The Kids Are Alright and 127 Hours
Unfortunately, these are the only 2 movies I didn’t see last year. “127 Hours” didn’t last long at my local theater, and I never thought that “The Kids Are Alright” would be anything worth mentioning. The Oscars love including at least one movie a year in an attempt to create some political controversy, and I think “Kids” is that movie for this year.
This movie features Natalie Portman in her best, most difficult role to date. She plays an up-and-coming ballerina who is slowly being driven mad by the pursuit of perfection. Unfortunately, the movie doesn’t make a lot of sense and left me asking what the point of it all was. It doesn’t have a real plot, except that Natalie Portman’s character is crazy, and that’s pretty thin. It’s a stylish movie that is well made and well acted, but it’s a little too in-your-face at times and ultimately doesn’t deliver anything meaningful.
“The Fighter” is the true story of Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg) and his older brother Dicky Eklund (Christian Bale). Micky is an older but talented boxer who is only being held back by an overbearing mother and a drug-abusing older brother. Bale turns in an Oscar worthy performance, once again getting lost in a difficult role. The movie is held back, however, by some bad dialogue and mediocre directing by David O. Russell. While the movie is based on a true story, it feels more fiction than real. Amy Adams is not well cast as the leading lady here, and has trouble pulling off a Boston Accent. It had a chance to be a great movie but it just misses the mark.
“Inception” is the convoluted sci-fi story of a group of people that enter others’ subconscious minds to steal secrets. While this movie was very popular, there were quite a few critics that didn’t care for it, including me. It was stylish and fun at times, but it was needlessly complex and had far too many characters to give any one of them and real dramatic depth. The coldness that worked in Director Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” is a bit out of place here, because you never really car e about any of the characters, even when you’re supposed to. It isn’t helped that the final battle takes place on a rejected James Bond set piece that is multiple layers down in their victim’s mind. The movie was alright, but there has been better sci-fi and action than this.
Toy Story 3
The third movie in this popular Disney franchise sees the toys being carted off to a daycare center because their kid Andy has outgrown them, It is a terrific approach to the third movie and it works quite well. The only issue I had was that the first half of the movie is a little too by-the-numbers: the toys get into trouble and, through a series of hilarious hijinks, must get out. The movie takes a nice turn when they finally get out of the daycare center and the story presents us with an emotional roller coaster ride along with a fun action piece. The last half of this film is the best of this highly successful series, and it is the reason this movie is up for best picture.
“True Grit” is the story of a young girl (Hailee Steinfeld) who hires a ruff and tough man (Jeff Bridges) to hunt down her father’s killer with the help of a Texas ranger (Matt Damon). This movie is written and directed by the Coen Brothers, which usually means a very original and interesting script. I think what surprised me the most is how very much like the original John Wayne version the new movie was. What makes it good isn’t the writing, however, but the performances of the three leads. While I don’t think you’ll hear too much from this film come Oscar night, it is still a joy to watch.
The biggest surprise title that was read during the nominations was this one. It is the story of a girl who must find her meth cooking father in the Arkansas back-country or else lose her home, while possibly losing the rest of her family in the process. It could best be called “hillbilly noir” as the movie’s themes include the close family ties in (very) rural areas, mistrust if the government, and self-sufficiency in rural poverty, all wrapped in a dark and secretive mystery. While the movie tends to play on negative stereotypes, it still creates a tense film with plenty of surprises. It’s another real winner, but feels like it was put in the Oscar race mostly to represent independent cinema.
The King’s Speech
This film is the terrific true story of King George VI (Colin Firth) who overcomes a bad stutter with the help of an eccentric speech therapist (Geoffrey Rush). This movie is up for more Academy Award nominations than any other, and for good reasons. It is a movie about characters and their attempts to get along in the world with the help of those around them. Movies like “Inception” could learn something by the character interaction in this film. Firth, Rush, and Helena Bonham Carter have a very real chance of sweeping the Oscars this year due to their wonderful performances. This movie may actually be the best of the year and is a “must see” film. I highly recommend it.
The Social Network
Also known as “The Facebook Movie”, this film tells the story of Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) and the beginnings of Facebook. This is another winner, and mostly due to the writing of Aaron Sorkin. The dialogue comes fast and loose, but never does it feel forced or out of place. Jesse Eisenberg puts in the best performance of his young career, and the directing by David Fincher is impeccable. Even Justin Timberlake brings his A-game as he gets lost in the role of the fast-talking Sean Parker, the founder of Napster. It might be the best overall movie of the year, and it should be neck and neck on awards with “The King’s Speech”.