The Rankatron Ranks The Oscars

27 02 2011

Bow ties make anything look better.

 

It’s officially here!

Oscars Eve!

Did I finish ALL of the 10 movies? Technically, yes. Is there an actual review for all of them? No. There’s one glaring exception: Inception.

Let’s be honest with Inception. This was the Matrix for a new generation. A movie that holds up better in theatres with massive screens the size of Jupiter’s Moon, Io, and digital sound systems that you make Stevie Wonder sit up and say “what was that?” than on the small screen. I still intend on doing a review of Inception but I’ve reserved the right to mull it over and watch it a second time. Hence the delay in the review. But I will give you the Inception review next week. It really doesn’t matter…it’s not going to win tomorrow night. Sorry DiCaprio.

So how does this work? Now that I’ve taken an equivalent of nearly 2 days of my life to watch these…excluding the time it took to write the review, find cool pics and vids, and draw some admittedly silly cartoons (to me)…I’m going to do something that the Oscars can’t do. Keep it short and to the point.

I will now rank the Ten movies in order of pure AWESOME-TUDE! These will not necessarily be what the Academy picks tomorrow night…but these will be in gauged based on the most entertainment value, story depth and universality of the subject (y’know…so everyone can watch).

Before I get right into it, let me just say that for the first time in YEARS, every single movie on this list is truth-to-power-above fun to watch…but in different and unique ways. I remember one glaring Best Picture movie years ago that was so boring to watch, I had to split it between three viewings to get through it. I won’t share with you the title just to protect the anonymity of those talented individual involved but I will say that it rhymes with “There Will Be Blood”.

The Rankatron Oscars List (2011 Edition): – And it’s in reverse, MOFOS!!!! Just to mess ya up!

(Clicky on the titles to read the original review.)

10.  127 Hours

9. Winter’s Bone

8. Inception

7. The Kids Are Alright

6. The Social Network

5. Black Swan

4. The Fighter

3. Toy Story 3

2. True Grit

And the number one movie this year….drumroll please!!!!…what? No? What are you talking about it’s a boring choice? But what if it’s right? No. It is right! Get the drumroll! No…you’re right. Check that.

Cue Oscar winner Jamie Foxx featuring living legend Justin Timberlake with “Winner”. (And sorry…there’s no official vid.)

The Winner is….

1. The King’s Speech

If you’ve never scene it thinking that it would be just another stuffy royalty movie like The Queen, put that back in your “Stereotype Stereo” and give it a try. This movie is smart, entertaining, funny in the most unexpected way, and littered with brilliant performances that should earn Colin Firth a Best Actor win.

So am I done for this year with the Oscars?

Is Bob Saget as squeaky clean as his Danny Tanner character?

NO!

Tomorrow, I’ll be embarking on the most ambitious sacrifice anyone can do for the Oscars: sit through an ENTIRE broadcast beginning to end.

I will be…for the first time ever…using The Rankatron Twitter feed.

Click here to join and follow.

It shall begin 9pm AST (8pm EST) Sunday February 27, 2011. Together we can count how many drug references and hand references James Franco makes…and how many times Anne Hathaway looks hot.

Or not.

After I’m done, I’ll post the entire transcript on this website for you to enjoy…kinda.

So for now, I bid you all adieu and goodnight.





OscaRank: “Winter’s Bone”, Thugs and Harmony

25 02 2011

This one hits close to home.

Winter’s Bone opens up a world that some may feel is fictitious but I can confirm first hand that places like this still do exist in this futuristic year of 2011.  Not the story itself…that would be messed up. But I can relate to the living conditions and the cliquish quality of rural backwoods communities. I knew areas like this where I grew up.

This mystery drama covers about a one week period in the life of 17 year old Ree Dolly (the engaging Jennifer Lawrence) as she tries to track down her deadbeat daddy who’s wanted by the police and who put their house up for collateral against a bond. If her father doesn’t show up for court in a week’s time, her and her family will be left homeless. Ree is on her own raising her younger brother and sister while caring for her invalid mother so she has no one to turn to except dig into the dank and murky underbelly of this poor rural Ozarks community. She herself is at a crossroads of sorts between potential death and certain homelessness.

