more raid" of the local farmers. In doing so, he buys himself and his family more trouble than he bargained for.

Fantastic Mr. Fox has been nominated for two Academy Awards; it appears in the animation category, of course, as well as the original score. It will not win either of the awards, even though the music is very strong. In an era of trying to recognize these creative works, an adapted screenplay nod might have been appropriate for this film. That said, the category is very competitive.

I went to see Fantastic Mr. Fox because of its nominations, and because I could not imagine missing any motion picture that has both Clooney and Streep in the cast. I thoroughly enjoyed all 87 minutes and found myself laughing out loud many times. A fun watch.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Last Station

The Last Station was released in Canada on January 22, 2010. The cast is just wonderful, comprised of Christopher Plummer, Helen Mirren, James McEvoy and Paul Giamatti.

The film is a historical piece, focusing on the late years of Leo Tolstoy. Looking beyond the written works of the Russian author, the film explores his family relationships, and his struggle to balance the philosophies apparent in his writing with his personal affluence and wealth. The film suggests that a closer view of Tolstoy may not be in perfect synchronicity with the ideologies promoted by his disciples.

Oscar awarded The Last Station with two nominations; Plummer has been nominated for Best Supporting Actor and Mirren for Best Actress. I've not yet completed viewing the category Plummer competes in, but his performance was very good. Lately he has been doing more voice work than acting, and this is his first Oscar nomination. Based on the three other contenders I have seen, he will not win. Then there is Helen Mirren. Wow! This is her fourth nomination, and she won previously for The Queen. She simply thrives in portraying real individuals. Truthfully, she is just brilliant here, but will not likely win. I will discuss my reasons in my blog about the category. He was not nominated, but James McEvoy was also great in his best performance since The Last King of Scotland.

This is a very interesting film, both humorous and reflective. While people are busy debating whether an Avatar should get an acting nomination, this is an opportunity to watch and see why not. You will enjoy The Last Station.

Thursday, February 11, 2010


Up was released in Canada on May 29, 2009. The voices you will recognize in this animation are Edward Asner and Christopher Plummer.

The plot is actually more developed than one might anticipate from an animation. The first seven minutes, covering maybe seven decades, are sweetly sad as we watch a couple grow up and grow old together. Left alone following his wife's death, Carl sets out on an adventure he had planned to take with Ellie. Up is the story of that adventure, and an emotionally satisfying tale at that.

Up has received five Oscar nominations, including Score, Sound Editing, and Screenplay nods. Of course, it is nominated for Best Animation, but the biggest surprise for this film is finding itself in the pool of ten for Best Picture. We all know it would not be there if this were not the year of ten nominees, and not a particularly strong year at that. But we also know the field of ten was adopted to reward films like this one. The Animation category may be the only one taken by this film, and even that is no guarantee based on the strength of the other nominees.

Up found its way to my TV screen because of its nominations, but it was an entertaining watch. In a year of some disturbing pictures, this film is a nice addition to any collection of must see films for the Oscar season.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

In the Loop

In the Loop was released in Canada on September 5, 2009. The face you will recognize in the cast is James Gandolfini of The Sopranos fame. He is surrounded by several English actors including Peter Capaldi, Tom Hollander and Gina McKee.

In the Loop is a dark political satire at its absolute finest. The story revolves around British and American politicians debating whether to go to war. The humor revolves around the intel that informs the debate. The funniest part may indeed be the potential resemblance to some real moments in collaborations between the UK and the US.

This is a relatively unknown British film, and I watched and reviewed it based on its Oscar nomination for Adapted Screenplay. The language is most unpleasant. It is crude and foul for a solid 90% of the film. If you can get past that, what is left over is one tee-totally brilliant screenplay. The one-liners are constant, and the witty dialogue comes at a fabulous pace that will leave you snickering. While it has the classic low-key, understated style of the Brits, the script is entirely too clever for the viewer to entertain boredom. The only drawback may be that about three-quarters in the relentless satire starts to get old. Overdoing things is a bit of a theme in this year's contenders... see District 9 and Inglourious Basterds. I'm delighted with this nomination, but a win is unlikely based on the popularity factor. A shame, really. I am still longing for a day when the Academy awards a movie based simply on its merits rather than marketing.

In the Loop is not your classic pop culture movie. But it is a very sharp screenplay that will give you a few laughs at the expense of government officials everywhere.

Saturday, February 6, 2010


Avatar was released in Canada on December 18, 2009. The notables from the cast are Sam Worthington and Sigourney Weaver. James Cameron, the Canadian of Titanic fame, is the Director.

