THE VERDICT – Best Motion Picture: 2010

Finally, this year has come to a close.

#10 and #9 are easy to rank, but I know I need to look back at these movies. The rest was a struggle to rank. I have my own favorites, but as I tried to keep an open mind for me to decide who actually is the best movie, I just got myself into bigger trouble. 😛

I’m going to state the verdict for each nominee not in the formal way that I usually do, but just in the moment feelings for each.

You can just click on the titles for their profiles.

Well, this was a very good year, I can tell you that right now. So, to start this year immediately, here are the nominees:

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10. The Kids Are All Right

When I watch it again, I know my feeling for this change again. But as of know, here are my thought s for this film: great acting, skillful direction, knowledgeable screenplay, timely topic, sensitive, funny, dramatic, but anything special? Not sure yet.

4

Best Performance: Annette Bening as Nic Allgood
Best Scene: Confronting Laser

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9. 127 Hours

It’s very dynamic, very energetic, very hopeful, anchored with a very good performance by James Franco with very well-handled direction and very well-written  screenplay that brings you to the very extremes of your emotions, but verily I say to you, I’m not 100% in love with this film.

4

Best Performance: James Franco (who else?) as Aron Ralston
Best Scene: For the first time, walking outside the boulder

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8.True Grit

I don’t know how to describe this sublimely made, but romanticized Western drama kind of fits the bill for this. Testosterone is flowing in this film from its male actors, and in contrast to that, Hailee Steinfeld gives the warm emotional core of this film. Don’t want to compare this to the disastrous 1969 version, but shame on that. This is magnificent.

5

Best Performance: Hailee Steinfeld as Mattie Ross
Best Scene: Mattie crossing the river by herself

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7. Winter’s Bone

Aside from The Kids Are All Right, this is the simplest of the movies in this roster of films. It captures the harsh realities of life that are gut-wrenching to watch. To see the main character encounter all of these horrible things may not seem to be a good subject in the film, the craftsmanship is indelibly evident.

5
Best Performance: Jennifer Lawrence as Ree Dolly
Best Scene: Lake scene

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6. Toy Story 3

It’s a fantastic, rousing, and lovely film is as good as animation can get. It’s funny, but it’s also full of heart and soul. The voice acting is really special, and it’s just as exciting as a film can get. It’s so enjoyable and I personally love it. So why this rating? Let’s be honest. This film could not have been this powerful if the first two movies did not exist. So anyway, it’s still powerful. I just need to be fair.

Best Performance: Woody Allen as Buzz Lightyear
Best Scene: Incinerator scene
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5. The Social Network

Exhilarating screenplay, brilliant direction, astounding performances, cultural significance. This film symbolizes the capacity of movies to anchor an entire generation in it. but enough of the generation stuff. This film is simply fantastic. Every element of filmmaking is in work here to give us what we have become after a cultural phenomenon hit our generation. Oh, here come’s the generation stuff again.

Best Performance: Jesse Eisenberg as Mark Zuckerberg
Best Scene: (randomly picked) “Did I adequately answer your condescending question?” scene

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4. The Fighter

The story is the familiar boxing story. But the screenplay itself adds a lot of humanity in it, the direction gives of the vibrant urgency of the film that makes this a very special one, and the actors invade the screen with blazing power and energy. Never have been a sports movie so accessible, so humane, so powerful, so enjoyable, and so great.

Best Performance: Melissa Leo as Alice Ward
Best Scene: Charlene versus the Seven Sisters scene

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3. Black Swan

It’s not perfect, but it’s still so damn great. Why is it, then? First, the direction that’s really one of the best ever. Then, we have Natalie Portman giving one of the best performances an actress may give. We have the filmmaking process that stretches beyond the unthinkable to create something that is quite earth-shattering. The potency is very visible,  and the collaboration results to a film with staggering impact. I loved ballet after watching this, by the way.

Best Performance: Natalie Portman as Nina Sayers
Best Scene: From dancing the Black Swan for the first time unto the finale
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2. The King’s Speech

I don’t know how this film reached this point of this list, but really just keeps on getting better and better on repeated viewings. It’s a delicately told story of a man who fought for himself, his family, and his country, excising all the fears that he had with the help of a friend. It’s so inspiring, and the film itself is inspired. I guess, this is the kind of film that really grows on you. Repeated viewings is a must for this film.

Best Performance: Colin Firth as King George IV / Bertie
Best Scene: The Queen Mother meeting Lionel Logue for the  first time

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1. Inception

I changed my mind four times before I came up with this pick. I guess, all I can say is that the film is miraculous in every way possible. The concept itself is pretty mindblowing. Then the images come in with vast imagination, extreme creativity, stunning gorgeousness, and transporting power. This is a work of a visionary like no other. Then the sound, superb and stylish, forms this world of the mind that’s completely mind-blowing and mind-bending.

Best Performance: Marion Cotillard as Mal
Best Scene: Hallway fight scene

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Again, I did not personally agree with the Academy’s pick (I almost did!), but it’s still a very deserving film.

After The King’s Speech, The Social Network was the unquestionably # 2 on the ballots.

The Fighter is # 3 for some weird reasons, I think it is.

# 4 must have been Toy Story 3 for was able to build a fanbase for 15 years (wow.).

# 5 was Black Swan because it really has some die-hard fans.And those who love the film really love the film.

# 6 is Inception for having the Christopher Nolan fanbase.

# 7 is True Grit for the Coen Bros’ fans in the Academy, and the fact that it got, well, big amount of support from the Academy, over-all (10 nominations, to keep the record).

# 8 is Winter’s Bone for they might have been carried away by Jennifer Lawrence, as you know, one of Hollywood’s biggest things in recent memory.

