Our Picks for the Oscars

Below are the nominees we’d pick to win based on what we’ve seen. These are not our guess for which nominees will actually win. Unfortunately, due to our day jobs we have not been able to see as many of the nominees as we would have liked to but we’ll try to do better in the coming year!

Best Picture
“The Artist”
“The Descendants”
“Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close”
“Hugo”
“Midnight in Paris”
“The Help”
“Moneyball”
“War Horse”
“The Tree of Life”

Bill C. – I’ve see all but “War Horse” and “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.”  I enjoyed all the ones I saw, although “The Tree of Life” could have been a little more focused.  I’m going to go with “The Artist.” “Hugo” would be my back-up choice.

Bill I.  – Very tough to pick the best, as my top 3 are very close. I’ll go with The Descendants.

Best Actor
Demian Bichir, “A Better Life”
George Clooney, “The Descendants”
Jean Dujardin, “The Artist”
Gary Oldman, “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”
Brad Pitt, “Moneyball”

Bill C. – I have seen all of these performances except for Demian Bichir.  For me it comes down to George Clooney and Jean Dujardin.  Gary Oldman was good but it was a pretty subdued performance without him showing a range of emotion. Brad Pitt was good too but but he didn’t show the range of the other two.  And my winner is…George Clooney.  Clooney gets the win because his was more of a real emotional performance while Dujardin was a caricature of a silent movie actor. While Dujardin was terrific, I’ll go with the real emotional performance by Clooney.

Bill I. – I will also pick George, especially liked his sprinting in his sandals. I thought Ryan Gosling should have been nominated for Crazy, Stupid Love, he was compelling to watch.

Best Actress
Glenn Close, “Albert Nobbs”
Viola Davis, “The Help”
Rooney Mara, “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”
Meryl Streep, “The Iron Lady”
Michelle Williams, “My Week With Marilyn”

Bill C. – I haven’t seen Glenn Close or Meryl Streep (although I didn’t really like Streep in the preview).  I’m surprised Tilda Swinton didn’t get nominated.  I’ll go with Viola Davis.

Bill I. –  Another tough call, although I hoped Jessica Chastain should have been nominated for The Debt, especially combined with her work in The Help and Tree of Life (which I only heard about). I’ll go with Rooney Mara, who blew me away portraying the Lisbeth Salander character, whom everyone who read the book I’m sure had expecatations in mind.

Best Supporting Actor
Kenneth Branagh, “My Week With Marilyn”
Jonah Hill, “Moneyball”
Nick Nolte, “Warrior”
Christopher Plummer, “Beginners”
Max Von Sydow, “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close”

Bill C – I only saw Kenneth Branagh and Jonah Hill so I’m going to pass here.  From what I’ve heard, I think it will come down to Nick Nolte (a Bill I. top movie) and Christopher Plummer.

Bill I. – Branagh is the best nominee I saw. However, best of the year was Christoph Waitz who portrayed the charmingly evil (typecast!) Circus Master in Water for Elephants. What a scary dude!

Best Supporting Actress
Berenice Bejo, “The Artist”
Jessica Chastain, “The Help”
Melissa McCarthy, “Bridesmaids”
Janet McTeer, “Albert Nobbs”
Octavia Spencer, “The Help”

Bill C. – I didn’t see Janet McTeer. Jessica Chastain had a great year; they need a ‘Best Year’ category for her (with Michael Fassbender getting it on the men’s side)!  I thought Berenice Bejo was good too, but I’m eliminating her for the same reason I eliminated Dujardin. Octavia Spencer is my winner. Just a great performance.

Bill I. – I’ll go with Octavia, but what about Bryce Dallas Howard, who was perfect in The Help?

Best Director
Woody Allen, “Midnight in Paris”
Michel Hazanavicius, “The Artist”
Terrence Malick, “The Tree of Life”
Alexander Payne, “The Descendants”
Martin Scorsese, “Hugo”

Bill C. – I’m going with Martin Scorsese in a very un-Scorsese like movie. His love of movies is on display every frame of this movie. Terence Malick made a beautiful movie but again he just went overboard for me. All of these guys are deserving.

