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33. Table for Three

I too am a little surprised to find this one so high up, but I guess we’ll have to trust past Jared.  I can think of a few reasons he liked the film, though.  I’ve long thought this would be a perfect role for Jennifer Morrison.  It was nice to see Jesse Bradford hasn’t fallen off the face of the earth.  And Sophia Bush?  Wow.  Plus, Johnny Galecki in a decidedly un-Big Bang Theory role.  But most of all, there are few people who crack me up as much as Brandon Routh.  Unintentionally, of course.  If you watched Chuck this season (and you should have), you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.  The man’s ability to not show any emotion is legendary.

32. Funny People

This one probably deserves its own post.  After the only two films written and directed by Judd Apatow, The 40 Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up, expectations were extremely high both critically and commercially.  Some of us even daydreamed if, coupled with the Academy’s expansion to ten best picture slots, we could see the return of the Oscar-nominated comedy.  And there’s not enough time to go over all the cameos in the film (although it was on a few nights ago, and I have to admit, the Eminem-Ray Romano bit was pretty great).  Ultimately, though, something went wrong.  Of course, Judd Apatow wrong is a lot different from other kinds of wrong.  I’d personally point to two main faults.  First, I think it got away from being funny a little too much.  I think Yo Teach and Raaaaandy ended up being more in-jokes than actual jokes, for example.  And second, it was too ambitious.  The last third of the film, with Leslie Mann and Eric Bana, at times felt like a whole different film.

31. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

John’s the resident animation guy, so I’ll try not to step on his toes.  The film certainly didn’t feel innovative in any particular way.  But it has a good heart, an engaging story, a good voice cast, and a lot of laughs.  Also, there was a Welcome to Mooseport reference.  Which takes some stones.  I was impressed with how they turned the book into a film.  I may have listened to “Raining Sunshine” three or four times after the film.  And right now.  A little confused though, because I watched School of Rock, so I know Miranda Cosgrove can’t sing.  Oh, how great was Steve?  “GUMMI BEARS!”

30. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Two things to keep in mind.  That would be the Oscar-nominated Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (Best Achievement in Sound).  And two of the three guys who wrote this film also wrote Star Trek.  I don’t really want to get into a Michael Bay debate.  Or a Megan Fox debate.  Or a Shia LaBeouf debate.  Can we all agree that John Turturro is awesome?  And that we forgot Rainn Wilson was in the movie?  But look at this summer and look at last summer.  I, for one, am missing the crash boom bang of a Transformers.

29. The Brothers Bloom

This one made my initial top five (2010 Top Fives coming as soon as I finish this sucker up).  I still find myself vaguely disappointed, but that’s probably because a con movie written and directed by Rian Johnson and featuring Rachel Weisz, Adrien Brody, and Mark Ruffalo (can someone get this man some Oscar love?)  should have been one of the best films of the year.  Perhaps those are some lofty expectations.  Rinko Kikuchi was great, by the way.  And the film definitely had Johnson’s flair all over it.  And the film did feature one my favorite lines of the year: “Is this the restroom?  No, this is the llamas.”

28. The Damned United

Saw this one at the Avalon with John.  It was never going to play in the US, but I’m kinda curious what it could have made had the distributors pushed it back after the World Cup.  The film is a worthy addition to the sports genre, and certainly one of the best soccer movies out there.  John and I both had Michael Sheen as an honorable mention on our Best Actor ballots, and I’d certainly have given Timothy Spall and Colm Meaney consideration in the Supporting Actor race.  I had serious issues with three prior movies penned by Peter Morgan and am meh on another one, but I’m man enough to admit that I was wrong, he does have some talent.  I didn’t know the story at all before watching and found it to be pretty entertaining.  I am kinda fascinated by the thought process that went into making what I think is a pretty pivotal part of the story as a written line in the epilogue.