The pace is slow and deliberate and perfect for a movie of this nature. The silent looks between characters speak more about how this part of the world lives than the dialogue itself. The people in the community is about as friendly as a cold glass of water in the face. Everyone is slightly off in one way or another. Riddled with drugs, crime and corruption. A place where the community protects secrets from the outside world and anyone wanting to uncover those hidden horrors. And this fear of discovery knits together the people in a strange harmonious tapestry.

Jennifer Lawrence (also starring in the upcoming X-Men: First Class) carries Winter’s Bone with youthful power and fragility. At any moment, you fear for her character’s life as she enters deeper and deeper into the hive to find her father. Ree knows that she could possibly die if she asks the wrong person the wrong questions but she needs to ask them or the alternative would mean doom for her family.

Other notable is John Hawkes as Ree’s uncle, Teardrop. He is her reluctant protector against the thugs trying to stop Ree at every turn. Hawkes shines as the second best portrayal of a drug addict this year (the first is Christian Bale in The Fighter.)

Winter’s Bone at it’s core is a disturbing look at the threatening nature of small town gossip and the kinds of difficult choices that can be left on the plate of a 17 year old when she’s the sole breadwinner. And even though the resolution becomes apparent about half way, the result is no less effective and appropriate. You won’t find many surprises along the way…just troubling images along the route that needs to be taken to get there.

A solid movie from beginning to end. However, I can’t help but think this could be as polarizing as Fargo and No Country For Old Men in it’s taste to people. You’ll either love it or hate it. But I hope you love it. Top 5 movie of the year? No. Top 10? Absolutely.

8 severed hands out of 10

Bones throughout history





OscaRank: The Kids are Alright…but the movie is better.

23 02 2011

Everything's alright with wine

This movie wouldn’t have been made 25 years ago. It probably wouldn’t even had been made ten years ago.

The themes behind it can be found in countless movies throughout history…but the backdrop used here wouldn’t have been allowed to show itself so honestly in the era of “political correctness” of 2000-2001.

The Kids are Alright is a flick about surviving the dynamics within an unconventional family unit. More and more of these unconventional families are becoming the norm where it may come to the point where those currently deemed as conventional become unconventional.

But I take to task the stigma that follows the terms “conventional” and “unconventional”. Definition-wise: they are accurate. But realistically, one isn’t better than the other. Each can be as equally as supportive as the other in genuine and strong ways.

My point? The Kids are Alright is all about this.

A lesbian couple raises two children who were inseminated by the same sperm donor…the kids decide to track down their biological dad…and light-hearted hilarity ensues.

This is an ensemble piece where each are necessary to make this movie work.

The driving characters are the two kids, the eldest sister, Joni (Mia Wasikowsa of Alice in Wonderland fame) and her brother, Laser (Josh Hutcherson a part of the Red Dawn remake…OH YEAH!) who go in search for their biological father. Not really because they need a father in their lives but more out of idle teenage curiosity. Both are extremely level headed children who were raised with solid morals with no real need of anything more than their Momses provided to them. Considering the pitfalls of society, they could’ve ended up much worse:

Mark Ruffalo as Paul stands out particularly as the twenty-first century hippy throwback biological dad. He’s one of those characters who are so laid back…so ready to roll with the punches…that it may leave some envious and even frustrated that nothing bothers him. He is so aloof that his ease of life can sometimes appear disconnected yet he is engaged fully at every moment. His reaction to meeting his kids? “Cool. Let’s see where this goes.” (My paraphrase. Not his.) Ruffalo deserves his Oscar nod here and is one of the strongest contenders for Best Actor.

Annette Benning takes up her role as Nic, who reminded me so much of the her role as mom from American Beauty that I can’t ignore it. So much so that I would bet if you could trace a lifeline from the American Beauty mom to this one, it could be a logical progression after…well, the end of American Beauty…I refuse to spoil it if you’ve never seen it. So what I mean is that with all the commitment that Benning played the other mom, she throws into this character as well. As a reminder, here’s a little snippet from that classic American Beauty.

