Monday, February 28, 2011

Top 10 Movies of 2010

The Oscars have deemed The King's Speech as the Best Picture of 2010. While i agree that it is a superb film, i do not believe it to be the best movie of the past year. So to support my argument, here are my choices for the ten best movies of 2010.

10. Exit Through the Gift Shop
Banksy's exciting delving into the life of a street artist was one of the most entertaining movies that i saw in 2010. Forget the claim that the story is a hoax; that's the point. It creates a hall of mirrors in the world of art in which no one knows what's real anymore.

9. Shutter Island
Martin Scorsese's psychological thriller is totally undeserving of the mixed reviews that it received upon release. Scorsese compares the insane mind to the everyday mind, in which the world we live in corrupts our morality and gives birth to darkness. Leonardo Dicaprio deserved an Oscar nomination for his performance.

8. Inception
Inception is interesting, because i honestly believe that it's overall quality is affected by how you interpret it, which is obviously open to argument. If you look at it as a straight action movie, then it's a good, but not great genre movie. But if you take it metaphorically, as i do, to the art of filmmaking, then it works as a complex and exciting genre-transcending movie.

7. Black Swan
Darren Aronofsky's female counterpart to The Wrestler was the most visceral and visually stunning movie of 2010. Natalie Portman's Oscar winning role is one of the finest female lead performances of the past decade.

6. The Fighter
The finest ensemble cast of the year makes up The Fighter, in which two of its supporting roles, Melissa Leo and Christian Bale, won Oscars. The Fighter is a familiar story but the reason it works so well is that it's told from a completely different angle, in which one boxer's dream of winning the title is surrounded by conflict and influenced by family.

5. True Grit
Jeff Bridges gives in my opinion the best performance of the year as Rooster Cogburn, the drunk U.S. Marshall who helps teenager Mattie Harris (Hailee Steinfeld) hunt down the man who killed her father. Bridges and Steinfeld have the finest on-screen chemistry of the year, a true testament to the acting skill of the two considering that they are separated by 48 years of age.

4. The King's Speech 
The 2010 Best Picture winner works so well because it is a relatable period piece. The story of the Duke of York who becomes King of England just before World War Two because his brother abdicates the throne is a modern buddy film set on a classical landscape. Oscar winner Colin Firth and Oscar nominee Geoffrey Rush are fantastic together.

3. Catfish
The best documentary of the year tells the story of Nev Schulman, a photographer from New York who develops a romantic relationship with a young woman who he meets on Facebook and takes a trip to Michigan to meet her. What follows is one of the most dramatic and revealing segments of film from 2010. Catfish teaches us that we live in such an inept world that we are forced to pursue our dreams vicariously through fakeness and under the constrictions of society.

2. The Social Network
The Social Network should really be called "The Tragedy of Mark Zuckerberg" in that the movie isn't really about Facebook, but rather a portrayal of the modern world's tragic hero. Mark Zuckerberg gave the world of its greatest gifts, Facebook, but The Social Network tells us that Zuckerberg's motives are born from conflicts that stem from society. Zuckerberg invented Facebook so that he could finally feel like he could fit in, but in doing so, he created a world in which no one does.

1. Toy Story 3
The best film of 2010 could top any end-of-the-year list of the past decade. Toy Story 3 is a truly perfect film, a combination of everything you could ever ask for in a movie. It's funny, touching, revealing, beautiful, heartfelt, dramatic, and most of all, entertaining. Pixar knows what movies should be and continue to turn out gems with an incredible amount of consistency. If i had to pick the ten best movie scenes of the year, Toy Story 3 would have at least 5 of them. It had the year's best script, direction, and delivery of theme, in which the very adult idea of abandonment sneaks up and floors you. The final scene, with Andy's departure from Woody and the gang, is not only the ending to a perfect film, but also the finale to the greatest movie series we've ever seen and will ever see. So long, partner.