27. He’s Just Not That Into You

Well, first, let’s get this film’s big flaw out of the way.  It supposedly took place in Baltimore, but where’s all the Orioles stuff?  Would it really have been so difficult to put one of these lovely ladies into an O’s hat?  Or, heaven forbid, an O’s jersey, which probably would have catapulted the film to the top of my list.  Anyway, this film does a very good job staying within itself.  The ensemble cast is very professional.  The segments that don’t pop (Jennifer Aniston/Ben Affleck, Jennifer Connelly/Bradley Cooper) are still plenty watchable.  The interstitials were interesting, and the connections between the characters were fine, if not entirely given a reason for existing.  Fans of Ed (including yours truly) were no doubt tickled pink at the pairing of Justin Long and Ginnifer Goodwin, which both fulfilled many of our fantasies and gave us something to watch while constantly refreshing Stuckeyville.com for any shred of hope that the show will be released on DVD.  Finally, and I’ve seen the idea floated elsewhere, so I know I’m not entirely alone here, but I would have given Goodwin serious consideration for a Supporting Actress nomination, especially in what I considered a weak year for the category, nomination-wise.

26. Coraline

Visually magnificent.  This and 9 both stood out to me as beyond innovative, graphically.  I thought the voice cast excelled.  Maybe didn’t have quite the star power of, say, Cloudy, but it worked.  The story maybe faltered a wee bit in the last section.  I really appreciated the demented with a heart of gold sense of the film.  Reminiscent of Nightmare Before Christmas, sure, but it would be wrong to group them together entirely.

25. Adventureland

Tied with a movie I’ll get to above for most mis-marketed film of the year.  Yes, writer/director Greg Mottola  also directed Superbad.  And yes, both movies deal with not-quite-adults.  But really, the similarities end there.  And pretty much at the first scene.  Did the marketers really think people would see this coming-of-age dramedy that’s mostly drama and actually think they were watching a high school/road trip screwball comedy?  The two just aren’t comparable at all.  Anyway, I know three people who absolutely loved this film.  I don’t quite see that, but I did appreciate it.  And was pleasantly surprised by Kristen Stewart.

24. The Young Victoria

We’ve touched upon this film a few times.  Anyone care to explain to me what it means when I like a movie John finds dull?  I think Emily Blunt got jobbed out of an Oscar nomination.  Two main roadblocks: the distributor didn’t have the bucks needed for a hardcore Oscar push.  And while you may automatically think costume drama equals Oscars, you are forgetting the “Young” part of the title.  I’m not even sure you needed “Old” Victoria.  Maybe “Mid-Thirties” Victoria would have done it.  Paul Bettany is pretty good, and Jim Broadbent was only one scene away from a push at Supporting Actor, I believe.  In any case, it isn’t like I don’t see how someone could be bored by the film.  But I found the political machinations fairly interesting.  And the look at a female monarch in training to be fascinating.

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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.

We’re tackling some of the smaller categories this year too. And there’s nothing twenty year old guys enjoy more than costumes and makeup!

Jared tackles Best Costume

Nominees: Bright Star, Coco Before Chanel, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, Nine, and The Young Victoria

I only saw three of the contenders, so my opinion here means even less than usual.  I would like to take a second to note that however bad you think the Academy is with falling in love with period pieces, the Costume Design category is even worse.  It is the respite of the Oscar contenders no one saw, and which were just a little too crappy to get nominations anywhere else. 

Anyway, with that off my chest, I didn’t see Coco Before Chanel, but it is a film about fashion, so that seems pretty cheap.  The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus is the other one I missed, but I’m not sure it would setting a good example for the kids to pick a nominee so clearly influenced by drugs of some sort.  The lockiest of all locky locks may have been The Young Victoria in this category. The costumes left no particular impression on me.  My problem with Nine is that it is so obviously informed by 8 1/2, so the costuming feels a little less original.  So, Bright Star it is.  And I’m kinda OK with that.  Their period garb seemed to be of a type I hadn’t seen all that often.  And it was refreshing to see period attire from a class other than the elite or the poor.

