Saturday, January 29, 2011

"The King's Speech"

Okay, so moving on from Portman... The Oscar nominees of last year were announced earlier in the week. So there we go with that. Now we know who is who in the Academy Awards, and we'll see what happens.

But I'm not ready to provide an opinion on the Oscar nominees just yet. I still have a very important film for the Oscars to take care of with twelve nominations.

Let's get going with today's movie then, shall we?

The King's Speech

Prince Albert, Duke of York (Colin Firth) has a very serious speech impediment: he stammers in his speech, particularly when in public. It makes public speaking a nightmare for him, and everyone in his family knows it. Thus, his wife Elizabeth (Helena Bonham-Carter) takes it upon herself to hire Lionel Logue (Geoffery Rush) to help Albert deal with his speech impediment.

And things kind of take off from there.

I'll start with the obvious: this is very much an actor's movie. A lot of the movie hinges on the actors being able to endear their very real characters to us, and in this they all do marvellous jobs. Colin Firth is unmistakeable as King George VI, and we can see how much anguish his condition causes him as it is always present in everything he does. Helena Bonham-Carter, while not having as much screentime as I would like, comes in as the ever-merciful wife who wants the best for her husband because she genuinely does care about his happiness. In the acting, though, I felt Geoffery Rush stole the show with Lionel Logue, a guy who is both simultaneously perceptive and hilarious at the same time. He portrayed Logue with perfect grace and a certain amount of levity, and it was incredible to watch, and every time Rush appeared my concentration was on him.

So the actors carry a large portion of the movie on their shoulders. Unfortunately... it wasn't completely enough. Sure, there were some inspiring moments to be found in this movie, but I mostly just felt middling about the whole affair. It had the potential to be so much more, but something about the directorial style felt a little detached from the action. Thus, some scenes had slightly less emotional impact than they really should have had. This dragged the film a little bit.

Fortunately, the strength of its acting helps The King's Speech become somewhat memorable. I for one don't exactly think it's Oscar material, but the strength of the performances from everyone involved still give it some oomph. And Colin Firth's nod is completely deserved.


It has a few flaws, but it's still worth checking out.

This is Herr Wozzeck Reviews. I'll see you guys next time.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

"No Strings Attached"

Okay, I'll make one thing perfectly clear: I'm not a fan of rom-coms. In fact, if there's a rom-com in town, I do my best to avoid it. I don't like rom-coms that much, because I just don't find them interesting.

And yet, I can't help but take a look at this movie. I mean, come on, it's got Natalie Portman in it! It's not like her next project would be as great and awesome as Black Swan was, but still, she'll be one of the bright points of the movie, right?

Of course. Let's go into today's movie...

No Strings Attached

Emma (Natalie Portman) is acquaintances with Adam (Ashton Kutcher). After a whole series of personal incidents for Adam, the two of them decide to become friends with benefits. After they decide on this, however, things begin to get complicated between the two of them, and they begin to realize that hey, they may be in love with each other!

So yeah, I think we all know how this goes, and why I might not be interested. It's a rom-com: standard rom-com formula dictates that Emma and Adam have to be together by the time the movie ends. So any real tension the movie has sort of evaporates when we have to deal with the predictable plot. It doesn't help that the movie drags at a particular spot once we hit the third act. The pacing gets painfully slow once we hit that third act, where the mandatory apart time occurs. Yeah, yeah, formula...

Fortunately for us, though, there's enough good about this movie that it avoids becoming dull and repetitive. For one, the jokes, while oftentimes rather dirty and in mildly poor taste, all work reasonably well. Some were even hilarious, and there were fortunately enough of them that we could get interested. And yes, they all worked when they were in bad taste.

As well, Portman and Kutcher keep things light in the air throughout. There is definite chemistry between the two even if Kutcher is a little bland in some spots, but when they're both on screen they tend to sizzle rather brightly. So the two leads keep things interesting as well, and by the time we reach the noticeable slump, we actually do care a little bit.

Say what you will about the rom-com formula and this movie, but No Strings Attached manages to be funny and feature some great bits between Portman and Kutcher. Is it perfect? No. But it's not a bad rom-com either.

And that's saying something, right?


If you want to go see it, go see it. If you don't want to go see it, don't.