Honorable Mention: 127 Hours, Winter's Bone, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Kick Ass, I'm Still Here. (Does the Pixar short "Day and Night" count? Because it would totally be included here as well).

Most Underrated: Catfish or Shutter Island

Most Overrated: The Kids Are All Right

Sunday, February 27, 2011

2011 Academy Awards Predictions

Best Picture

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

Should Win:
Toy Story 3. Pixar’s finest achievement to date was a flawless combination of directing, visuals, music, and most of all, heartfelt storytelling. A perfect film. Far and away the best movie of the year.

Will Win:
The King’s Speech. Director Tom Hooper’s take on the Duke of York who became King of England after his brother abdicated the throne is an unavoidably impressive period piece that plays like a modern buddy film. It has been gathering momentum throughout the award season and has surpassed The Social Network as the Best Picture favorite.

Upset Special:
Toy Story 3. If the Academy were to ever hand Best Picture to an animated film, this should be the year to do it. The Social Network and The King’s Speech could cancel each other out and the Pixar masterpiece could sneak in and take it.

I think the Academy for the most part were pretty spot-on in this category, although I’d take Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island over the overrated The Kids Are All Right and the most underrated film of the year, Catfish, over the hypnotic Winter’s Bone.

Best Director

Darren Aronofsky  Black Swan
David O. Russell  The Fighter
Tom Hooper  The King’s Speech
David Fincher  The Social Network
Joel and Ethan Cohen  True Grit

Should Win:
Darren Aronofsky. Black Swan proved to be the most visually jaw-dropping and visceral movie of the year, and Aronofsky is the genius behind the madness. With Black Swan and The Wrestler before it, Aronofsky has proved that he is one of the most talented directors in Hollywood today.

Will Win:
David Fincher. The Social Network and The King’s Speech and subsequently Fincher and Hooper are neck-and-neck for Best Picture and Best Director, so I think the awards will be split. Fincher sets a Shakespearian-esque tragedy against the backdrop of the modern world with dramatic and unforgettable results.

Upset Special:
The Cohen brothers. The Academy loves the Cohen brothers, and their work in the period piece True Grit just might be their finest direction to date.

Christopher Nolan for Inception is the snub of the Oscars this year. He not only deserves to be nominated, he deserved the award. Also, where’s the love for Lee Unkrich (Toy Story 3) and Edgar Wright (Scott Pilgrim vs. The World)?

Best Actor

Javier Bardem  Biutiful
Jeff Bridges  True Grit
Jesse Eisenberg  The Social Network
Colin Firth  The King’s Speech
James Franco  127 Hours

Should Win:
Jesse Eisenberg. I don’t even recognize Jesse Eisenberg in The Social Network. Where’s the timid teen known from Zombieland and Adventureland? But Eisenberg’s portrayal of the tragic hero, Mark Zuckerberg, is a transformation of extremely impressive dramatic sorts.

Will Win:
Firth. I believe it’s the only sure thing from the big 6 categories this year.

Upset Special:
Eisenberg. Most people think he’s second in line to Firth’s performance, but this is Firth’s to lose.

Leonardo Dicaprio deserves a nod for Inception or Shutter Island, and how has Joaquin Phoenix’s “performance” in I’m Still Here not been recognized? Hoax or not, Phoenix sacrificed his career and his social life for this movie. Phoenix in I’m Still Here is one of the most remarkable things I’ve ever seen in film.

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

Should Win:
Natalie Portman. Just like Mickey Rourke deserved to win for his portrayal of a bruised artist in Aronofsky’s The Wrestler, Portman deserves an Oscar for her performance in The Wrestler’s female counterpart.

Will Win:
Annette Bening. The academy loves giving out “lifetime achievement” Oscars to actors who have been deserving in the past, but have never won (see Alan Arkin for Little Miss Sunshine). Bening has had three prior nominations, but no wins, and will sneak in and take this one.