Bill I. – I pick Marty as well, who gave us a visual, magical tour-de-force in Hugo.

Best Original Screenplay
Woody Allen, “Midnight in Paris”
JC Chandor, “Margin Call”
Asghar Farhadi, “A Separation”
Michel Hazanavicius, “The Artist”
Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo, “Bridesmaids”

Bill C. – I’m surprised a silent movie is nominated for Best Original Screenplay!  I haven’t seen “A Separation.”  I’d like to see Woody Allen win again.

Bill I. – I would like to see Woody lose. For a winner, I’ll go with Margin Call, with a great story, characters and dialogue.

Best Foreign Language Film of the Year
“Bullhead” (Belgium)
“Footnote” (Israel)
“In Darkness” (Poland)
“Monsieur Lazhar” (Canada)
“A Separation” (Iran)

Bill C – I have only seen “A Separation”, which is excellent.  I have also heard good things about “Bullhead” has gotten great buzz from FantasticFest in Austin and is being distributed by Drafthouse Films (the folks in Austin who run my favorite theater – The Alamo Drafthouse) so everyone should go see it!

Original Score
“The Adventures of Tintin,” John Williams
“The Artist,” Ludovic Bource
“Hugo,” Howard Shore
“Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,” Alberto Iglesias
“War Horse,” John Williams

Bill I. – I don’t know about score, but the opening of Dragon Tatoo was astounding, Trent Reznor killing Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song. It reminded me of the best Bond movie openings, or even my favorite opening of all time, Boogie Nights’ use of Kool & The Gang’s Jungle Boogie.

Best Documentary Feature
“Hell and Back Again”
“If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front”
“Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory”
“Pina”
“Undefeated”

Bill C – I haven’t seen any of these but am really surprised that “Senna” was not nominated.

Best Animated Short Film
“Dimanche/Sunday”
“The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore”
“La Luna”
“A Morning Stroll”
“Wild Life”

Bill C – We recently saw a compilation with all of these and they are all excellent. The best were “The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore” and “La Luna.”  “Books” is an homage to reading and was incredibly well done. “La Luna” is a whimsical look at the Moon by Pixar.  I’m going with “Books”. Click here to see “Books”!

Best Adapted Screenplay
Alexander Payne, Nat Faxton, Jim Rash, “The Descendants”
John Logan, “Hugo”
George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Beau Willimon, “The Ides of March”
Aaron Sorkin, Steven Zaillian, “Moneyball”
Bridget O’Connor, Peter Straughn, “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy”

Best Animated Feature
“A Cat In Paris”
“Chico & Rita”
“Kung Fu Panda 2”
“Puss in Boots”
“Rango”

Best Original Song
“Man or Muppet,” The Muppets; Music and Lyric by Bret McKenzie
“Real in Rio,” Rio; Music by Sergio Mendes and Carlinhos Brown, Lyric by Siedah Garrett

Best Achievement in Art Direction
“The Artist”
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2”
“Hugo”
“Midnight in Paris”
“War Horse”

Best Achievement in Cinematography
“The Artist”
“The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”
“Hugo”
“The Tree of Life”
“War Horse”

Best Achievement in Costume Design
“Anonymous”
“The Artist”
“Hugo”
“Jane Eyre”
“W.E.”

