Monthly Archives: January 2012

The Grey Movie Review

[The Grey
Written & Directed by Joe Carnahan
Starring: Liam Neeson, Frank Grillo, and Dallas Roberts
MPAA: R – For Violence/Disturbing Content Including Bloody Images, And Pervasive Language]

Every year, studios drop all the movies they have no faith in on the month of January. This usually means some of the worst and most forgettable films of the year are dropped into what the movie-geek community likes to call “The January Dead-Zone”, a place where good cinema is scarce and the only source of refuge is watching last year’s Oscar contenders being ushered into theaters so mainstream viewers who didn’t catch up with them before Awards season could catch up.

But every once in a blue moon, the planets would align and a beautiful and unique snowflake of a movie would find itself dropped in this January dead-zone to save audiences from boredom, and this year, it’s The Grey, which I am currently naming the best film of 2012. Not because there haven’t been that many good movies, mind you. Actually, I’m awarding it that title because this film will be hard to beat, even by the time December rolls out. The Grey isn’t just “good for a January movie”, it’s a great movie in general. A rich, gripping survival film populated with characters you care about, with a tension and atmosphere that sends chills down your spine, and a fantastic performance from Liam Neeson that–if the movie was released in December–would’ve been an easy Oscar contender for one of the best performances of that year. Yes, it’s that good.

The Grey opens with an oil drilling team in Alaska getting ready to drop into their next site. Liam Neeson plays John Ottway; a man who, after having his wife leave him, exiles himself to Alaska to join the team. His job is to guard the oil drillers from intruding wolves and “take care of them” before they “take care of the crew”. He enters the plane ready to go to the next site, but finds himself waking up from a horrific crash that finds he and seven other survivors stranded in the middle of the Alaskan wilderness. Having to seek shelter and ways to maintain warmth in the harsh coldness of the tundra, Ottway and the survivors find themselves the targets of a bigger problem: a ravenous pack of wolves who see the men as intruders.

The Grey has been marketed as an action thriller, boasting its lead action star Liam Neeson in all the promotional material, as well as a shot of him preparing to punch an alpha wolf using hand-crafted knuckles made out of broken bottles and tape. It was easy to make fun of the film as “LIAM NEESON: WOLF-PUNCHER” and see it as some sort of over-the-top, but still laughably super-serious version of a survival film.

But what really surprised me was just how deep The Grey got. Survival films are usually dark material, what with man having to be reduced to his animalistic nature in order to survive nature itself, but The Grey takes that and makes it even bleaker.

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Part of this is thanks to Joe Carnahan’s fantastic direction of the film. Carnahan was critically praised for his directorial debut, the crime thriller Narc, but followed that with middling but commercially successful action films such as Smoking Aces and The A-Team. Here, Carnahan is given wildly different material from his previous work, and pulls it off in spades. The way he constructs the wilderness in The Grey really makes the audiences feel the overwhelming cold, dread, and fear that the survivors are constantly surrounded by. Snow blankets the land as cold surrounds them; the survivors are enshrouded by fog in the morning and pitch-darkness at night, making sure that if a wolf comes in for a surprise attack, they won’t be able to see it coming; even the sound design is able to send shivers down the spine as wind howls much in the same way that the wolves do; the viewer is completely enveloped in this fear as it slowly closes in on them, much like the survivors in the film.

The other thing that makes The Grey darker than your average survival thriller is that it has a surprisingly deep rooting in philosophical quandaries. As the survivors begin to bond, we are asked the question: Are these men really worth saving? Why would they even want to be saved, if their lives haven’t even been worth living? When you live your life in a monotonous cycle–waking up, going to work, going back home, getting drunk, fulfilling nothing, bed, repeat–would you prefer to die surrendering yourself to an unstoppable force more powerful than yourself, such as Nature?

It is these questions that not only imbue the film with a bleakness uncommon in a mainstream release, but also elevates the material to more than just a gripping survival tale, but a thought-provoking meditation on faith and discovering meaning in your existence.

If all you want is a gripping survival tale, however, then The Grey definitely delivers on that front as well. Thanks to a fantastic cast of mostly no-name actors–with the exception of Liam Neeson, of course–each of the survivors feels fleshed out with his own strong characterizations. It’s rare for a film featuring a fairly large cast of main characters that I’m actually able to distinguish which person is which, and you actually care about each of them.

Then there’s Liam Neeson, who employs his talents both as a hardcore badass from roles such as Taken, plus a more vulnerable and raw side that we haven’t seen from him in a while. If there’s one man you can buy as a man who’s an expert on how to fend off wolves who becomes the authoritative leader of a group of “men unfit for mankind”, Liam Neeson is obviously the best choice anyone could possibly make.

If there’s one thing that doesn’t work in the film, and this is just a nit-pick, the scenes where we get flashbacks of Liam Neeson with his wife or as a child bonding with his father all felt rather hollow and artificial in what was otherwise a visceral and intimate experience. But even these scenes had touches that I loved, such as the way Carnahan melds the flashbacks with touches of reality that interrupt the flow; like when Liam Neeson is dreaming of resting beside his wife, only to be lifted up from the bed and wake up to find the plane he’s in plummeting to the ground.

All in all, The Grey is the first must-see film of 2012, and you should all do yourself a favor and see it.

Final Verdict: Bleak, uncompromising, intense, and pitiless; but still raw, emotional, and surprisingly thought-provoking. The Grey is a survival film that leaves you gasping for air, but is elevated even further by raw performances, philosophical food for thought, and great direction from Joe Carnahan. It’s the first legitimately great movie of 2012. See it.

That is all. If you like my work, you can follow me on the Twitter-machine @Enigma6667 to make sure you don’t miss a single review from me, as well as other random ramblings.

See ya next time. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m never going outside again. Those wolves are scary motherfuckers…

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We Need To Talk About Kevin Movie Review

[We Need To Talk About Kevin
Written & Directed by Lynne Ramsay
Starring: Tilda Swinton, John C. Reilly, and Ezra Miller
MPAA: R – For Disturbing Violence & Behavior, Some Sexuality, And Language]

I am not a member of the female sex, nor am I a parent; but if I was a mother, then Lynne Ramsay’s We Need To Talk About Kevin would’ve been something like my worst nightmares being manifested in front of my eyes in minute detail.

There’s been plenty of debate amongst fans of the horror genre, myself included, in which we wonder whether or not a horror film can transcend its genre. Not necessarily by being “great” horror films, but by being very “different” horror films, in a very specific way. William Peter Blatty famously kept telling critics that his classic, The Exorcist, was “not a horror film” but more of a “theological thriller”; a statement that has often been declared formally as “complete bullshit”. But can a great horror film be more than just a great horror film?

When I posted my year-end list of 2011 a month or so back, I listed my favorite horror film of the year as Sean Durkin’s Martha Marcy May Marlene; a film that isn’t a horror film in the traditional sense, but was able to disturb me and terrify me more effectively than the more genre-heavy titles of the year. It was not only a disquieting look through the eyes of a disturbingly indoctrinated woman, but also a fantastic character study, an astounding showcase of talent for its female lead Elizabeth Olsen, and an artful depiction of a constantly deteriorating state of mind.

And now, one of 2011’s left overs that hasn’t been released in the US until recently, We Need To Talk About Kevin also makes that same argument. Kevin is not only a fantastic horror film featuring one of the most demonically evil children in film history, but also a fantastic character study, an astounding showcase of talent for its female lead Tilda Swinton, and an artful depiction of a constantly deteriorating state of mind. If I could change my top 10 list of 2011 right now just for this film, I would. We Need To Talk About Kevin is disturbing in every way, and is one of the best & most overlooked films of last year.

We Need To Talk About Kevin opens with Eva Khatchadourian (Tilda Swinton) waking up in a run-down, beaten-up house she has exiled herself into after becoming the most hated woman in her neighborhood. Without spoiling anything, we slowly learn as the film progresses that her son, Kevin (Ezra Miller) has committed a horrible atrocity too vile for words; and as expected of the media, the people of America shift their blame to “bad parenting”, thus leaving Eva broken by the misery of simply setting foot outside and traumatized by the crimes Kevin committed. Through slightly non-chronological flashbacks, we catch various glimpses of Kevin’s life from baby to toddler to child to teenager, while watching Eva slowly become a hollow shell of her former self.

The titular Kevin is portrayed more realistically than your usual demon-seed child of typical horror schlock likeThe Omen, The Good Son, or Orphan. But despite not being possessed by the devil, suffering from mental illness, nor actually being a midget adult that looks like a 12-year-old (Seriously, how exactly does that work,Orphan?), make no mistake about it–Kevin is one of the evilest, most downright hateful little shits you’ll see in a movie in recent memory.

When I said that the film is like a mother’s nightmares come to life, imagine this: You’re a parent, and the one single redeeming factor of your sad pathetic life–your child–has two notable attributes: 1.) He/she is an reflective embodiment of worst traits within you, and 2.) This child has made it his/her mission, practically since being a sperm cell, to make every waking moment of your life miserable by doing nothing but expanding on those hateful traits within you.

As a toddler, he’d soil his pants purposefully just to make his mother angry. As a child, he’d spray the rooms with paint out of sheer amusement, even as a baby he’d be extra sure to make the most shrill and loud wails and screams he can humanly create, and don’t even get me started on the stuff he does as a teenager. I wouldn’t say he’s entirely realistic, since these kinds of movies obviously have to take some liberties with realism, but this is easily the most believable portrayal of an evil child I’ve seen in quite some time, possibly of all time.