Next, John looks at Best Makeup

Nominees: Il Divo, Star Trek, The Young Victoria

The Young Victoria is primarily a hairdressing nomination, which is fine but sort of uninteresting. Star Trek has crazy alien makeup so it wins. But my main joy in this category is that Academy members will seek out Il Divo, a dense Italian political drama that’s absolutely unintelligible. The utter confusion I’m sure it caused amongst the Academy voting public gives me mischievous delight. But it does some really terrific aging makeup that I didn’t even notice while watching. Check out the before and after photos.

I also just rewatched District 9 and its exclusion here is absolutely dumbfounding. There are some incredible prosthetics in this film, along with the effects of the main character’s transition from human to alien. It’s so realistic it’s disgusting. And yet the hairdos of a queen snuck in instead.

Stupid work getting in the way of this.  Seems like every year people say it was a bad year for the Best Actress category, which is generally hogwash, and  I especially don’t really think it is true this year.  Sure, maybe my list for Best Actor possibilities was longer, but I’m fairly certain the next five women off the list would have still made a very strong category.

1. Patricia Clarkson, Blind Date

Nobody does sullen and deadpan like Ms. Clarkson.  Just no one.  And here, to pull off that underlying sadness while playing a variety of personalities, well, it was pretty perfect.

2. Zooey Deschanel, (500) Days of Summer

I swear, it wasn’t intentional to have my top two actors and actresses match up.  Maybe it is fitting, though.  It was pretty fascinating to see Deschanel’s character morph from The One to a biatch and all phases in between, at least through Gordon-Levitt’s eyes.  Sure, the role was right in Deschanel’s wheelhouse, but she still knocked it out of the park.

3. Emily Blunt, The Young Victoria

To me, at least, a monarch at a young age is a fascinating topic.  And here, a terribly difficult role to play, as Victoria learned to play the political game while going through adolescence.  Which is insane.  I mean, think about Adventureland, only if instead of learning to survive on his own, Jesse Eisenberg had to rule a friggin’ country.  And I think Blunt didn’t get a nomination here for exactly that reason.  The Academy wasn’t comfortable with a ruler who showed such humanity.

4.  Gabourey Sidibe, Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire

I think I may have discussed her elsewhere, but wowza.  When going through the best actress nominees this year, I’d be stunned if voters didn’t take at least a second to think about writing in her name. [Edit: To clarify, I meant choosing her as the nominee they think should win.]

5.  Carey Mulligan, An Education

It isn’t just that I fell madly in love with Ms. Mulligan after the film, it is that I can’t imagine anyone not falling in love with her.  I think she took a weak script and ran with it something fierce, and with many other actresses, this film gets shut out of Oscar completely.

Just off the ballot: Meryl Streep (Julie and Julia) and Tilda Swinton (Julia).  And not just because that’s funny.

Like you could live on nomination day without my thoughts on this year’s crop of Original Songs!

Rather than writing a small blurb on each of eligible songs this year (there are only so many adjectives for “bland”) I thought I’d pretend to be a part of the Music branch and nominate as if I had a ballot.

63 songs qualified this year. Voters screen three minute clips of each eligible song as it appears in the movie. I understand the idea since you’d ideally like to consider the song as a piece of a film. But clips have the effect of taking the song out of context – undermining their effect – and undervaluing final credits songs. A good final credits song can be perfect for a film as you sit and contemplate what you’ve just seen; think last year’s title track from The Wrestler. That’s lost in a clip screening like this.

Voters give each song a score between 6 and 10 with half votes allowed. A song must average an 8.25 score to qualify for nomination; there is no further guidance for what each score should mean. I take it to mean I should score 8.5 or above any song I think is worth of nomination.

The Best

“The Weary Kind” from Crazy Heart: 10. Sort of the point of the entire film.

“Smoke Without Fire” from An Education: 10. I love Duffy’s smoky voice. Could be hurt by its placement on the end credits even though it’s perfect there.

Depression Era” from That Evening Sun: 10. Nice, stripped down, folksy tune from Patterson Hood of Drive-By Truckers fame.

Down in New Orleans” from The Princess and the Frog: 9.5. Terrifically catchy bluesy song from Dr. John. Best of the film.

