Tag Archives: Win Win

The Times Like Those Alternative Oscars!

Every year, the same movies snatch up a big portion  of the Oscar nominations. Then, we hear about these movies for months as we lead up to Oscar night. And while this year has been a pretty exciting race (I’d say the winners for both lead acting categories are up in the air), and there were a few surprise nominees that snuck in at the last moment (what’s up, Demian Birchir?), it  can get a little bit repetitive to hear about the same movies over and over again, even if you enjoyed them.

In hopes of offering a change of pace, I’ve compiled my own “Oscar”  list of sorts. For my categories, I ignored all of the existing Oscar nominees and focussed on films and performances that didn’t receive as much awards attention this year. I also omitted people like Shailene Woodley, who did not receive an Oscar nomination but still got lots of attention from critics, bloggers, and awards groups leading up to the nominations.

Also, keep in mind that there are still lots of films from this year that I need to see. Shame, Take Shelter, Melancholia, and Martha Marcy May Marlene are just a few on that list.

Enjoy, and feel free to post your own “alternative Oscars” in the comments.

Best Picture

Drive

The Ides of March

Meek’s Cutoff

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Win Win

It may be a small, unassuming film, but Meek’s Cutoff stuck with me in a big way this year. The film is unconventional in almost every way (the pacing, the mumbled dialogue, the refusal to punch up the story with high drama), and it’s a true achievement in cinema.

Best Director

Tomas Alfredson, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

George Clooney, The Ides of March

Carey Fukanaga, Jane Eyre

Nicholas Winding Refn, Drive

Kelly Reichardt, Meek’s Cutoff

Again, I have to give this one to Meek’s Cutoff. While Nicholas Winding Refn offered a masterclass in cool and Tomas Alfredson built insane tension around old guys sitting around talking in a room, Kelly Reichardt created something truly unique. I didn’t care for her last project, Wendy and Lucy, but her deliberate pace and sparse, terse tone worked wonders in Meek’s.

Best Actor

Dominic Cooper, The Devil’s Double

Ryan Gosling, Drive

Tom Hardy, Warrior

Ewan McGregor, Beginners

Owen Wilson, Midnight in Paris

Cooper masters not one but two challenging roles in this messy film. He’s chilling and downright crazy as Sadam Hussein’s son, Uday, and also deeply sympathetic as Latif, the man hired as Uday’s double. It’s a towering pair of performances, and Cooper finally realizes the potential he showed in small roles in films such as Starter for 10 and An Education.

Best Actress

Felicity Jones, Like Crazy

Keira Knightley, Last Night

Mia Wasikowska, Jane Eyre

Kristen Wiig, Bridesmaids

Robin Wright, The Conspirator

Wiig gives a downright brilliant comedic performance in Bridesmaids, and sometimes that is enough for me. She throws herself into every gag headfirst, and she comes out in the end with a highly charming, perfectly executed performance. McCarthy is also great, but for me, Wiig is the reason to watch Bridesmaids.

Best Supporting Actor

Michael Fassbender, Jane Eyre

Colin Ford, We Bought a Zoo

Philip Seymour Hoffman, The Ides of March

Simon Pegg, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol

Mark Strong, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

I thought Fassbender was a tad overrated in X-Men (sorry), but he reminded me why I loved him so much in Fish Tank with a similarly physical and subtly threatening performance in the gorgeous Jane Eyre. He oozes charisma here, and makes for a completely magnetic screen presence. Kudos to Mark Strong, too, for fantastic scene-stealing work in Tinker Tailor, and for converting me into a Mark Strong fan.

Best Supporting Actress

Jessica Chastain, The Tree of Life

Anna Kendrick, 50/50

Carey Mulligan, Drive

Amy Ryan, Win Win

Michelle Williams, Meek’s Cutoff

It was the year of Chastain, and my favourite performance of hers (though I haven’t seen them all) was as the ethereal wife in The Tree of Life. It’s a beautiful, moving performance, and she slips seamlessly into the languid tone of the film.

My 10 Favourite Movies of 2011


10. Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol

Tom Cruise, Paula Patton, Simon Pegg, and Jeremy Renner proved to be the dream team in this surprisingly entertaining franchise reboot. Also notable is director Brad Bird’s seamless leap from Pixar to live action. He created a taught, fast-paced thriller that exemplifies what going to the movies is all about.

9. Beginners

Mixing human drama and gentle comedy, Beginners is a simple but effective story about family and love. The film is loosely based on director Mike Mills’ own experience with his father, and his closeness to the material only strengthens this heartfelt story.

8. Meek’s Cutoff

Director Kelly Reichardt deserves a lot of credit for turning a plotless 2-hour movie about a group of wandering pioneers into one of the year’s more compelling films. Reichardt’s stark visual style suits the subject matter perfectly, and subtle, ambiguous performances only strengthen the material.

