Category Archives: Commentary

Oscar thoughts 2011

2/28/11 – 12:09 am: Update: Not too shabby this year, going 20 for 24.  Missed out on Tom Hooper in the close Best Director category, and was delighted (and surprised) to see Inception take home Best Cinematography, though I feel badly for Roger Deakins.  Missed Art Direction, though Alice in Wonderland surely would have been my second guess.  And didn’t see The Lost Thing beating Day & Night, and am surprised and somewhat happy that a little short film could take down Pixar.  It deserved it, being one of the many very good animated shorts this year.  Glad I took a chance on God of Love, but that’s more of a wild guess than anything.  May as well enjoy beating my wife (finally) this year, as I’m not sure it’ll happen again anytime soon.

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It’s that time of year again, when Hollywood movie studios spend millions of dollars in the hope of persuading Academy voters they are worthy of the little gold statuette, which in turn (studios hope) will translate into more dollars at the theater and home entertainment market.  So they politic and campaign, blanketing Los Angeles with advertisements with the aim of reaching many of the fewer than 6,000 Academy voters.  Perhaps it is a shame that the Oscars represent so little in the way of quality or technical expertise, or perhaps not.  There is an art to the campaigning, and this year it again seems Harvey Weinstein will lead his little movie-that-could over several other little movies-that-could (and a couple larger movies-that-did).

I don’t wish to seem cynical; this is merely the way the system works.  What is quality, anyway?  And what is good?  The critics leaned one way with all of their year-end awards, and the guilds leaned another direction.  Who knows best what “good” means; those who study and analyze, or those who do?  The question can go much deeper than entertainment: ask teachers and educational specialists the best way to teach, and I suspect you will find different answers.  I favor the idea of an “art world” consensus, the thoughts of those who pursue academic study in the field aggregated into a rough, general consensus opinion on a piece of art.  This is one way to determine if something is “good,” but only one way.

But again, the Oscars are not about which films or performances are “good” or the “best.”  Predicting the winners is more a matter of judging the campaigns, more akin to political polling than anything else, only with a much smaller electorate.  It is still a tricky business, particularly in a year when a couple of key categories are almost too close to call.  While many races are fairly sure runaways, a number of races will provide the telecast with a modicum of suspense.  Below are some of my thoughts on who will win, and a brief comment on whom I think should win.  These will rarely align, but I am not an Academy voter.

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Top 10 of 2010

(Update 1/31/10: Having just seen Blue Valentine it was necessary to include it on my Top 10 of 2010 list.  As a 2010 film, it deserves to be showcased here and not forgotten until next year’s list.  It enters the list at #7, bumping Babies into Honorable Mention territory.)

There have been a number of very good, or even great, films in 2010, even if the overall picture has been rather bleak.  Fortunately, I am not a proper film critic, and do not have to sit through the mediocre dreck studios produce every year.  2010 has seen a new film from each of the decade’s three greatest American directors; Darren Aronofsky, Christopher Nolan (he’s been making American films long enough to be included, even if he’s British), and David Fincher.  Their three films take my top three positions.

I have, unfortunately, not been able to catch every good or great film in 2010.  As a result, the following is a list of my ten favorite films from 2010, limited, naturally, to those I have seen.  I missed many of the foreign releases that are quite possibly amazing, so my list is rather limited in scope.  Nevertheless, please enjoy, and debate, my top 10 films of 2010.

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Post-Oscar thoughts

This year’s Academy Awards were almost as predictable as predicted.  The two hosts were stale and boring, the expected films generally won.  I didn’t expect the ceremony to be as poorly produced as it was, though I shouldn’t have been surprised.  In years past I’ve been able to take the show with a grain of salt, not expecting much and watching primarily to find out who wins.  But this year I was actually put off by the show.  The intro to introduce the hosts was odd, and the opening monologue left me stiff.  In the first half hour a total of one award was presented, and all of four awards were revealed in the first hour.  And just when it appeared that it might be wrapping up a gigantic interpretive dance routine stops everything.  An odd choice, but perhaps still better than having the nominees for Best Song performed.  The dance left me cold, but not as annoyed as the introductions for Best Actor and Actress.  It might not have been as bad as last year’s introductions, but still managed to take an eternity while making the entire ceremony’s theme almost literally about the butt kissing.

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Thoughts on the Best Picture Nominees

My wife and I had an interesting discussion last night, after watching The Blind Side [review here], about Oscar-nominated Best Picture films and the various audiences for them.  After some discussion, it appeared that there were three primary groups of people interested in the Academy Awards.

