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The 85th Academy Awards® will air live on Oscar® Sunday, February 24, 2013.A busy year equated to a late Oscar Predictions list for the year.  Additionally, I was challenged with creating a predictions list that was interesting in it’s own right and wasn’t able to come up with anything too revolutionary before the Oscars.  Therefore, moving forward, I’m hoping to create an interesting predictions list that is easy-to-read and still uniquely insightful.  Stay tuned.

Until then, enjoy my usual (albeit late and a bit rushed) predictions for this year:

 

Writing – Original Screenplay

American Hustle
Blue Jasmine
Dallas Buyers Club
Her
Nebraska

Wie’s Choice: Her
Although my two other close favorites, ‘American Hustle’ and ‘Blue Jasmine’ are each fascinating in their own respects, ‘Her’ is my personal favorite out of all the choices here – successfully encapsulating both a sci-fi premise into a romantic comedy.  The unique blend created a touching and alarming film that showcases both our love with ourselves and technology.

Most Likely to Win: Her
‘Her’ has been on a fairly good winning streak with only a ‘loss’ at the BAFTAs to ‘American Hustle’ in which ‘Her’ was not nominated at all.  The momentum could shift to ‘American Hustle’ however if wins starts to shift in all other categories although that has looked less and less likely in the last few weeks.

Writing – Adapted Screenplay

Before Midnight
Captain Phillips
Philomena
12 Years a Slave
The Wolf of Wall Street

Wie’s Choice: 12 Years a Slave
My favorites here are between ’12 Years a Slave’ and ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ – the latter being so flagrant in it’s excess that it oddly becomes admirable.  However, my choice has to come to ’12 Years a Slave’ which also feels excessive but to highlight the plight Solomon’s plight and the other slaves around him without feeling overly melodramatic or preachy.   Few other films this year reached the emotional beats that ’12 Years’ managed to conjure.

Most Likely to Win: 12 Years a Slave
With only a loss to ‘Philomena’ at the BAFTA’s and ‘Her’ at the Golden Globes (in which both were competing with one another), ’12 Years a Slave’ seems to be a fairly sure fit for the win in the Original Screenplay category.  It remains to be seen, however, if this will be one of only a few wins that ’12 Years’ will receive throughout the night.

Visual Effects

Gravity
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Iron Man 3
The Lone Ranger
Star Trek Into Darkness

Wie’s Choice: Gravity
Visual effects have obviously come a long way with this year being no different.  However, my personal favorite seems fairly simple with ‘Gravity’ being one of the best looking films of the year.  With Cuaron working on the film for years just to get the tech up to snuff, the results show easily on screen with a surprising amount of CG that never seems out of place.  ‘Gravity’ is a technical dream that deserves all the praise it gets in this regards.

Most Likely to Win: Gravity
In a category that always seems to leave out some beautiful films, this year – the answer seems pretty agreeable with ‘Gravity’ and has all the momentum from wins at other award ceremonies as well as recognition both critically and financially.

Music – Original Score

The Book Thief
Gravity
Her
Philomena
Saving Mr. Banks

Wie’s Choice: Her
‘Gravity’ may have such an important role for it’s soundtrack without much sound elsewhere other than dialogue; however, I am of the opinion it felt too heavy and overbearing.  My vote would go to ‘Her’ which has a subtle and soothing soundtrack that complements the film well.  Much respect has to also go out to the Arcade Fire collaboration which worked for the film rather than to it’s detriment.

Most Likely to Win: Gravity
‘Gravity’ has most of the wins here from past contests and with a lot of momentum for the film in most of it’s categories, the Academy seems sure to vote for it again here as well.  The only other winner, ‘All is Lost’, at the Golden Globes is not even nominated here.

Film Editing

American Hustle
Captain Phillips
Dallas Buyers Club
Gravity
12 Years a Slave

Wie’s Choice: Gravity
The fairly surefire answer, personally, is ‘Gravity’ for the Oscar Editing Award.  Space has rarely seemed so dark, isolating and fascinating and although the editing is only one cog in a complicated frame, it was such an integral part in making scenes tense at one moment and lonely in the next – it’s a terrific accomplishment.

Most Likely to Win: Gravity
‘Gravity’ has lost to ‘Rush’ at the BAFTA’s but with ‘Rush’ not nominated here, ‘Gravity’ (again) has the momentum going for it as a critical favorite and a win at the Critic’s Choice Awards.

Cinematography

The Grandmaster
Gravity
Inside Llewyn Davis
Nebraska
Prisoners

Wie’s Choice: Gravity
‘Gravity’ once again seems like a clear victor here on a personal front.  With Cuaron’s signature long take style and the film having a myriad of crazy shots all over, the cinematography is absolutely top-notch as always.  The first fifteen minutes of the film, which includes perhaps the most quiet moments throughout, is an absolute treat for any film lover looking for great camerawork.

Most Likely to Win: Gravity
With a near sweep at the major awards, ‘Gravity’ once again looks to take the award easily here.

Animated Feature Film

The Croods
Despicable Me 2
Ernest & Celestine
Frozen
The Wind Rises

Wie’s Choice: N/A
Unfortunately, I have yet to watch the Wind Rises which (from word of mouth) is a very strong film.  Therefore, I’d rather leave this blank.

Most Likely to Win: Frozen
Although critically, there has been talk of the respect for ‘The Wind Rises’ as Miyazaki’s ‘final’ film, ‘Frozen’ has swept the critical awards and looks to take the award fairly easily.  Disney has had an absolute critical and financial hit with ‘Frozen’ and with its unique stake in Disney history, it looks to land the Oscar as well.

Oscars_Best_Supporting Actors_Best_Supporting Actresses copyActress in a Supporting Role

Sally Hawkins – Blue Jasmine
Jennifer Lawrence – American Hustle
Lupita Nyong’o – 12 Years a Slave
Julia Roberts – August: Osage County
June Squibb – Nebraska

Wie’s Choice: Jennifer Lawrence
There are some absolutely fantastic performances here – some of my other favorites being Roberts, Nyong’o and Squibb (and Roberts having nearly a role that could have stood in the main actress category).  However, my personal favorite has to go to Lawrence who brought out such a fun and wacky role in ‘American Hustle’ and is one of the most memorable from the film as a whole.  A shame that she was not in the movie even more, but when she was on screen, it was hard to not pay attention.

Most Likely to Win: Lupita Nyong’o
Here is one of the more hotly contested awards of the night with Nyong’o and Lawrence both landing nearly equal awards throughout the season.  Nyong’o does have the slight edge some more recent wins such as at the Critic’s Choice Award, although as some critics have mentioned, ’12 Years’ may have some problems with many in the voting body possibly thinking of the movie as too heavy while ‘American Hustle’ has gotten a lot of early love from critics which may translate to rewarding the film here.

