Sunday, February 20, 2011

Wayne Walks You Through the Best Picture Nominees (Part 1)

This year, like last year, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has nominated ten movies for Best Picture. Yesterday, thanks to the AMC Theatres Best Picture Showcase, I sat through five of those films consecutively. I would now like to share with you my thoughts about each of them:


THE FLICK: Woody, Buzz, and the surviving members of the Toy Story gang have to adjust to new lives now that their owner, Andy, has grown up and is going off to college. A possible future awaits them at the Sunnyside Day Care Center, which is ruled by the corrupt Lots-O'-Huggin' Bear.

WAYNE'S TAKE: A very funny, touching, and beautifully made film. There's so much detail crammed into this film, it's impossible to take it all in. The voice cast is uniformly excellent. The animation is impeccable. The script is extremely clever, packed with jokes but also telling a real story and dealing with some very human emotions. This was a great, colorful start to the day. GRADE: A


THE FLICK: The true story of a young man, Aron Ralston, who goes hiking in the desert and finds his arm hopelessly pinned down by a rock in an extremely remote location. With food and water running low and no rescue in sight, Aron must make tough decisions to survive.

WAYNE'S TAKE: If you're worried that 127 Hours is just two hours of a guy stuck under a rock, let me reassure you that there are plenty of flashbacks, dream sequences, and fantasies to break up the visual monotony. That being said, James Franco (as Ralston) carries the film almost single-handedly and does so with a terrific, nuanced performance. Still in all, a film I'll probably never revisit. GRADE: B

THE FLICK: The comfortable lives of two lesbian moms are disrupted when their teenage children track down the sperm donor who is their biological father. The family's very stability is threatened when several members bond too closely and too quickly with this likable, laid-back newcomer.

WAYNE'S TAKE: If I had to come up with a word to describe this comedy-drama, it would be "slight." Don't get me wrong. It's very skillfully and believably acted, and there are some nicely-observed moments in the dialogue. But it all felt a little too cutesy and forgettable to me. When it was over, I just sort of shrugged it off. Julianne Moore, although not nominated, deserves special praise as the standout among a very good ensemble cast. GRADE: B-

THE FLICK: The Coen Brothers present the second filmed version of Charles Portis' classic Western novel. A 14-year-old girl, Mattie Ross, hires a hard-drinking, over-the-hill U.S. Marshall, Rooster Cogburn, to help her track down her father's killer.

WAYNE'S TAKE: Probably my favorite film of the day. This is what might be called classical filmmaking, old-school craftsmanship at its finest. The film is anchored by three very able leads (Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon as well as newcomer Hailee Steinfeld), and is marked by superb cinematography, costume design, score, and art direction. GRADE: A

THE FLICK: Another true story, this one is set in the world of boxing. A promising fighter's career is threatened by the dangerous antics of his unreliable, crack-addicted brother, a former boxer himself who now serves as his younger brother's manager.

WAYNE'S TAKE: Do you like boxing movies? Do you like inspirational, climb-from-despair-to-victory stories? If so, you probably have already seen and loved The Fighter. This was the last film on the schedule, and that's a tough slot because by then the audience is pretty much worn out. But even in my weakened condition, I could recognize its quality. Christian Bale has the showy role as a crackhead and runs wild with it, but Mark Wahlberg and Amy Adams do commendable work as well. Great sense of time and place, too. GRADE: B+ but probably an A- if it had played earlier in the day