All Eyes on Bloggers, Ed. 3 + Month in Review: October

Hey all! I have VERY much enjoyed a week off from blogging to catch up on other projects. Of course, I’ve watched a few movies and TV shows this week too. Since I’m a little behind in my blogging, I decided to combine two of my newer series, All Eyes on Bloggers, which will feature some of my favorite posts I’ve read over the month of October, as well as Month in Review for the previous month, into one post.


 All Eyes On Bloggers, Ed. 3

There were so many great posts that made it around this month with the premiere of Gone Girl (2014) and Halloween, that I had a difficult time narrowing down which posts to highlight. One post in particular was written by a friend and previous coworker who is a graphic artist in the Chicago area. Doug reviews the movie Fury (2014) from a unique point of view that I would certainly encourage other friends to read on his site, Point of Exquisite Suspension.

I recently started a new TV review series called All Eyes on the Small Screen, featuring currently aired episodes from season 5 of The Walking Dead (2010 – ). One of my favorite sites to follow these days is Girl Meets Cinema, featuring the fantastic writing of Katy Rochelle. Katy recently wrote one of the most interesting posts on the character Beth from the TWD that had me nodding in agreement the whole time!

And while I know the focus ought to be on the October, November seems to be the month of blogathons since I’ve joined two to participate in later this month. Fritzi Kramer is hosting the Fairy Tale Blogathon at Movies Silently, where I’m excited to review Sabrina (1995), a movie with a Cinderella twist. Get the details here, and if there are any movies left, join in on the fun: the blogathon is held November 9-11!

The second blogathon I’m excited to take part in is hosted by Caz at Let’s Go to the Movies. Unlike any other blogathon I’ve participated in previously, Caz’s blogathon allows each participant to write about movies that take place in their hometown, thus naming the series My Hometown Blogathon, taking place November 22 and 23. Having grown up in the suburbs of Chicago, I am incredibly excited to write about some awesome films and famous people associated with the Windy City. This blogathon is a great one to join if you’re interested as there’s still a few weeks left.

There’s some exciting news for those who follow Tyson over at Head in a Vice. He’s recently started a new site that focuses solely on the horror genre, aptly titled Talking Horror. With a slew of slick writers and new ideas, Tyson’s site is sure to attract anyone who particularly or casually enjoys a horror flick or show.

Speaking of horror, there were many posts published on scarier movies in honor of Halloween. Since I just saw The Shining (1980) for the first time a few days ago, I was more drawn to posts that mentioned the film over the week. Ms. Coolsville of Coolsville reviews ten horror movies, one of which is The Shining; one of my favorite movie blogger writers and friends, Tom of Digital Shortbread, reviews The Shining as part of his Throwback Thursday series on the site; and Laura at Film Nerd Blog included a character from The Shining in her post 10 Films that Prove Kids Are Scary.

And that about wraps up All Eyes on Bloggers, Ed. 3! Now to recap the month . . .


Month in Review: October

Here’s the breakdown for the month of October on All Eyes On Screen:

Blogathons

  • One of the most unique blogathons I’ve participated in thus far was a recast-athon that was hosted at Andrew’s site, A Fistful of Films. I recasted Oscar-winning female lead roles in the films Up in the Air (2009), Black Swan (2010), and Silver Linings Playbook (2012).
  • The other blogathon I was a part of was hosted at Tyson’s previous site, Head in a Vice. Titled “Recommended by,” I watched a movie that I was recommended by a fellow movie blogger, and then reviewed it myself on his site. The great part about the blogathon is that it introduced me to the “Before” series by Richard Linklater.

