Sunday, January 30, 2011

Hailee Steinfeld in "True Grit"

Hailee Steinfeld received her first Oscar nomination for playing Mattie Ross in True Grit.

Even though the original 1969 True Grit is no favorite of mine, and I might even say I despise it, it's still incredibly better then this 2010 remake version. It's hideously overblown, badly written, and horrendously acted by the entire cast. Either a huge marketing campaign was involved or the Academy have lost all faith in themselves to nominate this film for a ton of awards. The story of a young girl who sets out to avenge her father's murder - she hires a drunken Marshall who helps her track down the killer.

Hailee Steinfeld plays the role Kim Darby originated 40 years ago. In the original, Mattie Ross was a tough, yet sweet girl who must overcome her fear to avenge her father. Our Mattie, played by Hailee Steinfeld, is already really tough, not that sweet, and doesn't need the knowledge of overcoming her fears; she has nothing to fear. Already we have a boring character I've already seen in another boring way, played with no conviction from newcomer Steinfeld.

In most scenes, she is obviously being coached - whether it be a head nod, a hazy eyed look at the distance or a curse word that are horribly underdone. It's expected Steinfeld is not going to be a natural on screen, but her inconsistency is annoying and unimpressive. Mattie could be interesting if the filmmakers could have handled Hailee Steinfeld better, not throwing her inabilities out at the audience in every scene. From the negative impact of True Grit, to the overall amateur attempt at a dramatic firework from Steinfeld lead me to call it bad acting. Even in her best moments, there's still that "ugliness" to it.

Amy Adams in "The Fighter"

Amy Adams received her third Oscar nomination for playing Charlene Fleming in The Fighter.

The Fighter is based on a true story, yet it is riddled with cliches. There is nothing new on display and nothing to be taken away from the film, other then someone can overcome the odds with the help of the people who had once brought him down. Whatever problems I might have with The Fighter, the Academy surely had no problems with - this is the kind of true to life story they eat up.

Amy Adams enters the story as Charlene Fleming - a seemingly hardcore, slutty bartender. We find out pretty fast that Charlene is actually a very intelligent woman who puts up a tough facade at her job. She works at the bar because she feels insecure about doing anything else. It's great how much Amy Adams fits into her first scene on screen - we see many sides to her character in this one scene. Adams establishes Charlene is practical, even when she doesn't have to be. She longs for romance, but she would never let anyone know she does.

It's even more great when her tough facade begins to wear off as she falls more in love with Mark Wahlberg's Mickey. She becomes the driving force behind him, often fighting with his family and her own intentions. Out of everyone in the cast, Amy Adams is the only one who escapes all the stereotypes that the other actors played on. However, my problem with her performance is how sentimental and almost dumb the character is played out. She lives only to satisfy Mickey, even though she's tough as nails - and it's unfortunate she is given the dumbest lines out of everyone in the movie.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Helena Bonham Carter in "The King's Speech"

Helena Bonham Carter received her second Oscar nomination for playing Queen Elizabeth (or better said Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon) in The King's Speech.

The King's Speech is a piece of boring garbage. It's the kind of movie that comedians and the general public often associate with Oscars, it's what gives the awards the unpopular nature it receives. Ultimately, while watching it you can only think it was made to get someone an Academy Award for something. And don't even get me started on Colin Firth...never seen such "I want an Oscar right now!!" acting. The story of King George VI and his stammer that kept him from giving empowering public speeches. He finally starts to find his voice when his wife contacts an eccentric speech coach.

Helena Bonham Carter is given the rather thankless part of Elizabeth. She plays the same kind of character I've seen a thousand times: a dedicated and supportive wife who will help her husband any way she can. The character is never given a chance to shine or even let us get to know her, because the movie is not interested in her, so why should we care? Of course, an actress can always breath life into this stock character, but (not surprisingly) Carter is not able to do this.

When the camera is on her, all she can help to do is something with her face, like raising her ugly eyebrow or having a sad puppy dog look on her face - interesting, since she doesn't have much of a storyline to follow, but that doesn't make for good acting. Her character never jumps off the screen, and it doesn't help Helena Bonham Carter herself is boring and lifeless in the part of the Queen Mother.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Jacki Weaver in "Animal Kingdom"

Jacki Weaver received her first Oscar nomination for playing Janine "Smurf" Cody in Animal Kingdom.

It's amazing that one has to watch Animal Kingdom twice to fully grasp the film entirely. I thought "well, I think I should go back and try to look more in depth to Jacki Weaver" and ended up coming out sort of liking it. The first time around, it's bizarrely subtle, always hinting at things, but hardly ever showing. But, when you watch it again, all of that quiet intensity makes more sense and becomes much more interesting. The story follows a 17 year old boy who must involve himself with his extended family after his mother dies. His grandmother takes him in, but he soon realizes the entire family is involved in crime. Slowly, he finds himself more and more grasped by the family and the crimes.