This is Herr Wozzeck Reviews. I'll see you guys next time.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Herr Wozzeck Muses: On Double Features

Hey, I've got nothing else to talk about, so why not, right?

There's something very... interesting about double features, I think. They're a good way to catch up with the movie scene when I get back from breaks--provided I can actually catch any mid-break, which tends to happen very rarely. Also, it helps in various other ways, as it gives me fodder for linking movies that I couldn't link otherwise.

But... there's an interesting sort of dilemma that pops up. Well... dilemmas, really. There is a lot more work to double features than you'd think, trust me.

As you know, double features tend to cost a little more than reviewing one movie, so then there's the question of: how do I get around that? Well, for the last double feature, I actually spent a free movie pass coupon for True Grit (because I could) and saw Green Hornet in a matinee show (which is still kind of expensive) and in 2D (which is nice, because they actually had showings in 2D of a 3D movie for the first time since I saw How to Train Your Dragon.) Usually, I don't get this kind of luxury, but it's still very refreshing to be able to have both things at once. But normally, I don't do double features because of financial woes.

And then there's a second problem with double-features: timing. Which one do I watch first? How long is each movie? And how much time should I allot between each movie? This question plays into things a lot more than you would think they do, actually; again, in my last double feature, I kind of gaffed with that: I put the two movies far too close together. As a result, my Green Hornet review currently stands as the fastest-written review in the history of HWR. Most other times, I got to take a little bit of time with my reviews, but I have to be careful to keep them apart long enough to write a review when doing a double feature.

And then, there's the problem of how do I order movies. This one is, fortunately, made a little easier by critics consensus on Rotten Tomatoes. Yes, I check that site all the time, but mostly as a matter of course: even if it gets a bad tomatometer I'll still see a movie, because hey, I might actually like it. I only use it to tweak my expectations for a movie. But it helps for double features so I can get a sense of which movie to watch first; if I catch a bad/decent movie first, I can always wash it down with a good movie later. Sometimes, it works a little better than I anticipate (such as when I double featured The Book of Eli and Daybreakers). Fortunately, I've had yet to find a double feature ordering where I wash a good movie down with a bad one, so I think I'm doing something right by that. Of course, when trying to schedule stuff it can be a bit of a pain, but truthfully, it's not that big a deal.

And lastly, there's the thematic connection. Sometimes, I try to find some link between the movies I'm double featuring. Sometimes, that link is a little less obvious than it should be (like when I double-featured Precious and New Moon way back when on the notion that they were both about women who were suffering-- even if Bella Swan is an unlikeably pretentious bitch who needlessly amplifies said suffering), but other times, it's pretty obvious. And sometimes, as like what happened last time, I had to make a link up on the spot. That's happened too, but not as often as I would have hoped.

Overall, there's a lot more work that can be put into a double feature that I'm not mentioning here. But I can tell you that I don't do them often because it requires quite a bit of planning to do so. And given that I don't always have time to organize this kind of thing, usually I end up having to go with single features.

Will I try to do more double features in the near future? Sure, why not? Can I? That will greatly depend on a lot of things, I think.

This is Herr Wozzeck Muses. I'll see you guys next time.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

"True Grit"

Hey guys, and welcome back to Part 2 of our Double Feature. Today, we get to play catch-up with the end of last year, when we saw a Western get released to the market. I mean, it's not like westerns...


What do you mean, it passed 100 million dollars while I was away?


Oh, awesome! It's still in theaters then!

*one viewing later*

Okay, I managed to get caught up on a movie I missed when the Holiday season started. So without further ado, here's part two of today's double feature...

True Grit

Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) is hunting down Tom Cheney (Josh Brolin), the man who shot and killed her father over a horse and two gold pieces. To do this, she enlists the help of washed up marshall Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges), and the two of them go to find Tom to bring him to justice with the occasional help of Texas ranger La Boeuf (Matt Damon).

And... that's about it. There's this rather simple plot for us to go around, and there is something that could make it fall apart. And with how much it concentrates on its two main characters talking about random things, it could have fallen apart.

Fortunately, the characters in question are some of the most incredibly engaging characters I've seen in movies. Each character has such an incredible personality that what could have been boring becomes easily as enjoyable as the shootout scenes that are featured throughout. The multiple conversations the characters have are never boring, and as a result once we get the more intense scenes later on, we hope that Cogburn and Ross will be able to overcome whatever it is that's hit them.

