2014 Oscar Predictions and Preferences

A great year for movies. This year I’m doing things a bit differently. I haven’t read any predictions or Oscar discussions and have paid as little attention as possible to precursors. My ratio could be lower this year, but so what. All Oscar nominees below are ranked according to my preference. Also, my own best of the year list will come out as soon as I catch up on a backlog of 2013 titles. Here we go…

Best Picture: 12 Years A Slave
Best Director: Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity)
Best Actor: Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club)
Best Actress: Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)
Supporting Actor: Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)
Supporting Actress: Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave)
Adapted Screenplay: John Ridley (12 Years a Slave)
Original Screenplay: David O. Russell and Eric Singer (American Hustle)
Foreign Film: Denmark’s The Hunt
Documentary: Act of Killing
Animated Feature: Frozen
Visual Effects: Gravity
Cinematography: Emmanuel Lubezki (Gravity)
Editing: American Hustle
Original Score: Steven Price (Gravity)
Song: U2’s “Ordinary Love” (Mandela)
Production Design: Gravity
Costume Design: American Hustle
Make Up: Dallas Buyers Club
Sound Editing: Gravity
Sound Mixing: Gravity
Short Live Action: The Voorman Problem
Short Animated: Get a Horse!
Documentary Short: Facing Fear

Best Picture

  • Her (grade: A)
  • American Hustle (A)
  • 12 Years a Slave (A)
  • Gravity (B+)
  • Nebraska (B+)
  • Captain Phillips (B+)
  • Dallas Buyers Club (B)
  • Philomena (B)
  • The Wolf of Wall Street (C+/B-)

Will Win: 12 Years A Slave is a worthy title to join the list of best picture winners. If it indeed does become the 86th winner, it is easily the best one we’ve gotten since No Country for Old Men. History will probably see Gravity go down as the more “relevant” and groundbreaking film of of 2013 but I feel a picture/director split makes sense with 12 Years taking picture and Gravity’s directing (and myriad technical achievement) being honored in the categories below. Gravity may not win here but it’s guaranteed to take home more awards than any other 2013 film. There’s a victory in that.
Should Win: Her with American Hustle coming in second.
Snubbed: So many but if I had to pick just one: Blue Jasmine. It’s so random that nine films got nominated. Just do a top ten, dummies. If we must nominated more than five, and there are enough worthy movies to choose from (which there were this year), then round up!

Best Director

  • David O. Russell (American Hustle)
  • Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity)
  • Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave)
  • Martin Scorsese (The Wolf of Wall Street)
  • Alexander Payne (Nebraska)

Will Win: Alfonso Cuarón. Good! I’m glad he’s (probably) going to win here because grand technical achievements in sci-fi like Tarkovsky’s Solaris Nolan’s films and 2001: A Space Odyssey are curiously never recognized by the overly sentimental Academy. The Ron Howards of the world will always get their Oscars while the colder yet far more intellectual Kubricks of the world always seem to be passed over. Perhaps that’s because voters are so wrapped up in their emotions that they fail to recognize artistry. Not this time. I’ll be clapping up a storm when Cuaron picks up his Oscar on Sunday but if voters should not follow the DGA rule and vote McQueen instead I won’t be too surprised.
Should Win: David Russell vs. Cuaron. So divided. Cuarón’s last film Children of Men was my pick for best director so, yeah, I’m a huge fan. If he wins for Gravity, he’ll be the only name on my list of the top five most important (from the 90s and beyond) directors with an Oscar; sadly, Christopher Nolan, PT Anderson, Quentin Tarentino and David Fincher may all join the company of Kubrick, Hitchcock, Kurosawa, Bergman and De Palma as legends without a best director win. However, American Hustle is Russell’s best work as a director since Three Kings and I’m going with Russell in the end as my personal pick because Hustle is made with such care and possesses a gleefully manic energy that reminded me of Boogie Nights.
Snubbed: I’d replace Scorsese’s overrated Wolf and Payne’s Nebraska with Spike Jonez’s Her and Chan-wook Park’s criminally underrated Stoker.

Best Actor

  • Christian Bale (American Hustle)
  • Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave)
  • Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club)
  • Bruce Dern (Nebraska)
  • Leonardo DiCaprio (Wolf of Wall Street)

Will Win: Matthew McConaughey. Hard to argue with that. McConaughey comeback is nothing short of legendary and his performance in Dallas Buyers Club is remarkable and unstoppable.
Should Win: Christian Bale. Has zero chance but I’m just happy he was nominated. If Ejiofor wins I would also be thrilled but I don’t see that happening. His performance isn’t as showy as Bale or McConaughey but it’s rock solid. He anchors the movie. As for DiCaprio, he should have been nominated last year. He overacts in Wolf.
Snubbed: Joaquin Phoenix (Her), Tom Hanks (Captain Phillips) and Robert Redford (All is Lost).

Best Actress

  • Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)
  • Amy Adams (American Hustle)
  • Sandra Bullock (Gravity)
  • Judi Dench (Philomena)
  • Meryl Streep (August: Osage County)

Will Win: Cate Blanchett leads a very strong category. All great performance that, in any other year, could have won.
Should Win: Blanchett is my pick but I would be just as happy if Adams wins. She is, after all, way overdue and had a great year with performances in Her, Hustle and, yes, even Man of Steel. Such range!
Snubbed: Greta Gerwig (Francis Ha). GG getting snubbed is made even sadder by of the fact that this is probably her last great film performance before we lose her to the dark machine that is network sitcom (she got the lead in the How I Meet Your Mother spin-off).

Best Supporting Actor

  • Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave)
  • Bradley Cooper (American Hustle)
  • Jonah Hill (Wolf of Wall Street)
  • Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)
  • Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips)

Will Win: Jared Leto. Decent enough in Dallas, but underwhelming as potential winners go. He’s no Christoph Waltz. It’s a nice gesture to recognize a transgender character but not for that reason alone. Beyond politics, I don’t see any other reason to give it to Leto when all the other actors and the characters they play have so much more to them. Peter O’Tool and Carey Grant never got an Oscar but Jared-fucking-Leto will. Life is so unfair.
Should Win: Fassbender not winning will be a travesty on the level of Ralph Finnes not getting an Oscar for Schindler’s List. Best character of the year. The problem in both cases is that the characters they portray are so unlikable that people are turned off and vote with their hearts instead. Hence Tommy Lee Jones winning for The Fugitive and Leto winning.
Snubbed: Vithaya Pansringarm essentially plays god in the misunderstood Only God Forgives. Or Judge Dredd. Either way, his character is unlike anything else I’ve seen all year. A force of unwavering justice, this god-cop does not forgive, he instead slashes off arms before giving a karaoke sermons. He is the living embodiment of director Nicolas Winding Refn’s bizarre desire to get in a fistfight with god.

Best Supporting Actress

  • Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine)
  • Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle)
  • Julia Roberts (August: Osage County)
  • June Squibb (Nebraska)
  • Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave)

Will Win: Nyong’o 12 Years a Slave. A character defined by suffering but little else. There’s nothing wrong with that in theory and while her character is tragic and poignant there’s not enough of a character arc here. Sarah Paulson gave a better supporting performance in the same movie! It doesn’t make sense that Ejiofor and Fassbender won’t get an Oscar for their meaty roles in 12 Years a Slave but Nyong’o will. I wish the film was able to explore her hopeless situation with more focus and depth but it’s such a sprawling story that it simply didn’t have time.
Should Win: Aside from Nyong’o’s nomination, a strong category. My vote goes to Lawrence and Sally Hawkins. Tough call but I’d give Hawkins the edge. Her character is as essential to why Blue Jasmine works as Blanchette.
Snubbed: Nicole Kidman (Stoker).

Best Adapted Screenplay

  • John Ridley (12 Years a Slave)
  • Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke & Richard Linklater (Before Midnight?)
  • Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope (Philomena)
  • Terence Winter (The Wolf of Wall Street)
  • Billy Ray (Captain Phillips)

Will Win: Ridley’s 12 years. Yay! I’ve been a longtime fan of Ridley since his Three Kings script and his deliciously pulpy Elmore Leonard-esq crime novels like Everyone Smokes in Hell.
Should Win: The other 2013 film Coogan wrote and starred in, Alpha Papa, was even better than Philomena and as much as I’d like to see Coogan win an Oscar, Ridley is by far the best nominee.
Snubbed: This was a bad year for adapted screenplays. The less said the better.

Best Original Screenplay

  • David O. Russell and Eric Singer (American Hustle)
  • Bob Nelson (Nebraska)
  • Spike Jonze (Her)
  • Craig Borten & Melisa Wallack (Dallas Buyers Club)
  • Woody Allen (Blue Jasmine)

Will Win: David O. Russell. Long overdue as a writer. He was my pick for best writer forever ago with Flirting with Disaster. I like Dallas Buyers Club but if it wins I’m going to be in a snit for the rest of the night. Please, please, please give Russell an Oscar!
Should Win: Jonez with Russell in a close second place. His first great script. I love that Jonez is able to show us that his career is not all due to Charley Kauffman.
Snubbed: Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg’s At World’s End is the most clever movie of the year.

Best Foreign Film

  • Denmark, The Hunt
  • Belgium, The Broken Circle Breakdown
  • Italy, The Great Beauty
  • Cambodia, The Missing Picture
  • Palestine, Omar

Will Win: The Hunt. Mads!
Should Win: The Hunt. MADS!!!
Snubbed: Hum, why wasn’t The Grandmaster nominated?

Best Documentary 

  • The Act of Killing
  • 20 Feet from Stardom
  • Dirty Wars
  • The Square
  • Cutie and the Boxer

Will Win: Act of Killing.
Should Win: Act of Killing.
Snubbed: Room 237. Also Tim’s Vermeer and that Sarah Polly doc. Problem is, entertaining documentaries are usually frowned upon in this category.

Best Animated Feature

  • The Wind Rises
  • Frozen
  • Ernest & Celestine
  • Despicable Me 2
  • The Croods

Will Win: Frozen seems like a sure bet. Disney really needs another animated feature Oscar (he said sarcastically).
Should Win: Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises. None of the nominees deserve to be spoken of in the same breath as Miyazaki’s latest (and last?) animated achievement. At least he won for Spirited Away.
Snubbed: Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox was pretty much the best (non-Miyazaki) animated film of the year.

Visual Effects

  • Gravity
  • The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
  • Star Trek Into Darkness
  • Iron Man 3
  • The Lone Ranger

Will Win: Gravity. With Life of Pi winning last year  and Gravity this year I’m very please with how visual effects are being awarded at the Oscars. It’s pleasing to see CGI reach such artistic heights.
Should Win: Gravity.
Snubbed: Man of Steel and Pacific Rim. Lone Range and Iron Man 3 have no business being nominated instead. Man of Steel is the best (and most underrated) blockbuster of the year and easily the best superhero movie. For the Zod vs. Superman fight alone it should have won this category. Iron Man 3, by comparison, offered nothing we haven’t seen before. If anything it offered less! Less Iron Man and more Tony Stark who, last I checked, wasn’t a special effect… so why was it nominated?!

Best Cinematography

  • Roger Deakins (Prisoners)
  • Emmanuel Lubezki (Gravity)
  • Philippe Le Sourd (The Grandmaster)
  • Bruno Delbonnel (Inside Llewyn Davis)
  • Phedon Papamichael (Nebraska)

Will Win: Gravity. Gravity is going to (and deserves to) clean up in the technical categories. If that is the case than than it HAS to win for cinematograph
Should Win: Prisioners ties with Gravity. Not because it’s better than Gravity but because I want to see Deakins finally win.
Snubbed: Chung-hoon Chung (Stoker).

Film Editing

  • American Hustle
  • Captain Phillips
  • Dallas Buyers Club
  • Gravity
  • 12 Years a Slave

Will Win: American Hustle. Gravity has a good shot because, again, voters are dumb. Great movie but there’s so little editing involved I will laugh if it wins.
Should Win: American Hustle.
Snubbed: Her.

Best Original Score

  • William Butler and Owen Pallett (Her)
  • Steven Price (Gravity)
  • Alexandre Desplat (Philomena)
  • Thomas Newman (Saving Mr. Banks)
  • John Williams (The Book Thief)

Will Win: Wow, I have no idea. I’ll say Gravity because voters may just check it off in every category (except best picture). Also: STOP NOMINATING JOHN WILLIAMS!!!
Should Win: Arcade Fire’s Her because it’s beautiful and doesn’t sound like every other nominee. I’m partial to electronic scores. As long as it’s not John Williams I’m happy.
Snubbed: Not sure how Hans Zimmer’s 12 Years a Slave’s score missed the cut. John Williams got in though which makes me ill.

Best Song

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XC3ahd6Di3M[/youtube]

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SU6KFnGF9M8[/youtube]

  • “Ordinary Love” (Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom)
  • “The Moon Song” (Her)
  • “Happy” (Despicable Me 2)
  • “Let It Go” (Frozen)
  • “Alone Yet Not Alone” (Alone Yet Not Alone)

Will Win: “Alone Yet Not Alone” haha. No, really, I hate this category. It’s like a shortcut for people who shouldn’t be getting Oscars and almost always has no impact upon the film artifact. It’s promotional crap and shouldn’t be a category. Anywhoo… Ordinary Love. U2 didn’t win for Gangs of New York and a win here seems likely. Not only does a Mandella movie get a win but a popular classic rock band does too. Win, win.
Should Win: Ordinary Love and Moon Song. What the hell, I’ll vote U2. A cheesy song but an effective one. And, as much as I hate to say it, catchy too. First U2 song in over a decade that didn’t make my ears bleed. Despite that, I’m dreading that giant piece of crap (South Park reference) Bono’s speech.
Snubbed: Inside Llewyen Davis. Outer… SPACE. I’m not complaining about this category though because I’m just so grateful that Taylor Swift didn’t get nominated and so glad Kings of Leon didn’t get nominated (for August Osage County) and thrilled that the overrated XX didn’t get nominated for Great Gadspy.

Production Design

  • Her
  • Gravity
  • 12 Years a Slave
  • American Hustle
  • The Great Gatsby

Will Win: Gravity. Not 100% on this because it’s not a period movie and voters are more often than not ignorant when it comes to this category so it may very well not win.
Should Win: Props to Gravity but Her’s speculative near future design is remarkable and by far the most creative of the nominees. Smart and subtle too. Not too technologically advanced but foreign enough to really feel like the future. Everything about that movie is brilliant but I don’t see it winning a single award -_-
Snubbed: Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug.

Costume Design

  • American Hustle
  • The Grandmaster
  • 12 Years A Slave
  • The Great Gatsby
  • The Invisible Woman

Will Win: 12 Years a Slave. Random guess. I have no idea.
Should Win: I don’t care. American Hustle I guess.
Snubbed: Her’s near future costumes, like the sets, do so much to help establish the world and, even better, so much to not distract you from the characters and story. But this opinion requires recognizing a non period for its excellence which is sadly not done often even though it displays a lot more imagination and creativity. Anyone can look in a book and using preexisting fashion so I almost always respect non period movie sets and fashion when it comes to awards. I complain about this ever year.

Makeup 

  • Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa
  • Dallas Buyers Club
  • The Lone Ranger

Will Win: Dallas Buyers Club.
Should Win: Bad Gramdpa. Anything but Lone Ranger which was inexplicably nominated. Disney threw some paint on Depp’s face. Ok. They also did an old man CGI. None of this is reason for a nomination. Another pointless category that I don’t want to waste much time on.
Snubbed: Uhhhh, where’s Hobbit?

Sound Editing

  • Gravity
  • All is Lost
  • The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
  • Captain Phillips
  • Lone Survivor

Will Win: Gravity’s a lock for the sound awards.
Should Win: Gravity. But I’m happy to see All is Lost get it’s single nomination. Too bad Robert Redfort wasn’t also nominated.
Snubbed: Man of Steel and Pacific Rim.

Sound Mixing

  • Gravity
  • The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
  • Inside Llewyn Davis
  • Captain Phillips
  • Lone Survivor

Will Win: Gravity.
Should Win: Gravity.
Snubbed: Again, Pacific Rim: zero nominations! So, so sad.

Short Film, Live Action

  • Aquel No Era Yo (That Wasn’t Me)
  • Avant Que De Tout Perdre (Just Before Losing Everything)
  • Helium
  • Pitääkö Mun Kaikki Hoitaa? (Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?)
  • The Voorman Problem

Will Win: No Clue. At random I’ll guess The Voorman Problem because voters seem to vote based on title.
Should Win: Marvel’s One Shot short with Ben Kingsley’s Mandarin was better than any 2013 Marvel movie. Oh, but it wasn’t nominated.
Snubbed: Me. All the videos I made of my Pug on Vine. I was ROBBED!

Short Film, Animated

  • Feral
  • Get a Horse!
  • Mr. Hublot
  • Possessions
  • Room on the Broom

Will Win: Get a Horse! because Frozen.
Should Win: Any given episode of Aqua Teen Hunger Force is better than the above shorts.