Shame List, From Page to Screen,
and AEOS Reviews

  • A little over a month ago, I came up with my own Shame List that includes 31 must-see-movies-for-any-movie-buff. The first one I was able to cross off my list was Roman Holiday (1953), one of the few movies I awarded a FOUR EYES ON SCREEN review.
  • The second film I was happy to cross off my Shame List was Annie Hall (1977), a film that while I didn’t quite dig, I still enjoyed and did not regret watching.
  • One of the most time-consuming posts I enjoy writing are my From Page to Screen reviews, where I review both the book and film adaptation of a story, and then compare and contrast the two. My heavily debated review certainly raised some eyebrows, but I stand by my thoughts on David Fincher’s film, Gone Girl (2014).
  • An unexpected gem that I will not be revisiting any time in the near future is The Skeleton Twins (2014), a depressing dramadey that stars SNL alumns Kristen Wiig and the wonderful Bill Hader.
  • One of the best movies I’ve seen so far this year starred none other than Keanu Reeves. John Wick (2014) was my must-see film for the month of October.

Lists/Miscellaneous Posts

All Eyes on the SMALL Screen Recaps

  • My newest series for the site is All Eyes on the SMALL Screen, which features detailed recaps for the current season of The Walking Dead. The premiere is killer (pun-intended) and a must-watch for fans of the show.
  • I combined my recaps for episodes 2 and 3 in this nifty post here. Stay tuned for Episode 4’s recap coming soon.

Best Movie [I saw in theaters] This Month

John Wick

Unfortunately, I didn’t make it to the theater as often as I would have liked this month. That being said, John Wick was one of the most solid, unexpectedly awesome thrillers I’ve seen so far this year. From beginning to end, it was a fast-paced ride that showcased some great cinematography as well as complemented Keanu Reeves’s growing filmography.

Worst Movie [I saw in theaters] This Month

Gone Girl

Let it be known that I saw far fewer films in theaters that I was hoping to for the month. Gone Girl was an exceptionally good movie from David Fincher, although I wouldn’t consider it among his top five best films. That being said, I still thoroughly enjoyed Gone Girl, and it makes this spot only for the lack of films I saw in theaters during the month of October.

Looking Forward to November

After looking at my previous month in review, I’m disappointed to say that I saw only half the movies on the list that I was highly anticipating. Some of the films never even made it into a wide enough release to be shown in theaters near me, while other movies received negative enough reviews that I didn’t bother spending the money to see them in theaters. Looking beyond last month, here are the major movies I’m anticipating for the month of November.

Interstellar (11/7)

The movie that makes it highest on my list for Most Anticipated Movie of the Year goes to Interstellar, the latest film Christopher Nolan has made. I’m very excited to see it over the weekend, despite the somewhat mediocre reviews I’ve glimpsed so far.

Big Hero 6 (11/7)

Big Hero 6 is a movie I know relatively little about. In spite of that wrinkle, I’ll be participating in a podcast later next week that’s all about the movie, so stay tuned!

Theory of Everything (11/7)

The big pull for me to see Theory of Everything has everything to do with Eddie Redmayne. Of course, the story seems intriguing as well, but it seems very Oscar-baitish. I’m hoping my instinct is wrong and that it will deliver, but then again, I was rooting for The Judge too, and look how that turned out.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 (11/21)

Of course this list would not be complete without the next Hunger Games (2012) movie making the list. Mockingjay Part 1 certainly appears to have potential, aside from the fact that it’s adapting only half a book and making us wait an entire year for the conclusion. Having read the books already, I know what will be happening, but watching it unfold on screen is an entirely other experience. I was a big fan of the first two installments, particularly Catching Fire (2013), so my expectations are high.

The Imitation Game (11/21)

Yet another movie that appears full of Oscar bait, yet appears to deliver having already established itself with some solid reviews from critics. No doubt one of my favorite actors, (who is also recently engaged) Benedict Cumberbatch, will offer one of his best performances yet (or so I hope). I think this movie will be making a hit at February’s Academy Awards, but maybe I shouldn’t be that hopeful this soon.

It’s your turn now. What were the best movies you saw this month? What movies are you anticipating most next month? Please join the conversation below, because I would love to know your thoughts.

Recast-athon: Up in the Air, Black Swan, and Silver Linings Playbook

While I enjoy the occasional Recast Edition post here at AEOS, I was super excited when I noticed that Ruth over at Flixchatter took part in this new blogathon that she found from Andrew, who started/is hosting it over at his blog, A Fistful of Films.