7. Win Win

Paul Giamatti shines as a self-serving wrestling coach who takes a child prodigy under his wing in Win Win. It’s a quiet film, but with a stellar cast and a heartfelt story, it sticks with you more than you might think. In some ways it is a standard “indie” film, but without the pretentions that hinder some similar projects.

6. The Ides of March

Clooney directs a high-quality political thriller with a cast that most filmmakers could only dream of. Thankfully, with such a juicy story, he departs from his typically dry directorial style in favour a more popcorn-friendly flick full of drama, suspense, and plot twists.

5. Daydream Nation

Kat Dennings and Reece Thompson serve as very likeable leads in this quirky coming-of-age drama. The film is shot in an appropriately moody style, perfectly encapsulating the overboard misfit teen angst. Daydream Nation is simultaneously funny, moving, and just a little strange.

4. Bridesmaids

Bridesmaids says some nice thing about female friendships, but mostly, it’s just hilarious. Kristen Wiig proves that she deserves many more leading roles, and the supporting cast also gets to shine. With one laugh-out-loud scene after another, it’s the funniest film of the year.

3. The Descendants

The Descendants is a moving story about family and change, set against the gorgeous backdrop of the Hawaiian countryside. George Clooney and Shailene Woodley make for an appealing father/daughter duo, and director Alexander Payne deftly mixes heartfelt drama with small bouts of comedy.

2. Midnight in Paris

If you’ve ever wished to live in a different era, Woody Allen’s great Midnight in Paris will probably ring true for you. It’s a film that celebrates art, history, and the need for individuality, all told through Allen’s sharp, eloquent point of view. It’s also Owen Wilson’s best performance to date.

1. Super 8

Paying homage to the films of Spielberg (who is a producer here), J.J. Abrams crafted a hugely likeable sci-fi adventure with Super 8. Led by a cast of charming and distinct kids, this monster movie is exciting, fun, and everything that movies should be.

January – April 2011 in Film

After the flood of Oscar-approved movies at the end of the year, the first couple months of each year are notoriously slow for movies. But now that we’re a third of the way through 2011, there have been some pretty interesting releases. Yes, January and February were filled with the usual mainstream dreck, but also a couple of indies that got lost in the shuffle. And through March and April, we saw a mix of a few quality blockbusters and unique smaller films. As always, there have been box office flops and surprise hits. First, here’s a look at the 10 highest grossing films of the year so far (ranked by U.S. box office results):

  1. Rango – $120m
  2. Hop – $105.6m
  3. Rio – $102.8m
  4. Just Go With It – $102.8m
  5. The Green Hornet – $98.8m
  6. Gnomeo and Juliet – $98.8m
  7. Fast Five – $98.6m
  8. Battle: Los Angeles – $82.8m
  9. Limitless – $76.3m
  10. Justin Bieber: Never Say Never – $73m

Now, the big player there aside from cartoons is the new release Fast Five, which made almost as much in its first weekend as The Green Hornet did during its entire run. Meanwhile other more “cerebral” wide releases, such as The Adjustment Bureau and Source Code turned in solid but not spectacular box office results.

Here’s a look (in poster form!) at what seem like the most interesting offerings of 2011, so far. I’ve seen a couple of them, and the rest are all on my to-watch list.


Win Win (2011)

Win Win tells the story of Mike Flaherty (Paul Giamatti), a down-on-his-luck lawyer who becomes the legal guardian of one of his aging clients. However, he gets more than he expected when the client’s estranged grandson Kyle (newcomer Alex Shaffer) shows up in town as a runaway.

The idea of Paul Giamatti starring in an indie dramedy as a schlubby middle class guy is not exactly groundbreaking, but that hardly matters, because Win Win is so good. No, it may not offer anything new to the genre, but it’s a quietly funny, heartfelt tale that barely ever hits a false note.

Everyone in the cast is good. Giamatti, as always, brings the perfect combination of neuroticism and charm, while Amy Ryan shines as his tough-talking wife with a big old soft heart. To me the real standout was Bobby Canavale as Mike’s divorced, aimless high school buddy, Terry. Canavale is hilarious, and he brings energy to a film that could otherwise feel a bit too low-key. Terry’s charismatic, but he’s also a douchebag, and Canavale deftly brings out both sides in equal measure.

The story is simple and slow, but that definitely works in the film’s favour. Every character seems fully fleshed out, and as a viewer, you feel totally immersed in Mike’s world. My only complaint is with a character who doesn’t show up until part way through the film (I don’t know if revealing that character would qualify as a spoiler, but I like to err on the side of caution). Their presence seems to interrupt the flow of the story a bit, and while that’s the point, I feel like that character is painted a tad too one-dimensionally in order to move the plot along.

That said, though, Win Win, is an expertly constructed, well-acted film. When done well, I really enjoy character studies, and this is a great one. It’s kind of like Greenberg without some of the hints of pseudo-intellectual quirk, and Up in the Air without some of the glossy finesse.

8/10