And in this movie, you have to cast just the right people to make it interesting. And again, the casting choices are absolutely brilliant. Jeff Bridges is virtually inseperable from Rooster Cogburn. Forget what I said about his incredible performance in Crazy Heart last year: this is the role Bridges was born to play. Damon also lets a personality shine through in La Boeuf, and Brolin is incredibly capable of making himself the slimiest man in the west. But the one who deserves most praise out of the cast is Hailee Steinfeld, who always steals the show whenever she so much as opens her mouth. Mattie Ross is a character who has to exude an incredible amount of confidence and authority, has to act super intelligent for her age, and match up to the adults-- all this, from a 14 year old girl. Many child actresses probably would have been unsuccessful at this, but not Hailee Steinfeld. She is able to exude an air of confidence and authority that never falters under any circumstances (not even when someone's pointing a gun at her), and she steals our attention whenever she's on screen.

So with excellent casting and engaging characters, True Grit is an incredible movie on its own. Yes, I'm aware of the fact that it's a remake of the John Wayne movie, but on its own the Coen Brothers' vision is incredible thanks to characters that we actually come to care about.


A must-see picture of the year.

This is Herr Wozzeck Reviews. I'll see you guys next time.

"The Green Hornet"

Hey, guys, it’s Herr Wozzeck, ready to kick off a new year of film reviews! I think we all know what to expect now that I’m back…

So I’ll open with a double feature!

Mass Gunplay

What? It’s as close a link as I can get between these two movies! If they were more thematically related, trust me, you’d be in much better hands with titles. But, I work with what I have to, so there you go.

This time… we start the year with a masked vigilante movie. I think you know what to expect from that, right? Fun times, action… comedy…

…a Tony Stark rip-off?

Sure, why not? Let’s go to today’s movie…

The Green Hornet

Britt Ried (Seth Rogen) is the heir of a media empire in Los Angeles. When his father dies, however, things change completely. He meets Kato (Jay Chou), who was employed with his father, and then finds out that Kaito has these amazing skills. After an attempt at vandalizing his father’s memorial ends with him and Kaito stopping crime, Britt gets the idea of masquerading around as a good guy who poses as a bad guy to stop crime.

And thus, the Green Hornet is born.

Okay, right off the bat, I can tell you that here we have a movie that hardly takes itself seriously. Seth Rogen is clearly having a joy ride with the Hornet. Everyone else… doesn’t seem to be exactly on the same page, but they’re at least partly aware of the tongue in cheek nature. It does get unnecessarily dark at a couple of points, but otherwise, it does have a very fun time with itself. The zingers work, the actors work well with them, and the situations lead to quite a lot of great comedy. As well, the action scenes are highly entertaining with a lot of great stylization. It also helps that we can very clearly see many of the things that are going on, and we can get a nice sense of excitement from the action scenes.

So it does many things right. So what happened?

The pacing of the plot was off. Slightly.

Well, okay, maybe not slightly, but it’s still a bit uneven. The problem is the movie stalls through a huge part of its running time trying to throw in some tension between Britt and Kaito that derails the rest of the production. It spends time on them not getting along instead of letting bigger and better action scenes happening. And when the climax of the film comes, it’s all exciting… and then it just ends. The ending was severely rushed. We got the best action literally right before the film ends, and when it does end, it’s one of those things that makes you ask “huh” when it’s all said and done.

This sort of offsets the joyride that this movie could’ve been, which is a shame as this problem also finds roots at the beginning. The beginning of the movie suffers the same problem that the end does in that many, many things are rushed, and we don’t quite get a good enough picture of the character. It’s frenetically paced, but when it slows way down later in the movie it becomes even more noticeable than it should be.

But while it does suffer from quite a few pacing problems, The Green Hornet does quite a few things right. Its zingers are funny, its action scenes work, and while there’s a slight sense of disconnect between the actors due to not being all on the exact same part of the page as each other, it’s still fairly enjoyable to watch.


If you want to go see it, go see it. If you don’t want to go see it, don’t.

This is Herr Wozzeck Reviews. I’ll see you guys in a few hours with part two of the double feature when I turn back the clock quite a bit and present True Grit.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

End of 2010 Bonanza: Top 10 Favorite Movies of the Year

Hey all, and welcome back to Herr Wozzeck Reviews.

