Friday, December 31, 2010

Moving On and Letting Go - The Best Films of 2010

Maybe I'm a big crybaby, maybe I'm just sentimental about my all time favorite television show, LOST,  coming to an emotional close this year, but I feel that this year my views on films have really been shaped by themes of letting go or moving on. How to define 2010? A lot of people have been saying it was a weak year for cinema. Personally, I thought it was the strongest year since 2007.

This year, there was an embarrassment of riches on screen. My cup runneth over with great films, so to speak. In fact, quite a number of films that were dismissed or passed over by audiences and critics alike really truly spoke to me in a profound way. There was an abundance of creativity, with directors, actors, and screenwriters finally bringing passion projects to the screen, and breaking new ground. Some have cited the summer movie season as one of the worst in recent memory. I couldn't agree more, but where there was darkness, light was also to be found.

By the end of the year, you have to try to ignore as much talk of Oscars and the like and really think about what films you saw and cherished. You start to think about what films you want to share with everyone as your favorites, the ones you truly loved.

I certainly loved watching the first part of the final chapter of the Harry Potter saga come to life on screen, even if it's not yet a complete film. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is probably the most fun I've had in a theatre all year, with its unique brand of comedy and action solidifying it as one of the most inventive and wildly entertaining films all year. And while Iron Man 2 was a bit of a disappointment compared to its predecessor, it was certainly a lot of fun watching Robert Downey Jr. continue to do his thing on screen, with Mickey Rourke stealing the show in every scene he was in.

The Fighter, if treading on familiar ground, very much came together as a compelling drama about family and the baggage they bring, headlined by a masterful supporting turn from Christian Bale. Kick-Ass certainly delivered on the hyper-stylized ultra-violence, if falling a little short in the storytelling department. But it's such a joy to watch Chloe Morentz in a star-making performance that one forgives the film's minor shortcomings.

There was no shortage of great documentary filmmaking this year. Restrepo, a film that is a miracle to even exist, really gave viewers a riveting insight into the realities of combat in the most dangerous posting in the U.S. military, putting us right in the front-lines with them. And while Exit Through the Gift Shop and Catfish never really came together for me as best films of the year, they certainly had a lot to admire about them.

There were a small handful of films I wanted to give a special mention to outside of my top ten. A runner up section, if you will.

15.) Let Me In


Matt Reeve's Cloverfield follow up is not a typical remake. A lot of passionate supporters of Thomas Alfredson's 2008 film Let the Right One In scoffed at the notion of an American remake of a film they held dear. While I certainly liked the Swedish film a lot, I felt Matt Reeves's version was superior, trimming all the fat and creating a much more refined, frightening piece of cinema. Part vampire film, part love story, the film succeeds on crafting a violent nightmare of young love and friendship caught in a larger, grislier conspiracy. Succeeding in atmosphere and moving narrative, the film really solidifies Reeve's place as a genre force to be reckoned with.

14.) The Town


Ben Affleck's sophomore effort as a director may not reinvent the heist genre, but it doesn't need to. Boasting one of the year's best acting ensembles, the film not only succeeds as an engrossing character study of a man trying to escape his life, but also as a riveting crime thriller. Featuring some of the most intense action sequences of the year, and a killer sound mix, the shootouts and chases in the film are as good as anything Michael Mann has ever done. While I respond to a bit more stylistic, art-house approach like Public Enemies and Heat Affleck's film really soars effortlessly on every level, making it one of the most entertaining and compulsively watchable films of the year.


13.) The American


In what may be George Clooney's most subtle, refined, and mature performance to date, he embodies an assassin on the run who simply can't outrun fate. Some will rebel against the film's deliberate pacing and long stretches of silence, however I found it one of the most compelling thrillers of the year. Director Anton Corbijn's eye for shot composition is incredible, and it shows here, in the golden sheen that envelopes a small town in Italy. It's not intense in a traditional sense, rather, it's a slow, beautiful burn that serves as the ultimate show don't tell film.


12.) 127 Hours


While I've cooled a bit on Danny Boyle's latest film since seeing it back in October, it remains one of the finer works of his career, featuring a masterful lead turn from James Franco, an actor I've admired for some time.
Watching the film, I saw a lot of myself in Aron Ralston, a man who lives in self-imposed isolation from the people who love him in order to seek out his own rush. An adrenaline junkie of the fiercest kind, rather than finding his plight a hindrance or bad experience, he comes out of it a better man. It only took losing an arm to get there.


11.) Toy Story 3


Not since The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King has there been a more emotionally satisfying conclusion to, what I feel, is a now vital franchise in motion picture history. In a lot of ways, this is a film made for those of us who grew up with the first two films, when we were a mere 5 to 10 years old. A real-time sequel if you will, it hits home for all of us who ever played with toys and have long since outgrown them, departing for college. But have the toys outgrown us? Can they ever let go of a life once shared in youth? The film closes on an emotional climax that reduced many a viewer, myself included, to a pile of weeping mush in the theatre, giving us closure on a chapter in our lives. If the opening scene of Up is perfect, the final scene of Toy Story 3 is as well. So long partners, we'll miss you. 


Before I get to my top ten films, I want to give a special mention to a film that, while technically a 2010 US release, has always been a 2009 film in my mind, and will stay that way. However, it remains one of the most incredible films I've seen all year, and is a must-see, no question. 


A Prophet

Jacques Audiard's prison gangster masterpiece is one of the most thematically, visually, and narratively rich and complete films I've seen all year. With an incredible ensemble headlined by a powerhouse performance from newcomer Tahar Rahim, the film ranks amongst the greatest crime epics of all time, schooling everyone on how to make a modern gangster film, the likes of which would make Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola proud. Featuring some of the most beautiful images you'll see on screen, the film leaves the viewer breathless from start to finish, ending on a melancholy note that concludes a masterful portrayal of the loss of innocence and the corruptive nature of power. 

And now, without further adieu, the top ten films of 2010 are

10.)  Enter the Void

Director Gaspar Noe's three hour hallucinatory nightmare may just be the most visionary and innovative film this year, not just pushing the envelope on narrative filmmaking, but tossing it out the window. Slow, deliberately paced, pretentious, indulgent, offensive, shocking, and ultimately the most philosophically challenging and stimulating film to come out this year, it's a bit like watching the "Jupiter and Beyond" segment of 2001: A Space Odyssey for nearly three full hours. Certainly not a film for everyone, especially those without patience for slow, somewhat narrative structure-free films, and especially not for people susceptible to motion sickness or seizures (plenty of strobe-light effects and flashing lights and colors), it's one of the most intense cinematic experiences I've had, and certainly one of the most rewarding.

9.) Blue Valentine

Derek Cianfrance's portrait of a marriage in crisis is everything Sam Mendes' Revolutionary Road was trying to be, and so much more. Almost unbearably heartbreaking, yet subtle and gentle, the film never outstays it's welcome and never once beats its audience over the head with sadness. To say Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams give two of the best performances of the year would be an understatement. Both actors have come into their own in a way only hinted at in already incredible careers, with powerhouse performances behind them. Gosling in particular, gives what I think is one of the most emotionally complex and devastating performances since Heath Ledger in Brokeback Mountain, breathing life into a portrayal of a person who starts off as a ne'er-do-well man working as a mover, eyes-wide with ambition and love for life, to a broken, beaten down shell of his former self, complete with glasses, a receding hair line, and a beer gut. A tough film to sit through, but ultimately a rewarding emotional experience that will leave many in tears.

