What Summer at the Movies Taught AEOS

This past summer passed by so quickly, I hardly saw as many movies at the theater as I would have liked. I did, however, manage to cram a state move, job change, wedding, and bridesmaid duty into the summer, so I tried not to skimp half-heartedly.

A few weeks ago, I read a simple, yet beautiful post by Ryan at The Matinee. Now that autumn has reared its head and summer has ceased, Ryan used one line per movie he saw over the summer months to sum up lessons the movies taught him. I decided to follow suit, so here are what the movies of summer 2014 taught AEOS:

I learned that a reboot with better lead actors doesn’t make it better than the original franchise.

I learned that even Seth Rogen can get away with playing the “responsible” character.

I learned that a movie can deliver on all of its promises when Bryan Singer is at the helm.

I learned that there’s no shame in crying at the theater when I’ve witnessed an actress’s best performance yet.

I learned that while poor marketing can prevent people from attending, a great movie will still perform well from good word-of-mouth.

I learned that funny sequels do exist, but I especially appreciate that they realize it’s time to stop making sequels.

I learned that forcing robot machines to take a backseat to inconsequential and uninteresting humans in a movie about robot machines doesn’t work.

I learned that getting lost in a great movie is the best possible feeling a summer day at the movies can bring.

I learned that heart can be found in the most unlikely of movies.

I learned that a plot works well only when you have good writing to back it up.

I learned that a movie does exist where no one except Chris Pratt should play the lead role.

I learned that Harry and Sally weren’t the only ones trying to figure out this whole opposite sex friends thing, and making a charming movie about it for this generation is certainly worth it.

I learned that sometimes stupid comedies shouldn’t be anything more than stupid comedies. And that’s okay.

I learned that even the best of intentions to adapt a novel to film can leave you disappointed and wanting.

[All images were found via Google Images.]

It’s your turn now. What did summer at the movies teach you? Please join the discussion below, because I would love to know your thoughts.

A Dystopian Film Comparison: The Hunger Games (2012) vs. Divergent (2014)

Last week was a full week for TV/movies . . . I got to watch three different movies, while having just finished the book Gone Girl over the weekend before, and watching season 1 of The Killing (2011), one of AMC’s shows that has me currently obsessing over it. Originally I was going to post a review for all three films, but I got caught up in my review of Divergent (2014), so I decided it deserved its own post. As I was writing the post, I discovered it was becoming more and more of a comparison/contrast with The Hunger Games (2012) than an actual review of Divergent. So here are my thoughts and theories on the two films. (Keep in mind I’m comparing only the first Hunger Games film, not the entire franchise.)

Fans and adoring critics (adjective addition purposeful) have dubbed this past March’s dystopian offering, Divergent: a less popular version of The Hunger Games.

Here is a little chart I made up to compare the two films:

HG vs. Divergent

Now I realize this isn’t a perfect list. But comparing the two, there’s obviously a lot of similarities in the basis of how the movies’ origins came to be and the universes in which they take place. There are some distinct differences, however, that I think have been overlooked. According to the list, I noted four primary differences: setting, options for the characters’ choices, inclusion/exclusion of a love triangle, and the differences in gender roles for each movie’s primary set of characters.

Divergent takes places in a run-down Chicago, highlighting a lot of its famous architecture and sites, including the ferris wheel at Navy Pier. The setting of The Hunger Games includes futuristic locations created by the author, Suzanne Collins. There are twelve districts in which the world is divided, and there is arena where the games take place. This difference alone gives each movie a different feel. You’re taken with the world created for The Hunger Games, but for those who know Chicago or are from the area, might really appreciate moments, such as when Tris (Shailene Woodley) and the rest of the Dauntless recruits climb one of the major bridges downtown Chicago to run onto the moving L-train.

One other major difference is crucial, because it affects how the protagonist deals with issues. In The Hunger Games, Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence), who is under the age of 18, is forced to participate in the annual Reaping, where two unlucky souls are forced to fight to the death in the hunger games, which the book and film franchise is so aptly named from. Katniss’s sister’s name is drawn, forcing Katniss into the position of either watching her sister die, or take her place. Tris, on the other hand, is given a choice to select exactly which group she wants to become a part of. It’s almost like joining a college society . . . you get a choice, but once you choose, you’re in for life (or for the rest of your college experience, in that case).

My favorite difference between the two franchises, and one thing I enjoyed in Divergent more than The Hunger Games is that the former opted not to have the ever annoying cliche love triangle. It’s a personal preference on my end, but I think it places more of the viewers’ focus on the protagonist and his/her mission versus taking the attention away from the A-plot to focus on another character’s feelings. I’m not saying I don’t like love triangles, but for me, I felt like Divergent‘s storyline worked well without one.

Perhaps one of the most obvious and interesting differences between the two films is the way gender roles were handled among the main cast. Let’s start with the game changer: THG‘s Katniss and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) do not fulfill the typical male/female hero and damsel roles.Katniss is ultimately the hero, but not just because she’s the protagonist of the story. She’s the leading lady, yes, but she’s also the epitome of the physical strength in the film. She’s brash and unlikeable at times, but she’s smart, physically fit, and she knows how to fight. She could win in The Hunger Games, because after all, it is survival of the fittest. Peeta, on the other hand, isn’t the strongest guy. Sure, he can throw a rock, but his background as a baker’s son has made him the coolest icing artist in District 12. But that doesn’t exactly scream for allies in the games or send the message that he’s intimidating and tough to mess with. Instead, he shows emotional strength that Katniss lacks, the character trait one would usually associate with a female. Peeta makes poor decisions when it comes to hunting and fighting, but he’s in touch with his feelings and he cares. Divergent‘s characters do, however, take more of the straight and narrow route. Tris isn’t physically strong, but with the help of Four (Theo James), she’s able to improve her fighting skills. Four rescues Tris from others trying to kill her. Yet Tris remains the star of Divergent, even if at times, she leans on Four for help, who gladly aids her in the end. I like how each franchise handles these roles, but I appreciate the differences as well. Personally, I feel like Tris and Four’s relationship is handled with less force than Katniss and Peeta’s, thus making it come across more natural on screen.