Picture Film StripHere are the rules:

1)  Pick an OSCAR NOMINATED performance given by a white actress that didn’t require a white actress (no biopics here, even though Todd Haynes taught us that you don’t need to be the same race or gender to play a real life person). This performance can come from ANY film year.

2)  Pick an actress of color who could have been a great fit for the role instead of the one cast.  Keep in mind the time of release and chose actresses who were working at that time. So, in other words, don’t select the role of Calla Mackie in 1968’s Rachel, Rachel (played by Estelle Parsons) and suggest it be a great fit for Naomie Harris, because, well, she wasn’t born for another eight years.

3)  Explain WHY that actress would have made a great fit. Plead her case. Let’s tell those Hollywood casting directors what they’re missing.

Here are my picks:

Tao Okamoto or Jamie Chung as Natalie Keener in Up in the Air (2009)

I’m unknown, but I look important here.

I know most people would probably find Tao Okamoto to be an odd choice, considering how unknown she is. The only major acting credit she has was as Mariko, Wolverine’s love interest in last year’s The Wolverine. Okamoto is slender, and she seems like she could pull off an awkward and shy role such as Natalie Keener in Up in the Air. She’s also the same age as Anna Kendrick, and she shares similar physical features. Kendrick was relatively unknown until she portrayed Keener in the Oscar-nominated film, so I imagined the role would be one to jumpstart an unknown actress’s film career.

I can play tough AND vulnerable.

Jamie Chung has yet to reach a higher level of fame in Hollywood as well since most of her acting credits include guest and background roles, lower budget films, TV movies, and video game voicework. Her recurring role as Mulan on the show Once Upon a Time (2011-) proves that she can hold her own, putting her dramatic and action chops on display. Only two years older than Kendrick, she’s right around the same age, and she has a likable quality and youthful appearance that makes her seem approachable, a characteristic she’d need to pull off the role.

Saldana participated in a photoshoot inspired by the styles of Black Swan in InStyle.

Zoe Saldana as Nina Sayers in Black Swan (2010)

While Natalie Portman is very beautiful, and certainly convincing enough as Nina Sayers in Black Swan, I never thought the role needed to be filled by a white actress. The first actress who came to my mind was Zoe Saldana. She’s certainly more established than the other actresses I’ve listed, appearing in a variety of films that include physical action, dramatic acting, and suspenseful situations, all qualities needed to play the role of Sayers. Not only does Saldana has a svelte figure that would help her portray a ballerina, but she also is an accomplished dancer who cites ballet as one of her first passions. While she’s three years older than Portman, she’s still right within that age bracket that would work for the role.

Zoe Kravitz as Tiffany Maxwell in Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

“Don’t make me throw this knife at you!”

I imagine this recast could be considered a stretch when you compare Jennifer Lawrence’s filmography and experience to Zoe Kravitz’s. When one hears the name “Kravitz,” they think of Lenny, not Zoe. But from the few films the younger Kravitz has taken part in, I think she’s been waiting for her big break. Silver Linings Playbook is a character-driven film, and I could easily see Zoe Kravitz filling the role of Tiffany Maxwell. She’s able to say a lot with just her facial expressions, and no doubt she could use that skill to play Tiffany. Since she’s a couple years older than Lawrence, in some ways, I think her age would make her more appropriate for the role than Lawrence was, despite how much I loved her in it.

It’s your turn now. What do you think of my choices? Who would you recast in this roles? Head over to Andrew’s page, Fistful of Films, to read about why he chose to start this recast-athon, and feel free to join in and write your own post if you’d like!