And this time, we still have one last thing to do before we send 2010 away and move on to 2011 in cinema. Yes, I've procrastinated on this list greatly, but now you finally get it...

This is... *drum roll*...

A list of my favorite films of the year!

Top 10 Favorite Movies of the Year

10. Splice

Starting us off on this list is the criminally underrated Splice. While it did suffer from a slightly confusing ending stemming from an abrupt tone shift, Splice is uncommon in that it's a sci-fi horror film with intelligence. It builds more on the dread of the situation and actually challenges the viewer to ask questions about the ethics of science by placing the problems with the insecurities of its characters, not on the science itself. It's intelligent horror at its best, and it's why I consider this movie the best horror film of the year.

9. Shutter Island

In terms of best suspense film, however, we have Martin Scorcese to thank for this. Can we tell the plot twist coming from a mile away? Possibly. But the great thing about Shutter Island is that Scorcese is still able to create an intensely suspenseful atmosphere that never lets go from the opening shot to the seconds right before the final twist. It's visceral in its suspense, and the fact that it successfully keeps hold of the audience in a vice-like grip makes it one of the year's best.

8. How To Train Your Dragon

Yes, Dreamworks, we know your studio's churning out a lot of movies this year. Of all of them, however, this one is definitely your best. The lack of any visible pop culture references in this movie's humor helps you out a lot, but I think it's the amount of subtlety given to everything in the production that ultimately works to the benefit of the entire movie. Yeah, we've seen most of the stuff we've seen here before, but the amount of subtlety put into the characters means it comes off as fresh. And that is why How To Train Your Dragon is the best picture Dreamworks has produced thus far, bar none.

7. Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World

Ah, good ol' Scott Pilgrim. You've got some of the best action sequences of the year, you've got the coolest style of the year... but you've also got quite a bit of heart. Yes, the lead character is unlikeable and whiny, but really, that's part of the point when he realizes he has to get his act together. And so, it's his quest to come to terms with himself that makes the entire enterprise mean something. It helps that it has an incredible sense of humor, too.

6. Toy Story 3

And Pixar gets another movie in the top ten list of movies I liked most this year. And for good reason: this movie is one of the few that made me cry at the end. I think that's a credit to the film when it can stand on its own merits and doesn't require the nostalgia glasses to be enjoyed. It was a rather dark installment, but it worked to the film's advantage as it intensified the already quite powerful emotional roller coaster ride that is this movie. So with an intensely effective emotional ride, this movie succeeded in being a great close for the Toy Story franchise.

5. The American

And... we jump right to the other end of the spectrum, where there are no emotions attached at all. But that's part of the point of this movie when you get down to it. Very little happens in it, but it does an excellent job of building George Clooney's character almost entirely from what isn't said or done by him or anybody around him. It's this characterstudy that keeps the movie engaging on almost every level, and when the suspense builds, it makes this one of the best movies of the year.

4. Winter's Bone

Again, a performance from a rising star helps this movie out, as does the atmosphere that the character is placed in. Winter's Bone is on this list because it does an exceptional job of building a living, breathing world that, while ugly, has its bright spots. It has enough grit for us to sympathize with Lawrence's amazing performance as Ree Dolly, but it has enough heart to remind us that there is a valid reason for her to hang on to the hope that she can find her father. And this incredible world-building helps create a fine movie, and one of this year's best.

3. The Social Network

I don't know what it is about the founding of Facebook that made good movie materials. But David Fincher showed that you can make a good movie out of something like this... no, not good movie. Great movie. This movie had exactly one overwhelming problem: it felt too short. The performances from everyone on the cast are exceptionally spellbinding, the direction is great, and Aaron Sorkin's screenplay is perhaps the best screenplay I've seen in years. All of these factors make The Social Network one of the best movies of the year, and it might come to define a generation in future years.

2. Black Swan

Natalie Portman makes this movie about a girl going insane incredible to watch. The amount of effort she puts into it is absolutely astounding, and she perfectly embodies the girl being torn apart by her own stresses and stuff. But what helps her out is everything around her. She's supported by an outstanding cast and impeccable direction from Darren Aronofsky. And symbolically, the duality of the story works well with the version of Swan Lake Cassel's character decides to tell, and it adds to a deeper symbolic level of the movie.