8.) The King's Speech

Tom Hooper is not a household name by any stretch, but what he accomplishes here should get him playing in the big leagues now. A truly moving tale of friendship and letting go of one's demons to fulfill one's destiny that is nothing short of brilliant. From the pitch-perfect original screenplay to Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush's phenomenal performances, the film is an exquisite insight into a man who had to overcome his fears and be the man he was always capable of being, even if he was terrified of being that man. So much more than the "Oscar bait period piece" people tout it as, the film has a true artistic and directorial identity to it that elevates it beyond whatever others may say it is or isn't, into a nearly perfect film.

7.) Winter's Bone

Debra Granik's outing into the Ozarks isn't the thriller it was advertised as. It's a beautiful and compelling piece of modern noir set in the backwoods South with some of the scariest thugs in recent memory: meth dealers and addicts. Featuring a star-making performance from Jennifer Lawrence, and a scene-stealing turn from longtime Deadwood fan favorite John Hawkes, the film boats some of the most under-appreciated cinematography of the year. As a detective story, the dark, depressing nature of the film can be almost unbearable, but it's the fierce will and determination of Ree Dolly that really keeps the film from wallowing in self-pity and breathes life into what could have been an otherwise overbearingly gloomy film. A minor masterpiece of sorts that will hopefully garner more attention for Granik, Lawrence, and Hawkes. 


6.) How to Train Your Dragon

For everything Pixar has accomplished this year, the true animated marvel of 2010 surprisingly comes out of Dreamworks Animation, long considered the less sophisticated little sibling of Pixar. What bursts out of the gates is a near-flawless film about friendship and trust, the likes of which we haven't seen since  E.T. The Extra Terrestrial. Featuring jaw-dropping gorgeous animation overseen by the legendary Roger Deakins, the film hits all the right notes, never once missing a beat. Hilarious, thrilling, and moving, the film never fails to get the waterworks out of me by the end with it's beautiful tale of a boy and his dog, err, dragon. At the risk of sounding cliche, the film soars. 

5.) True Grit

Many fans of the Coen Brothers aren't really sure what to do with their newest film. Lacking the cynicism and dark nature of their previous efforts, its emotional warmth and earnestness has left quite a few Coen enthusiasts scratching their heads. However, to me, it's not only an incredibly moving tale of causality and the elusiveness of closure, but also the finest western since Unforgiven. However, unlike Clint Eastwood's film, it isn't trying to be a deconstruction or dissection of the genre. Rather, it's almost a love letter to the films of John Ford, Anthony Mann, and Sergio Leone. Western fans are a little wary of a supposed remake of a film they treasure. Not only is the film not a remake (it's a more faithful adaptation of the novel both films are based on), but it also surpasses the John Wayne film on every level. Jeff Bridges is nothing short of iconic in his turn as Rooster Cogburn, Matt Damon is a mini-revelation as Texas Ranger Laboeuf, and Hailee Steinfeld emerges as the biggest breakout star of the year in a performance that should win her the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, even if such a statement supports category fraud. If nothing else, the cinematography by Roger Deakins is worth the price of admission alone, but this is truly extraordinary filmmaking on every level. 

4.) Black Swan

Darren Aronofsky is quite possibly the most exciting filmmaker of his generation. If nothing else, he's incapable of making a boring film. That's certainly true of his psychological horror masterpiece, which stands as the most terrifying film since The Silence of the Lambs. And what more can be said of Natalie Portman's performance? It's nothing short of a revelation. Never once coming off as anything by genuine and authentic, she transforms herself, much like her character, fully making the transition from the little girl we all saw in Leon, to a woman of iconic stature. But the film is so much more than its horror genre beats suggest. A glimpse into the performing artist's plight, the film rings true for anyone who's been a dancer, musician, or actor, in search of perfection in their craft. Featuring some of the most dynamic imagery and film editing of the year, Aronofsky's film really is nothing short of breathtaking. 

3.) Inception

Christopher Nolan showed us all two years ago that he could elevate the comic book genre out of its trappings and craft a crime saga masterpiece about morality, the nature of heroism, and how we react in the face of unstoppable evil. This year, he set out to bring his passion project about dreams, the nature of reality, and guilt to the big screen in a big way. And the result is the most original and intelligent blockbuster in decades. Featuring state of the art cinematography and art-direction, and a third act that serves as a master-class in set-piece construction, the heart of the film is a tragic love story between and man and a woman who lost sight of their own reality and how that man comes to terms with his grief and guilt. An extraordinary masterpiece from one of today's visionary masters, the film solidifies Nolan's place as one of today's most original and ambitious filmmakers of our time.

2.) Shutter Island

Unfairly maligned by critics upon its February release, Martin Scorsese's genre exercise is a stunning homage to Hitchcock and Wise, and yet finds an identity of its own in what is quite possibly the most moving film of the year. Many viewers were left agitated by a conclusion they felt was a cheat, but the real twist comes at the final moment of the film. Was this man ever cured? Or was he content to stay in his fantasy if it meant never having to live with the reality of the horrible truth of his life? A masterwork of craft and style, it's a film about human frailty in one of the most fascinating trips down the rabbit hole into the labyrinth of a very disturbed man's mind. As a narrative, the film doesn't rely on a twist to be a riveting piece of cinema, since it is an entirely different experience upon repeat viewings. It stands as the most under-appreciated film of the year. Featuring a career-best performance from Leonardo DiCaprio that serves as the culmination of his eight year collaboration with Scorsese, and the best cinematography of the year, the film is not just a stylistic and atmospheric masterpiece, but a truly moving tale of guilt and human frailty. 

1.) The Social Network

It's easy to call a film like The Social Network overrated. But that's only because people like me keep piling on the praise for it. Easily David Fincher's best film since Se7en, there is a rhythm to the film that never once lets up or misses a beat. Intentionally lacking a traditional three-act structure, the film plays out like a long drum solo, never taking breather a skipping a note, and in my mind, this is the future of dramatic filmmaking. That Fincher filmed the entire thing on memory cards, no film, no tape, is a feat in and of itself. Quite a brave new world of filmmaking. Andrew Garfield and Justin Timberlake shine as supporting players, each one a voice in Zuckerberg's head, with Garfield the angel and Timberlake the devil. But it is Jesse Eisenberg who towers above the rest of the cast in one of the finest performances of the year. Some say it wasn't enough of a stretch for him, but given the amount of thought and preparation he put into the role, I'd say it was plenty difficult enough. And what more can be said about Aaron Sorkin's incredible screenplay? The dialogue is razor sharp and in Eisenberg, Sorkin has found the perfect actor to speak his language. But the film just comes together in a way that no other film does this year. It may be cliche at this point to join in on the praise for Fincher's masterpiece, but it's hard to argue with the evidence right in front of us. And while I never bought into the idea that the film defines a generation (I personally feel that the film needs more time before such proclamations are made), it's a brilliant character study within a profound statement about business culture, entrepreneurship, and what it means to create something. It is my choice for the best film of the year. 