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One thing that helps with this is that the contrived moments of everyone not talking about Kevin are rare, if even there to begin with. Oh sure, there are some moments where Eva should’ve at the very least seen a psychiatrist, but the reasons for leaving those out are justified. For one thing, everything is seen through a surreal filter since it’s all from Eva’s perspective (A point I’m going to go back to later in the review), and on top of that, how would you be able to tell someone that your child is an evil little bastard who is evil because he reflects the worst aspects of your own personality? Food for thought.

What really sells it are the performances. Kevin is played by three different actors at three different ages, and all of them really bring to life the dastardly nature within the character, specifically Ezra Miller as the teenaged version. Even John C. Reilly as the father, no matter how small his moments are, manages to shine in typical John C. Reilly fashion. But the real standout is Tilda Swinton as Eva. We’ve seen plenty of roles like this before; the mother who must live with the fact that her child could possibly be pure evil, such as Mia Farrow inRosemary’s Baby or for a more recent example, Vera Farmiga in Orphan (And Joshua…apparently, Farmiga likes those demon-seed movies). But never have I sympathized with such a mother’s plight like I did with poor Swinton in Kevin.

Her face is in a perpetual state of shock in this movie, her eyes are consistently tired due to not having felt any real sense of joy for more than 15 years because of her son. It’s a draining performance to be sure, but Swinton really pulls it off. Despite being consistently depressed, she always feels like a real human being. The moments where she tries to hide her hostility towards her son with a phony, false sense of kindness are especially heart-breaking because you can just see the sadness in her eyes as she’s feigning unconditional love.

Tilda Swinton gives one of the best performances I’ve seen all year…or at least of 2011, since us Americans got to see it late. Swinton has always been one of those actresses like Meryl Streep who seems to be consistently amazing with every role she’s in, no matter the movie, so when I tell you that this is one of her best performance of her already dazzling career, this should be a big red flag that you should go see this if only for her wonderful performance.

But it also helps that this is not only a great acting show-case, but a marvelously directed horror/drama. Director Lynn Ramsay is effective at using haunting imagery to convey the psychological disruptions of her characters, and this is no exception. One such shot involving Eva’s house being covered in blood-red paint from pranksters was haunting in its own strange way. When we see Eva attempting to clean the paint off her disheveled home, we are also seeing her trying to wipe away the trauma of her past away.

The atmosphere is also incredibly effective, utilizing this false sense of normalcy that despite looking very clean and proper, seems to be festering some sort of hidden evil from beneath the cracks.

I especially loved how subjective this movie was filmed. It’s interesting to compare both this and Martha Marcy May Marlene back to back. Both films depict the deteriorating state of mind of their respective female roles. But while MMMM was very objective and non-judgemental, everything in We Need To Talk About Kevin is seen entirely through the filter of Tilda Swinton’s perspective, which gives off a more intimate look at her psyche than MMMM did, despite being biased toward one side of the story rather than looking at it on all sides (We never really see anything from the father’s perspective, who Kevin was actually nice towards), but it still manages to work in the film’s favor in really trying to sell you on just how despicable Kevin is.

Now, I must head back to the question I began this review with: Do films like We Need To Talk About Kevinand Martha Marcy May Marlene show a significant evolution of the horror genre. I say absolutely. It’s great to see more horror films more rooted in character development that truly look at the horrors within ourselves rather than supernatural horrors, which has definitely been explored before, but was without a doubt more prominent in recent years than in the past.

Final Verdict: Terrifying, haunting, chilling, traumatizing, and–most importantly of all–believable in its own way, We Need To Talk About Kevin is a masterful blend of horror, drama, and even tragedy that will stay under your skin thanks to its compelling direction from writer/director Lynne Ramsay and absolutely perfect performances from Tilda Swinton and Ezra Miller.

That is all.

See ya next time. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to talk about my sister Alyx. She’s starting to…look at me funny…

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The 2012 Academy Awards Predictions – Round 2

Last week, I discussed my predictions for the Academy Awards for what would be nominated, what would be snubbed, and what could possibly win. Now, however, the nominations are finally out, the movie-geek community is running rampant with equal parts applause, surprise, and backlash, & all the world is waiting to see which film will win the most prestigious award in the movie industry: A golden, naked man holding a bunch of leaves for some reason.

Probably shouldn’t waste any more time on an introduction since I already did so in Round 1 of the predictions list, so let’s just get this out of the way…

With the nominations finally out, it’s time to hear my thoughts on what will probably win, what I think should win, the big surprises that no one saw coming, and more of the delicious, delicious snubs. Put on your monocles, grab your most expensive bottle of chardonnay, and raise your brows & pinkie fingers as high as humanly possible: This is round 2 of my 2012 Academy Awards Predictions extravaganza.

Best Picture

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What Will Win: As mentioned last week, it was no surprise that The Artist would be the big awards front-runner of the year. With a long list of nominations under its belt, and the largest chances of winning the Best Picture award, Michael Hazanavicius’s silent film has a 90% chance of taking home the gold.

Indeed, my powers of clairvoyance have done me well on this one, but for every Citizen Kane there’s a How Green Is My Valley, and for every Avatar there’s a Hurt Locker. And in grand old Oscar tradition, there is one film that’s locked with an almost equally good enough chance of nabbing the Best Picture Oscar from the front-runner, thus surprising us all. I was expecting it to be something along the lines of Alexander Payne’s The Descendants, but in fact it’s actually Martin Scorsese’s Hugo, which managed to nab even more nominations at the Oscars than The Artist (I believe Hugo has 11 nominaitons while The Artist has 10).

Granted, it’s fitting for these two particular films to be head-in-head for the race. They’re both nostalgic odes to the silent era, but like Professor X and Magento, they aspire to reach the same end using vastly different means. Whereas Hugo is a love-letter to not just the silent film era, but to the magic of filmmaking and art in general that looks forward as much as it looks back thanks to stunning 3D technology and visual effects, The Artist, on the other end of the spectrum, is more light and crowd-pleasing, an almost exact recreation of a silent film in every excruciating detail to the point that it feels like a movie that has time traveled from the 1920s and landed on our generation.

Which of these two will win, and which one do I think is more deserving? Well, I think it’s a safe bet to say thatThe Artist will take home the gold. However, it would be a wonderful surprise to see Hugo nab it, because I honestly found it a much better movie, with more heart, more soul, and a third act that brings the tears on like no other. It doesn’t really matter, however, because I think both films are great in their own way, and both just as deserving of the award.

However, there’s one film that I think will be remembered as a classic far longer than either of the two. And yes, it’s been nominated for Best Picture…

What Should Win: Last week, I mentioned that The Tree of Life was too polarizing and too unconventional for the Academy’s tastes. I also said that I would love to be proven wrong on my assumption that Terrence Malick’s magnum opus would get the snub. And boy was I proven wrong, and boy was I so happy to have been proven wrong. The Tree of Life is one of those rare films that I will literally describe as “emotionally transcendent” without a hint of irony in my voice. It moved me on so many levels, intellectually stimulated me like no other, and, yes, it felt like an out-of-body experience in which I was reunited with my own childhood.

Pretentious speech? Perhaps, but I truly do mean it when I say that The Tree of Life is one of the most important films of all time, and perhaps the most important film of this generation. Go ahead and kick me all you want, but no other film will be debated, scrutinized, or analyzed as thoroughly as this film in 20 years, and even if you hate it, there’s no denying the sheer level of craftsmanship and artistry that is prevalent in the film.

Will it win? Chances are ridiculously slim, but I’m just glad that it was even nominated anyway, since I didn’t expect it to at all. And maybe, just maybe, my dreams will come true on this one and it will get the award it rightfully deserves…and while we’re on that note, I’d also like a PS3. Can’t always get what you want.

Biggest Surprises: There were some small surprises in the Best Picture category, such as Steven Spielberg’sWar Horse getting a nomination despite having very little traction in previous awards ceremonies. But without a doubt, the biggest surprise of all is Stephen Daldry’s 9/11 film Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close getting a nomination, despite mostly negative reviews and a 48% on Rotten Tomatoes–a staggeringly low review score for a film that was given one of the most prestigious awards nominations in the industry.

I haven’t seen the film yet, and I’m sure it’s not a terrible movie, but I really don’t see how they could’ve supported such a film, when the main complaint that’s being railed against it is that it uses very controversial subject matter (the 9/11 terrorist attacks) in a poorly done, manipulative way. But then again, this was directed by Stephen Daldry, who seems to like pissing film-buffs off (in 2008, his WWII-set drama The Reader nabbed a Best Pic nomination despite mixed reviews and millions of people begging for The Dark Knight to not be snubbed).

Biggest Snubs: The main course in the snub-menu was pretty obvious: Nicolas Winding Refn’s crime thrillerDrive, one of the most well-received films by critics and just a generally amazing movie, was ignored entirely in every category except best Sound Mixing or Sound Editing–something along those lines. It was expected, but still sad considering it would’ve been, not only a ballsy choice in general, but also a subversion of expectations from the Academy, who usually only nominates high-brow dramas in the running, and Drive, despite being a crime action/thriller, was just artful enough to gain the attention of almost every critic.