Only You” from The Young Victoria: 9.5. I have a terrific soft spot for Sinead O’Connor.

Hideaway” and “All Is Love” from Where the Wild Things Are: 9 and 9. I love me some Karen O and I love me some non-professional choir singers.

The Good

Somebody Else” from Crazy Heart: 8. Jeff Bridges pulls out his twangy country singing voice.

When You Find Me” from Adam: 8.5. There’s literally nothing interesting about Joshua Radin but the duet here makes it work.

“Fly Farm Blues” from It Might Get Loud: 9. I love Jack White and I love the idea that a song he was challenged to create in ten minutes for a documentary could get nominated. Polish up the vocals and this is awesome.

The Other Contenders

You Got Me Wrapped Around Your Little Finger” from An Education: 7. Lounge-y. Not for me.

Cinema Italiano” from Nine: 8. Kind of not good but also kind of appealing, at least when it gets fast. A lot of film lingo in the lyrics, which is funny.

Take it All” from Nine: 7.5. Marion Cotillard can sing.

(I Want to) Come Home” from Everybody’s Fine: 7. Bland Paul McCartney.

The other songs from The Princess and the Frog aren’t as good as “Down in New Orleans.” “Almost There” (7) is a likely nominee but too simplistic after a nice intro. “Ma Belle Evangeline” (7.5) is admittedly the best love song I’ve ever heard a Cajun firefly sing. “Never Knew I Needed” (6.5) is the Ne-Yo song I never knew I needed.

The Funny

Dove of Peace” from Bruno: 7. Fake celebrity benefit song gets an extra .5 since it’d be funny performed on the Oscar telecast

Stu’s Song” from The Hangover: 8.5. Amusing!

Other Father Song” from Coraline: 8. Crazy short! Yes that’s the whole thing. The problem with short catchy songs is they get stuck in your head.

Petey’s Song” from Fantastic Mr Fox: 7. Even Jarvis Cocker is sub-par in this movie. Wouldn’t mind seeing a nice banjo tune on the telecast though

The Schmaltzy

I See You” from Avatar: 6. No. Even worse than “My Heart Will Go On.”

Invictus 9,000 Days” and “Colorblind” from Invictus: 6.5 and 6. No and no. “Colorblind” may be the worst of the bunch. And god, so literal! Perfect for a Clint Eastwood film.

Winter” from Brothers: 6. U2 makes schmaltzy crap? Who knew! And again so literal!

God Bless Us Everyone” from Disney’s A Christmas Carol: 8.5. Maybe it’s just Andrea Bocelli’s voice but I think this could make a nice standard Christmas carol.

The Different

I Bring What I Love” from Youssou N’Dour: I Bring What I Love: 6. Youssou Ndour wrote a song for a documentary about himself?

Innocent Child” and “Let Freedom Reign” from Skin: 6.5 and 7. A little bit better African music

Loin de Paname” from Paris 36: 6.5. The winner of a “make a song that sounds French” contest. Yes there are accordians.

Un Boquete de Violettes” from New York, I Love You: 7.5. Opera. Kinda of bizarre especially after Paris, je t’aime had such a great song.

“We Are the Children of the World” and “We Love Violence” from The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus: 6.5 and 7. I can’t say it better than New York Magazine: “We Are the Children of the World” is a mockery of celebrity charity, sung by urchins at a glittery A-list benefit. “We Love Violence” is a rowdy celebration of police brutality shouted out by vicious police officers, who conclude their ditty with spectacular flatulence.

The Hannah Montana

Hannah Montana The Movie qualified five songs just to torment me. Let’s get this over with

Back to Tennessee“: 6. Nice they let Billy Ray have a song. Awful.

Butterfly Fly Away“: 6. Awful.

Don’t Walk Away“: 6. Awful.

You’ll Always Find Your Way Back Home“: 6. Awful.

“Hoedown Throwdown”: 7. This is a square dance rap. Yes, you read that right. It goes into the “so awful it’s kind of catchy” territory! SO BAD YOU MUST WATCH! BOOM BOOM CLAP!

