Well, since it's a few hours before have to get ready for the Red Carpet, thought I'd throw out my two cent's worth on this year's films. It's been an odd year. Usually there are a couple that just captivate for one reason or another like last year's The Young Victoria or best song "The Weary Kind" from Crazy Heart. Not so for this year. I really don't care who wins in any category tonight, although I like--in some cases love--many of this year's films. Here you can see the ones that I cared enough to see on the big screen. The rest were fine to catch on Netflix.
So, without further ado, here's my take on the 2010-11 films:
By far the favorites in this category were the three based on Swedish author Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy that's been such runaway best sellers this past year. His books and the films got me interested in other Scandinavian authors, films, and travel(in August this year).
Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Stars: Michael Nyqvist as financial journalist Michael Blomkvist who is hired by a prominent Swedish businessman to solve the 40 year old case of his missing niece. Noomi Rapace plays Lisbeth Salander, the pierced and tattooed punk computer prodigy who helps Blomkvist investigate. They uncover complex family secrets, murder and financial intrigue--and, in the process, develop an unlikely friendship despite Lisbeth's unwillingness to share her troubled past and trust Blomkvist.
The Girl Who Played with Fire
The story continues with Michael Nyqvist still playing the journalist Michael Blomkvist and Noomi Rapace the fierce computer hacker Lisbeth Salander. BlomKvist decides to publish an expose on sex trafficking in Sweden that involves the highest government officials in wrong doing which results in two journalists' murders. Meanwhile, Lisbeth's troubled past draws her into this story and she is accused of the murders to shut her up. She goes into hiding to solve the crime and Michael uses his journalistic talents to clear her name.
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest
In the final film of the series, Lisbeth Salander is under house arrest in a hospital suffering from a bullet wound to the head. When she recovers, she will be tried for three murders. With the help of her friend Michael Blomvkist she will fight for her innocence, identify and bring to justice those in authority who failed to protect the young and vulnerable. Will she be able to get justice for herself and others who have been victimized by government officials for their own evil purposes.
Stars George Clooney as an assassin who's ready to get out of the business. In summary, it's George Clooney in an Italian village interacting with the locals and falling in love with a local beauty. 'Nuf sed!
Stars Angelina Jolie as a crime fighting agent with a designer wardrobe who entangles Johnny Depp, an American tourist/math teacher, in the intrigue. This one was painful to watch. Angelina was little more than a clothes rack. Only saving graces for this film were Venice film location and occasional appearances of the lovely Rufus Sewell. Don't pay full price for this one!
Scenes from a Marriage --these next four films depict couples at various stages in their relationships.
Stars Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling as a couple trapped in a marriage that no longer satisfies either of them. Cindy(Michelle Williams) is the preoccupied mother who struggles with her day to day life, escaping in work and sexual flirtations. Dean (Ryan Gosling) is the under-employed, but caring, husband who can't figure out how to prevent the impending breakup. He tries to be a better father and partner, but his efforts fail. He is just not enough for Cindy any more. This film is a heart breaker because Cindy no longer wants what Dean can offer.
Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart play a couple mourning the death of a child in a freak accident. Kidman copes by trying to perfectly order her daily life whether it's planting neat rows of flowers or baking the perfect pie or getting rid of all mementos of their son. Eckhart needs to talk about their loss, watch videos of their son. and remember him. Kidman feels like she is on the edge of that "rabbit hole" and may plunge any time. Eckhart just wants to grieve with his wife and find a way back. It's not hard to feel the pain in this film.
Stars the wonderful character actors Jim Broadbent (Tom) as a genial geologist who's happily married to Ruth Sheen (Gerri) a kindly therapist for many years. They garden, cook together and try to support their long time friends Mary (Lesley Manville) and Ken Tom's childhood friend. This quiet movie is my favorite of the year. If you're going to be married for a long time, this relationship is what you're looking for. And Lesley Manville deserves all the awards she can get for her work as the flighty, self-absorbed, alcoholic friend who goes too far for even the tolerant Gerri.
Eat Pray Love
Even Julia Roberts; scenes of Italy with bowls of pasta, India and Bali; and the lovely Javier Bardem as the possible love interest couldn't save this film. Loved Elizabeth Gilbert's book about her journey around the world to learn to live with divorce and find a new center for her life. The film was just boring, like having the book read to me on screen. Didn't live up to the hype.
"True grit" films--I've lumped these three films together because each portrays a central character who overcomes great obstacles with the help of family, friends, and unlikely allies.
Everyone in Louisville is justifiably proud of the performance Jennifer Lawrence turns in for this film. She's a local girl who has delivered an award winning role in this bleak rural crime drama. She shines as the young girl struggling to take care of her young brother and sister and depressed mother, keeping them fed, sheltered, and in school. At the same time she takes on the meth lab owners and dealers in the Missouri foothills to locate her father who is mixed up with this crowd. She endures mental and emotional strain and physical violence at the hands of family members, neighbors, and law enforcement. Yet she keeps on. Jennifer won't win Best Actress tonight, but at barely 20 year's old it's great that she's recognized.
This re-make of the old John Wayne western was just plain fun to watch. Young Mattie Ross (played by the surprisingly young actress Hailee Steinfield) systematically enlists the reluctant help of U.S. Marshall Rooster Cogburn (played by Jeff Bridges) to track down the man who killed her father. She stubbornly insists on riding out with Rooster and the dandified Texas ranger (played by Matt Damon). they form an unlikely team to track down the killer. Mattie was looking for "true grit" but she had plenty to spare on her own and a sharp tongue to explain her expectations to any one she did business with.
The King's Speech
There's very little left to be said about this film. Everyone knows the story of the would-be king who had to conquer the staggering handicap of stuttering so that he could lead England in a time of great danger and war. Colin Firth delivers an Oscar worth performance as King George VI. Geoffrey Rush played the impudent but oh so confident speech therapist Lionel Logue. With the help of his queen (Helena Bonham Carter) and Logue, Bertie was able to step before the mic and deliver the words of courage to the British people on the brink of war. (Blast from the past: how many noticed that Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett were back together again? This time Jennifer Ehle played Lionel Logue's tolerant wife.)
This is a film of contrasts. Natalie Portman plays a rising New York ballerina and repressed young woman under the control of her mother, a former ballerina as well. Nina (Portman) is replacing the lead in Swan Lake but she must prove that she can dance both the pure White Swan as well as the dark and destructive Black Swan. The film follows Nina's downward physical and psychological spiral as she tries to prove she can dance the darker role. The film is shocking for its physical and mental violence. Natalie Portman deserves the accolades she is winning for this role but this was not an enjoyable experience for this viewer who can take a lot of on screen violence.
Now I doubt that anyone gets through all this re-cap, but I just wanted to get it down. And now it's time for the Red Carpet. Let the show begin!