The plot of Avatar revolves around a war veteran, Jake Sully, who assumes his dead brother's place in a special mission to the land of Pandora. Using an avatar identity, Jake infiltrates the native community living on Pandora. Initially, he is there to gather intel for the corporate talking head who wishes to drive out the natives and take over the land in order to mine it for its natural resources. Predictably, Jake bonds with the natives and his allegiances shift in time for the film's climax. Of course, this fantasy flick is laden with tree-loving and new world spirituality and anti-capitalism and aboriginal marginalization themes. Ironic when one considers both the financial and "green" costs of such a production. Perhaps they drank tap water during the obscene number of hours of labour it would have taken to produce this giant.

Okay, so the project may be rife with hypocrisy and the plot is not brilliant. But everything else about the movie absolutely is. Avatar is Oscar's other darling, grabbing nine nominations along with The Hurt Locker. It is nominated across the board for art and effects, as well as Best Picture. When it comes to special effects, the other contenders, including The Hurt Locker, should just stay home and play monopoly or something on Oscar night. The others are simply not in the same game as this film. But what about the other nominations? On principle, I have always contended that a film needed stellar acting and a great story to be worthy of the nod. Avatar did not contend for either screenplay or any of the acting categories, and the absence of nominations in these categories is completely fair. The screenplay was predictable, somewhat contrived, and classic fantasy/superhero material. Don't get me wrong, it is not ridiculous to the degree of The Dark Knight or other comparables. The story is actually not bad, and combined with the effects it had my constant attention. But it is simply not an Oscar story. The acting was unremarkable. Can a movie that lacks acting and plot truly be Best Picture material? Before seeing the movie, I was actually appalled that it was even nominated in that category. Having seen it, I get it. The Academy opened to a field of ten to accommodate such films. With the acclaim it has received, no one will be shocked if it does take home the prize. But for this gal, I still need a performance and a plot to turn my crank. As a corollary, for me the Best Director's film should be worthy of Best Picture nomination. In this case, I will be gobsmacked if Cameron does not win.

Avatar is a phenomenon and absolutely should not be missed. Oscar-snooty cynicism aside, I loved it.

Friday, February 5, 2010

The Hurt Locker

The Hurt Locker was released in Canada on July 10, 2009. The cast consists of Jeremy Renner in the lead role, and several other relative unknowns led by Brian Geraghty, Anthony Mackie and Guy Pearce. Ralph Fiennes is a face you'll recognize briefly amid a field of fatigues. Evangeline Lilly of Lost fame makes an appearance in the lead's memories. The film is directed by Kathryn Bigelow.

The setting is Iraq, and the plot follows the exploits of an elite bomb squad. Renner is the new team leader when their old leader is killed mid-project. He presents as wildly oblivious to the chaos around him, and perhaps a tad crazy. But his passion, compassion and leadership are unmistakable as the plot thickens.

The Hurt Locker is an Oscar darling, with nine nominations. It ties Avatar in popularity with the Academy, but is clearly favored based on the categories in which it appears. The films share seven categories, but Hurt grabs nominations in screenplay and acting categories which its competitor failed to pull off. Renner is wonderful, but will not likely win in a competitive Best Actor field. Most of the effects categories will be stolen by the "A-flick." I absolutely loved the directing in this movie, and would love to see Bigelow steal the prize from her ex-husband. Ironically, with all of its nominations, it is not inconceivable that the outcome may be "close but no cigar."

The Hurt Locker is absolutely among the elite in this year's contenders. It is a brilliant all-around movie with a timely story, quality acting, and great effects. It's not the typical war movie and it's well worth the watch.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

District 9

District 9 was released in Canada on August 14, 2009. Since there is no one else to mention in the cast, I will reference the lead played by Sharlto Copley. You have not seen him before, and no one should fall over with shock if you never see him again. The Director is Neill Blomkamp, also a relative unknown but a Canadian talent who has caught some significant attention with this film.

What does one say about the plot? Three words come to mind... Full. Weird. On. District 9 is more than meets the eye. On face value, it is a science fiction thriller. Copley is an Afrikaner bureaucrat who is assigned to evict a race of aliens from a slum they have inhabited in Johannesburg. Of course, on a deeper level it is one enormous parody of the events which took place in District 6 in Cape Town, South Africa during the apartheid era. The film is wildly unique and grossly disturbing.