The Awful

The Word is Love” from Oy Vey! My Son is Gay!: 6. If I didn’t know better I’d say this is a joke video. Also features a horrifying Bruce Vilanch.

New Divide” from Transformers 2: 6. Transformers + Linkin Park = awful.

Possibility” from New Moon: 6. I can’t get over how bad this song is. I don’t know who you are Lykke Li, but you are on notice.

Na Na” from Couples Retreat: 6.5. What AR Rahman does after winning his Oscars for Slumdog Millionaire.

Blanco” from Fast and Furious: 6.5. To be fair reggaeton can only be so good.

One Day” from Post Grad: 6. Jack Savoretti wishes he was Jack Johnson. So that he could be mediocre instead of awful.

AyAyAyAy” from The Maid: 6. I don’t do slow hispanic tunes.

Legendary” from Tyson: 6. Bad Nas song.

“Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea” from Ponyo: 6. Available in Japanese and English (the latter with a little Jonas and a little Cyrus!). Monumentally irritating!

The Boring

Raining Sunshine” from Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs: 6.5. Is Miranda Cosgrove ever not boring?

Being Bad” from Duplicity: 6.5. Is this a cha-cha?

Forget Me” from I Love You, Beth Cooper: 6.5. Acoustic version is a little better.

“My One and Only” from My One and Only: 6.5. Did you know Kevin and Bacon and Renee Zellweger did a movie together this year? Anyway, lounge-y and bad.

“Brothers in Arms” from Brothers at War: 6. I had been wondering what the guy from Five for Fighting was up to. Or not. Whatever.

Here” from Shrink: 6. I like Jackson Browne but this is a snoozer.

If You’re Wondering” from The Lightkeeper: 6.5. Yet another female crooner.

Through the Trees” from Jennifer’s Body: 6.5. This band, Low Shoulder, has a future entertaining teens and irritating me.

“Trust Me” from The Informant!: 6. More crooning. Still love the movie.’

“You’ve Got a Friend in Me” from Old Dogs: 6.5. Bryan Adams needs to go away.

The Ineligible But I Wish They Weren’t!

I Can See in Color” from Precious: 9.5. Mary J Blige brings it!

Help Yourself” from Up in the Air: 9.5. Sad Brad brings it! Whoever he is. Good song but it also works very well in the film.

Final Tally

That’s 58 of the 63 songs reviewed; the others I couldn’t find. Average score: 6.9. Yikes! I rated eleven 8.5 or higher, indicative of being worthy of nomination in my eyes. Now what bland, derivative songs will the Academy choose?

So it’s been way too long since I’ve actually authored a post on this here blog, but better late than never, I guess. Since Christmas, I’ve gone on somewhat of a rampage seeing at lest 3-4 movies a week and at one point going 6 days straight seeing one of the Oscar-potential films. With one exception, they have been entertaining at the very least and wholly immersive and engrossing at most. Nothing has dethroned either Up or District 9 as my favorites of the year yet, but my top five changed slightly, which comes after my wrap-ups.

In order of viewing:

Avatar: This has been said before by people a lot smarter than me, but visually stunning with an atrociously derivate plot. I loved this Pocohantas gag plot abstract — one of the movie’s funnier spinoff jokes on the Web. As for the movie — just wow. The transitions between the WETA-designed costumes and Cameron’s CGI vistas was seamless — I couldn’t tell which was which. This movie alone has me so excited for the future of 3-D graphics — even the recent announcement of ESPN 3-D would have left me extremely skeptical had it not been from the gangbusters experience of watching Avatar. Oscar-wise, EW’s Dave Kargerwrites that Avatar is the clear front-runner for Best Picture. I don’t know if I quite agree with that, but presuming he has better sources than I do (which he of course does), I’ll defer to his reportage. A nomination is more than deserved — but a victory? Yikes.