I’m Just a Boy Saying No Means No

Last night, I caught The Break Up on TBS and watched it because I hadn’t seen it before, and I knew Jenn Anniston and Vince Vaughn didn’t end up together in the end. Consensus? Annoying in parts, but altogether, a sense of reality in it that I appreciated. Then I started thinking through what other films didn’t end up with the couple getting together. The all-too-familiar (500) Days of SummerMy Best Friend’s Wedding. Up in the Air. A Google search later, I then recalled The Time Traveler’s Wife (separation by time travel), Titanic (death by a really big boat sinking), Nights in Rodanthe (separation by death – thanks once again, Nicholas Sparks), The Bourne Supremacy (separation by murder), or even Batman Begins or the first of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man (separation by a “higher calling” – I always laughed at the end when Spiderman refused Mary-Jane. I know, what’s wrong with me?).

And then I thought, hey, what if we could mess with the endings of those movies with the happily-ever-afters, and make them not happily-ever-after? Are there films that would be better off where the guy and girl didn’t get together? I think so. Here’s a list of movies with couples that I would not let them end up together, whether it’s just for kicks and giggles, or because I never would have put those two people together in the first place.

Eddie and Paige in The Prince and Me

Eddie (Luke Mably) and Paige (Julia Stiles) were never meant to be together. One was meant to run a country, the other was meant for higher education. There never should have been a second and third sequel to this film, with the main roles getting changed out each time. The idea was simple and sweet enough in the beginning, but having a future king of a country return to the states and let a girl know that he’ll wait “however long it takes,” just isn’t realistic, much less workable. Talk about pressure on the girl!

Aragorn and Arwen in The Return of the King

I wish that Aragorn (Viggo Mortenson) would have directed the words “I cannot give you what you seek” to Arwen (Liv Tyler) and not to Eowyn (Miranda Otto). I have yet to finish reading The Return of the King, but from a movie viewer perspective, I would have rather cheered on Aragorn kissing Eowyn in the end than Arwen. Both Eowyn and Aragorn have that whole fighting warrior thing down, and they definitely have an immediate chemistry when they meet.

Bryan and Annie in Father of the Bride

I’m on the dad’s side (Steve Martin) from the beginning. Although Annie (Kimberly Williams-Paisely) getting engaged to Bryan (George Newbern) and planning a crazy wedding makes for an interesting premise, in the end, I rather have seen Bryan be sent on his way than sadly watching George struggle to share a moment with Annie after the wedding. Any guy who starts putting his hand on a girl’s leg in front of her father the first time he meets him isn’t classy or smart.

Henry and Danielle in Ever After

This is more for comical reasons than any other. So Danielle’s (Drew Barrymore) a liar and Henry’s (Dougray Scott) a jerk. The two have flaws, but seemingly are perfect for each other. But what would have happened had Henry chosen Marguerite over Danielle? I could imagine the film ending with rain lightly tapping the glass slipper, the camera zooming out, and the step-mother (Anjelica Huston) laughing manically in the background. You have to admit you’re curious now, right?

William and Anna in Notting Hill

And now the title of this post becomes relevant. The titular line in Notting Hill is told by Anna Scott (Julia Roberts) to William (Hugh Grant): “I’m just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her.” What if William’s response was, “Well I’m just a boy, and no means no.” A little harsh, sure, but then again, to reject that line altogether–and spoken by the most famous movie star at the time–was a little harsh. I appreciated the idea of a normal person rejecting a movie star. It made sense. But then again, he showed a more human element of himself when he begged to have her back.

Jake and Melanie in Sweet Home Alabama

This choice may really make people mad. Frankly, I’m OK with the movie’s ending. I mean, if had to choose between Patrick Dempsey and Josh Lucas, I would struggle too. I get it, two people reconnected through the South and family and life. But what about poor Andrew (Patrick Dempsey)? He didn’t do anything wrong, yet he gets rejected in the end. Melanie (Reese Witherspoon) accepted his proposal! It’s like watching an episode of The Bachelorette, and Melanie changing her mind after the final rose.

OK, I’m fresh out of ideas. Your turn – who would you have liked to see break up, or never end up together? Or how about the reverse – was there ever a couple you wish would have gotten together in the end?  Sound off in the comments.

