Oscar – The morning after…

Well it has come and gone. The 2012 Oscars seemed to get here in a hurry and be done just as quick. As usual for the more recent Oscars, there were few surprises. Most of the “Big 6” went as I predicted and the only real surprises were with the technical awards. But overall it was a fun night. Here’s a few thoughts…

Billy Crystal hosted the 2012 show after the Eddie Murphy debacle (or should I say the Brett Ratner debacle) and he did a solid job. Unlike last year’s odd and sometimes uncomfortable hosting from James Franco and Anne Hathaway, this was more grounded but still quite funny. Crystal used several tried-and-true antics such as the song detailing the Best Picture Nominees and the “What they’re thinking” segment. I found them and several of Crystal’s adaptive one-liners to be very funny. Several of the presenters provided some good laughs including Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis, Emma Stone, Chris Rock (I was surprised, too), and of course Robert Downey, Jr. Oh, and c’mon Academy! Am I the only one who thinks that Downey, Jr. would be the funniest Oscars host of all time? Sign him up.

“Hugo” ended the night with five Oscars. It was awarded for its technical achievements and it’s hard for me to argue with that. “A Seperation” won for Best Foreign Language film which was followed by a rather unusual acceptance speech from director Asghar Farhadi. “The Descendants” won Best Adapted Screenplay and I was thrilled that “Midnight in Paris” won for Best Original Screenplay. Of course Woody Allen wasn’t there but did we ever expect him to be?

The supporting categories went exactly as expected. Octavia Spencer (The Help) and Christopher Plummer (Beginners) had already been christened the winners well before the ceremony began and that’s exactly how things played out. Spencer gave one of the most genuine and emotional acceptance speeches of the night and Plummer became the oldest Oscar winner ever. It was good seeing Nick Nolte recognized with a nomination even though I’m not sure he knew where he was last night.

Meryl Streep won Best Actress for her performance in “The Iron Lady”. That category had turned into a two person race and I really felt that Viola Davis had a good chance to win. But Streep was awarded for a performance that certainly outweighed the rather mundane and mixed reviewed movie. The Oscar media had tried their best to sell the whole Clooney (“The Descendants”) versus Pitt (“Moneyball”) Best Actor race. But as I expected (and hoped), Jean Dujardin won the Oscar for his wonderful performance in “The Artist”. Working with several more handicaps than the other nominees, Dujardin nailed his performance and deserved the award. His acceptance speech and subsequent dance showed his enthusiasm and I found myself applauding from my recliner.

The night only got better for “The Artist”. Michael Hazanavicius won the Best Director Oscar which is almost always a sign of which film will win Best Picture. Last night was no different. Hazanavicius’ gutsy project won Best Picture and I have no problem with it. While I was personally rooting for “The Tree of Life”, this was a case where the Academy got it right. “The Artist” was a nostalgic but touching film that felt plucked right out of the silent movie era. I loved seeing it win.

So while it was a fairly predictable night, it was a good night. The stars played dress-up and movie fans witnessed new films and new performances added to that Valhalla of motion picture history. I went 5 for 6 in the “Big 6” categories so that speaks to the shows lack of suspense. But there were some genuinely funny moments and some good movies received their due.

TOP 5 BEST FEMALE SUPPORTING PERFORMANCES OF 2011

TOP 5 BEST FEMALE SUPPORTING PERFORMANCES OF 2011

We’ve talked about the men, now let’s switch over to the women. Here are my 5 favorite female supporting performances for 2011. It was hard to narrow it down to 5 but I don’t see how any of my choices could be frowned upon. It was a strong year for women and two of the ladies on the list could have qualified for two different performances. But for sake of variety, I’ll just stick to 5 different but wonderful actresses.

#5 – Charlotte Gainsbourg (Melancholia)

While I wasn’t as thrilled with the overall product that was “Melancholia”, the performances were superb especially from Gainsbourg. We see a metamorphosis of sorts with her character and the range of emotion and distress that Gainsbourg conveys is nothing short of brilliant. Kirsten Dunst has gotten most of the press for the film but for my money it’s Gainsbourg that steals the show.

#4 – Octavia Spencer (The Help)

Spencer is sweeping this category at every movie award ceremony and with good reason. Her performance in “The Help” is a wonderful mixture of heart and humor. While the material sometimes leads her close to caricature, she maintains a steady appeal throughout the picture. “The Help” isn’t a perfect movie by any means, but Spencer’s performance is one of the best things about it.

#3 – Chloe Grace Moretz (Hugo)

One of the most charming performances of 2011 was from Chloe Grace Moretz in Martin Scorsese’s “Hugo”. Moretz’s performance is gentle and spirited and I was completely drawn to her character. Her lovely and adventurous Isabelle is one of the main ingredients in bringing the two stories of “Hugo” together and you can’t help but to love her. It’s easy to overlook her performance in the midst of such acting heavyweights, but for me Moretz helped make “Hugo” one of my favorite films of 2011.

#2 – Marion Cotillard (Midnight in Paris)

It was a nice year for Marion Cotillard. She starred in two of my favorite movies of 2011, “Contagion” and “Midnight in Paris”. While I liked them both, it’s her work in “Midnight in Paris” that I keep coming back to. She’s beautiful, elegant, fun, yet mysterious and she turns out to be one of the key characters in Woody Allen’s wonderfully crafted picture. She develops and sells a character that looks right at home in 1920’s Paris and her charm is magnetic. It’s just impossible not to love her.