Also snubbed was another one of my favorite films of the year, Sundance darling Martha Marcy May Marlene. Sean Durkin’s directorial debut was haunting, terrifying, disturbing, and astoundingly made in both acting and directing fronts. Sure it was a small movie, but it was small in a way that was masterfully done, making for a truly great film. More people need to seek it out.

Best Actor In A Lead Role

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Will Win: If this were a month ago, I’d have no problem telling you that George Clooney in The Descendants had the award in the bag already. Now, however, it seems as if The Artist is gaining so much awards traction that it is entirely possible that Jean Dujardin could nab it. Either way, it seems like a two man race on this one: The A-list Hollywood actor that everyone and their grandmother loves, or the new, up-and-coming Frenchman who will become a big hit in America. Regardless, it seems like after this awards season, Jean Dujardin’s path could go one of two ways: He’ll either become a big hit in America and get the recognition he deserves a la Christoph Waltz from Inglorious Basterds, or he’ll make a flop next and be forgotten forever a la Roberto Benigni fromLife Is Beautiful.

Should Win: If I had to pick which of the two I’d rather see get the award, it’s still George Clooney for me. I know, I know, I’m an asshole for not rooting for the underdog, etc. But George Clooney is simply marvelous inThe Descendants and it’s honestly the best he’s ever been. I know he’s won an award before, but I believe it was for supporting actor (Correct me if I’m wrong), but I say that this is the year we give him the big one. He definitely deserves it.

Biggest Surprise: While Gary Oldman was a nice surprise for his work in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (Seriously, am I the only one who noticed that that title has the exact same rhythm and syllable-count as Martha Marcy May Marlene?), the biggest surprise of all was Demian Bichir getting nominated for playing a Mexican immigrant living in Los Angeles in A Better Life. I haven’t seen the film myself, but I get why his performance is kind of a big deal: His character is basically a representation of all the faceless Mexican workers we see tending to our gardens and cleaning our pools unnoticed. He has to show the humanity in them that people do not often see, and from what I heard, he does a remarkable job. Nice to see credit given where credit is due. I gotta check it out now…

Biggest Snub: There were plenty of snubs this year. Brad Pitt was nominated for his completely predictable performance in Moneyball instead of his more nuanced and powerful performance in The Tree of Life, Tom Hardy in Warrior was given no love, and the fantastic child actor from Tree of Life Hunter McCracken was ignored from just about every major awards circuit this year.

But the two biggest snubs for me were easily Ryan Gosling and Michael Fassbender; a snub which I predicted would happen last week, actually. It’s easy to see why they were both snubbed: Their two best performances were too “out there” for the Academy’s tastes. Ryan Gosling went completely psycho in Drive and Michael Fassbender was a sex-addict who shows his junk more than any other actor in years throughout Shame. But still, they could’ve been nominated…but for different, more accessible roles that were also very good. The Academy could’ve easily given Ryan Gosling a nod for The Ides of March, and though I haven’t seen this film yet, I’m sure Michael Fassbender is great as Carl Jung in David Cronenberg’s A Dangerous Method. But alas, it wasn’t meant to be.

Best Actress In A Lead Role

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Will Win: This one’s a tough one. Literally four out of the five nominations in this category I can easily see walking home with the Oscar. Firstly, there’s Viola Davis in The Help, who’s become something of an overnight sensation thanks to her work in the film (Though I haven’t seen it yet so I have nothing more to say on her). Then there’s Rooney Mara for her electrifying work as the iconic Lisbeth Salander in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.

Then there’s the two actresses that play well-known historical figures. I haven’t seen either of their films, but I’m pretty positive they’re both excellent as usual since they really are two of the best actresses working today. Michelle Williams is apparently so uncannily similar to Marilyn Monroe in My Week With Marilyn, that she could win by default for bringing back that certain Marilyn magic that no other actress has been able to recreate in so long. But then you bring in Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady, this being her 17th nomination in her long career–which is a freaking record that I doubt no other actor or actress could ever top. From what I hear, Meryl Streep is wonderful as usual, and also uncannily resembles her historical figure, Margaret Thatcher, very well. But unlike My Week With Marilyn, there haven’t been too many favorable reviews for the film itself.

Should Win: If I had to pick a personal favorite, I’d definitely go with Rooney Mara. Not because she’s the only one out of this list that I’ve actually seen…okay that may definitely be part of it, but she truly is wonderful in the film. It’s hard to follow-up on Noomi Rapace’s take on the same iconic character in the Swedish film, but Mara manages to actually improve on it, adding a level of humanism that was absent fron Rapace’s more cold approach.

Biggest Surprise: While not a huge surprise, it was still pretty jarring to see Glenn Close nominated in Albert Nobbs, a film in which she plays a woman pretending to be a man while she saves the money for a sex-change operation. I’ve only seen the trailer from the film, so I’m not the best judge, but the performance really does look like more of a stunt than a real performance. Not to discredit the fact that Close is probably very, very, very good in the movie, but it seems like one of those things where she just said, “Yeah, I can play a man! That’ll TOTALLY get me an Oscar nomination!” But I digress…

Biggest Snub: The most obvious snub is that what I thought was, in my opinion, not only the best female performance of the year but the best performance of the year period, got absolutely zero recognition. That performance was Elizabeth Olsen in Martha Marcy May Marlene who has stayed under my skin since I’ve seen the film, and hasn’t left since. To call it haunting is a massive understatement to just how much she terrified me. It was a performance of a truly gifted movie star: A performance that relies so heavily on facial expressions to convey incredible amounts of information to the viewer and she makes it all look effortless. To say that this is one of the most disappointing snubs for me is yet another massive understatement.

But believe me, there are plenty more snubs in this list. Charlize Theron in Young Adult was ignored for pulling off a damn near impossible balancing act: Making an unlikable character incredibly watchable. Then there’s Tilda Swinton for We Need To Talk About Kevin. I haven’t seen the film yet, but I actually will very soon this coming weekend, and I can already tell that, from what I’ve seen, she does a bang-up job like she usually does. And don’t even get me started on the Melancholia duo of Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg, who were both marvelous in Lars von Trier’s beautiful vision of the apocalypse.

So yeah, Meryl Streep gets her ten bazillionth nomination, everyone else has to bite the dust. Circle of life in the female categories for the Academy Awards.

Best Actor In A Supporting Role

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Will/Should Win: This is probably one of the few very obvious shoo-ins this year: There’s no doubt in my mind that Christopher Plummer will win for his work in Beginners as an old man who comes out of the closet at the ripe(?) age of 70+. And rightfully so. He’s wonderful in the film, so full of life and energy that is unusual for such an old man; he’s like if your gay best friend and your cool grandpa were combined into one awesome package. Seek this rather overlooked movie out, because it is wonderful, and so is Christopher Plummer.

Biggest Surprise: Two pretty moderate surprises in this category were Jonah Hill in Moneyball and the legendary Max von Sydow for Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. I thought Jonah Hill was fine in Moneyballbut honestly didn’t find him terribly memorable. I haven’t seen Extremely Loud as I mentioned earlier, but I can totally see why Max von Sydow would be a pick. He’s a legendary actor who’s worked with legendary directors playing an incredibly difficult role: A mute man who communicates only through vague hand gestures and written notes. I don’t see him winning, but it’s nice to see such a prominent figure getting some recognition, and I have a feeling more of the hip youngsters (kill me for saying that) will learn what an awesome guy Max von Sydow is.

Biggest Snub: Depending on your preference there were either two really big snubs or three really big snubs. For me, it was three really big snubs. Most obvious of which: Albert Brooks’s very dark, very scary turn inDrive was ignored, along with the rest of the movie. A real shame because he was a fantastic villain that had a real sense of menace. But alas, he won’t be acknowledged. I still do hope he continues to do more dark roles like that. He really is good at it.

Then there’s Patton Oswalt in Young Adult, who is the human, relate-able center of all the dark comedy that proceeds in the film. Patton Oswalt, another gifted comedian who shows darker sides, is growing more and more of a gifted actor in each film I’ve seen him in. He was fantastic as the creepy, almost Travis Bickle-esque football fanatic in Big Fan, and he extends his dramatic range even further in Young Adult. One day, Oswalt will have his day. One day…

Finally, there’s Andy Serkis. I predicted that this year would be the first that the Academy would recognize the talents of a motion capture performer. Perhaps I was a bit too optimistic on that one. Serkis was ignored yet again, for his fantastic work, this time with Rise of the Planet of the Apes. He brought to life one of the most memorable characters of the year with Caesar, and the way he immersed himself into those chimp-like movements and mannerisms was wonderful to view. Much like Oswalt, I would love to see Serkis have his big day some day.

Best Actress In A Supporting Role

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Will Win: This one’s a tough one. We could either go with yet another overnight sensation from The Help with Octavia Spencer (Who previously won a Golden Globe for the same category), or they could pull the Oscar favorite with Berenice Bejo in The Artist. A tough call, but in my personal opinion…

Should Win: Berenice Bejo should definitely get the Oscar out of everyone in this category. She exudes charm in every frame of the screen, and much like Jean Dujardin, I can see her becoming a big star in Hollywood. Also, I haven’t seen The Help like I mentioned earlier, so there’s that.