Documentary Short Subject

  • CaveDigger
  • Facing Fear
  • Karama Has No Walls
  • The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life
  • Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall

Will Win: Facing Fear sounds like something that would win this category sight unseen. Sure, why not, that’ll win. You heard it here first. 
Should Win: Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Best TV Shows – 2012/2013 Season


The Best Television Shows of the Year

  1. Breaking Bad final season
  2. Game of Thrones season 3
  3. House of Cards season 1
  4. Fringe final season
  5. Justified season 4
  6. Homeland season 2
  7. Arrow season 1
  8. Hannibal season 1
  9. Venture Brothers season 5
  10. Doctor Who season 7
  11. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia season 10
  12. Aqua Teen… season 10
  13. Downton Abbey season 3
  14. The Vampire Diaries season 4
  15. Wilfred season 3
  16. American Horror Story: Asylum season 2
  17. Continuum season 1
  18. Hataraku Maou-sama! season 1
  19. Archer season 4
  20. Parks and Recreation season 4 

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YA_plXX38BI[/youtube]

Best Performances

  1. Charles Dance as Tywin Lannister on Game of Thrones
  2. Bryan Cranston as THE Walter White on Breaking Bad
  3. Laura Fraser as Lidia on Breaking Bad
  4. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Jamie Lannister on Game of Thrones
  5. Claire Danes as Carrie on Homeland
  6. Corey Stoll as Russo on House of Cards
  7. John Noble as Walter Bishop on Fringe
  8. Dean Norris as Hank Schrader on Breaking Bad
  9. Jonathan Banks as Mike on Breaking Bad
  10. Timothy Olyphant as Raylan on Justified
  11. Jesse Plemons as Todd Breaking on Bad
  12. Michelle Dockery as Mary on Downton Abbey
  13. Kevin Spacey as Underwood on House of Cards
  14. Rupert Friend as Peter on Homeland
  15. Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister on Game of Thrones

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eSA_Ia6on8k[/youtube]

Most Annoying Characters on TV

  1. Harrison Morgan (Dexter’s unfortunate son) on Dexter
  2. The entire cast of Revolution, especially Charlie
  3. Skyler White on Breaking Bad
  4. Every teenager on Under the Dome
  5. Rick’s wife on Walking Dead (may she rest in restlessness)
  6. Sheldon on Big Bang Theory x100
  7. Katie Cassidy as Oliver’s super awesome and brilliant lawyer girlfriend on Arrow
  8. Lena Dunham on Girls
  9. Every other character on Walking Dead (except for Daryl)
  10. Stefan Salvatore on Walking Dead
  11. Vampire Bill (after he lost his powers) on True Blood

The Worst Things on TV

  1. Cable and Network News
  2. Glee
  3. Duck Dynasty
  4. Revolution
  5. Big Bang Theory
  6. The Newsroom
  7. Girls
  8. Family Guy and Cleveland Show
  9. The Mindy Project
  10. Under the Dome
  11. Walking Dead

Disappointing Seasons From (once) Good Shows

  1. Dexter
  2. Community (shark officially jumped)
  3. Arrested Development (welcome back!… or not)
  4. True Blood
  5. Mad Men
  6. Louie

Past #1 Television Picks

  • 2013: Breaking Bad (season 5a/b)
  • 2012: Game of Thrones (season 2)
  • 2011: Game of Thrones (season 1)
  • 2010: Breaking Bad (season 3)
  • 2009: Lost (season 5)
  • 2008: Aqua Teen Hunger Force (season 5)
  • 2007: Frisky Dingo (season 1)
  • 2006: Battlestar Galactica (season 2.5)
  • 2005: Arrested Development (season 3)
  • 2004:  Fullmetal Alchemist (season 1)
  • 2003: Angel (season 5)
  • 2002: Buffy the Vampire Slayer (season 7)
  • 2001: Buffy the Vampire Slayer (season 6)

Notes on this season: For the first time in a long time the show that (probably) wins the Emmy for Best Drama this weekend, Breaking Bad, will actually be the best drama. The show is back at the number one for a second time! Season three made the top spot, followed by Game of Thrones taking best show of the year honors two years in a row. Make no mistake, season three of GoT was just as good but there’s no beating The Man that Knocks this year. It’s a safe, predictable and obvious #1 choice, granted, but there’s no way around it and no question that Breaking Bad’s final, two part 16-episode season is the best thing on Television. The first eight episodes of s5 is a flawlessly executed season that completes the “Empire” portion of Walter White’s life. Dark. Perfect. The gut wrenching unraveling of Walter White’s grimy soul in season 5b is nothing short of biggest television event since Lost ended. Except, you know, actually good. As for Dexter ending its bloody run… good riddance. Despite playing it safe and boring post season four, the show is still a classic but the insulting, soap opera-y final season sliced a gaping hole in Dexter’s legacy. It didn’t help that the final season aired parallel to Breaking Bad.  Finally, Fringe also ended it’s run. After the disappointing/disproportionate season four it was a relief to see season five of Fringe wrap things up in a satisfying and thoughtful manner; something exceedingly rare for sci-fi/fantasy shows.

Paper Street Oscars – 2013


Oscar Predictions and Preferences

BEST PICTURE: Argo (preference: Les Misérables)
BEST DIRECTOR:
Steven Spielberg, Lincoln (preference: NOT Spielberg)
BEST ACTOR:
Daniel Day Lewis, Lincoln (Lewis gave a flawless performance that was hurt only by how the above filmmaker depicted it so… Hugh Jackman)
BEST ACTRESS:
Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook (preference: Jessica Chastain)
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR:
Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln (preference: Robert De Niro, Silver Linings Playbook)
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:
Anne Hathaway, Les Misérables (preference: Amy Adams, The Master)
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY:
Django Unchained (preference: Flight though I’ll be thrilled if QT wins)  
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY:
Argo (preference: Russell’s Silver Linings script will be robbed!)  
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM:
Amour (preference: Amour)  
BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE:
Searching For Sugar Man (preference: Gatekeepers)   
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE:
Wreck it Ralph (preference: Paranorman)  
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY:
Argo (preference: Skyfall)
BEST FILM EDITING:
Argo (not sure how or why Argo will win over Zero Dark Thirty)  
BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN:
Les Miserables (preference: Les Misérables!!!)
BEST COSTUME DESIGN:
Les Miserables (preference: Les Misérables!!!)
BEST ORIGINAL SONG:
Skyfall (screw Adele, Hobbit’s “Hear of the Lonely Mountain” was snubbed)  
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE:
Life of Pi (preference: Anna Karenina)   
BEST SOUND MIXING:
Les Misérables (Skyfall)
BEST SOUND EDITING:
Life of Pi  (preference: Skyfall or Django)
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS:
Life of Pi (preference: Prometheus)
BEST MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING:
Les Miserables (preference: Les Misérables!!!)
BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT:
Curfew
BEST ANIMATED SHORT:
Paperman  
BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT:
Open Heart


Paper Street Oscars: Personal Picks

BEST PICTURE: Dark Knight Rises
BEST DIRECTOR:
Christopher Nolan, Dark Knight Rises  
BEST ACTOR:
Liam Neeson, The Grey
BEST ACTRESS:
Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR:
Robo Fassbender, Prometheus  
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:
Samantha Barks (Éponine), Les Misérables
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY:
Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan, Dark Knight Rises
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY:
 David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook 
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM:
Like Someone in Love Abbas Kiarostami
BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE:
Beasts of the Southern Wild. That’s a documentary, right?  
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE:
No feature animated movies were great this year so… Batman: Year One
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY:
Dredd and Skyfall
BEST FILM EDITING:
Dark Knight Rises  
BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN:
 Les Misérables
BEST COSTUME DESIGN:
Django Unchained (for Django’s blue suit)  
BEST ORIGINAL SONG:
 “Song of the Lonely Mountain” by Neil Finn, The Hobbit
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE:
Cloud Atlas
BEST SOUND MIXING:
Dredd  
BEST SOUND EDITING:
Prometheus
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS:
Prometheus
BEST MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING:
None. Dumb category.


Best Picture Nominees Ranked

  1. Les Misérables (A-)
  2. Zero Dark Thirty (A-)
  3. Silver Linings Playbook (B+)
  4. Django Unchained (B+)
  5. Life of Pi (B)
  6. Argo (B)
  7. Amour (B)
  8. Beasts of the Southern Wild (B-)
  9. Lincoln (C+)

The 25 Best Zombie Movies of All Time

The 25 Best Zombie Movies of All Time

Vampires may be the predominant horror subject these days but there was a time not too long ago when zombies were the cinema’s go-to monster. In these dark days of emo vampires, tween horror and torture porn I find myself missing those times, comforted by the thought that if there’s one thing we can safely assume about zombies it’s that they have a tendency to come back from the dead. The popularity of zombie movies may fluctuate but one interesting feature of this enduring subject is its uncanny ability to transcend, or maybe just embrace, generic conventions that would cripple most other horror subgenres. Fans (and filmmakers) of zombie movies are sticklers for purity and will doggedly resist change to a such degree that you can still hear people raging against zombies that have the ability to run. So how can a genre/subgenre that is past its golden age innovate and provide fresh new content when its core fanbase resists change? Do zombie fans really want to see the same thing over and over again? In a word: Yes. Zombies are the (raw) meat and potatoes of the horror world and change, it is must exist, must be true to the spirit of the genre. It is this constant balancing act of tradition and innovation that makes this genre so problematic yet so utterly fascinating at the same time. What the genre lacks in variety it makes up for in the hardcore loyalty of its fans who are as Legion as zombies themselves. There’s something comforting in that just as there’s something oddly comforting about our love for a genre that necessitates the wish-fulfilling destruction of civilization. You’d be hard-pressed to find a vampire the can end humanity with this much pizazz.

Below are some of my all time favorite zombie movies. Unlike so many lists that fans of a particular genre tend to obsess over it’s not a matter of what’s on this list of zombie movies but, rather, how the list is ordered.

1. Day of the Dead (1985)
Director: George A. Romero
Crazy Zombie $@#% Factor (out of 10): 8
For some reason most zombie movies are stuck in the present tense; the moment monsters become real and the immediate aftermath of the outbreak. In 1985 “Day of the Dead” became one of those rare zombie stories to take place well after the zombies have overrun the planet. Not having to basically retell the same story of the outbreak freed horror master George Romerio up to explore the boundaries and moral/social implications of the genre while forging radical new ground. The zombie movie had finally take the next logical step in its slow but assured evolution. I am aware that I cannot call “Day” the “best” zombie movie ever without some qualification because it is, after all, a film that divides fans.

As someone who has sat through just about every zombie film outside of those countless student movies that ever films student, including those annoying kids from “Super 8,” gets it in their head to make (zombie films have always had a fierce independent spirit), I feel “Day” perfectly encapsulates everything there is to love about this genre. The action is contained in an underground bunker full of scientists, trigger happy soldiers and zombies. Outside of adding politicians you really can’t beat that combo. The horror is also palpable as you can practically feel the zombies groaning and shuffling back and forth behind the reinforced concrete walls, looking for a way in like ravenous insects. If that wasn’t enough the gruesome deaths that go down when they do eventually find a way in are inspired while the social commentary is brutally heavy-handed (Romerio always gets a pass for this) and, through the character of “Bub” played by Sherman Howard, the cinematic representation of “The Zombie” is able to step out of the shadows of soulless brutishness to become a fully realized and, yes, sympathetic character type. “They are us!” the film’s Doctor says in a defining moment that gives more chills than any of the actual horror. Rather than presenting non-stop action “Day” is the first, and perhaps only, zombie movie to slow down enough to, for lack of a better word, understand zombies in earnest: “It wants me! It wants food! But it has no stomach, can take no nourishment from what it ingests. It’s acting on INSTINCT!” By the end, when Romerio provides an undeniable glimpse of sentient intellect to add to the zombie’s signature instinct I feel it can be said that he perfected the movie monster. Of course the final stroke of brilliance is Romerio’s dogged insistence that humans are the ultimate monster.

2. 28 Weels Later (2007)
Crazy Zombie $@#% Factor: 7
Director: Juan Carlos Fresnadillo
I am convinced that the best decade for zombie films was the one that just passed. Representing the apex of the improbable 00s zombie boom, the polemical sequel “28 Weeks Later” is the kind of accomplished modern horror work that I would put in the same company as the vampire genre’s “Let the Right One In” (2009), the alien genre’s “Monsters” (2010) and of course the giant monster movie “The Host” (2007). That’s a very objective statement since “Weeks” not only underperformed at the box office office but was rejected by many fans of “28 Days Later” for being too much of a departure. As such, “Weeks” is destined to live in the shadow of “Days” just as “Day of the Dead” lives in “Dawn of the Dead’s” shadow. For my money it’s the better film. WAY better.

Not content with rehashing the usual zombie tropes, “Weeks” brilliantly taps into a myriad of socially relevant subjects including the use of surveillance, the West’s futile “war on terror,” gene tampering and population control. I would go as far as to say that “The Hurt Locker” may have been inspired by this film when it cast the then-unknown Jeremy Renner in what is basically the same role (just substitute Arabs for zombies). The post 9-11 allegory is sharp and easily as complex as any of Romerio’s crude but lovable zombie-as-consumer critiques but it’s packaged in a thoroughly rounded product that emphasizes action, ideas and emotion. The film’s focus on a family’s tragic fight for survival in a massively quarantined England after the brutal outbreak depicted in the first film is the most poignant and well realized use of human drama in the zombie cannon. I defy anyone to find better instances that depict the gut wrenching horror and sadness involved in characters we really care about who “turn.” If that wasn’t enough this film contains what is pound for rotting pound the genre’s most superlative use of suspense and action sequences to date with memorable scenes ranging from “Black Hawk Down”-esq shoot-outs, frantic zombie chases and scenes shot in total darkness.
“Weeks” has been dismissed as a conceptually bloated and unnecessary sequel. I disagree and will go to my grave (then crawl back out it) with the belief that it’s the best horror sequel of all time without the word “Alien” in the title and one of those rare zombie films that’s good enough to be called important.

3. Re-animator (1985)
Director: Stuart Gordon
Crazy Zombie $@#% Factor: 9
Not just one of the best and funniest zombie movies ever made but the only decent H.P. Lovecraft movie adaptation ever made. For that reason alone I worship it like a Great Old One and have watched this film more than anything on the list. The perverse joy of “Re-animator” was summed up perfectly by a stoned Kevin Spacey in “American Beauty”: “Did you ever see that movie where the body is walking around…carrying its own head, and then the head goes down on that babe?” Ah, good times.

4. Shaun of the Dead (2004)
Crazy Zombie $@#% Factor: 9
Director: Edgar Wright
I liked but didn’t exactly love “Shaun” when I first saw it in the theater. I found it to be cocky, over-directred and lacking in focus. Countless viewings later and those are the exact reasons I love it. In fact, I can’t imagine the zombie genre without “Shaun.” It’s one of those rare parodies that transcends the very thing it’s paying homage to–the “Spaceballs” of zombie movies! Even Romerio tipped his hat (something he rarely does) by casting Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright as, what else, zombies in “Land of the Dead.” I am of the opinion that after just three movies (four if you want to count “Don’t” from “Grindhouse” which you totally should) Edgar Wright is one of the best new directors of the 21st century and he certainly cut his teeth (no pun intended) on his first trip to the cinematic playground.

5. Land of the Dead (2005)
Director: George A. Romero
Crazy Zombie $@#% Factor: 6
One of the best zombie stories of all time came out in 2005 and nobody noticed. Or cared. Sadly, that’s typical for a Romerio movie. Horror fans didn’t like it because it wasn’t “28 Weeks Later” and Romerio fans didn’t love it because there was CGI and, worst of all, John Leguizamo. Both are dead wrong, well, except for the John Leguizamo part. I get the impression that “Land of the Dead” is the kind of epic zombie action movie Romerio always dreamed of making but never had the budget for. It’s his “Intolerance” minus the self aggrandizement and zombie Jesus. A spiritual successor to “Day of the Dead,” this is Romerio at his most antiestablishment (which is saying something). The story follows that dude from TV’s “The Mentalist” (he lost the right to be called by a real name after doing that show) and horror movie royalty Asia Argento as renegade survivors who team up when they discover a beacon of hope amidst a den of evil. Of course, this being Romerio the beacon is far from hopeful and the den is far from evil. The allegory of an elite class (lead by Dennis Hopper in his last great role) living in a literal ivory tower as the tainted masses toil away until the very moment they suddenly achieve a twitch of revolutionary self-awareness is blunt but effectively handled by a director who seems to be having the time of his life. He’s not the only one.

6. Dawn of the Dead (2004)
Director: Zack Snyder
Crazy Zombie $@#% Factor: 9
This may be the only remake in the history of cinema that benefits from being dumbed down. Snyder’s “Dawn of the Dead” is better than Romerio’s original. There, I said it. /opinion

7. Cemetery Man (1994)
Director: Michele Soavi
Crazy Zombie $@#% Factor: 7

Inspired by “Dylan Dog” (the comic not the horrible 2011 movie), a guardian who works at the Buffalora Cemetery must defend himself against the dead who, like clockwork, rise from the very graves he puts them in. It’s hard not to love the poetry in that. It would have been obvious for Soavi to make this play out like a goofy or more zombie-proofed version of “Evil Dead 2” and, yes, while much of Rupert Everett’s after-hour Dylan Dog-ish antics are played for laughs, there’s a wonderful sense of beauty, romance and tragedy to the film’s colorful approach to the genre. The last shot is literally magical and makes a good case for “Cemetery Man” being the dreamiest arthouse zombie movie ever.

8. Zombie (1979)
Director: Lucio Fulci
Crazy Zombie $@#% Factor: 10

I love movie titles that get right to the point because it’s usually a sign that the movie will do the same. “Zombie,” also known as “Zombi 2” has fascinating origins. Directed by Lucio Fulci, one of the most prolific (and best) horror filmmakers of all time, “Zombie” was released in Italy as a “sequel” to Romerio’s “Dawn of the Dead.” Except nobody bothered to tell Romerio that it was a sequel. They also failed to tell him that it was better than “Dawn” in almost every way. Ironically, the zombies-on-an-island premise that this film pioneered was adopted with disastrous results by Romerio himself when he made the worst zombie film of his career “Survival of the Dead” in 2010. “Zombie” may have many titles but most people just refer it as “that movie where a zombie fights a shark.” Fair enough. That moment, shot pre CGI, is very much apart of popular culture at this point (it’s even in TV commercials) and for good reason because it’s the single most inspired sequence in the genre’s history. It must be noted however that the film is full of scenes just as memorable. It’s that good.

9. Dead Alive (1992)
Director: Peter Jackson
Crazy Zombie $@#% Factor: 9
What ever happen to the Peter Jackson who made “Dead Alive?” I miss him.

10. Return of the Living Dead (1985)
Director: Dan O’Bannon
Crazy Zombie $@#% Factor: 10
“Return” came out the same year as “Day of the Dead.” It is here that a great chasm in the zombie genre began. That of the funny zombie movie vs. the serious one. Romerio may get the lion’s share of respect from horrorphiles but the first (and only decent) film in the “Living Dead” series imparted just as many invaluable contributions to the genre. One word: Braaaaainnnnnsssss. That’s one of many valuable life lessons the skeletal zombie known as Tarman has to offer. Another is “moooore brains.” Gotta love Tarman. The lighter but no less bloody approach is revolutionary and, in its own way, just as influential to films like “Shaun of the Dead” and “Dead Alive” as anything by Romerio. This is also the first time the genre featured running zombies. Even Romerio references “Return” in his not-quite zombie thriller “The Crazies.” Having written the screenplay to “Alien,” “Total Recall,” “Dark Star” (John Carpenter’s first movie) and the underrated “Screamers,” Dan O’Bannon is an often neglected figure in the world of horror and sci-fi. His parodic approach on “Return” may be nothing like the seminal titles he’s known for writing but you watch this movie and can just tell the director would go on to do many great things. Except he didn’t! Prior to his death his only other movie is an unreleased Lovecraft horror film called “Shatterbrain.”