What a tremendous close to 2010! I for one am looking forward to seeing what 2011 brings us. Bring on the new year! Once again, the ten best films of 2010 are

1. The Social Network
2. Shutter Island
3. Inception
4. Black Swan
5. True Grit
6. How To Train Your Dragon
7. Winter's Bone
8. The King's Speech
9. Blue Valentine
10. Enter the Void

What are your favorite films of 2010? As always have at it in the comment section! Thanks for a great year and here's to another great one!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

What did you think of True Grit?


True Grit opens this week in theatres everywhere, so I figure a lot of you will be seeing it soon. I've already raved about how much I loved the film, but I want to hear my readers' thoughts on it! Don't be afraid to be as detailed as you like, I love hearing responses beyond just thumbs up or thumbs down. Have at it in the comments section, and check out my review. Merry Christmas everyone and I look forward to hearing your thoughts!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Updated Oscar Predictions 12/22/2010


* = Predicted winner


Best Picture
127 Hours
Black Swan
The Fighter
Inception
The King's Speech *
The Social Network
The Town
Toy Story 3
True Grit
Winter's Bone



Best Director
Christopher Nolan - Inception

Tom Hooper - The King's Speech
David Fincher - The Social Network *
Darren Aronofsky - Black Swan
Ethan and Joel Coen - True Grit




Best Actor
Jeff Bridges - True Grit
Jesse Eisenberg - The Social Network
Colin Firth - The King's Speech *
James Franco - 127 Hours
Ryan Gosling - Blue Valentine



Best Actress
Annette Bening - The Kids Are All Right
Nicole Kidman - Rabbit Hole
Jennifer Lawrence - Winter's Bone
Natalie Portman - Black Swan *

Michelle Williams - Blue Valentine


Best Supporting Actor
Christian Bale - The Fighter *

Matt Damon - True Grit
Jeremy Renner - The Town
Mark Ruffalo - The Kids Are All Right
Geoffrey Rush - The King's Speech


Best Supporting Actress
Amy Adams - The Fighter
Helena Bonham Carter - The King's Speech

Mila Kunis - Black Swan
Melissa Leo - The Fighter

Hailee Steinfeld - True Grit *



Best Adapted Screenplay
127 Hours
The Social Network *
Toy Story 3
True Grit

Winter's Bone

Best Original Screenplay 
Another Year
Black Swan

Blue Valentine
Inception *
The King's Speech 



Best Art Direction
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1
Inception *
The King's Speech
Shutter Island
True Grit


Best Cinematography
127 Hours

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1
Inception *
Shutter Island
True Grit 


Best Costume Design

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1
Inception
The King's Speech *
Shutter Island
True Grit


Best Editing
127 Hours
Inception
The Social Network *
True Grit
The Town


Best Makeup
Alice in Wonderland
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1
Shutter Island *


Best Original Score
How to Train Your Dragon
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1
Inception *
The Social Network

Toy Story 3


Best Original Song

Burlesque
127 Hours
Tangled
Toy Story 3
Waiting for Superman *


Best Sound Editing:
127 Hours
How to Train Your Dragon
Inception *
Toy Story 3
TRON: Legacy


Best Sound Mixing
127 Hours
How to Train Your Dragon
Inception *

True Grit
TRON: Legacy


Best Visual Effects
Alice in Wonderland
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1
Inception *
Iron Man 2
TRON: Legacy


Best Animated Feature Film
How to Train Your Dragon
The Illusionist
Toy Story 3 *

Monday, December 20, 2010

"You're messing with my zen thing, man!"

Review - TRON: Legacy


TRON: Legacy is a film that's a little tough to review on some levels. It really kind of depends on what you're expecting out of it. Are you looking for a philosophical discussion on technology? Are you looking for a holiday blockbuster filled with eye candy and a brilliant soundscape? More to the point, are you expecting Blade Runner or Transformers? The reality is, you're getting a bit of both. If that sounds a bit odd, allow me to explain.

TRON: Legacy is a sequel to a rather ambitious failure from 28 years ago, called TRON. The first film was technologically groundbreaking in its time, being one of the first films in history with extensive use of CGI. It's a technical landmark, yet a rather convoluted and often dull film. For all the computer mumbo jumbo presented in the film, it never once full explored the ideas about technology the way great sci-fi is capable of. TRON: Legacy suffers from a similar problem, the difference being that while its predecessor was a bore, the sequel is never dull, even if it never quite achieves its lofty ambitions.

For starters, it's a staggeringly gorgeous film on a visual level, featuring the best art direction of the year. Everything in the film looks so palpable and it's a feat of world-building on a visual level not seen since Avatar. While it can't match Avatar for flat out beauty, it certainly looks every cent of it's $200 million dollar budget. The sound mix is also worth mentioning, as it goes toe to toe with Inception as one of the best sound designs of the year, and it really helps sell the world of the grid. But what really struck me about the film was just how much the music drove every visual on display.

Daft Punk has crafted what is, in my mind, easily the best score of the year, leagues above anything else. The idea of a Daft Punk score for a TRON sequel sounds like it would just be repetitive dance music, but my god is it not anything like that. A perfect mixture of electronic sounds and full orchestra, the film really soars when it just sits back and lets the music drive the visuals in a way very few scores do for films. It reminded me of the way John Williams' scores would match every single visual beat on screen back in the original Star Wars trilogy, or how Michael Giacchino's scores today pulse through everything on screen in The Incredibles, Up, LOST, and everything else he's done. It's simply a feat of music that hasn't been matched at all this year. It sells the world of The Grid on a level I didn't know was possible.

You've probably heard a great deal about bad acting and bad writing in this film. Some of that is true, some of it isn't. I wouldn't say the script is bad so much as servicable, and often clunky. There are actually quite a few ideas in the story that I would like to see explored further. The idea of digital life forms really caught my attention. I feel like if they had focused a bit more on that, it would have been a much stronger script. Ultimately, the fatal flaw of the film is that it never really explains the gravity of the ideas and things going on. We have this sense of tension and high stakes, but what would happen if C.L.U. got out? It's not like his powers exist in the real world, so why would it be so dangerous for him to escape? There's a sense that the army he is building would be a threat, but it's glossed over in a way that makes the consequences of such an event seem less urgent. However, Jeff Bridges does a great job of selling his villainous digital doppleganger that we get the sense that the shit would hit the fan, even if we never really know why. It reminds me of the Man in Black in LOST. In season 6, we are given a somewhat ambiguous understanding of why he cannot ever escape the Island, but it's done in such a way that you know it would be bad, since the character is so dangerous and powerful, and his power exists both on and off the island. He actually could destroy all life on earth if he escaped. But we never really understand how a digital creation's powers would translate into the real world in TRON: Legacy, so it's a little hard to buy into how much of a threat he really is. Similarly, the idea of a digital life form (the ISO's) is introduced but never really discussed enough to give us an idea of why they are so important. But I think that's easier to infer since the idea of the miracle of creation happening on a digital frontier is pretty groundbreaking. It's true life, not A.I., so that is obviously something pretty damn important. It's an idea I wanted further explored, but one would have to dig deeper into the expanded universe of the world of TRON to get clearer answers. It's a fascinating concept that, while never fully explored or realized within the context of the film, is an interesting discussion nonetheless.