Biggest Surprise: At first, I was tempted to say that Janet McTeer in Albert Nobbs was the biggest surprise of this category since I had no idea who she was and had no idea that people even liked her to begin with…and then I realized that my eyes were not deceiving me and I had, in fact, seen Melissa McCarthy being nominated for Bridesmaids

Yes. You heard that right. Melissa McCarthy was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her work inBridesmaids. I…….don’t know what to say to that. I’m glad, in one sense, since I love Melissa McCarthy and she was wonderful in Bridesmaids. At the same time, however, I wouldn’t call her performance “Oscar-worthy” if you see what I mean. I’ll still give it support since I’m glad that Melissa McCarthy is becoming more of a breakout star, but either way, she doesn’t have that strong of a chance of winning.

Biggest Snubs: One nomination I forgot to mention was that Jessica Chastain, another overnight sensation from 2011, got a nomination for her work in The Help. But just like Brad Pitt, she’s being nominated for the wrong movie because her best performance was in The Tree of Life, and it truly was my favorite supporting female role of the year. Chastain in The Tree of Life just has this amazingly angelic screen presence that is strangely hypnotic. She exudes a natural beauty and ethereal vibe that feels unique and awe-inspiring, yet she’s so down-to-earth throughout most of the film. I’m glad she’s nominated for something because she’s a terrific actress, but it would’ve been nice to see her nominated for the right thing.

Otherwise, the only other snub I can think of is Shailene Woodley in The Descendants, an actress who I hated in the TV show Secret Life of the American Teenager, but manages to hold her own even against the legendary George Clooney in The Descendants. And it’s rare to find teen actors who actually act like real teens–or real human beings, for that matter–so props should’ve been given to her.

Best Foreign Language Film

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Will/Probably Should Win: I’ll be honest, I haven’t seen any of these films yet. Don’t worry, I’m going to see A Separation this weekend and tell you all what I thought of it, but it should come as no surprise that this is the foreign film to beat this year. Not just being acclaimed for being the best foreign film of the year, the Iranian divorce drama has also received accolades in several top 10 lists, including getting a very prestigious number 1 spot in Roger Ebert’s Best of 2011 list. I’m sure I’ll like it, but again, I can’t really say until I see it for myself…

Biggest Snub: The only reason why I’m even mentioning this category is because there are two other foreign films that I’ve seen this year that I think totally deserved a nomination that more people need to check out. Y’know how you make a top 5 list of 2011, but then you see a film from that year later than everyone else and you feel inclined to change your list? Well the film that did that to me was the Korean drama Poetry, which is easily the most depressing and achingly sad film of 2011. But it’s so beautifully done, so marvelously acted, that the insane depression you feel comes with moments of such sheer beauty and poignancy that it helps heal the wounds you feel when the film ultimately breaks your heart into a million pieces. I dunno if it counts as a 2011 film since it released in Korea in 2010, but still, see it. It’s on Netflix Instant and it’s fantastic.

The other snub is Certified Copy another film that doesn’t really count as a 2011 release, but was released here in the US in 2011, so it still does count in some way, if that makes any sense? But Certified Copy is one of the most intriguing mysteries I’ve seen in a film since Ingmar Bergman’s Persona, and certainly something that will be debated for years to come, much like The Tree of Life. The film builds it’s own mythology and fiction only to shatter it to bits and rebuild it from scratch in a way that’s haunting, kind of ground-breaking, and simply fascinating. I don’t wanna spoil how exactly it does it, but it too is on Netflix Instant and should be seen by more people. Again, seek it out.

Best Original Screenplay

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Will Win: It seems like this one could either go to The Artist, the Academy favorite, or Midnight in Paris the film that isn’t as much of an Academy favorite but was written by an Academy favorite who is returning to form after a long series of duds. Both scripts are very “playful”. One plays with the silent film format in inventive ways, the other plays a lot with historical literary figures. If I had to pick a personal favorite however…

Should Win: …It’s easily Midnight In Paris. I know, I know, I placed The Artist above Midnight in Paris in my top 10 list, but I really do love Allen’s script for Midnight in Paris that much. It’s wickedly smart (English majors will adore this movie by default), very charming, and always leaves a wide smile on your face with Woody’s signature dialogue.

Biggest Surprise: Bridesmaids again? I would’ve never expected that. I mean, I heavily enjoyed Bridesmaidsand I get why everyone loves it so much. That being said, Bridesmaids is not really a “script” movie. Most of the film’s best movies were done with improvisation, what with it being a Judd Apatow-produced film with a bunch of female comedians sitting in one room, you know that they were letting it flow on the fly. So it’s weird to see that script getting acclaim.

Other than that, the even bigger surprise was the inclusion of the previously mentioned Foreign film front-runner A Separation make the list. I dunno the last time a foreign film was nominated for Best Screenplay, but it’s still highly interesting, to say the least. Man, all this praise for A Separation is making me wanna see it more and more. Gotta check that out…

Biggest Snubs: I’m tempted to let my Malick fanboyism wash over me and say The Tree of Life, but let’s be honest: That movie probably didn’t have a conventional script. Especially after hearing so many stories of how Malick would just write lines of lyrical poetry and give them to the actors to convey, it’s safe to say it wasn’t a screenplay in the traditional sense.

In other snub news, however, it seems like the Academy just can’t give some love for Martha Marcy May Marlene. The way Sean Durkin’s script flips between present and past is incredibly inventive and beautifully executed, that I’d venture forth to say that, coupled with the excellent editing that was also snubbed, it’s revolutionary in its own little way.

One script that was more accessible, on the other hand, that I thought would get a nomination was Diablo Cody’s script for Young Adult. Now, I liked Juno fine enough, but I wasn’t a fan of a lot of the moments where Diablo Cody just forces a quirky line of dialogue just for the sake of making a quirky line of dialogue. In Young Adult, however, everything was more restrained and natural, and I really appreciated how Diablo Cody grew as a writer in it. It would’ve been nice to see the Academy acknowledge that growth, because I do think the script is the second best part of Young Adult next to the performances, but ah well…

Best Adapted Screenplay

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Will Win: This could easily go to either Alexander Payne in The Descendants or John Logan in Hugo. One is an ultra-realistic meditation on life that features naturalistic dialogue and dramatic tricks that are about as natural and un-phony as humanly possible, the other is filled with whimsy and heart and a deep, unabashed love for cinema. It’s kind of tough to pick which one will win, but my personal favorite…

Should Win: …Is Hugo! Okay, I get that The Descendants is written much better than Hugo. It has more natural dialogue, the way every event flows is more believable, you get the drill. But god damnit do I love the amount of heart that fills every scene of Hugo. Everything is innocent without being cloying and it all comes from a place of passion and heart, that it’s simply irresistible. It could have more to do with Martin Scorsese’s direction than anything else, but I still must acknowledge how wonderfully done the script is.

Biggest Surprise: Nothing really too surprising in this category. It was interesting seeing The Ides of March in the list despite seeming like most people have forgotten that film, but other than that, this was a pretty safe list.

Biggest Snubs: Do autobiographical screenplays count? If so, I’d like to vouch for Beginners to get some recognition. I loved how personal the movie felt and how it was so clearly based on a real life experience, despite still having elements of quirk to mix things up. Also, if autobiographical scripts are indeed included, thenThe Tree of Life can count as well, even though it probably wasn’t a traditional screenplay like previously mentioned.

In terms of real adapted screenplays, I was surprised to see The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo not getting any love. Perhaps it’s because it is very similar to the original Swedish film, which in turn was very similar to the original Swedish book, but it seemed like they could’ve nominated this as a way of acknowledging that they didn’t nominate the Swedish film for anything at all.

Best Original Score

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Will/Should Win: The Artist is easily going to nab this award hands down. It being a silent film, there’s definitely a much bigger emphasis on the music having to rope the audience up in the emotions along with the actors’ facial expressions. The only thing holding it back is the whole controversy with how The Artist uses a very famous piece from the score from Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo. Now, if you know the Academy, you know they don’t nominate musical scores if they take from another artist in any way possible. Black Swan couldn’t be nominated because all the tracks were creepy reworkings of piece from Swan Lake, There Will Be Bloodcouldn’t be nominated because it used samples from previous works from the composer or something like that that I’ve forgotten. So it’s weird to see them so accepting of The Artist since the way they use that Vertigoscore is definitely very obvious, to the point that the still-alive Kim Novak ranted to the public about how the use of it was “rape” or something along those lines. But that’s a whole ‘nother story entirely.

Biggest Snubs: After scoring big with his score for last year’s The Social Network, Trent Reznor was much hyped about for doing the score for David Fincher’s remake of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. And it was a kick-ass score. Not really on the same height of his score for The Social Network, but it did fit the actual movie moreso than The Social Network and there were some really stunning tracks.

But an even bigger snub, in my opinion, was The Chemical Brothers’ score for Hanna, another great film that was severely overlooked that had one of the best scores I’ve heard perhaps in the last five years. Intense, stylish, electric; it also strangely fit the surreal mood of the film as it presents the normal world as a new, alien experience for the film’s titular character, who has lived in the wilderness throughout the majority of her life. It was strange, but incredibly evocative and even badass at many moments. I would love to see them do more scores for films.

Best Director

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Will Win: If you didn’t read Round 1 of my Oscar predictions list, I stated that there was a good chance that the Best Director/Best Picture wins would be split, so that the Academy could give both the two main front-runners the recognition each of them deserve rather than giving it to one over the other. The most likely choice is that Martin Scorsese will get Best Director while The Artist will get Best Picture as expected. On the other hand, it could be a total surprise and the directing honors could go to Michael Hazanavicius instead with top honors going to Hugo. The latter is still pretty unlikely, but you never know.