11. 28 Days Later (2002)
Director: Danny Boyle
Crazy Zombie $@#% Factor: 8
The great zombie revival of the 2000s could very well be credited to this seminal film. It’s hard to deny that Danny Boyle’s innovative horror work represents the next stage in the evolution of cinematic zombie movies both in terms of how it’s shot (answer: from the hip) and how the zombies act (answer: crazy). Some argue that the infected humans in this movie are not even technically zombies because they are not undead. That point is well taken but I must disagree because, well, if it looks like a zombie and bites like a zombie then it’s a fucking zombie. A man (Cillian Murphy) wakes up naked in a hospital, sprawled out like a post apocalypse Jesus, and must traverse a world that has gone mad… and hungry. Keep in mind this all went down before “Walking Dead” told a very similar origin story. The rage virus (unleashed by hippies freeing test monkeys, which, HA!) basically turns humans into swift, sinewy creatures whose only mode of travel is lunatic fast and whose only mode of attack is retard strong. This simple but crucial element adds a real sense of urgency to the once molasses slow menace that a toddler could hitherto outrun. The reason the film does not rank higher is simply because Boyle fails at providing a satisfying conclusion to what very well could have been the best modern zombie film ever made. Whoops. The third act is so bad that I too found myself infected with rage. Inexplicably, Boyle and writing partner Alex Garland opt to down shift this relentless tale of survival to end the story in a dark castle where an insane Army Major played by Christopher Eccleston goes all Doctor Who on everybody. I have no idea what that means but I just had to slip in a “Who” reference.

12. Fido (2006)
Director: Andrew Currie
Crazy Zombie $@#% Factor: 5
Anyone complaining that they don’t make original zombie films anymore haven’t seen “Fido.” This 1950s era social parable reimagines our post-World War II America as a post-World War Zombie America. Now that’s my kind of history! Just picture “Mad Men” with zombies instead of pretentious ad execs. I’m amazed this unique approach has not been applied to all eras–zombies in Rome, zombies in Medieval England or why not “Cowboys vs. Zombies” (that’s already better than “Cowboys vs. Aliens”)? As a retro horror-comedy, “Fido” explores the “containment” and enslavement of a “subhuman” zombie lower class in a swank suburban town where ownership of these shock-collar equipped zombies become the ultimate status symbol. So capitalism + imperialism = Zombism. This isn’t a new concept exactly but what is new and exciting is how much more deeply the film probes this interesting social concept than the usual zombie film.

Directed by the virtually unknown Andrew Currie, the film centers on a pet zombie named Fido (played with great passion by Scotsmen Billy Connolly) that enters into a maladjusted family as a high priced zombie butler. As fleshed out as Romeiro’s famous “Bub” from “Day of the Dead,” this creature grows, learns, feels and even has a good influence on the mother and son who are desperately looking for a husband and father figure. A fascinating subtext of sexual chemistry exists between mother and zombie suitor. Talks of zombie wars of yore and a vast zombie wasteland that exists just outside of the fenced-off city walls by the corporate minded villain and WWZ veteran (Henry Czerny) give the film a vivid sense of time and place. Not quite an action film and not quite horror, the nuanced “Fido” represents a vibrant entry in the once thriving zombie genre.

13. Quarantine + [Rec] (2008)
Director: John Erick Dowdle
Crazy Zombie $@#% Factor: 7
The rage virus subgenre scores another win! Two actually. “Quarantine” + “[Rec]” are equally good in my opinion. Not sure why people didn’t respond to the American version which is basically a more exciting version of the overrated handicam horror hits “The Blair Witch Project” and “Paranormal Activity” but with zombies and Deb from “Dexter.” Both versions represent a much needed modern approach to the genre where the handheld POV camera style and deft use of darkness and closed spaces adds to the horror and sense of claustrophobic dread. More so even than in the cult favorite “The Descent.” As a testament to its influence, “[Rec]” may have even inspired Romerio to apply a similar aesthetic to his divisive non-cannon “Diary of the Dead” entry.

14. Dead Heat (1988)
Director: Mark Goldblatt
Crazy Zombie $@#% Factor: 1
A must for lovers of bad movies. I once broke up with a girl for falling asleep during “Dead Heat.” Okay, there were a lot of other reasons but that one cracked the top ten. Simply put, if you’re the kind of person who is not tickled by the notion that Treat Williams is in n 1980s cop/buddy movie playing a zombified cop named… wait for it… Roger Mortis then I don’t think we could hang. Forgive me if I forget how or why there are zombies in this cop movie’s world (I’m pretty sure I was under the influence when I watched it… which is the only way to watch it) but I love that as the film progresses Williams’s body becomes increasingly more dead-ified. Of course Mr. Mortis’s bodily deterioration allows partner Doug Bigelow (no relation to Deuce and played by a never-worse Joe Piscopo) to drop lines like “You remember when we were in training? They always told us, ‘You can’t be a good cop if you’re a dead cop.’ Here’s your chance to prove them wrong. You’re good AND you’re dead” and “You are under arrest, you have the right to remain disgusting.” If you’re thinking this sounds horrible, you’re right, it is, which is why it’s so damn good. If the same film were made today it would be all ironic and postmodern and probably have Jack Black in it but from an 80s point of view it fits right in.

15. Night of the Living Dead (1968)
Director: George A. Romero
Crazy Zombie $@#% Factor: 3
Admission: I saw it as a kid and was bored. Admission #2: I saw it again last year and… was bored. Heresy, I know, but bored does not equal bad by any means. In fact, the minimalism of this film is what allows it to remain such a refreshing and effective alternative to the constant action zombie films I had been raised on. I respect “Night’s” place in the pantheon of zombies movies, not to mention its position as one of the first truly successful independent movies. Though Romerio, contrary to popular opinion, did not come close to inventing the zombie or even the zombie movie, he certainly can be credited for popularizing the cinematic zombie we all know and love/loathe today. Of course Romerio went on to re-invented zombies a second time on “Dawn of the Dead” but that’s a different matter. If this was a “most important zombie movies” list it would be at the very top. Oh, and as a side note be sure to check out Tom “Sex Machine” Savini’s surprisingly decent remake of this film.

16. Dawn of the Dead (1978)
Director: George A. Romero
Crazy Zombie $@#% Factor: 8
“Dawn of the Dead” is considered to be the zombie movie par excellence. It is the agreed upon point of entry for the entire genre. I’m must be missing something because I’m not a big “Dawn” fan. More of an admirer. It’s as if Romerio hit upon the most brilliant idea for a zombie movie ever (zombies in a mall) and then just coasted from there. There’s lots of action but, unlike “Day of the Dead,” nothing to anchor it thematically or dramatically. It’s still fun to watch Romerio go through the motions and that’s certainly enough to make it a classic even to a non-hardcore fan. The movie does contain the best and most iconic line in any zombie movie ever: “When there’s no more room in hell, the dead will walk the earth.” That’s horror poetry right there. Also, nothing beats the scene where a zombie is taken out by a helicopter’s propeller blades–unless of course when a similar scene was done in “28 Weeks Later” with 100x more zombie viscera than the leading brands. A few great lines and scenes aside, “Dawn” has just aged very badly and I’m not just talking about the horrible blue/green/grey zombie makeup, the soundtrack or the bad acting (I’m looking at you Fran!). The film’s pacing and direction may also feel stilted at times but, if looked at from a different perspective, are actually quite remarkable considering the budget and era it was made in. Like “Night” this is a film that must be placed within the context of its release to be enjoyed.

17. Resident Evil: Extinction (2007)
Director: Russell Mulcahy
Crazy Zombie $@#% Factor: 8
I’m not being a troll here. Ever since Paul W.S. Anderson’s first “Resident Evil” was released in 2002 I became a loyalist to this despised but somehow still popular series. However one cannot be a loyalist to this series without also being an apologist. While I haven’t seen a “Resident Evil” I didn’t like (yes, even the 3D one had its moments) the third entry remains best in the series. I’m hooked by “Extinction’s” desert setting and the “Matrix”-style approach lathered on by “Highlander” director Russell Mulcahy of all people. This film is a prime example of people’s unwillingness to allow zombie movies to mix things up. Basically, what we’re dealing with here is “Road Warrior” with zombies. And slo-mo! And zombie crows! That’s cool, cool, and cooler in my book. I feel that the setting in a zombie movie is as crucial as its characters or the story and the idea to move away from the sterile hallways beneath Raccoon City to do battle in a sand blasted, post-apocalyptic version of Vegas (I would call it New Vegas but that name is already taken) makes for a genuinely original location that ranks among the best in the genre and is matched only by the mall in “Dawn of the Dead.” The heroine known as Alice in the world’s most pointless literally allusion is played by a Milla Jovovich who as here as if she basically discovered the “God Mode” (to borrow a video game reference) the entire movie and is infused with superhuman (and totally cheap) powers. She is so mentally and physically powerful and kills so many zombies that you actually feel sorry for the undead by the end. This annoyed many fans and backed the series into a corner, prompting the follow-up “Resident Evil: Afterlife” to strip her of her insane skills because we can’t have a hero be too awesome, can we. Oh well, it was fun while it lasted.

18. Serpent and the Rainbow (1988)
Director: Wes Craven
Crazy Zombie $@#% Factor: 2
Wes Craven and zombies in the same movie?! Yes!!! Why don’t more people know about this movie? This tragically neglected 1980s horror film surpasses “I Walked With a Zombie” in consideration as the most “authentic” zombie movie ever made. Zombies, as we all know (or, uh, as Wikipedia tells us), are derived from Haitian Voodoo culture and Wes Craven, being the genus that he is, explores these origins with a more evocative horror lens than the usual film. Voodoo as a cause for the dead to rise makes about as much sense the radiation from a NASA probe, alien spore, divine intervention or virus explanations we’ve been given in various films. If that’s not enough to get you to see it I have one thing last thing to say on the matter: Bill “Lonestar” Pullman is in it. Sold?

19. Night of the Creeps (1986)
Director: Fred Dekker
Crazy Zombie $@#% Factor: 4
A precursor to one of my favorite modern horror films, James Gunn’s “Slither.” Except instead of turning people into betenticled monsters the alien brain slugs of this movie turn its victims into zombies. Hilarity ensues. As does plenty of blood and boobs. Random, yeah, but a lot of fun from Fred Dekker director of another cheesy 80s cult teen film called “The Monster Squad.” “Creeps” has a very small but loyal following and I really hope Hollywood doesn’t attempt to remake this film. It’s perfect the way it is. The film was released on DVD not too long ago and is worth seeking. Useless fact: the nerdy hero is played by Blake Lively’s brother. Not sure if knowing that helps or hurts the movie.

20. Zombieland (2009)
Director: Ruben Fleischer
Crazy Zombie $@#% Factor: 9
I’ve never seen a zombie movie in which characters squirt on hand sanitizer after smoking a gaggle or hoard or whatever the plural for zombies is. I’ve also never seen one in which the cause of the zombie plague is revealed to be bad hamburger meat. “You’ve heard of mad cow? Well this is mad human” the protagonist played by Jesse Eisenberg states in the most casual, “Social Network”-y manner possible. As a zombie road story the film is reminiscent of my favorite current graphic novel (and least favorite TV) series “The Walking Dead” by Robert Kirkman. That sprawling saga, however brilliant it tends to be, has zero sense of humor about zombies or the absurd situations humans tend to find themselves in a world run by them. As scary as zombies can be in theory, there’s actually something very funny about them. They’re dumb, they’re decrepit and they’re incapable of self-awareness or rational insight (insert Republican joke here). “Zombieland” gets that and as such is able to mine a seemingly endless amount of gags from the material. Not only does it contain the best use of Twinkies in a movie but the second best use of irritable bowl syndrome (Coen Brothers “The Ladykillers” comes first) and, as anyone who has seen the film might agree, the single best cameo in history. This film gives me hope that the mainstream can produce a decent zombie movie every once and a while. How sad is it then that it’s been two years since a really zombie movie was released? What makes matters worse is that there’s no end in sight given the lack of plans to adapt Stephen King’s amazing techno-zombie novel Cell and the fact that 2012’s “World War Z” is being directed by Mark “I ruined James Bond” Forester.

21. I Walked With a Zombie (1943)
Director: Jacques Tourneur
Crazy Zombie $@#% Factor: 3
As if 1940s cinema did do everything better it also gave birth to zombie movies. Turns out the only thing Romerio actually invented was “Romerio Zombies” which, admittedly, are much cooler than the square zombies of the 40s. Still, this film along with “White Zombie” is essential viewing for anyone interested in the genre and I’m not just talking about Rob Zombie.

22. I Sell the Dead (2009)
Director: Glenn McQuaid
Crazy Zombie $@#% Factor: 7
“If I’ve learned anything over the years it’s that you never, ever trust a corpse.” Grossing a whopping $8,050 this moribund 2009 cult movie has been rescued by positive word of mouth. It’s not just a horror movie but a crime movie, a period movie AND a comedy. The film, about grave robbers, stars Dominic Monaghan and Ron Perlman. So a Hobbit and a Hellboy. If, unlike me, you are not boycotting Netflix then put this title at the top of your queue.

23. Night of the Comet (1984)
Director: Thom Eberhardt
Crazy Zombie $@#% Factor: 5
About a Valley Girl that survives (and shops) through an apocalyptic outbreak, “Night of the Comet” is to zombies what “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” is to vampires.

24. Dead Set (2008)
Director: Yann Demange
Crazy Zombie $@#% Factor: 7
As someone who hates reality shows with the gluttonous passion of a thousand Snookie Monsters, I am grateful to the BBC series “Dead Set” for allowing me to cathartically experience what would happen if an outbreak occurred while shooting “Big Brother.” Even more admirable is the fact that “Dead Set” proves that a show about zombies does not need to be maudlin, brain dead, poorly written, horribly directed, or miscast (ahem, “Walking Dead”).

25. Versus (2000)
Director: Ryûhei Kitamura
Crazy Zombie $@#% Factor: 9
And least we not forget the East’s whacked-out contribution to the zombie genre. It’s the best (and only?) samurai zombie movie to date. I would love to see this series continue on in anime form.

Also recommended: Night of the Living Dead (1990 version), the zombie sections in Creepshow (1982), Dead Snow (2009), Beyond Re-Animator (2003), I Sell the Dead (2008), Zombi 3 (1988), Resident Evil (2002), White Zombie (1932), Dance of the Dead (2008), Diary of the Dead (2007).

Worst Zombie Movies of All Time:

  1. Night of the Living Dead 3D (2006, Jeff Broadstreet)
  2. Day of the Dead (2008 remake, Steve Miner)
  3. The Walking Dead on AMC (Frank Darabont, not a movie but I had to include it)
  4. Planet Terror (2007, Robert Rodriguez)
  5. Survival of the Dead (2009, Romerio)

Best Zombie Characters:

  1. Bub (Sherman Howard) in Day of the Dead.
  2. Fido (Michael Connolly) in Fido.
  3. Shark Fighting Zombie in Zombie.
  4. Tarman in Return of the Living Dead.
  5. Zombie Ned Flanders in The Simpsons
  6. Jay Leno Zombie, Dawn of the Dead remake.
  7. Big Daddy (Eugene Clark) in Land of the Dead.
  8. Undead Ed from Shaun of the Dead
  9. The water zombies Harry & Becky (Ted Danson and Gaylen Ross) in Creepshow.
  10. The old school Cemetery Zombie (William Hinzman) in Night of the Living Dead.
  11. And of course the ghost busting non-zombie zombie in Zombieland.

Best Zombie Video Games:

  1. Resident Evil 4
  2. Plants vs. Zombies
  3. Dead Rising
  4. Zombies Ate My Neighbors
  5. Stubbs the Zombie
  6. Resident Evil
  7. The House Of The Dead: Overkill
  8. Resident Evil 3
  9. Left 4 Dead
  10. Dead Nation

Note: I made this list for the site Inflatable Ferret which can be found here.

Best and Worst TV Shows of the 2010-2011 Season

1. Game of Thrones

With all due respect to Xena fans, the fantasy genre never worked on Television until Game of Thrones came along and did for the Television fantasy world what Lord of the Rings has done for the cinema. The show is unlike anything else on TV (“it’s not TV, it’s Game of Thrones” should be HBO’s new motto). Ever. It is just about perfect and just about the best new show to come along since… I’ll need to get back to you when I figure out what’s better than this show. The setting, atmosphere, writing, characters, acting, action choreography, cinematography, production design, and all the way down the list to the show’s classic theme song and opening credit sequence. All exemplary. Assuming it stays true to the gritty, beefed up Tolkienisms of George R.R. Martin’s unparalleled novel series A Song of Ice and Fire, the show poses a real threat to the reigning Lord of the Rings series as the best fantasy adaption of all time. It goes without saying that it’s also, after just one season, the best HBO show ever, easily surpassing Deadwood, Larry Sanders and The Sopranos.

I love how the world of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros is so lived in. The world this show inhabits is of course meticulously sketched out thanks to Martin’s obsessive tendency to describe everything down to the ingredients of the food the characters are eating, the clothes their wearing while they’re eating, the eye color of the person eating and the nipple color/size should the occasion arise. The show is able to capture that without getting bogged down in detail. But this not the kind of fantasy world full of rainbows and unicorns. Everything we see is brought down to a human level. It’s hard to enjoy the jaw dropping sight of the wall (a miles-long ice barrier that keeps undead monsters away from the living ones) when there’s a steaming chamber pot (or pissing dwarf) just inches away. To watch this show is to become a prisoner to the beautiful and magical world full of wretched and filthy people. Realism is key while the fantasy elements are so subtle that it’s more of a Medieval drama than a full-on sci-fi/fantasy genre show. For now. That will change in the seasons to come (get ready for Melisandre!) and I can’t wait to see how the epic moments in the books such as the Blackwatter battle, a one handed bear fight (not epic, just great) and of course the Red Wedding of book three play out. As a promises of what’s to come, the delicate balance in Westeros underwent a major shift at season’s end with (spoiler) the remarkable final scene/reveal involving the fiery birth of mythical dragons long thought dead and a naked Queen Daenerys holding them in her bosom. Really, there’s nothing on Earth, er, Westeros that can beat that combo; it’s the basis for just about every awful tattoo for a reason.

I hope edgy hard core fantasy becomes a predominant trend because the genre really could use some teeth, grit, guts and cu… well, lets just say things that rhyme with guts. While full of guilty pleasures (the sex and action is unbeatable) this is a dark show; perhaps the darkest show ever produced on cable Television (or TV in general) and that’s saying something. While you never know what’s coming next, the one thing the viewer always knows is that whatever DOES happen, it will be dark, depraved, twisted and coming from the sickly depths of human vice (greed, lust, vengeance, all that good stuff). But not fantasy-genre random where, say, a Wizard could drop in and tell people what’s up. The things that happen, happen because they have been established/foreshadowed properly. Simply put, anyone who tackles fantasy from this day forward needs to study both this show and the Song of Ice and Fire novels. The one constant at play is, as I mentioned, everyone’s ability to be not just flawed but cruel at times. Yet not evil. Never evil. Motivations exist in event the most seemingly insignificant (Theon Greyjoy for instance, who’s journey won’t be flayed, I mean fleshed out until book 5!) or tragically underdeveloped of characters (King Robert Baratheon–whose real story exist more in brief references/recollections to the past) yet it all makes sense if you pay close attention. Characters that are fundamentally at odds such as Tyrion Lannister (who I would argue is the main character to the entire series) and Catelyn Stark or Eddard Stark and Queen Cersei all have perfectly sound motivations for why they do what they do. In many cases we would do the same if placed in any of their leather strapped shoes.