#9 is 127 Hours for James Franco’s performance, and for Danny Boyle (traces of Slumdog Millionaire, anyone).

# 10 is The Kids Are All Right. I don’t know. Look at the Academy. They’re full of conservative Caucasian old men. Would they actually go with something that’s currently a taboo? Just a thought. =)

Before I finish this post, I just want to say sorry for the awful pacing that I had in writing this whole year. It’s just that I need to do a lot of stuff since it’s gonna be college days for me two months from now. And school stuff’s eating my time. So, whatever. I hope you understand.

What’s you pick? Do you agree with the Academy, or with me, or you have a different choice?

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Next year clue? Places where the stories are set (or at least partially set).

Vietnam, Britain, studio, prison.

😛

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Best Picture Profile: The King’s Speech

Directed by: Tom Hooper

Written by: David Seidler

Company: The Weinstein Company / UK Film Council

Runtime: 118 minutes

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The King’s Speech is the 83rd winner of the Best Picture Award and one of the many winners in this category that are biopics. One of the the things that gave this film the edge of winning over its biggest competitor The Social Network is the statistical data that only 14% of the Academy membership are below 50 years old. So maybe, not all of them have Facebook accounts, anyway.

The film is about Bertie, Duke of York, and son of King George V, who has problems because of his stutter. Nothing can help him in his problem – not even doctors. Taking the initiative, his wife, the Queen Elizabeth, met with a speech therapist named Lionel Logue, known for his unorthodox approach in treating his patients. At first, Bertie is hesitant, but because he and Elizabeth realized that he can do better if he continues the lessons, he decides to take intense therapies and lessons.

Things have been going on well for them, but the worsening condition of the King puts him into uncertainty when he realizes that his brother David is intending to marry to an American woman who has been divorced twice, a point that is constantly being objected by the country leaders. The King dies, but David still wants to marry his woman. David takes abdication, leaving Bertie with no other choice but to become the king.

This caught him off-guard, for he is doubtful indeed of his leadership skills because of speech impediment, but Lionel gives him the reasons why he could be the king the country expect him to be. His leadership is challenged when the World War II arrives and the nation needs to have great dependency and confidence with the King.

The film is what the others say about it – old-fashioned. But with some sophisticated elements in it and terrific acting all-around, this is some gooood old-fashioned story.

The direction is surprisingly fresh. The material itself is one of those good-old historical accounts of royalties, but the direction takes it to a very accessible and modern style that has the look of the classic approach in this kind of stories but is exemplifying storytelling elements that are definitely new to the audience. There is something that is extremely fascinating on how the movie was done. And that is an achievement in the direction given that the story itself is not that remarkable. Instead, the film made us see how important this event is for a nation with a colourful and great history. And it is even quite wondrous that the direction plays a very big part in the success of the movie, but the direction itself is low-key.

The screenplay is knowingly able to make the material a very accessible one to the audience. It does not try to make a movie disguised as an accurate history book, where every even feels important because of its significance to the world. The screenplay focuses on the impact of the events to the characters as human beings, and not necessarily as royalties. The scenes are filled with heartfelt exchanges of dialogue that are irresistible and easily recallable. The conversations have the wit, humor, and heart that are needed to tell this story.

The cinematography is one fine thing. After my very first watching of this film, I actually felt indifferent with the nomination for this. Not that it’s bad, not that it’s good, but I just cannot say anything about it. Now, I was able to appreciate the risks taken by the cinematography to tell the story with a new point of view. Scenes of Bertie’s discomfort are shown with perfect unease. It feels powerful, but never forced. And how brilliant it is to use a lot of close up shots to create the atmosphere of humanity.

The editing is very subtle, but you know how important it is for the movie to have this kind of editing. It is sharp, but never too obvious, passive, but never forgettable, accomplished, but never showy. There are these brilliant cuts continuously seen in the film that are completely set to perfect timing and harmony.

The music is very much functioning as an emotional anchor that is sparsely heard but effectively conveys the weight of each scene. It is very subtle, very gentle, but each note the piano hits registers not only what we see, but also how the characters’ reactions in various situations.

The art direction and costume design are particularly noteworthy for being capable to bring back a world that is only available now through museums and encyclopedias with such large amount of detail and brilliance.

The acting is simply sumptuous to watch.

Colin firth is beguiling in his virtuoso performance as the struggling Bertie. He has carefully constructed his character with no false note to be seen, and the result is superbly stunning in every sense of the word. He holds the screen with deep integrity and handicapped confidence with such soulful gravitas that he makes every flaw of the character precise but never too calculated. He has immense tenderness and fragility that is quite endearing and heartbreaking. Firth is very humane, and I feel for him.

Geoffrey Rush is wonderfully complex as Lionel. I guess, everyone agrees, this is not the kind of performance that you normally expect from Geoffrey Rush, but forget that, and this is still a wonderful performance from a gifted actor. The emotions are contained, and it feels quite genuine. The way he peels his character’s layers scene by scene by his face without getting one-dimensional is such a treat to watch. Whether it is a feel-good or a sad scene, Rush handles it with moving simplicity.

Helena Bonham Carter is a lush delight as Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. Even if her exterior is very much of a kindred nature, she has the spark of burning intelligence of a queen and the approachability of a friend that is quite delicious to watch. She is built with steel and heart, and the emotional sensitivity across under the tough woman is wonderfully evident. Dignity, power, and intimacy has never been this heartwarming as Carter’s Queen Mother. Intriguing, meaty, and wonderfully nuanced.

Guy Pearce is honest and quietly impressive as David, Bertie’s brother, inhibits his character so effortlessly, and bringing the royal rebellion on the table with edginess and unexpected power. Jennifer Ehle is surprisingly sublime as Lionel’s wife, with grace and brains so intelligently rooted in her line readings.