In summary, I think The Hunger Games‘s plot proved more intense to watch for me, which kept me on the edge of my seat, whereas I feel like Divergent may have had an even better idea, but it didn’t have the money, charisma, or right timing to win over critics.  It’s really the fans of the book that most likely led the way into the premiere (I didn’t read the book yet), and I think the franchise definitely has a place in Hollywood, even though it will probably never attract the kind of attention and adoration The Hunger Games has already acclaimed. That said, I think Shailene Woodley has proven herself a worthy leading lady, and no doubt she will be a huge plug for the sequels after her success with The Fault in Our Stars (2014).

Now it’s your turn. What did you think of Divergent? How do you think the movie lines up next to The Hunger Games? Which one did you enjoy more? Please join the discussion below, because I would love to know your thoughts!

Top 10 Actors/Actresses I’d See in Just about Anything

When I saw Fernando’s posts on his top actors and actresses he’d see in just about anything over at his site Committed to Celluloid, I decided I would write a post of my own, paying homage to my favorite actors/actresses that I’d be willing to view almost anything they’re in. *Side note: Later, I learned that Fernando stole the idea from Abbi over at Where the Wild Things Are. So please check her post on her top actresses as well.

Unlike Fernando, I didn’t think I could find ten actors and ten actresses. So I narrowed my list down to five actors and five actresses. And then I realized I had more actors than actresses on this list. So technically with the extra, there are eleven (and probably more, if I thought long enough about it).

*Updated note – I talked with Fernando, and we decided to change this topic idea into a little blogathon to be passed around. So to show the string, first, we started with . . .

Abbi choosing her favorites over at Where the Wild Things Are

Fernando was inspired by Abbi, writing his posts over at Committed to Celluloid

I was inspired by Fernando to write this post

And now I’m going to pass the baton over to Jaina at Time Well Spent.

The Extra: Chris Evans

Why does he almost make the list? In a word, Cellular (2004). The concept would be considered odd today, considering the ease we have with the inception of smart phones in our culture. But only ten years ago, we lacked the technological advances and had to live with just cell phones that lacked a certain smartness. Evans sells the role, plays the hero, and gives what I would consider a remarkable performance. The behind-the-scenes features for the DVD inform viewers that no one else even tried to be as convincing as Evans was for his role in Cellular. Of course, an easy role to thank Evans for playing is Captain America (2011) too. But I (along with my hubby) think Evans was the only good part of the short-lived Fantastic Four (2007) franchise.

Favorite role: Ryan in Cellular

The movie he couldn’t convince me to see: I saw The Losers (2010), but I didn’t enjoy it . . . at all.

Favorite movie quote of his: “Oh, this is much better. Costume’s a bit much . . . so tight. But the confidence, I can feel the righteousness surging. Hey, you wanna have a rousing discussion about truth, honor, patriotism? God bless America . . . ” (As Loki in Thor 2 [2013]).

10) Emily Blunt

Why does she make the list? Until Blunt showed up in The Devil Wears Prada (2006), she was still relatively unknown. But I remember her character in that movie vividly, yet I still didn’t imagine she’d be making the splash she is today. From her little role in Dan in Real Life (2007) to her voice work in Gnomeo and Juliet (2011) to her newfound inner action star in Looper (2012) and Edge of Tomorrow (2014), I think that Blunt has a huge career ahead of her for the taking. Even though Blunt hasn’t necessarily been a part of major Academy-award winning films yet, I think she’s an actress to key an eye on. I’ve enjoyed watching her versatility getting noticed and tapped into for multiple roles, and I can’t wait to see what she’ll be up to next.

Favorite role: Emily in The Devil Wears Prada, and by extension, her small role in 2011’s The Muppets

The movie she couldn’t convince me to see: Gulliver’s Travels (2010), because I can’t think of any other movie she’s in that I would have no interest in.

Favorite movie quote of hers: “I’m on this new diet. Well, I don’t eat anything and when I feel like I’m about to faint I eat a cube of cheese. I’m just one stomach flu away from my goal weight” (Emily in The Devil Wears Prada).

9) Stanley Tucci

Why does he make the list? Oddly enough, one of the roles I think introduced me to the accomplished actor was his role as a fashion editor who worked with Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada. Soon after I saw that movie, I noticed that Tucci appeared in a number of films. While I’ve made only a dent in viewing his massive filmography, I wasn’t able to think of a single performance of his that I haven’t enjoyed, even if I didn’t necessarily care for the movie.

Favorite role: Caesar Flickerman in The Hunger Games (2012), Dill in Easy A (2010), Paul Child in Julie and Julia (2009)

The movie he couldn’t convince me to see: Muppets Most Wanted (2014), because it appeared to be a lame attempt at a sequel for the awesome Jason Segel-starring The Muppets in 2011.

Favorite movie quote of his: “I’m bald and no one in particular” (Jerry Siegel in Maid in Manhattan [2002]).

8) Shailene Woodley

Why does she make the list? Plain and simple, Woodley made this list because I loved her in The Descendants (2011). In addition, she has only added to her film credit with roles in The Spectacular Now (2013) and The Fault in Our Stars (2014) that have convinced viewers and critics that she’s not the idiot teenager from The Secret Life of the American Teenager (TV role, 2008) anymore.

Favorite role: Hazel in The Fault in Our Stars

The movie she couldn’t convince me to see: I have liked all her movies, so the only true title I could add is The Secret Life of the American Teenager, even though it’s a TV show.

Favorite movie quote of hers: “But, Gus, my love, I cannot tell you how thankful I am for our little infinity. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. You gave me a forever within the numbered days, and I’m grateful” (Hazel in The Fault in Our Stars)

7) Tom Hanks

Why does he make the list? Where to start with a classy guy like Tom Hanks? I know many millennials who don’t care for the guy, but I have to credit Hanks for last year’s impressive performance in Captain Phillips (2013). He’s still got it. It being that chill-down-your-spine, award-winning smile, likable, every-day-kinda-guy personality who still has that rare ability to win you over even after a string of unimportant roles, reminding you he’s the one and only actor who won two Best Actor Oscars back-to-back.