Season one of Game of Thrones showed us a world returning the darkness of yore. This is a realm that is long past the gory and magic of its own glorious folk tales. But there has been a quickening and forces seem to be shifting, stirring and awakening. A new era is beginning right here. Despite being on the precipice of a great void, clueless characters continue to plot, kill, grab for power, and land and petty titles as their reality begins to slip ever so slightly into oblivion; the darkness of winter the Starks so love to remind us is coming. Is that a literal winter or a figurative one. Probably both. We shall see.

2. Fringe
Season 3

Throughout most of 2010 I secretly knew (well, unless you read my obnoxious twitter proclamations) that no should could possibly top Fringe for Show of the Year. Then Game of Thrones came along and gave it a medieval curb-stomp, bumping it to a still great number 2 position. Season 3 of Fringe is as close to flawless as a show like this can get. The jump in quality from season one and (all but the last two episodes of) season 2 is off the charts; so much so that season three is for all intents and purposes a different show. A better show. A great show! Not since Lost seasons 4/5 and Star Trek: The Next Generation season 3 has a Television (or movie) series creatively saved itself as Fringe did this season. The show has done nothing less than expand the bounds of the science fiction genre. What started as tedious paranormal mystery of the week turned into a parallel universe show that turned into a futuristic flash forward, a futuristic parallel flash forward and ended traveling back into the past which will no doubt affect Earth’s future(s). With help from JJ Abrams’ writing team (though, like Lost, minus JJ Abrams), the actors/characters keep it all from becoming a goofy mess (as Fringe often was early on), grounding the expertly crafted impossible with a vital human element. The central trio of characters played by John Nobel, Anna Torv (who took acting lessons this season!) and Joshua Jackson (as well as John Noble and Anna Torv’s parallel selves) all shined and glimmered this season. Literally.
Unlike EVERY network show on right now, Fringe requires your attention and demands that you ponder the implications. That makes it must-see Sci-fi. As with all great genre shows, it’s not a matter of good vs. evil. The villains on this show, if they can even be called that, are doing everything they can to save their universe from being swallowed by ours. Incidentally, our side is to blame for the multi-dimensional merging. No other story arc was better or more compelling than that last season.

With a myriad of creative uses of science (people who defy gravity, androids, expiated pregnancies, people who can’t die, an ancient tribe of profits etc.) the show recalls the anything-can-happen wonder of X-Files when it was in its prime (seasons 3-7). That most viewers dropped out in favor of more episodes of CSI:NCIS:L.A.:Miami is sad but indicative of the retardation of modern Television watching. While (spoiler) Peter was erased from time and memory at the end of the season, the happy ending to the Fringe saga is that it is the recipient of a truly rare and anomalous instance where creativity was placed ahead of profit. We must give Fox (of all places) credit for understanding the value of their Fringe property. This is a show for fans. Not critics and not even a mass audience. If Fringe should fall next year as Firefly did before it –and make no mistake, it WILL– it is our fault. And by our I mean the fault of people too closed minded to give a paranormal sci-fi show like this a chance more so than the people who actually watched the first season and a half and gave up (as I almost did). Finally, the shameful Emmy neglect of this innovative show (every bit as good as a given season of Lost was) is a good argument for dismantling that flawed and antiquated intuition in favor of a new system of awarding Television excellence. Because, really, there’s just no way one can’t even begin to talk about the best shows of the 2010/2011 season without putting Fringe towards the top of that list.

3. Doctor Who
Season Who The Hell Knows

Last season of Steven Moffatt’s Doctor Who was a surprise in every way. Not only was Matt Smith a good Doctor (a really good Doctor!–not Tennant good though) but the show was smarter and more exciting than it had ever been with a welcome emphasis on the science and logistics of what the Doctor is doing. When the Doctor used his Tardis the show actually bothered to explain what he was doing. When he traveled back into time the show told us how he did it! Even if it didn’t make perfect sense (how could it?), it’s great to see the show evolve with a fine aged sci-fi complexity. Of course Doctor Who also maintained a deep emotional core thanks to the human anchor and best Doctor companion ever, Amy Pond (played so well and winningly by Karen Gillan). Come to think of it… none of that should be surprising considering Steven Moffatt was always the true genus behind Doctor Who. The second season with the 11th Doctor maintains the high quality I came to expect from the series without exceeding it. Which is fine because Russell T. Davis’s problem was that he tried to top and one up things too much and things got messy. The “The Impossible Astronaut” opener was solid. Nothing more. The Neil Gaimen episode “The Doctor’s Wife” featuring his Tardis come to live was a wonderful tribute to the show and it’s fans. I hope to see more of Idrid. Writer Matthew Graham (Life on Mars/Ashes to Ashes) did a decent Alien3 homage and created a great new character, the Doctor’s Clone. I also hope to see more of him even though he kinda melted. Oh, and there was a Pirate episode that easily surpassed Pirates of the Caribbean 4 (not that hard to do). And of course the mid-season finale was so good that I only resented the fact that there had to be a mid season finale in the first place. Seeing the show announce at the end of it that “Lets Kill Hitler” was a cruel enticement. Of course I’m saving the best aspect of the show for last: Rory. 

3. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
Season 6

I can’t think of any television comedies other than perhaps Curb your Enthusiasm that have stayed this good after six seasons. Of course it took two full seasons to get into the proper wavelength that it’s on now but, still, pretty impressive. The Gang Gets Stranded In The Woods episode might be the best Sunny to date. And that’s saying something considering the season also contained a Lethal Weapon 5 episode (link)! Other highlights include the Gang buying a filthy boat (and sinking it), working at a High School, Charley engaging in a rat Holocaust with his trusty bat (“”sometimes I wonder if our lives are more valuable than theirs” he muses), getting stuck in an empty pool, burning a house down, and of course the wondrous Rashomon “Who Got Dee Pregnant?” episode in which the Gang tries to figure out what the title suggests. The look on brother Dennis’s face when he thinks it’s him is priceless. There is no question that the show is still hitting its stride and riding that sweet spot all the way to the bank, or welfare line as it were.

4. Justified
Season 2

Season one of Justified was damn good. Made my top ten last year. Season two blows it away with a more intensified, character/story driven approach. The show brilliantly tweaked the once standard crime-of-the-week formula to include more cohesive season long arcs that include a colorful southern crime family and the mostly compelling transformation of Boyd Crowder (Goggins) from an annoyingly flaccid fortune cookie philosopher (Hannibal Lector crossed with Gandhi) to a crime boss fighting the rival crime family (the awesome, scene stealing Jeremy Davies and Margo Martindale) who have the pot trade cornered. All the while, protagonist Marshal Raylan Givens is stuck in the middle… again. Timothy Olyphant is the heart of this show. He projects coolness and can hang with the best of Leonard’s protagonists, and that includes Chili Palmer and Jack Foley. Not surprising considering Raylan was the hero of two amazing Leonard novels, Pronto and Riding the Rap. Unlike a lot of TV cops Raylan is not shallow and his well worn Western hero personality begins to crack and splinter off as the season progresses. I loved the pair of high intensity episodes where the Marshal and his ex wife cover up one of her ridiculous money stealing blunders in the evidence room. It showed that the show was more than capable of telling a story without the typical formula of cop/criminal cat and and mouse games. It was not only a solid anti-redemption for Raylan (who was mostly by the books prior and a bit of a renegade after) but the filmmaker who made it, John Avnet, who broke the law in his own way by making Righteous Kill and 88 Minutes. By the end of season two, Raylan’s hardly even a lawman anymore and that’s when the show was at its best. But he’s also not season 8’s Jack Bauer, seeking revenge on everything that moves. He’s instead somewhere in middle; a complex hero worthy of the Elmore Leonard seal of approval. Speaking of Leonard, not only does the crime master write an episode this season (a real treat for fans of the show and author) but this season as a whole felt even more like one of Leonard’s novels with homespun crimes, great dialogue and, of course, villains just as memorable as the heroes. Justified is one of those rare crime shows on Television that’s actually worth watching.


5. Aqua Unit Patrol Squad
Season 1 (but not really)

Aqua Teen made BIG changes when it’s insane creators Matt and Dave announced it would officially end and morph into it’s own spin-off called Aqua Unit Patrol Squad. The major difference announced was that the Teen or Unit as it were were to go back to being detectives just like they were at the show’s start so many years ago. And when Unit aired one rainy day in May it was just that. The team were on the case, staking out an abandoned house on the sidewalk as old people shuffled by. Then they got bored. Ten minutes later the show was back to its old tricks. I love this because the “new” Aqua is one big hoax on par with the bomb scare they initiated. Nothing’s changed, which would make Aqua Teen/Unit Hunger Force/Patrol Squad the least spun off spin-off of all time which is appropriate considering how nonsensical the show has always prided itself on being. Actually I’m wrong, something has changed: we got a kick ass new theme grind house song by Josh Holmme and the show “moved” from the muddy banks of New Jersey to Seattle… except they didn’t even really movie in the truest sense of the word because my beloved Frylock, Meatwad, and Master Shake (all praise be to him) are still in the same house (somehow) with the same disgusting green Astroturf and of course still next door to the wonderful Carl. So what does this all mean? Nothing. The show is still brilliant and inventive and that’s all that matters to me. Sure, I’d love for the show to really change or evolve but this quasi-non-sorta-sometimes-re-boot is getting the job done like a Shake/Carl/Whoooooorrre three-some (which totally happened this season… well, as much as that can happen with a genderless pistachio milk shake and drunk and probably impotent Giants fan). Each episode finds its warped niche and explores the usual brand of random madness. Smart phones take over, aliens incinerate people from the sky, and a Creditor Predator rips people skulls out. The fans got screwed with but I’m fine with that because most ATHF/AUPS “fans” are not loyal anymore and only seem to be watching so they can gripe how it’s not as good as the early seasons. I have a scary feeling the show wont last much longer and if that’s the case (God, I hope not) then this was the perfect note to end on.

6. Downton Abby
Series 1

The British miniseries is not only not dead but thriving by the looks of it. Julian Fellows applies a similarly inspired upstairs/downstairs approach to this story as he did with the brilliant Gosford Park. The show is simple: a Jane Austin-y family with three unmarried daughters attempts to keep their Downton Abbey estate. As we begin to understand if not always identify with the family’s turn of the century (first world) problems, the show elegantly flips that on its head as we ALSO see how everything works beneath the shallow but well polished veneer of proper society. The formula works and, indeed, as characters prance about with their stubbornness and sense of tradition and etiquette we begin to understand these were most certainly not simpler times. Fellows is critiquing the pre-war English values but not rejecting it outright. The show also does not force too much pathos or folly on the viewer. The show conveys a lot of emotion and dramatic gravity but never tonally goes too far in any one direction. It works so well because it’s traditional but the mildly subversive politics, social jabs, humor and insights that Fellows slips in are fun and provide the Abby with an essential bit of period show flavor. Like reading a good book, watching this show cleans my pallet.

7. Archer
Season 2

Archer is as good as ever. So there’s that. Oh and… ~~~~~DANGER ZONE!~~~~~

8. Community
Season 2

The only show on TV brave enough to reference Farscape in a joke. Community makes the list for that reason alone. Okay, a few more too. First off, I watched the pilot and hated it. After a year of declaring Community to be about as lame as actual community college I finished the first season and was surprised to see this quirky show make the grade, going from another overrated and self-aware NBC sitcom to a genuinely original and entertaining comedy. If any show is worthy enough to inherit Newsradio’s anything-goes comedy title it’s this show. The show is irreverent but there’s a strange gentleness to how the characters act towards each other that I atypically responded positively to. I actually like these people. I can’t believe a show this odd is able to exist on a mainstream network. It may be set in a community college but, really, it could be set anywhere and still work. The setting is almost incidental and only exists to provide a context for the wacky antics of a tightly connected group of friends lead by Joel McHale. The second season shows no sign of slowing down or selling out or, thankfully, cancellation. Considering it’s on NBC that’s all very impressive.

9 Wilfred
Season 1

Yes, another show that involves weed. Hum. It’s great to have a comedy like Wilfred around. Fantasy comedies are notoriously prickly in terms of ratings (Andy Richter, Herman’s Head, that great Chris Elliot show that nobody watched etc.) but if there is any justice Wilfred has a real shot at developing a solid core cult audience. The humor is raunchy but the fantasy element (and by that I mean talking dog played by sardonic Aussie played by Jason Gann) blends wonderfully with the dark tones, creating a winning mix of laughs and cringes. The dog character never gets old. Ever. He’s horny, irrational and emotional. And stoned. That’s ALWAYS good for a laugh. Playing off him of course is a straight man and it’s great to see Elijah Wood find a post Lord of the Rings project like this. He’s not the first actor to jump into my mind for a show like Wilfred but his dainty or, pardon, “effete” and slightly off kilter persona makes him the perfect person to deliver lines like “Eat shit! Eat shit!,” to which Wilfred replies “Again, your tone says insult, but what I’m hearing is a tempting offer.” The chemistry between perpetually stoned Wilfred and Ryan (Wood) are what make this show worth watching, preferably un-sober. I just hope the high lasts. People need to watch this!

10. Louie
Season 2

Many call Louie a comedy. I can understand why but I don’t know if I could call it a comedy. It’s its own beast. More dramatic than people give it credit for but also absurdist and, yes, funny as hell too. Louis C.K. is always looking for new ways to tell old stories and he succeeds (a lot of the time). It’s as is Woody Allen and Larry David’s whimsical sense of place and situation invaded Louie C.K.’s psyche, but through his own filter of dark psychedelic madness. Often times, tender moments will roll by predictably but with a lot of charm only to twist and contort by the scene’s end, morphing into something grotesque and demented. You’ll be watching a sequence ripped from the romantic comedy playbook only to experience it’s randomly bloody denouement where, for instance, a homeless man suddenly charges at Louie who ducks out of his only to see the hobo trip into traffic where his body is ripped open by a speeding dump truck. His head is severed and “pops off like melon” then thumps down the street. Funny? Uh, yeah actually. The picture above occurred after a dramatic talk with his young daughter in which she tells Louie she would rather live with his ex-wife. What’s better than funny, though, is that it’s all so unexpected. If that’s not someone’s cup of tea nobody then certainly nobody can blame them. It certainly is mine. The only flaw is that Louis C.K. and his show feels a bit too self aware, indulgent at times about how good it is but I can’t really blame him for being perceptive.

Mini rant: I had the show ranked at #5 until I saw two HUGE season 2 missteps. First was the hour long Iraq comedy tour episode. Yes, Louie made a Very Special Louie and fuck him for it. It was overlong, self serving, apolitical, pandering and only attempts to do one “funny” thing with a lame subplot about Louie accidentally bringing his kid’s duck through his luggage and now there he is in a war zone. Wacky! Actually, this duck in Iraq thing sounds like a really great idea for a really bad movie starting The Rock. The episode is a bigger fail than the actual war. The second abysmal Louie episode was so bad that I rage quit the show (meaning: violently pressed the stop button). Louie has to watch the most annoying 13-year-old girl on the planet and for 20 straight minutes we are stuck in the worst version of Gloria ever attempted (yes, even worse than the Sharon Stone version).

Curb You Enthusiasm
Season 8

Pretty good… PRETTY, PRETTY good. 

Torchwood: Miracle Day
Series 4

Don’t listen to the haters, this season is just short of miraculous. After finding is footing in season 3 with the much loved Children of Earth miniseries the show once again shifted its town into a much un-loved Americanized formula. This time into a more social conscious parable about life, death and medicine. Doesn’t sound exciting but it is. The show zips around with all the manic energy of 24. There are also no aliens. I applaud the show’s willingness to try new things but if it wasn’t successful I would be the first to poopoo it because I didn’t really like the first two season of Torchwood. True, we’re only about half way through the season but I have a good feeling about this season. Update: Hum, the following episodes I watched stumbled a lot with some turgid storytelling but recovered big time for the final two episodes.

Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood
Currently the best anime show on Earth.

Damages
Season 4

Still have not began watching this season. I have no idea why. It’s a great show and I’m looking forward to two new seasons. So, what the hell, I’m “ranking” it.
Parks and Recreation
It took me a while to forgive this show for it’s first season.
Special Mention: Smallville
I thought Smallville would get better as it’s ten year run came to a close this year but it just refused to come together, often reverting into lazy storytelling tropes and one useless filler episode after another. The episode before the big finale was even a filler about Booster! Really, Smallville?! And the penultimate Wedding episode was bad enough to challenge the Superman saves illegal immigrants episode for worst episode of Smallville ever (which is saying something!). Still, there have been some landmark episodes this season–Clark’s “Reunion” episode, for instance, gave the Buffy high school reunion a run for it’s money and acted as a glorious tribute to the man who was and the man who will be. Also, Luthor was a fantastic episode that saw one of the best characters from the series, Lionel, returning and back to his usual evil ways (he was great this season–as usual). But overall the season was lopsided and misguided. In the end though Clark literally saved the day. The last episode FINALLY saw Clark becoming the man of steel and it was a glorious note to end the series on. Very few shows end with an episode that is also the best of the series but Smallville pulled it off. Note: I’m including Smallville in this list rather than the one below as a tribute to all it’s done (and not done) over the years.