This is not a film that breaks grounds in filmmaking, or represents a generation of youth, or gives us anything entirely new, but it refreshes us with classic filmmaking and uses each element of filmmaking, gives them big innovations, and presents to us a story of hope in a very fashionable, slick, compelling, and breathtaking way.

For this, the movie gets:

Agree? Or disagree?

Best Picture Profile: 127 Hours

Directed by: Danny Boyle

Written by: Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy

Company: Fox Searchlight Pictures / Pathe

Runtime: 94 minutes

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127 Hours is one of the only few Best Picture nominees that is almost a one-man show.

The film is about Aron Ralston, a happy-go-lucky and adventurous mountaineer that goes for hiking in the Grand Canyon by himself. In his climbing, a rock suddenly caused his right arm to be stuck, alienating him from the civilization. He tries everything to get his arm removed from the rock, but the horrifying truth strikes him, making him decide to do the unimaginable for him to get out of the boulder.

The direction intentionally overdoes it, and it actually fits the story because the main character himself is undergoing the slow destruction of his sanity. It is the kind of energetic direction that the story demands, and even though I appreciate more its use in Boyle’s last outing, the Best Picture winner Slumdog Millionaire, it still is the appropriate style of filmmaking for this film. Also, it is the energy that keeps the film from the storytelling lull that it really could have been if basing on the real event alone. Luckily, the signature style of Danny Boyle, the energetic style, was employed in this film and the result is a satisfying movie experience.

The screenplay is quite accomplished in its ways to keep the story going. I myself have questioned the possible showiness of the screenplay before watching it, knowing that for almost 90% of the film, you can only see one character deal with things or remember some events in his life, but they are all added with the texture of bring close to reality that I definitely need to mention the screenplay for that. There are no big monologues or some fiery exchange of dialogue with the other characters because there are barely any other characters in the film, but instead, the screenplay invests on the specificity of the reality of being there.

The cinematography used vivid colors, mostly of orange and red shade, to further implement the feel of being in the actual place. Maybe, for some, that decision to do that distracts the film, but it suits really fine with me for it was able to mix the earthy feeling that the place has and the hallucinatory vision that the main character has. Also, there is the effective usage of the camera movements and angles to define the psychology of the character in a one very moment. Sometimes, it goes for the shaky camera, and sometimes, it goes very formally, like that epic shot where we ses Aron stuck in the boulder, shouting for help, and as the camera continuously pulls back, you can see how isolated he is. Powerful, powerful work.

The editing, aside from the direction, is the showiest part of the film. There is continuous flow of shots that build each scene with the packed energy that the film contains very much so throughout its whole course. It uses a lot of split-screen, which I am not really that fond of, but I don’t know what happened but it served the story so well. Anyway, the editing also knows when to show it all in terms of being showy, and it also knows when to tone down and let Franco to just breathe in the character with the help of the screenplay. Job well done, by the way.

The music in this film feels a bit unpolished for me. There are times when I think it could have been better, even though it actually already does a fine job in one scene, and there are also times when I know it cannot be better anymore. Still, it feels unfinished and slightly amateurish. The pre-existing songs are well-chosen, giving the dynamic atmosphere in some scenes. The film’s theme song, “If I Rise,” is a song that I did not like in my first listening to it, thinking that it is just boring and does not have a climactic build-up on it. However, upon listening to it again, I was already able to get the soul of the song, and the slow start is actually a very nice way to build it up to the peak of the song with that chorus chanting words that are so well-written.

The art direction, I get to appreciate just recently. I just found out that they did the majority of the scenes in a soundstage, and the rock boulder where he was stuck is just a replica of the real place. The job these people have done in recreating the place is simply fantastic.

This is definitely a one-man show, and man, what a show!

James Franco embodies the character so well, internalizing the character in every scene he is in. I feel that he does his scenes with simplicity and smoothness in it that it reaches to a point that it is already so effortless and authentic. But let me say this right now – I was not overwhelmingly blown away by his performance. I can feel the character in him, but even if there are a lot of acting challenges in it, I think he somehow made it seem too easy for him. Sure, he does justice to the character in the most possible way, but it is also, unfortunately, in his fault, that he embodies the character so much that it feels a bit easy for me. I don’t know. Maybe because the performance gets too internal that the showy bits of it just gets overshadowed.

But anyway, that is just a very, very small issue that I have in his performance. The rest of what I can say is simply good things. He knows where the camera is, but does not make you feel that he’s acting it just for the camera. It is just the alertness and knowledge of Franco that delivers a lot of his actions the focus that it needs for us to see the turmoil in him. Very, very, very, very well-done job.

Truth be told, I don’t love this film 100% because of some emotional connection problems, but this is superb cinema. It uplifts the spirit and it makes you value life and relationships much more. It’s a story of survival that must be seen, and to just mention, the self-amputation is not that bad, by the way, so don’t make it stop you from watching this. I know repeated viewing would make this film grow in me, but as for now, I am more comfortable with the grade I am going to give this.

For this, the movie gets:

4

Agree? Or disagree?

Best Picture Profile: Black Swan

Directed by: Darren Aronofsky

Written by: Mark Heyman (screenplay), Andres Heinz (story and screenplay), John McLaughlin (screenplay)

Company: Fox Searchlight Pictures, Cross Creek Pictures, Protozoa Pictures, Phoenix Pictures

Runtime: 108 minutes

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The film is about Nina Sayers, an intensely dedicated ballerina working in a company whose star dancer is unfortunately going to retire anytime soon because of her age.