Best Documentary Short Subject
“The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement?”
“God Is the Bigger Elvis”
“Incident in New Baghdad”
“Saving Face”
“The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom”

Best Achievement in Film Editing
“The Artist”
“The Descendants”
“The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”
“Hugo”
“Moneyball”

Best Achievement in Makeup
“Albert Nobbs”
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2”
“The Iron Lady”

 

Best Live Action Short Film
“Pentecost”
“Raju”
“The Shore”
“Time Freak”
“Tuba Atlantic”

Best Achievement in Sound Editing
“Drive”
“The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”
“Hugo”
“Transformers: Dark of the Moon”
“War Horse”

Best Achievement in Sound Mixing
“The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”
“Hugo”
“Moneyball”
“Transformers: Dark of the Moon”
“War Horse”

Best Achievement in Visual Effects
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2”
“Hugo”
“Real Steel”
“Rise of the Planet of the Apes”
“Transformers: Dark of the Moon”

A Separation

Bill C’s Review – 4 out of 5

A Separation is nominated for Best Foreign Language Film and deservedly so. It is set (and made) in Iran and deals with a family splitting up because the wife wants to leave Iran for a better life while the husband refuses so he can continue to care for his father who is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

Tough choices, both moral and otherwise, are faced as the couple separates and needs to deal with their new circumstances. Part of what makes this such a good movie is you are able to sympathize with all the characters. Forces beyond their control take them in conflicting directions and some of their decisions have disastrous effects..

Excellent performances all around, including the couple, the daughter and the woman who comes to help care for the father after the couple separates.

This movie is also interesting because of the insight we get about daily life, the judicial system and religion in Iran.

This film is highly recommended.

IMDB – A Separation

Rotten Tomatoes – A Separation

Safe House

Bill I’s Review – 3.5 out of 5
Reminiscent (or just a copy) of the Bourne movies, this has all the key elements: government agents who are either rogue or legitimate (you won’t know till the end), a tightly wound middle-aged female 2nd in charge (here played by Vera Famiglia), in conflict with world weary older dude (Brendan Gleeson), GQ-looking agent on the run (Ryan Reynolds) with a cute foreign lover (Nora Arnezeder), bad guys everywhere with bullets flying, brutal fight scenes both in close quarters and in and out of third world buildings and roof tops, exotic and run-down locales, I could go on and on, including the same cinematographer (Oliver Wood). But this film has Denzel, who steals every scene he’s in, often by just sitting handcuffed or standing observing. He doesn’t need much dialogue to convey his character. This is fast paced, quick cutting action, that kept me riveted throughout. Don’t worry too much about the plot, like I said, there’s bad guys after good guys, or vice versa, you find out at the end. Which by the way, decides to copy the latest Mission Impossible instead of Bourne. I don’t think that gives away anything. Enjoy the fun and mothers, don’t let your boys grow up to be secret agents!

Bill C’s Review – 3 out of 5

I know it’s boring when we agree, but I think Bill’s review is right on! Starting with the strength of Denzel’s performance, the reminiscence to the Bourne movies (although not as good) and all the way to the similarity to the Mission Impossible ending.

While I liked most of the action scenes, I did find the quick cutting made a couple of them tough to follow and just hoped the right people were winning (I thought that in the Bourne movies too!).

In addition to the fine performance by Washington, I thought Ryan Reynolds was very good too.

As Bill I. said, the CIA bad guy was pretty arbitrarily chosen and the plot should not be focused on.  If you are an action fan, this movie is ok although not great.

IMDB – Safe House

RottenTomatoes – Safe House

We Need To Talk About Kevin

Bill C’s Review – 3.5 out of 5

Tilda Swinton gives a great performance as the mother of a boy who goes on a Columbine-like rampage. The movie tells the story from the mother’s perspective as she deals with her grief after the event, as well as her view of Kevin’s upbringing and what she had to deal with. This adds poignancy to an already sad subject. The story is told in a non-linear way which allows interesting contrasts to be brought out at different times.

In addition to the great performance by Swinton, the two boys who play Kevin at different points of his life are also excellent (the baby Kevin also did a great job of crying on cue but I do not attribute that to his acting skills).

A very good movie but sad movie…so don’t go see this after a tough day when you need to be cheered up.