  • The first is the casual moviegoer, a person who is most likely to see the blockbuster Hollywood hits, the films that everybody sees and discusses around the water cooler.  They are interested in being entertained, and that is their sole concern.
  • Secondly, there are those cinema lovers who regularly go to the nearest theater, hoping to see a variety of films.  They check out the blockbusters but aren’t always impressed with pure entertainment.  But they also see smaller films, niche and independent movies, and whatever foreign films happen to be playing nearby.  They tend to have a fairly deep understanding of the history of cinema and enjoy comparing new films to classics.
  • Finally, there are the serious film critics.  For this elite group film language is more than a theory.  Every aspect of a film is picked apart and dissected.  Their tastes often do not follow any portion of mainstream cinema-goers.  They think philosophically and psychologically about films, and are not afraid to share their disdain for anything not showing significant thematic or linguistic depth.

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Oscar time

About once a year Hollywood gathers to celebrate their grandest achievements of the previous year, their most silver-tongued spokespeople, and the money bags that speak more loudly still.  As I have written about some of my favorite films of the year it seems natural that I should make some comments on the upcoming ceremony.  The ballot seems to have been predetermined this year, as almost all of the major categories have a sure winner.  It would be great to see some surprises at the ceremony, but I doubt even Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin will be accommodating.  If only they had hired Ricky Gervais and given him free rein, as the Golden Globes did.  In any case, here are my picks for who will win each of the major categories, along with brief notes describing the films and actors I hope will win.

Top 10 Films of 2000-2009

Top 10 Films of 2000-2009

In a previous post I listed seven films from the past 10 years that I believed warranted Honorable Mention.  Coming up with an actual Top 10 list was somewhat harder.  After some thought the matter has finally been settled.  These are the films that will always stick with me; they are expertly crafted and will remain an essential part of cinema lore decades from now.

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Best Movies of the Decade, Part 1: Honorable Mention

Best Movies of the Decade, Part 1: Honorable Mention

Let me first admit that I have not seen most of the films that came out this decade.  Instead of watching a great deal of studio productions, I delved into some odd foreign fare, ranging from bizarre Japanese films to the new wave of European horror spearheaded by the French.  Most of these films, though interesting, would not warrant inclusion on a “Best of the Decade” list.  Partially as a result of watching these types of movies, I missed some of what would be critically acknowledged as the classic films of the 2000’s.

I say all of this to clarify what follows.  The list below is not definitive by any means; it is merely the best of what I happened to see during the past ten years.  During that time I managed to watch a great deal of truly classic films, though the majority of them have been made over the past 70-80 years.  This list will focus only on those films made from 2000-2009.

There is a difference between films I enjoy watching and films that stick with me through the years.  I’ve found that Avatar [review here], while enjoyable, is not a movie I dwell on more than its media presence (and box office gross) demands.  Others, like Spoorloos [review here], I find myself contemplating long after I’ve seen them, even if they aren’t the most dazzling and technically proficient films.  The latter is the type of film included on the following list.

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100th review posted! And top movies of the year (that I’ve seen)

The Lovely Bones review marks the 100th movie review I’ve posted on the site since it launched in the middle of August, 2009.

I’ve made some enhancements to the website since it first premiered, though there is more I would like to do with it.  You might have noticed that you can now search reviews by both star rating and pirate flag rating on the reviews page.  I have been thinking about adding the option to search by year, since I tend to watch films from a variety of decades.

Thanks to everyone who visits the site and leaves comments and suggestions on films I should review.  Please keep the comments and suggestions coming!

Top Films of the Year

Since 2009 is now over I should probably make mention of some of the notable films I’ve seen in the past year.  Because I am not a professional film critic, I am not required to see every new release.  This is a blessing, because there is a great deal of drivel I would rather not have to suffer through.  On the other hand, there are some acclaimed films I miss out on.  I still would like to see The Hurt Locker and The Fantastic Mr. Fox.  Perhaps a combination of the dollar theater and Oscar season re-releases will afford me the opportunity.

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Why are so many movies too long?

I realize this might cause some controversy out there.  In fact, in a few months or a few years I might not have the same views I do now.  But this idea has come back to me this week while working for the Heartland Film Festival.  It’s been an amazing experience; I’ve had the chance to watch lots of movies, update the internet on the same, and talk to a variety of directors, producers, and writers.  But what has struck me again is how many movies are simply too long.

This brings me to the part where I’m being a little legalistic.  Or maybe a lot legalistic.  And this is the part where I will probably change my mind down the road.  Reading Roger Ebert’s reviews through the years it has been interesting to see how his opinions change from time to time, and I have no reason to believe my thoughts shall remain as they are years from now.

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