Should Win: Not a single film in recent memory has reached the staggering level of ambition that Terrence Malick put into The Tree of Life this year. Not just a film asking “What is the purpose of our existence?”, not just a nostalgic ode to childhood, not just a look at the history of the universe, but also a deeply personal autobiography that manages to weave every one of those elements, both personal and philosophical, into one unifying whole that’s unlike any other. He created a film that you don’t watch; you experience. Malick is one of the greatest classic directors still working today, up there with, yes, Martin Scorsese and the other demigods of cinema. He’s made many classic films, but has never won Best Director himself. If this were a perfect world, he’d get what he’s deserved for so long this year, for the film that I personally think defines his entire career.

Biggest Surprises: None. This is about as safe a list as you can possibly make. I was a little surprised to see Woody Allen in the running since there wasn’t really much “directing” going on in Midnight in Paris, but then I remembered that everybody loves Woody Allen and it clicked with me all of a sudden why he got nominated.

Biggest Snubs: Much like the Best Picture list, the most obvious snub was Nicolas Winding Refn, who brought an amazing sense of style in Drive that was unlike anything else I’d seen in recent memory. The action sequences were beautifully shot, the sound design was pitch perfect, the surreal atmosphere was engrossing, and it all culminates to a movie that just oozes what I could only describe as pure “cool” from start to finish.

Then there’s Sean Durkin from Martha Marcy May Marlene, who despite being a first-time director, shows an amazing skill for restraint and control in each scene. Each shot is perfectly framed to keep you on your toes for what could be around the corner, thus provoking more unbearable tension, and the way he flips through present and past is a masterstroke. I simply can’t wait to see what he does next.


Well that was long wasn’t it. I hope I never have to write anything that long again, except I’m probably going to anyway next year, but at least I can take a break for a while.

The Oscars are gonna be televised sometime in February and we’ll see what the real winners and losers are, but I also hope that this list turns your attention towards films that didn’t get recognition that are worth checking out. If you have your own predictions and some personal snubs you’d like to mention, leave a comment of some sort. If you like what I write for some weird, indiscernible reason, you can follow me on the Twitter-machine @Enigma6667 so you’ll never miss a thing I write, as well as hear some dumb ramblings I make every now and then.

That is all.

See ya next time. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna place my bets against a bunch of other critics on Twitter. Note to other people willing to do this: Don’t bet against Erik Childress. He will destroy you on this subject. Bye!

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The 2012 Academy Awards Predictions – Round 1

Make fun of awards shows all you want, but without them, challenging works of art in the cinema landscape wouldn’t nearly get the amount of mainstream recognition they would’ve gotten without a powerhouse award circuit like the Academy Awards. Think about it, in a day and age where Hollywood seems to only favor shallow fluff, the awards shows like the Oscars are the only ones who encourage challenging films that showcase emotion and artistry over mediocrity…to a point, at the very least, but that’s another topic entirely. I mean, say what you will about the Academy, but only an awards show can single-handedly get millions of movie-goers lined up to see a contemporary silent film with The Artist just for the Oscar-hype alone. There are plenty of things about the Oscars to pick on, but that is something to be appreciated.

Still though, there seems to be a certain formula to the Academy in their nominations, to the point that it’s gotten easy to predict what they’d pick and what they’d whole-heartedly avoid. Sure there’d be some surprises here and there, like last year’s inclusion of Dogtooth in the Foreign Language Film list. But for the most part, it seems like there is always some sort of definite pick for biggest piece of “Oscar-bait” of the year.

So what should you expect from this year’s Oscars? Well, there are some obvious things to cover, as well as some personal predictions from myself. Rather than going category by category (which we’ll save for round 2, when the nominations are finally released), I’m just going to pick whatever random ones I think are worth mentioning, including snubs. Okay? Alright, so where to begin…

Prediction #1: The Artist DESTROYS The Competition

It should come as no surprise that the big front-runner for Best Picture is easily Michel Hazanavicius’s silent romantic comedy The Artist. For good reason, I must add. It’s a definite crowd-pleaser, it makes you feel good and sunny when you walk out the theater, it’s a homage to a classic style of film-making that we haven’t seen recreated in such a long time, and it uses that in the most non-gimmicky way it possibly can.

I thought The Artist was a damn great movie. It was pure joy from start to finish, it is expertly crafted and directed, the performances are grade-A, and the way it transcends its gimmick of being a silent film made in the 21st century is handled with grace and elegance. Now, do I think it deserves to win the Best Picture award? Eh…kind of I guess. There were many other films that I thought deserved it more, but if it did win, I wouldn’t complain. However, it must be said that plenty of vocal movie-geeks from the dark recesses of the Backlash Zone are all giving out one major knock against the film: That it’s very light.

Well…of course it’s light. Most silent films didn’t have much depth since they had to convey emotions and ideas through broad storytelling devices, and incredibly expressive facial expressions. The only one I can think of that had the complexity of something like, say, Inception was Metropolis, and even that one was done with broad strokes. I think that when it comes to Oscar front-runners, people need to manage their expectations accordingly, regardless of whether it’s most likely to win an award or not. The Artist is light in an incredibly well-crafted sort of way, which is more than enough to win the Academy.

One last thing: Anyone who tells you that The Artist is yet another example of “Oscar-bait” is probably a liar. If anything, using a silent film format wasn’t really so much of a way to pander to the Academy, but rather it was a really big risk since one false move could’ve made the entire film a gimmick. I mean, it’s not like The King’s Speech where it just gathers every element from the Oscar-nominee handbook and rips off from it with reckless abandon (And I actually liked The King’s Speech a lot).

Prediction #2: The Tree of Life Will Be Nominated For Best Cinematography…And Nothing Else

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I believe I’ve expressed my love for this film enough already, but for those of you new to my opinions, The Tree of Life was by far my favorite film of the entire year, and the film that I think will have the most impact in 20 years, much in the same way that 2001: A Space Odyssey did.

That being said, it’s way too unconventional and unsafe for the Academy to give it a Best Picture nod. It’s a sad fact, but one that is hard to deny. Sure, 2001 was able to nab a Best Picture nod when it was released despite its lofty ambition and unconventionality, but that was 1968. In 2011, the Academy has gotten too use to a particular breed of film that anything that is too new and different to them will scare them away. There are exceptions, such as last year’s Black Swan, a film that features psychological torment, a lesbian sex-scene, and disgusting self-mutilation, and was able to be nominated for Best Picture and win Best Actress for Natalie Portman, but for the most part, there are too many other safe choices for the Academy to make room for Terrence Malick’s opus.

I could be wrong though, and boy do I like being proven wrong on these things, but at this point, the chances are very slim.

Otherwise, there’s no doubt that The Tree of Life, being one of the best-shot films pretty much of all time, in my book, will get a Best Cinematography nomination for the brilliantly talented Emmanuel Lubezki (Who also shot the ridiculously amazing long-takes in Children of Men). Hell, there’s even a good chance that the Academy will recognize its feats in Visual Effects, in how it portrays the birth of the universe and the dawn of the dinosaurs. But again, those chances are slim.

Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain might also get nominations for their performances in the film, but both of them are in other, safer performance for the Academy to decide on (Moneyball for Pitt, The Help for Jessica Chastain). And Hunter McCracken, the amazingly talented child actor at the center, will walk away completely ignored.

Prediction #3: Drive Will Be Nominated For Best Supporting Actor…And Nothing Else

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The same case I made for The Tree of Life can also be applied to Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive, another film that was one of my favorites of 2011 that is too unconventional for the Academy’s tastes. But for different reasons. For one thing, Drive is an action thriller (Say what you will about the film’s steady pace, but it is a thriller) and the Academy doesn’t usually acknowledge the things that aren’t incredibly high-brow or classically crafted.

Another thing: It’s waaay too violent for the Academy’s tastes. Sure, last year had violent surprises in the Best Picture list such as Black Swan and 127 Hours, but they are leagues behind the brutality that takes place inDrive. People are dispatched in ridiculously gruesome ways in that film, sometimes even cruelly so, such as a scene in which a man is stabbed in the eye with a dining fork. Academy voters only go for that kind of thing if there’s an inspiring pay off at the end, like the aforementioned 127 Hours, but Drive‘s ending is, depending on how you interpret it, ambiguous at best, bleak at worst.

Ryan Gosling has a shot at getting Best Actor for his marvelous portrayal as the Driver, but the chances for that are rather slim. One chance that isn’t slim, on the other hand, is Albert Brooks’s turn as the lead villain inDrive. Not only because the Academy usually likes actors going out of their comfort zone (Brooks is a comedic actor who shows his dark side, in the film), but because he really is that good in it. Terrifyingly good, even.

Aside from that, the only other things I can see Drive getting away with this year are possibly nominations for Cliff Martinez’s score and the sound design. But again, chances are slim.

Prediction #4: Martha Marcy May Marlene Will Be Ignored ENTIRELY

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Another film in my top 5 list, Martha Marcy May Marlene is also probably going to get the boot. Not just on certain categories…on ALL categories. So far, there has been no awards buzz for this film at all. Which is a real shame, because Elizabeth Olsen gives what is probably the best performance of the entire year, female or otherwise, and the film in general is one of the most arresting and haunting experiences I’ve ever had in a theater.