Actor in A Supporting Role

Barkhad Abdi – Captain Phillips
Bradley Cooper – American Hustle
Michael Fassbender – 12 Years a Slave
Jonah Hill – The Wolf of Wall Street
Jared Leto – Dallas Buyers Club

Wie’s Choice: Jared Leto
The actors category continue to have such a strong amount of great competitors this year with the supporting roles.  Although Hill and Cooper may land in my favorites (while Abdi, like Roberts, having a role that could have stood as a main actor role), Leto has the most fascinating character as a transgender woman suffering from AIDs.  Much like his co-star, McConaughey, the role goes far beyond just the physical transformation but also the lighthearted and heartfelt emotions that runs through the role.  Cheers to Leto for such a terrific performance.

Most Likely to Win: Jared Leto
Although Leto lost to Abdi at the BAFTA’s, Leto has won all other critical awards and is looking to go into the Oscar’s with the most momentum here.  There is also a lot of love for the ‘Dallas Buyers Club’ project and the knowledge about it’s long campaign to become a film may reward the film with acting wins.

Oscars_Best_Actors_Best_Actresses copyActress in a Leading Role

Amy Adams – American Hustle
Cate Blanchett – Blue Jasmine
Sandra Bullock – Gravity
Judi Dench – Philomena
Meryl Streep – August: Osage County

Wie’s Choice: Cate Blanchett
Another strong group of actors here – some of my personal favorites come from Dench (who technically did feel like a supporting role), Adams and Blanchett.  However, the best overall performance has to be Blanchett – a depressing character in a film that just continues to grow depressing with each act.  Blanchett plays Jasmine with such conviction in her lies and insanity that the character almost grows to be pitiful until the final few acts – one of Blanchett’s best roles to date.

Most Likely to Win: Cate Blanchett
Cate Blanchett has pretty much won most of the awards coming into the Oscars here with only Adams and Bullock winning one or two awards in separate categories.  However, the voting body seems to want to reward ‘Blue Jasmine’, if not in the screenplay category, they will most likely do so here.

Actor in a Leading Role

Christian Bale – American Hustle
Bruce Dern – Nebraska
Leonardo DiCaprio – The Wolf of Wall Street
Chiwetel Ejiofor – 12 Years a Slave
Matthew McConaughey – Dallas Buyers Club

Wie’s Choice: Leonardo DiCaprio
This category was tough to narrow down to one.  My favorite roles here probably could be narrowed down to Ejiofor, McConaughey and DiCaprio.  However, DiCaprio wins out for my personal favorite.  Even though the role and film itself could be hated as excessive and gluttonous, DiCaprio simply shines as the villainous Belfort and pushes himself to encapsulate a man who simply love his wealth and himself all too much.  I argue that it’s one DiCaprio’s best characters with such conviction in his delivery and emotions.

Most Likely to Win: Matthew McConaughey
Here comes another interesting contentious category.  Ejiofor and McConaughey are the favorites here (with DiCaprio only winning a few awards – mostly in separate categories).  McCounaughey has the slight edge over Ejiofor, however, both in awards count and, once again, the heavy-hearted talk about ’12 Years’ in general may work against Ejiofor.

Directing

American Hustle – David O. Russell
Gravity – Alfonso Cuarón
Nebraska – Alexander Payne
12 Years a Slave – Steve McQueen
The Wolf of Wall Street – Martin Scorsese

Wie’s Choice: Alfonso Cuaron
I personally have a lot of love for McQueen, O. Russell and Scorsese – all for unique reasons and for terrific films.  If these were the only directors in the race, Scorsese would have probably gotten my vote.  However, Cuaron, in the end, feels like he most deserves the award here.  ‘Gravity’ really is the lovechild of Cuaron from start to finish – from it’s pre-production  to the editing room.  Characteristics of Cuaron are also highly present throughout the film such as long shots, tough/tense shots and themes of humanity.  ‘Gravity’ is a labor of love and Cuaron is the heart.

Most Likely to Win: Alfonso Cuaron
Fascinatingly, even though ‘Gravity’ most likely will not win the Best Picture Award, Cuaron has swept every award for Best Director.  Much like my comments above, the long-in-development narrative behind ‘Gravity’ and the final product have proven to be critically viable and will most likely garner a win.  Only McQueen has a small chance to upset here if the voting body feels like ’12 Years’ is getting neglected.

390-oballot-0116Best Picture

American Hustle
Captain Phillips
Dallas Buyers Club
Gravity
Her
Nebraska
Philomena
12 Years a Slave
The Wolf of Wall Street

Wie’s Choice: 12 Years a Slave
Much like my top 10 film list for 2013, ’12 Years a Slave’ also tops the list here as well.  A powerful film that is unrelenting in it’s punishment and visceral in it’s vision, ’12 Years’ may be hard to watch but is such a solid film overall and is thematically important for it’s time.

Most Likely to Win: 12 Years a Slave
The final award of the night looks like it will most likely go to ’12 Years a Slave’ as it grabbed most of the past critical awards.  ‘American Hustle’ and ‘Gravity’ may have the best chances to upset with either past wins in separate categories or just love for the film overall.  However, the bigger story will be if the Academy voting body (much like at the aforementioned award shows) mostly ignores ’12 Years’ except for a few awards like the ‘Best Picture’ category.

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Those that have talked to me about this past summer of movies can easily retell you – I was extremely disappointed.  Whether it was a gluttony of bad scripts or a lousy sequel, there were simply too many depressing moments.  Hollywood is blaming the gluttony of blockbusters amongst the shrinking audience or the increasing competition of other media – both of which are true, but in my opinion – very few of the films this summer resonated or were well made overall, thus creating bad word of mouth and a general lack of disinterest.  I don’t believe this will be my last summer film recap forever as summers likes 2012 showed that the medium can still be both profitable and high in quality, but I sure hope Hollywood studios understand the reasoning behind the faulty exterior.  

The films below are a grab-bag of both my good/bad opinions of this past film summer season (especially since I fell behind reviewing) and of course, I haven’t watched all the films of the summer so do keep that in mind.  Check them out:

Favorite Blockbuster/Guilty Pleasure: Pacific Rim 2013-movie-preview-pacific-rim
Dumb but fun – Del Toro’s Pacific Rim encapsulates the exact opposite of what I find so lacking in the Transformers series from Bay.  Del Toro pays respect to his inspirations while knowing to never be overly serious with his crazy subject matter.  Although the film could have taken a few more steps to be a truly great films for the ages (whether it was some really awkwardly acted scenes or some lackluster sub plots), the film threw some great surprises and understood the nature of pacing and showmanship.  Pacific Rim was the most fun I had this summer and even though it may have been oddly marketed in the US or perhaps overly geeky – it still makes for a really great ride that deserves to be seen on the big screen.  