Young Victoria: As Jared said shortly after we saw it, “above-average costume drama porn.” The Machiavellian politics of the English and European royals was pretty fascinating to me, although it did seem overly complicated. I almost wish it had gone longer, but then it would have been Young and Middle-Aged Victoria. Emily Blunt was quite good, and I’d be pleased with a nomination for her. Had the movie actually done better, I’d get my hopes up for a sequel — a la Elizabeth (though that sequel was awful) — but I’d have trust that Emily Blunt could make it happen.

It’s Complicated: Putting myself out there as an easy target, since Adam hated it and Jared disliked, but sorry: I enjoyed It’s Complicated. Sue me. Alec Baldwin was funny as the man-child who can’t find happiness with himself, and Steve Martin as the straight man was great — consider my expectations raised for the Oscars telecast. Between the two of them and John Krasinski doing his Jim Halpert thing, there were enough laughs to keep me entertained. That being said, the script took forever to get going and even then, I wasn’t impressed — the scenes between Meryl Streep and her ladyfriends was painful.

Hurt Locker: Expectations couldn’t have been higher — and they were met. Thrilling, exciting, engrossing, finally there’s an Iraq war movie I can heartily recommend. I cannot wait to see how the Hurt Locker pans out at the Oscars — it has the potential to upend so much conventional wisdom about Oscar movies. It’s an Iraq movie, released in June, about as slow rolling out buzz as you can get, no name actors, no MESSAGE. I may have found my horse for this race.

Inglorious Basterds: I can’t recall having as much fun watching the 2008 crop of films, but between Zombieland, Avatar, and Basterds, I have been thoroughly enjoying myself the past couple of months on numerous occasion. These films aren’t as artsy or contemplative as some of the usual Oscar fare, but goddamn it I was happy to be along for the ride. Who doesn’t love killing Nazis? I thought it dragged a little long, and there really was no “point” to anything in the movie, but that oddly enough is what made it great. No point — other than to get the thrill of watching Jews kill Nazis.

Blind Side: Read the book. It’s better, more nuanced, and doesn’t feature some pretty tired tropes. Not really a sports film, more a remade version of Erin Brockovich with Sandra Bullock. The movie does a decent job of fitting the book into movie form, however, so I’ll give them credit for that. The score is good, but ineligible for an Oscar. And the same guy directed/wrote The Rookie, so he’ll get my benefit of the doubt.

500 Days of Summer: I probably had unrealistic expectations going into this since I saw it months after the other grouches and most other friends. There was a lot in here I liked: Joseph Gordon-Leavitt, the musical scene in the park, the “reality/expectations” split screen, the disjointed plot device. I was hoping to see more of the happy times — and actually, I was hoping to see more period. (500 Days) was one of the rare instances this year where I was disappointed in how short it was, not in its overwrought length. I’d be pleased with a screenplay nom — and even seeing the entire crew get recognized for a best picture nomination, though I realize that’s a long shot at this point.

Single Man — Zzzzzzz. It’s as if Tom Ford watched a whole bunch of New Age French films, picked the aspects he liked from each of them and threw them together in a film. There was no discernable plot, and I found the ending sort of a cop out. I don’t get the Julianne Moore buzz whatsoever, but I appreciated Colin Firth’s portrayal of the closeted college professor. But the most egregious Oscar buzz is for Ford, whose heavy hand reminded me of the worst “LOOK AT ME I AM A DIRECTOR” touches since watching Lee Daniels botch the fantasy sequences in Precious.

An Education — I’m a Nick Hornby fan — and I’ve been partial to Peter Sarsgaard ever since he ripped Hayden Christensen a richly deserved new one in Shattered Glass. Both were well-served in the aptly appreciated An Education, thought it was Alfred Molina who stole the show and deserves a nomination, which he probably won’t get. And while I did enjoy the movie, a couple of major flaws (the drawn out finale that could have been 15 minutes shorter, the lack of any recognition that Sarsgaard was creepy as hell) kept me from loving it. Carrie Mulligan, however, is beautiful and played a role 10 years her junior with aplomb. The success of the movie rode on her shoulders and she handled it extremely well. The fact that she’s in Wall Street 2 makes me pretty excited to see that later this year.

Hey look at that! I posted! Wasn’t THAT hard!

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