IMDB – We Need to Talk About Kevin

Rotten Tomatoes – We Need to Talk About Kevin

The Grey

Bill I’s Review – 3.5 Stars

This reminded me of 27 Hours combined with The Blob, with Liam Neeson and his group of fellow Biig Oil workers marooned post airline crash and nasty wolves snapping up any slow or wounded stragglers. Where was Captain Sully? Katie (my daughter) thought the wolves were not realistic, but that did not bother me; they were scary and when they attacked it was effective. Tension was kept throughout, balanced with some hazy sentimental flashbacks. Liam plays a character similar to the one he played in Taken: a veteran dude, knows-it-all, wastes no time in taking action, and is above all a survivor. My one quibble: watch for the scene where the group stands on a cliff, and hears a river way down below. Then when they make it all the way to this noisy river it’s as calm as a small pond. Later, Liam extricates hiimself from raging rapids, and you see the stream is now about 10 feet in width and again back to calm. Where did all the water go? Anyway, this is entertaining and yes, there’s a quick scene at the end of the credits.

Bill C’s Review – 3 out of 5

Poor Liam Neeson! His life is going from bad to  worse. The love of his life is gone, he’s in a plane crash and then when he survives that, he and the other survivors have to deal with these really ticked off wolves that  are out for blood while trying not to freeze to death, starve or just get stuck in very deep snow.

Liam plays the alpha male of the human pack trying to lead them to safety (while dealing with his personal demons) and hoping to get his shot at the alpha male of the wolves. Liam deserves credit for being an action hero with movies like this and Taken while in his late 50s.

The tension between the wolves and survivors (and between the survivors) is good.   This isn’t really my type of movie so it’s easy for me to poke holes in some of the situations, etc. but if you are into this sort of movie then you’ll probably enjoy it more than I did.

IMDB – The Grey

Rotten Tomatoes – The Grey

Liam Neeson stars in the survival thriller, “The Grey.”

Haywire

Bill C’s Review – 3 Stars

Haywire is an entertaining action B-movie starring former female martial arts competitor Gina Carano. There are several good fight sequences and a couple of good chase scenes. Gina isn’t the greatest actress but she is excellent in all of the action sequences.   The supporting cast is surprisingly strong with Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas, Michael Fassbender, Channing Tatum and Ewan McGregor. The plot is convoluted and has plenty of holes but the action sequences with Gina make this movie worth seeing.

Haywire on IMDB

Haywire on Rotten Tomatoes

Bill I’s Review – 4 Stars

At the risk of alienating readers by using some sophisticated film review language, Haywire is freakin’ AWESOME. I loved it, had a smile on my face the whole movie. Let me start with the main character, a female Michael Bourne-like character (or alternatively, a Jennifer Garner Alias-like character, only much more ruthless) played by hard-body Gina Carano. When Ewan MacGregor has to warn somebody about to meet you with “You shouldn’t think of her as being a woman. That would be a mistake”. Or when Antonio Banderas simply says when you pop up in his house “Oh shit”. The action is non-stop, and as directed by Steven Soderbergh, strikingly original. When was the last chase scene you saw that wasn’t a cliche you’ve seen 1,000 times, including every night on the TV cop shows? Well, look for the literal chase scene, Gina chases the bad guy on foot through the streets and back alleys of Barcelona. It’s an incredible piece of filming. I won’t spoil the opening scene, but suffice it to say I thought back to the diner scene in Pulp Fiction. The tension is so naturally built up, sometimes by just a glance, or the cool music, then erupts in fight scenes that are more realistic than most of what passes in today’s films. What a great supporting cast, as Bill C says above. Banderas was unrecognizable to me with his beard until the end. I don’t like to see movies more than once, since I love not knowing what’s going to happen – that’s why I will close my eyes and stuff my ears sometimes when the incessant coming attractions are shown – but this is one movie I would enjoy seeing again soon. I expect Carano will be back, maybe as a female Terminator. Here she is in case you never heard of her, same as me:

The Artist

Bill I’s Review – 3 out of 5

I finally got around to seeing the non-talkie The Artist, which has been touted by many as one of the best of 2011. I cannot rank it as one of my ten favorites for the year, especially since my eyelids kept trying to close on me. I guess it’s the best that could have been done without any dialogue, and the leading characters were certainly charismatic and expressive, especially Uggie the wonder dog (best supporting actor candidate?). If this had conventional dialogue, it would be evident how banal the story line is. I loved the last 5 minutes however, which was cleverly done, but in retrospect I’d rather spend my entertainment time watching some of the episodes of Treme I have saved on my dvr at home. Bill C., please pipe in with your review, I believe you liked it more than did I.