On the subject of acting, I don't think any of the performances are bad, just not extraordinary. Jeff Bridges' image pulsates through this universe, and he's clearly a force to be reckoned with. Whenever he enters the fray, you know shit is going down. After all, he is the creator of the Grid. There are quite a number of shots of him, one in particular, where he is just short of being in God-like status. Jedi Master Bridges if you will. Now, about that de-aging. It looks really questionable in the opening of the film, when Flynn is telling a bedtime story to his son, but on the Grid, it's more forgivable, since CLU is a digital creation, making the creepy, somewhat dead eyes understandable. Garrett Hedlund is just fine, the guy shows a lot of charisma in a number of scenes, and is kind of wooden in others. I'd attribute that more to him getting the short end of the stick in terms of dialogue than pure acting. Rest assured, it's not Hayden Christensen 2.0. Olivia Wilde is easily the standout, conveying wide-eyed innocence and wonder in a way none of the others do. Add a delightful performance to her already Goddess-like beauty and you have a winner. Michael Sheen is a fucking riot, doing his best impersonation of David Bowie with a little Mark Hamill Joker thrown in for good measure.

Ultimately, the film is equal parts dumb fun and failed ambitions, but damned if I didn't have a good time watching it. I'd buy the Blu-ray for demo purposes alone, but it's a bit like cotton candy. It's a tasty treat for the senses, but has little to no nutritional value. I liked it, and wouldn't mind seeing it again over the holidays. You're not getting Phillip K. Dick, but you also get something a little more substantial than Michael Bay.

What did you think of TRON: Legacy? Have at it in the comments section!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

It's all about the execution.

Review - The Fighter


Execution is key. Any boxer, or athlete for that matter will tell you the same thing. And it's certainly true of David O'Russell's The Fighter. While certainly hitting conventional beats narratively (such is the nature of an inspiring true story film, especially one in a genre like the boxing drama), there is a rather unconventional approach to it all. Russell brings a directorial identity to Mark Whalberg's passion project one would not expect of a typical boxing film. In fact, I'd go so far as to say it's one of the stylized films I've seen this year, even if not immediately apparent.

The first thing that springs to mind is the way the fights are shot. Rather than beautifully shot in slow-motion or with gorgeous cinematography of some sort, they are shot as if one was watching the actual fight on HBO. This may not seem like a stylistic choice at first, but it's actually quite so. Gritty and realistic, the lack of visual flourish actually make the fight feel more real and threatening, putting you right in the ring due to the incredible sound mix. I often grow weary of hearing slow-mo punches in all their "BOOOOOMMMMM...!" glory. Rather, here we get a sound that resembles nothing short of bone-crunching pain.

Just as well, the film isn't really about boxing. That sounds strange, so let me explain. It's a film about family, the the baggage they bring into our lives. Granted, most of us dont have a family this colorful, but we still have some people in there that are overbearing, controlling, and just plain drive us nuts. Here, we have a man who is controlled and has his life run by his overbearing mother, crack addict has been brother, and brood of white trash sisters. You could replace boxing with any profession and drive to be great at something and the film would still work as a compelling drama about the relationship between two brothers, their mother, and a woman.

The film wouldn't work were the principal players involved not convincing, and boy are they ever. Featuring one of, if not the best ensemble cast in a film this year, the film effortlessly soars when the actors are just doing their thing, and everyone brings their A-game. Mark Whalberg is in one of his most low-ket roles ever, a far cry from his showy Oscar Nominated performance in The Departed, he is the sweet, solid rock that holds all the crazy together. It's a restrained, subtle performance that really captures the essense of Micky Ward, a sweet, loving guy who just wants stability in his life. Amy Adams shines as his girlfriend, playing completely against her typecast nature of the good girl and, in one scene in particular, really kicks ass. She's a smartass bartender who doesn't take shit from anyone and lets you know, using a combination of expletives some of you have never even heard before. Sexy, determined, and just an all around badass when she needs to be. Melissa Leo is clearly having the time of her life in a role one can only describe as the overbearing mother from hell, Barbara Hershey in Black Swan notwithstanding. She really does want the best for her sons, but she has no way of showing it other than hostility and a control-freak nature. Yet there's an odd vulnerability to her, especially when she realizes what her son Dicky, the apple of her eye, really is; a junkie. It's hard not to feel for a mother who can't accept that her son isn't who she thought he was.

But all of these actors quietly allow the film to belong to it's true star, who should stand up and take a bow. Christian Bale is nothing short of a revelation here. We've known for some time he was extremely talented, tapping into that brilliance in films like American Psycho, The Prestige, The Machinist, Rescue Dawn, and his masterful portrayal of Batman in Nolan's films. But here he displays a maturity and range like nothing we've ever seen before. He completely transforms himself in the role, and this is exactly the kind of thing everyone knew the method actor was capable of. His eyes bulge out of their sockets, he flails his arms around like wet noodles, mixing humorous charm with a real sense of a broken man. Here is someone who could have had it all, and had a God-given gift for boxing. He could get drunk and stay up all night, not train for a week, and still show up in the ring and completely destroy his opponent the next day. He could have been the next great boxing champion, the next Muhammed Ali for all we know, and yet he had no self discipline. He got addicting to crack-cocaine, and that, as they say, is that. But he carries on with delusions of a big comeback, so fooled into his own self-deception perpetuated by his enabling mother and the way the people in his town worship him, that when a HBO documentary crew follows him around filming him as the subject of a cautionary tale about drug addiction, he thinks they are making a movie about his comeback. It's only when he's in prison that he watches the film and realizes just how much he's ruined his own life. And Bale conveys every emotion on such an authentic level it never once comes off as acting. He convinces you that he's lived this character's life, and really is a drug addict trying to get himself back on his feet. The way he walks with a welcome home cake from the gym which he has just been exiled from, to his former crack-house, and instead of punching out his former "friends" or throwing the cake at them, he simply hands his dealer the cake, looks at him, and walks away quietly, never saying a word. It's a feat of performance art that truly deserves every bit of praise and award that comes it's way, and if there is any justice on God's green earth, Bale will win the Academy Awards for Best Supporting Actor. The thespian is in a class of his own, and only the likes of Natalie Portman, Ryan Gosling, James Franco, and Jeff Bridges come close this year.

So is The Fighter cliched? Only if you look at it that way. If you can't let go of the notion that it's just another triumphant boxing drama, you'll never be able to enjoy the film. But if you look at it from a different angle, you can appreciate it for the naturalistic, gritty, compelling, and rewarding piece of cinema it is. It's a story about family, and letting go of one's demons to accomplish something great. And it stole my heart.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

I do not entertain hypotheticals. The world as it is is vexing enough.

Review - True Grit

I had a really hard time choosing an image for this post, because, truth be told, almost every image in this film is like a painting. And really, that's representative of the film itself. It's not a style exercise like the idea of a Coen Brothers-directed western would suggest. No, this isn't The Assassination of Jesse James part 2, and it shouldn't be. The sensibilities of that film and the Coen Brothers' latest materpiece, True Grit is a much more straightforward and accessible work, both in contrast to Andrew Dominik's film, and to much of their own career. At once both their most emotionally warm film and possibly one of their best screenplays, if not the best. It takes true brilliance in writing to take an arcane language such as that of the old West and make it flow at rapid-fire speed in a manner that rivals the organic flow of Aaron Sorkin's screenplay for The Social Network, if not besting it in places. The film is at once a mixture of classic Coen sensibilities and a more traditional revenge western, a combination that proves to be a match made in heaven. Not a remake of the 1969 film, but rather a more faithful and thematically richer adaptation of the novel by Charles Portis. In the source material, the Coens have found a literally resource as perfectly matched for their artistic endeavors as  Cormac McCarthy was in their crowning achievement, No Country for Old Men. 