Runner-Up: This is the End
Not a big fan of the ending and almost goes into the territory of being too in-jokey but hey, This is the End was probably the funniest movie of the summer with some surprisingly candid, funny laughs and great cameos.  

Overall Favorite Film: Fruitvale Station fruitvale-station-main
Although it was overly simplistic and lacked a bigger picture perspective, Fruitvale Station is one of the most touching and well-acted films of the summer and perhaps the year thus far.  Although the whole cast deserves much credit for brining both candidness and gravitas to this up-and-down story, Michael B. Jordan deserves the best nod here as a young man who is quick on his feet and seemingly bright with a shady, conflicted past that continues to haunt him.  It’s a film about family; a film about racial profiling; and perhaps most importantly, a film about the gravity choices, however big or small.  A terrific film all-around.  

Runner-Up: Blue Jasmine
Blue Jasmine lacks the charm and love of the film’s location, San Francisco, as other Allen films and starts out so depressing and never really gets any brighter.  Still, Blancett’s acting is absolutely terrific and the script helps dive the characters into a myriad of mistakes, lies and misery – Allen is as insightful as ever.  

Matt Damon (left) and Sharlto Copley in Columbia Pictures' ELYSIUM.Most Disappointing Summer Movie: Elysium
With so many sequels and remakes this summer, it was surprising to see that an original film from one of my past favorite film’s directors, District 9’s Blomkamp,  earn the distinction of being my most disappointing summer movie.  Although Elysium is beautiful in it’s vision and gives off an initially fascinating world, the film devolves into poor writing and strange plot points.  What we are ultimately left with is a rote, mindless action film added with one-note characters, unnecessary repetitive scenes and one of the weakest endings this summer – a mighty shame given the fascinating backdrop Blomkamp and team created.  

Runner-Up: Man of Steel
Love-it-or-hate-it, unfortunately, Snyder’s Superman interpretation falls for me as a ‘hate it’.  A number of aspects push the film down from it’s schizophrenic story to poor plot beats that end up with characters that I never emphasized much with.  Add on top of all this a second half that has grand action scenes without much care for the surroundings and a lack of emotional pull equates to one of the most disappointing superhero films of the summer.     

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the-oscars-and-social-media-by-the-numbers-630dfbfb1c2012 was a terrific year for film.  Of course, the general box office might not think so and many fans of specific movies might be unhappy with the Oscar picks as they are nearly every year – but really, believe me when I state that this year’s Oscar candidates really reflects the high caliber of film that hasn’t been seen for a few years if not more.  Because of this, a lot of categories are interestingly going up in the air in terms of who has the better expectation in terms of winning.  We’ll find out tomorrow the results.  Here are my predictions for 2013: [And a good quick note, like every year, I miss a few categories simply because I lack the expertise in the specific category or I haven’t been able to watch most of the films in that category, such as Best Animated.] 

Original Screenplay:
Amour
Django Unchained
Flight
Moonrise Kingdom
Zero Dark Thirty

du-ac-000125_lg_620x350Most Likely to Win: Django Unchained
Django Unchained has been riding a huge tidal wave of success starting from it’s Golden Globe win to the BAFTA. The WGA was it’s only major loss (since it wasn’t nominated) and so going into the big Oscar week, it seems that many in the film community would like to honor Tarantino’s latest with a few awards, especially in two of it’s strongest areas starting with it’s witty and fascinating screenplay.  The only other two that could usurp it could be Zero Dark Thirty or Amour – one for it’s win at the WGA and the other because of rising emotional momentum.

Wie’s Choice: Moonrise Kingdom
It’s an utter shame that this category is the only nomination for Moonrise Kingdom which is hindered by both it’s summer release and quirky output. It also most likely has little chance of winning, but in my mind, Wes Anderson’s screenplay actually has a lot in common with the most likely winner, Django.  Both harken back to a specific nostalgic genre and play with those aesthetics to create it’s world and emotions.  However, I do feel that Moonrise is the more genuine out of the two and takes more risks that payoff in building it’s child-to-adulthood storybook plot, written with as much intelligence and fun as any other contender this year.

Adapted Screenplay:
Argo
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Life of Pi
Lincoln
Silver Linings Playbook

argoMost Likely to Win: Argo
Much like the majority of this predictions list, Argo has the biggest momentum moving into the Oscar night.  The film really capitalized on it’s early Oscar buzz more than any other film and with both wide exposure and a film that doesn’t do too much to offend and enough to excite – it looks like the clear frontrunner to beat.  Lincoln and Silver Linings Playbook seem to be the next films that could have a chance, the latter with a BAFTA win.

Wie’s Choice: Silver Linings Playbook
However, personally, the best screenplay goes to Silver Linings Playbook with Lincoln close behind.  Silver Linings lives and dies by it’s writing and character interplay – an element that is clearly a big help thanks to the well-written screenplay that could have left the fairly typical under trappings into mediocrity.  With such a huge element of success and love put into it’s screenplay, there’s no denying that Silver Linings Playbook is one of the most heartfelt screenplays on the list.

Visual Effects:
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Life of Pi
Marvel’s The Avengers
Prometheus
Snow White and the Huntsman

121121_MOV_LifeofPi.jpg.CROP.rectangle3-largeMost Likely to Win: Life of Pi
Life of Pi seems to be the clear frontrunner here, winning the most awards and most critical praise.  Sure there are some spectacular visual set pieces and some clear work done with the effects.  It most likely is the tiger, however, that really distinguishes the work above it’s competition – a feat that is all the more impressive when most audience members cannot distinguish between the real and the fake.

Wie’s Choice: Prometheus
However, admittedly, one of my most disappointing films of the year was still quite a pretty choice indeed.  Prometheus was both artistically beautiful and visually strong with consistently large and gorgeous set pieces and constant effects that never seemed to run out of steam.  The film itself may be quite weaker in comparison but the work done on the effects here should be recognized as some of the industry’s best of the previous year.

Music – Original Score:
Anna Karenina
Argo
Life of Pi
Lincoln
Skyfall

argo1Most Likely to Win: Argo
Music has been a bit all over the place this awards season with various winners from Skyfall’s BAFTA win to Life of Pi’s win at the Golden Globes.  Call it strange but I believe because of Argo’s lack of nominations or surefire wins in most other categories I believe the Academy will award Argo and it’s fairly interesting score a prize here.

