Thursday, January 6, 2011

The 1st (Possibly) Annual "L.A.O.K." Awards

Thanks to a job that allows me to watch up to four or five new movies each weekend and access to Netflix: Watch Instantly, I was able to watch more movies this year than I probably ever have before. I watched 180 movies in total this calendar year, though that number does include a few repeat viewings.

When I was a sprout, I used to try to see all the movies nominated for Best Picture. Then I tried to see them all before they were nominated. Then last year I was able to watch every single movie nominated (see my last post, written in March), and now this year, for the first time, I've seen enough movies to feel confident creating my own 'best of' list. And so here it is.

Best Picture

My top five:
Black Swan
The Kids Are All Right
The King’s Speech
The Social Network
Toy Story 3

Wow, this was a really hard choice. What a great year for movies. It came down to two of these (each of which was better than anything last year, in my opinion): The King's Speech and Black Swan. I instantly loved The King's Speech, which was impeccably acted and directed, and just a great story with really likable characters.

Black Swan, on the other hand, was the kind of movie that just sticks with you for days and days. So daring, so original, with its own fantastic cast and direction, I just have to applaud Darren Aronofski for making this movie. And the scene in which Nina finally dances the black swan is jaw dropping.

Edit: Looking back at this post now, I can't really count out Toy Story 3 either. It held the top spot on my list for many many months. It was just so well done and such a well crafted story (more on that below). Had I a vote in any actual awards program, I would have to seriously consider giving it to Toy Story.

And the Layokie goes to...
The King's Speech

The next five:
Another Year
Catfish (Please do yourself a favor and see this movie.)
Inception (Might have done better for me if I had only seen it once, instead of three times. Christopher Nolan's writing really doesn't stand up to repeat viewings.)
The Town
True Grit

Best Director

My top five:
Darren Aronofski – Black Swan
David Fincher – The Social Network
Tom Hooper – The King’s Speech
Christopher Nolan – Inception
Edgar Wright – Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

Another close, close contest. As I write this, I haven't even picked one yet.

I so often hate it when awards shows reward a director for making a great movie, and not for being the best director, (It should be about style!) but Tom Hooper does so much with so little in The King's Speech that I can't deny him. He makes a scene of two people sitting in chairs talking, or a man standing in front of a microphone for five minutes, completely dynamic. And he does so with no more than a few interesting angles and slow zooms. Whenever you find yourself sitting in a movie thinking, Wow, this is really well directed, you know it's something special, but that's especially true in a movie with as good a story and performances as The King's Speech.

There is nothing specific about Aronofski's style that stands out in Black Swan, but the choreography is photographed beautifully, and the the movie rides on its tone (as well as Natalie Portman's amazing performance). Like I said, the film stays with you for days, and its impossible not to credit Aronofski for it.

Even though it shows up on this list quite a bit, I'm really not as big a fan of The Social Network as everyone else seems to be, but it was a great movie to be sure. I put Fincher here almost solely for The Social Network's tilt shifted rowing scene set to the classical piece, "In the Hall of the Mountain King."Anyone who knows me knows that I hate trends, so bringing a YouTube fad into a feature film would seemingly turn me way off, but Fincher makes it work. It was just a brillaint piece of filmmaking. 

And the Layokie goes to...
Tom Hooper (But if I was really voting, I could easily see myself switching to Fincher at the last moment  in order to reward him for Benjamin Button.)

Best Actor 

My top five:
Jeff Bridges – True Grit
George Clooney – The American
Colin Firth – The King’s Speech
James Franco – Howl
Mark Ruffalo – The Kids Are All Right

And the Layokie goes to...
Colin Firth

I love all these actors and these performances. Not really a tough choice though. (Stupid Colin Firth, I really wanted to give this to Mark Ruffalo.) 

Best Actress 

My top five:
Sally Hawkins – Made in Dagenham
Lesley Manville – Another Year
Julianne Moore – The Kids Are All Right
Natalie Portman – Black Swan
Hailee Stienfeld – True Grit

Sally Hawkins didn't perhaps deserve this nomination, but I just like her a lot, and couldn't really think of any one more deserving. I missed Michelle Williams in Blue Valentine (screened the day after I flew to OK), Tilda Swinton in I Am Love (but will try to catch it on Netflix: Watch Instantly), and Halle Bary in Frankie and Alice (imagining it sucked anyway). And I just wasn't that impressed by Jennifer Lawrence in Winter's Bone or Nicole Kidman in Rabbit Hole.

My other four nominees, however, were all fantastic. Lesley Manville and Hailee Stienfeld were wonderful surprises, and I can't wait to see what Hailee Stienfeld does next (please not teen comedy, please not teen comedy). This really came down to Natalie Portman and Julianne Moore, and while Portman's performance was, let's say, visceral? I remember being blown away by Julianne Moore. My mind could easily change. I can't wait to see both of these films again.

And the Layokie goes to...
Julianne Moore

Best Supporting Actor

My top five:
Christian Bale – The Fighter
Sean Penn (as himself) – Fair Game
Barry Pepper – True Grit
Jeremy Renner – The Town
Geoffrey Rush – The King’s Speech

Jeremy Renner and Barry Pepper were both great surprises here. I didn't think much of Hurt Locker, or Renner's performance last year, but I thought he really showed his chops in The Town. Barry Pepper I didn't even recognize for his first few minutes of True Grit screen time, but I have to say that it was his subscription to the Gary Oldman school of acting that really impressed me.

And the Layokie goes to...
Christian Bale

For his believable turn as a regular person being interviewed on camera.

