Compact Film Reviews 11-20

Before David began writing full-fledged film critiques, he crafted brief capsule reviews—here are numbers 11 through 20

 

11. 127 Hours (2010)

This Best Pic nom also features nods for lead actor, adapted screenplay, editing, score, and song. James Franco delivers a strong turn as a young man trapped alone in the wilderness, his arm irretrievably stuck beneath a boulder. Beautifully shot and stylistically edited, the story engages the audience. Unfortunately, it also falls short of its mark, finishing with the end of the film’s central ordeal without exploring the implications of what has transpired.

**⅞ (out of *****)






2010 • 94 MINUTES
Fox Searchlight PICTURES • Pathé • Everest Entertainment • Cloud Eight • Decimal Films

STARRING
James Franco

ALSO STARRING
• Amber Tamblyn, Kate Mara

WRITTEN BY
Danny Boyle & Simon Beaufoy
Aron Ralston (Based on the book Between a Rock and a Hard Place)

DIRECTED BY
• Danny Boyle

2010 ACADEMY AWARD NOMINATIONS (6)
• BEST Picture (LOST TO The King’s Speech)
• BEST Actor: James Franco (LOST TO Colin Firth for The King’s Speech)
• BEST Adapted Screenplay (LOST TO The Social Network)
• BEST Film Editing (LOST TO The Social Network)
• Best Original Score (Lost to The Social Network)
• Best Original Song: “If I Rise” (Lost to “We Belong Together” from Toy Story 3)


12. Another Year (2010)

Another fine film from writer-director Mike Leigh, featuring fine actors expertly playing everyday people. Oscar-nominated for its original script, this character study is an acting clinic, but it’s not for everybody. Revolving around an older, happy, married couple, the story mostly documents the bitter descent of a lonely woman into profound unhappiness. Quiet and thoughtful.

***⅛ (out of *****)







2010 • 129 MINUTES
Focus Features • UK Film Council • Film4 • THIN MAN FILMS

STARRING
Jim Broadbent, Lesley Manville, Ruth Sheen

ALSO STARRING
• Peter WightOliver MALTMANDavid BradleyKarina FERNANDezMartin SavageMichele AustinPhil DavisStuart McQuarrieImelda Staunton

WRITTEN & DIRECTED BY
Mike Leigh

2010 ACADEMY AWARD NOMINATIONS (1)
• Best Original Screenplay (Lost to Best Picture The King’s Speech)


13. City Island (2009)

The actors in this suburban comedy all shine, breathing Bronx life into their characters. A story of a stagnating family descending into unhappy lives, the film delivers smiles aplenty as it weaves its contrived but appealing plotlines. Sharply written, well-directed, and acted perfectly. A rare comedy that’s actually funny.

***⅜ (out of *****)










2009 • 104 MINUTES
Cineson Productions • Medici Entertainment • Lucky Monkey Pictures • Gremi Film Production • Filmsmith

STARRING
• Andy GarciaJulianna MarguliesSteven Strait

Also Starring
• Dominik García-LoridoEzra MillerAlan ArkinEmily Mortimer

WRITTEN & DIRECTED BY
• Raymond De Felitta

No 2009 ACADEMY AWARD NOMINATIONS


14. The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter (1968)

Alan Arkin and Sondra Locke deservedly earned Academy Award noms for their performances. Mr. Arkin gives a subtle, poignant turn as a deaf-mute making his way in the mid-century American South, and Ms. Locke plays a confused, beset young woman coming of age. Sensitively adapted from Carson McCullers’ novel and well directed, the film holds up extremely well.

***½ (out of *****)









1968 • 123 MINUTES
Warner Bros. • Seven Arts Inc.