Wie’s Choice: Life of Pi
However, I do believe Life of Pi, although the dominant winner in my eyes, is one of the more unique soundtracks of the year.  Both Eastern and mystical in it’s musical trappings, in a film where the players do not change as much on screen, an important component became the musical backdrop to truly push the film along with it’s beautiful visuals – something that the soundtrack has done.

Film Editing:
Argo
Life of Pi
Lincoln
Silver Linings Playbook
Zero Dark Thirty

121011_MOV_Argo.jpg.CROP.rectangle3-largeMost Likely to Win: Argo
The editing category here has gone to quite a few different movies this season.  However, much like the reasoning with the Music Score, I believe the Academy will go similarly here with editing and award it to Argo, both creating consistency with it’s eventual lead-up to bigger awards and because it does have some momentum in terms of other wins as well.  Zero Dark Thirty and Life of Pi are the most likely other choices.

Wie’s Choice: Silver Linings Playbook
My choice falls alongside an interesting choice – Silver Linings Playbook.  I believe the film was at it’s strongest with it’s pacing and frenetic energy helped by a tremendous job in the editing room.  The film was quick and all over the place yet still had a foundation and weight that kept it all level – something that the editing here really succeeded at I believe more than the other film contenders.  However, Silver Linings doesn’t look to be the top choice here in the final night.

Cinematography:
Anna Karenina
Django Unchained
Life of Pi
Lincoln
Skyfall

life-of-pi02Most Likely to Win: Life of Pi
Life of Pi is the clear frontrunner with both the critical acclaim and the awards lead thus far – a not too surprising choice given some of the beautiful camera moments that really push the wow factor of the film’s big set pieces.  With little to slow it down other than a surprise upset from Skyfall or Anna Karenina, two of the artier cinematography films nominated, Life of Pi has little to lose here.

Wie’s Choice: Skyfall
However, I was more impressed with the beauty and grandeur of Skyfall.  Although it lacks some of the more abstract moments of Life of Pi, this latest Bond flick encompasses some beautiful camera decisions that result in one of the best looking Bond films yet that really take advantages of the locales Bond visits.  From a beautiful pan out fight to the death under the ice to a Shanghai fight against the neon lights, Skyfall is my pick amongst these candidates for Best Cinematography.

Actress in a Supporting Role:
Amy Adams (The Master)
Sally Field (Lincoln)
Anne Hathaway (Les Misérables)
Helen Hunt (The Sessions)
Jacki Weaver (Silver Linings Playbook)

1500_les_miserables_anne_hathawayMost Likely to Win: Anne Hathaway
Anne Hathaway is the easiest acting role nomination to pick because she has swept every single category she has been in.  From the Golden Globes to the SAGs, there hasn’t been a major award that Hathaway hasn’t won.  Hunt’s role is probably too miniscule in comparison to Hathaway along with Weaver.  Adams had a terrific performance that played against her usual roles but still was not as dominating and Field, although an Oscars favorite, may have tried to dominate in Lincoln but still clearly overshadowed by her bigger-than-life Day-Lewis/Lincoln husband.

Wie’s Choice: Anne Hathaway
But that being said, Hathaway really dominates in her role all-around, as short of a period as she is in the movie for.  With ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ as her big solo moment and the story of Fantine making up the big transition to the halfway point in the movie, Hathaway’s role was really either a take-it-or-leave-it moment and Hathaway did the role justice.  It helped that Director Hooper chose to really be intimate during the songs and hone in on the characters, giving them a musical-like moment to be judged and reviewed.

Actor in a Supporting Role:
Alan Arkin (Argo)
Robert De Niro (Silver Linings Playbook)
Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Master)
Tommy Lee Jones (Lincoln)
Christoph Waltz (Django Unchained)

christoph-waltz-django-unchained-1Most Likely to Win: Christoph Waltz
Here’s a category that initially seemed like an easier category to predict but has gotten a bit unsteady throughout the weeks.  Waltz was the frontrunner at first with a win at the Globes and another at the BAFTA.  However, Jones and Hoffman have also each received an award for their equally powerful performance in their movies and some pundits believe that De Niro and Arkin are both deserving of an award as well.  However, Waltz seems like the most likely winner amongst the group simply due to the stats.  We’ll see.
Wie’s Choice: Christoph Waltz
This category is also filled with heavy hitters in nearly every spot.  Jones and Hoffman are very much deserving of the award – the former for his earnest candor that really focused on working his acting chops and the latter really being a bombastic middleman that kept the Master together.  However, it really is Waltz that stole the Django show with a performance that shone as witty and dramatic.  How does a German cowboy work in an exploitation Western?  Simply watch Waltz work his magic.

Actress in a Leading Role:
Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty)
Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook)
Emmanuelle Riva (Amour)
Quvenzhané Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild)
Naomi Watts (The Impossible)

amour-riva_2448292bMost Likely to Win: Emmanuelle Riva
What was once a clear-shot win for Lawrence has started swaying in the other direction for Amour’s Emmanuelle Riva since her win at the BAFTA’s.  Pundits are predicting that the stars are aligning correctly for the actress along with appealing to the majority of the Academy’s older voters.  Furthermore, it’s her 86th birthday during the Oscar’s – a great birthday present and story that the Oscar’s would seemingly love (and her role in Amour itself is critically acclaimed and a nomination well-deserved).

Wie’s Choice: Jennifer Lawrence
As much as I cherish and respect Riva’s role though, my favorite performance of the year is still Lawrence.  Silver Linings Playbook is heavily reliant on it’s actors to convey the quick-paced, nearly-schizophrenic plot and Lawrence has been the biggest force to lead the charge in the film.  Continuing to diversify her roles and showcase, her role here is one that is very stalwart yet emotionally frail – confident yet filled with holes.  Her chemistry on screen and her ups and downs throughout the film was a thrill to watch and my pick for the Best Actress of 2012.

Actor in a Leading Role:
Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook)
Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln)
Hugh Jackman (Les Misérables)
Joaquin Phoenix (The Master)
Denzel Washington (Flight)

daniel-day-lewis-lincoln4Most Likely to Win: Daniel Day-Lewis
Here is probably the easiest category to choose of the night unless there’s some sort of hard upset that – Mr. Day-Lewis has been picking up pretty much every major award up to the Oscar’s with little momentum shifting away from him.  Hugh Jackman is probably the only one with a bit of hype on his side with his Golden Globe win but little else in their other confrontations.