Jacki Weaver plays Smurf, the grandmother of the main character and the mother of the troublesome sons. She is at glance a seemingly loving, sweet, and supportive woman who takes alot of pride in her family. Through talk from the other characters, however, we find this woman has her evil side. She knows how to manipulate people, not just her family. Jacki Weaver is like a fly on the wall during the majority of Animal Kingdom - you notice her, but her performance never screams in your face. If you are specifically watching for Jacki Weaver, more then likely, you will be disappointed.

It's only in the final act that Weaver's performance becomes more humanized and fascinating. She easily becomes the most interesting character in this year's race - her power over her family becomes amazing and diabolical, and Weaver finally gets to shine in the light. But, we have to wait until the final moments of the film to even see her shine, so the question is, does the earlier scenes live up to the great latter scenes? No, not really, but when she is on screen, Jacki Weaver does make the best of it. It's hard to judge, but it leaves an impact.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

"Actress In A Supporting Role" 2010

I thought it would be good to get this year's nominees out of the way, that way I don't have repetitive dryness in the future :)

So, without further ado:

2010
And the Academy selected:
  • Amy Adams in The Fighter
  • Helena Bonham Carter in The King's Speech
  • Melissa Leo in The Fighter
  • Hailee Steinfeld in True Grit
  • Jacki Weaver in Animal Kingdom
Well, Mila is out of the way, so the race is wide open...

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Osc...Ah, Who Cares...

I've been keeping very quiet about this year's race, but since the nominations were announced this morning, I figured it would be the perfect time to open my mouth, Mo'Nique style.

 Were should I begin?

The first movie I saw this season was The Kids Are Alright - why exactly was Mark Ruffalo nominated? His performance was passable. Why not Julianne Moore? Her's was easily among the year's best acting.

Academy: Too much crack and speech therapy?
Then, I ventured into The Social Network. A terrific film, which will be worthy of it's eventual Best Picture win. BUT, it's a cold day in hell when the Golden Globes have better nominees then the Oscars. Andrew Garfield gives the best supporting actor performance in YEARS, and would easily get my vote, but apparently, showboating (Geoffrey Rush) and subtly terrible crack addiction (Christian Bale) are better then naive, beautiful emoting (Andrew Garfield).

Jeremy Renner was terrific in The Town, but since Garfield was left out, John Hawkes now has my support. He is simply terrifying in Winter's Bone by being both villainous and sympathetic. Unfortunately, I think Garfield was sacrificed for Hawkes nomination...

I guess I should have suffered more...
Which brings me to Best Actor: ummm, Ryan Gosling, anyone? Wait, the Globes nominated him...but, here we have beautiful emoting passed over for....bad acting, bad foreign acting, and wait, bad remake acting!

What is with this True Grit love? It's hardly better then the original, and Jeff Bridges really does the impossible: he makes John Wayne's performance actually look good...

Javier Bardem's performance is all over the place, it literally left me speechless at it's varied badness. He has moments where the camera just lingers and instead of showing some kind of shading, he plays the character's emotions...terribly, I might add.

Besides withering and screaming in pain for 2 hours, what exactly does James Franco do in 127 Hours?

The eventual winner, Colin Firth, is AWFUL. The most obvious display of Oscar baiting I've ever seen. I don't usually quote Bill Maher...but "English monarch with a speech problem who must overcome it to fight the Nazis? Give him an Oscar now!"

Even though he hardly impressed me, I suppose Jesse Eisenburg has my vote...

I hate the Academy...
Oh wait, we have ANOTHER incredibly surprising snub! Mila Kunis was far and away my favorite nominee all season. To see her nominated, well everywhere, had me happy all through these awards shows. But, of course, the Academy must have some kind of vendetta against me, because she was left out.

I've decided to review the supporting ladies here very soon, but to my avail, I'm left with this wet rag of a list of nominees. Not to spoil the surprise of you readers, but they were all [enter Mo'Nique screaming here].

Like all the other movies this year, what is with this Fighter love? I've only seen this story told about 50 times...Same with The King's Speech? What in the world is so special about it?

Unbelievably, I have no complaints about the Best Actress category. I guess the Julianne snub was inevitable, so I'll shut my mouth for now.

10 slots for Best Picture, and THAT'S what they chose?

I really need to relax...

To be perfectly frank, I couldn't give a damn about the Oscars this year. Luckily, I'm stuck in another time reviewing things like The Lion In Winter and actresses like Katharine Hepburn (no Hailee Steinfelds where I'm at). But, I'm still going to do it anyways: so expect Best Supporting Actress and Best Actress reviews from me - I'll hate it, but the job must be done.

The Academy have really shown their ugly side this year, falling for the most obvious bait, and ignoring the performances that aren't begging for awards.

So, relax for now...maybe Mila the Swan can steal her Oscar and Andrew Garfield can yell "ACTOR UP, ASSHOLE" at Christian Bale when he wins. Maybe Colin Firth and Jeff Bridges can fight each other for who can be the worse interrupter of talking, and Javier Bardem can stare at them like he's about to die. Maybe Hailee Steinfeld can bring all the young actresses who could have played her part better, or do they have room for every actress under the age of 13 at the Oscars? At least the Best Actress race is fantastic. And now I will calmly shut my mouth, and try to imagine this never happened...

Watch out Academy...