Best Performances and Episodes
Performances/Characters:
  1. John Noble and John Noble (Walter and Walter). Fringe.
  2. Timothy Olyphant in Justified.
  3. Peter Dinklage (Tyrion Lannister) in Game of Thrones.
  4. Arthur Darvill (Rory) in Doctor Who.
  5. Maisie Williams (Arya Stark) in Game of Thrones.
  6. Philip Glenister (Gene Hunt) in Ashes to Ashes.
  7. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime Lannister) in Game of Thrones.
  8. Sean Bean (Eddard Stark) in Game of Thrones.
  9. Karen Gillan (Amy Pond) in Doctor Who.
  10. Charlie Day in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
  11. Matt Smith in Doctor Who
  12. Louis C.K. in Louie.
  13. John Hamm in Mad Men.
  14. Lena Headey (Cersei Lannister) in Game of Thrones.
  15. Jason Gann and Elijah Wood in Wilfred.
  16. Bill Pullman in Torchwood.
  17. Alison Bree (Annie) in Community.
  18. Anna Torv (Olivia) in Fringe.
  19. Nick Offerman in Parks and Recreation.
  20. Joshua Jackson (Peter) in Fringe.
  21. Bryan Cranston (Walter White) in Breaking Bad.
  22. Edie Falco in Nurse Jackie.
Best Individual Episodes:
  1. Ashes to Ashes. The final episode. Perhaps the best series finale of all time. And the series wasn’t even that good!
  2. “Baelor,” Game of Thrones. Head up!
  3. Almost any episode of Fringe. Except for the Waking Life episode nonsense. And the one where the chick couldn’t die.
  4. “Winter is Coming,” Game of Thrones. Premier episode sets the stage perfectly. Here we go…
  5. “The Gang Gets Stranded in the Woods,” It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
  6. The Doctor’s Wife, Doctor Who. Neil Gaimen’s brilliant tribute.
  7. The Cancer two-parter in Archer. Dead serious. Boosch!
  8. Palestinian Chicken, Curb Your Enthusiasm. A classic Curb episode.
  9. Community‘s “Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking” does a great job of making fun of the (annoying?) trend of documentary style sitcoms (The Office, Parks and Recreation etc.).  It also features Levar Burton, and that’s pretty cool.
  10. “Charlie Kelly: King of the Rats,” It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
  11. “Save My Love,” Justified Raylan’s dumb ex makes him break into his own department to return money she stole. The results are surprisingly good.
  12. The masturbation episode Come On, God in Louie. So God’s watching us masturbate… that’s creepy. Good one, Louie!
  13. The Suitcase, Mad Men.

Biggest Disappointments

Dexter
Season 5
Ugh. Worst season ever. And, yes, I sat through the Jimmy Smits season. The acting, writing and directing is all off and out-of-place. Dexter season 5 is not just disappointing but down right bad. The killer camaraderie with Julia Styles and motivational speaker/gang rapist season long big bad derailed a once great character/show. I can honestly saw the season only had one decent episode and can honestly add that I totally don’t even remember what it was! That’s how bad it was! After the wonderful season 4 (sure to the the peek of this show) I don’t think Dexter the show knew how to recover, let alone the Dexter character. He mopes, he kills (sometimes), and he goes through the motions. KILL ME NOW! 

Walking Dead
Season 1

First off, I’m not an angry Walking Dead comic fanboy. Thankfully my dislike of this show does not affect my enjoyment of the comic. When I re-watched Walking Dead after buying the Blu-ray I hated it even more than when it aired. But there’s the catch: I bought a show I didn’t like. That’s gotta mean it’s doing something right, right? Um. This new series from AMC is flawed (more so than Mad Men even) but where else are you going to get a show based on the best comic book series at this moment? I like the unflinching approach even when I hated the acting (it’s like Inside the Actor’s Studio with Zombies), writing and botched aesthetic realism approach by Frank Darabont who does to this franchise what he did to Steven King’s The Mist. The zombie saga has so much potential that to see even a tiny bit of that shine through during the disastrous six episode season run is good enough I guess. It annoys me at times that it diverged almost completely from Kirkman’s comic series–the zombie-less CDC episode was ambitious but dull while the Home Boy Nursing Home episode that Kirkman himself wrote was just plain bad–he really should stick to the comic. Still, the willingness to branch out and try new things is admirable and might just save the series in the long run. As much as I’d love to see Rick’s annoying wife gunned down by a madman’s bullet I don’t think the show will ever be willing to go as far as the comic does.

True Blood
Season 3 and 4

True Blood has jumped the fairy powder pixy dusted shark. To get better it needs to get back to basics or risk becoming a complete joke. That is, if it isn’t one already which it kinda is. Oh, not that I’ll ever stop watching it. There’s no better trash on TV. Season 3 may have been disappointing but it was saved by Russell. Thanks to him he helped the show make the case that even bad True Blood hits the spot. It wouldn’t be summer without it. The upside: season 4 is decent and by decent I mean not as bad as seasons 2 and 3. 

Breaking Bad
Season 4

Last season ranked here as my number one show of the 2009/2010 season. This season is a pale shell that only somewhat resembles the show I once loved. We’re only about half way through so it could turn around (probably will) but I can no longer pretend I’m as into BB right now as I once was. Season four has not captured my interest. The story-lines are tired and redundant and ponderous. Many episodes drift along with nothing happening until the last moment (which is usually just good enough to keep me watching). Some episodes even feel like remakes of the previous episodes. For example two episodes in a row ended with the whiny Hank Schrader discovering, then re-discovering that the Happy Chicken or whatever the cluck it’s called may be up to no good! Ya think?! The actors appear even more scattered and disjointed (is there anyone on BB that’s not a insufferable twat these days?) and the filmmaking is a jumbled mess of corny experimentation (ahhhh no more POV cam shots, it was annoying when Spike Lee over-did it ten years ago), annoying music drops that are meant to imply something profound is going on (but never do) and shallow artistic metaphors pertaining to nothing of interest (a water slowly going down the kitchen drain–I see what you did there!)–the first two episodes alone contain very little plot but a poop-ton of scenes that are either molasses slow (the protracted throat slitting in episode was a waist of time because we could all see what was coming) or retardedly manic (the endless Jessie drug montages–ugh, STOP!).

Mad Men
Season 4

Mad Men is still good but no longer great and certainly no longer what I would call special. Something is missing that was there in the first few seasons. An energy, a feeling an excitement. It’s not the same. To make matters worse the show seems to have run out of new ideas even though what it does, it does with so much style and conviction that it’s easy to forgive the fact that it’s just rehashing old ideas. Season 4 kept things interesting with the single Don arc but it’s also the worst season to date. That’s good enough to get me to keep watching but not good enough to write home about. Hamm is as good as ever though and I hope he gets an Emmy this year.

Boardwalk Empire
Season 1

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz oh, hey, look Paz De La Huerta’s nasty vag… Zzzzzzzzzz

Mildred Pierce (miniseries)
I don’t know what happened here. Todd Haynes needs to stick to movies. Preferable two hours or under.

 

Best Mini-Series or Movie

 

Carlos directed by Oliver Assayas

So good it made my list for best movies of 2010. Here’s what I wrote:

Weather or not you think it’s one of the year’s best you have to agree that “Carlos” is one of the most important and relevant films of the year, second only to “Social Network.” And it’s not even a film-film! It’s a miniseries but one of the highest order. Aside from the breathtaking, flawlessly paced and thankfully penis free middle chapter concerning the now famous hostage-taking incident by Carlos and his terrorist group at the 1975 OPEC conference, it’s not even that “Carlos” is the most groundbreaking achievement of the 2010. What’s great is more in the way everything is brought together under Oliver Assayas’ pluralistic umbrella. From razor sharp jump cuts to heated cultural interactions to disjointed location sprees to a fragmented sense of history and moral causes and of course the ironic usage of new wave music, “Carlos” is an explosion in all senses of the word.
The film is wise to borrow from the best parts of ”Traffic,” “Che” and “Munich.” It actually surpasses them in a lot of ways. What “Carlos” does it does so well and with such unbridled conviction that it does not need to innovate the crime genre it is playing in. This is a staggering epic that must be experienced in all it’s glory so no settling for the anemic feature length version. The weight of it all is overwhelming and even hard to grasp at first because I was so busy attempting to take in and absorb all the information being casually thrown at me. But once I realize it’s not about the specific facts and details but about the attitude and sweeping gestures then the film worked its complex magic on me. And not to take away from all the beautiful small and innocuous but no less important moments such as the sight of a naked woman on white bed in the afternoon, the way two people look at each other while drinking or even just the way smoke dances through the air. This may be the sexiest looking terrorist movie ever made.
Olivier Assayas has made a lot of cool films (last year’s “Summer Hours” also ranked high with me last year) but none quite like “Carlos.” I never quite knew where the filmmaker was coming from and that kept me as on edge as anything in the film proper. Is Assayas advocating Carlos’ terrorist behavior? Sympathizing with his cause? Mocking him? Demystifying a legend? It is not spelled out for us thankfully but perhaps elements from all four. I just can’t get a fix on things. The same goes for the figure of Carlos himself played so well and with such conviction by Édgar Ramírez. This is not a a film that attempts to explore and psychologically pick apart the man underneath the so called legend of Carlos the Jackal. A wall is always up on Carlos’s true feelings and his “cause” and perhaps the only cause that ever really mattered to him with was his own via self aggrandizement. Unlike a lot of famous movie gangsters (with terrorists being the modern version of them) this film is about the rise and… not fall but sloooooowdecline of a “historical curiosity.” Carlos talks a good talk but never quite seems to care about anything and so his gradual and unspectacular undoingis fitting. You get the sense that he would rather gaze at his naked body in a mirror, got to a swinging party, romance some commie groupies and of course profit from his professional terrorist activity than to make the world a “better place to live in.” All that and so much more is what makes this such an interesting character study.

Torchwood: Children of Earth
Torchwood finally arrives. The key: not only were the annoying characters from seasons one and two killed off but show actually treated the aliens as something real and scary. Rather than a bunch of fun but trivial sci-fi episodes Torchwood eschewed the camp and turned itself into a genuinely gripping thriller.

You Don’t Know Jack
First HBO original movie I’ve enjoyed in some time. And the first Barry Levingston film I’ve enjoyed in an even longer time.

Flat Out Worst Shows On TV
Fiction:
Note:
I’m sure there are worse shows but I had to have seen at least one episode for it to qualify here. So no Grey’s Anatomy.
  1. Glee–Glee is the worst show on TV in years. And the most irritating show to air since The West Wing. Hate is not a strong enough word here.
  2. Glee–loathing is a better word.
  3. Glee–disgusted even better.
  4. Glee–American Idol in a High School. How bad can it be?
  5. Glee–REALLY BAD!
  6. Two and a Half Men
  7. Falling Skies
  8. Terriers
  9. Dexter
  10. Walking Dead
  11. The Big Bang Theory

Non fiction:
1. Jersey Shore. So bad it’s…bad.
2. Jay Leno
3. TMZ
4. American Idol
5. The Colbert Report (I’m half hoping a Republican beats Obama next year just show the Colbert Report and Daily Show can get good again. However there’s no hope for Colbert; his shtick is running on fumes)

My Last 10 #1 Ranked Shows…
  • Breaking Bad Season 3
  • Lost
  • Frisky Dingo
  • Aqua Teen Hunger Force
  • Battlestar Glaticia (over 24 season 5, what was I thinking?!)
  • Arrested Development
  • Angel
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Best of 2010: Best Shots of the Year

Best/Coolest/Favorite Individual Shots of 2010
beware of visual spoilers…

Mother–It’s probably not coincidental that my favorite shot of the year comes from my favorite movie of the year. This brilliantly composed shot is indicative of Bong Joon-ho’s unique style seen throughout the film. On one hand it’s hilariously random. On an other it’s meaningful, and on yet another it’s just technically great to look at. I love how this shot represents the character as well. As the enabled mamma’s boy peeing in public, his mother not only looks the other way but insists he drink… well, whatever the hell he’s drinking; some kind of “medicine,” which, if you know what this mother has done to her son in the past, might not be a good idea to consume. After this shot, the son runs off and the mother feebly kicks sand over his pee. A great touch.
Monster–Alien sex. Yes, the screencap is two aliens banging, or I guess it would be called tentacleing in their world (or certain Japanese porn circles). This ends up being one of the best moments in the entire science fiction genre. Really! After two hours of action-less dread and anticipation we realize that the aliens that have “invaded” are creatures capable of tenderness, perhaps even love… just not towards humans. It is at this moment that we realize that perhaps these are not monsters after all. The lead characters sees this and are touched. I like how in this shot we see front and center the tiny human spectator dwarfed by nasty aliens doing the, um, nasty. Moments later we see tears in the human characters eyes. How quickly that feeling turns back to dread once again as the towering, post coital aliens pose as deadly a threat as ever.
Ghost Writer–This is the final shot of Ghost Writer. Papers floating down the street just as their author is murdered by the CIA off screen. It is as if his life force has been transferred into his his work which is ultimately also his undoing. Behold, the power of the written word! Polanski holds on this shot until the film ends. Ah, a perfect final shot. Iconic. These are the kind of big and splashy final scenes/shots that movies just don’t do anymore. A classic final moment right up there with Polanski’s own Chinatown.
The American–There are so many fabulous shots in The American. Seriously, almost every shot hits you like a really good album cover. People go so caught up in the slow pacing that they forgot to sit back and simply enjoy what was on screen. In addition to cool moments involving guns and/or Clooney’s butterfly tat (very metro), there are gorgeous Italian vistas to behold. My favorite however involves Clooney sitting alone in a restaurant. Think the ending to The Sopranos minus the family (and Journey–thank god) but plus the paranoia. That’s what Clooney’s life is! He is destined to be this guy, in this shot, at this time. He is a ghost, the anti-Danny Ocean. I love how ill at ease yet cool he looks. Something Clooney totally pulls off. The dude looks cool in almost any situation unless, of course, that situation is wearing a bat suit (I kid, I kid).
Black Swan (tie)–Perhaps I should have gone with Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis making out but, oh well, the shots that stuck with me are, first, the wing sprouting transformation on stage followed by the swan’s final fall plunge into the void. “I’m perfect” are the performer’s final words. A great big beautiful bombastic moment. She has achieved total perfection and used every last ounce of life to do so. Life and death culminate into an orgasmic moment of totality. The filmmaker hits you over the head with the heavily symbolic final act but it’s the exact right thing to do. One of the best final sequences of all time.
Greenberg–As much as I love the many shots of Greenberg walking around L.A. I feel a certain shot captures not only the essence of the film but represents Baumbach’s single most artistic expression to date. The shot is simple. A hose spirals aimlessly in a pool. Of all the great shots in this movie this one stuck with me. It’s a throwaway shot but one that captures the essence of the character and the world he lives in. Greenberg’s life is like that hose, spinning around in a meaningless balled of random movement.
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World–The punch heard round the world. Scott and his sucky band are on stage during a battle of the bands and stunned when Scott is singled out and challenged by Ramona’s first evil ex boyfriend. “Didn’t you get my e-mail?” the villain says to a clueless Scott. He has no idea what to do but just then his roommate screams “fight!” And like a robot that has just been activated Scott does just that, punching the advancing ex with an emphatic thud. Director Edgar Wright captures this kinetic moment brilliantly. We can practically feel the contact. One of the most visceral action movie moments of all time does not need blood or viscera but just a good sense of humor and a mighty wallop. Roadrunner would be proud. Moments like this exist to let Chris Tucker say “You got knocked dafuckout!”
I Am Love–The birds and the bees. I Am Love is a film full of beautiful sets and costumes and drama. All the period movie repressions are let loose in this shot/scene and the feeling is both sexy and liberating. Two naked lovers embrace outside. Nature, flowers, bugs and boobs. Primordial extacy.
Dogtooth–Party! Music! Balloons! Crazy people!
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World–Sorry for the crappy resolution (and the visible pause sign) but I captured this show on my iPhone. I just had to. Because a really funny throwaway gag is always appreciated. And just think, the film has a funny shot like this every few seconds! While I’ve been a fan of Chris Evans since Cellular (and of course Sunshine) I loved his ability to poke fun at himself and big name actors like Tom Cruse (Action Doctor is vintage Mission: Impossible). So, yeah, here are some of the movies you can expect to see Lucas Lee in. My favorite is I Hope There’s a Heaven because it looks like something Zach Ephron just starred in. As fake movies within movies go, these are some of the best.
Inception–Very last shot of the movie. The top is spinning and nobody will ever know if it will stop (reality) or keep going (dream!). A coy way of ending a coy(er) film to be sure but one that is iconic and went on to grab everyone’s attention in 2010. Personally, I could care less to explore the narrative significance involved in this shot because the film didn’t earn my interest up to this point but I know a great moment/shot when I see one. It will be in people’s minds long after the meaningless plot fads away into obscurity.

Watching Now

 

TV
Fringe and Justified are two shows in their primes! If or I should say when Fringe gets cancelled I will be revisiting an anger at Fox not felt since Firefly getting botched by the network. Adam Reed’s Archer, in its second season is so good that I got back into Frisky Dingo over the weekend. That show never gets old and I’m still sad it never got to see a 3rd season. Then there’s Walking Dead on Blu-ray that Amazon hooked me up with last week. Overrated but I’m glad I own a hard copy of it because I’m such a fan of the comic. Smallville, sadly, has failed to live up to much in its final season which is too bad because I figured they’d go for broke instead of cranking out pointless filler material. On the anime front I just finished Code Geass R2 and… wow. Epic show. Speaking of epic, I can’t get enough of the Princess intro–the “show,” if it can even be called that, I can get enough of but that intro is just priceless. Been singing “Who loves adventure and plays all day? It’s Princess, isn’t it, yes” to my dogs all week. Most importantly also getting into Star Trek Next Generation which I had never seen prior to this year. I’m on season 4. It’s scary how good TNG is. I don’t think I could really appreciate the sci-fi genre until I experience this timeless program. Way ahead of its time both in terms of the science (a late 80s show talking about string theory!) and the genre. It holds up amazingly well, better than any Trek movie, especially the craptastic JJ Abrams Star Trek that I made the mistake of rewatching. In terms of shelf life will we be able to say the same about Battlestar twenty years from now?

Film
Enter the Void is an amazing, eye opening cinematic experiences while Monsters is… not, though I keep revisiting it in my mind so it must have done something right.  Both are streaming on Netflix btw. So is Carlos which is a must see. Also just saw Robinson Caruso on Mars on Criterion. It’s not often that a hidden gem like that is just dropped in your lap (or mailbox as it were). Also, trying to figure out the exact order my favorite 2010 films. Usually one or two or in last year’s case three films pop out as top contenders but not this year so I’m desperately re-watching old favorites and new stuff that I missed during the year (I only have The American, Never Let Me Go and Mother to see at this point) with a more critical eye. And while Social Network is not, as of now, anywhere near the top ten, I’ve been putting off what I hear is a crucial second viewing for far too long. My unopened blu-ray copy (with that horrible cover featuring Jesse Eisenberg staring at me and a freaking Peter Traverse quote) is begging to be ravaged by my admittedly listless eyes.

As for 2011 films: nada, unless you count Green Hornet as something which I most certainly do not. Looking forward to Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, Battle: LA, Paul and of course Sucker Punch.

Video Games
A dry spell. Replaying Heavy Rain and loving it as much as the first time. Going to play this version as a total dick and let everyone die. Also just got the new Donkey Kong from my library which is bringing back old times. Basically just killing time until Crysis 2 arrives next week. Loved the original on PC but getting it on PS3 despite it getting screwed over by the PC and Xbot developers.

Porn
None off the top of my head. Why, you got any?

Oscar Predictions and Preferences

vs.

Final Predictions:

I got 16/24. So glad I switched to Reznor at the last second. Not great but, hey, at least I beat Ebert! But not myself: last year I got 17. And for the third or fourth year in a row (and many before that) I got 7 out of 8 in the main categories. One day a perfect 8 will be mine!