But don't attempt to draw comparisons between the two, they could be from an entirely different planet. Whereas No Country for Old Men was a brilliant existential examination of how human begins react when confronted with insurmountable evil and death incarnate, True Grit is a western cut from the cloth of the likes of John Ford, Sergio Leone, and the great Western films of yesteryear. However, it lacks the grandstanding heroics, and downright racism of those films, instead finding itself being a visually, thematically, and ultimately very emotionally investing film. 


Gone are the archetypes of black and white heros, replaced by the craggy, hulking figure of Jeff Bridges in what may very well be the performance of his career. Bridges breathes a legendary quality into the role of Rooster Cogburn that surpasses that of even John Wayne in the previous incarnation of the role. Here we have a man who is the meanest sonofabitch alive, yet is caring and soft underneath. His scenes with Mattie Ross have a sweet innocence to them that harkens back to a time when Cogburn was once a younger man, someone with something to prove and damned if anyone gets in his way. The voice, the beard, the eyes, the posture, the movements. Everything in his portrayal of Cogburn is nothing short of extraordinary, and he completely disappears into the role. It is a sight to behold, and, for my money, deserves to win Jeff Bridges a second consecutive Academy Award for Best Actor, a feat not achieved since Tom Hanks won for Philidelphia and then again for Forrest Gump the following year. If any actor this year deserves it, it's Bridges, and had he not won last year, the award would be his in a cake-walk. 

But Bridges would be nothing without the two incredible partners at his side. Matt Damon is something of a mini-revelation in the role of Texas Ranger Laboeuf. His back and forth banter with Bridges pops and hisses with the two actors going toe to toe and neither ever letting up. It's not a sensational performance, but quite possibly a career best from one of the finest actors of his generation. Combining a almost false sense of chivalry with pride and arrogance, Damon gives us a character not immediately likable but someome who proves essential to the story. His texas ranger is perfect in the voice, the walk, the way he carries himself. Vanity, pride, and insecurity eventually give way to nobility in a way that really makes you love the character. 

And what more need be said about Hailee Steinfeld? There is a mixture of wide-eyed innocence leaving her life, laser-like focus on her ultimate goal of bringing Chaney to justice, and this whip-smart teenager who is far too clever for her own good. That she can stand amongst titans like Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon and rise as their equals is a feat in and of itself. And boy does she ever rise to occasion. If there is any justice in the world, she will walk away with the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress this year, since no other woman in that category even comes close. But really, she should be competing in the Lead Actress category, and, for my money, would be Natalie Portman's biggest competition. But if Paramount thinks they can guide her to a win easier in Supporting Actress, so be it, the performance deserves a lion's share of accolades. As far as I'm concerned, it's the most extraordinary debut performance from a child actor since Christian Bale (likely Oscar winner this year for Best Supporting Actor) was unleashed to audiences years ago 23 years ago in Empire of the Sun. A star is born. 

Josh Brolin and Barry Pepper shine in their noteworthy, albeit brief villainous roles. Brolin brings an energy here that is hard to describe, but he conveys the sense of a man who feels left out and mistreated, bordering on a mixture of paranoia and simply a child who isn't picked to be on anyone's team. He feels excluded from all the cool stuff, and there's something to be said about making your villain oddly sympathetic in a short scene, only to have him remind you that he's a loose cannon that can't be allowed to live. 

The film shines with a gorgeous feat of cinematography by the legendary Roger Deakins. It doesn't have that same art-feel of his best work in The Assassination of Jesse James, but it's a stunning, painterly look nonetheless. And Carter Burwell, longtime Coen Brothers collaborator, has crafted what might be his finest work yet here. Based on protestant hymns, the score sings with a quality that is both traditional and progressive. I can hear the strings, piano, and brass in my head as I type to these images, crafting a ballet of sight and sound. 

But for all the standout aspects of the film, it is surprisingly reserved in a lot of ways. More a traditional western than a Coen Brothers film, it isn't a style exercise or complete with the duo's trademark quirky, offbeat sensibilities. What emerges, instead, is a visually and thematically rich tale of revenge and closure. One thing I kept coming back to in reflecting on the film is the need for closure on unfinished business by each character. And that's really what the film is about. Finding that peace and moving on. We all crave it, but ultimately, do we ever really find it? One could go on for hours about the thematic landscape in this film, because, while not a "typical" Coen Brothers film, it reveals more and more depth when you peel back the layers of the storytelling onion. I suppose, in that way, it's very much a Coen Brothers film. The duo are nothing if not crafty at making movies about one thing that are really about another. And that's the beauty of it. Perhaps no two viewers will walk away with the same interpretation as I had, but I doubt anyone will be left wanting with such a layered, satisfying film. If this review feels long, that wasn't my intention, but when discussing such an extraordinary piece of filmmaking that reveals more and more things to admire with every reflection on it, it's hard not to feel like you're discovering some great treasure. And what a treasure it is. 

As always, have at it in the comments section. The film opens everywhere December 22nd. 

Golden Globe Nominees! The HFPA Strikes Again!


It's a big day and a much needed boon for The King's Speech, whilst True Grit was completely shut out. I have a feeling the film was simply not screened for them, but then again, this mysterious group of European "critics" (seriously, WHO the fuck ARE they?) weren't likely to jump a western's bones. But really what effect does this all have on the race? Not much, by my count of the last few years. In any case, fun to watch, but meaningless nonetheless. 
Best Picture – Drama 
“Black Swan”
“The Fighter”
“Inception”
“The King’s Speech”
“The Social Network”
Best Picture – Musical/Comedy 
“Alice in Wonderland”
“Burlesque”
“The Kids Are All Right”
“Red”
“The Tourist”
Best Director
Darren Aronofsky, “Black Swan”
David O. Russell, “The Fighter”
Christopher Nolan, “Inception”
Tom Hooper, “The King’s Speech”
David Fincher, “The Social Network”
Best Actor – Drama
Jesse Eisenberg, “The Social Network”
Colin Firth, “The King’s Speech”
James Franco, “127 Hours”
Ryan Gosling, “Blue Valentine”
Mark Wahlberg, “The Fighter”
Best Actress – Drama 
Halle Berry, “Frankie and Alice”
Nicole Kidman, “Rabbit Hole”
Jennifer Lawrence, “Winter’s Bone”
Natalie Portman, “Black Swan”
Michelle Williams, “Blue Valentine”
Best Actor – Musical/Comedy
Johnny Depp, “Alice in Wonderland”
Johnny Depp, “The Tourist”
Paul Giamatti, “Barney’s Version”
Jake Gyllenhaal, “Love and Other Drugs”
Kevin Spacey, “Casino Jack”
Best Actress – Musical/Comedy
Annette Bening, “The Kids Are All Right”
Anne Hathaway, “Love and Other Drugs”
Angelina Jolie, “The Tourist”
Julianne Moore, “The Kids Are All Right”
Emma Stone, “Easy A”
Best Supporting Actor
Christian Bale, “The Fighter”
Michael Douglas, “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps”
Andrew Garfield, “The Social Network”
Jeremy Renner, “The Town”
Geoffrey Rush, “The King’s Speech”
Best Supporting Actress
Amy Adams, “The Fighter”
Helena Bonham Carter, “The King’s Speech”
Mila Kunis, “Black Swan”
Melissa Leo, “The Fighter”
Jacki Weaver, “Animal Kingdom”
Best Screenplay
Christopher Nolan, “Inception”
Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg, “The Kids Are All Right”
David Seidler, “The King’s Speech”
Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy, “127 Hours”
Aaron Sorkin, “The Social Network”
Best Foreign Language Film
“Biutiful”
“The Concert”
“The Edge”
“I Am Love”
“In a Better World”
Best Animated Feature
“Despicable Me”
“How to Train Your Dragon”
“The Illusionist”
“Tangled”
“Toy Story 3”
Best Original Score
Danny Elfman, “Alice in Wonderland”
Hans Zimmer, “Inception”
Alexandre Desplat, “The King’s Speech”
A.R. Rahman, “127 Hours”
Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, “The Social Network”
Best Original Song
“Bound to You” from “Burlesque”
“You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me” from “Burlesque”
“There’s a Place for Us” from “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader”
“Coming Home” from “Country Strong”
“I See the Light” from “Tangled”
Have at it in the comments section, as always!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