Both Nic and her character in American Beauty are both control freaks who are replacing what they’re missing with unwarranted aggression. Benning was robbed from being Best Actress during that season of the Oscars sadly I believe she will be again this year.

Following the same theme of American Beauty, Julianne Moore plays Benning’s partner, Jules,  raising their kids together but Jules is a lost soul. She’s satisfied with who she’s ended up with but, like a wisp of cloud on a sea breeze, she wants to find her path in life. Her path leads her to Paul through her two children and she finds a momentary reprieve and appreciation in his arms.

Despite all of these serious undertones and themes, this is a gratifyingly light and funny movie.

I’d even wager that even though most people may not have experienced a same-sex marriage or don’t know their biological father, they will find this movie speaks to them on at least one level. These themes are universal and true.

And above all conventional…even in the most unconventional sense.

9.0 Hairs in the Shower Drain out of 10

Frozen sperm donation gone horribly wrong...in carbonite!





OscaRank: Toy Story 3 (or Lotso’s List)

13 02 2011

The Toy Box got a little bigger.

What does it take to get nominated for Best Oscar?

Answer: A movie loosely allegorical to the Holocaust disguised as a kid’s story about toys trying to escape the confines of a daycare ruled over by an evil dictator. The Academy eats stories like this like breakfast mimosas. To all those children who rewatch this movie years down the road and realize this, I sincerely apologize on their behalf for tainting a piece of your childhood.

Toy Story 3 picks up roughly 12 or 13 years after Toy Story 2. The whole gang is back: Woody, Buzz, Jesse, Rex, Ham, Slinky (now replaced by Jim Varney quasi-imitator, Blake Clark), Mr. and Mrs. Potatohead, Barbie and the Planet Pizza Aliens (“The CLAW”) are all there. Their young protege, Andy, is about to move away to college and the toys are all dealing possible with retirement to the attic, trash or elsewhere. The movie takes them elsewhere. The Sunnyside Daycare centre…where things aren’t as sunny as they seem.

Lotso, the giant pink teddy bear (voiced by Ned Beatty), is easily one of the most evil characters to grace a silver screen. I’m sure Darth Vader used him as a cuddle toy when he was Anakin…or Hannibal chopped up a Cabbage Patch Doll to feed Lotso when he was a wee-one. Yet truthfully, Lotso became more of a byproduct of his upbringing than an actual devil-teddy spawn. And Lotso’s “muscle” is a creepy baby that you or your sister may have played with…a melancholic character who’s good deep down but doing Lotso’s evil-bidding because they’ve been together so long. The pair, along with their “hench-toys” rule over Sunnyside with a plush fist (including vocal talents of Whoopi Goldberg and Michael Keaton) . Some of the images are those of horror movies. The blank stares. The screaming cymbal monkey.

SPOILERY! CLICK WITH EXTREME CAUTION!

Besides the villains, we’re introduced to newer friends. Most notable are the Shakespearean hedgehog Mr. Pricklepants (Timothy Dalton), the worn out Daycare veteran, Chatter Phone (Teddy Newton), the sad clown Chuckles (Bud Lackey) and the down-to-earth Dolly (Bonnie Hunt).

And unlike any of the previous movies in this trilogy, some parts of Toy Story 3 are truly terrifying and you feel for the lives of the toys we all grew up with and loved. I’ve watched this movie a couple times since it’s come out and the climax still brings me to tears…but maybe I’m a softy. And the heroes are sometimes the most unlikely.

If only Best Actor nominations included animated characters, Woody should’ve been there. Tom Hanks’ vocal dexterity is mostly to thank for this. Together they should’ve been jointly nominated. Woody ranks right up there with Hanks’ Forrest Gump as one of his best performances in his career. Also, if I was caught in a tight situation, Woody would be the first character I’d call on.

