Matt's Blog

A First Look At This Year's Oscar Contenders


New Moon

 

I caught New Moon last Wednesday night and posted my review not long after.  The film has been discussed to death by everyone so I don’t think there’s a lot more I can add now.  I gave it a B- grading – it’s ok but nothing special.  Other critics have been a lot more scathing.

 

What I do want to comment on is the incredible box-office debut.  New Moon opened with $140m in the United States – the 3rd biggest in history.  In Australia, it earned $16m in its first four days – THE biggest in history.

 

Wow.  When you think of all the great films which have been made, this is currently the biggest in terms of bums on seats in Australia.  I know there’s inflation to factor in but it’s still staggering.  Will the next film be even bigger or will the gloss start to wear off?  We’re fickle people…

 

Award Season Preview

 

Each November, I’m usually an excited moviegoer.  Why?  Well the Academy Awards are usually held in late February / early March and in the three months prior, all the major studios release their “prestige” movies.  Instead of super-heroes and special effects, we get movies with realistic storylines and quality acting.  I know that doesn’t please some people but it definitely pleases me!

 

Last year at this time, I listed 10 films which would be in contention.  Lo and behold, the 5 best picture nominees came from this list.  I say this not to brag but when it comes to award season, it’s usually fairly predictable how things will turn out.  The Academy tends to favour certain directors and stars and the intense marketing machine helps too.

 

This year is a little different though.  For the first time since the 1940s, there are going to be 10 nominees for best picture.  This doesn’t mean that all of these films will have a chance at winning the best picture prize.  Each year, there are always 2 or 3 films that stand out and I’m sure this year will be no exception.  The other contenders will be going through their paces… happy just to be nominated.

 

Now there are a small number of films already released this year which may have a shot at a best picture nominee.  These would include An Education, Inglourious Basterds, A Serious Man, Star Trek, Up and District 9.

 

But those films you need to keep a close eye on over the next few months are as follows – in order of release date:

 

Avatar

Release Date In Australia:  17 December 2009

Director:  James Cameron (Titanic)

Starring:  Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Michelle Rodriguez, Sigourney Weaver

Plot Overview Per IMDB:  In the future, Jake, a paraplegic war veteran, is brought to another planet, Pandora, which is inhabited by the Na'vi, a humanoid race with their own language and culture. Those from Earth find themselves at odds with each other and the local culture.

 

The Lovely Bones

Release Date In Australia:  26 December 2009

Director:  Peter Jackson (The Lord Of The Rings)

Starring:  Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz, Stanley Tucci, Susan Sarandon, Saoirse Ronan

Plot Overview Per IMDB:  Based on the best selling book by Alice Sebold, The Lovely Bones is the story of a 14-year-old girl from suburban Pennsylvania who is murdered by her neighbor. She tells the story from Heaven, showing the lives of the people around her and how they have changed all while attempting to get someone to find her lost body.

 

Bright Star

Release Date In Australia:  26 December 2009

Director:  Jane Campion (The Piano)

Starring:  Ben Whishaw, Abbie Cornish, Kerry Fox, Paul Schneider

Plot Overview Per IMDB:  The drama based on the three-year romance between 19th century poet John Keats and Fanny Brawne, which was cut short by Keats' untimely death at age 25.

 

It’s Complicated

Release Date In Australia:  1 January 2010

Director:  Nancy Meyers (Something’s Gotta Give)

Starring:  Meryl Streep, John Krasinski, Alec Baldwin, Steve Martin, Hunter Parrish, Rita Wilson

Plot Overview Per IMDB:  A romantic comedy in which two men vie for the affection of a woman.

 

Up In The Air

Release Date In Australia:  7 January 2010

Director:  Jason Reitman (Juno)

Starring:  George Clooney, Vera Farmiga, Jason Bateman, Anna Kendrick, Danny McBride

Plot Overview Per IMDB:  Ryan Bingham is a corporate downsizing expert whose cherished life on the road is threatened just as he is on the cusp of reaching ten million frequent flyer miles and just after he's met the frequent-traveler woman of his dreams.

 

The Last Station

Release Date In Australia:  14 January 2010

Director:  Michael Hoffman (The Emperor’s Club)

Starring:  James McAvoy, Christopher Plummer, Paul Giamatti, Helen Mirren, Anne-Marie Duff, Kerry Condon

Plot Overview Per IMDB:  A historical drama that illustrates Russian author Leo Tolstoy's struggle to balance fame and wealth with his commitment to a life devoid of material things.

 

Invictus

Release Date In Australia:  21 January 2010

Director:  Clint Eastwood (Million Dollar Baby)

Starring:  Matt Damon, Morgan Freeman

Plot Overview Per IMDB:  A look at life for Nelson Mandela after the fall of apartheid in South Africa during his first term as president when campaigned to host the 1995 Rugby World Cup event as an opportunity to unite his countrymen.