Honorable Mentions because I just like them a lot:
Charlie Day – Going the Distance
Jon Hamm – The Town

Best Supporting Actress

My top five:
Annette Bening – The Kids Are All Right
Melissa Leo – The Fighter
Carey Mulligan – Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
Kristin Scott Thomas – Nowhere Boy
Jacki Weaver – Animal Kingdom

And the Layokie goes to...
Carey Mulligan

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps was much better than I expected, and in no small part to its solid cast. Shia LaBeouf again made me forget the type of person he is in real life, and Josh Brolin and Michael "Golden Globe nomination because he has cancer now" Douglas were both likable villains. Frank Langella and Susan Sarandon each played surprisingly well developed side characters, and very very old actor Eli Wallach played a very very old man to a tee.

But even among all these, Carey Mulligan was the clear standout, proving that you don't necessarily need maudlin material (Never Let Me Go) to turn in one of the great performances of the year.

Best Adapted Screenplay 

My top five:
Rowan Joffe - The American
Aaron Sorkin - The Social Network
Ben Affleck and two other guys - The Town
Michael Arndt (but if you know how the process works there it's probably more apt to just say Pixar) - Toy Story 3
Joel and Ethan Coen - True Grit

And the Layokie goes to...
Toy Story 3

Structure-wise, Toy Story 3 has got to be one of the best stories ever put on film.You know those movies that seem to go by really fast, and when they're over, you can't believe that you were sitting there for two hours? Toy Story is one of those movies, and the reason is good structure. The screenplay is very very tight, flowing (seemingly) effortlessly from one scene to the next because of cause and effect. It starts in the very beginning with Andy "throwing away" his toys because he has to college, and follows that same line all the way to the climax. Even in slower scenes, say Woody's time at Bonnie's house, a throughline of tension (needing to get back to Andy's house before he goes to college) is palpable, and moves the story always forward.

Apart from that, the story is in turns hilarious, emotional, and incredibly bleak. The only criticism I could give the screenplay is that it takes a tad too long to get to the resolution, and that part where they're in the trash bag on the curb and Rex says "What's the point?" and then Buzz says "Point?.....Point!" and then uses the point of Rex's tail to break out of the trash bag. People don't really make discoveries like that. But then again, toys don't really talk.

Best Original Screenplay 

My top five:
David Michod - Animal Kingdom
Mike Leigh - Another Year
Christopher Nolan - Inception
Lisa Cholodenko, Stuart Blumberg - The Kids Are All Right
David Seidler - The King’s Speech

Each one of these is so great. A really really tough choice. I respect and admire Nolan so much for being able to come up with such an amazing premise and then write a fantastic story to take place in it. I don't think anyone writes as interesting or believable characters as Mike Leigh does. But The Kids Are All Right has both great characters and a great story, and I think that taken as a script alone, with no performances or visuals, it's just an inch more satisfying than The King's Speech.

And the Layokie goes to...
Cholodenko and Blumberg

Best Cinematography

My top five:
Roger Deakins - True Grit
Dick Pope - Another Year
Martin Ruhe - The American
Matthew Libatique - Black Swan
Wally Pfister - Inception (Full disclosure: I've met Wally Pfister and have exchanged witty email banter with him. [Fuller disclosure: I only told you that to sound cool, and it really doesn't affect my decision.])

And the Layokie goes to...
Martin Ruhe, for helping lure audiences into what they thought would be a Clooney-action-spy movie, and then showing them a poignant, slow film with the sensibility of foreign art house fare.

Worst Movie of the Year Decade Century

Best Child Actor
The kid from The Switch

Glaringly Absent on Purpose
Shutter Island
Winter’s Bone
Rabbit Hole
127 Hours
Never Let Me Go


Mary said...

I can't say I'm near the film aficionado that you are, Garrett, but I do make it my business to see and be informed about the Oscar buzz films. Though I was really impressed with some of your wilder choices- I do feel you snubbed some of the year's treasures, both in film and acting and that some of your nominees are mis-assigned.
Firstly, James Franco for Best Actor is dead on- EXCEPT not for Howl but for 127 Hours. I mean, did you see that movie? It seems it was almost made largely to test audience members' gag reflexes and to garner Franco a best acting nom. I haven't seen Howl, and though I'd like to- it was kind of a critical flop. Note: I mentioned Jack Kerouac to Annie, and she had no idea what I was talking about. Maybe you two should have some kind of Beatnik info session.
Next, you placed "The Kids Are Alright" in almost every category possible- I get the feeling you enjoyed it? I did too- but I think you aren't giving Annette Bening her due credit- she certainly deserves a Best Actress nom along with Juliette Moore, and if the buzz is correct, she'll be in it to win it. Further, in the Best Actress category, I would definitely add Nicole Kidman for Rabbit Hole. Though admittedly I have yet to see it- the play was such a critical darling that I am certain it will nag some big nominations (I realize your Layokies are based on the notion of the best and not the buzz). That being said, I think Hailee Steinfeld will most likely end up in Best Supporting actress category. I also predict that The Social Network will clean up- you neglected to include Jesse Eisenberg in the Best Actor category, which in my opinion is an oversight- all will agree that Aaron Sorkin's writing was genius (and will most likely win Best Adapted Screenplay), but Eisenberg's talent of bringing the mile-a-minute mind and mouth of Zuckerberg to the screen is surely worth a nod. I also think David Fincher is a very possible winner for Best Director.
As I have thrown out a lot of opinions here, I decided to check myself with the Golden Globe nominations- I find it odd that Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway both garnered Best Actor and Actress nominations, but can I just say I am delighted that Emma Stone got a Best Actress nomination for Easy A. Amazing. All in all, I can't wait to see how the predictions turn out! May the best one win!

Mary said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mary said...

Oh, and I forgot to mention the complete exclusion of Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland! I know it was kind of a flop, but it was one of my favorite movies all year- and it did receive several Golden Globe noms, incl. Best Actor for Jonny Depp. I think it suffered from being released so early in the season.