Wie’s Choice: Daniel Day-Lewis
The choice though is fairly sound, even amongst such heavy competition.  Day-Lewis truly embodies Lincoln both as a fantastic storyteller and a strong but flawed leader.  Spielberg’s style throughout the film leaned heavily on Day-Lewis as well for nearly the entire film with quiet moments telling an intimate story to an emotional fight with his wife that again, Day-Lewis perfectly balanced.

Directing:
Michael Haneke (Amour)
Benh Zeitlin (Beasts of the Southern Wild)
Ang Lee (Life of Pi)
Steven Spielberg (Lincoln)
David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook)

2088_life-of-pi-ang-lee-640Most Likely to Win: Ang Lee
Here comes the strangest award of the night as three heavy-weight directors that were nominated in Best Picture are not here including heavy favorite Argo.  So what in the world happens then?  Pundits seem all over the place here with the fight being a three-way match between Spielberg, whose film is leading in terms of nominations, Russell, who has swept the nominations for the acting categories, and Lee who has been a late favorite among many.  Without any clear award indicator from before other than the critical rumblings, I would have to agree with Lee in this case – a film that truly blossomed into a fascinating contender later in the game.

Wie’s Choice: David O. Russell
Again, however, the nominated directors here showcases the strength of this past year’s films.  Nearly all of them deserve some kind of recognition but my personal favorites come down between Haneke and Russell, the latter of which I will tip my hat to.  As I’ve described previously in other choices, Silver Linings Playbook was an achievement thanks to many moving cogs – a film that could have easily slipped into a typical rom-com and held together to become something much more significant thanks to Russell and his great work in building his characters – an achievement that out of this list I believe he accomplished best.

Best Picture:
Amour
Argo
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Django Unchained
Les Misérables
Life of Pi
Lincoln
Silver Linings Playbook
Zero Dark Thirty

Argo-1Most Likely To Win: Argo
And so comes the big last award of the night, which will most likely go to Argo.  How come?  The momentum behind this film is huge since it’s release.  It has been a Hollywood darling, winning nearly every major award since the awards season started and really scratching the backs of making Hollywood feel like it’s a hero.  Additionally, with no nomination for Best Director oddly, that should solidify it’s Best Picture win all the more unless a crazy upset happens from Les Miserables, Zero Dark Thirty, Silver Linings Playbook, or Lincoln.

Wie’s Choice: Zero Dark Thirty
It really was a great year for film as this list encompasses, with nearly every film on here really deserving it’s spot.  However, my favorite of the year is Zero Dark Thirty – what I thought to be a much more focused and emotionally nuanced political/historical thriller than Argo.  As I described in my favorite films of 2012 post, Zero Dark Thirty pushes a fascinating and grueling tale about the capture of Osama Bin Laden from the perspective of a lone wolf agent.  Unafraid to explore touchy subject matter such as torture and intelligence, Zero Dark Thirty is a great film all-around and my choice for my personal Best Picture Oscar.

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When I was growing up (and I’m sure this still applies to some degree to current times as well), early Saturday morning cartoons were interesting products because they not only had entertaining self-contained stories but an interesting mythos that also had kept you coming back for more and more adventures many familiar characters.  Why bring this up in a review about an animated epic film like The Adventures of Tintin?  Because both for the better and for the worse, Tintin had elements from these old pastimes (and to note, this review is coming from someone that is fairly oblivious to the original Tintin comics).  Although filled with some beautiful imagery and visually bombastic moments, the film was fairly emotionally flat, lacking context for its plot and characters and a haphazard pacing.

The titular character in The Adventures of Tintin (Jamie Bell) is a young journalist well-respected in his town for solving various cases.  With his trusty dog, Snowy, he is on hot on a new case involving a model ship that has him crossing path with a dastardly villain named Rackham (Daniel Craig), who is seeking these model ships to uncover an ancient secret.  Along the way, he runs into Captain Haddock (Andy Serkins), whose ship has been taken over by Rackham but with a much more important past that connects him to the treasure, along with the help of two clumsy detective twins Thompson and Thompson (Simon Pegg/Nick Frost).  Together, they battle against time to see who can obtain the ultimate treasure first.

Tintin’s strengths are in its visual presentation and motions.  Spielberg and his team has created a beautiful world for Tintin and his comrades (and villains) to travel through, helped by the many different lands that they visit.  The motion capture animation style usually has an uncanny valley feeling to it that feels stilted and eerie, yet there is a mostly good balance here between a slightly exaggerated artstyle and the realistic touches of the locales and human beings.  Clumsy characters like Haddock benefit the most from the art along with more drawn-out action scenes that have a wonderful long take feel that can be implemented.  A sword fight between Haddock and Rackham is a truly terrific scene that showcases this style well.  The animation is also well-done because of the clever thinking behind what happens in each scene.  The many set pieces that are contained within the film are fun and filled with tons of adrenaline.  Take for instance an action set piece that involves multiple characters in a motorcycle and jeep that incorporates a ton of environmental elements, animals and marvelous long takes that would be hard-pressed to see in a live-action film.  Even the transitions get a creative visual treatment and are expertly done so no matter how small or trivial it may be, from drops of water into ripples to storms.  One last positive note needs to be made of Captain Haddock, the most interesting character of the entire film.  Not only is he amazingly played by the versatile Serkins who thrives under the mask of illusions, but the character is so whimsical and out-there that it is through his actions that my interest (and I’m sure many others) will be kept with the film.

And yet the film feels like it misses an emotional core as a complete afterthought to all the beauty and animated interests created.  The main issue comes in the lack of context and care in the core characters.  Other than the interesting characteristics of Haddock, everyone else not only feels very one-dimensional but with very little care on who they are.  ‘Lessons’ that characters seem to learn are trivial and given a second of screen time.  Not helping matters is a plot that has an awkward introduction, middle and end, in which the film plops in and rushes out without any satisfaction.  This point isn’t to argue that it needs an origin thread or a completely finished conclusion, but instead, to argue that the plot decisions lack any definition and therefore creates an even flimsier plot line and sense of any emotional connection with the overall film.  Indeed, the pacing’s haphazard nature didn’t help at all either with anticlimatic finishes and story beats that are based more around set piece to set piece than a more organic feel.  Why are all these such important points though?  Because of these glossy, one-note caricatures and the flimsy plot, the film has no emotional weight.  What is the point of a thrilling spectacle when the audience doesn’t really care about the main characters?  Fights, flying airplanes, and explosions become the core film and seem pointless without heroes to root for or even despise, and the plot isn’t strong enough to hold them up to scrutiny.  (One final note that wasn’t considered in the final review of the content of the film – the 3D didn’t add anything to the final value of the film.)