Another thing that was overlooked by awards circuits, but thankfully other critics have been able to notice, is that Martha Marcy May Marlene is one of the few films that really shows the power of editing in a film. The editing is key to what makes the film’s blurring of reality and imagination so eerily real and disturbing, that it would be an extra shame if the Academy didn’t recognize the talent that was put into its transitions and edits.

The only thing I have hope for nominations wise is John Hawkes nabbing his second Supporting Actor Oscar nomination for this film. He was so delightfully spooky and terrifying in this film, and since there seem to be only two main frontrunners in the Male Supporting category (Christopher Plummer in Beginners and the aforementioned Albert Brooks from Drive), there’s a good chance he can nab a spot. Otherwise, I hope this film gains more traction in time for it to earn some well-deserved nominations.

Prediction #5: The Help Will Be Nominated For A Shit-Load of Awards

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Despite being one of the biggest surprise hits of the year, there’s been a fair share of scorn for this “White Guilt” film. I can’t join in on the consensus since I personally haven’t seen it yet, but I can already tell that this will sweep the nominations the same way that another “White Guilt” movie, 2009’s The Blind Side swept it.

If I had to guess what it will get nods for, it will most definitely be Viola Davis (Though I don’t know whether she counts as Best Actress or Best Supporting Actress yet), Octavia Spencer, Best Picture, and quite possibly Bryce Dallas Howard and Emma Stone. Again, I haven’t seen the film, so I can’t add a say on whether it’s overrated or not yet, but I’m pretty positive that there are other, previously mentioned films that are more deserving of the nomination.

Though if I did have to pick which of the Best Picture frontrunners deserved the big “Oscar-bait” stamp, it’s this one. Just from what I’ve heard of the film, it sounds like The Blind Side all over again, which I’m not too fond of. But again, I’m not the best judge of this particular film, so we’ll see…

Prediction #6: The Best Picture & Best Director Awards Will Be Divided

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Sometimes, what the Academy will do is that when they’re really divided on which film should win Best Picture and can’t really decide, they’ll give their own version of a fair trade. One film will earn Best Picture, the other will get Best Director. This was something that people were expecting for 2009’s Avatar/The Hurt Lockershowdown, but both ended up going to The Hurt Locker anyway. But now, I have a feeling that it will really happen this year.

The two films that I think will share the honors will be The Artist getting Best Picture and Martin Scorsese getting Best Director for Hugo. Why Hugo, you say? I know, it doesn’t seem like as big of a main front-runner as other dramas like, say, The Descendants, but there are a few qualifying reasons for it. For one thing, Scorsese really did direct the shit out of Hugo, prominently featuring what is quite literally the best use of 3D the cinema world has ever seen to this day. That alone could get the Academy to see the talent Scorsese put into the film, plus they just like awarding classic directors who are still making movies, even if Hugo was a radical departure for Scorsese.

Another reason why I think Hugo and The Artist will get the “stalemate” is because they are very similar thematically. Both of them are love-letters to silent cinema, and they both really embody the “magic of movies” in a gorgeously done way. One film expresses its love by looking back and walking forward at once by portraying the silent film era with new technology, a la 3D. The other is an exact recreation of the silent era in every minute, exquisite detail that ultimately transcends its gimmick and becomes the very thing it’s trying to imitate in an Edgar Wright, Shaun of the Dead sort of way.

OR maybe the Academy will surprise us and give the top honors to Hugo while honoring Michel Hazanavicius’s direction instead……naaaahhhhh….

Prediction #7: Cars 2 Will Be Nominated For Best Animated Feature Despite Countless Negative Reviews

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I’m just going to personally say that Cars 2 isn’t nearly as bad as what all the disappointed review scores have led you to believe. I do think, however, that it’s very sub-par, mediocre, and mostly forgettable, which is an offense in its own way considering this is from Pixar, who’s supposed to be the freaking tits every year. But I still think it will get a nomination for Best Animated Feature because…well, it’s Pixar, and everyone loves Pixar regardless of the fact that they’ve made one disappointing movie. Do I think it will win? Not a chance. The two front-runners in this category are probably Spielberg’s The Adventures of Tintin and Gore Verbinski’s Rango. I found both films to be overrated, Tintin less so than Rango, but I can totally see the appeal behind both of them. Still, it doesn’t matter, because I honestly thought Kung Fu Panda 2 was the best animated film of the year. No, seriously, I really liked Kung Fu Panda 2…Shut up.

Prediction #8: Ryan Gosling and Michael Fassbender May Walk Away With Zero Nominations

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Now I used the word “may” that time because this is probably the one where I can most likely be proven wrong, but I still have a feeling that both Ryan Gosling and Michael Fassbender, two amazing actors who both had a killer year in 2011, won’t be nominated for any of their amazing roles. Ryan Gosling most certainly won’t be nominated for Crazy Stupid Love (Yes, he was fantastic in that movie too), and has slim chances for getting honors for his roles in The Ides of March and Drive. Then there’s Michael Fassbender, who I’d say is probably my personal favorite actor working today at the moment. The man elevates everything he’s in. Even X-Men: First Class, a film which I found to be extremely overrated, featured a performance from Fassbender that I wouldn’t mind deeming Oscar-worthy. I haven’t seen either of his other two films, A Dangerous Method or the one that everyone’s been praising him for, Shame, though I really wanted to, but it seems like either of those could be shoo-ins.

But, I think that a lot of the roles I listed are a bit “out there” on the Academy’s taste range. For one thing, Ryan Gosling in Crazy Stupid Love is more of a light comedic role than anything else, and the Academy usually only appreciates the really heavy, dramatic work. The Ides of March has already been forgotten a little bit, and I already explained how inaccessible to the Academy Drive was overall.

As for Fassbender, he has more of a chance for his work in Shame than anything else I mentioned. Even though it’s a really difficult role that features a lot of nudity and sexual acts, what with him portraying a sex-addict and all, it’s still difficult enough to the point that the Academy can appreciate its ballsy-ness (no pun intended). Otherwise, X-Men: First Class has him playing a comic book super-villain, and the Academy seems to only dig that kind of stuff when Heath Ledger is in clown-makeup, and his role as Carl Jung in A Dangerous Method has already been overlooked, for the most part (Along with the movie in general).

Again, this is the one that I can be proven wrong on the most, but it’s still something to consider…

Prediction #9: Andy Serkis Will Be The First Motion Capture Performer To Get An Oscar Nomination

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The Academy has stated time and time again that motion capture performances are not eligible for Awards under any circumstances. But Andy Serkis’s turn as the chimp Caesar in Rise of the Planet of the Apes was so good, and such a big surprise, that everyone has been championing Serkis to the point that there’s actually a very good chance that the Academy will finally give in this time. 20th Century Fox has already been pushing a “For Your Consideration” Campaign for his performance big time. And I actually think that this will be the first time a motion capture performer will get the recognition he truly deserves. And if he actually goes a step further and ends up winning, I wouldn’t have a problem with that either. He was that good.

Prediction #10: The Chemical Brothers’ Score For Hanna Goes Completely Ignored

Seriously, am I the only one who that this was the best score of the year? Because it totally was. Listen to it.

Well, there are plenty of other obvious things I can mention, such as Christopher Plummer being a shoo-in for Best Supporting Actor, or Take Shelter and Melancholia being almost entirely ignored alongside Martha Marcy May Marlene, and other such things, but we’re out of time, and the nominations are getting closer.

Stay tuned for round 2, in which I actually analyze each of the big nominations lists and break down what I think will win, what I think deserves to win, and all the delicious snubs. See ya next time. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to get into the motion capture business by playing a CG monkey…I just have to throw my feces around, right?

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CinEffect Podcast Episode #14

Episode #14: Top 10 Films of 2011

Welcome to the CinEffect Podcast. In this podcast of constant douchebaggery, me (Chris), Alex, and Brady discuss film, video games, and everything in between. This week, Chris & Alex countdown their top 10 films of 2011.


(0:00) George Valentin (The Artist OST)
(0:26) Introduction
(2:22) Alex – Dark Souls
TOP 10 FILMS OF 2011
(9:00) Number 10
(14:33) Number 9
(20:17) Number 8
(24:58) Number 7
(30:46) Number 6
(35:42) Number 5
(47:45) Number 4
(53:29) Number 3
(1:02:56) Number 2
(1:09:34) Number 1
(1:29:49) Top 10 Review/Honorable Mentions
(1:38:22) What We’re Watching Next Week
(1:40:01) Links/Where To Find Us On Twitter
(1:41:24) A Real Hero by College feat. Electric Youth (Drive OST)

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AfterEffects Bonus Episode

AfterEffects Bonus Episode: Our Top 10 Most Anticipated Films of 2012

Chris & Alex take some time on the side to discuss their top 10 most anticipated films of 2012. You can also read their lists, here and here.

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CinEffect Podcast Episode #13

Episode #13: Super, War Horse, The Artist, Carnage, and Certified Copy

Welcome to the CinEffect Podcast. In this podcast of constant douchebaggery, me (Chris), Alex, and Brady discuss film, games, and everything in between. This week, Chris & Alex go through a smorgasboard of films including War Horse, Carnage, Tabloid, Certified Copy, The Artist, and conclude with an in-depth spoiler review of Super.