1. Inception

And at the top of my list, is the film that is the single hardest one to describe of the entire year. I've seen this movie four times as of this writing, and every time I watch it I notice something new. Chris Nolan made a very complex movie, but the true complexity doesn't make itself apparent until later viewings. And really, I can find nothing bad to say about this movie. It's got incredible performances, its action sequences are incredible, and the ideas that are executed throughout are nothing short of breathtaking. And this is why this movie is the best movie of the year.


And this is my list of my favorite movies of the year.

Well, that concludes everything on 2010 I have to talk about. It's been quite a year, and this year is shaping up to be something.

This is Herr Wozzeck Reviews, signing off on 2010. I'll see you guys next time!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

End of 2010 Bonanza: Top 5 Best and Worst Endings

Okay, all, and welcome back to our review of the past year.

I think we can all agree that the ending of a film can sometimes make or break it. And fortunately for us, 2010 had a nice array of endings for us to pick apart. So here are my top five best and worst endings, in order of worst endings and then best endings.

But, endings? Wait... does that mean...

Spoiler alert!

Yes, yes it does.

So let's get started.

Worst Endings

5. The Warrior's Way

This movie has cowboys, clowns, ninjas... and an ending that's slightly on the overly abrupt side. I like to think it was because things were a little rushed, but it is a little more egregious here as it gives us a rather rushed ending. Still, it's not too low on this list, because at the end of the day it still wasn't that bad an ending.

4. Daybreakers

This movie had a similar problem to The Warrior's Way: it had one of the most rushed endings of the year. We were on a roll with it too; but then, half the cast got killed off in ten minutes, only leaving the three good guys there and being cured and whatnot. Seriously, the end made me a little confused by how short it is. Not a fault for the rest of the movie, but I think it was a bad enough ending to be considered one of the worst endings of the year.

3. The Town

Yes, I'm listing what's otherwise a good movie as havig a bad ending. It's not even that it's a terrible ending; it's just that it feels like the ending of an entirely different movie. It was a good action climax, don't get me wrong, but I got the feeling it belonged to an entirely different film from the one that it was eventually put in. So for feeling out of place, this one goes here.

2. Skyline

Amongst everything else this movie did wrong? The movie ended with an incredibly abrupt tone shift. It also went on for about five minutes too long; it should have ended with the establishing shots of all the world's cities being empty husks of what they once were. Oh, and it also told us too much, thus ruining any kind of intimidating factor the villains could have had.

1. The Book of Eli

God, I hated, hated, hated this ending. The plot twist invalidated a rather large chunk of the movie by virtue that it rendered it all pointless, it required far too much suspension of disbelief, and it made one of the story elements so blatantly obtuse it came across as silly. I hated this ending, and it ruined the entire rest of the movie for me, which was pretty good up until then. I think this will be an example of how not to do a twist ending for future films, and I really hope I never have to mention this movie again.

Best Endings

5. Saw 3D

Why is it that the Saw franchise always has such effective endings? I can't figure out if it's because of the tight editing or because of the way the things everybody says early in the film come back during the reveals that always happen during the franchise's endings. This installment was no different, but this time it also brings us full circle to the ending of the first Saw in many interesting ways. I could have asked for a better installment overall, but in terms of the last few minutes the franchise couldn't go wrong.

4. The American

So, our hero has just gone through so much, he's done enough killing to last a lifetime... and then he drives off to meet up with his girlfriend while suffering a gunshot wound. And when he gets there? It's implied that he's dead from the way the camera pans up at the trees above. It's a very effective ending, and it brings together all the plot threads that have been working their way through the film.

3. Inception

C'mon top, fall! Fall!

*cut to black*

Oh, come on, Chris! All kidding aside, though, this ending adds a layer of ambiguity that really questions how much of what just happened was actually real. It opens the entire movie up to interpretation in the space of a single second, and it's very effective as a result.

2. Shutter Island

Yes, this counts as one of the best endings of the year. Why? Well... what of the really well-executed twist? Things get more convoluted... and then bam, the movie reveals everything. And at the very end, it's tastefully left ambiguous whether Leonardo diCaprio's character actually regressed back into whatever state he was in or not. All this makes for quite a roller coaster ride of an ending.