With a new season coming, he manager of the company decides  do the classic ballet Swan Lake. He now starts the search for the ballerina that suits perfectly with the Swan Queen – a role that requires a person to embody two roles, the innocent and kid White Swan, and the sexually potent Black Swan. Nina has the qualities that make her the right choice for the White Swan, but she is having a hard time in getting the Black Swan role right. Now, a new dancer in the company, Lily, gets the manager’s attention and often gives a comparison with Nina and Lily – Nina has the skills and the technique, almost reaching perfection, but she does not have the flowing naturalism and grace that Lily has. This depresses Nina.

Unexpectedly, though, Nina was chosen to become the Swan Queen. As she started her vigorous practices for the role, her psychological incapacity and immaturity also starts to take it all from her – she starts to actually be the Swan Queen in her own way, leading to tragedy after tragedy.

The direction is fearlessly twisted, a total tour-de-force.

In every single moment of the film, you know that it’s guided by a very clear path, but the path itself is adorned by intrepid details filled with surprises and knowledge that he movie was able to breathe life in its own. He shamelessly shows off when needed and holds back when asked to – in short, the direction gets things right. He understands what is happening in every situation of the film, and even if the screenplay loses a bit of its logic, the director pushes the limits, taking risks after risks, and the result is a ravishingly daring work. It rips through the heart of each scene and devastates the audience with the storm of emotions blazing throughout the course of the film. And even in the film’s quieter scenes, the staggering effect of the direction is never left off. It’s almost as if the direction was furious and roaring, but it still has the big amount of confidence and assurance that the project is not lost, cinematically speaking. The result? Simply fantastic.

If the direction pushed the boundaries, the screenplay throws them out of the window. The story is set in a nice way, but each scene constantly drives out the sense of logic in ourselves, more so when the film plunges into the psychosis of the character. This may seem like a frustrating thing for some, but it was quite effective, if not totally outstanding. Truth be told, the screenplay is not necessarily that of high-caliber, and sometimes, there are moments when it goes either too obvious in its intentions, like the “what happened to my sweet girl?” scene between Nina and her mother. The scene conveys transformation, and there it goes – it came a bit too obvious for the screenplay. In this case, I can say that the screenplay is the least impressive part of the film. But who cares? It provides the material which is effortlessly controlled by the direction. It’s like the  film isn’t really a screenplay film anymore. So does this mean that the screenplay is bad? No. The events actually are arranged in a very interesting way, but the dialogue, the words – they’re neat at best.

The cinematography is earth-shatteringly fantastic. There isn’t anything in every frame that I loved. Every shot felt right, every angle felt unchangeable, every move felt well-thought of. The handheld camera style used in this film could have been so exhausting to look at. Instead, what we have is a story that feels told in a very exciting and fresh way, and a lot of that, you can owe to the cinematography. Just as the film is relentless, so is the camerawork that fascinatingly produces the heightened tension in the film. And the dance scenes – the camera simply makes you dance with Natalie Portman in every dance scene she is in. There was a danger that the said technique could be overused, but the product is nothing short but brilliant.

The editing is mindblowing. It glues each shot with the perfect precision of events, helping further establish the dizzying nature of the lead character. There is rhythm in every cut, but there is also an impending build-up of danger that’s continuously lingering in the film. And not to mention the fact that the editing was the one who cohesively made the plot continuously moving in spite of some flaws in the logical essence of the story. With the editing, the film goes up to a higher level of filmmaking unlike any other film this year. The editing reaches the potential power that it can achieve to serve the story the life it has. When it’s low-key, the film manages to create an atmosphere of dread even in the simplest of scenes. When it needs to show off, the film does it with uncanny prowess and technique.

The sound rings true in its fair share of making the story as accessible as possible. The story is intense madness, and the Nina experiences that, and it overwhelms her, leading to her inner turmoil. What else can you add to create the madness other than having ace lensing and startling editing? Throw in the fully effective sound. Every sound that rings off already says something on what might happen to her, but it was never obvious or obtrusive.

The music is amazing. The film utilized pieces of music from the classic ballet Swan Lake, then gave it its own kick of creativity through the amazing Clint Mansell. There is the operatic beauty to crave for, musically speaking, but it never forgets the real usage of the music in this film, and that is for the music to heighten the peril of the situation. When it’s at its most pacified, the music paints the different dimensions of Nina with each note of the music. As the need for the music escalates, the film unleashes the music like a monster, having a personality of its own, owning every second of the film’s most bizarre moments. And the ending is music heaven – the epic feeling, combined with the rapid ascend of music to emotional destruction, is pure genius.

The visual effects and make-up showcases what appears to be a fine line between reality and fantasy. There’s no single scene in the film where either of the two failed – whether it be the nail scenes or the transformation scene – everything looked so real. The costume design may have pushed the good versus evil allegory a bit too much, but they are nonetheless very illustrative. The art direction of the film is in complement with each character, showing their personality and their psychology in their surroundings.

The costume design also add depth in the shading of the character. I’m not really speaking of the ballet costumes, which are undeniably great, but those clothes that they wear when they are at home, when they practice, when they go out – all those tiny details are well-delivered by the costumes. Even the slow-burning metamorphosis of the lead character is played well by the design.

The art direction is also impressive. Maybe, the only flashy parts of the art direction are Nina’s bedroom and the stage itself, but after looking much deeper and after seeing how they actually did it, it is even more impressive because the mysterious aura that the film already has is also anchored in the design. Even the wallpaper used, or the flowers placed, or the mirrors placed almost everywhere, all adds up in the film’s over-all look.

The performances ranges from very good to simply MINDBLOWING.

Mila Kunis is powerfully deceiving as the sexy and graceful rival ballet dancer Lily. Her eyes do a lot of the work, but it’s in her entire body language that convincingly draws the blurry reality of her character.

Barbara Hershey is terrifying as the overprotective mother of Nina. There is a blazing amount of underlined unstableness in her that is unsettling and thrilling to watch. She can be the dearest mother that one can ever have, and in a snap, she can be a child’s worst nightmare. There is this psychological shift that is smooth but also abrupt, and the result is powerful.