Oscar Chatter with Matt and Kristin: Best in the Acting Categories

Kristin: I’ve seen all the nominees except for Demian Bichir in A Better Life. I was surprised Michael Fassbender from Shame didn’t get nominated, and I was disappointed to see JGL miss a nod for his great work in 50/50. I’m rooting for Jean Dujardin from The Artist to pick up this award, especially since he’s already picked up the Golden Globe and the SAG among others. I prefer Dujardin to Clooney, who may be his only serious competition, although I still see Dujardin winning. I’m also happy for Gary Oldman to get a nomination, even though I think he has better work that was previously ignored.

Matt: In the first twenty minutes of The Artist, Jean Dujardin painted a grin on my face that would last nearly the rest of the film–he was charming in every way. It is a unique performance, if not just because Dujardin must convey his character’s thoughts and emotions without the luxury of ever speaking. In short, I would be very surprised if the Academy does not pick Dujardin. Unfortunately, I have yet to see The Descendants, but as Kristin has said, it seems that Clooney would be the only other close competitor to Dujardin. That being said, I found Brad Pitt completely deserving of his nomination for Moneyball. Of the nominations I’ve seen, Pitt was the only one whose role truly carried the entire movie. In my opinion, without Pitt playing Billy Beane, Moneyball simply doesn’t work. I actually forgot I was watching a Brad Pitt movie.

Kristin: I completely agree that Dujardin was utterly charming in The Artist, and you couldn’t help but smile throughout that film. The thing with Clooney is that he’s an Academy darling, even more so than Pitt. I know Clooney didn’t win much of anything for Up in the Air a couple years back (which I actually enjoyed more than The Descendants), but sometimes I think he’s receiving nominations just because he’s Clooney. He was good in The Descendants, but maybe I missed the “greatness” aspect. Glad you enjoyed Moneyball so much. I appreciated the film because I read most of the book it was based off, and I would agree Pitt embodied the Billy Beane. I’ve heard some complaints that Pitt should have been nominated for Tree of Life instead of Moneyball, but I agree with the nomination.

Matt: For me, what made Pitt’s performance golden were subtle things; for example, him constantly grabbing candy from the candy dish in the scene where he first notices Peter Brand. I think Pitt could have been nominated for either role, though a nomination for The Tree of Life would have had to be for Best Supporting Actor. Has an actor ever been nominated for Best Actor/Actress and Supporting Actor/Actress? A quick Wikipedia search yielded this answer: “Thanks to a voting quirk, in 1944 Barry Fitzgerald in Going My Way became the only actor nominated in both the Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor categories for the same performance, winning the latter.” Today’s Academy bylaws disallow this, of course. I was unable to find an actor or actress that has been nominated twice the same year for two different roles. That probably won’t ever happen either.

To sum up, while I enjoyed Pitt and Dujardin’s roles immensely, I think it has been a rather weak year for Best Actor. None of the roles nominated hold a candle to other recent years, say Colin Firth’s role in The King’s Speech or Daniel Day Lewis in There Will Be Blood. Such performances are ones that I will remember for quite a long time.

Kristin: I saw Glenn Close only in an extended preview for Albert Nobbs, and it certainly looks interesting enough, despite many believing that last spot belongs to Tilda Swinton in We Need to Talk about Kevin or Elizabeth Olson in Martha Marcy May Marlene (or others I’m sure!). Previously, I had complaints over Emma Stone’s performance in The Help being completely overlooked, despite my loyalty to Viola Davis. This category is said to be the only real competition this year–between Meryl Streep and Viola Davis. I saw both films and much preferred The Help over TIL, but I think both performances are on equal ground. Honestly, it’s been YEARS since Streep actually won an Oscar, and she keeps getting told “you’ll get one next year.” So I’m rooting for Streep, although I’d be happy if Davis walked away with it too.