STARRING
Alan Arkin

ALSO STARRING
• Laurinda BarrettStacy KeacH JR.Chuck McCannBiff McGuirePercy RodriguesCicely Tyson

Introducing
• Sondra Locke

WRITTEN BY
Thomas C. Ryan (Screenplay)
Carson McCullers (From the novel by)

DIRECTED BY
Robert Ellis Miller

1968 ACADEMY AWARD NOMINATIONS (2)
• Best Actor: Alan Arkin (Lost to Cliff Robertson for Charly)
• Best Supporting Actress: Sondra Locke (Lost to Ruth Gordon for Rosemary’s Baby)


15. The fighter (2010)

Mark Wahlberg delivers a quiet but strong performance as a Boston-area boxer hamstrung by his white-trash family. Melissa Leo and Amy Adams also shine, but Christian Bale excels as the drug-addled brother. Decently directed and with a good script, this film is destined for a number of Academy Award nominations, with Mr. Bale almost a certain winner.

***¼ (out of *****)









2010 • 116 MINUTES
The Weinstein Company • Relativity Media • MANVILLE Films • Closest to the Hole Productions 

STARRING
• Mark WahlbergChristian BaleAmy Adams

ALSO STARRING
• Melissa Leo

WRITTEN BY
• Scott Silver and Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson (Screenplay)
• Keith DORRINGTON & Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson (Story)

DIRECTED BY
• David O. Russell

2010 ACADEMY AWARDs (2)
• Best Supporting Actor: Christian Bale
• Best Supporting Actress: Melissa Leo

Additional 2010 ACADEMY AWARD NOMINATIONS (5)
• Best Picture (Lost to The King’s Speech)
• Best Supporting Actress: Amy Adams (Lost to Melissa Leo for The Fighter)
• Best Director: David O. Russell (Lost to Tom Hooper for The King’s Speech)
• Best Original Screenplay (Lost to The King’s Speech)
* Best Film Editing (Lost to The Social Network)


16. The Town (2010)

This tale of lowlifes committing armed robberies in Boston has many elements in its favor. Ben Affleck not only directs well, but turns in a solid performance at the top of a fine cast. Still, the film never quite equals the sum of its parts, with the story dragging and ultimately disappointing with its at best murky take on morality. Not bad, really, but not particularly good.

**⅝ (out of *****)









2010 • 125 MINUTES
Warner Bros. Pictures • Legendary Pictures • GK Films • Thunder Road Film

STARRING
Ben Affleck, Rebecca Hall, Jon Hamm, Jeremy Renner

ALSO STARRING
Blake Lively, Titus Welliver, Pete Postlethwaite, Chris Cooper

WRITTEN BY
Peter Craig and Ben Affleck & Aaron Stockard (Screenplay)
Chuck Hogan (Based on the novel Prince of Thieves by)

DIRECTED BY
• Ben Affleck

2010 ACADEMY AWARD NOMINATIONS (1)
• Best Supporting Actor: Jeremy Renner (Lost to Christian Bale for The Fighter)


17. Rudy (1993)

Based on a true story, this film tells the story of a young man who grows up yearning to play football for the University of Notre Dame. Physically small, with little athletic ability, and without the academic background even to gain acceptance into the school, Rudy still pursues his dream. Sean Astin embodies the eponymous character’s heart, buoying this Capraesque film to great emotion.

***¼ (out of *****)






1993 • 114 MINUTES
TriStar PICTURES • Fried/Woods Films

STARRING
Sean Astin, Ned Beatty, Charles S. Dutton

ALSO STARRING
Lili Taylor, Robert Prosky

WRITTEN BY
Angelo Pizzo

DIRECTED BY
David Anspaugh

No 1993 ACADEMY AWARD NOMINATIONS


18. Black Swan (2010)

Director Darren Aronofsky paints a claustrophobic and haunting portrait of a troubled dancer convincingly portrayed by Natalie Portman. In many ways mirroring the Swan Lake ballet, the film tracks a young woman seeking fulfillment in her art. Mila Kunis and Barbara Hershey are very good, helping by degrees to reveal the true fragility of the lead’s persona. A sure Best Pic nom.

