You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘The Lovely Bones’ category.

93. Gigantic

Another one of the solid cast/relatively weak script films that seem to keep popping up around here.  In case you missed it, in this one, Paul Dano plays a mattress salesman ferociously intent on adopting a Chinese baby.  Ed Asner is his dad, Zooey Deschanel plays the absolute exact character you’d expect her to, and John Goodman is her dad.  Oh, and Zach Galifianakis is in a few scenes as…well…he’s listed as “Homeless guy”, but his character kinda tries to attack Paul Dano’s on multiple occasions.  For reasons still not entirely clear to me.  A decent enough, mostly forgettable flick.

92. Old Dogs

So, yeah.  Saw this one in theaters with most of my family after a particularly vicious fight over what movie to see.  There’s not really much to say.  You know pretty much exactly what you are getting going into the film, so you’ll probably like it exactly as much as you think you will.

91. The Lovely Bones

I’m probably going to be ripped by my fellow Grouches for placing the film this high, to be honest .  One of 2009’s most interesting tumbles, both at the box office and at Oscar time, the film was a presumed contender in nearly every single category, but was left with a solitary nomination – Stanley Tucci for supporting actor.  I’m not going to defend the film, I mean, I do have it sandwiched between movies that were nominated by the Razzies for worst film of the year.  I just never found it aggressively awful, I guess.  The pacing was definitely off, and there are stretches where it got kinda boring.

90. All About Steve

In my opinion, one of the most mis-marketed films of the year.  I mean, you might have noticed, Sandra Bullock had a pretty decent year, and yet this film still flopped something fierce (and garnered her a couple of Razzies).  The problem, I think, is that this film should never have been pitched as a romantic comedy, because it doesn’t play out like one.  It is way more character-driven than relationship-driven.  And it  is more about Sandra Bullock’s character growing and experiencing the real world.  Yes, it is a broad comedy where the humor doesn’t always hit its mark.  But it is also something approaching touching, at times.  I’m not necessarily suggesting people go out and see the film, even if it does boast a stellar supporting cast, including Beth Grant, M.C. Gainey, Keith David, and Ken Jeong.  But I think Sandra Bullock was right: people judged this film on the trailer (which does a very poor job of establishing how Bullock’s character could be likable), not the movie itself.

89. Good Dick

The film pushs Woody Allen-like neurotic romantic comedy to a whole new level.  I’m not a huge fan of the trailer above, I think it paints the movie in too cutesy a light.  I wrote about this one a little bit ago (nice joke, past Jared!) and I’ll stand by what I wrote.  The film can be a bit tough to watch at times, because of just how awkward things can get.  But the movie can also feel at times like a breath of fresh, if postmodern, air.  In a lot of ways, I think this this the 2009 indie response to traditional romantic comedies, because so often in those you get these completely outgoing characters who never hesitate to interact with anyone and everyone in the outside world.  In Good Dick, other people are scary, figuring out how to interact with them even scarier.

88. What Goes Up

Steve Coogan keeps getting lead roles like this one, and I keep just not seeing it.  That Molly Shannon was also cast might make you think there was an issue with casting.  But the other main roles are filled by Hilary Duff, Olivia Thirlby, and Josh Peck, plus imdb trivia (and the end credits) make it seem like most other young actresses I like were in those first two roles.  So I don’t know.  The film itself, like the students it portrays, is a misfit.  The choice of time period is kinda odd and I’m not sure it is ever quite justified.  There’s lots of potential here, it just gets blocked some by the film’s moralizing and devotion to being offbeat.

87. The Great Buck Howard

John Malkovich is great as a middle-aged magician who still living in a world where his appearances on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson were the stuff of, well, magic.  Colin Hanks is, as his wont, the straight man, playing Buck’s traveling assistant.  The film has a pretty interesting premise, its fundamental flaw is that it can’t quite figure out if it wants to tell Buck Howard’s story through the eyes of Colin Hanks, or Colin Hanks’s story, in which Buck Howard is a prominent player.  Also, the subplot with Emily Blunt seems shoehorned in.  Though it does get us Emily Blunt, so it can’t be all bad.  Don’t let the trailer fool you, Ricky Jay and Tom Hanks have glorified cameos.