1. Toy Story 3

So Toy Story 3 goes about its business like any ordinary TS movie; Andy loses the toys, the toys fight to get back, they get back...

...and then we got one of the most touching sequences in the entire TS franchise (and in any Pixar film I've ever seen, period). Andy takes his toys to a girl's house, and then gives them to her one by one. It's the first glimpse the viewers ever get into how the toy owner viewed his toys, and it's ultimately one of the most moving statements in the entire franchise. And when he and the girl start playing with the toys?

Let the tears begin flowing.


And those are my top 5 best and worst endings of the year. The worst ones were idiotic/had tone clashes, and the best ones... Well, they either ambiguated things or were viscerally challenging (and in one case, heartbreaking).

Speaking of endings... I just realized I'm going to be going back up to Boston soon. Which means that soon, I'm going to have to end the 2010 lists. Fortunately, I'll be back on a weekend, so we'll be back with a Double Feature!

This is Herr Wozzeck Reviews, and I'll see you guys next time with my top ten favorite movies of the year.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The End of 2010 Bonanza: Top 5 Favorite Female Performances

Hey, guys, and welcome back to our retrospective of 2010 in film.

Last time, we looked at the guys. And it was a pretty... dry year for them, I think. It's a little odd like that, I think. But this year was really good to our actresses, as evidenced by the sheer amount of films in them that had great roles for actresses. So today, I think we'll honor this year, with my top five favorite female performances.

5. Mila Kunis-Black Swan

Little-known up and coming actress? Oh yeah.

Yeah, forget her performance in Book of Eli: Black Swan was the movie that I think will help kickstart Kunis' career. The tricky thing about her character is that she has to be someone who we can immediately see as a smarmy bitch--and without coming across as one to the characters. This tricky balance is attained quite easily by Mila, who manages to come across as being a bit of an ambitious bitch without resorting to over-the-top antics.

4. Marion Cotillard-Inception

Hm... Inception taking the number 4 spot for both of these movies? Huh. I can make so many jokes about this it's impossible to start with one, so I'll let you guys come up with a joke for this one.

Marion Cotillard once stated that her character was very difficult to describe, and in many ways, she's right. Her character introduces an interesting duality which would be a challenge to any actress: she has to somehow stand as a sympathetic emotional center of Inception while also being something that makes the audience go "oh, shit" whenever she shows up. The events of the movie help take the burden off of Cotillard, but she's still left with quite a bit of work to do in terms of making this double impression. And Cotillard manages to make this duality work.

3. Emma Stone-Easy A

What? Comedy is one of those genres that relies on actors being good at what they do!

A lot of Easy A hinges on Emma Stone's ability to win over the audience. We have to come to sympathize with her, even when she makes decisions we know are bad decisions. While she doesn't quite look like the kind of person who would be ignored (what with being as attractive as she is and all), she easily charms the audience with her awkwardness and well-placed zingers, helping her character become one of the great comedic leads of the past few years.

2. Jennifer Lawrence-Winter's Bone

This movie was pretty difficult to forget. Earthy atmosphere, excellent mood setting, and some nice supporting performances.

But it's Jennifer Lawrence that holds everything together. Her character is the emotional magnet of Winter's Bone. She has to act as a strong girl who has to hold her entire family together by herself. Lawrence never shows a single sign of weakness at all throughout the film, but then, Ree Dolly is the kind of character who can't afford to show weakness in a world that's gritty and incredibly unforgiving to the weak-willed person. But she also cares greatly for her family, and we see this aspect of her as well. Ree is one of the strongest female characters of the year, and Lawrence's performance makes her absolutely unforgettable.

1. Natalie Portman-Black Swan

We start and end the countdown with the same movie. Go figure.

Natalie Portman has a very, very difficult task for her in Black Swan. She has to play a sweet girl whose maturity has been stunted a little by an overbearing mother. This duality also has to tear the character's sanity apart, and it's one of those roles that isn't easily attempted. Portman takes this role seriously, and the results are something wondrous: we start off with an innocent girl, watch as her sanity is torn apart by various factors, and then watch as she becomes both a metaphorical "white" and "black" swan. And she does it all with an incredible grace of style.


And those are my favorite performances by actresses of the year.

And that concludes the acting honors I think. Next time, we're going up and down the rabbit hole, with a countdown that's both good and bad.