I Believe in Batman - An analysis of The Long Halloween and The Dark Knight



“I believe in Gotham City… I believe in Jim Gordon… I believe in Harvey Dent… I believe in Batman.” These words, repeated throughout Jeph Loeb’s epic graphic novel Batman: The Long Halloween, truly drive home the themes and questions raised by the story. Does Gotham, or the world, need a Batman? What does Batman represent to Gotham and the world he inhabits? What does Harvey Dent represent? What drives Batman to do the things he does? These themes and questions are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg when exploring Batman: The Long Halloween.

The Long Halloween was written by Jeph Loeb and illustrated by Tim Sale and originally published as a 13 issue limited series from 1996 to 1997. Each issue was published once a month, coinciding with the month during which each issue takes place. Since then, it has been published as a trade paperback, and is now widely accepted as a graphic novel, much in the same way Alan Moore’s Watchmen was published in multiple issues, but is considered a graphic novel. The story spans over a period of over a year, with each issue covering one month’s time. The way in which the issues were published, each issue coinciding with the month it takes place, and spanning over the course of more than a year, was essential to giving the readers a sense of real time progression as the narrative unfolded. This kind of real-time perception was only broken during the first issue, which, as mentioned earlier, begins in June and ends on Halloween night, and the transition between the 12th and 13th issue, which are separated by mere moments.

What makes this real-time publication strategy important is that it further emphasizes the epic structure and realistic tone of the narrative, and allows the story to make full use of the comic book medium’s potential to truly immerse the readers in the saga. While The Long Halloween may be a Batman story, it places itself amongst the best comic book and graphic novel stories through its dark, epic, violent, and mature narrative style. The series is widely considered to be more of an epic crime saga than a superhero yarn. This is no doubt due in part to the way in which Loeb draws much of his inspiration from film noir, and more specifically, is heavily influenced by The Godfather. The internal monologues, large cast of characters, numerous locations, sprawling narrative, and emphasis on Batman being “the world’s greatest detective,” are all stylistic and aesthetic elements that lend themselves to Loeb’s ultimate argument.




The story itself is widely considered the definitive origin story for Two-Face. In the beginning, we are introduced to Harvey Dent, Gotham’s District Attorney. An alliance is formed between Batman, Harvey Dent, and Jim Gordon to bring down organized crime in Gotham, which means taking on Carmine “The Roman” Falcone, Gotham’s ruling crime lord, and Salvatore Maroni, his rival. This plan becomes complicated when a mysterious killer begins murdering members of the Falcone crime family on holidays. The serial killer becomes known as Holiday, and holds Gotham city in a grip of fear as the murderer works his way up the hierarchy of the crime families. To make matters even more difficult, Batman’s rogue gallery of villains such as The Joker, Scarecrow, Mad Hatter, Poison Ivy, and others become involved in the mystery, which fuels the conflict between the crime families and the “freaks” of Gotham, in a war for control over the city. During the year, loyalties are tested, choices are made, and moralities are questioned.

Philosophical themes and questions are abundant, but not obvious, in The Long Halloween. A recurring theme is the idea of hope and symbology. During the course of the story, several characters use the phrase “I believe in…” This brings up questions about what each character or symbol represents for Gotham, and to the readers. What does Batman represent? Is Batman a hero? Is he something more? What does Batman mean to Gotham and the world he inhabits? Does Gotham, or the world for that matter need a Batman? Is Harvey Dent the symbol of hope for Gotham that Batman cannot be?

Writer Jeph Loeb would argue that Batman himself is representative of the soul of Gotham. Harvey Dent, on the other hand, is shown as something of a hero with a face, the white knight of Gotham city, and the symbol of hope Batman can never be. His stand against organized crime is presented by Loeb to be the first legitimate ray of light in Gotham in decades. However, he also presents a good amount of evidence that Batman is not in fact a hero, but something far more. To Gotham, and the world, Batman is a symbol of justice, a silent guardian, a watchful protector; a dark knight. Naturally, one can gather that Loeb of course believes that Gotham, and the world, needs a Batman. To give these arguments support, Loeb turns to the film medium, specifically to the noir and crime drama genres, for inspiration. Both genres possess a sense of stylized realism, particularly the noir genre. By using techniques such as Batman’s “voiceover” narration, along with stylized lighting, and a detective story feel, Loeb is able to ground his Batman in a universe of reality, which allows the reader to fully believe in the characters and the story that is unfolding before them. Thus, through the believability of the story and the Batman, the audience is able to connect with the dialogue and the phrase “I believe in…” gains much more poignancy.

A great deal of the themes and questions present in The Long Halloween are also explored in Christopher Nolan’s film The Dark Knight, which drew a great deal of inspiration from Loeb’s comic. One thing worth focusing on is not only the parallels between The Long Halloween and The Dark Knight, but also how each utilizes the different mediums to explore the ideas within each, as well as how their differences explore these similar themes.

Ultimately, Loeb uses the comic book medium to argue that Batman represents a symbol of justice, and that there is no duality to him, only a Batman, driven by the will to do what he believes is right, no matter the consequences. 





So what is Batman? Between The Dark Knight and Batman: The Long Halloween, one of the constant things explored is the psychology and philosophy of Batman himself. What is it the drives Bruce Wayne to be Batman? Is Batman the disguise? Is Bruce Wayne the real man? Or is Batman the reality? Could it be that Bruce Wayne is just a persona, and that Batman has always been there, and that the costume and peripherals are just a means of representation of an identity? Loeb’s use of film-noir narration, and rarely having Bruce Wayne himself make an appearance, would help to argue that Batman is the true identity. These questions of symbols, will, and representation are present in the writings of Schopenhauer, a German philosopher form the early 19th century. His teachings are crucial in understanding the character of Batman, especially in works like The Long Halloween.

Schopenhauer was a philosopher who offered teachings that argue essentially in opposition of Kant. Kant argues that there is an essence of us distinct from us as we exist in the universe, which we could perceive with our senses and that is the ultimate cause of our actions and what value we place on them. Schopenhauer, however, argued that there was no reason to separate this function of will from what already existed in the universe. The will itself wasn’t a distinct entity, but rather that its functions were simply an invisible, separate aspect of us: will and representation.