Vincent Cassel is sly as the sexually overwhelming company manager Thomas. His lines are somewhat too self-explanatory, but he still delivers them with the ease and confidence that it requires. The delivery with a bit of dictation and spontaneous, but it actually suits the character very well. There are a lot of contrasts in his character, but the most vivid is the doubt that he can bring in the scene but also accompanying it with assurance to the character.

Winona Ryder is also good as the newly retired prima ballerina Beth. There is tremendous danger in her every move, as if she is ready to stab you with a knife. There is the mysterious intensity that validates the reason why everyone is talking about her when she committed self-destruction. However, like the Swan Queen in the film, she also has the fragility of the role. She is not amazing, but boy, did she do justice to the role.

Natalie Portman brings what might be one of cinema’s best performances ever. Her intensely shattering creation of a child-like girl undergoing the tragic metamorphosis for her to own the role that she ever wants is simply fantastic.

Her “White Swan” scenes are played with the ethereal feel to it. It may have looked fake if other actress will do this, but because of the perfect casting for this movie, she simply nails it. There is the touch of immaturity that is ever-present in her. It feels like she has really been pampered that much by her mother. With those few scenes alone, Portman was already able to give a full background on the character by just giving a few hints in it. Also, her frustrated dancing behaviour feels very authentic.

In contrast to that, her “Black Swan” scenes are simply compelling and must be seen to be believed. She does something that is really hard to get – combining the child in the White Swan with full grace and the overflowing devilish sex inside the Black Swan with power and potency without neglecting the White Swan but at the same time, never letting the Black Swan be forgotten. Of course, there are parts where you can tell whether she is the White or she is the Black, but there are really startling moments in the film where the fine line between the two just completely blurs and all you have to do is simply watch. There is the powerful struggle that she undergoes in some scenes, when she embraces the Black Swan in her but her White Swan is still trying to win over her. It’s simply amazing.

Powerful scenes like her nail cutting by herself, being undressed by her mother, being scolded by Thomas after being so weak, saying to Beth her regrets and apologies, dancing for the first time the Black Swan, dancing away from the stage after making a mistake, and the revelation scene are only some of the scenes that are so well-done by Portman that you just get absorbed by it.

In my opinion, if I am going to cast this hell of a role, I would not have considered Portman, at least immediately. I definitely think she is a limited actress, and I even think that she did not deserve her first nomination for Closer, but here is a spellbinding work from a limited actress that was able to get hold of a once-in-a-lifetime role that fits her perfectly.

This film may have its own share of limitations, but who cares? Who damn cares, by the way? If you have this wonderful film composed of virtuoso work of everyone involved, those minor glitches in the film are so easy to forget. It’s powerful movie experience that is simply puzzling, mind-boggling, and simply haunting.

For this, the movie gets:

Agree? Or disagree?

Best Picture Profile: Toy Story 3

Directed by: Lee Unkrich

Written by: John Lasseter (story), Andrew Stanton (story),

Lee Unkrich (story), Michael Arndt (screenplay)

Company: Pixar Animation Studios / Walt Disney Pictures

Runtime: 103 minutes

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The film is the third and final installment of the beloved animation trilogy that started in 1995.

The film tells the story of Woody, Buzz Lightyear, and their group of toys as they face the dilemma of being left alone because Andy, their owner, is already going to college, and even if Andy wants to take them with him, he simply cannot. What he did was he placed the toys, except Woody which he will take with him to college, in a plastic bag to place them in the attic where thy can still be in peace. Misfortune follows and they were mistakenly placed in the garbage.

Woody makes a way to let them escape and go back to the attic, but the other toys refuse to listen to him and chose to be donated and stay in Sunnyside Daycare, a playground for children. Everything looked perfect, with Lotso, a teddy bear, leading the toys there in welcoming them.

Andy runs away from Sunnyside, but was taken by Bonnie, an innocent little girl. He’s taken home and found a very welcoming friend in her. But Chuckles, a sad clown, told Woody the dark truth that Lotso has, often showing violence and bullying to the other toys in Sunnyside. Woody then finds a way to save Buzz, and his other toy friends.

In Sunnyside, they experience the unimaginable – being played by monstrous, reckless, careless, and almost diabolical kids who treat them violently and play with them in such disgusting ways.

Woody goes back to Sunnyside and makes an escape plan for all of them.

What a fantastic way to end this great trilogy!

The direction is fantastic. It has this very special way of putting things together, reaching almost perfection in the execution.  don’t believe that there is a perfect film, but Toy Story 3 has this very suave way of making it appear that it actually is. The story is already fascinating, so what the film only needs is a direction that can handle the greatness of the material. And it sure delivered a very great direction. There are times when the direction is so in charge of the proceedings, and there are times when the story asks for the direction to hold back for a moment and keep a moment of restraint, but either way, the direction was able to make each and every one of the elements in filmmaking shine in their own way in their right timing. The film is special, and that’s because of the direction, if not only reason.

The screenplay is what keeps the film as fresh as it was the first time you watch it in repeated viewings. Most films come to a point of wearing out once you see the film for the 2nd or 3rd time, but the screenplay of the film made the film endearing to watch. Now what made it so fresh just like it was in the first time? Well, the characters are so sturdily built on humanity, humor, and pathos with skillful mixing of the three in every bit of the movie that made the story so easy to watch, so watchable, yet so full of intelligence. And the intelligence lies on the perfect timing of the words the characters throw to each other. The humor is not forced, the drama is not cheesy, and the characters, believable.

The cinematography was very efficient in sustaining the fantastical yet realistic look of the film. There is quite a big amount of richness in color in every frame that never got tiring and exhausting to watch since there is control in it. The whole film is just a big delight to watch. Some scenes have the very realistic feel, like the incinerator scene, that it’s just amazing to watch.