Bill C’s Review – 4 out of 5

This film did make my top 10 list, although I understand (and expected) Bill I to enjoy it less than I did. I viewed this homage to a bygone era of Hollywood movie-making as fresh and unique. I enjoyed the nods to Douglass Fairbanks, Chaplin (see A Dog’s Life if you get the chance), Rodgers and Astaire, A Star is Born, Singing in the Rain, and a bunch I’m sure I missed.

The performances (dog included) were all top-notch (they are all great smilers except for the dog) and, like Bill I, I really enjoyed the ending. There were a lot of nice little moments in the film as well. I agree with Bill I that the plot was very basic, especially compared to many of today’s movies, but for me that was consistent with some of the movies it was paying homage to and added to its charm.

Bottom line: I enjoyed this a lot, but if you’re looking for a plot-driven movie, this might not be the movie for you.

Photo added by Bill I.

The Artist – IMDB

The Artist – Rotten Tomatoes

 

Carnage

Bill C’s Review – 1.5 out of 5

Do not get Jodie Foster mad!!

Carnage is based on the hit Broadway play ‘God of Carnage’ and was directed by.Roman Polanski.  The comedy is centered on two couples civilly meeting to discuss the altercation between their two kids.  The discussion quickly escalates to World War III with ever changing allegiances among the four parents.

The movie has its moments but the acting (especially by Jodie Foster) seems overdone.  When she gets mad the veins in her neck are bulging, her eyes are popping and I was expecting to see steam coming out of her ears at any moment.  Whether laughing or crying, more subtle acting would have been better

None of the characters were likable and while I guess the point was about how childish the parents were. They all just seemed incredibly dysfunctional and mean spirited  and therefore I didn’t enjoy the movie.

IMDB

Rotten Tomatoes

 

Best of 2011

Below are our list of the top movies of 2011. Believe it or not there were more that we could have included. Let us know your thoughts.

 Bill I’s Top Movies:

Very difficult this year for me to rank the top, so I list them as a group:
– The Descendants – Slow paced but genuine, Clooney and his teenage daughter are excellent. Hawaii scenery biggest star
– The Debt – Gripping thriller, set in two time periods. Jessica Chastain is a revelation, especially after The Help
– Margin Call – What are Wall St. moneymakers like behind the scenes? It’s not pretty
– Hugo – Magical fantasy as seen from kid’s eyes
– Moneyball – Straightforward tale of the book, solid
– Super 8 – Tremendous start with opening locomotive crash, carried by most realistic child actors, Great
– 50/50 – Excellent, perfect mix of real, funny and tuching. Who would have thought, a cancer comedy
– Crazy, Stupid, Love – Ryan Gosling steals this, helping make this one of the best movies of the year
– Bridesmaids – Fresh stuff, Apatow’s partner moves to female buddy romcom, but not rolling on the floor funny
– Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol – Incredible feats by Tom on world’s tallest building; great chase in automated parking garage
Bill I’s Best of the rest:
– The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo – Excellent, true to the book, Rooney Mara with an Oscar worthy performance
– Young Adult – Tour-de-force by Charlize, great character study
– X-Men: First Class – Best X-Men, cool back-story of their origins, fun and suspenseful, great acting
– The Bang Bang Club – Life-like portrayal of photo-journalists risking their lives in the most violent spots around the world,
– The Help – Decent story, well acted, but another white hero to rescue the poor blacks
– My Week with Marilyn – Michelle becomes Marilyn, definite Oscar worthy performance, based on real events
– Friends with Benefits – Mila Kunis carries this with a charismatic, genuine performance. Justin struggles to keep up
– 30 Minutes or Less – Just fun, outrageous scenes, kooky characters
– The Ides of March – Nothing new here, but kept my attention
– The Change-Up – Funnier than the what the critics say, plenty of laugh out loud moments
– Water for Elephants – Christoph Waitz confirms he can play one scary dude. Faithful representation of the book
– Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows – Too much razzle dazzle, Sherlock as James Bond of 1891
– The Union – Cool behind the scenes look of Elton resurrecting Leon from obscurity to make great music again
– Our Idiot Brother – Touching, good character driven
– The Sitter – Not bad, not crazy funny, pretty stupid, but amusing throughout. Excellent child actors, girl is amazing
– Midnight in Paris – Woody places his typical mid-life schlub into nostalgic Paris, wanne be magic, but falls short
– Bad Teacher – Over the top, good fun
– Horrible Bosses – Wacky caper, kept my interest, terrific Colin Farrel
– No Strings Attached – Done better later by Friends with Benefits