Favorite role: Josh in Big (1988) and Joe Fox in You’ve Got Mail (1998)

The movie he couldn’t convince me to see: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2011), for the petty reason of hating the title. Truly, I’d actually view it if I had to, and I might even enjoy it.

Favorite movie quote of his: “I couldn’t even kill myself the way I wanted to. I had power over nothing. And that’s when this feeling came over me like a warm blanket. I knew, somehow, that I had to stay alive. Somehow. I had to keep breathing. Even though there was no reason to hope. And all my logic said that I would never see this place again. So that’s what I did. I stayed alive. I kept breathing. And one day my logic was proven all wrong because the tide came in, and gave me a sail. And now, here I am. I’m back. In Memphis, talking to you. I have ice in my glass . . . and I’ve lost her all over again. I’m so sad that I don’t have Kelly. But I’m so grateful that she was with me on that island. And I know what I have to do now. I gotta keep breathing. Because tomorrow the sun will rise. Who knows what the tide could bring?” (Chuck Noland in Cast Away [2000]).

6) Jennifer Lawrence

Why does she make the list? If I’m being completely honest, I didn’t want Lawrence on this list. She’s big right now, there’s a lot of hype surrounding her as she’s starring in two major franchises. However, I couldn’t not add her to this list, because out of all the actresses that are “big” right now, Lawrence is one of those whom I do look out for. She has the occasional role that I have no interest in seeing, but often, she seems to really stand out, even in just a small role, in whatever movie she finds herself in.

Favorite role: Tiffany in Silver Linings Playbook (2012) and Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games (2012)

The movie she couldn’t convince me to see: I thought House at the End of the Street (2012) looked positively awful.

Favorite movie quote of hers: “I was a big slut, but I’m not any more. There’s always going to be a part of me that’s sloppy and dirty, but I like that. With all the other parts of myself. Can you say the same about yourself?” (Tiffany in Silver Linings Playbook).

5) Mark Ruffalo

Why does he make the list? The year 2004 was when I discovered Mark Ruffalo in both 13 Going on 30 and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. It’s a little hard to believe that was ten years ago, but it was. I’m not sure what it is exactly about Mark Ruffalo that I love, but perhaps it’s that he established himself as a nice, everyday kind of guy in my mind early on. Since his first recognizable movies, he’s gone on to play multiple other roles. But I’ve always thought Ruffalo was highly underrated.

Favorite role: David Toschi in Zodiac (2008) and Chuck Aule in Shutter Island (2010)

The movie he couldn’t convince me to see: I saw Ruffalo in The Brothers Bloom (2008), but I couldn’t get behind the movie. I would never re-watch it.

Favorite movie quote of his: “I was having a nervous breakdown and then I heard your song. I want to make records with you. Come on. Let’s get out of here . . . ” (Dan Mulligan in Begin Again [2014]).

4) Emma Stone

Why does she make the list? Maybe it’s because Emma Stone is so likable in real life. Or maybe it’s because she appears to make only intelligent choices when it comes to the films she’s a part of. Or, maybe she’s one of the best actresses on the rise. Stone has finally found herself in that enviable position to choose which roles she wants, and which movies to lend her skills to.

Favorite role: Natalie in The House Bunny (2008) and Skeeter Phelan in The Help (2011)

The one she couldn’t convince me to see: I would agree to see only the scene in which Stone appears in Movie 43 (2013), and then be done with it. Gangster Squad (2013) didn’t appeal to me.

Favorite movie quote of hers: “Whatever happened to chivalry? Does it only exist in 80’s movies? I want John Cusack holding a boombox outside my window. I wanna ride off on a lawnmower with Patrick Dempsey. I want Jake from Sixteen Candles waiting outside the church for me. I want Judd Nelson thrusting his fist into the air because he knows he got me. Just once I want my life to be like an 80’s movie, preferably one with a really awesome musical number for no apparent reason. But no, no, John Hughes did not direct my life” (Olive Penderghast in Easy A).

3) Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Why does he make the list? Joseph Gordon-Levitt is one-of-a-kind. He’s difficult to dislike. He’s funny, and he has played so many different type of characters. He’s shown up in thrillers, romantic comedies, big-budget action movies, indie projects, and even starred in his directorial debut. Gordon-Levitt prides himself on his company Hit Record, and he values his contacts both inside and outside of Hollywood, noting that he desires to work with name and no-name professionals. He’s cool, he’s geeky, he’s talented. He’s one of my favorites, and he happens to star in my favorite movie.

Favorite role: Tom in (500) Days of Summer (2009)

The movie he couldn’t convince me to see: Don Jon (2013), because I have no interest in seeing a movie about a guy struggling with a porn addiction.

Favorite movie quote of his: “It’s these cards, and the movies and the pop songs, they’re to blame for all the lies and the heartache, everything. We’re responsible. I’m responsible. I think we do a bad thing here. People should be able to say how they feel, how they really feel, not ya know, some words that some stranger put in their mouth. Words like love, that don’t mean anything” (Tom in (500) Days of Summer).

2) Meryl Streep

Why does she make the list? I think the better question is, How could Meryl not make the list? She’s famous for the most Academy Award nominations in history. Even Saturday Night Live did a hilarious segment on how Meryl Streep could do literally anything well. Streep’s reputation precedes her, and her humility in accepting both rewards praise seems to match the insanely talented actress.

Favorite role: Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada (2006)

The movie she couldn’t convince me to see: I think she might play her character a little too well in August: Osage County (2013), and I don’t have the heart to see it.

Favorite movie quote of hers: “Oh, don’t be ridiculous. Andrea. Everybody wants this. Everybody wants to be us” (Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada).

1) Benedict Cumberbatch

Why does he make the list? I had never heard of the name “Benedict Cumberbatch” until I got swept away with the brilliant BBC show Sherlock (2010), and ever since then, I’ve tried to watch anything and everything that has his name attached to it.