The editing makes the film extremely fast-paced yet unusually relaxed. It effectively brings the action that the film requires but it never neglects the characters involved in the scenes. It’s something outstanding for an animated film and an action film as well because those two types of films have common tendencies – to veer away on the characters and to focus more on showing off to the audience wither by eye-popping visuals or by loud action scenes. The dramatic scenes had the very natural flow, editing wise. It knows when to cut back to an other angle, but the clicks never felt obvious in any way.

The music is dynamically fascinating. It reaches a point when it became a very powerful emotional swayer in the scenes. It knows how to manipulate the scenes to turn them into scenes that really affect us, but every music never became obtrusive to the narrative of the story. It is actually quite smart in putting itself in the middle of the proceedings to almost became incidental music but still keeps the theme in it. Whether it be the prison escape or the incinerator scene or the farewell, everything is so worked out, and there is the music, subtly inching in the emotions needed in each scene.

The voice acting is very good.

As Woody, Tom Hanks proved here that you can breathe in another character just by hearing the voice. When you listen to his voice, he channels a much more mature and affected Woody that faces some personal crisis, but optimism clearly leads him. Woody has a very determined mindset, and you can clearly feel that with his voice.

Tim Allen also does good as Buzz Lightyear. The seriousness that Buzz has never sounded corny. Never, not even a line. The seriousness Buzz had is fun, but also effectively dramatic. There is a bit of calculation in the voice, but well, it comes as very effective and fit for his role for he is a robot!

Ned Beatty is endearingly terrifying as Lotso. The deceiving element of the character is very convincing because in reality, who would not love the kind Lotso? The voice resonates gentle authority, and Beatty has that in his voice. His voice when he already shows his demonic side is still the same, and that’s what I like about the voice – he character is still maintained. The voice is still the same, and that, for me, is an accomplishment for voice acting because some voice actors does not find grace in the way hey shift their tone in the voice.

The rest of the actors gave the utmost justice on their characters. That means to say, they were able to give the characters the life that they should have for us to care for them. And I also think that no one could replace any of the voices in their roles because they made it feel that they own the characters, and no other voice could match their roles.

So what do we have in the end?

What we have is a film that plucks the heartstrings of the viewers to subtly bring them to the emotions and to confront the characters in this film with ultimate honesty. I have watched the first film, but after fifteen years, I did not believe at first that a sequel like this will actually worked. And it did. It was so touching, so amazing, so overwhelming, and yet, so humane. I love this film.

For this, the film gets:

What are your thoughts? Disagree or not?

Best Picture Profile: Winter’s Bone

Directed by: Debra Granik

Written by: Debra Granik and Ann Rosellini

Company: Winter’s Bone Productions / Roadside Attractions /

Anonymous Content

Runtime: 100 minutes

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The film is about Ree Dolly, a 16-year-old girl who is living with the tough realities of life in the Ozark mountains. She plans on getting into the military to get the benefits for her family. As his father is not around for most of the time and her mother is psychologically incapacitated, she takes over the responsibilities of both by raising her other siblings by sending them to school, providing their food, and teaching them small bits of knowledge.

The police arrives in their house, informing them that their father is missing. He needs to show up in court about some trouble he got in. If he won’t appear, the family will be evicted from their place. Determined yet fearing for her family, Ree courageously takes the task of looking for her father.

As she traces the location of her father, she gets involved in the syndicated underworld in the mountains.

The screenplay provides a sturdy foundation for the story. The dialogues felt natural and humane, and the events are plausible. Though the much more obvious aspects of the screenplay aren’t that showy, it’s the unfolding of events which I root for in this movie. The screenplay does not have the high intelligence that, for example, The Social Network has, but it makes it up for the story itself. There is unpredictability in how the events go after each event, and I thought that was brilliant.

But the effectiveness of the dialogue is not to be discounted. It all felt like taken from real life. Sure, this kind of screenplay has minimalistic style in it compared to other movies, but from the small talks of the characters, the screenplay was able to build up the character and emotional arc the film needed for us to believe what is happening.

The direction has a much more noticeable work, but is also subtle. When the screenplay isn’t giving much, the direction comes in with a smooth yet tense grip on the story. Each movement of the story is backed upon by sophisticated yet raw lensing and restrained editing to pile up tension after tension without becoming unbearable in any way. There are some parts in the film where you know the direction is holding back a bit, letting the actors get the real attention, yet, it feels that it should have to. It never felt wrong in handling the story.

Sometimes, it goes a bit too natural that you may think, and some others may think, that the direction in those particular scenes are less functioning, but those moments are the ones that captures the essence of rural poverty in the film’s setting. Things are of acerbic nature, but the heart of the film is still Ree, and having a woman as a director, I am sure Debra Granik deeply understood the struggles of Ree in this film that she also confines her with danger, and at the same time, frees her in independence.

The film is engrossing, and it’s largely due to the gripping and balanced blend of spontaneity and precision. The film felt like it was improvised, yet know everything was well-thought of. Now, how amazing is that.

The cinematography is bleak yet still understated. It’s not a showy effort from the cinematographer, but it was efficient in giving the film he atmosphere and mood that it needed to set the movie from the rest of other movies. There is always the hues of blue in it which gives a more cold feeling to the film. It may not have added anything to the story, but it did more than that – it told the story visually. It’s not the usual goal of cinematography, but because the screenplay is somewhat of secondary importance here, the cinematography aided the story for it to be told even with the lack of words.

The editing wisely uses the whole length of the film to compact everything it has to say and it has to show in that span of time without ever feeling like things are rushed. It also gave a moderated pace for the film that actually helped drive the story just the way it should have been – not too fast, but definitely not going to drag.