Our heroes deal with harrowing situations with humour, goodness and innocence. They are a blend of child-like adulthood…sort of like Forrest Gump. They live and breath the mantra “No Toy Left Behind” even if it means they all go down together. Through thick and thin.

Yes, there’s a Lotso Third Reich feel to this (pun intended)…but Woody’s purity of heart shines throughout and because of this, I’d recommend this movie to anyone of any age. These adult themes are too complex (and ancient and subtle) for younger audiences. So there’s no fear to bring any lil’ ones.

Toy Story 3 is a movie about growing up and moving on. Things don’t have to end. They just sometimes need to change. Andy needs to go to college. Woody and his pals need to accept that they need to move on as well. Where do they move on to? I’ll let you watch the movie to see.

This is the best of the three folks! It’s a shoe-in for Best Animated feature and probably the best animated movie to be up for Best Picture ever. If you liked the first two, take some time out and watch Toy Story 3.

9.6 Ken costumes out of 10

 

The plot of Toy Story 4.





OscaRank: This…is 127 Hours

9 02 2011

Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhiznit!!!!!!!

Here’s a question no one’s probably thought of: Who’s more badass Jack Bauer of 24 or the real-life Aron Ralston? Could Jack Bauer amputate his own arm to save himself to fight for another day? Possibly but it takes a certain kind of person with the calmness of a mid-west plain on a summer’s evening and uber-kind survival instincts.

Not many people would have the gumption to saw off a limb to save themselves even if the alternative is death. But wasn’t that the whole premise of the original Saw?

The difference being that unlike these two examples, what happened to Aron Ralston is true.

The exuberant Aron Ralston is such a person who could. His 5-day ordeal of being pinned in an isolated canyon in Canyonlands National Park in Utah with nothing but what he had in his backpack in 2003 supports this. How he managed to keep his head during such a dire situation should be the model in which anyone should follow in an emergency situation.

This is your primer: DON’T PANIC (like the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy says), analyze your situation, take time to figure out your tools immediately in hand (dull knife…check!), take breaks to do something different (i.e. daydream mostly), imagine about something in the outside world that would inspire you to carry on (this could be your children, that hot lady or dude, your family, your passion to complete your first novel, getting the Top Kill on Black Ops…whatever), and if all else fails, you can always chop your arm off with a dull knife.

The multi-talented James Franco (Pineapple Express, Spiderman 3) is Aron Ralston who demands attention on the screen for the entire time he appears…and he should. He’s there quite a bit. Franco rides the Ralston emotional roller-coaster as he deals with denial, sadness, fear, hallucinations, ecstasy, love, pain, acceptance and relief. I’ve always seen James Franco as one of those Hollywood stars who just hovered right below the upper-tier. One of those actors who were always excellent in any role they played but often came across as not having enough gravitas to headline a movie.

Think Johnny Depp before Edward Scissorhands (pun partially intended but conveniently discovered). Sure, Depp was making waves on 21 Jump Street…but who back then could say anything more about him other than he’s an amazing tv actor before he did that movie. Franco is in this same position.

127 Hours is his Edward Scissorhands.

Danny Boyle (who hit a homerun a couple years ago with Slumdog Millionaire) throws every directorial trick in his bag into this flick. Quick cuts, flashbacks, beautiful scenery shots, action shots, slow motion, bright colours, hectic editing…you name it, you can probably find it here. At times, this comes across as a director’s Promo Reel and feel overdone and unnecessary. But most times it balances perfectly with Ralston’s emotions throughout the film.

And fair warning: when Ralston eventually decides to cut off his hand, it is extremely graphic, shocking, bloody and horrifying. I still shudder to feel what Ralston might’ve been going through during that time.

127 Hours is an extremely entertaining flick but I question how worthy it is in the current field of Best Picture Oscar nominees. Franco’s range is incredible and I get how he got nominated for the Best Actor nod. The movie itself as a Best Picture….meh.

Might be a good reason to go back to only 5 best movies next year at the Oscars.