Quite unbelievably to me, there are four Oscar nominations for District 9, including Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Visual Effects and Best Editing. The visual effects and editing are both very good, and while not the best in either category the nominations are deserved. I can even understand the Screenplay nod. The documentary style, paired with the parody are sharp but overly contrived. I would have preferred to have Julie & Julia or even The Road show up in this category. The Best Picture nomination is flawed beyond definition. While unique and deserving of some recognition in the special effects categories, this is simply not Best Picture material. It would not have been nominated in a field of five, and serves to just dilute the recognition afforded to the deserving nominees that cannot win. This is why a ten nominee option is problematic.

District 9 is indeed an edgy creative work. The Academy may have overstated its merits due to the 10-Nominee Debaucle, but it is an interesting effort. To appreciate this, you either have to love science fiction or have a pathological commitment to the Oscars. I wouldn't recommend watching this film over dinner.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Crazy Heart

Crazy Heart was released in Canada on January 15, 2010. It features Jeff Bridges, Maggi Gyllenhaal, Colin Farrell and Robert Duvall.

Crazy Heart is the story of a washed up, alcoholic country music singer, who is living from gig to gig. His relationship with a small town journalist inspires him to reflect upon his life and make adjustments to make the most of what's left of it.

Oscar nominations are clearly forthcoming for this film. Jeff Bridges delivers the performance of a lifetime, and he's not even hard on the ears for the most part. He has already won the Golden Globe and the SAG, and will definitely be nominated in the Best Actor category. Only two factors may distract from him winning, in my view. The first factor is the resemblance to Mickey Rourke's performance in The Wrestler just last year. The second factor is the certain nomination for George Clooney in this category, who has been snubbed in previous years and may get a payback vote. Bridges is better overall, but the Academy operates by a funny set of rules sometimes. Gyllenhaal is also very good in her supporting role, but will be on the bubble for a nomination. The other sure bet nomination is for the music, and The Weary Kind should get a nod for Best Song.

Crazy Heart is a great tale, told with both humor and an adequate quantity of heart-warming. Even if you loathe country music, this is an enjoyable movie... and it is a sure bet for some Academy love. I can't go wrong in recommending this one.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Sherlock Holmes

Sherlock Holmes was released in Canada on December 25, 2009. It features Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law and Rachel McAdams. Also noteworthy is the directorship of Guy Ritchie.

What does one say about the plot? It's Sherlock Holmes for crying out loud. Holmes and Watson are engaged in the task of bringing to justice a dangerous black magician. It's classic. The same witty banter and not-quite-realistic deductive reasoning. That said, the story is quite sharp and one is not left completely catatonic by the plot in the fashion provoked by The Dark Knight. It's funny and the lines are clever, and it practically ends with an invitation to see the sequel in a couple of years.

This one is not a shoe in for Oscar nominations, but no one will be surprised if the Academy acknowledges the film in several categories. The screenplay is very good. The sets and costumes are also sharp. As for acting, this trio was just great. I don't think RDJ has been better anywhere, and he is looking absolutely delicious. The Academy gave him a nod for the utterly ridiculous Tropic Thunder, so it's not far-fetched to expect him to show up in the Best Actor category. His role here may spare us ever having to hear about The Soloist at the Awards. Jude Law was a wonderful Watson, but a nomination for him is unlikely. Likewise, McAdams was great but not Oscar material. The chemistry between the three is what is notable in this movie.

This is not the kind of film that blows the Academy's mind, but there are some very good qualities that may have their attention. Sherlock Holmes is a very entertaining show if you have 134 minutes to spare.

An Education

An Education was released in Canada on September 27, 2009 at the Edmonton International Film Festival. The cast includes Cary Mulligan, who is quickly making a name for herself, Peter Sarsgaard and Dominic Cooper. These are not exactly well accomplished talents, and the crowd that accompanies them are not household names either. But as a group they have pulled off something very interesting. In fact, the film has received a SAG nomination for Outstanding Performance By A Cast.

The story is set in London in the 1960s. Who doesn't love a good British film? Jenny is a high school girl living with unsophisticated parents whose only goal in life is her admission to Oxford. But Jenny's plans are interrupted by the pursuit of a playboy twice her age, who is very comfortable thinking outside the box of social mores. To say more would qualify as spoiler material.

The SAG nomination is practically irrelevant when considering the film's Oscar potential, since the Academy does not have a category to honor a complete cast... and realistically, An Education won't win the SAG in that category either since the competition is fierce. However, SAG is often a good predictor of what the Academy will do, and the film received just the one nomination. If the film is nominated anywhere, it will be in the Best Actress category based on Mulligan's sharp performance. This year is a tough year to try to break into that group. SAG didn't go there, and it is a long shot indeed that Oscar will.