In his essay about Batman and Schopenhauer, Fenzel, one of the writers of the website “Over-thinking It”, argues that when Schopenhauer’s reasoning is applied to Batman, we can come to the conclusion that “Batman is an intuitive, but not simple, symbol of an aspect of Will”. That Batman has no superpowers that give him a responsibility to use them for good, makes him unique and more complex than the likes of Superman or Spider-Man, who, as we all know, are driven by a code that tell them that with great power comes great responsibility. Because Batman has no great power, he has no great responsibility. He doesn’t have to do the things he does. Bruce Wayne didn’t “make” Batman. He is Batman, and even he doesn’t fully understand it. So what is it that Loeb argues that drives Batman?

The Long Halloween offers some insights into the Will of Batman. In issues one, four, ten, and twice in issue fourteen, Batman reiterates that he “made a promise” to his parents that he “would not rest until Gotham City was washed clean of the evil that took their lives”. This would imply that Loeb is arguing that Batman is motivated by a promise to his dead parents, and intends on fulfilling that promise, no matter the cost or however long it takes. However, as Chris Roberson points out in his essay; “Why Doesn’t Bruce Wayne Retire Already?!” Batman’s will to keep fighting the war on crime forever has put him in a self-imposed Catch-22. Because he is a mortal man, Batman will not live forever, and will progressively get older, slower, weaker, and ultimately die. However, there is something that forces him to keep going, despite the knowledge of his own mortality. As Batman sees it, as long as there is crime, Batman is needed, no matter how illogical it is for him to keep up his crusade into old age. So why not train a successor to take up his mantle? By following Roberson’s reasoning, one comes to understand that the Batman of Loeb’s story believes that because he was the one who made the promise to his parents, he himself must be the one fulfill that promise.

Not all of Batman’s desire to achieve his goal is motivated by border-line psychotic obsession. Loeb’s use of the rhetorical device of Bruce’s dead parents not only appeals to the empathy and ethos of the reader, but also helps to open doors to appeals to the reader’s pathos. Robin S. Rosenberg, like Loeb, argues in his essay “What’s Wrong With Bruce Wayne?” that the traumatic event in Bruce Wayne’s life; witnessing his parents’ murder, is what births Batman out of an understanding of the traumatic event on a large scale, and the bigger implications it has on his global social conscience. Rosenberg then finalizes his argument by concluding that it is Batman’s chosen path of social activism. This would support Fenzel and Loeb’s argument that the costume, mask, gadgets, and other aesthetic elements of Batman are merely a means of representation of will. Loeb even makes an allusion to this method of representation in issue eleven, when Batman visits a pub in search of the Riddler, and remarks on the lack of terror shown by the men in the pub, observing that “They may be superstitious… they may be cowards… but my…appearance has more effect… at night…”.

More important, however, is the kind of pathos Loeb appeals to in order to further his argument that the death of Bruce’s parents birthed Batman. Because their deaths shaped Batman’s world views, Batman’s choice to live a life of social activism is something any reader with a strong conviction to do something meaningful can relate to, especially if that Will was birthed from significant events in that person’s life.



So while Loeb is clearly arguing that Batman is being driven by a choice to pursue an endless crusade against crime, and this conviction was birthed out of the death of his parents, he also has an argument to make about what Batman means to the world around him. To Loeb, Batman is a symbol of justice, but he might not be the most approachable figure. This is where Harvey Dent comes in. Harvey, like Batman, also strives to rid the city of organized crime. However, unlike Batman, Harvey shows signs of being somewhat morally gray at times. If Loeb is arguing that Batman is the ultimate force of good in Gotham, and that organized crime is the ultimate evil in Gotham, where does Harvey fall in line with the two ideological extremes? Loeb’s use of noir-like dialogue shows Harvey to be something of an everyman, and lines such as “Two shots to the head. If you ask me, couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy” reveal the kind of moral conflicts within him.

What these instances of moral ambiguity represent are the same kinds of base questions the narrative asks the reader to consider. If Holiday is killing criminals, is it still wrong? After all, isn’t it beneficial to the greater good that one less member of the Falcone crime family is walking the streets of Gotham? In that sense, the moral gray that Harvey appears to embody show that Harvey represents the audience’s way of connecting with the story on a more personal level. Here, Loeb seems to be arguing that Harvey represents the human element to the story. It’s not that Batman isn’t human, it’s just that because he stands for absolute justice and refuses to cross the line that Harvey ultimately crosses in the end as Two-Face, make him something of an enigma, seeing as how he is an exceptionally altruistic and compassionate human being with no morality issues.

This sense of contrast between the symbolic figures is also present in director Christopher Nolan’s film The Dark Knight. In the film, which was very much inspired by Loeb’s work, Christopher Nolan presents a similar argument about Batman and Dent representing ideals of good. However, unlike Loeb, Nolan argues that though Dent is the White Knight of Gotham, the true hero and ultimate symbol of hope for the people, he sees justice as something that must be administered within the law. Batman, on the other hand, is somewhat of an anti-hero, and willing to resort to extreme methods to achieve justice, such as wire-tapping, torture, and other things. In that sense, the roles of the two men have been reversed from Loeb’s story, with Batman explaining to Dent that he cannot ever resort to the same things Batman does, exclaiming “You’re the symbol of hope, I can never be. Your stand against organized crime is the first legitimate ray of light in Gotham in decades. If anyone saw this, everything would be undone. All the criminals you pulled off the streets would be released, and Jim Gordon will have died for nothing.”

This kind of role reversal is maintained until the end of the film, where, like in Loeb’s story, Harvey succumbs to madness and murderous vigilantism. In both the film and the graphic novel, Batman maintains his ideological stance of not killing his adversary, regardless of how many people the Joker or Holiday killed, whereas Harvey decides that it is for the greater good that he kills the criminals and corrupt police that he sought to bring down in the first place. The Joker comments on Batman’s refusal to let him die in the film’s climax, snarling “This is what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object. You truly are incorruptible, aren’t you? You won’t kill me out of some misplaced sense of self-righteousness, and I won’t kill you, because you’re just too much fun. I think you and I are destined to do this forever.” Despite the fact that Batman saves the city from the Joker, he decides to essentially sacrifice himself in order to maintain Harvey’s image as a symbol of hope for Gotham. What this shows is that Batman believes so firmly in the good that he stands for and that Dent symbolized to the people of Gotham, that he is willing to forever tarnish his public image in order to keep that belief in the hope of good alive.



Though the film is obviously not a direct adaptation of Loeb’s work, it certainly touches upon many similar issues that The Long Halloween does. Both end with Batman deciding to press on and endure, even in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds and the loss of a friend and ally. He chooses to continue because he believes in what he stands for. What this means is that while Batman may appear on the surface to be driven by the death of his parents, and the way it shaped him, there is something much more existential at work within him. Loeb’s use of noir motifs, such as Batman’s inner monologue narration allow the reader understand that Loeb is firmly arguing that there is no dual identity to Batman, just the Batman. He endures on because as long as there is crime, the world needs Batman. This will to endure is ultimately the result of what Loeb is arguing all along: that Batman chooses to pursue what he knows is impossible to achieve because the day will never come when Bruce didn’t need Batman because it is what gives his existence meaning and purpose. 