7.8 reasons to own a satellite phone at all times out of 10

Little known fact: "127 Hours" was the first role for "The Thing" since his Addam's Family stint.





OscaRank: Black Swan/bulC thgiF

2 02 2011

Before I get into the review, play this in the back ground to get you in the mood. Just click play and read on .

(PS. It won’t allow you to listen to it on my site directly…so open when you click play, just click on the “Watch on YouTube Link…it’ll open in a separate window.)

So in the throes of Snowmaggedon, or the Snowpacalypse or Battlesnow Earth or whatever you want to call it, consider this your comfort reading while you cozy up to a fire…if you have power and viable access to the net. I know most of you are probably out shoveling right now. And to those our Southern Hemisphere brothers and sisters in Australia riding out/rode out Cyclone Yasi, I wish you well. This will still be here when you get back on your feet.

Black Swan, to put it succinctly, is truly a mindf*ck of Fight Club proportions. Anyone who hasn’t yet seen Fight Club but has already seen Black Swan, go and watch it. Those who’ve seen Fight Club but not Black Swan, do the same. If Fight Club has a younger cuter sister who was just as messed up as the main character of that Chuck Palahniuk movie, it would be Black Swan.

Natalie Portman plays the psychologically distressed Nina Meyers who’s self-imposed need for perfection drives her into insanity as she not only earns the lead role of the famous ballet piece, Swan Lake, but is fully engulfed within it. This mental degradation provides memorable and disturbing imagery as she experiences a world that may or may not be real. Her life parallels closely to the title character of Swan Lake in a subtle yet intriguing way. Listen carefully to the ballet director’s words when he gives directions to young Nina as she takes on the challenging role of the Swan Queen.

Natalie captures Nina’s youthful fragility as she slowly breaks apart with such delicacy that I finally understand why she’s been nominated for Best Actress this year. Natalie also devoted six months before filming to tone and strengthen her body for this role. All ballet scenes with the exception of a few long shot are herself which is amazing considering the technical expertise needed to pull off some of the moves of Swan Lake.

Mila Kunis stands out as the quasi-villain, Lily (that may or may not be a villian…yes, this movie makes you question everything) who unintentionally leads poor Nina down a path of destruction by introducing her into a darker version of Nina’s childlike world. Her performance is loose, seductive and honest.

Nina’s troubles are real to a lot of women and girls trying to make strive to be “perfect”. Too many women succumb to the insinuated (often blatant) expectations of beauty which leads to warped perceptions of oneself and one’s world. This is the real message of this powerful movie. Perfection can only be found in your flaws.

Nina’s technical perfection is mirrored by Lily’s truthfulness to herself. Lily accepts her weaknesses and tries to help Nina wrap her mind around that in an indirect way. Anything less than perfection is unimaginable to Nina and ultimately leads to her falling apart…but I’m oversimplifying this movie that really could take chapters to decipher. There’s so much in Black Swan that even as I write this more and more is coming to me.

So I’ll leave my impressions of female sexual self-expression, of bulimia, of mother-daughter relationships, of professional jealousy, and of single parenthood for another time perhaps. I’ll let Black Swan speak and dance for itself.

The beginning of Black Swan can by slow, predictable, and trying at points but the reward of the second half is worth the first. When it begins to pick up, you’ll not know which way it’s going to go even up to the final curtain call. Much like the last scene in Fight Club (sorry folks, I won’t spoil that for you if you haven’t seen the movie…and even if I did, you wouldn’t understand it without watching it), Black Swan takes unexpected turns. And remember I didn’t say it WAS Fight Club, I said it was LIKE Fight Club.

I feel that as time goes by, this movie will have a following very similar to Fight Club as appreciation grows.

And to those guys who fear losing their “Man Card” if they watch this, consider this scene: Clicky-clicky. Also, you can bring your Significant Others with you and win points for going to a really brilliant movie disguised as a chick flick. I’m only here to help…

Black Swan will have you wanting more after the closing credits and make you dwell on scenes long after you get home.