Upset Special:
Bening taking down Portman would be the upset of the night.

Hailee Steinfeld deserves to be in the Best Actress bunch rather than supporting, and Chloe Moretz in Kick Ass is simply amazing.

Best Supporting Actor

Christian Bale  The Fighter
John Hawkes  Winter’s Bone
Jeremy Renner  The Town
Mark Ruffalo  The Kids Are All Right
Geoffrey Rush  The King’s Speech

Should Win:
Christian Bale. Bale, like he does in every role, totally delves into the mind and body of a has-been crack addict boxer who finds redemption in his brother’s success.

Will Win:
Bale. Bale is another actor who deserves an Oscar, and this is his best performance to date.

Upset Special:
Geoffrey Rush. Rush’s performance in The King’s Speech equals Colin Firth’s tour de force. These two performances go hand-in-hand at the film’s helm, so the Academy could award Rush to go along with Firth.

I’d take any of the three standout supporting performances from The Social Network (Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake, Armie Hammer)

Best Supporting Actress

Amy Adams  The Fighter
Helena Bonham Carter  The King’s Speech
Melissa Leo  The Fighter
Hailee Steinfeld  True Grit
Jacki Weaver  Animal Kingdom

Should Win:
Melissa Leo. The Fighter has the most impressive ensemble cast of the year, and Leo’s performance as the bookie mother of her two boxer sons stands out in the standout crowd.

Will Win:
Helena Bonham Carter. I think this category, out of the big 6, is the one most up for grabs. Carter’s subtlety in The King’s Speech is unlike the spitfire nature of most performances in the past, and in that sense, her performance stands out.

Upset Special:
Hailee Steinfeld. Steinfeld hasn’t gotten recognition from the other major awards shows, so it’s clear the Academy likes her. She deserves to be in the Best Actress category, so she does have a leg up on the competition.

Julianne Moore in The Kids Are All Right is every bit as good as Annette Bening, who garnered a Best Actress nod.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

2011 Grammy Predictions

Album of the Year
The Suburbs  Arcade Fire
Recovery  Eminem
Need You Now  Lady Antebellum
The Fame Monster  Lady Gaga
Teenage Dream  Katy Perry

Should Win: Eminem. Recovery was the album of 2010. It scored two of the ten highest selling songs of the year ("Not Afraid" and "Love the Way You Lie") and was the highest selling album of the year.

Will Win: Eminem. After a career that has spanned over ten years of success, Em will finally get the AOTY that he deserves.

Record of the Year
"Nothin on You"  B.o.B. feat. Bruno Mars
"Love the Way You Lie"  Eminem feat. Rihanna
"Fuck You"  Cee Lo Green
"Empire State of Mind"  Jay-Z and Alicia Keys
"Need You Now"  Lady Antebellum

Should Win: "Fuck You". The most original and controversial single of the year was an anthem of its own kind.

Will Win: Jay-Z and Alicia Keys. Is this song even from 2010? Either way, it is one of the all-time great male/female rap/R&B collaborations.

Best Rap Album
B.o.B. Presents: The Adventures of Bobby Ray  B.o.B.
Thank Me Later  Drake
Recovery  Eminem
The Blueprint 3  Jay-Z
How I Got Over  The Roots

Should Win: Eminem. Recovery is his best effort in ten years and was head and shoulders above all other rap albums in 2010.

Will Win: Eminem. He has never lost in this category.

Best New Artist
Justin Bieber
Florence and the Machine
Mumford and Sons
Esperanza Spalding

Should Win: Florence and the Machine. Lungs was an incredible debut. Florence Welch has already established herself as one of the best female vocalists in the industry.

Will Win: Drake. Unfortunately.

Best Alternative Album
The Suburbs  Arcade Fire
Infinite Arms  Band of Horses
Brothers  The Black Keys
Broken Bells  Broken Bells
Contra  Vampire Weekend

Should Win: The Black Keys. Brothers was the best album of 2010.