 

Nine

Release Date In Australia:  21 January 2010

Director:  Rob Marshall (Chicago)

Starring:  Daniel Day-Lewis, Marion Cotillard, Nicole Kidman, Penelope Cruz, Judy Dench, Sophia Loren

Plot Overview Per IMDB:  Famous film director Guido Contini struggles to find harmony in his professional and personal lives, as he engages in dramatic relationships with his wife, his mistress, his muse, his agent, and his mother.

 

The Road

Release Date In Australia:  28 January 2010

Director:  John Hillcoat (The Proposition)

Starring:  Viggo Mortensen, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Robert Duvall, Guy Pearce, Molly Parker

Plot Overview Per IMDB:  A father and his son walk alone through burned America. Their destination is the warmer south, although they don't know what, if anything, awaits them there. They have nothing: just a pistol to defend themselves against the lawless cannibalistic bands that stalk the road, the clothes they are wearing, a rusting shopping cart of scavenged food--and each other.

 

The Hurt Locker

Release Date In Australia:  4 February 2010

Director:  Kathryn Bigelow (Point Break)

Starring:  Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, Brian Geraghty, Guy Pearce, Ralph Fiennes, David Morse

Plot Overview Per IMDB:  Iraq. Forced to play a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse in the chaos of war, an elite Army bomb squad unit must come together in a city where everyone is a potential enemy and every object could be a deadly bomb.

 

Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire"

Release Date In Australia:  4 February 2010

Director:  Lee Daniels (Shadowboxer)

Starring:  Gabourey ‘Gabby’ Sidibe, Mo’Nique, Mariah Carey, Lenny Kravitz, Paula Patton

Plot Overview Per IMDB:  Claireece Precious Jones endures unimaginable hardships in her young life. Abused by her mother, raped by her father, she grows up poor, angry, illiterate, fat, unloved and generally unnoticed. So what better way to learn about her than through her own, halting dialect.

 

A Single Man

Release Date In Australia:  25 February 2010

Director:  Tom Ford

Starring:  Colin Firth, Julianne Moore, Matthew Goode, Nicholas Hoult, Ginnifer Goodwin

Plot Overview Per IMDB:  A story that centers on an English professor who, after the sudden death of his partner tries to go about his typical day in Los Angeles.

 

Brothers

Release Date In Australia:  TBA

Director:  Jim Sheridan (In The Name Of The Father)

Starring:  Tobey Maguire, Jake Gyllenhaal, Natalie Portman, Sam Shepard, Mare Winningham

Plot Overview Per IMDB:  A young man comforts his older brother's wife and children after he goes missing in Afghanistan. Based on Susanne Bier's film, "Brothers".

 

Crazy Heart

Release Date In Australia:  TBA

Director:  Scott Cooper

Starring:  Jeff Bridges, Colin Farrell, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Robert Duvall

Plot Overview Per IMDB:  Bad Blake (Jeff Bridges) is a broken-down, hard-living country music singer who's had way too many marriages, far too many years on the road and one too many drinks way too many times. And yet, Bad can’t help but reach for salvation with the help of Jean (Maggie Gyllenhaal), a journalist who discovers the real man behind the musician.

 

It’s an exciting list if you ask me.  I was going to list the films in order of my level of interest but I just couldn’t decide which I wanted to see most.

 

So with all that said, let me run through the 10 films that I think will be nominated for next year’s Oscars:

 

An Education, Up, Avatar, The Lovely Bones, Up In The Air, Invictus, Nine, The Hurt Locker, Precious and A Single Man.

 

 

Matt’s Best Of The Decade – Romance

 

My least favourite type of a movie is a romantic comedy.  I usually find them formulaic and predictable.  I also struggle to see chemistry between the two leading characters.  Romantic dramas are more my thing – there’s time for character development and actual emotion.

 

Almost every film contains an element of romance somewhere and so the pool of films I could draw from to pick my favourites is quite wide.  But my choices for the two best of the decade are:

 

Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind (released in 2004) – full review is here.

 

Lost In Translation (released in 2003) - full review is here.

 

Eternal Sunshine is one of the most beautifully creative films that you could ever imagine.  It was written by Charlie Kaufman, who penned Being John Malkovich and Adaptation.  Why I highlight this film in this genre is because it’s a reverse romance.  Two people fall out of love and then fall back in love through the “memory erasure” process (see the film if you need this explained).  It stars Kate Winslet (my favourite actress of the decade without question) and the underrated Jim Carrey.  This film will only get better with age.

 

Lost In Translation is a different type of romance.  Some may not even call it that.  Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson meet in Tokyo and spend a few days together.  They don’t kiss, they don’t say I love you.  But there’s some connection between them.  Something a little more than an ordinary friendship.  They know deep down that they’ll never see each other again after they both leave Japan.  It’s simply one of those special moments that they’ll remember for the rest of their lives.

 

If you haven’t seen these two films yet, please do so!!!  They’re just too good.

 

Honourable mentions go to Once, Brokeback Mountain, Moulin Rouge, 500 Days Of Summer, Elegy, Before Sunset, The Notebook, Something’s Gotta Give, Kissing Jessica Stein and Little Manhattan.

 

Next week, we’ll be taking about a genre for which there can never be universal agreement - comedies.