(0:00) The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo OST by Trent Reznor
(0:27) Introduction
(6:11) Alex – Skyrim
(16:49) Chris – Outland
(19:23) Alex & Chris – War Horse (Spoilers)
(34:48) Alex & Chris – Attack the Block (Minor Spoilers)
(40:37) Chris – The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
(46:13) Chris – The Artist
(56:29) Alex – Carnage
(1:00:20) Chris – Certified Copy/Before Sunset
(1:10:04) Alex – Tabloid
(1:21:28) Chris – The Devil Inside
(1:36:29) Alex & Chris – Super (Spoilers)
(2:09:46) Weird Antichrist Discussion
(2:11:18) What We’re Watching Next Week
(2:14:06) Links & Where To Find Us On The Internet
(2:14:55) Calling All Destroyers by Tsar (Super OST)

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Chris’ Top 10 Most Anticipated Films of 2012

As is yearly tradition, January offers almost nothing of any significant note in the theatrical release landscape. And as such, all we movie-buffs are left to do is wait in masturbatory fury for the next big movies to pop out of the moist, quivery, studio-executive-sponsored womb. And that’s exactly what I’m doing in this article; minus the moist, quivery wombs. Enjoy this little look at my 10 most anticipated films of 2012, and I swear if you tell me that a Roland Emmerich film should’ve been on here, I’ll sue you simply for not being funny or clever at all.

#10: The Master (Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson)

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What It Is: Paul Thomas Anderson’s newest film centers around a man who forms his own religion, boasting a cast of Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, and a post-I’m Still Here Joaquin Phoenix.

Why You Should Be Excited: While little is known about what the film’s plot is about, all we really need to know is that it’s from the same mastermind behind Magnolia, Boogie Nights, Punch Drunk Love, and There Will Be Blood. P.T. Anderson has proven time and time again that he can bring amazing performances out of their actors and provide them with some of the most interesting tales in modern cinema. And even though little is known, it’ll be nice to be surprised by what Anderson hits us with next.

[No Trailer Yet]

#9: Sound Of My Voice (Directed by Zal Batmanglij)

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What It Is: A couple goes through great lengths to infiltrate a cult led by a woman who claims to be from the future with a mind-blowing plan

Why You Should Be Excited: Last year was the breakout of Brit Marling, an actress/screenwriter that brought us the cerebral sci-fi drama Another Earth, which managed to be both highly thought-provoking and beautifully emotional. After a strong debut such as that, it will be interesting to see how Marling will surprise us all this time, and considering this film already released during last year’s Sundance to strong buzz, this has a good chance of being even better than Another Earth.

[No Trailer Yet]

#8: Brave (Directed by Mark Andrews & Brenda Chapman)

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What It Is: It’s a new Pixar movie. That’s really all I need to hear. The fact that it’s their first foray into fantasy is just the icing on the cake.

Why You Should Be Excited: See above.

#7: Looper (Directed by Rian Johnson)

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What It Is: Rian Johnson’s latest is a time-travel action thriller involving Joseph Gordon-Levitt having to assassinate his older self, played by Bruce Willis.

Why You Should Be Excited: I’ll admit to not having seen Rian Johnson’s other critically acclaimed films, the high-school noir Brick and the con-man romance The Brothers Bloom (In fact, the only thing I’d seen of Rian Johnson’s was that one episode of Breaking Bad that he directed), but I’m highly intrigued by the time-traveling premise of Looper, and I love me a good thinking-man’s sci-fi movie. It also helps that there’s a strong cast with Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

[No Trailer Yet]

#6: Only God Forgives (Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn)

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Wait, is Ryan Gosling…kissing Nicolas Winding Refn?

What It Is: Ryan Gosling and director Nicolas Winding Refn, both of which collaborated on last year’s Drive are teaming up again on another film which I know nothing about plot-wise.

Why You Should Be Excited: This is the only movie on the list that I literally know nothing about, plot-wise. All I know is that it’s being directed by the mad genius behind one of my favorite films of last year, Drive, and it yet again stars Ryan Gosling in the lead role. That alone is enough to win my interest over, and I have faith that the duo will bring another memorable experience.

[No Trailer Yet]

#5: Gravity (Directed by Alfonso Cuaron)

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What It Is: Sandra Bullock is an astronaut who is literally left to die in the middle of space, and needs to float her way back to safety. It’s a claustrophobic thriller in what is literally the most vast expanse of nothingness that humanity knows: The cosmos.

Why You Should Be Excited: With a project that boasts the phrase “From the Director of Children of Men“, a new Alfonso Cuaron film can do nothing but cause excitement. But the film also has an engaging premise that looks to give us a one-woman show from Sandra Bullock (Say what you will about her and The Blind Side but she is a damn good actress). And considering Cuaron’s knack for amazing camerawork and one-shot takes, this definitely looks to be one of the most unique and interesting releases of the year.

[No Trailer Yet]

#4: Django Unchained (Directed by Quentin Tarantino)

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What it Is: Quentin Tarantino’s newest film is a Southern (Basically a Western that takes place in the South) centering around a slave named Django (Jamie Foxx) who must win his wife back from the captivity of an evil plantation owner played by Leonardo DiCaprio, and exact vengeance upon the evil white men of slavery-era America.

Why You Should Be Excited: A new Tarantino movie is enough to celebrate about. The fact that it’s a Western makes it even more intriguing. But then you learn that it actually takes place in the Slavery-era South and it becomes even more enticing. And THEN you discover that it boasts a cast such as Jamie Foxx, Samuel L. Jackson, Christpoh Waltz, and a villain being played by LEONARD DI-GODDAMN-CAPRIO and your mind might as well implode on its own by the sheer amount of talent and potential on display in this project.

[No Trailer Yet]

#3: The Dark Knight Rises (Directed by Christopher Nolan)

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What It Is: The final installment of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. What else do you need to know?

Why You Should Be Excited: Unlike most of the internet complaining about Bane’s voice, I still haven’t seen the preview for The Dark Knight Rises. And I don’t plan to. I’m actually planning on seeing as few promotional materials as possible because I know that if I do, I’m going to overhype the shit out of it. And while most people are going into their defensive backlash stages, thinking that there’s a chance that the third time might be the death blow since almost every big franchise started to get horribly wrong by the third installment, I still think that Nolan could pull it off. If anything, Christopher Nolan has proven that no matter how big the hype is for his films, he continues to surprise with the most exciting and original films in the mainstream movie space, if not of all cinema history. And if there’s one thing I know Nolan can do right, it’s surprise us with a fitting resolution to his Batman trilogy.

[Yes there’s a trailer but I don’t wanna watch it and getting the link for it will only tempt me further, nngghhh]

#2: Prometheus (Directed by Ridley Scott)

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What It Is: What started out as an Alien prequel turned into something new, daring, and original the second the script got a rewrite from LOST scribe Damon Lindelof. Centering on a group of astronauts who come across an interstellar artifact that could show them the origins of mankind, they soon realize they’ve unleashed a greater evil that has ties to the original Alien film.

Why You Should Be Excited: The original Alien set a benchmark for both the sci-fi and horror genres with iconic creature design and unbearable amounts of tension. It’s one of my favorite horror films ever, and now the original director of the Alien universe, Ridley Scott, is going back to his sci-fi roots with this prequel of sorts to the original film, that also seems to be a stand-alone sci-fi thrill-ride.

The cast is excellent, with a smorgasboard of amazing actors along the likes of Noomi Rapace, Charlize Theron, Idris Elba, Guy Pearce, Patrick Wilson, and most importantly of all, Michael “The Fass” Fassbender. And if the trailer is any indication, Ridley Scott hasn’t lost a hitch in his step when it comes to incredible tension and mind-blowing production values. No seriously, this is one helluva trailer…

#1: Cloud Atlas (Directed by Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski, and Lana Wachowski)

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I’m kind of biased towards this pick since the original book, written by David Mitchell, is actually one of my favorite books of all time. But setting aside that fact, Cloud Atlas looks like one of the most mind-blowingly ambitious films of all time. And I don’t use that term lightly.

What It Is: Cloud Atlas follows six connected stories that continue off of one another from a completely different time period and genre altogether. To give you a sense of the variety in these stories, the first one is an 1800s sailor’s tale and the final sixth story is a post-apocalyptic adventure. The structuring is also strange, as it is ordered with the stories nesting into one another with each story being abruptly cut off halfway through, only to recontinue later on. A more simple visual analogy: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.

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Why You Should Be Excited: That plot description alone should be enough to tide you over towards the film’s high ambitions, but even more ambitious is the method the directors are choosing to finance and film it all. With a project as ambitious and huge as this, it’s impossible for any self-respecting mega-studio to fund such a crazy risk, so the directors have decided to get funding from other countries (Asian countires, in partiuclar, supported the project since the theme of reincarnation features heavily into the intertwining narratives) reaching a $100 million budget, and having two seperate directing units film the 3 stories each. Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run and Perfume) is handling three stories while the Wachowskis (The Matrix trilogy, as you’re all probably familiar with) are handling the next three.

And that’s not even including the stellar cast including Tom Hanks, Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess, Hugh Grant, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Susan Sarandon, Ben Whishaw, Bae Doona…damn. Just…damn. Even more insane is that every single actor is going to be switching races and possibly even genders as they switch between the stories (Ben Whishaw confirmed he’d be playing a woman in one story).

This could either be an ambitiously flawed disaster, or the next modern masterpiece of epic proportions. I have more faith in the latter since the book is so strong and you have three talented filmmakers behind it, even in spite of its lofty ambitions. Plus the author, David Mitchell, was a big fan of the screenplay so there is hope.