The Adventures of Tintin is most likely going to be judged very differently in terms of those that are familiar with the original comic series and those that aren’t, in which I personally fall in the latter.  For that reason, I felt that the film was filled with exciting set pieces and some grand cinematography, but overall, Tintin felt incomplete with little emotional weight to back it up.  Spielberg’s directorial style and motivations are very clear and, many times, make for some wonderful, entertaining scenes, no doubt helped by a really beautiful, mo-cap animation style that fits the mood of the film.  However, without context and much emotional resonance, there is little reason to care when the titular characters are beaten up or accomplish a major goal and instead results in a more Saturday morning cartoon feel than an epic plot.  

Director: Steven Spielberg
Running Time: 107 Minutes
Rated: PG

The Wie muses: ** ½ out of *****

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Biographies are fascinating to see captured on film because of the limited time given.  Directors and writers need to decide on a variety of factors, most importantly the angle and the character they want to bring forth to the subject.  Whether it is to show a specific time frame or a lifelong tribute, the importance of nailing down this important purpose is crucial to both understanding the film and creating something worthwhile.  Eastwood has taken the route of showcasing a wide timeline and back-and-forth flashback mentality to his biopic, J. Edgar. Although admirable for the ambitious scope of the task and carried by its fearless DiCaprio, the scope seems far too long and unfocused to make any sort of real impact along with other rough spots.

J. Edgar (Leonardo DiCaprio) is the titular character, the first Director of the FBI.  The film tells his life through a series of flashbacks starting from the inception of the Palmer Raids, a series of arrests aimed against radical leftists in the late 1910s when Edgar was part of the Justice Department. Soon, after his dedication to the department, he would rise to the first FBI Director in which he looked over its creation and continued operations.  However, controversies would erupt between Edgar and the many enemies he made during his tenure.  His only true cohorts become his number two man, Clyde Tolso (Armie Hammer), his personal secretary, Helen Gandy (Naomi Watts) and his mother (Judi Dench).

The strengths of J. Edgar lie in its ambitious script and acting.  Eastwood presents a very long period of time in a fairly great amount of detail to showcase the possible reasons and ambitions that exist within Edgar.  Although other films have showcased such scope before, it’s still a commendable feat to really try and cram in a treasure trove of historical backdrops that change in terms of style, mood and atmosphere.  Eastwood isn’t shy either of dropping historical names and giving them actual faces from Robert Kennedy to Richard Nixon.  This script is backed up by a great cast that doesn’t falter away from the task, but the best comes from Leonardo DiCaprio who really does his best job to play the young to the old iterations of Edgar along with all his character deficiencies, which there are quite a lot of.  DiCaprio is defiant till the very end, however, in a great acting role that showcases both powerful character mannerisms to subdued nuances.  Finally, there are some consistent Eastwood touches that always define his latest films from the good color correction and stylistic choices.

Unfortunately, these positives are greatly hindered by the hesitation in discovering what Eastwood wanted out of his film to the rough edges surrounding its characters and aesthetics.  The very ambition of the scope of the biopic is part of its detractor. One part the scope affected was its pacing, which is slow and tedious.  Eastwood has a tough time finding a good rhythm to the deep plot as scenes drag out much too long and doesn’t feel as if it added much to understanding of the characters or scenes.  This point comes into play as well due to repetitive points and a high usage of melodrama.  Characters have a habit of repeating a plot point much too often in different ways that bogs down the film as well as a heavy-handed camera that tends to linger on a scene to try to show the emotive qualities but comes off as more cheesy and forced.  A key end scene with Edgar as an older man that has already been reiterated should have been a loving and emotional moment, but because of how long Eastwood lingers on the scene, not only did it feel like the audience is receiving the same bit of information for the fifth time but an overly sentimental scene that didn’t seem emotionally honest.

The script itself also seems fairly confused in terms of its focus.  Many side characters that have a fairly large amount of screen time or presence feel underdeveloped and undervalued.  Watts’ character, for instance, is there with Edgar throughout nearly his entire lifespan and her motivations and character intricacies are fairly one-dimensional and never developed further than slightly having a motherly concern later on in her life.  One would think this lack of characterization may be due to time constraints or a real focus on Edgar, yet as explained before, the film spends a great deal of time already on repetitive points or unnecessary aspects.  It doesn’t help that the scenes, in which the characters are much older, include prosthetics don’t really sell the age difference, looking too fake with too much make-up   The final oddity comes with the purpose of the film, in which it isn’t quite clear.  Indeed, the film is interesting in its remarks of Edgar’s life and motivations, but the perspective is neither objective or purpose-filled.  Instead, there is a strange middle ground the film tries to take but isn’t successful there either as the film meanders and tries to find its footing.  In the end, audience members will take from J. Edgar as a strange man with lofty ambitions and a weak spirit but very little else.

J. Edgar is a biopic that is lethargic and rough but still has enough intrigue due to the commitment by its actors to pull all the way through.  This very intimate look into J. Edgar’s supposed life and motivations make for a tough watch due to the overuse of melodrama and the slow pacing of the entire affair.  However, the passionate acting troupe and the ambitious lifelong plot line makes the film at least worth a gander with DiCaprio pushing through to grab the audience’s lulled attention.  This strange back-and-forth positive-and-negative thinking really is core to the film unfortunately as the film seems muddled and unsure of its purpose, perhaps much like its central character.  In the end, perhaps even Eastwood could not pin down the Edgar’s strange life as a cinematic character study which is in itself a revelation.    

Director: Clint Eastwood
Running Time: 137 Minutes
Rated: R

The Wie muses: *** out of *****

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Award season for films are upon us and so I thought it would be a good time wrap up my musing and type up a top 10 list for my films of the year.

2010, though, was not the strongest year for the filming communities as it went through some growing pains no thanks to the film studio’s endless pandering to 3D along with sequel and remake fatigue.  This resulted in a skew of critically ravaged and poor box office take-ins with some success sprinkled here and there.  Whether it’s because of the increased connectivity and recommendation of peer reviews or the digital move of films online or perhaps just pessimism in the current film industry, there are major changes that film studios need to make to their strategy to stay viable for the next decade as the battle with all of these elements will only continue to increase.

However, on that sour note, that is not to say the year was devoid of its winners as there were good films in all genres.  The year began to see more of an acceptance of the online realm into films along the lines of different genres.  Additionally, the big idea of a film really reigned through (along with clever and good marketing) and both independent and smaller produced film enjoyed a late-year push.