Favorite role: Sherlock Holmes in SherlockFord in 12 Years a Slave (2013), and likely to soon be added, Alan Turing in The Imitation Game (2014)

The movie he couldn’t convince me to see: As of now, I would see just about anything Benedict Cumberbatch is a part of. But I wouldn’t re-watch The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013) just because of how much that movie destroyed the character Smaug.

Favorite movie quote of his: “You can’t go far in this world by relying on people. People are loyal until it seems opportune not to be” (Julian Assange in The Fifth Estate [2013]).

OK, it’s your turn. If you had a top (or ten) actor or actress that you’d see in just about anything, who would it be? What is your favorite role of theirs? Please join the discussion below, because I’d love to know your thoughts.

Oscar Chatter with Kristin and Matt: Best Picture

Kristin: Out of the nine films nominated, I’ve seen all but War HorseHugo, and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. The good news is that I don’t believe out of those three films, that any stand a chance of winning. The most likely of them is Hugo, but even then, I see Hugo vying more for Best Director than Best Picture.

It really comes down to the main two contenders that have won most other awards this season: The Artist and The Descendants. Both are good films, yet very different from each other. The Artist seems to be the frontrunner, and having seen both films as well Tree of LifeThe HelpMidnight in Paris, and Moneyball, I will gladly confess that The Artist is my favorite of them all, and in my mind, the most deserving to win Best Picture this year.

While The Descendants was a good film that I would even watch another time or two, I don’t think it quite bears all the necessary material to win Best Picture. It stars Academy darling George Clooney, and was written and directed by Alexander Payne, an experienced writer-director who is no stranger to the Oscars, having had his writing for both Election and Sideways nominated (he won the award for Sideways). Payne’s work is story-centered, and a lot of reliance on his work being brought to life rests on the actors’ shoulders. The Descendants‘s cast gives justice to Payne’s script, and it is no surprise to see the film receiving such high accolade.

That being said, The Artist really separated itself from the mass when director Michel Hazanavicius chose to make a black and white silent film. A lot of great things have been said of The Artist in the past couple posts. But aside from its originality in this time period, The Artist also stars strangers to American film, namely Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo, who won over the hearts of viewers. Their acting was flawless and moving, and they paid homage to the silent film era with their performances. Ludovic Bource’s score is unforgettable, and reveals the power of how a good score can complement a film that doesn’t rely on dialogue to tell the story. Hazanavicius was able to write a story with practically no words, and yet the story was easily told and understood by those who watched it. Of the six Best Picture nominations I’ve seen, The Artist, I believe, is the overall winner because it’s not strong only in story, but also in performances; not only is it a beauty to watch in the B&W film era, but also is the music stirring, the direction clear, and the film editing, visual effects, and art direction suitable for the film, delivering on all necessary levels. The Artist is the winner in my book. 

Matt: There is little doubt in my mind who will win Best Picture tonight. Like last years winner, The Artist slowly drifted from obscurity into the hearts of the film world. It will win not only because it was a very good film, but because it is exactly the type of movie the Academy loves. I quite enjoyed the film, and found it to be an ambitious, charming homage to a forgotten time in Hollywood’s history. Will people look at this film in twenty years and mark it as a classic? While that appears to be seen, my gut instinct is that they will not. The film works wonderfully for what it is: a salute to the silent era. Does it break new ground for cinema? I cannot argue that it does.

However, do any of this years nominees break new ground? Will any of these films be regarded as classics in the coming years? Now I have not seen War Horse, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, or Payne’s much praised film, The Descendants. I thoroughly enjoyed Midnight In Paris. Sweet and charming, it may be my favorite film of the year; however, it is not the best film of the year. Moneyball may be the first sports movie in years that I have not gagged over. Great writing and acting made it an enjoyable film. Was it this year’s best picture? Not remotely. The Help makes you laugh and cry; it also reminds us of a very dark time in our nation’s history. And Martin Scorcese created a dream to educate us all about the origins of celluloid dreams.

All of these were good; some of them great. Among the nominees, however, there was only one film that came close to breaking new ground for cinema. With each new film, Malick continues to explore the possibilities of pure cinema. Of this year’s nominees, The Tree of Life was the only film I couldn’t get out of my head. The film’s many themes stuck with me for days after I watched it: The birth of the universe, the existence of God, the smallness of man. The joy and hardships of childhood, the death of loved ones, what happens after this life passes. It asked all the right questions without giving too many definitive answers. That is what art is supposed to do, isn’t it?

Matt brings up an interesting point–should a film win Best Picture because it breaks new ground? Or is a film that’s considered popular or “the best”  more deserving? Does it matter if a film has more influence, but isn’t considered “Best Picture” by the Academy?  Share your thoughts below.

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Matthew Roth is an aspiring filmmaker from the Madison, WI area. While his passion is narrative film, he currently shoots and edits promotional and event videos at Inframe. In his free time, Matt enjoys researching and discussing film over a cup of coffee or meeting up with fellow film junkies through Craigslist. Be sure to check out his most recent short film Memoria.

Reaction to Oscar Nominations

Everyone’s going to have their own quips about what film was nominated, what film wasn’t nominated, who got snubbed, who got included who shouldn’t have, etc. Some will and some won’t agree with me on any or many of these.

If you read my previous post, you’ll already have a one-up on this one. In more detail, here are my reactions:

What Disappoints Me

  • Shailene Woodley not making the cut for Actress in a Supporting Role. Who got it instead? Melissa McCarthy from Bridesmaids. I can’t even comprehend how there’s a comparison here. I really don’t care to vote between comedy or drama; in terms of role performance, in my humble opinion, Woodley–not McCarthy–should have been nominated.
  • Drive‘s lack of nominations. With its overall positive reviews, ratings, and plug for Ryan Gosling, I’m stunned that it’s walking about with only a single nom. In my latest post, I mentioned the forgotten Albert Brooks. I feel like Drive is walking away forgotten.
  • Joseph Gordon-Levitt missing the nomination. I know most people are more upset over Fassbender not on the ballot. I haven’t seen Shame, and honestly, have little interest in seeing it. Although I would like to see it since there’s been a great deal made about it. This disappointment, however, is regarding JGL–and I am disheartened to see that he has yet to get past Golden Globe nods and break through that Oscar glass.
  • Speaking of JGL, how about Will Reiser’s script not passing for Best Original Screenplay? I’m a little hesitant to praise Annie Mumolo & Kristen Wiig for their Bridesmaids script, and I haven’t seen Margin Call, but I’m still wondering how 50/50 didn’t get nominated.
  • Harry Potter series walks away with zero acting nominations. As discussed with some on Anomalous Material, this isn’t entirely surprising. Actually, considering some of the biggest film series with huge casts, it’s almost not surprising at all. But for us Potter fans, it still hurts a little inside to see not even Alan Rickman get some much-deserved credit, much less a host of other fantastic supporting roles. Oh, and did I mention Daniel Radcliffe? I know I’m not in the majority thinking this, but I can’t help but admit that he did such incredible work, especially in the last film. Not even a Golden Globe nod? What do I say to all that? Boooo.
  • The snubbed Mr. Ryan Gosling. Between DriveIdes of March, and even Crazy Stupid Love, which strangely earned him a Golden Globe nod, Gosling walked away without a single nomination. So I think it’s sad that he didn’t pull through for Drive  or even Ides. With a year that boasted his name more than any other, it’s disappointing.
  • Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close making the Best Picture cut. Are you serious? Here’s a better question: how does a movie with a 48% rating on Rotten Tomatoes get nominated for Best Picture?

What Confuses Me

  • Why is Viola Davis considered the lead actress in The Help? I have no problem with her being nominated. In fact, I support that. But here’s my beef: I watched The Help, and I was under the impression the entire movie that Emma Stone was the lead character. This is lost on me.
  • Why is Emma Stone completely forgotten from The Help? I realize she plays straight to the characters portrayed by Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Jessica Chastain, etc. I even almost get that most would not consider her performance Oscar-worthy. But that leads me to three more questions–Why does she not get credit at any awards ceremonies this season for her work in the film? Why is her performance in Easy A considered Golden Globe worthy, but not her role in The Help? And finally, why does Melissa McCarthy get credit for her role in Bridesmaids at the freaking Oscars, but Emma Stone doesn’t get any credit for The Help . . . AT ALL?! Anyone?
  • Why is Berenice Bejo in the Actress in a Supporting Role category? Perhaps this one is more obvious. Jean Dujardin is clearly the lead. Understood. But wasn’t Bejo the lead actress in The Artist? It was the same way at the Golden Globes. I’m just really confused about this.
  • Why is everyone making such a big deal about Rooney Mara in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo? I realize it was a very polarizing, intense role to portray. I get it. And I can even understand the Oscar nomination. What I don’t get? Why is there all this crazy fuss about her? What other work has she given to film that makes her stand apart from the rest? OK, so she’s just getting nominated for TGWTDT. Understood there. But isn’t that kind of a slap in the face to Noomi Rapace from the Swedish version? I mean only two years prior, she played the same role–and fantastically, I may add–and didn’t receive any of this accolade that is being poured on Mara. Why is that?
  • Why can’t the dogs from Beginners and The Artist get nominated? After all, the one from The Artist saved Dujardin’s life. And the one from Beginners? Doesn’t get much cuter than that. Academy, how about we add a new category, eh?

What Makes Me Happy

  • Perhaps the nomination that delightfully surprised me most was Nick Nolte in Warrior. The film itself hadn’t gotten much praise–good reviews, but not great ones. I realize everyone mentions issues with the film from cliche type story line, to boring cinematography, to “we’ve already seen this movie a zillion times in other sports films.” Got it. But I’m incredibly happy to see Mr. Nolte get some credit for his role. With great performances all around in Warrior, Nolte stood out to me, even considering Edgerton and Hardy. What a well-deserved nomination.
  • The Help and Midnight in Paris showing up on the Best Picture list. Although neither film will be a contender for that category, I’m happy to see both get nominated. The Help received a massive amount of criticism, and I wasn’t sure Midnight in Paris would make the cut, even with its growing popularity.
  • Cars 2 didn’t get an Animated Film nomination. Sorry, Pixar, but 2011 was not your year. Glad to see better animated films get nominated.
  • Gary Oldman nominated. I know this will make a lot of people’s lists of things that made them happy for this year’s Oscars. Although I wasn’t blown away by Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, I will say that I’m happy to see Oldman receive so much-deserved credit.

Top Ten Favorite Movies of 2011

The time has come for me to finally make this list. I haven’t seen Tree of Life or Drive yet, so I feel like this list could possibly be adjusted after a viewing of either, but despite those exceptions, I still had a difficult time compiling this list. Without further ado, here are my top 10 favorite movies of 2011:

10) Something Borrowed

Of course I’m the only person out there who will be putting Something Borrowed on my list. It rated 14% on Rotten Tomatoes and received poor reviews all around. HOWEVER, this is my “dud” on the list. There’s a reason Something Borrowed makes my favorites list (as I not so subtly bolded the word favorite earlier), and not the list I consider to be the BEST movies of the year. I know it’s not going to be other people’s favorite, but that’s the point, right? This film resonated with me. I enjoyed the story (and the book it was based off), and maybe part of my problem is that I have this thing for John Krasinski. I don’t know.

9) The Muppets

And now to hit the movies that are on other people’s lists. I ended up seeing The Muppets twice. This is one of the most fun films to come out this year. Jason Segel did an excellent job reincarnating this group of lovable puppets that stole many hearts of earlier generations. From the screenplay to the original music, The Muppets won me over almost without trying.

8) Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

I found this newest edition to the franchise to be the most adrenaline-pumping of them all. Nonstop action, and some of the craziest stunts I’ve seen take place in a movie. There was great chemistry between Simon Pegg, Tom Cruise, Paula Patton, and Jeremy Renner for the latest IMF team. I really enjoyed the craziness of this movie and am happy to see Tom Cruise phoning in another good performance.