86. Crazy Heart

I rag on John a lot, but honestly, that’s only for the five to ten percent of the time where we disagree.  We see eye to eye much of the time.  Like here, where I don’t think I could sum up my thoughts any better than John did.  The movie is very flat.  There aren’t really ever any consequences and the stakes are never raised.  Like John says, the music tails off badly after “The Weary Kind”, not a good thing for a movie like this one.  I’m a fan of Maggie Gyllenhaal, but her nomination here was off.  The most surprising thing about the movie was casting Colin Farrell as a country singer.  It worked, somehow.

85. Somers Town

Absolutely no clue how I ended up watching this one.  Falls on the arthouse side of the spectrum, but there’s nothing inherently “arty” about it, I think.  Was a little slow at times, and I wouldn’t have complained if more stuff happened.  I imagine I’d appreciate the film more if I lived in England.  But it often was an interesting look at the relationship between two outcast teenage boys.

84. Humpday

My first real introduction into mumblecore, and I gotta say, I’m not particularly impressed.  The biggest stumbling block to me may be the improvised feel of the dialogue.  Improv can obviously work in the hands of a comedy troupe, like in the Christopher Guest movies, for example.  But here, it sometimes felt like people talking just for the sake of talking.  Basically, it wasn’t as interesting as it thought it was.  Don’t get me wrong, wasn’t a bad movie, just not really deserving of all the buzz it seemed to receive.

Coming up next time: another Oscar film, an animated flick, and possible the most badass prisoner I’ve ever seen.

With the Oscars two months behind us, pretty much all the nominees and awards season players are finding their way to DVD. And there are so many we didn’t give full attention to here!

A few months back I highlighted critically-acclaimed films that I didn’t care for. They mostly didn’t find traction in awards season, but several more crappy movies did! And it’s so depressing to write about bad prestige films that we mostly skipped them on this blog. But no longer!

If you’re perusing the new releases on NetFlix and think, “Hey, that got nominated for some sort of Oscar, didn’t it? I should rent that,” make sure it’s not on this list or pay the price!

The Lovely Bones, 1 nomination

The deadliest of the deadly. The story follows a fourteen-year-old girl after she is murdered by a neighbor. She goes to some sort of “in-between” between Earth and heaven, where she watches as her family grieves and searches for her killer. Such a film hinges on the director’s vision for that “in-between:” what does it look like, how does she move through it, and how does she interact with those on Earth?

And all of that is awful. Peter Jackson brings out all his CG expertise to realize the in-between, which is colorful and beautiful but uninteresting and painfully literal. Even worse is how she interacts with the real world, which just comes off totally clumsy.

I loved the book when it dealt with the family’s grief, but that mostly gets pushed aside. The book’s supernatural elements really lost me; these parts were stupid enough in the book but in the film they are stupid AND confusing as they are poorly thought out and edited. I knew what was going to happen and some of it STILL came off as totally WTF. Finally, my favorite subplot, involving the girl vicariously experiencing growing up by watching her younger sister, is entirely absent.

Yes, Stanley Tucci is wonderfully creepy as the murderer. But unless you have a burning desire to check out all impressive cinematic villains, he’s not reason enough to watch. It also features another good performance by Saoirse Ronan, who we all really enjoyed a few years back in Atonement.

The Last Station, 2 nominations

I think we all agreed that if we were watching this at home we would have turned it off. It’s not as aggressively bad as The Lovely Bones, but it’s incredibly, notably tedious. Christopher Plummer and Helen Mirren play Tolstoy and his wife in the last years of his life. Tolstoy’s followers want the rights to his works willed to them to advance his philosophies; she wants to keep them in the family.

The problem here is utter lack of context. There’s never any good understanding of why people care about Tolstoy and his teachings. His philosophy as presented is vague and sounds kind of awful. There’s no reason to care about the drama and intrigue. There are spies and competing allegiances all centered around a question I couldn’t care less about, which is pretty much the worst thing that can happen in a melodrama. Plummer and Mirren chew the scenery like no one’s business.

There’s vintage newsreel footage over the final credits, including some of Tolstoy interacting with the public. These seemed interesting! Why do people like Tolstoy? What impact did he have in the world? Who are the Tolstoyans and what was their place in Russian society? That’s what I want to see, not a film that assumes I know this stuff.