With that short analysis of the year, the following 10 films are my favorites of the year.  Some are diverse; some fit along with the other thousands of critics across the world; and some were total box office and critical failures.  Still, each of these I wholeheartedly enjoyed and stuck with me to the present day.  So without further ado, the Wie’s Top 10 Films of 2010:

[Note: There are no foreign films on this list because I did not have a chance to view many.  One of these days, I will make time to honor these foreign entries, especially since many of them now are at the forefront of cinematic change.]

A Special Mention: Never Let Me Go
This year, it was difficult to cap the list at ten with some outstanding films really vying to be included.  One of my personal favorites that I had to remove from the main list but had to include in some capacity is Never Let Me Go, a lower budget sci-fi film intertwined with a romantic backdrop.  Although the premise is strange and runs into problems with the pacing, the end result is beautiful.  A toned down color palette and a loving camera helps set the scene, while the acting, ranging from Garfield to Knightly to Mulligan, brings about quiet yet graceful performances.  One of the biggest surprises came from the clever twists in the scenery and aesthetics that helped sell the future, alternate universe of the film that only added to the immense atmosphere.  Yet, perhaps, the reason it still resonates in my mind is that the final twist in the film just quietly nestled itself into my psyche; it is not blithely shocking or uncomfortably flinching yet consistent with the film’s themes and a look into the realities of human experimentation and the question of what exactly has a soul.  Other films have touched upon these in various ways, yet ‘Never Let Me Go’ is presented in such a captivating light that keeps it the minds of all its viewers.

10. Black Swan
Black Swan is a quickly paced film that mixes in Aronofsky’s schizophrenic mindset of Requiem for a Dream with the intriguing character study of a performer (ala The Wrestler).  Although I found the film to be a bit too melodramatic and predictable than many of my peers, the film has all the aesthetic trappings set to a high caliber.  The cinematography is tight and candid, mixing in a horrific atmosphere with a dramatic film, and the musical reworking of Swan Lake is haunting and beautiful.  Aronofsky, himself, is also simply interesting to consider with his fascination for the strange yet poignant plotlines.  With The Wrestler, he peered into the lives of pro wrestling that was much more pained and melancholic than many spectators probably knew about.  With Black Swan, he focuses on the life of another stage performer, this time much younger than in The Wrestler, and the pains of perfection, inspiration, and corruption.  Although filled with more insanity than a typical drama, the underlying themes still resonate with the viewers to the final and heartbreaking last note.  And finally, the acting is superb throughout.  The supporting cast fills out their roles respectably from the obsessed and flawed musical director (Cassel) to Hershey’s caring yet broken mother.  But the main attraction and one of the best features of this film is Natalie Portman.  Her talent as an actress has never been in question, yet moviegoers have always been waiting for a role that she could embody and shine.  Black Swan is it as she brings both an innocent charm and a nasty darker personality mixed with a very technical performance through her dance.  The audience can only keep wondering into what other realms Aronofsky will go next.

9. True Grit
True Grit is a very straightforward Western film, yet the Coen Brothers have filed it with terrific characters, witty dialogue, and gorgeous shots.  As with many of their more epic film sprawls, the vast deserts and locales look stunning with smart wide shots and beautifully placed angles that brings out a great amount of atmosphere.  Additionally, the dialogue is strange, funny, and touching all at once.  The laconic old Western dialogue is mixed with personalities that fly all over the spectrum that both seems to parody yet respect the old heritage of the language and gives so much quality to each of the characters in the duration of the film.  Finally, the three main acting trio, here, rounds out the film’s excellence.  Damon’s goody-two-shoes Texan never becomes grating but adds a lot of flavor to the dynamics.  Bridges is marvelous as the drunk and struggling US marshal with a rich background, not needing to be conveyed by any flashbacks but through his monologue mumblings throughout the plot.  And finally, newcomer Kim Darby anchors the film as the young 14-year-old girl who narrates and begins the pursuit against her father’s killer.  It may not be the Coens best work but is not only simply exciting and enjoyable to watch; it’s poignant and rich in details and characters that stand out as some of the year’s most memorable.

8. The King’s Speech
Majestic; royal; honorable are all adjectives that describe monarchs at their prime.  The King’s Speech views how each of these elements can be turned on its head by technology and defects that can create a slew of problems, especially for the Royal Family of England.  ‘The King’s Speech’ does brood a bit and romanticizes the 1930 time period with a very ethereal gaze, yet when the film hits its stride between King George (Firth) and Lionel (Rush), the dynamic between the two characters and the slow ascension of political unrest is engrossing and fascinating.  Two separate plot threads become slowly and perfectly intertwined with one another and the film’s predictable, and graceful climax becomes a great scene, reminiscent of an orchestra conductor leading his musician in a beautiful melody.  It not only is amazing how a stammering monarch never becomes too annoying to listen to but the strong and rich performances of Firth and Rush and the rest of the stellar supporting cast, especially the underutilized Carter as Queen Elizabeth, round out a package that makes the film a force to be listened to and heard.  The King’s Speech is not only sweetly inspirational but a study of both political will and a speech study that should only become more fascinating after each viewing.

7. The Kids are All Right
This dramatic comedy came in the middle of the summer as a surprise.  Its modern family premise with a lesbian couple, their two children and their sperm donor father, made for a fresh and intriguing foundation. The film ended up looking at the societal implications of the 21st century family.  Its script is methodical but witty and moving with characters and situations that never feel out-of-place and does not worry moving its own plot along in place of understanding the characters, motivations, and thematic implications.  Great acting is evident from the children, Wasikowska and Hutcherson, who bring out a mixture of curiosity and teenage angst, mixed with the great performance of Ruffalo as the father that gets more and more intertwined and caught up in a life he never knew he really had.  Moore and Benning are, however, the highlights of this terrific picture that both not only give great performances as a couple but never force or make the relationship feel out-of-place.  The Kids are All Right is a film that is a great look into the changing notion of family and perhaps gives the most ‘radical’ conclusion: that the core values of family are omnipresent whoever the parents are.

6. The American
Although some may consider Black Swan to be the polarizing film of the year, I believe The American takes the spot with a very split love it/hate it mentality with most aiming towards the latter.  However, for those on the other side, including myself, it is an atmospheric, meticulous dramatic film that has one of the best sound designs of the year along with being a well-crafted film.  The sound is impeccable and really carries much of the film’s tension and anxiety.  As much as there are some action scenes, very few actual gunshots are fired.  However, it is at the moment that the shot is fired that is truly harrowing with it sounding not only loud but crisp and realistically deadly.  This atmosphere of silence and noise continues throughout the film with short bursts of dialogue and exposition interwoven with this sense of dread.  Right up until the satisfying conclusion, the audience continues to guess where the plot will turn as it continues to play with sound and silence.  In addition, from the presence of light to butterflies to slight nuances in the dialogue give way to having to pay careful attention to every detail; making it head-wrenching but ultimately satisfying to see it all come together by film’s end.  Clooney continues his run of great film roles that force him to delve more into the uncanny and dramatic; a great role that utilizes his emotions rather than his charm to make the role work.  This film perhaps is not as great of a character study as some of the others or exciting or altogether enjoyable, yet it still is memorable and pervades my thoughts when thinking of 2010 and film.  The gunshots and the lead-up to the climax feel like they continue to ring up against my ear, reliving the memories of Italy and an assassin’s journey.