Will Win: Arcade Fire. The Suburbs is too impressive to ignore for a band who has a more developed fan base than TBK. 

Top 5 Albums of 2010

1. Brothers by The Black Keys

-The Black Keys make music. Just a drummer (Patrick Carney) and a guitarist (Dan Auerbach) who built their reputation on a strong live repertoire like a real band should. Their previous work, while excellent, was raw, guitar-driven rock, the stuff that you just don't hear being produced in quality anymore. Forget the White Stripes, TBK are the best guitar/drummer duo in the world. Brothers is a more honed, fully-realized sound while still maintaining the beauty and blues that is attributable to their trademark sound. Even though singles "Tighten Up" and "Howlin for You" got most of the mainstream attention, its songs like "You're the Only One" and "I'm Not the One", which no other band in the world could pull off, that really make TBK stand out. With Brothers, TBK added various percussion to drums and guitar to create a greater sound, which lends to the idea that the greatest band in the world are just getting started.

2. Recovery by Eminem

-While Kanye and Big Boi made two beautifully sounding rap albums in 2010, neither of them can compare to Eminem lyrically. Recovery has to be celebrated as one of the greatest comeback albums of all time. Eminem had fallen as far as one can fall. Following his 2004 effort Encore, the worst of his career, Eminem went on a musical hiatus in which he battled with addiction to prescription drugs and nearly died of an overdose. He got back into the game with Relapse in 2009, but with Recovery, Em set out to talk about why he had dropped out of the music scene and why fans have every reason to believe that he is back in full form. Recovery succeeds on every level, a well-produced and lyrically brilliant introspective look into the life of Marshall Mathers. Eminem uses his music not only to make amends with fans, but also to exercise the personal demons he'd been dealing with for five years. It was the most important album of 2010 in that the music industry got its go to album-seller back and it also may have saved the life of one of the greatest artists of his generation.

3. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy by Kanye West

-Kanye West is an asshole. The whole world can agree on this. But as crazy as it may sound, his arrogance is actually a necessary contributor to his music. Who in their right mind would put a Bon Iver sample, an Elton John piano solo, or a nine-minute long epic of sorrow on a rap album? But that's what Fantasy is all about; things that shouldn't work, but do. The album is a culmination of West's four previous works; an weave of the soul of College Dropout, the symphony of Late Registration, the gloss of Graduation, and the melancholy of 808's and Heartbreak. It scored hits with "Power", "Monster", and "Runaway", but more importantly cemented West as the most successfully creative producer of rap music in the game today. It was a comeback of a different sort, in that it brought West back to the top, but in doing so, shined a light on his dark and twisted fall.

4. Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty by Big Boi

-Critics and fans have rewarded lesser rappers like Drake and Rick Ross for their work in 2010, but the real praise deserves to go to Big Boi, who with Left Foot proved that the massive success of Outkast was not the result of the often thought "one-man Andre 3000 show". This is the closest thing we've had to the real Outkast since 2003 (forget Idlewild). Big Boi features a variety of artists (from Jamie Foxx to George Clinton) and when Andre 3000 sound-a-like B.o.B. raps on "Night Night", you think you're listening to a track on Stankonia. But most of all, the Outkast trademarked originality of sound that was so prevalent on their early 2000's work comes through in full here, proving again that Big Boi can transcend music to a higher level.

5. The Suburbs by Arcade Fire

-Arcade Fire seems to have developed a pattern over the past decade. They release a mind-blowing epic of sound that leaves critics gushing and the music world stunned, then quietly disappear for three years and work on their next indie masterpiece. The Suburbs, their best work since their 2004 debut The Funeral, was a slight change of pace in that it debuted at number one in Ireland, Great Britain, Canada, and the United States. The rest of the world seemed to wake up to the fact that this is one of the greatest bands alive, but for seasoned fans of Arcade Fire, The Suburbs was great, but nothing new.