7) X-Men: First Class

This is one of the most exciting movies that came out this summer as well as the best one of the franchise by miles. Originally, I had never seen any of the X-Men movies, but on just a single viewing of  First Class, I was interested in the series. When a prequel can draw a non-fan in without annoying fanboys/girls with excessive detail or repetition (or really, just treating them like they’re stupid), then it can really be a great thing. I really enjoyed being introduced to the awesome Michael Fassbender as well as seeing James McAvoy play a young Professor X. And to top it off, a great soundtrack by Henry Jackman served as background.

6) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. II

I was one of the people who waited in line to see Deathly Hallows Pt. II and left feeling exceptionally underwhelmed, most likely due to steep expectations. After a second viewing of it, I came around and started thinking more about it. Deathly Hallows Pt. II was a great end to such a successful movie franchise. Although many fans of the books were left wanting with having many scenes changed or completely left out of this movie, it’s hard to argue that this movie didn’t move you in some way if you’re a Harry Potter fan. I was especially fond of the epilogue and the tone it left viewers with. There were so many great performances, that it’s hard to pick just one or two standouts. For me, it was exceptionally nice to see Daniel Radcliffe give all that he could to his Harry Potter role throughout the series, and then watch it all come together as he gave his life in Deathly Hallows Pt. II.

5) Midnight in Paris

I’m so happy to see all the critical chatter Midnight in Paris is drawing. I had heard almost nothing about it before I saw it, but I read a nice review by Roger Ebert. In the middle of a summer filled with lots of action, superheroes, and monsters comes this beautiful and creative stand-alone movie from Woody Allen. All the locations filmed in Paris alone serve as a great backdrop and historical picture of past and present Paris. I really enjoyed seeing Owen Wilson shine in a newer type of role for him alongside the gorgeous Marion Cotillard. From the music to the costumes to the humble, but smart screenplay, Midnight in Paris was easily one of my favorite movies of the year.

4) The Descendants

Since I first saw a trailer for The Descendants in theaters, I knew I would want to see the movie. I really enjoyed George Clooney’s previous Up in the Air, and I was excited to see him in an indie-styled film. Coming across as very grassroots, The Descendants takes a family that is seriously messed up and lets us journey with them through an especially harrowing time for George Clooney’s character, Matt King. What I enjoyed most about this movie was the realistic touch. Shailene Woodley gives her all in a dramatic role of playing a rebellious, but hurting teenager. It’s a story about family, making decisions, grieving, and dealing with unpleasant situations, and at the same time, it gives the audience a sense of realism. That pain and frustration and arguing and death is a real thing that happens every day, and shapes you as person as you deal with those times by your reactions to certain situations and interactions with the people close to you in life.

3) The Help

Based off the novel by Kathryn Stockett, the story of The Help is both moving and inspirational. This movie was able to accomplish both of those tasks–move and inspire viewers–without the unnecessary pizzazz or cheesiness that tends to accompany many films of the same genre today. Stripped of all the colors from the costumes, The Help makes you think beyond the movie theater and the book. Some of the best performances of the year took place in this movie, from Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer to Emma Stone. Jessica Chastain was hilarious in her supporting role as well. Although there’s still controversy over this movie, The Help is no doubt one of the best movies to come out in 2011.

2) 50/50

Barely missing the top spot for my favorite film of the year, 50/50 made me cry and laugh and walk away very thankful for life by the movie’s end. Perhaps because the story was written by the guy (Will Reiser) who was actually diagnosed with cancer–and has now survived it and is in remission–50/50 offers the most realistic look at a young person dealing with a rare form of cancer. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is both brilliant and endearing in this role, seeming to act the part from the inside out. A great supporting cast of Anna Kendrick, Anjelica Huston, and even Seth Rogen ties this dubbed “bromance comedy” together. Both moving and hilarious to watch, 50/50 was one of my favorite movies of the year.

1) The Artist

Until this past Sunday, 50/50 held the number one spot in my list of favorite movies for 2011. And then I saw The Artist and couldn’t shake the feeling that I had seen one of the greatest films to come out in a long while. I walked in with low expectations, assuming I would be bored or disinterested, but found myself unbelievably surprised and thankful for the opportunity to see this movie gem. Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo are flawless in this Michel Hazanavicius film filled with great performances, a great score, great writing, and great cinematography. It’s difficult to restrain from overpraising The Artist, not only because was it that good, but also because nothing else remotely similar has come out in ages, much less would be comparable to it. The Artist will probably hit it big at every awards ceremony this year, and rightfully so. If you haven’t seen this movie yet, please do so. It’s definitely my favorite of 2011.

What was your favorite movie of 2011? Did you like any of the ones on my list? What was missing from my list, and what do you think I should see still? I missed out on just about all documentaries in 2011, so I’m definitely looking for suggestions!

Yes, I’m Going to Talk about the Golden Globes

And the nominees are . . .

Not going to be listed here. But if you’d like to see a list, they’re just about anywhere else. Like Fandango, or Rotten Tomatoes, where it lists the movies with their RT rating. Kinda nifty.

Unfortunately, I haven’t see all of the films/performances that are up for awards yet. It’s difficult to make it to the theater for all of them, but I can comment on what I know and hope to happen. Here are my personal thoughts on each category, and who I guess will win each.

Best Motion Picture – Drama

I’ve seen 4 out of the 6 nominations. I’m actually stunned Ides of March made this list. Really? But then again, the Golden Globes occasionally pulls an odd nom or two out of a hat, so I’m crediting Ides with being the weird pick. My greatest disappointment is that Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is entirely void from not only this list, but from the Golden Globes as well. Come on! I’m happy, however, to see Tree of Life not present, because people were making far too big a deal out of that film (if you ask me). I would be happy, however, to see The Help or The Descendants win this category. I enjoyed Moneyball a lot, but don’t think it deserves to win over either of those. I also think Hugo is entirely overrated because it’s a Scorsese film. I can’t comment on War Horse because I haven’t seen it, but it’s difficult to put into the mix when I don’t even have a desire to see it. Perhaps when it is in full release, I will reconsider.