Best Picture: The King’s Speech
Best Actor: Colin Firth
Best Actress:Natalie Portman
Best Supporting Actor: Christian Bale
Best Supporting Actress: Mellisa Leo
Best Director:David Fincher
Best Original Screenplay: The King’s Speech
Best Adapted Screenplay: The Social Network
Best Cinematography: True Grit
Best Art Direction: The King’s Speech
Best Costume: The King’s Speech
Best Sound: Inception
Best Editing: The Social Network
Best Sound Effects Editing: Inception
Best Visual Effects: Inception
Best Makeup:The Wolfman
Best Song: Toy Story 3
Best Original Score: Social Network (go Trent Reznor!) 
Best Animated Film: Toy Story 3
Best Foreign Language Film: Biutiful
Best Animated Short: Gruffalo
Best Documentary Short: Strangers No More
Best Live Action Short: Wish 143

If I Could Vote…

Best Picture: The King’s Speech!
Best Actor: Colin Firth (King’s Speech)
Best Actress: Michelle Williams (Blue Valentine)
Best Supporting Actor: Christian Bale (The Fighter)
Best Supporting Actress: Amy Adams (The Fighter)
Best Director: Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan)
Best Original Screenplay: The Kids Are All Right
Best Adapted Screenplay: None stand out. 
Best Cinematography: Inception
Best Art Direction: Inception
Best Costume: I Am Love
Best Sound: Inception
Best Editing: 127 Hours
Best Sound Effects Editing: Inception
Best Visual Effects: Inception
Best Makeup: The Way Back
Best Song: None
Best Original Score: Trent Reznor, Social Network
Best Animated Film: How to Train Your Dragon
Best Foreign Language Film: Dogtooth

Some Thoughts on the Nominees…

Best Picture…

“Black Swan” 
“The Fighter”
“Inception” 
“The Kids Are All Right” 
“The King’s Speech”
“127 Hours”
“The Social Network”  
“Toy Story 3″
“True Grit” 
“Winter’s Bone”

Will: There may be 10 films nominated but, as usual, it comes down to just two. King’s Speech vs. Social Network. And that’s being kind. This isn’t really a race at all. It’s more between King’s Speech winning and King’s Speech winning, um, more. I find it curious that after two years of 10 best picture nominees the field is as predictable as ever.  Will there ever be another surprise on the level of Crash? Perhaps but this is not the year for that. In the end I feel Social Network is hurt more by the fact that it had all the momentum for too long than the silly notion that it has no heart. If that was the case No Country For Old Men would have lost to Juno and Hurt Locker would have lost to Avatar. Whatever the reason, this bodes well for King’s Speech… 
Should: … and good, because it’s the better film. I usually roll my eyes at (a) the more “traditional” and/or safe choices, and (b) the film that has better odds to win (Oscar bandwagon jumping group think is really sad) but King’s Speech, while old fashion on the surface, is simply the best nominated film here. Perhaps not the deepest, but the most rich and enjoyable to be sure. Is it he best film of the year? Not really but since when was that a requirement of the BEST PICTURE winner?
Worst: Inception. I just don’t get this movie. No, not in the narrative clarity sense (I find it funny that people were confused by the very simple and shallow story). What I don’t get is all the love for it, though I certainly don’t hate it (still a C+/B-). And perhaps I have under valued Social Network. It’s in the B+ range but planning on seeing it again to see where that grade settles. I hear it gets better with a second viewing (unlike Benjamin Button) so I’m hoping that’s the case. As for Winter’s Bone. The more I think about this movie the more annoyed with it I get. It’s overdone and has tricked a lot of faux pretentious white people into thinking it’s profound (myself included). It’s bad David Gordon Green. It’s snowy counterpart, Frozen River, was better. Hawks is great it in though.
Robbed: I would say that only four (maybe five) of the films nominated for Best Picture this year should be here but that’s just me. See below. Anything past “Kids” is really iffy in my book. Meaning: lots of good films were robbed and the list is too big to count but if pressed name a few I would say Blue Valentine and Ghost Writer would have been worthy Oscary choices.

Best Picture Nominees Ranked

1. King’s Speech
2. The Fighter
3. Black Swan
4. The Kids Are All Right
5. True Grit
6. Social Network
7. Toy Story 3
8. 127 Hours
9. Inception
10. Winter’s Bone

Achievement in directing…

“Black Swan” (Fox Searchlight), Darren Aronofsky 
“The Fighter” (Paramount), David O. Russell 
“The King’s Speech” (The Weinstein Company), Tom Hooper
“The Social Network” (Sony Pictures Releasing), David Fincher 
“True Grit” (Paramount), Joel Coen and Ethan Coen

Will: The most exciting category of the night in my book. Again, it’s King’s Speech vs. Social Netork. This is a real tough one to call because for all the early awards Fincher won for Social Network he did win any of the big precursor awards (DGA for instance). However he did win a Globe and a BAFTA and that’s got to count for something. Unless it doesn’t. This is one of those rare years where the non-lock has as good of a shot as the De facto lock (Hooper). Call it a soft-lock. It’s not like when the dark horses Soderbergh (Traffic) and Polanski (The Pianist) won, it’s more like when Ang Lee won for Brokeback Mountain in the sense that the more Oscar baity film gets to win while the director goes to a mroe critically respected film. Now, I have no idea why that didn’t also happen last year with Bigalow winning director and Avatar winning picture. But it didn’t and thank God for that because it would be embarrassing to say Avatar is a Best Picture winner (as opposed to Hurt Locker which everyone has forgotten about at this point). Anyway, I’m sticking with Fincher for the win.
Should:Aronofsky’s film is a wonderful and cathartic stylistic piece that he was really able to bring a lot of vision to. I mean, that’s what this category should be about but it’s not (otherwise the Ron Howards and Danny Boyles of the world wound not have an Oscar). I would happy as hell to see Fincher get his first directing Oscar (long due) but Social Network is not a directorly movie and even he has said so himself. Zodiac was and totally should have won (er, assuming There Will Be Blood didn’t come out that year as well). As for Hooper and King’s Speech, well, besides being the best nominated film it seems to me that any competent filmmaker above could have made it just as well as Hooper did so I don’t know why he won the DGA for what is essentially an enjoyable but, lets face it, routinely made biopic.  
Worst:The Coen Brothers. I like True Grit all right and of course I love the Bros but it’s almost as if they directed this movie in their sleep. It’s their least imaginative film since Intolerable Cruelty.
Robbed: Christopher Nolan. Duh. I’m not a big fan of Inception but Nolan’s work as a director is stunning and unlike any other big budget production.

Performance by an actor in a leading role…

Javier Bardem in “Biutiful” (Roadside Attractions) 
Jeff Bridges in “True Grit” (Paramount) 
Jesse Eisenberg in “The Social Network” (Sony Pictures Releasing) 
Colin Firth in “The King’s Speech” (The Weinstein Company) 
James Franco in “127 Hours” (Fox Searchlight)

Will: No contest. Firth, Firth, Firth. 
Should:Again, Firth. I saw the movie before the buzz and the first thing I said after it ended to my friends was “I’m so glad Firth will finally get an Oscar.” There was no question about it. That being said every actor nominated except for Bardem gave award worthy performances, though Bridges was more supporting if you ask me. I think in a weaker year Eisenberg would have been a frontrunner here and it’s too bad he has to lose because, first, when will he ever get nominated again and second, lets give him credit for basically perfecting a new-ish cinematic trope. That of the prickly nerd that you love and hate in equal parts. Eisenberg: 1/ Michael Cera: 0!  
Worst: Bardem.
Robbed: Call me crazy but if Franco gets a nom for 127 Hours (which he was great in!) than Ryan Reynolds should also get one for “Buried” as he was just as good in a similar stuck-in-one-place-for-the-whole-movie performance. The problem with that scenario is that it’s Ryan Reynolds and it’s really hard to admit he’s capable of a great performance but, argh, apparently he is! Above Reynolds though Ryan Gosling was seriously robbed for his amazing work in Blue Valentine. As good as Michelle Williams is in that movie Gosling not only carried it but elevated it to a position of high art.

Performance by an actress in a leading role…

Annette Bening in “The Kids Are All Right” (Focus Features)
Nicole Kidman in “Rabbit Hole” (Lionsgate) 😯 😐 
Jennifer Lawrence in “Winter’s Bone” (Roadside Attractions) 
Natalie Portman in “Black Swan” (Fox Searchlight) 
Michelle Williams in “Blue Valentine” (The Weinstein Company)

Will: Easy one, Portman.
Should: Unlike a performer like Ryan Gosling, Natalie Portman is only as good as the material she’s in. She’s not consistent at all and can even be a very bad actor in the wrong kind of movie (last year’s Brothers, Garden State, Mr. Magorium, Star Wars, etc. etc.) but… Black Swan is the right kind of material suited to her ability. That being said I’m big fan of Michelle Williams and would vote for the her. Ryan Gosling got all the big moments in the movie but her quiet desperation/exasperation  is a fascinating thing to watch. 
Robbed: When I first saw “Kids” I figured Bening gave the sort of underrated performance that is usually is overlooked come awards time and that Juliane Moore was the obvious choice. Somehow, though, the lines got crossed and Moore (an Awards circuit favorite) missed out. It’s one of the great mysteries of the year. I also feel Tilda Swinton got robbed for her beautiful work in I Am Love. I just love her.

Performance by an actor in a supporting role…

Christian Bale in “The Fighter” (Paramount) 
John Hawkes in “Winter’s Bone” (Roadside Attractions) 
Jeremy Renner in “The Town” (Warner Bros.) 
Mark Ruffalo in “The Kids Are All Right” (Focus Features)
Geoffrey Rush in “The King’s Speech” (The Weinstein Company)

Will: Bale!!! He’s the best actor of his generation that has been ignored for too long. Rush is coming on very strong though but since he already won in the 90s (for “Shine”) I’d love to see Bale get his first Oscar under his belt. I’m sounding very gay here. 
Should: Bale!!! Though I’m a big fan of Hawks and Rush. Not to mention how cool it is to see the underrated Ruffalo get noticed. On this site I said gave the best performance ten years ago when he starred in his first movie You Can Count On Me so I’m not some fare weather fan.
Worst: Renner is good but his nom seems a bit out of place. Besides, he should have won last year for Hurt Locker.
Robbed: Ben Stiller in Greenberg will go down as one of the great underrated performances of this decade.

Performance by an actress in a supporting role…

Amy Adams in “The Fighter” (Paramount)
Helena Bonham Carter in “The King’s Speech” (The Weinstein Company) 
Melissa Leo in “The Fighter” (Paramount)
Hailee Steinfeld in “True Grit”(Paramount) 
Jacki Weaver in “Animal Kingdom” (Sony Pictures Classics)

Will: Despite her desperate and slightly annoying All About Eve/Sunset Blvd.-isms, Melissa Leo seems like an obvious choice. I don’t see Steinfeld or Carter giving her much of a fight. Ooh, check out my play on words.
Should: As with the lead actor category there are a lot of great performances here. Leo’s energy and intensity is an amazing thing to watch while Helena Bonham Carter reminds everyone how good she can be/once was (before Tim Burton ruined her). And Jacki Weaver smile-all-the-time performance is memorable but ultimately lacking in a killer scene so to speak. For me, then, it’s between Adams and Leo. Adams finds a perfect balance of not too much and not too little here. She’s funny, she’s strong, she’s sexy, she’s emotional, and even serious. Bitch keeps it real. Nothing feels like it’s overdone. Most figure Wahlberg is the heart of the film but I think it’s Adams.
Worst: Sorry, really sorry to say this but Steinfeld is………. not as good as everyone is saying. She was fine, don’t get me wrong, but I think kids + Coen dialogue is not a great match. Hell, most adult actors are not a good fit for the Coens. It can’t be easy to act in a Coen movie and this is one of those cases where a lot of the nuances are totally lost. Her role (which is really a lead performance) is a bit self conscious and unsure if you ask me (as was Damon’s). She really needed to sell the character and i don’t think she did that.
Robbed:Leslie Manville in Another Year! Big snub here. Thanks to Mike Leigh’s unique approach, her “supporiting” performance is also, by design, the central role in the film. It’s hands down one of the most innovative uses of a character I’ve seen in years.

Adapted screenplay…

“127 Hours” (Fox Searchlight), Screenplay by Danny Boyle & Simon Beaufoy 
“The Social Network” (Sony Pictures Releasing), Screenplay by Aaron Sorkin
“Toy Story 3? (Walt Disney), Screenplay by Michael Arndt, Story by John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich
“True Grit” (Paramount), Written for the screen by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen 
“Winter’s Bone” (Roadside Attractions), Adapted for the screen by Debra Granik & Anne Rosellini 🙂

Will: Social Network. Biggest lock of the night.
Should: None. 
Worst: Toy Story 3 is adapted? From what, Toy Story 2? I’m too lazy to look this up so I guess I’ll never know. To be honest I’m not a fan of most of the nominated screenplays here. Social Network’s dialogue is showy and self aware and I’m very biased against Aaron Sorkin. Still, overall it seems to be a tight scrip and even Sorkin haters like me have to admit that. The dude is a huge creep and I hate, hate, hate West Wing. I liked “127 Hours” the movie (at times) but the scrip seems to be more of a blueprint that goes something like: Man walks, falls into a crack, gets all bummed out and screams “ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh” for a few days before drinking his pee and considering masturbating to photos of that hot chick from Brokeback Mountain in his camera. Really, that movie is almost exclusively good because it’s a performance piece centered around a great performance.   
Robbed: Polanski’s Ghost Writer is the polished work of a master. He also gets points for actually writing where many directors his age and status do no (Woody Allen excepted). Also, Edger Wright managed to surpass the Scott Pilgrim comic in a lot of ways and that’s the mark of a good adapted screenplay. The movie’s third act is better than Pilgrim’s last two volumes which is a great treat.

Original screenplay…

“Another Year” (Sony Pictures Classics), Written by Mike Leigh 
“The Fighter” (Paramount), Screenplay by Scott Silver and Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson, Story by Keith Dorrington & Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson
“Inception” (Warner Bros.), Written by Christopher Nolan 
“The Kids Are All Right” (Focus Features), Written by Lisa Cholodenko & Stuart Blumberg 
“The King’s Speech” (The Weinstein Company), Screenplay by David Seidler

Will: Inception should have a decent shot because the Oscars look out of touch by excluding Nolan’s work so often (this is the only film of his to ever get a Best Pic nomination) but I feel the King’s Speech now unstoppable momentum will really help it in this particular category.  
Should: Unlike adapted, a lot of great movies are represented here and that’s nice to see. “Another Year” is subtle and thoughtful but similar to a lot of Mike Leigh films the movie does not seemed to be centered around the script. Then there’s the colorful King’s Speech which gets credit in my book for being that rarest of historical movie that’s not based on a book or any previously published material (way to go!). The movie is not only very funny but has a lot of emotional weight and historical significance.  My vote would go to The Kids Are All Right however. Great story, great dialogue and unlike so many similar independent-ish movies about quirky families (Little Miss Sunshine and Rachael Getting Married come to mind) it’s not shallow, smug or self satisfied. I think back on that movie and smile. Then I want to eat a tomato.
Worst: There’s a lot of cool stuff to look at in Inception but the story is not one of them, it is by far it’s weakest element of the movie. Same thing happened to Avatar but that wasn’t nominated for it’s writing. The Inception story and paper thin characters are so flimsy and flawed that it’s the primary reason I question if it’s even a good movie. Regardless, a part of me is secretly hoping that Nolan wins an Oscar (even for a lesser story) because he’s very talented, he writes his own films and get snubbed way too often. He will get an Oscar eventually (I hope) so we might as well get it out of the way.
Robbed: Baumbach’s writing on Greenberg is some of his best and some of the year’s best. “I’m strangely on tonight!” Top that Seidler!

Best animated feature film of the year…

“How to Train Your Dragon” (Paramount), Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois 
“The Illusionist” (Sony Pictures Classics), Sylvain Chomet 
“Toy Story 3 (Walt Disney), Lee Unkrich

Will: Toy Story 3… worse animated films have won such as the overrated Up and Shrek. It is sad though that Disney/Pixar has won this category four years in a row. Disney buys it ever year. Maybe they should just call the category Best Disney Animated Feature and call it a day.
Should: Dragon. I didn’t expect to like that movie but it’s surprisingly good.

Achievement in art direction…

“Alice in Wonderland” (Walt Disney), Production Design: Robert Stromberg, Set Decoration: Karen O’Hara 
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1? (Warner Bros.), Production Design: Stuart Craig, Set Decoration: Stephenie McMillan 
“Inception” (Warner Bros.), Production Design: Guy Hendrix Dyas, Set Decoration: Larry Dias and Doug Mowat 
“The King’s Speech” (The Weinstein Company), Production Design: Eve Stewart, Set Decoration: Judy Farr
“True Grit” (Paramount), Production Design: Jess Gonchor, Set Decoration: Nancy Haigh

Will: Again, King’s Speech seems like a safe bet here. It will win just for the speech therapist’s cool looking studio. Makes for a good gay porn set as well from what I hear.
Worst: Alice in Wonderland. Ugh. Ugly ass movie. Tim Burton’s trite aesthetic flair is so played out. 
Should: Inception all the way. Seriously, if Inception doesn’t win it’s flawless for Art Direction then the Oscars should just not have it as a category. I also am very fond of Potter and King’s Speech. Potter is perhaps the best looking film in that series. I’d watch it again just to look at it.
Robbed: Scott Pilgrim. Watching it on Blu-ray is such a treat. I actually found myself pausing it just to look at all the detail. Outside of actresses getting naked how often does that happen? Never!

Achievement in cinematography…

“Black Swan” (Fox Searchlight), Matthew Libatique 
“Inception” (Warner Bros.), Wally Pfister
“The King’s Speech” (The Weinstein Company), Danny Cohen
“The Social Network” (Sony Pictures Releasing), Jeff Cronenweth 🙂
“True Grit” (Paramount), Roger Deakins

Will: I’m going with the “safe” bet again by guessing True Grit even though I have a feeling it may lose to Speech or Social Network.  It will be nice to finally see a Cohen films wining this award (their films have always been strong in this category. I also think that this is the only big award Grit will get and so it will be saddled with this award much as There Will Be Blood was a few years ago (though that also won Best Actor). Still, Deakins is a true genus of the medium and while this is not his best work it should be good enough to get him a lot of votes. My favorite Deakins shot films would be Barton Fink, The Assassination of Jesse James, House of Sound and Fog, Shawshank Redemption and No Country For Old Men. Jeez, how did he not win for any of those?!
Should: Inception. Wally Pfister is one of the best DPs in the world. Social Network is also amazing to look at because the cinematography is so in sync with Fincher’s vision. Black Swan comes in a close second.
Robbed: Again, Scott Pilgrim. Bill Pope is the man! That film is all over the place but amazingly coherent. I challenge any of the nominees above to turn in something as complex and enjoyable to watch as Pilgrim. It’s like visual candy. 