But even if the movie is ultimately a failure, it’s still going to be not just one of the most interestingly inventive films of the year, but also a benchmark in getting financing for ambitious projects that could very well lead to another masterpiece from a loftily ambitious director.

[No Trailer Yet]

And those are what I’m most looking forward to in 2012. But what I’m even more interested in is what you guys are looking forward too…well, not really, I’ve got a life, but feel free to massage my massive ego, my slaves!

If you agree or disagree with anything in this list or wanna add your own personal anticipated films, go leave a comment. If you wanna see more stuff from me, you can go to and follow me on twitter @Enigma6667.

That is all.

See ya next time. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go hide my secret homosexual desires for Michael Fassbender again. Oh, Fass…

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Alex’s Top 10 Most Anticipated Films of 2012

2012 is definitely going to be a crazy and exciting year for film when I had to couldn’t even find room to put the next Coen bros. film, the next original Pixar flick, the next huge blockbuster of the summer, The Dark Knight Rises, or even Steven’s Spielberg’s new Lincoln bio-pic on my list. We all have a lot of movies ahead of us this year so pick wisely or just see them all like me! Here is my Top 10 Most Anticipated Films of 2012.

Honorable Mentions: Brave, Cogan’s Trade, The Dark Knight Rises, Gangster Squad, The Hobbit, Inside Llewyn Davis, Lincoln, The Wettest County

10. Stoker (directed by Park Chan-wook)
You may or may not have heard before that my favorite foreign film is Oldboy. Also, Thirst is a creative and excellent look at a Korean priest dealing with becoming a Vampire in the modern day. So it’s safe to say that I’m a fan of Park Chan-wook who is making his English-language debut with Stoker. As of right now, I can’t really say too much about the plot since I don’t know too much about it myself aside from it dealing with a teen (Mia Wasikowska) who meets her mysterious uncle (Matthew Goode) and wonders if a string of disappearances that follow in her small town are connected to his arrival. It really doesn’t sound like too much of an attention grabber like Chan-Wook’s other films, but I am interested to say the least in Wentworth Miller’s screenplay which happened to make the Black List in 2010 (basically an annual list of the best unproduced screenplays of the year). The film also stars Nicole Kidman, Dermot Mulroney, Jacki Weaver, and Lucas Till.

9. Argo (directed by Ben Affleck)
Don’t get me wrong, I liked The Town, but I personally found it to be more of the same “it’s hard out there in Boston” vibes that I got from the better, Gone Baby Gone. That doesn’t mean that I’m not interesting in Affleck’s future directorial pursuits though, which is why Argo is on this list. This is what I want to see next from the guy. Something different. Something born and bred in Boston. Something truly interesting like the story of Argo. Based on a true story, in which a CIA operative, played by Ben Affleck, hatched a plan to extract a group of American diplomats from Tehran in the midst of 1979’s Iranian hostage crisis, using the filming of a fake sci-fi movie as their cover. Now that’s what I like to hear. With an interesting premise like that, I can just see Affleck, Bryan Cranston, Kyle Chandler, Tate Donovan, Titus Welliver, John Goodman, and Michael Parks all elevating the material greatly. Don’t disappoint me now, Ben.

8. Prometheus (directed by Ridley Scott)
I’ll admit, I’m not a fan of Ridley Scott for the most part. I haven’t seen all of his films, and I haven’t even seen the film that Prometheus may or may not have the most relation to, Alien. The guy is pretty much hit or miss a lot of the time, and the ones I have seen I think are vastly overrated. But my one single reason for looking forward to this film based solely on Scott’s name: Bladerunner. It has grown on me over that past few years, and I now find it to be a cold, restrained, bleak look at a corrupt future that’s setting is as interesting/lore is as interesting as its visuals. Sadly, I can’t give the same praise to that film’s super slow pacing. Prometheus looks to be a similarly grand spectacle with actors like Michael Fassbender, Idris Elba, Charlize Theron, and Guy Pearce that I can trust to draw me in. I have concerns that this could very well become another current day Ridley Scott boring slog of a film, but damn, do the trailers and ads look fucking good.

7. Gravity (directed by Alfonso Cuaron)
I adored Cuaron’s last, Children of Men, and there is an ambitious TWENTY MINUTE opening shot that leads into a film that will be roughly 60% CGI all set in the vast nothingness of space. What more can I say? This sounds like a mix between 2001: A Space Odyseey, The Tree of Life, and Open Water with Sandra Bullock stuck all alone in space while on a mad dash to return to her daughter on Earth after she and her fellow astronaut, played by George Clooney, survive a collision with an exploding satellite. I have reservations towards the whole Sandra Bullock pretty much acting a “one man show” for almost the film’s entirety, but Gravity sounds like the visual spectacle of the year.

6. Seven Psychopaths (directed by Martin McDonagh)
A frustrated author, played by Colin Farrell, finds himself getting involved with two bumbling thieves who steal a mobster’s (Woody Harrelson) dog. That doesn’t interest you yet? Well, it’s being written and directed Martin McDonagh who last made my favorite Black Comedy in some time, In Bruges, which starred Colin alongside the excellent Brendan Gleeson and Ralph Fiennes. The film also stars the always lovable Sam Rockwell, Christopher Walken, and Abbie Cornish.

5. Looper (directed by Rian Johnson)
There’s not really too much to go on about this film yet since Rian Johnson has kept a lot of the story and info under wraps, but I can tell you this, I really enjoyed The Brother’s Bloom and loved his debut film, Brick. There are naysayers out there that hate it when people tackle time travel since it’s very difficult to pull off well, but Johnson sought the help of Shane Carruth, the pseudo-recluse director of Primer, to be the visual consultant. If you told me that piece of info right there, I would be hooked immediately because I feel that, while flawed, Primer is one of the most creative and effective uses of time travel in film in recent memory. This could be one hell of a sci-fi thriller. Looper stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Jeff Daniels, Emily Blunt, and Paul Dano.

4. Cosmopolis (directed by David Cronenberg)
David Cronenberg is a personal favorite director of mine that isn’t known for making wholesome, easily categorized, academy-friendly classics. He is known for making some of the most sleazy, disturbed, grim, weird, and dark genre flicks since the 70’s. He made a name for himself with The Fly, Scanners, and Videodrome, but in recent years, he has transitioned into a more safe, accessible genre director while not entirely steering away from his lower budget past. My opinion of the man hasn’t changed whatsoever since he still makes great movies. They’re just different than what he used to do. However, I have a feeling that Cosmopolis could very well be his return to his 70’s and 80’s roots. It takes place almost entirely within a doomed limo ride across New York City with Robert Pattinson (a surprising and interesting casting choice) playing the young multi-billionaire who happens to have a surprisingly eventful day during the course of this ride. With Cronenberg’s favorite themes being explored in the book, such as man’s relationship with technology and the mixture of murder and sexual obsession, I can’t wait to see the results of Cosmopolis.

3. Moonrise Kingdom (directed by Wes Anderson)
Coming off the heels of his stellar return to form stop motion animated film, The Fantastic Mr. Fox, Anderson is trying something a little different than what he has done before: his first period piece. Not only that but the film will most likely rest on the shoulders of the two leads (unknowns Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward), a young boy and girl in the 60’s who run away together which then leads their small New England to be turned upside down looking for them. This isn’t necessarily typical territory for Wes, but it being co-written by Roman Coppola and himself and starring Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, Harvey Keitel, Bill Murray, and Jason Schwartzman, I have total faith in Wes Anderson pulling this off. It might even be a surprise hit of 2012.

2. The Master (directed by Paul Thomas Anderson)
I tend to be pretty vocal about how much I adore There Will Be Blood since its release back in 2007. It was even my favorite film of the past decade. With TWBB, Paul Thomas Anderson was able to shed away from the distinct influences of other directors and films that many would say hurt his past films from standing out. He created a wholy unique and grand western epic with the incredibly over the top and perfectly casted Daniel Day-Lewis as the star. I have been waiting five years for his next film, and The Master sounds like it will be a very interesting choice to follow up his last film with. After returning home from WWII, an intellectual, played by Philip Seymour Hoffman, starts up a faith-based organization and recruit’s a drifter (Joaquin Phoenix) as his right-hand man. What is even more interesting is that the organization that Hoffman’s character starts up has been making strong parallels to Scientology and Hoffman being its L. Ron Hubbard. Amy Adams and Laura Dern also star.

1. Django Unchained (directed by Quentin Tarantino)
This is a western slave story where Jamie Foxx and Christoph Waltz team up to hunt down and seek revenge on Django’s wife’s plantation owners led by Leonardo DiCaprio. And it’s being written/directed by Quentin Tarantino who has also cast a large list of great character actors and rising stars that consists of Sacha Baron Cohen, Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, James Remar, Don Johnson, Kerry Washington, and the RZA? That sure is a mouthful, but it only makes me more excited for Tarantino’s successor to the fantastic Inglourious Basterds. Having a new movie from the guy that also tackles a more touchy topic is enough for me to get excited, but the cast is just the icing on the cake of what is my most anticipated film of 2012.

And there ya have it. You can post a comment, start a discussion about your picks and mine, etc.

Also you can follow me here on Twitter for some film and video game ramblings: [url=!/TBBucs20]TBBucs20[/url]

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