So next time... we'll get my top 5 best and worst endings of the year. So stay tuned, and I'll see you guys next time.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

The End of 2010 Bonanza: Top 5 Favorite Male Performances

Hey, guys, and welcome back to our retrospective of the end of the year. Last time, we looked at what movies I disliked most.

Well, best to start with the lows of the year, I think, because you can only go up from there, am I right? So... today, we talk about my favorite performances from male actors of the year. Keep in mind, this list will include supporting actors as well as main actors, because really, it shouldn't matter whether you're always in the spotlight or not, right?

So let's get started.

5. Michael Cera- Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World

Okay, okay, yeah, this pick might surprise quite a few people. But I've got my reasons.

Normally, we think of Michael Cera as the kind of insecure guy who's trying to prove to the girl that she should be dating him instead of... well... the seven evil exes that he fights throughout the game. Cera gets this part really good, but he's also supposed to be a jerk. Some might complain that it makes his character unlikeable, but I argue the fact that his being unlikeable is part of the point. Part of it is that he learns that he should get his act together, but I digress. Fortunately, Michael Cera also manages to be extremely whiny without coming across as incredibly annoying, and balances the two assets of Scott Pilgrim's personality very well. Perhaps he did better in Youth in Revolt, I don't know, but for now Michael Cera did a great job as Scott Pilgrim.

4. Leonardo DiCaprio - Inception

Leonardo DiCaprio playing a troubled man? Check. That seems to be what his filmography has been consisting of quite a bit as of late, isn't it?

I'd like to take this moment to thank his teen idol status early in his career for goading him on to take on projects like this. Roles like this really help DiCaprio show his full range of emotions. He has to carry so much guilt throughout his movie, and for viewers watching the movie for the second time knowing what they know about his character, DiCaprio's performance gets a whole new dimension of depth. It's movies like these that let us see DiCaprio as a great actor-- and let's face it, he's one of the greatest actors of our generation.

3. Jesse Eisenberg - The Social Network

Playing a real life person must be a pretty daunting thing to do. But... I had faith in Eisenberg from the beginning, seeing as how he did such a great job in Zombieland.

And that pays off very much. Eisenberg has to play a fast-talking man who is smarter than everyone else and knows it. He has to come off as completely haughty and an asshole, yet also a misunderstood genius. And Eisenberg pretty much gets it exactly as he should, with his incredible speed-talking zingers and some great lines (courtesy one of the best screenplays of the year). Overall, he does come across as an asshole, but we can also believe he has the intellect to do what Mark Zuckerberg actually did. And so, he gets an incredible performance.

2. Justin Timberlake - The Social Network

The same movie appearing twice on this countdown? You bet.

There's something interesting about Justin Timberlake. He's not known for being a great actor, what with having been part of the biggest boy band of the decade. So when word comes he's Sean Parker, you can imagine how strange that is for us. Fortunately for Justin, though, he works very hard to play laid-back businessman Sean Parker. He has to be laid back, yet also something of a business know-all and pseudo-adviser to Mark Zuckerberg. I walked in expecting to look at Timberlake as he did stuff. But as far as he goes, the line between character and actor was blurred very heavily for Timberlake. I could easily see him as Sean Parker, and for much of the movie, I did see Timberlake as Sean Parker. This, I think, is the work of a truly great performance. You, Justin Timberlake, have my undivided admiration for this.

1. George Clooney - The American

Yes, leave it to the film with a mysterious lead to have my personal favorite performance of the year.

In all honesty, though, George Clooney's performance in this movie signals nothing short of excellence. Admittedly, he doesn't get much to do throughout the movie, and as a result Clooney is very detached from events. But with the movie the way it is, I'd argue that Clooney being generally disinterested in everything is part of the point. It's interesting to note that he only warms up around the prostitute he starts falling in love with; it perfectly goes in line with everything else about how detached he is. Love is the only thing that warms his heart; everything else is sort of just going through the motions for him. And Clooney's restrained performance reflects this aspect of his character perfectly.

And it furthers the character study that is The American.


And those are my favorite performances from male actors. And I have to say... this year wasn't particularly great for the men. There weren't that many roles that were stimulating for the male actors in Hollywood.

But... on the flip side, we have our other gender. And they provided us with some much more incredible performances this year than the men.

So stay tuned, as next time I recount my favorite female performances of the year.