Achievement in costume design…

“Alice in Wonderland” (Walt Disney), Colleen Atwood 
“I Am Love” (Magnolia Pictures), Antonella Cannarozzi 
“The King’s Speech” (The Weinstein Company), Jenny Beavan 
“The Tempest” (Miramax), Sandy Powell
“True Grit” (Paramount), Mary Zophres

Will: No way is Alice taking this. King’s Speech.
Should: I Am Love ALLLLLL the way. This film should have gotten more noms and the costumes are amazing. So is the art direction. So is the acting. And directing. And… yeah, it’s very good all around.  
Worst: Alice in Wonderland: Ugh again. Every aspect of this film is ugly and rotted out. Looking at it offends my senses.
Robbed: Scott Pilgrim. Modern costumes always get the shaft.

Best documentary feature…

“Exit through the Gift Shop” (Producers Distribution Agency), A Paranoid Pictures Production, Banksy and Jaimie D’Cruz 
“Gasland”, A Gasland Production, Josh Fox and Trish Adlesic
“Inside Job” (Sony Pictures Classics), A Representational Pictures Production, Charles Ferguson and Audrey Marrs
“Restrepo” (National Geographic Entertainment), An Outpost Films Production, Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger 
“Waste Land” (Arthouse Films), An Almega Projects Production, Lucy Walker and Angus Aynsley

Will: Once again only two films have a shot. Inside Job vs. Exit Through the Gift Shop. Job has the better shot but I have a strong feeling about Exit.
Should: Gift Shop! It’s that rare enjoyable documentary that’s also pretty deep and socially relevant. This year’s Man on Wire in other words.
Robbed: Nothing. Now that I am older I have to admit to myself that I detest the documentary genre. I see, like, one good doc a year. 

Achievement in film editing…

“Black Swan” (Fox Searchlight), Andrew Weisblum 
“The Fighter” (Paramount), Pamela Martin
“The King’s Speech” (The Weinstein Company), Tariq Anwar
“127 Hours” (Fox Searchlight), Jon Harris
“The Social Network” (Sony Pictures Releasing), Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter 🙂

Will: Once again it’s Speech vs. Network. I think Social Network has a better shot but it’s going to be close. This may be the category that I go back and forth on until the show but for now I’m sticking with Social Network. Not only does Angus Wall have a cool name but he did the editing on films like Zodiac and Panic Room so he racked up some awesome points there.
Should: 127 Hours, next to Franco’s (near) flawless performance this film was made by it’s editing. From where I was sitting Boyle shot a bunch of stuff that probably didn’t mean much until it was assembled in the editing room. Really though I’m a sucker for closed form film making and films are set in a strategically limited space. The better ones are so interesting to watch and so dependent on the rhythms of the editing to keep it alive and fresh.  
Robbed: Take a guess: yup, Scott Pilgrim. The editing is insane yet dovetails with Edgar Wright’s jumpy vision completely. Best editing of the year (really, though, what the hell does anyone know about editing from just looking at the final product)

Best foreign language film of the year…

“Biutiful” (Roadside Attractions), A Menage Atroz, Mod Producciones and Ikiru Films Production, Mexico
“Dogtooth” (Kino International), A Boo Production, Greece 
“In a Better World” (Sony Pictures Classics), A Zentropa Production, Denmark
“Incendies” (Sony Pictures Classics), A Micro-Scope Production, Canada
“Outside the Law (Hors-la-loi)” (Cohen Media Group), A Tassili Films Production, Algeria

Will:Ugh, Biutiful. In A Better World stands the chance of being this year’s Secrets in Their Eyes (meaning: the non-front runner often has a great shot here). Dogtooth has the critics vote but, again, this category cares more about the message than the quality.
Should: Dogtooth all the way. But this category is hard to call because the people voting actually see the movies (as opposed to most other) and are really old and out of touch and… hard to predict.
Robbed: Lots! How about Everyone Else from Germany? How about Wild Grass from France. I could go on but my fingers are getting tired (hehe).

Achievement in makeup…

“Barney’s Version” (Sony Pictures Classics), Adrien Morot 
“The Way Back” (Newmarket Films in association with Wrekin Hill Entertainment and Image Entertainment), Edouard F. Henriques, Gregory Funk and Yolanda Toussieng 
“The Wolfman” (Universal), Rick Baker and Dave Elsey

Will: Wolfman. How could it not? At the very least it’s cooler looking than the makeup in Wolf. Hopkins looked bad ass in this movie.
Should: I think Rick Baker tends to be overrated and his work is too costume-y (despite that not even being a word). I’ll go with Way Back I guess even though I have not seen it. Despite the reviews I’m really excited to see Peter Weir’s Way Back and glad it got at least one nomination (as opposed the butt loads his last film Master and Commander got). I’m very curious what role makeup of all things plays in it. 
Robbed: I’m very happy that no candidates spring to mind.

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original score)…

“How to Train Your Dragon” (Paramount), John Powell 
“Inception” (Warner Bros.), Hans Zimmer 
“The King’s Speech” (The Weinstein Company), Alexandre Desplat 
“127 Hours” (Fox Searchlight), A.R. Top Rahman 
“The Social Network” (Sony Pictures Releasing), Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross 🙂 
😀

Will: Yes, Desplat has a great shot finally. He’s an amazing composer, one of the best around. Very prolific composer with an astonishing range (from a Twilight movie to a Wes Anderson movie to Julie and Julia to Harry Potter etc.)  so this would be a good time to honor his amazing work in the last ten or so years since “Birth” (at least that’s when I started noticing him). That being said can anyone who saw King’s Speech actually remember it’s music? As opposed to…
Should: Trent Reznor. Trent all the way. Reznor is an amazing musician who has a gifted ear for edgy instrumental music. Okay, I’m a HUGE Nine Inch Nails fan but I feel his score is objectively good. The score is subtle when it needs to be (love the piano stuff) and flashy elsewhere (love the 8bit techno even more). The film industry should throw themselves at this guy because it can really use his talents. Such a refreshing break from the John Williams orchestral standard. Close to him is of course Desplat. Sad, though, that after all these years of rooting for Desplat the year I’m not is the year he will.
Robbed: Oddly enough, Desplat, despite having the best shot at winning for King’s Speech, was robbed for his Ghost Writer score. File that under irony.

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song)…

“Coming Home” from “Country Strong” (Sony Pictures Releasing (Screen Gems), Music and Lyric by Tom Douglas, Troy Verges and Hillary Lindsey 🙄
“I See the Light” from “Tangled” (Walt Disney), Music by Alan Menken, Lyric by Glenn Slater
“If I Rise” from “127 Hours” (Fox Searchlight), Music by A.R. Rahman, Lyric by Dido and Rollo Armstrong 🙄
“We Belong Together” from “Toy Story 3? (Walt Disney), Music and Lyric by Randy Newman

Will: Toy Story 3. Because Randy Newman hasn’t won since that last shitty song in Monsters Inc. Or did he win for that movie’s score. I don’t remember. Does it matter? Every piece of music he does sounds the same anyway.
Should: Good God, nobody. I hate this category this year as opposed to most other years where I just dislike it.
Robbed: All the awesome music in Scott Pilgrim. Garbage Truck for one. The opening song for another. Oh, and Scott’s Ramona song (written by Beck) is solid gold.

Achievement in visual effects…

“Alice in Wonderland” (Walt Disney), Ken Ralston, David Schaub, Carey Villegas and Sean Phillips
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1? (Warner Bros.), Tim Burke, John Richardson, Christian Manz and Nicolas Aithadi
“Hereafter” (Warner Bros.), Michael Owens, Bryan Grill, Stephan Trojanski and Joe Farrell
“Inception” (Warner Bros.), Paul Franklin, Chris Corbould, Andrew Lockley and Peter Bebb 
“Iron Man 2? (Paramount and Marvel Entertainment, Distributed by Paramount), Janek Sirrs, Ben Snow, Ged Wright and Daniel Sudick  🙂

Will: Of course Inception should win because it’s easily the most relevant film of the the year and has the most creative use of effects of the bunch.  The effects are brilliantly invisible in the way they are integrated into the material. It’s literally groundbreaking. 
Should: Inception. I’m a bigger fan of Iron Man 2 than most people I know and I gotta say I love the look and feel of Potter but nothing comes close to Inception’s visuals and presentation. 
Robbed: Tron. Say what you will about the movie (and I’ve said what I’ve, um, willed) but, come on, it should at least be in the top five. While Tron’s 3D is not very good at times and the CGI Jeff Bridges looks like an uncanny valley drop-out (I guess that’s better than dropping out of Sweet Valley), it’s certainly better than, say, the grotesque and muddy looking Alice in Wonderland monstrosity which has no right being here. Or anywhere.


Yawn: The Other Categories
Once again I find myself wondering why these are part of the show and not announced separately.

Best documentary short subject…

“Killing in the Name”, A Moxie Firecracker Films Production, Nominees to be determined
“Poster Girl”, A Portrayal Films Production, Nominees to be determined
“Strangers No More”, A Simon & Goodman Picture Company Production, Karen Goodman and Kirk Simon
“Sun Come Up”, A Sun Come Up Production, Jennifer Redfearn and Tim Metzger
“The Warriors of Qiugang”, A Thomas Lennon Films Production, Ruby Yang and Thomas Lennon

Will: Who Cares. Fine, whatever, Strangers No More. Congratulations!

Best animated short film…

“Day & Night” (Walt Disney), A Pixar Animation Studios Production, Teddy Newton
“The Gruffalo”, A Magic Light Pictures Production, Jakob Schuh and Max Lang
“Let’s Pollute”, A Geefwee Boedoe Production, Geefwee Boedoe
“The Lost Thing”, (Nick Batzias for Madman Entertainment), A Passion Pictures Australia Production, Shaun Tan and Andrew Ruhemann
“Madagascar, carnet de voyage (Madagascar, a Journey Diary)”, A Sacrebleu Production, Bastien Dubois

Will: Who cares. Oh, I already said that. Going with the bigger Disney short was once a safe bet but not anymore. So it’s Day/Night vs. Gruffalo. Gruffalo then because I’m tired of getting burned here and there’s probably a bunch of Jeneane Graffalo fans out there that think this short is about her… as if that crappy MTV 90s animated show Daria wasn’t already. 

Best live action short film…

“The Confession” (National Film and Television School), A National Film and Television School Production, Tanel Toom
“The Crush” (Network Ireland Television), A Purdy Pictures Production, Michael Creagh
“God of Love”, A Luke Matheny Production, Luke Matheny
“Na Wewe” (Premium Films), A CUT! Production, Ivan Goldschmidt
“Wish 143?, A Swing and Shift Films/Union Pictures Production, Ian Barnes and Samantha Waite

Will: Wish 143. Why? The title. I have a theory that the “best” sounding title, one with the most oomph, usually wins because people are stupid.

Achievement in sound editing…

“Inception” (Warner Bros.), Richard King 🙂
“Toy Story 3? (Walt Disney), Tom Myers and Michael Silvers
“Tron: Legacy” (Walt Disney), Gwendolyn Yates Whittle and Addison Teague 😐
“True Grit” (Paramount), Skip Lievsay and Craig Berkey 
“Unstoppable” (20th Century Fox), Mark P. Stoeckinger

Will: Inception.
Should: Inception.
Robbed: Pilgrim.

Achievement in sound mixing…

“Inception” (Warner Bros.), Lora Hirschberg, Gary A. Rizzo and Ed Novick 🙂
“The King’s Speech” (The Weinstein Company), Paul Hamblin, Martin Jensen and John Midgley
“Salt” (Sony Pictures Releasing), Jeffrey J. Haboush, Greg P. Russell, Scott Millan and William Sarokin 😡
“The Social Network” (Sony Pictures Releasing), Ren Klyce, David Parker, Michael Semanick and Mark Weingarten
“True Grit” (Paramount), Skip Lievsay, Craig Berkey, Greg Orloff and Peter F. Kurland

Will: First off, how the hell did King’s Speech get nominated in this category? Der. Okay, then, Inception.
Should: Inception.
Robbed: Scott Pilgrim.

My initial reactions reposted…

😀 Noms

  1. Christian Bale in The Fighter. We all knew it would happen but it still feels great that Bale finally got nominated and is the frontrunner for the win.
  2. Trent Reznor for Social Network. I honestly didn’t think the Oscars were progressive enough to know good music when they heard it.
  3. Dogtooth nominated for Foreign Film. Greece’s first nom in 30 years!
  4. Michelle Williams in Blue Valentine.
  5. After being snubbed so long ago for You Can Count On Me (his first role) Mark Ruffalo finally gets a nomination.
  6. John Hawkes!
  7. David O. Fucking Russell, congrats! You were snubbed for directing Three Kings so this one’s earned. Good movie to boot.

👿 Snubs

  • Christopher Nolan for directing Inception–an average movie in my book but one with exceptionally noteworthy direction. The Oscars hate Nolan for some reason. And of all the things to nominated him for… they go with writing? Really?! The film has a clear visual mastery going for it but, come on, the story and plotting sucked and only exist to serve the visuals. It’s shocking and sad that a director of Nolan’s caliber, who is doing very interesting things with big Hollywood budgets is getting passed over. Nobody makes big movies like Nolan does and the Oscars love big movies (Avatar). So what gives? His Dark Knight is the reason the Best Picture nominees got increased to 10 and his snub here should really be looked at.
  • Ryan Gosling–Michelle Williams, also very good, got nominated. But Gosling was amazing. I don’t get it.
  • Ghost Writer–in almost all categories. Writing, directing, editing, cinematography, and acting (Brosnan and Williams esp).
  • Scott Pilgrim–No sound or editing nominations? BS. Unstoppable got nominated but not Pilgrim!
  • Shutter Island–It had a tiny bit of momentum but nobody was buying. Sad considering it’s Scorsese’s best movie in years.
  • Leslie Manville for her performance in Another Year. So sad she missed out. She’s in good company though because the Oscars also snubbed Sally Hawkings in Leigh’s Happy Go Lucky. Something about wacky Leigh characters the Oscars don’t like.
  • How does Annette Bening get nominated in Kids are All Right but not Julianne Moore? Benning is very good in that movie. Moore is every bit as good.
  • Okay, Tron: Legacy sucked but to not nominated in the Best Visual Effects category is insane.
  • Inceptionagain. I just realized that it missed out on an editing nomination. The only two noms it should have gotten is directing and, yeah, editing. That is missed both is insane and they might as well have not nominated for Best Picture in that case (which would have been fine by me).
  • I would say Waiting for Superman in the doc category except it’s not a snub if it shouldn’t have been nominated in the first place. Surprising, yes, snub no.
  • Andrew Garfield had a good shot of getting nominated but the real best supporting actor in Social Network was Armie Hammer. Not was Armie Hammer snubbed but his twin, Armie Hammer, was also snubbed.
  • Ditto Mila Kunisin Black Swan. She had great odds with a SAG and Globe nom but I felt her performance was lacking and unmemorable. Barbara Hershey was not and she should have been nominated in the supporting category. Hence the snub.

Wut?

  • A Clint Eastwood movie gets nominated for visual effects. Hum. Haven’t seen the film. And don’t want to but, hey, it’s Clint so I got to.
  • Alice in Wonderland gets three nominations. That’s three nominations too many
  • 127 Hours gets a Screenplay nod. Really?
  • Inception also gets a Screenplay nomination. Makes no sense. That would be like nominating Avatar for its writing last year (which they didn’t).
  • Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled that the GREAT Mike Leigh got his fifth writing nomination for his amazing work on Another Year. But, as with 127 Hours and Inception, this is not a writerly film. Plus, isn’t a lot of dialogue improv?
  • True Grit is an okay movie. I liked it. And I like the Coen Brothers but this is not close to one of their better directed films. I don’t know how they slipped in this year over Boyle, Affleck, Nolan or some of the other buzzed about directors. I guess they’ll get nominated for making just about anything at this point. Time for a Ladykillers 2!

Overall, a solid list of nominees. Nothing too awful here. Some overrated films (Social Network, True Grit, etc.) but overrated films that are far from bad. I just this was a very weak year for movies in general so if this is the best Hollywood could do then I guess it could have been worse.

 

 

2010 Oscar Reactions

Welcome to my third annual Oscar Reaction section in which I apply a rigorous intellectual vigor and social analysis of this year’s nominees… WITH SMILIES! Smilies and memes are the new discourse after all.