Nine, 4 nominations

What a stillborn movie. I pretty much immediately forgot it after watching it. Even musicals I wasn’t particularly fond of (Moulin Rouge!, Sweeney Todd) had a spark to them. Nine is just lifeless. I’m on record as saying that plot is less important in musicals, but here the plot is so bland and entirely uninteresting. And the music isn’t even good! It has two good songs, including the Marion Cotillard number that got the Original Song nomination. That scene is so terrific and passionate, how is the rest of the movie so dull?

Also, it got a bizarre nomination for Art Direction. The musical sequences take place on a minimalist set of scaffolding in a large warehouse. It gets used in a mildly interesting way, but it’s just scaffolding! And it got nominated for an Oscar!

The Blind Side, 2 nominations & 1 win (Best Actress)

This thing is one big, mindless cliché. You know what’s going to happen going in and it delivers. I was hoping for some sort of originality but I can’t say any element has an ounce of cleverness. Sure Sandra Bullock gives a fine performance, but part of what makes her so dominant is that everything else is so weak. I don’t think it’s worth checking out just for her. Unless you like being emotionally manipulated, in which case please go ahead and see it.

It also shamefully sidelines the Michael Oher character, the black football player. He’s made one-dimensional and really deserves more.

The Young Victoria, 3 nominations & 1 win (Costume)

By no means a bad movie, but dull. It’s very nice to see a royal intrigue film where the heroine doesn’t constantly bemoan the repressions of her society and her inability to love the man she wants and instead uses the system – of which she is of course a major part – to her own benefit and to lead. Unfortunately the way it’s done here isn’t particularly compelling. It’s also pretty confusing for someone without a good knowledge of the time period. My goodness, which prime minister candidate shall the Queen support in the 1839 parliamentary elections? The pulse quickens!

Also it got a Makeup nomination so maybe you should check it out if you like Oscar-nominated hairstyling. Which of course you do.

Ladies and Gentlemen, your nominees for Best Supporting Actor:

  • Matt Damon, Invictus
  • Woody Harrelson, The Messenger
  • Christopher Plummer, The Last Station
  • Stanley Tucci, The Lovely Bones
  • Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds

I’ll start things off — notice how everyone copies me with my pick:

    This one will be short. This category is probably the weakest of all the acting categories, and I’m not sure it’s even close. There’s one great performance — and a whole lotta nothing. So first — to dispense with the nothing. Damon as Francois Pienaar, the rugby player who channels Nelson Mandela’s magical wisdom to lead his team to victory (or something like that), is servicable in a pretty standard role. Harrleson as the fast-talking, heartless sergeant also does fine with the role he’s given — but its unevenly written and frankly, I liked him more as a kickass zombie killer in Zombieland.

    Christopher Plummer in The Last Station — whatever. Great death scene and all — but that whole movie — whatever. Stanley Tucci gets nominated here for playing a creepy dude — and he is wholly unrecognizable in the role, and I’d understand even giving him a nod here had it not been for the highly deserving Christoph Waltz for Inglourious Basterds. Everyone loves a villain, and Waltz is unforgettable. The screen lights up whenever he is on screen, and his climactic Machiavellian maneuver was unexpected. What a fantastic introduction to American audiences — can’t wait to see what he does next.If only Alfred Molina had gotten nominated — then this category could have gotten interesting.

One day after professing his love for Colin Firth, Jared waxes poetic about beards:

    Here’s Matt Damon’s every scene in Invictus: FRANCOIS [Standing apart from everyone else, Francois looks mildly confused]: <insert vague, short inspirational speech>  Francois leaves room.

    Matt Damon is pretty great, but a nomination for this?  Really?  The Morgan Freeman nomination wasn’t enough?  Terrible.

    Going along with Brian, I’m reading this Woody Harrelson nomination as taking into account his three supporting roles this year. Because I’m pretty sure he had the best year supporting actor year if you combine the performances.  The Messenger was the weakest, but he mined as much depth as possible from his one-dimensional character.

    I kinda want to give Christopher Plummer’s beard in The Last Station its own supporting award.  Is that possible?  Otherwise, sure, Plummer was fine, playing an outsized role to fit in with the movie.  What I mean is that I think if, say, Sean Connery had played Tolstoy, I would have enjoyed the film more, but the performance wouldn’t have fit in with the tone.  I don’t know what that means, exactly.  Plummer isn’t in my top five this year, but I don’t have any issues with the nomination.