Last year Happy Go Lucky was the British film that I fell in love with. This year it is An Education. Oscar worthy or not, it's a great movie.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Lovely Bones

The Lovely Bones was released in Canada on January 15, 2010. The cast is strong, featuring Saorise Ronan, Mark Wahlberg, Natalie Weisz, Stanley Tucci and Susan Sarandan. The director is Peter Jackson, whom we know best for the Lord of the Rings trilogy, but has been writing, producing and directing great films fairly consistently for years.

The film is adapted from the book by the same name, written by Alice Sebold. In The Lovely Bones, we get the story of Susie Salmon, a 12 year old girl who is murdered, and she narrates her own story from heaven. But the story is not a simplistic one. It is the story of an unsolved murder, of a dead little girl trapped in the "in-between" with unfinished business, of a family struggling to cope, of an afterlife perspective. When I first heard the book would be made a film, I seriously doubted it could be done. But the transition from novel to film is a respectable job in this case, and that not being a simple task with this particular book.

Based on that fact, I think adapted screenplay is this film's best chance at an Oscar nomination. Jackson may also get a nod for the directorship, which was also very sharp. The techniques used to try to communicate spiritual concepts were relatively effective, and for the most part escaped the tacky realm. The acting was quite good. We saw Ronan's capacity for brilliance in Atonement, and she does not disappoint. This year Best Actress will be a very competitive field, but she may get a nomination just the same. Both Wahlberg and Weisz were also very good in supporting roles, and Tucci was brilliant. If either of the three are nominated, I'm rooting for Tucci. He nailed creepy serial killer, and when I consider his flexibility in recent years I'm ready for him to be recognized. With ten films in the Best Picture category this year, it may even make the cut of ten. But it would not have made a five-cut, and it will not win Best Picture.

The Lovely Bones is a unique accomplishment, and certainly a movie you'll want to have seen when the Academy opens the envelopes.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Public Enemies

Public Enemies was released in Canada on July 1, 2009. It has a million member cast, but the names worth mentioning are Johnny Depp, Marion Cotillard and Christian Bale. Michael Mann, who has previously been nominated for four Academy Awards, is the Director.

Public Enemies is the true story of John Dillinger, a notorious bank robber who made his name in the early 1930s. Handled by Depp, we watch Johnny et. al. rob banks, kill cops, and escape from jail a time or two. The film is not entirely listless, but it is quite long and near misses several targets. The character development is too weak for the viewer to truly feel conflicted about Dillinger's lifestyle and the impact upon those around him. Without that twisting of the conscience, there is not a lot left. The Directing is sketchy... the throwback effect is a little too contrived. The screenplay is immediately forgettable.

That said, there are a couple of areas in which the movie may get some attention because of the acting. Johnny Depp was good as Dillinger, but will not likely compete in the Best Actor field this year. Cotillard was brilliant again, and may be this movie's best shot at a nomination. That said, the Supporting Actress category will be tight this year, and she may have to compete against herself (Nine) to get a nomination. Otherwise, I'm not sure this film belongs in any Oscar discussion.

This time of year, there are movies I usually wait to confirm as nominations before I bother seeing them. I wish Public Enemies had been one of them.

Friday, January 1, 2010

The Blind Side

The Blind Side was released in Canada on November 20, 2009. The names that you will recognize in the cast of this movie are Sandra Bullock and Tim McGraw.

The Blind Side is the story of one Michael Oher, vulnerable and homeless when we meet him. He has never known his father, and his mother is an addict with multiple children in the care of the state. For just over two hours the film follows Michael's development into a first-round NFL draft pick because of his relationship with Leigh Anne Tuohy, an affluent and determined young woman who makes Michael her own. God help the empty soul who cannot find a tear for this one. Even if it were not based on a true story, this film would be emotional.

This movie was not initially pegged to be obvious Oscar material, but it has caused a little more stir of late. The Globes rewarded Bullock's performance with a nomination. Now maybe I'm getting a little soft, but I am kind of rooting for this one. Sandra Bullock has been eternally joined with the romantic comedy, and the word Oscar has previously been completely irrelevant to her. But this was the delivery of a lifetime. McGraw was not Oscar material, but he is definitely more than a good voice. Under that cowboy hat is one hot package, and he held his own in a supporting role. Our introduction to Quinton Aaron is very positive, and a nomination for Best Actor would not be misplaced. Acting categories already considered, this may be a candidate for Best Adapted Screenplay... and I may as well say it... with 10 films in the Best Picture category this year, I'm hoping The Blind Side gets a nod.

The Blind Side is the total package. Enjoy.