5. How to Train a Dragon
Animated films allow the creative team to explore the imagination without having to sacrifice a possible disconnect in experience since all the elements in these films are usually not embedded in live action elements.  This year saw the entries of a few good entries in the animated genre, yet I felt that Dreamwork’s How to Train a Dragon really shone through as the most original and successful work that captured my attention.  Visually, it shines with vibrant colors and a great looking art style.  It also is one of the few films that I thought actually utilized its 3D well with some fantastic set pieces that created a great adrenaline rush and experience through perspective shots and well-placed angles.  It does not hurt that it has a good, pulsating soundtrack with nice performances from its voiceovers and great pacing.  Even though the plot may not be the best of what its animated predecessors in general have had to offer and does not deliver the best narrative strand or characters on this list, as a total package, Dreamworks should be proud of ‘How to Train a Dragon’ and continue to push the animated medium to new heights, bound by only the confines of the imagination.

4. 127 Hours
127 Hours is a film that is inspirational as it is frightening.  Honestly, many directors would have taken the work and created a 30-minute special on it on television since the great majority of the movie takes place in a canyon with an adventurer stuck in a boulder.  The energetic Boyle, however, takes that challenge and creates a beautiful film that is filled with vigor and candidness.  It really is one of the best films to capture the mindset of someone trapped and alone, utilizing everything from color to dream sequences to smart editing tricks that never feel tedious or out-of-place.  Yes, the ending that everyone knows sequence is excruciating not because of some visual trickery but the sound design that is haunting.  And yet the conclusion seems fitting given the circumstances and the reasons given.  As much as it was the year for many young actors and actresses to come into their own, this was Franco’s movie to shine, and he doesn’t disappoint at all with a strange combination of glee, frenzy, and fear.  Add to this the strange and bombastic soundtrack of A.R. Rahman that perfectly fits in with the great style and vigor of the film, the overall respect and grace given to the source material, and how skillful 127 Hours is with its exposition, and the end result is the most inspirational and tense films of the year.

3. Somewhere
Somewhere is one of the most honest and subtle films on this list that takes snapshots of a day in the life of a movie actor and pieces them together to create an insight into human existence.  The hurdle to get over for most will be both in its haphazard pacing that gazes for long periods of times at the minute details to the fact that Dorff’s apathetic character seems initially aloof to the trials and tribulations of the everyday person.  Here is a character who is immensely rich, handsome, and popular; being able to bed any girl he wants and go anywhere he pleases.  Yet as the film delves deeper, the flaws become easily apparent and the resonance Dorff has with Cleo (Fanning), his daughter, is not only touching but alluring.  The characters are witty yet filled with this sense of real weight.  Dorff is excellent in his multiple transformations he takes throughout the film; and the candidness of the camera brings about a flurry of emotions so easily without having to force itself to be different or stylish or strange.  And best of all, Coppola’s direction and writing are top notch here.  Never having to resort to explicit melodrama or a moody soundtrack and just focusing on the characters and their lives; Somewhere presents and explores the question of being and the motivation to live and all the trappings we, as humans, trap ourselves with.

2. The Social Network
A film about Facebook, many feared, was too soon and would be a waste of time.  However, The Social Network really does come at a perfect time as Facebook passes the 500 million users mark and was just valued as a $50 billion company.  Additionally, the film comes at a time when its users and critics start to wonder at the moral and social implications of such a platform and the wonder, frustration, and envy that borne from it.  The Social Network does not explicitly take on the present day issues of Facebook but it beholds a past that is filled with many of these elements, creates an engaging set of characters and plot threads, and leaves the audience, in the end, with who is perhaps the best character of 2010, Mark Zuckerberg (Eisenberg).  On a purely aesthetical level, the pacing is quick yet understandable; the writing is smart and snappy which both builds character and is always interesting to hear; the direction shines with a hand for interplaying the light and heavy moments; and the acting is full of wonderful moments that make the characters live and breathe with sincerity.  Best of all, Eisenberg’s acting shines to create one of the most memorable characters.  It is through Zuckerberg, whether true or false in reality, that the themes of the film are imbued within the characteristics of Facebook and the struggles that he himself goes through are the struggles that the online user today must grapple with.  In and of itself, The Social Network is one of the best films of 2010 because of both being a great piece of content and a symbolic film of the next generation of users.

1. Inception
Inception is more than just a blockbuster.  It is more than simply a complex tale involving multiple plot threads at once.  And most importantly, it is more than just an escapist piece of fiction.  Inception is the embodiment of the relationship between the film and its designer and is a film that can really be read on so many different levels.  It is befuddling to read through the various interpretations available.  On a technical level, the film is phenomenal.  It utilizes its realistic template with actual setpieces that are extraordinary with CG utilized in ways that hold this sense of illusion.  The soundtrack is bombastic, strong, and driving.  The cinematography work is stunning.  And the acting is good: a team effort through and through.  Yet perhaps the most stunning element is the fact that it is all kept together with a strong direction and an excellent script.  It never loses sight of its goal and mission, even with the four to five plot strands that interweave with one another by film’s end and the numerous flash forwards, flashbacks, and dream case scenarios.  Nolan has utilized the medium of film to let his imagination soar far and create an experience only possible here.  The film still resonates in my mind to this day as one that excels in all its areas, is able to bring a coherent and excellent piece of content forth to the audience, and brings a deciphered code of a message that can be interpreted in a multitude of ways.  For instance, my reading is to the camp that sees Inception as Nolan’s 8 ½, a brilliant film by Fellini.  Fellini created a symbolic film of a director’s struggle to create a film and manage his own life.  Nolan has created a similar film under the guise of a fanatical dream; a dream that perhaps humans all share in telling an idea, a concept, a story to one another, and the struggles and memories human beings must muddle through in order to bring these elements to light.  Perhaps this reading is silly; yet in the end, I believe that is why so many were fascinated with Inception, as it tapped into our own subconscious and asked everyone what we believed our dreams to be.

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