Best Motion Picture – Comedy Or Musical

In this section, I’ve seen half the films. My Week with Marilyn was always on my list to see, but it hasn’t worked out yet. I will personally be pulling for 50/50 to win, because it was my favorite film of the year thus far, but with The Artist having the most nominations of the season, I see it easily stealing this win. Midnight in Paris is a close personal second pick for me. It’s a Woody Allen treat and a great film, but I find it unlikely to beat out The Artist. Unlike the rest of the world (and critics alike), I was not a giant fan of Bridesmaids, although I was impressed with Wiig’s writing more than her performance with it. Surprisingly, Carnage is really pulling out a nice string of nominations, but I doubt it will fare against The Artist, much less Midnight in Paris.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama

This is perhaps one of the easiest categories for me to comment on, because I have seen all the performances except for Michael Fassbender in Shame. However, after reading reviews, if I were to bet on who would surprisingly come up and win this category, I would bet on him. Plus, I think those awards voters smile upon nudity, but that’s those awards voters for you. Judging on all other performances, it appears to be a pretty tight race. Unfortunately for Brad Pitt, I don’t see Moneyball nominations faring well at all against it’s competition. Despite my dislike of J. Edgar, I think DiCaprio gave a fantastic performance. And despite my thoughts, I think voters will overlook him again and go with Fassbender. My personal pick would be between George Clooney in The Descendants and Brad Pitt in Moneyball. I won’t even give Gosling a fair chance in this match because I’m still one of the many stunned that his performance in Drive wasn’t considered for this category.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama

On the complete opposite side of the spectrum, I find myself with little to say, seeing that the majority of these performances are difficult to judge since half the films haven’t been widely distributed yet. The competition appears to be even more fierce in this category when big names like Meryl Streep and Tilda Swinton are included. Although I will be biased and think that Viola Davis is more than deserving of this win, I see either of the former winning this category. I’m also left disappointed with Emma Stone not getting any credit for her work in The Help, but it doesn’t surprise me, unfortunately. I’ve heard great things about Rooney Mara’s performance in the Swedish version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but I don’t think she has a fighting chance.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Comedy Or Musical

I feel like I’ve really missed out on all the nominated performances this year–I’ve seen only one in this category as well! And that, being Kristen Wiig in Bridesmaids, which I don’t think will do anything. I see Michelle Williams easily taking this win with her performance in My Week with Marilyn. I’ve heard great things about Charlize Theron‘s polarizing performance in Young Adult, but I don’t know if that will come to anything or not. Two nominations are phoned in for Carnage, but again, it’s difficult to comment having not seen it. Although Kate Winslet seems to be an awards darling more than many.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Comedy Or Musical

Clear and simple, I would easily place my vote for Joseph Gordon-Levitt to win this category. I was blown away by his performance in 50/50. This is only the second time he has ever been nominated for a Golden Globe. But I think the obvious winner of this category will be Jean Dujardin in The Artist. Again, I’m stunned to see Gosling nominated for Crazy, Stupid, Love, of all the movies to be nominated for. And although I very much enjoyed Midnight in Paris, I doubt Owen Wilson will do anything. Either way, I’m happy to see him nominated.

Best Performance by an Actress In A Supporting Role in a Motion Picture

For this category, the stand-out performance for me was Shailene Woodley in The Descendants. The Help scored two nominations in this narrow category for Octavia Spencer and Jessica Chastain, two actresses that I would also be happy to see win–I think Jessica Chastain has a little more edge then Spencer in this category. But then again, The Artist may take this category, too, with Berenice Bejo‘s performance. More than ever, I’m wishing I had seen that movie so I wouldn’t feel so begrudged in talking about it’s likely and hypothetical victories.

Best Performance by an Actor In A Supporting Role in a Motion Picture

It’s a strange thing to see Drive finally get a nomination with Albert Brooks in this category. My pick would go to Jonah Hill in Moneyball, although I see Christopher Plummer (Beginners) or Viggo Mortenson (A Dangerous Method) walking away with the trophy before Hill does.

Best Director – Motion Picture

I will admit I’m very biased in this category. First things first: No, George Clooney, I don’t think you should win, much less be nominated in this category. Yes Ides was good, but it wasn’t Best Director nomination-worthy. Second: Despite the hype over Hugo, no, Scorsese, I don’t think just because you decided to make a family film that was largely successful, that you should win this category either. What kid wants to sit in a theater for over two hours when the film is more fitting for adults? That’s what The Muppets is for–to make children laugh and smile and sing and enjoy going to the theater. And get ready for it: No, Mr. Allen, I don’t think you should win either. Yes, you are an incredible writer, director, and storyteller, but you’re also the biggest Academy Darling of those listed, and just because those voters love you doesn’t mean you should win every year you’re nominated. Off your high horse. Which leaves Alexander Payne (The Descendants) and Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist). My gut tells me Hazanavicius is going to walk away with it, and I would be all the happier if he did.

Best Screenplay – Motion Picture

My first choice? Midnight in Paris. The writing is the strength of the film, and I think it’s spectacular. I think Ides should be thrown out the window on this one too. It is likely that The Artist could take this one, too, but then again, so could The Descendants. Moneyball was a nice adaptation, but for those who have read the book (*raises hand*), they know it wasn’t a great representation of the book. It was, however, an excellent way to translate the story for today’s viewers and make something that might not entertain most to something that could now entertain many.

Best Animated Feature Film

The question we should all be asking is, where the heck is Kung Fu Panda 2 on this list? Seriously, Cars 2  was the least successful Pixar film to date, yet it still makes it on the list of nominees. If I were to pick a favorite, it would be Puss in Boots. Then again, I remained unimpressed with this list, considering the great past couple years of animated filmmaking.

Best Foreign Language Film

I have little to nothing to say about this category as well, since I haven’t seen a single film on the list. My only thought is that it’s interesting to see Angelina Jolie’s directorial debut make the list, In the Land of Blood and Honey. But that’s all I have to say about that.

Best Original Score – Motion Picture

There’s a great many popular and suspected composers’ scores on this list, from Howard Shore to John Williams to last year’s Oscar winners, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo this time around. I put this category entirely up for grabs.

Best Original Song – Motion Picture

I’m definitely a fan of Mary J. Blige’s The Living Proof from The Help, but I can’t help but get angry at not seeing even a showing for The Muppets on this one. Really? I’m actually stunned. This is a huge disappointment for a film with such great original songs.