LAFCA, AFI Top Ten, Boston Film Critics, NYFCO announce winners today

Gotta give the LAFCA props for making some really ballsy, outside the box choices this year. Refreshing, even if the lasting effect is minuscule. Still, nice to see some love for Carlos. Meanwhile, The Social Network steamrolls on ahead taking every Best Picture prize under the sun, but really, anyone expecting differently is fooling themselves. Was the most critically acclaimed live action film of the year ever not going to dominate the critics awards? Hell no. The King's Speech will still give it a major run for it's money come oscar time, but that line of thinking might be attributed to after-effects of the old AMPAS of the 90s. The last 4 Best Picture Choices have been rather unconventional, to say the least, so maybe the old guard is dead. We'll see. For now, Fincher's film marches on. Some will notice the lack of The King's Speech on the AFI list. Like Slumdog Millionaire two years ago, the film recieved a special prize, as it does not qualify for the AFI awards as it is a British film. To be considered, a film has to be American-produced. Now for the list of winners. As always, have at it in the comment section with your thoughts.

AFI Top Ten Films of 2010

Black Swan
The Fighter
Inception
The Kids Are All Right
127 Hours
The Social Network
The Town
Toy Story 3
True Grit
Winter's Bone

LAFCA Winners

Best Picture: The Social Network
(runner-up: Carlos)

Best Director: (tie) David Fincher - The Social Network and Olivier Assayas - Carlos

Best Actor: Colin Firth - The King's Speech
(runner-up: Edgar Ramirez - Carlos)

Best Actress: Kim Hye-ja - Mother
(runner-up: Jennifer Lawrence - Winter's Bone)

Best Supporting Actor: Niels Arestrup: A Prophet
(runner-up: Geoffrey Rush - The King's Speech)

Best Supporting Actress: Jacki Weaver - Animal Kingdom
(runner-up: Olivia Williams - The Ghost Writer)

Best Screenplay: The Social Network
(runner-up: The King's Speech)

Best Cinematography: Black Swan
(runner-up: True Grit)

Best Animated Film: Toy Story 3
(runner-up: The Illusionist)

Best Foreign Language Film: Carlos
(runner-up: Mother)

Best Documentary: Last Train Home
(runner-up: Exit Through The Gift Shop)

Best Score: (tie) The Ghost Writer and The Social Network

Best Production Design: Inception
(runner-up: The King's Speech)

Boston Society of Film Critics Winners


Best Picture: The Social Network

Best Director: David Fincher - The Social Network

Best Actor: Jesse Eisenberg - The Social Network

Best Actress: Natalie Portman - Black Swan

Best Supporting Actor: Christian Bale - The Fighter

Best Supporting Actress: Juliette Lewis - Conviction

Best Screenplay: The Social Network

Best Cinematography: True Grit

Best Documentary: Marwencol

Best Foreign Language Film: Mother

Best Animated Film: Toy Story 3

Best Editing: Black Swan

Best Ensemble: The Fighter

Best Use of Music In a Film: The Social Network

New York Film Critics Online Winners


Best Picture: The Social Network

Best Director: David Fincher - The Social Network

Best Actor: James Franco - 127 Hours

Best Actress: Natalie Portman - Black Swan

Best Supporting Actor: Christian Bale - The Fighter

Best Supporting Actress: Melissa Leo - The Fighter

Best Screenplay: The Social Network

Best Foreign Language Film: I Am Love

Best Documentary: Exit Through The Gift Shop

Best Cinematography: Black Swan

Best Music: Black Swan

Best Ensemble: The Kids Are All Right

Best Breakthrough Performer: Noomi Rapace - The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Monday, December 6, 2010

Washington DC Film Critics Association Awards Winners

The DC Film Critics announced their winners, and, as expected, went nuts for The Social Network. Not surprising, given that it's easily the most critically acclaimed film of the year. Inception was overall the big winner with four wins including Original Screenplay. Check out the winners list here.


Best Picture
The Social Network

Best Director
David Fincher (The Social Network)

Best Actor
Colin Firth (The King's Speech)

Best Actress
Jennifer Lawrence (Winter's Bone)

Best Supporting Actor
Christian Bale (The Fighter)

Best Supporting Actress
Melissa Leo (The Fighter)

Best Adapted Screenplay
The Social Network

Best Original Screenplay
Inception

Best Animated Feature
Toy Story 3

Best Documentary
Exit Through The Gift Shop

Best Foreign Language Film
Biutiful

Best Art Direction
Inception

Best Cinematography
Inception

Best Score
Inception

Best Acting Ensemble
The Town

Sunday, December 5, 2010

What did you think of Black Swan?



Darren Aronofsky's latest film opens in 8 cities this weekend. If you're one of the people who got to catch it this weekend or in previous screenings, have at it in the comments section and tell us what you thought of the film. I've already had my say here. Feel free to come back to this thread when the film opens in your area, I'm genuinely curious to hear everyone's thoughts on it. Have at it in the comment section!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Updated Oscar Predictions 12/2/2010


* = Predicted winner


Best Picture
127 Hours
Black Swan
The Fighter
Inception
The King's Speech *
The Social Network
The Town
Toy Story 3
True Grit
Winter's Bone



Best Director
Danny Boyle - 127 Hours
Christopher Nolan - Inception
David Fincher - The Social Network *
Darren Aronofsky - Black Swan
Ethan and Joel Coen - True Grit




Best Actor
Jeff Bridges - True Grit
Jesse Eisenberg - The Social Network
Colin Firth - The King's Speech *
James Franco - 127 Hours
Ryan Gosling - Blue Valentine



Best Actress
Annette Bening - The Kids Are All Right
Nicole Kidman - Rabbit Hole
Jennifer Lawrence - Winter's Bone
Lesley Manville - Another Year
Natalie Portman - Black Swan *


Best Supporting Actor
Christian Bale - The Fighter *

Matt Damon - True Grit
Jeremy Renner - The Town
Mark Ruffalo - The Kids Are All Right
Geoffrey Rush - The King's Speech


Best Supporting Actress
Amy Adams - The Fighter
Helena Bonham Carter - The King's Speech
Melissa Leo - The Fighter

Hailee Steinfeld - True Grit *
Dianne Wiest - Rabbit Hole


Best Adapted Screenplay
127 Hours
The Social Network *
The Town
Toy Story 3
True Grit



Best Original Screenplay 
Another Year
Black Swan

Blue Valentine
Inception *
The King's Speech 



Best Art Direction
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1
Inception
The King's Speech
Shutter Island
True Grit *


Best Cinematography
127 Hours

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1
Inception
Shutter Island
True Grit *


Best Costume Design

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1
Inception
The King's Speech *
Shutter Island
True Grit


Best Editing
127 Hours
Inception *
The Social Network
True Grit
The Town


Best Makeup
Alice in Wonderland
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1
Shutter Island *


Best Original Score
How to Train Your Dragon
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1
Inception *
The Social Network
True Grit



Best Original Song

Burlesque
127 Hours
Tangled
Toy Story 3
Waiting for Superman *


Best Sound Editing:
127 Hours
How to Train Your Dragon
Inception *
Toy Story 3
TRON: Legacy


Best Sound Mixing
127 Hours
How to Train Your Dragon
Inception *

True Grit
TRON: Legacy


Best Visual Effects
Alice in Wonderland
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1
Inception *
Iron Man 2
TRON: Legacy


Best Animated Feature Film
How to Train Your Dragon
The Illusionist
Toy Story 3 *



As always, have at it in the comments section and feel free to share your own predictions as well!