The music is, like the screenplay, also minimalist in nature. It never has a big moment in the movie, nor it was utterly explosive, but it creates an unsettling melody that resounds quite well in the film. Aside from the musical score that is so “in the setting”, if you know what I mean, the film also has the country hymns that give an ironically warm comparison with the film’s over-all mood.

The production design is simple yet it fleshes out a lot in the character’s  conditions. Ree’s house is filled with stuff that feels like taken from another person’s stuff with the very same living condition. And the other locations as well – Teardrop’s house, the basement where Ree was beaten, and others.

The acting is uniformly excellent.

Jennifer Lawrence brings in a gutsy and intense yet sublimely relaxed performance in the lead role. She carefully forms her character in every scene with the grace that a young lady like her has and the sense of rigidness to convey the realities of her character. The performance felt so natural, like it was almost no-acting at all, on the good side, of course.

She keeps it all on a constant low that’s not too low to become lazy acting, but also not too high to make it look like a forced “natural” acting. And I actually see this performance as a perfect marriage of calculation and rawness, if there is any at all. She made things look so easy but when you try to assess it, you know only a talented actress like her can do it.

John Hawkes is gentle yet highly terrifying as Teardrop, Ree’s uncle. The first part of his performance is as intense as you can get. I’m literally breathless with his first scene. He’s like a mouse trap – one wrong move and he’ll get you. And the threat that he gave on Ree reached the height of maximum tension. I don’t know where did he get that power in acting, but I’m sure it’s his talent and skills as an actor that made him able to deliver such strong introduction to his character.

His next scenes where he became more open to Ree gave me the likable factor, but he steadily maintains the fatality that his instincts as Teardrop has. And don’t you ever challenge him – his scene in the car with the police is one helluva scene that in itself warrants him a nomination. He knows that he is in control of the proceedings no matter what the police does, but he’s like a lion – he would not hesitate to attack you if you come any closer. It’s such a strong scene that Hawkes was able to handle with mastery.

Dale Dickey is fantastic as Merab, one of the women involved in the underworld. When she enters the screen, she may give that welcoming exterior to Ree, but beneath her skin is a sharp, alert, and diabolical person. She won’t let you say words at her if she does not like it. That’s how Merab is – she rules over things. Yet, you can sense that tiny feeling of humanity in her that made us all believe that she actually means her help in the climax of the film. It’s a brief performance, but the impression that she leaves is utterly amazing.

Let me just tell you this short history of my relationship with this film before I give my grade – 1st viewing, I thought the film was lazy, not worthy of any recognition, Lawrence was impotent, 2nd viewing – one of the best independent films of the year, Lawrence was fantastic, 3rd viewing – one of the best films of the year, Lawrence is remarkable.

For this, the movie gets:

5

What are your thoughts? Do you agree or not?

Best Picture Profile: True Grit

Directed by: Joel Coen and Ethan Coen

Written by: Joel Coen and Ethan Coen

Company: Paramount Pictures

Runtime: 110 minutes

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The film is about Mattie Ross, a strong-willed lass who looks for a man with true grit to avenge his father’s death by sending the said man to get Tom Chaney, a hired criminal, to her. On her search for the man with true grit, she finds Rooster Cogburn, a respected and feared yet frequently drunk sheriff. At first, Cogburn is in denial with the prospect job, but as she offered money, he went with the plan. Much to his surprise, Mattie herself joins her. So, with Texas ranger LaBeouf with them, the three go on a journey to get Tom Chaney, dead or alive.

Why such a short synopsis? Because the majority of the film’s running time could only be called with that one word – journey.

Anyway, going back.

The direction is filled with a resounding spirit. This is an action film, but it settles its foundation on a very sturdy ground filled with the feeling of soulfulness. Of course, the direction never neglects the techniques employed in each scene in the film, and it’s even quite impressive, but it also give the material the right amount of space for it to breathe in its own life. It serves the movie with a firm but gentle hold throughout the film. Every move feels both thrilling and visceral. You can feel the confidence in the control of the movie.

And who can forget the warm but threatening atmosphere the film has throughout its whole length? There is the ever-present tactility in the whole process without getting too soft for it to even fit the bill of being an action film. How does it work? The film slowly peels each layer of its material with clarity and grace that it comes to a point where you can’t think of anything that can describe the film but one word – glorious.

Every shot, every piece of music, every cut felt harmonious, for the film’s benefit. It’s quite stunning to see the material like this get some intensely great treatment. I’m in no way going to play the comparison game, but this version is simply much, much better than the 1969’s awful as hell version.

The screenplay was filled with unexpected emotional texture. I expected this to be an action, and indeed, it was an action film. A very effective one, actually. But never did I expect find such heart in this kind of movie. The screenplay was focused on Mattie, and the screenplay was able to fully realize her character. She’s not simply a symbol of strong juvenile femininity. The screenplay a character that we care about. Her struggles, her dreams, her ambitions, her life – everything, the screenplay plotted with such ease.

What about the others? Well, we’ve got extremely fascinating characters that may not have been as three-dimensional as Mattie, but all added served in filling the world of the Wild West with humanity. But that does mean that the rest of the characters are simply enigmas? Maybe, but enigmas fleshed out to create believability.

And talk about the plot. And the humor. And the emotions. And the lines. There goes a great screenplay.

The cinematography is compelling. Every shot feels so well-thought. Every shot feels like it was poetry illustrated. Every shot feels strategically placed yet also with a bit of candidness. Every shot feels warmly vibrant yet inexplicably haunting. Every shot is filled with vivid clarity but, in the same time, clinging mystery. Every shot is delightfully rich yet hauntingly bleak. Every shot feels  beautifully classic yet intelligently modern. Every shot feels mildly calm yet intensely ravishing. To keep it simple, the cinematography is beautiful.