And those are my thoughts! What are your biggest disappointments and surprises for this year’s Golden Globes?

Mini-Reviews: The Muppets and The Descendants

I’m back after the hiatus with a double-mini review on the latest Muppets movie to hit theaters and the latest of George Clooney in The Descendants.

First, let’s start with The Muppets.

OK, let me just say that Jason Segel is a little bit of a genius. The fun, quirky songs, the back story of how all the Muppets are now spread out, the villain (played by Chris Cooper) who’s constantly demanding a maniacal laugh from his evil cohorts–The Muppets contained enough charisma to charm nostalgic viewers (consisting mainly of adults who grew up watching them), as well as kids looking for new friends and heroes. Amy Adams played a great supporting role as Mary, Gary’s girlfriend of 10 years who’s helpful and supportive, but questioning of Gary’s humanity/muppiticity. Her performance in Enchanted would only confirm with the studio that she was the perfect fit for her role. Segel, already a bit of a dork himself, fit right in with the Muppets and his brother, Walter, who is the biggest Muppets fan ever.

Without a doubt, The Muppets is the family-friendly, feel-good film of the year. Receiving great critiques across the board (just check out Rotten Tomatoes’s high rating for it), and including some hilarious and well-placed cameos by various celebrities, the movie has you wanting to dance and sing along by the end.

The Descendants is on the other end of the spectrum. Painfully honest, with twists and turns that emotionally injure Matt King (George Clooney), the “back-up parent” and businessman first, who’s dealing with multiple issues vying for and demanding his attention. Clooney again knocks it out of the park with a great performance that’s likely to spark chatter at the Academy this year. If there had to be a stand-out performance for the movie, however, it would have to go to Shailene Woodley, who played Matt’s daughter, Alex. Alex, who has just been unexpectedly plucked from her rehab clinic by her father and younger sister, Scottie (Amara Miller), no sooner than later breaks the news to her dad that her mother, Elizabeth, has been cheating on him. But she doesn’t learn this revelation until her dad informs her while she is swimming in their leaf-filled pool that Elizabeth will not be waking up from her coma. Thus, Matt, his two daughters, and Alex’s odd-ball friend, Sid (Nick Krause), embark on a trip informing Elizabeth’s parents the news. As Matt and Alex learn more of Elizabeth’s affair, Matt starts to come to terms with what what to do with the land he has inherited, how he must deal with being a single parent, and having to break the news of Elizabeth’s impending death to Scottie, who’s too young to realize the seriousness of her mother’s condition.

The Descendants is kind of like a really pretty picture from first glance at a distance. And then when you walk closer to it and start looking at it more clearly, you notice the different smudges and the imperfections and perhaps the pain that the artist was inflicted with while creating the piece. It’s about a real family dealing with real issues, and what you see is not pretty, but it’s close to a realistic view of what it actually is. The writing and performances were top-notch, and it’ll be no surprise if it gets nominated for a few Oscars in February.

Little Less Known Up and Coming Movies

I boggled my mind to come up with a decent title for this post, but as you just read, it doesn’t really fit what I’m trying to describe. There’s a few movies that haven’t been marketed to death in our theater previews, TV commercials, and various billboards outside. These movies, however, are some of the ones I look most forward to for the end of the year. I might even have to do a little pre-Academy Awards speculation about a few.

  • J. Edgar

This film, in fact, has been marketed some, but primarily only as of late since its release date is Nov. 11. Personally, I think LDC had a fantastic year last year in film (Shutter IslandInception), yet he didn’t receive a nomination for either. Perhaps playing a historical figure (think Colin Firth [The King’s Speech] from last year) will be just what he needs to score a nod this year.

J. Edgar

  • The Descendants

I will admit that this film has already previewed as well, despite it’s later release date of Nov. 18. The main ploy here is George Clooney (yet again this year, thanks for Ides of March, sir) and Shailene Woodley from a little show called The Secret Life of the American Teenager. Since Clooney’s already dipped his toes in a political drama, maybe he’s looking to add some variety and thinks an indie flick will up his chances at the awards this year. I look forward to this movie much more than Ides. Maybe because Clooney didn’t write or direct it.

The Descendants

  • The Artist

The week following the release of The Descendants comes this 1920s film about a romance between a silent movie filmmaker and a girl who plays an extra. Michel Hazanavicius directs, who is responsible primarily for French TV movies and series that came out in the late 90s.

The Artist

  • Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

I have been waiting for this movie to come out longer than the others. Originally, I was expecting it to come out last month, only to discover that the U.K. was going with a September release date; U.S. is waiting until December. Based off a novel and composed of a mostly British cast, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is about an intelligence officer who believes there may be a Soviet mole in the British Secret Intelligence Service. Gary Oldman stars (or you could just look at the poster).

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

  • The Iron Lady

Meryl Streep seems incapable of picking a movie that doesn’t put her in a very interesting position. She has played a world reknown chef, the boss from hell, a mom with no clue who she had her child with (musical . . . you know this one, right?), an object to be fought over between Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin, and those are only more recent roles she’s played. I saw an SNL video that had one of the actors playing her, iceskating for the first time . . . perfectly. The joke? Meryl Streep is capable of doing anything perfectly. And this time she plays this interesting person called the Iron Lady, being the first and only female prime minister of the United Kingdom. One of my most-anticipated films this winter.

The Iron Lady

  • We Bought a Zoo

Perhaps it is time for Cameron Crowe to make his comeback at the Oscars and receive some nominations, because it’s been too long since Almost Famous. Plus, this time he has Scarlett Johansson and Matt Damon to help him. We Bought a Zoo is based off a true story of a widower picking up the pieces of his life by buying a rundown zoo in hopes of repairing it, and in return, hoping it repairs him. Crowe is one of my favorite directors. He’s responsible for Jerry McGuire, Vanilla Sky, and Elizabethtown to name a few. He’s in touch with the best of artists out there and knows how to put together an inspired soundtrack (not score . . . ehem) better than most directors, in my opinion.

We Bought a Zoo