Matt: While I did think Emma Stone’s performance in The Help was good, I felt it was one of the easier roles in the film, and hardly on par with Viola Davis’ role. Her performance in the final scene of the film is one of the best (and most heartrending) I have seen this year. As for Streep, while I look forward to seeing her performance on DVD, poor reviews for The Iron Lady stopped me from dropping $8.25 to see the film in theaters. But what are the Oscars without a Streep nomination? After all, with The Iron Lady, Streep receives her 17th Oscar nomination. It would be interesting to see Glenn Close win the award; however, I would be surprised if it is given to anyone other than Davis.

Kristin: I have to agree that Davis had the most moving performance in that film. The Help really had a fantastic ensemble to carry it. I still would have liked to see Stone get some love for her work, even at just the Golden Globes, but I know her role wasn’t quite as dramatic or polarizing as the others. I wouldn’t even recommend seeing The Iron Lady with the exception of Meryl Streep. She gave an excellent performance. The direction of the film was off– it lacked an opinion, had too much focus on Thatcher’s dementia, and just felt too disjointed. That said, Streep’s performance somehow proved that you can have a crappy film and an incredible performance come out of it. I would love either Streep or Davis win, and I’m sure one will. Close and Mara definitely won’t win, and Williams’s nomination reminds me a little of Jennifer Lawrence’s last year, in that the real honor is the nomination.

Matt: I love Streep, but I really hope Davis gets the win. She would be only the second African American woman to win the Best Actress Oscar. I can’t think of a more appropriate role by which to win it.

Kristin: Nick Nolte in Warrior was the surprise addition to this category, and I was very glad to see it. I’m assuming Plummer will walk away with the trophy for his work in Beginners. He gave an exceptional performance, so that would make me happy. I thought Ewan McGregor was brilliant in Beginners and forgotten for his great work. It’s also cool to see a name like “Jonah Hill” join the ranks among the Oscar nominated, although it’s a sure thing that he won’t be winning. I’ve heard great things about Kenneth Branagh in My Week with Marilyn, but I have yet to see that film. I did finally see Drive and think Albert Brooks should have received some kind of credit, although I don’t know if I would have put him in place of Plummer, Hill, or Nolte. The interesting turn in this category is seeing Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close‘s Max von Sydow pick up a nom. I’m curious to see him in that film now.

Matt: I quite liked Jonah Hill’s work in Moneyball. It was nice to see him actually play a role other than the funny, fat kid. While I hadn’t given him much thought before Moneyball, he now is someone I will watch. I enjoyed seeing Nolte in Warrior; in fact, his role may have been the only thing about that movie I truly did enjoy. However, I didn’t think his performance was anything out of the ordinary; it was enjoyable, but not groundbreaking. I will readily admit my lack of knowledge for the other noms in this category, as sadly, I have not yet had the opportunity to view them. It is nice to see von Sydow get some recognition, albeit only his second nomination. Seems rather sad in such a great career that has spanned over six decades, but many great performances are not realized until decades after their release. So, yes, he should have been nominated Best Actor for his role in The Seventh Seal, not that anyone outside of Sweden would have even recognized his name at that time.

Missing from this section is Brad Pitt for his outstanding role as Mr. O’Brien in The Tree of Life. And the little Jack Russel Terrier from The Artist. 🙂

Kristin: I hope Jonah Hill gets offered some better roles in the future with his success from Moneyball. I know he’s in some upcoming silly movie with Channing Tatum, which probably won’t do him much good, but perhaps he’ll make it a point to be in the occasional drama. I’m happy to agree to disagree with you on Nolte. He probably had the best performance in the film, but I would consider his performance groundbreaking in Warrior.