Best Picture…

“Black Swan” 🙂 😳
“The Fighter” 😀
“Inception” 🙄 😐
“The Kids Are All Right” 😉
“The King’s Speech” 😀
“127 Hours” 😥
“The Social Network”   😐
“Toy Story 3″ 😐
“True Grit” 🙂
“Winter’s Bone” 😯  🙂

Achievement in directing…

“Black Swan” (Fox Searchlight), Darren Aronofsky 🙂
“The Fighter” (Paramount), David O. Russell 😀 😛
“The King’s Speech” (The Weinstein Company), Tom Hooper
“The Social Network” (Sony Pictures Releasing), David Fincher 😕
“True Grit” (Paramount), Joel Coen and Ethan Coen 😯 😐 😐

Performance by an actor in a leading role…

Javier Bardem in “Biutiful” (Roadside Attractions) 😯 😡 ❓  🙄
Jeff Bridges in “True Grit” (Paramount) 😯 😀 😛
Jesse Eisenberg in “The Social Network” (Sony Pictures Releasing) 🙂 😎
Colin Firth in “The King’s Speech” (The Weinstein Company) 😀
James Franco in “127 Hours” (Fox Searchlight) 🙂

Performance by an actress in a leading role…

Annette Bening in “The Kids Are All Right” (Focus Features) 🙂
Nicole Kidman in “Rabbit Hole” (Lionsgate) 😯 😐 😕
Jennifer Lawrence in “Winter’s Bone” (Roadside Attractions) 🙂
Natalie Portman in “Black Swan” (Fox Searchlight) 🙂
Michelle Williams in “Blue Valentine” (The Weinstein Company) 😀

Performance by an actor in a supporting role…

Christian Bale in “The Fighter” (Paramount) 😀 😀 😀 😀 😆   :mrgreen:
John Hawkes in “Winter’s Bone” (Roadside Attractions) 😯
Jeremy Renner in “The Town” (Warner Bros.) 😐
Mark Ruffalo in “The Kids Are All Right” (Focus Features) 😀 😀 😛
Geoffrey Rush in “The King’s Speech” (The Weinstein Company) 🙂

Performance by an actress in a supporting role…

Amy Adams in “The Fighter” (Paramount) 🙂
Helena Bonham Carter in “The King’s Speech” (The Weinstein Company) 🙂
Melissa Leo in “The Fighter” (Paramount) 🙂
Hailee Steinfeld in “True Grit”(Paramount) 🙂 😉
Jacki Weaver in “Animal Kingdom” (Sony Pictures Classics) 🙂 😛

Adapted screenplay…

“127 Hours” (Fox Searchlight), Screenplay by Danny Boyle & Simon Beaufoy 😯 ❓ ❓ 😡
“The Social Network” (Sony Pictures Releasing), Screenplay by Aaron Sorkin
“Toy Story 3? (Walt Disney), Screenplay by Michael Arndt, Story by John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich
“True Grit” (Paramount), Written for the screen by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen 😛
“Winter’s Bone” (Roadside Attractions), Adapted for the screen by Debra Granik & Anne Rosellini 🙂

Original screenplay…

“Another Year” (Sony Pictures Classics), Written by Mike Leigh 😯 😀 😀
“The Fighter” (Paramount), Screenplay by Scott Silver and Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson, Story by Keith Dorrington & Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson
“Inception” (Warner Bros.), Written by Christopher Nolan 🙄 😡
“The Kids Are All Right” (Focus Features), Written by Lisa Cholodenko & Stuart Blumberg 😐
“The King’s Speech” (The Weinstein Company), Screenplay by David Seidler 🙂

Best animated feature film of the year…

“How to Train Your Dragon” (Paramount), Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois 😀
“The Illusionist” (Sony Pictures Classics), Sylvain Chomet 🙂
“Toy Story 3? (Walt Disney), Lee Unkrich

Achievement in art direction…

“Alice in Wonderland” (Walt Disney), Production Design: Robert Stromberg, Set Decoration: Karen O’Hara 😡
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1? (Warner Bros.), Production Design: Stuart Craig, Set Decoration: Stephenie McMillan 🙂
“Inception” (Warner Bros.), Production Design: Guy Hendrix Dyas, Set Decoration: Larry Dias and Doug Mowat 🙂
“The King’s Speech” (The Weinstein Company), Production Design: Eve Stewart, Set Decoration: Judy Farr
“True Grit” (Paramount), Production Design: Jess Gonchor, Set Decoration: Nancy Haigh

Achievement in cinematography…

“Black Swan” (Fox Searchlight), Matthew Libatique 🙂
“Inception” (Warner Bros.), Wally Pfister 😀 🙂
“The King’s Speech” (The Weinstein Company), Danny Cohen
“The Social Network” (Sony Pictures Releasing), Jeff Cronenweth 🙂
“True Grit” (Paramount), Roger Deakins

Achievement in costume design…

“Alice in Wonderland” (Walt Disney), Colleen Atwood 😡 😡
“I Am Love” (Magnolia Pictures), Antonella Cannarozzi 😀 😀
“The King’s Speech” (The Weinstein Company), Jenny Beavan 
“The Tempest” (Miramax), Sandy Powell
“True Grit” (Paramount), Mary Zophres

Best documentary feature…

“Exit through the Gift Shop” (Producers Distribution Agency), A Paranoid Pictures Production, Banksy and Jaimie D’Cruz 🙂 😛
“Gasland”, A Gasland Production, Josh Fox and Trish Adlesic
“Inside Job” (Sony Pictures Classics), A Representational Pictures Production, Charles Ferguson and Audrey Marrs
“Restrepo” (National Geographic Entertainment), An Outpost Films Production, Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger 😐
“Waste Land” (Arthouse Films), An Almega Projects Production, Lucy Walker and Angus Aynsley

Best documentary short subject…

“Killing in the Name”, A Moxie Firecracker Films Production, Nominees to be determined
“Poster Girl”, A Portrayal Films Production, Nominees to be determined
“Strangers No More”, A Simon & Goodman Picture Company Production, Karen Goodman and Kirk Simon
“Sun Come Up”, A Sun Come Up Production, Jennifer Redfearn and Tim Metzger
“The Warriors of Qiugang”, A Thomas Lennon Films Production, Ruby Yang and Thomas Lennon

Achievement in film editing…

“Black Swan” (Fox Searchlight), Andrew Weisblum 🙂
“The Fighter” (Paramount), Pamela Martin
“The King’s Speech” (The Weinstein Company), Tariq Anwar
“127 Hours” (Fox Searchlight), Jon Harris 🙂 🙂
“The Social Network” (Sony Pictures Releasing), Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter 🙂

Best foreign language film of the year…

“Biutiful” (Roadside Attractions), A Menage Atroz, Mod Producciones and Ikiru Films Production, Mexico
“Dogtooth” (Kino International), A Boo Production, Greece 😀 😯  😀
“In a Better World” (Sony Pictures Classics), A Zentropa Production, Denmark
“Incendies” (Sony Pictures Classics), A Micro-Scope Production, Canada
“Outside the Law (Hors-la-loi)” (Cohen Media Group), A Tassili Films Production, Algeria

Achievement in makeup…

“Barney’s Version” (Sony Pictures Classics), Adrien Morot 😯 😐
“The Way Back” (Newmarket Films in association with Wrekin Hill Entertainment and Image Entertainment), Edouard F. Henriques, Gregory Funk and Yolanda Toussieng 😯
“The Wolfman” (Universal), Rick Baker and Dave Elsey

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original score)…

“How to Train Your Dragon” (Paramount), John Powell 😯
“Inception” (Warner Bros.), Hans Zimmer 🙂
“The King’s Speech” (The Weinstein Company), Alexandre Desplat 🙂
“127 Hours” (Fox Searchlight), A.R. Rahman ❓ 😡
“The Social Network” (Sony Pictures Releasing), Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross 😀 🙂  😀  :mrgreen:
  😀

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song)…

“Coming Home” from “Country Strong” (Sony Pictures Releasing (Screen Gems)), Music and Lyric by Tom Douglas, Troy Verges and Hillary Lindsey 🙄
“I See the Light” from “Tangled” (Walt Disney), Music by Alan Menken, Lyric by Glenn Slater 🙄
“If I Rise” from “127 Hours” (Fox Searchlight), Music by A.R. Rahman, Lyric by Dido and Rollo Armstrong 🙄
“We Belong Together” from “Toy Story 3? (Walt Disney), Music and Lyric by Randy Newman 🙄

Best animated short film…

“Day & Night” (Walt Disney), A Pixar Animation Studios Production, Teddy Newton
“The Gruffalo”, A Magic Light Pictures Production, Jakob Schuh and Max Lang
“Let’s Pollute”, A Geefwee Boedoe Production, Geefwee Boedoe
“The Lost Thing”, (Nick Batzias for Madman Entertainment), A Passion Pictures Australia Production, Shaun Tan and Andrew Ruhemann
“Madagascar, carnet de voyage (Madagascar, a Journey Diary)”, A Sacrebleu Production, Bastien Dubois

Best live action short film…

“The Confession” (National Film and Television School), A National Film and Television School Production, Tanel Toom
“The Crush” (Network Ireland Television), A Purdy Pictures Production, Michael Creagh
“God of Love”, A Luke Matheny Production, Luke Matheny
“Na Wewe” (Premium Films), A CUT! Production, Ivan Goldschmidt
“Wish 143?, A Swing and Shift Films/Union Pictures Production, Ian Barnes and Samantha Waite

Achievement in sound editing…

“Inception” (Warner Bros.), Richard King 🙂
“Toy Story 3? (Walt Disney), Tom Myers and Michael Silvers
“Tron: Legacy” (Walt Disney), Gwendolyn Yates Whittle and Addison Teague 😐
“True Grit” (Paramount), Skip Lievsay and Craig Berkey 😐
“Unstoppable” (20th Century Fox), Mark P. Stoeckinger 😐

Achievement in sound mixing…

“Inception” (Warner Bros.), Lora Hirschberg, Gary A. Rizzo and Ed Novick 🙂
“The King’s Speech” (The Weinstein Company), Paul Hamblin, Martin Jensen and John Midgley
“Salt” (Sony Pictures Releasing), Jeffrey J. Haboush, Greg P. Russell, Scott Millan and William Sarokin 😡
“The Social Network” (Sony Pictures Releasing), Ren Klyce, David Parker, Michael Semanick and Mark Weingarten
“True Grit” (Paramount), Skip Lievsay, Craig Berkey, Greg Orloff and Peter F. Kurland

Achievement in visual effects…

“Alice in Wonderland” (Walt Disney), Ken Ralston, David Schaub, Carey Villegas and Sean Phillips 😡 😡 😡 😡 😡 😡 😡
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1? (Warner Bros.), Tim Burke, John Richardson, Christian Manz and Nicolas Aithadi
“Hereafter” (Warner Bros.), Michael Owens, Bryan Grill, Stephan Trojanski and Joe Farrell
“Inception” (Warner Bros.), Paul Franklin, Chris Corbould, Andrew Lockley and Peter Bebb 😯 😯
“Iron Man 2? (Paramount and Marvel Entertainment, Distributed by Paramount), Janek Sirrs, Ben Snow, Ged Wright and Daniel Sudick  🙂

 

😀 Noms  

  1. Christian Bale in The Fighter. We all knew it would happen but it still feels great that Bale finally got nominated and is the frontrunner for the win.
  2. Trent Reznor for Social Network. I honestly didn’t think the Oscars were progressive enough to know good music when they heard it.
  3. Dogtooth nominated for Foreign Film. Greece’s first nom in 30 years!
  4. Michelle Williams in Blue Valentine
  5. All the Winter’s Bone love. Totally didn’t expect it to get a Best Pic nom.
  6. After being snubbed so long ago for You Can Count On Me (his first role) Mark Ruffalo finally gets a nomination.
  7. John Hawkes!
  8. David O. Fucking Russell, congrats! You were snubbed for directing Three Kings so this one’s earned. Good movie to boot.  

👿 Snubs

  • Christopher Nolan for directing Inception–an average movie in my book but one with exceptionally noteworthy direction. The Oscars hate Nolan for some reason. And of all the things to nominated him for… they go with writing? Really?! The film has a clear visual mastery going for it but, come on, the story and plotting sucked and only exist to serve the visuals. It’s shocking and sad that a director of Nolan’s caliber, who is doing very interesting things with big Hollywood budgets is getting passed over. Nobody makes big movies like Nolan does and the Oscars love big movies (Avatar). So what gives? His Dark Knight is the reason the Best Picture nominees got increased to 10 and his snub here should really be looked at.  
  • Ryan Gosling–Michelle Williams, also very good, got nominated. But Gosling was amazing. I don’t get it.
  • Ghost Writer–in almost all categories. Writing, directing, editing, cinematography, and acting (Brosnan and Williams esp).
  • Scott Pilgrim–No sound or editing nominations? BS. Unstoppable got nominated but not Pilgrim!
  • Shutter Island–It had a tiny bit of momentum but nobody was buying. Sad considering it’s Scorsese’s best movie in years.
  • Leslie Manville for her performance in Another Year. So sad she missed out. She’s in good company though because the Oscars also snubbed Sally Hawkings in Leigh’s Happy Go Lucky. Something about wacky Leigh characters the Oscars don’t like.
  • How does Annette Bening get nominated in Kids are All Right but not Julianne Moore? Benning is very good in that movie. Moore is every bit as good.
  • Okay, Tron: Legacy sucked but to not nominated in the Best Visual Effects category is insane.
  • Inception again. I just realized that it missed out on an editing nomination. The only two noms it should have gotten is directing and, yeah, editing. That is missed both is insane and they might as well have not nominated for Best Picture in that case (which would have been fine by me).  
  • I would say Waiting for Superman in the doc category except it’s not a snub if it shouldn’t have been nominated in the first place. Surprising, yes, snub no.
  • Andrew Garfield had a good shot of getting nominated but the real best supporting actor in Social Network was Armie Hammer. Not was Armie Hammer snubbed but his twin, Armie Hammer, was also snubbed.
  • Ditto Mila Kunis in Black Swan. She had great odds with a SAG and Globe nom but I felt her performance was lacking and unmemorable. Barbara Hershey was not and she should have been nominated in the supporting category. Hence the snub.  

Wut?

  • A Clint Eastwood movie gets nominated for visual effects. Hum. Haven’t seen the film. And don’t want to but, hey, it’s Clint so I got to.
  • Alice in Wonderland gets three nominations. That’s three nominations too many
  • 127 Hours gets a Screenplay nod. Really?
  • Inception also gets a Screenplay nomination. Makes no sense. That would be like nominating Avatar for its writing last year (which they didn’t).
  • Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled that the GREAT Mike Leigh got his fifth writing nomination for his amazing work on Another Year. But, as with 127 Hours and Inception, this is not a writerly film. Plus, isn’t a lot of dialogue improv?  
  • True Grit is an okay movie. I liked it. And I like the Coen Brothers but this is not close to one of their better directed films. I don’t know how they slipped in this year over Boyle, Affleck, Nolan or some of the other buzzed about directors. I guess they’ll get nominated for making just about anything at this point. Time for a Ladykillers 2!  

Overall, a solid list of nominees. Nothing too awful here. Some overrated films (Social Network, True Grit, etc.) but overrated films that are far from bad. I just this was a very weak year for movies in general so if this is the best Hollywood could do then I guess it could have been worse.  

Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1

What’s Good:David Yates! Creature! Dark Ron! Random Nick Cave dancing sequence! The lack of a color (is this a David Fincher movie?)! And the treat of all treats is that I no longer have to endure Michael Gambon as Dumbledore! 
What’s Not:Having to wait eight months to see the second part to a story that I already know feels weird. That it’s still very exciting is a testament to this durable franchise.

After almost ten years of spells and awkward snogging the “Harry Potter” series finally slows down enough to catch its breath and gather itself as it prepares for the end. Upon hearing the last (and best) “Potter” adventure, “Deathly Hallows,” would be split in two I groaned almost as loud as when I heard the news that super short “The Hobbit” book would be two parts. Anyone who has seen the previous films knows a two parter wasn’t really necessary because however big the phone book size “Potter” volumes have been in the past the film version usually covers all the bases to varying degrees of success. For every exquisitely paced “Half Blood Prince” there’s a breakneck wizarding debacle like “Goblet of Fire” that is all plot and no substance. Splitting a big franchise in two is obviously motivated by money and that’s a shame but the odd thing is that cashing in afforded Part One of “Deathly Hallows” to take a step back from the formula and be more artful in its approach. As an example of this what I consider to be one of the highlights of the film franchise occurs in this movie. Harry and Hermione are languishing in their tent of boredom listening to the radio for news about their friends. Suddenly a song breaks through the static, a grat Nick Cave song called “O Children,” and the two start to dance. They share a moment and their spirits are soon lifted but only for a moment. It’s a quick, almost throwaway scene that has no real bearing on the plot but, so what, it’s organic and contains more emotional resonance than almost any other scene in the series. That scene and many more would not have been included if the there was only one movie so there’s an upside to greed.

The first thing that occurred to me, and others might benefit from approaching the material with this in mind, is that this film is basically one big spy movie in disguise. A spy movie with magic which automatically makes it cooler than most spy stories! Instead of running into trouble as they usually do Harry and co. must sneak around because Big Brother, er, Big Wizard I guess is after them and getting caught equals certain death. The Death Eaters (the Nazis of the magic world) have infiltrated the government and since Potter is public enemy number one this is the first film that is not set at Hogwarts (and… yay!). Every corner holds menacing secrets and ever face is potentially fatal (especially old ladies!). There are so many scenes of sneaking, lurking, waiting, hiding, gadgets use and the continual reliance of alternate identities that “Deathly Hallows” is more “Mission: Impossible” than it is “Harry Potter.” Which is awesome! 

The momentum, as I mentioned, shifts from the young characters dashing from setpiece to sepiece to a more reflective story that focuses on character, mood and atmosphere. Thankfully all three are some of the best of the series. The movie focuses almost entirely on the younger (well, older now) actors (sigh, we’ll have to way till summer to see Snape steal the show) and while the three leads Radcliffe, Watson and Grint (sounds like a lawfirm) have never been what I would call great actors, at least when compared to their adult co-stars (trying to act next to Alan Rickman must be like trying to act next to a black hole with awesome hair), the three charming actors really seem to have found the inner core of their characters this time around. The key is that they tap into that without the usual straining. When they whip into one of their emo spells it’s not even annoying any more. It’s relatable and, well, human.

Director David Yates basically saved the Potter movies. He brought some much needed consistency and clarity to the often muddled, rambling and inconsistent storytelling. Columbus gets a lot of credit in my book for laying the foundation but he ran out of steam about ten minutes into his second movie while Mike Newell never even got past the opening title credits before falling into a Hagrid sized hole of suckage. But Yates marches on, rarely stumbling and always surrounding himself with great talents. The cinematography by Eduardo Serra (new to the series) and music composition by Alexandre Desplat (waaaaayyyyy better than John Williams) are top notch. The mood is soggy and does a great job at putts the viewer in the shoes of the characters while and atmosphere is richly dark to a point of monochromatic exhaustion. Totally appropriate considering “Deathly Hallows Part One” is the “Empire Strikes Back” to Part 2’s “Return of the Jedi” (just substitute house Elves with Ewoks). After the movie I felt like I needed to watch a Mexican sit-com to get my eyes back to normal (not really). As the characters weave in and out of trouble I often got lost in the infinite blacks of the sets ranging from the cold, fascist Ministry of Magic headquarters to the many dark and drab camping vistas that the characters find themselves in as they wait, and wait and wait for, uh, something. The feeling of uncertainty is as potent as one of Harmonie’s good luck spells but, alas, people don’t like uncertainty. I can imagine critics and audiences will find this open ended approach to be misguided and hard to sit through but I found it to be a refreshing and at times even thrilling treat for loyal fans wanting to see something of substance that isn’t getting its balls busted by the tyrannical requirments of plot and forward progression. It’s not the best “Potter” film but it’s certainly the most thoughtful.

So here we are, almost at the end and however much we know EXACTLY how that end will come to pass (because God forbid a Potter film deviate from the near biblical Potter cannon) it’s still a bit sad to see Potter’s adventures winding down. No “Lost” and now no more “Potter?!” Tis a sad time for nerds. I didn’t so much grow up with Potter and co. as I grew older with them and, you know what, maturity suits this series very well. With the best Potter director of all time (David Yates) at the helm once again with “Part Two” I am hopeful and filled with the feeling that could watch Harry Potter movies for another ten years.
Grade: B+

 

Ranking Potter Movies (with revised grades):

1. Best: Half-Blood Prince (Yates): A-
2. Sorcerer’s Stone (Columbus): B+
3. Prisoner of Azkaban (Cuaron): B+
4. Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (Yates): B+
5. Order of the Phoenix (Yates): B+
6. Chamber of Secrets (Columbus): D+
7. Worst: Goblet of Fire (Newell): D