And if you haven’t paid attention to the song I told you to click at the beginning, go back and listen to the words.

You’re welcome.

9.2 bloody fingernails out of 10

So she's the one that drank the last of my milk...





OscaRank: Friend “The Social Network”

29 01 2011

Did my dad just poke my mom?

Sometimes people are just plain jerks. Sometimes people are misunderstood. Sometimes people are just at the right place at the right time standing upon a precipice of the Next Big Thing (right Brock Lesnar? Obscure Wrestling Reference Warning!).  And then sometimes people are just so socially awkward that they come across as misunderstood jerks because they happened to come upon an improvement to an idea at the exact right time. I’m talking about how Facebook took the MySpace motif and gave it enough of a twist to make it interesting.

It happens all throughout history. Houses became improvements to caves. Guns became an improvement to pointy sticks. Labradoodles became an improvement to the bulky Labrador and wimpy poodle. Pizza became an improvement to picking up scalding cheese in your bare hand. Blackberry Messenger is an improvement to ICQ. Firefox and Chrome are improvements to NetScape Navigator. The list goes on.

It’s not stealing an idea if it’s an improvement of an existing idea.

The Social Network is an improvement to an existing movie formula. It takes the silly competitive drama that’s only found in university and combines it with a story of potential stolen intellectual property. Then wordsmith Alan Sorkin braids a true story with large strands of fiction.

No. This isn’t a 100% factual account of how Facebook co-founders Mark Zuckerberg, Eduardo Savarin, Dustin Mokovitz and Chris Hughes founded THE most influential website in history. This is a Hollywood dramatization of that story.

Here’s a secret. Life is boring. 98% of people’s lives (mine included) would be one big test pattern or the original Slap Chop commercial like this:

What Hollywood does is this as represented by DJ Steve Porter:

I think I’ve made my point.

So let’s be fair and look at this movie as what it is: entertainment.

The real star of this movie isn’t Jesse “I’m not Michael Cera” Eisenberg or the constantly surprising Justin Timberlake. Yet, each of their performances are levels above anything else I’ve ever seen them in. Eisenberg plays the socially awkward Zuckerberg who introduced and updated the best version of a social network around today. Think about that for a moment…it’s like Carrot Top actually making of of his toilet seatbelt for Taco Bell toilets an improvement over a regular toilet seat. I might’ve just compared Zuckerberg to Carrot Top. I apologize to both…but regret nothing!

The real star in this movie is the adapted script written by the incomparable Alan Sorkin (A Few Good Men, Sports Night, The West Wing) from Ben Mehzrich’s nonfiction book “The Accidental Billionaires”. The story is honest in it’s portrayal of collegiate life as a young twenty-something. The hazing, the acceptance, the need to be different and break out of whatever shadow you may be under, the sex, the drinking, the parties, the embarrassments and the quick assumptions. Sorkin’s smart script deserves every accolades it receives.

The actors, as talented as they are, would’ve needed to be very bad to not be able to follow the nuances that were put into the script. Not to say the cast couldn’t have made it their own…my point is that like a great recipe, sometimes you don’t need to add another dash of cilantro for it to taste good. Sometimes the writer is just good enough with his creation that the actor just needs to say the words with a medial level of competence and they’d have a Bobby Flay entree. Other times, the actor needs to become Bobby Flay to make it work.

The Social Network is intelligent, funny, enjoyable and, in moments, cringe worthy in that “Kevin says something unintentionally stupid on Wonder Years” kinda way.

And with Oscar nominating it for 8 naked golden dudes (Best Picture, Best Actor – Eisenberg, Cinematography, Directing, Film Editing, Original Music Score, Sound Mixing, Writing -Adapted Screenplay), the Academy is expecting big things from this one. As of this writing, they are the buzz to win it all this year…but I disagree. Amazing movie but see my other reviews to see which ones I think are better…

…a-choo!!!!!…(King’s Speech and True Grit)…a-choo!!!!!!!!!

9 inappropriate Pokes out of 10

When Rankatron analogies go wrong....