I think it’s interesting that like many years, a lot of the actors nominated in the supporting category tend to be in films that are not widely released until later, or they never get a wide release altogether with the exception of a few big cities. I really enjoyed Beginners, and it doesn’t surprise me that its only nomination is for Christopher Plummer, given who he is and the role he played. My Week with Marilyn, Drive, Beginners–none of these movies scream Oscars at all, despite earning one or two nominations each. It’s movies like Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close that work to be an Oscar film, and turn out successful enough (nomination for Best Picture/Best Supporting Actor), and go along a point of view that you hold, Matt–actors like von Sydow missing out in the past for great work and getting nominated currently for more mediocre or just good work. I finally saw The Tree of Life and wasn’t blown away by it in any sense other than cinematography, although I would agree Pitt was the obvious stand-out performance in the film. And I would be perfectly fine with the JR terrier from The Artist making an appearance 🙂

Matt: In regards to Nolte, he’s pretty much always great; I just thought his role fairly insignificant in comparison to his previous performances, in particular Colonel Gordon Tall in The Thin Red Line. In that film Nolte plays, with conviction, a selfish, power-hungry commander willing to sacrifice whatever number of human lives necessary to move his career forward. In regards to “make-up Oscars,” it’s annoying when the Academy chooses to acknowledge an actor they missed out on the first time (or first ten times, as it may be) around. No number of “make-ups” changes that they failed to realize talent in the first place. In reality, a “make-up” nomination is nothing less than degrading.

Kristin: I think the obvious choice is The Help‘s Octavia Spencer, since she’s graciously won the award at about every award ceremony so far. I thought she was brilliant in the film and is well-deserving. Although I wouldn’t mind Berenice Bejo receiving some credit. But I think we all know that Spencer has it in the bag. Oh, and I think it’s kind of ridiculous that Melissa McCarthy got a nomination for Bridesmaids. She’s a hilarious actress, and I’m all for comedy making its mark at the Oscars, but how on earth was that role Oscar-worthy?

Matt: Spencer’s performance in The Help was thouroughly entertaining. I doubt I will ever think about chocolate pie the same ever again, nor will I think of it without seeing Spencer’s face. It is interesting that both Spencer and Chastain were chosen for their roles, as much of their time on screen is spent together. Their chemistry was great, and I loved Chastain’s performance, but I couldn’t help but think two things: 1) As long as we’re doling out nominations for The Help, what about Bryce Howard’s role as Hilly? She embodied pure evil pretty convincingly for me. 2) Hasn’t Chastain been nominated for the wrong role? What about her embodiment of grace and motherhood in The Tree of Life?

Snubbed? Marion Cotillard for her role in Midnight in Paris. Can you think of a sweeter or more charming performance that you’ve seen in recent years? I can’t.

Kristin: I really enjoyed this category because there were so many great performances nominated. Spencer and Chastain both played character roles in The Help, so it doesn’t surprise me that both were nominated. It was nice to see Chastain show yet another side of her acting ability. Bryce Dallas Howard actually received a lot of slack for her role. I’m not entirely sure why, but the common consensus is that she keeps playing the villain (both The Help and 50/50). She completely embodied the evilness needed for the role.

I’m glad that Chastain got nominated for The Help and not The Tree of Life, primarily because I enjoyed her role more in the former. I’m just not Terrance Malick’s biggest supporter in his heavy amount of editing in his films. Perhaps performances could have been stronger if he would have dropped the scissors and let actors just breathe. But that’s a whole other story. As for your snub mention–I never even considered Cotillard as an option, but I think you bring up a great point–she was graceful and lighthearted in Midnight in Paris, and it almost is surprising to see her not nominated.

Matt: Chastain’s roles in The Help and The Tree of Life show just how dynamic of an actress she is. She has had quite a year, and I look forward to catching up on some of her films that I missed. As far as Howard is concerned, I’m not sure how much the Academy likes to nominate villains. Nominations tend to fall on “hero” roles only. Even three dimensional villains rarely get a Oscar nod. I suppose everybody wants the “good guys” to win, even at the Oscars.

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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.

AEOS Review: Margin Call

The Oscar-nominated script for Margin Call is nothing short of deserving for the honor of being nominated in the Best Original Script category.

Rookie director J. C. Chandor, who also wrote the detailed screenplay, somehow manages to gather a high-talent cast to tell the story of Margin Call, Kevin Spacey heading them.