#1 – Jessica Chastain (Take Shelter)

Jessica Chastain is getting plenty of love for the amazing 2011 she had. Unfortunately most people are overlooking her strongest, most memorable work. I loved her in “A Tree of Life” but her performance in “Take Shelter” is the best of the year. Everything in her performance is perfect from her tone to her subtlety. She’s so genuine and authentic and I never found a scene where she didn’t draw out everything from her character. She’s perfectly cast and an amazing compliment to Michael Shannon. You may agree that Chastain is a good actress, but you won’t know how good until you see her in “Take Shelter”.

Agree or disagree? Leave your comments and share your top 5.

TOP 10 MOVIES of 2011

Keith & the Movies: The Top 10 Movies of 2011

2011 wasn’t the best year for movies at the theaters but there were several films that certainly left a lasting impression. As always, here is my Top 10 list of the year’s best films:

#10. “MISSION IMPOSSIBLE – GHOST PROTOCOL” – The latest installment in the Mission Impossible series is also one of the biggest surprises of the movie year. Straightfoward and unashamed, “Ghost Protocol” moves at a lightning fast pace and features it’s most polished cast yet. Tom Cruise is perfectly comfortable with his character and the addition of Jeremy Renner gives the movie more weight. But “Ghost Protocol” doesn’t pretend to be anything other than a fun, pedal-to-the-floor, action picture. It succeeds and it does so without the usual pretenses of most of the action films generated out of Hollywood.

#9. “MONEYBALL” – A baseball movie based more on sabermetrics that world championships doesn’t sound like a winning formula. But thanks to Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin’s masterful screenplay and one of the best performances of Brad Pitt’s career, “Moneyball” turns the story of Billy Bean and the 2002 Oakland Athletics into one of the better films of 2011. The movie stays away from the normal sports movie cliches and deals more with the unique personalities and even more unique approach to team building by Bean. It never lulls or misses a beat. “Moneyball” isn’t just a film for sports fans, it’s a film for movie fans.

#8. “CONTAGION” – Steven Soderbergh’s clinical, viral outbreak thriller is one of the only movies that made me squirm in my comfy theater seat (and I mean in a good way). Fast-paced and exceptionally written, “Contagion” never feels forced or fake. The film features a wonderful cast and it’s not afraid to turn any of them into one of the many viral casualties. It draws you in and will have you doubling your supply of hand sanitizer. Soderbergh’s direction is top-notch and this is one of the best thrillers to hit theaters this year.

#7. “CERTIFIED COPY” – Kiarostami’s “Certified Copy” is small in scope but huge on substance. Led by two pitch perfect performances from Juliette Binoche and William Shimell, “Certified Copy” had me questioning everything about these two fascinating lead characters. It’s ambiguity may turn off some but the razor sharp script, tight direction, and impeccable performances help make this one of the best films of 2011.

#6. “WARRIOR” – I’m no fan of mixed martial arts but “Warrior” nicely uses it as a backdrop to a riveting story of a shattered family. Both Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton are fantastic but it’s Nick Nolte who delivers the best supporting performance of the year. While it does end up using several common sports movies cliches, “Warrior” is still a stirring family drama about consequences and reconciliation. There’s plenty of testosterone but there’s also plenty of heart and “Warrior” is a film I can watch over and over again.

#5. “HUGO” – Martin Scorsese’s love letter to cinema is also one of the best films of the year. Whether it’s the beautiful story of Georges Melies or the tender story of young Hugo Cabret, “Hugo” delivers two heartfelt stories and brings them together for a wonderful motion picture experience. “Hugo” is one of the few movies to make great use of 3-D and Scorsese’s visual style is present in every scene. “Hugo” reminds us of the artistry and power of cinema and once again puts the talents of a movie making master on display.

#4. “MIDNIGHT IN PARIS” – Few movies have grabbed me and pulled me in like Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris”. It incorporates the perfect amount of romance, humor, and magic while showing just how wonderful a romantic comedy can be. Allen beautifully captures Paris, makes it the main character, and causes us to fall in love with it. Sure, it’s a tad predictable, but I didn’t want it to end and it’s easily one of the year’s best pictures.

#3. “TAKE SHELTER” –  Jeff Nichols’ near flawless examination of mental illness is both devastating and heart-wrenching. Michael Shannon delivers the very best performance of the year and Jessica Chastain is magnetic. But it’s the genuineness and relatability of these fantastic characters that drive the film. While the ending has been a subject of much debate, it does nothing to undermine this griping movie.  Micheal Shannon is brilliant and so is “Take Shelter”.

#2. “THE ARTIST” – Part moving love story and part celebration of the joy of cinema, “The Artist” is a glorious piece of motion picture entertainment. This gorgeous French film, written and directed by Michel Hazanavicius, captures all of the glory of the black and white silent picture era while offering genius storytelling at it’s finest. Jean Dujardin gives one of the year’s best performances and it’s impossible not to be drawn in by his charm and overall command of the screen. This is a brilliant film and a monumental accomplishment.

 #1. “THE TREE OF LIFE” – This deeply personal picture from director Terrence Malick is both beautiful and crushing and provided one of the most mesmerizing movie experience I had in 2011. The film is filled with tender family moments and emotional gut-punches. From the gorgeous cinematography of Emmanuel Lubezki to the best performance of Brad Pitt’s career, everything clicks in this stunning piece of cinematic poetry. While ”The Tree of Life” requires thought and patience, the end result is an emotionally satisfying picture regardless of your interpretation. This was my favorite film of the year.