 Bill C’s Top Movies:

I also wimped out and did not order my top 10.
– 50/50 – a comedy about cancer. Funny but has serious moments too. Seth Rogen was good.
– The Artist – Unique and fresh silent black-and-white movie. Great performances including the dog. While I liked it a lot, some may find it slow.
– Attack the Block – British horror/comedy.about aliens attacking and the gang on the block does not appreciate it.
– Cave of Forgotten Dreams in 3D – Excellent documentary about 20,000-year-old paintings found in a cave in France. Ties for award of best use of 3D. Gets award for best movie co-produced by someone I know (Amy Briamonte)!
– The Debt – Really good action movie about Israelis seeking justice and the ramifications of their actions
– Hugo 3D – Very good movie that pays homage to early silent movies. Ties for best 3D movie. Not your typical Martin Scorses movie!
– Margin Call – Taut drama about the financial crisis and greed on Wall Street
– Midnight in Paris – Entertaining Woody Allen movie. Owen Wilson is excellent.
– Sienna – Great documentary about F1 race car driver Sienna.
– Super 8 – This is the second movie on my list having to do with Aliens (See: Attack The Block). Hard to believe. This gets my award for best movie edited by someone I know (Maryann Brandon).

Bill Cs Best of the Rest:
– Being Elmo – An entertaining documentary about Kevin Clash, the puppeteer for Elmo of Sesame Street
– Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop – Entertaining documentary following Conan as he prepares and during his concert tour after being dumped by NBC. A must for Conan fans but enjoyable for everyone. I saw this at SXSW and am surprised I haven’t seen this in general release yet
– The Descendants – Good family drama
– The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – I enjoyed David Finchers version. I would have liked to see the original and this back to back to compare performances and plot decisions by directors.
– The Help – Good performances in adaptation of book on race relations in the 60s
– IP Man 2 – Sequel to Ip Man! A Martial Arts film loosely based on the person that trained Bruce Lee
– Moneyball – The dynamic duo of Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill in a movie about baseball!  You don’t really need to like baseball to enjoy this movie though.

Man on A Mission

Bill C’s Review – 3.5 out of 5

Man on A Mission: Richard Garriott’s Road to The Stars is a documentary about Richard Garriott’s visit to the international space station as one of the first space tourists.  He paid the Russians $30 million to take him up on a Soyuz rocket.  I saw a special screening that included a Q+A with the director and producer.  It’s an entertaining movie that gives good insight on Richard’s preparation and his visit to the space station.   Richard also left his camera on to get some interesting footage during the re-entry and landing. In addition to Richard the movie features several interesting characters (including his retired astronaut father).

This movie opens in N.Y. next week and in Austin the following week.  Richard will be at the Austin premiere (he lives in Austin).

This is a must see for anyone with $30 million considering a space trip and recommended for others just interested in the space program from afar.

As tis has not opened in New York Bill I. has not had a chance to review this one.