***¼ (out of *****)









2010 • 108 MINUTES
Fox Searchlight PICTURES • Cross Creek Pictures • PrØtØzØa • Phoenix Pictures

STARRING
Natalie Portman, Vincent Cassel, Mila Kunis

ALSO STARRING
Barbara Hershey, Winona Ryder

WRITTEN BY
Mark Heyman and Andrés Heinz and John McLaughlin (Screenplay)
Andrés Heinz (Story)

DIRECTED BY
• Darren Aronofsky

2010 ACADEMY AWARDs (1)
• Best Actress: Natalie Portman

Additional 2010 ACADEMY AWARD NOMINATIONS (4)
• Best Picture (Lost to The King’s Speech)
• Best Director: Darren Aronofsky (Lost to Tom Hooper for The King’s Speech)
• Best Cinematography (Lost to Inception)
• Best Film Editing (Lost to The Social Network)


19. A Star Is Born (1954)

James Mason and Judy Garland netted Academy Award noms for their lead roles, the first deserving, the second not. Ms. Garland seems disconnected throughout, and the addition of many songs not associated with the film’s plot dilutes the story. Only one dance number (“Around the World in a Living Room”) excites. With little memorable music, this remake is a dated mess.

*⅝ (out of *****)










1954 • 154 MINUTES
Warner Bros. • Transcona Enterprises

STARRING
Judy Garland, James Mason

ALSO STARRING
Jack Carson, Charles Bickford, Tom Noonan

WRITTEN BY
Moss Hart (Screenplay)
• Dorothy Parker & Alan Campbell & Robert Carson (based on the 1937 screenplay by)
• William A. WELLMAN & Robert Carson (based on the 1937 story by)

DIRECTED BY
George Cukor

1954 ACADEMY AWARD NOMINATIONS (6)
• Best Actor: James Mason (Lost to Marlon Brando for On the Waterfront)
• Best Actress: Judy Garland (Lost to Grace Kelly for The Country Girl)
• Best Color Art Direction–Set Decoration (Lost to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea)
• Best Color Costume Design (Lost to Jigokumon)
• Best Original Score (Lost to Seven Brides for Seven Brothers)
• Best Original Song: “The Man That Got Away” (Lost to “Three Coins in the Fountain” from Three Coins in the Fountain)


20. The King’s Speech (2010)

The moving story of King George VI and his tribulations from a speech impediment marks a triumph of modern cinema. Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham Carter are wonderful, but Colin Firth is brilliant as the king. Subtle and seamless, Mr. Firth merits an Academy Award. The film excels in its writing, directing, cinematography, and editing. A sure Best Pic nom. See it.

Note: The King’s Speech ended up winning Best Picture, and Colin Firth won Best Actor. Also, both Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham Carter netted Academy Award nominations for their supporting roles. The film also garnered Oscars for Best Director and Best Original Screenplay, along with six additional noms.

**** (out of *****)

2010 • 118 MINUTES
The Weinstein Company • UK Film Council • Momentum Pictures • Aegis Film Fund • Molinare • London FilmNation Entertainment • See Saw Films • Bedlam

STARRING
Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush

ALSO STARRING
Helena Bonham CarterGuy PearceTimothy SpallDerek JacobiJennifer EhleMichael Gambon

WRITTEN BY
• David Seidler

DIRECTED BY
• Tom Hooper

2010 ACADEMY AWARDs (4)
• Best Picture
• Best Actor: Colin Firth
• Best Director: Tom Hooper
• Best Original Screenplay

Additional 2010 ACADEMY AWARD NOMINATIONS (8)
• Best Supporting Actor: Geoffrey Rush (Lost to Christian Bale for The Fighter)
• Best Supporting Actress: Helena Bonham Carter (Lost to Melissa Leo for The Fighter)
• Best Art Direction (Lost to Alice in Wonderland)
• Best Cinematography (Lost to Inception)
• Best Costume Design (Lost to Alice in Wonderland)
• Best Film Editing (Lost to The Social Network)
• Best Original Score (Lost to The Social Network)
• Best Sound Mixing (Lost to Inception)


Additional Commentary (9 February 2011)

So we’ve got ten films nominated for Best Picture this year. I have seen all ten, and they’re all pretty good flicks. Still, a few better films have been omitted, such as Green Zone, Another Year, and Hereafter, which I would have preferred on the list instead of 127 Hours, The Kids Are All Right, and Inception. I’ve detailed my personal ranking of the ten films up for the ultimate Oscar. Here they are, from worst to first.