The editing gives the film a very well-decided pace. It never rushes things but it also never drags the film down. The dialogue scenes are composed with simple cuts with no much fanciness in these scenes, but the timing of each cut give the film a feeling of underlined rush from Mattie’s perspective. In contrast to that are the dialogue scenes with Rooster Cogburn at the start of the film. There is Mattie in the scenes which give the feeling of urgency, but it’s Rooster’s dominance that rules over the scenes with the effective use of editing in the film.

Then we have the intelligently handled action scenes. It never overdoes the tricks to make it thrilling. Even if the scenes are filled with violence, the film is still being experienced through Mattie’s view. So, the action scenes in the film still felt seen in a tough woman’s perspective without even going too soft. I’m not saying that these scenes are lame, never. I think that they are oozing with masculine roughness and violence. But at the same time, it never gets out of Mattie’s senses. And, for me, I saw that through the deft editing the film has.

Believe it or not, we have a clearer sense of hearing when we watch films of The Coen Brothers. They always contain unabashed clarity and modulation. And this film is no exception. Even in less showier efforts, you can hear the specificity in the sound. Much more in this showier movie, sound-wise. But even in the less showier parts of the film, the sound already provides the corresponding environment needed for the viewers to be absorbed in the already-gone milieu of the Wild West. The dialogue, of course, takes the audible spotlight in the film, but even the faintest sound from the background, the smallest voice from afar, all is clear, and all provide an aural palette for the film’s world. Great work, if you ask me.

The musical score surprisingly added a lot of heart in the film. It was not a so-so action music. It moves with grace, each note slowly raising the emotional range of the story, and the emotional attachment of the characters to us. Every piece feels well-chosen. That piano arrangement that sometimes get played with the strings perfectly captures the essence of the story. There is toughness in the visual part, but the music still holds Mattie’s eyes for the story, and you can all feel that in the music.

The production design is simply impressive. Down from the most obvious sets to the most unnoticeable part of the office, every single piece of material in it builds up to a complete world. The costume design is also on the same level of excellence, displaying the characters’ psychology by the clothes that they wear without becoming overly literal. The make-up is also effective in adding small touches that significantly adds a lot to the actors’ performances.

The acting is note-worthy.

Jeff Bridges is simply a lot better than John Wayne. I promised no comparison game, but I’m simply doing it right now. Jeff Bridges was able to capture the heart and humanity of Rooster Cogburn that John Wayne did not even try to have a grasp on. Instead of drowning Cogburn in suffocating masculinity, Bridges adds heart to the role. Yes, he’s tough, but he has a heart. And he cares for Mattie. And I felt that. And I even liked him. And that’s the point of Cogburn – a bit distant, but ultimately likable. Bridges gets that part of Cogburn.

Of course, the performance has a setback that keeps me from fully loving it: the accent at the start of the film. His accent is almost consistent throughout the film, another thing that I like in his performance – technically consistent. However, it was too deep or too garbled at the start. Seriously, I needed subtitles for that. Anyway, after some scenes, he recovered immediately. There are few scenes in the course of the film where I still needed subtitles for his dialogue, but what matters more is that I was already able to appreciate Rooster Cogburn the character. And it’s largely due to Bridges.

Hailee Steinfeld is Mattie Ross. There’s no other way to put that in words. She totally inhibits the character with a feeling of rush and ease at the same time. Right from the start of the film, she already sets the character with sharp with and edge in her negotiations with the store owner. In that specific scene with the sore owner, we see how determined she is. She won’t become stupid in front of this man. And surprisingly, it does not look fake. Her speedy delivery, with easy conviction, is what Mattie is when she knows she is dealing with tough people.

But at another scene, where she talks to the owner of the funeral parlor, you can feel that she is sad by that, but always keep the steel determination. You can see the small signs of her grief, but she easily gets it all back in because she knows she needs to be tough for her to survive. And she will do anything for her family to survive because she knows she is in charge, and she is the only one who has the capacity to be in charge.

And that’s what I like about Steinfeld – she knows things. And it’s met with relaxed passion. I don’t want to get into that comparison game, but I’d say this – Steinfeld got Mattie Ross, Kim Darby didn’t. Darby’s version was filled with phony urgency, resulting into a display of stupidity, ridicule, and aimlessness. No offense to the 1969 version, but it just did not get anything right.

Let’s go back to Steinfeld. As Rooster Cogburn enters the scene, she wisely decided to step back a bit for him to take over, but she keeps the courage up front, giving us a very believable if slightly unlikely duo. She gets more affected by the violence that she experiences and sees, and in some moments of the film, it actually quite showed, but as Steinfeld keeps the character throughout the film, she effortlessly puts the strength right in front of her character.

As the film ended, I thought of nothing but Steinfeld. She practically breathed in her character the life that we need to see in a character like her.

Matt Damon is solid as LaBeouf. There is the obvious manly behavior in him, but what’s inside him is a thing to see. He has a thing on Mattie that is amusing to watch, but even if his LaBeouf is not the meatiest supporting role to exist on paper, he still adds a lot in making the characters’ journey a compelling one.

Much more contained in a minute role is Josh Brolin as Tom Chaney. What he has is a symbol of evil, and he does that quite well though I admit that I wanted more. But as I saw how in character he is, I can’t complain anymore. Barry Pepper, also in a small role, fared better. His role is quite thin, and appeared for no more than five minutes, more or less, but he was able to give a daring performance. His anger felt authentic.

This film surprised me the second time around. When I started this year after watching it for the first time, I thought it was technically exhilarating,  but it left me indifferent. After that, I was simply won over by this film.

For this, the movie gets:

5

What are your thoughts? Do you agree or not?