    Stanley Tucci could have made this race more competitive had he been given maybe two more scenes of being creepy or if The Lovely Bones was any good.  Can’t say anything negative about him here, and I sure as heck hope he gets multiple chances to come back and claim his prize.

    As Christoph Waltz shows, bad guys have more fun.  There’s not really a point to me adding to all the wonderful things people have said about his role, so allow me to briefly digress.  This race has pretty clearly been over for months; a Waltz loss is nearly inconceivable at this point.  It is fascinating to me that of the thousands of supporting acting performances this year, everyone can nearly unanimously agree that Waltz stood head and shoulders above everyone else.  What are the odds of that?  There seemed to be absolutely no backlash, no one taking up the underdog mantle.  Brian asks about Alfred Molina, I kinda wonder if the team behind An Education figured the race was in the bag, they already had other nominations sewn up, why even both giving Molina a push.

    Christian McKay is the snub here.  I cannot believe anyone who put Damon on the ballot watched Me and Orson Welles.

Adam comes close to figuring out why he’s an ass, but decides just being an ass is more fun:

    1. Christoph Waltz
    2. Stanley Tucci
    3. Christopher Plummer
    4. Woody Harrelson
    5. Matt Damon
  • Will Win: Christoph Waltz

    Brilliant. I have to admit, I’m a huge fan of villains (big surprise there, I’m sure), and Waltz pulls off a great one. The last three years have given us three very different, but extremely good villains. Bardem’s pushed the limits on intensity and creepiness, Ledger put in the performance of a lifetime with his insanely dark (and darkly insane?) Joker, and now Waltz shows us the lighter side of the Nazi’s intellectual elite (and by “lighter” I mean humorous).

    I Want to Win: Christoph Waltz

    See above.

    Dark Horse: Everybody Else

    As with the last three years, the villain in one of the year’s most acclaimed movies is the “lock”  for the win in this category.


    Grouches Critiques:

    As with Best Actor, I don’t really have much for this category. Because it’s not really a contest, no one threw out any odd-ball/horrible taste comments. I’m still holding out hope for John to say something stupid, but he won’t be writing his until after I submit mine. But, if anyone can do it, it’s John. It seems like he and Brian have a contest every year to see who can have the worst taste in movies.  I’ll let you know who comes out on top this year.

    Random Notes:

    The rest of the nominees were, in my mind, pretty weak. Maybe it was because Waltz outshone them on every level, but I’m not convinced.

John finishes things up by saying nothing new:

    I echo the sentiments of my colleagues when I say that Damon is such a nothing nomination. It’s kind of galling that this performance gets some Oscar love while his splendid turn in The Informant! gets ignored. But it’s really a performance of an accent, the occasional “c’mon guys, we can do it!” speech, and grunting while playing rugby.

    Plummer is fine but undermined by dreadful material. When we aren’t given any context to a character it’s hard to give him any depth. Unlike my colleagues I found a lot to like in Harrelson’s performance. He’s really terrific in any scene involving the army or notifying next of kin, though a little less so in any scene involving his personal demons.

    Tucci gave one of my favorite supporting performances of the year… in Julie & Julia. It’s quite a contrast to his serial killer role in The Lovely Bones, eh? I thought he was quite an effective creep and probably the best part of that ill-conceived picture.

    But of course my choice is Waltz. That’s a bingo! There’s not much more I can say about his delightfully sociopathic performance. I happen to be watching Basterds right now, so let me point out two aspects of this performance that I enjoy. One is his line delivery and the way he can say such awful things with a casual smile. And the second is the way he eats. Like with all his movements, he does it with just the right amount of flamboyance to maximize his sinister air but without really straying into cartoonishness. I’ve never seen a strudel devoured so menacingly.

    Snubs: The aforementioned Tucci in Julie & Julia. Harrelson in Zombieland of course. Zach Galifinakis in The Hangover. And two random ones for you: Chris Messina and Paul Schneider in Away We Go, the most sincere parts of a painfully contrived film.

You’d think record snowfall in DC would give the Grouches little to do but write lots of brilliant posts. But you would be wrong, not that we have particularly good reasons.

So let me just chime in for a moment and note that The Lovely Bones is absolutely terrible. Thanks!

February 2020
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