Now I’ll be the first to tell you that when it comes to the financial jargon, I’m as lost as they come. After viewing Margin Call, however, I realized that the heart of the film doesn’t lie in the language in which the business players speak, deal, and trade, but in how each employee on the chain deals with the current card dealt, a card in which Margin Call‘s case is ugly.

You already knows there’s a problem from the get-go when an all-too-familiar cast that might has well been from Up in the Air (2010) appears through the elevator doors bearing empty boxes, tapping employees shoulders and directing them to another room for a chat. Paul Bettany, who seems to thrive in whatever role he’s cast, warns younger employees Peter (Zachary Quinto) and Seth (Penn Badgely) not to watch the firing that is about to take place.

Eric Dale, played by the ever versatile Stanley Tucci, has just been let go from the company, and tries as he must to let others know there is a certain project he’s in the middle of that must be looked at, is ignored until Peter attempts a “thank you” speech before the elevator doors close on Dale.

The key turning point happens immediately after, when Dale hands Peter the flashdrive with the unfinished project and gives the warning, “Be careful,” as the elevator doors close perfectly in sync with Peter’s mixed look of confusion and curiosity.

Thus, a plot is born as Peter discovers the ending to the unfinished project, and makes a phone call that turns into one meeting after another until the CEO (Jeremy Irons) is present at an 2 a.m. executives meeting. Only one resolution seems probable, although Sam (Kevin Spacey) sees that one option as more dooming than necessary. There’s give and take as characters discuss, reflect, and react the remainder of the film.

There’s a lot of takeaway from Margin Call, and perhaps that’s why the screenplay resonated so well with Academy voters to nominate it. One theme lightly hammered in by Irons’s character is that of the physicality of the situation. In trading, they’re dealing with numbers, not tangible money. Yet when he regards money’s role, he calls it pictures on paper. There’s a whole lot of green passed around throughout the film, be it to trade or act as severance to “tie up the loose ends.” And then the other side to consider is that of the problem. As viewers, we don’t physically see the problem, but we hear about it, we understand it, and yet all we see is the actors viewing the problem on a computer screen, and then the domino effect as the problem reaches higher on the chain of command.

Margin Call‘s other high point comes from the story’s themes subtlety delivered through well-casted characters. Simon Baker is pitch perfect in his role, utilizing smarts, a pin-stripe suit, and a bit of professional slimyness similar to his role in The Devil Wears Prada (2006). Spacey, be it playing the hilarious and altogether psychotic boss in Horrible Bosses (2011), or playing the everyman deemed “soft” for not wanting to pull the plug in Margin Call, balances quite well the different emotions his character Sam is forced to meet with throughout the film. Jeremy Irons suited the role of the calculating, single-minded, rich CEO, while Penn Badgely bore the youthful presence on screen, who didn’t think much past how much money he or anyone else was making.

The majority of the film takes place in an upper floor of a New York City skyscraper. There are multiple shots of the city brightly lit at night, almost giving the city and the building a minor role in the film. My favorite scene is right near the end. The news has just been delivered: while most employees will be dumped, at least financial hope remains for those who successfully sell 93% of their holdings. The office is abuzz, and Paul Bettany’s voice stands out while the scenes of phone calls being made, the inside of the office, the color and life of the city serve as background. He’s fully composed, checking sellers off his list, convincing buyers to accept his offers.

One complaint I do hold is the B story regarding Sam’s dog. The analogy was present and meant to evoke a thoughtful response, but I felt like it wasn’t paid enough attention for us to draw more of a conclusion than that of Chandor attempting to be metaphorical, especially when the sound of digging and breathing lingered into the credits.

Margin Call reminded me much of last year’s The Company Men in watching suits deal in the business world whether losing their jobs or acting out whatever action necessary to grasp tightly onto them. While the lingo of Margin Call similarly reflected that of Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (2010), the heart of it touched on the idea that minor details that slip through the cracks are, in time, not so minor. Even closer did the film reflect that not money, but the ruthlessness needed to hold onto money, is the god of the market and its workers.

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!