Sunday, December 26, 2010

My top 10 movies of 2010

Before I depart for my annual year-ending week in NYC with my family, I figured it's as good a time as any to come up with my top 10 movies of 2010, both because I figure by now I've seen just about everything that might make this list except for maybe "The King's Speech" and "Rabbit Hole," and simply so this won't be completely empty while I'm gone.

And lest anyone wants to squawk about the fact that neither "Inception" nor "The Social Network" made the cut, rest assured they're among the 10 runners-up, along with "Shutter Island", "A Prophet", "Splice", "Despicable Me", "Easy A", "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1", "The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader" and "The Fighter".

So, without further delay, let's get to it, in order only of release date until the very end, where you will find my favorite movie of 2010. And as usual, please feel free to add your favorites and let me hear about any that I've unfairly snubbed.

"The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo"/"The Girl Who Played With Fire": These should definitely be viewed together, and ideally all at once with the third chapter, "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest," but I haven't had the opportunity to see it yet. Given how sprawling and packed with details the novels by Stieg Larsson are, these are both nearly perfect models of how to adapt books for the big screen, and though David Fincher is doing an American remake of the first movie for next year, please do go see these first, because just trust me: Once you see her, I'm sure you'll agree that Noomi Rapace simply is Lisbeth Salander.

"Kick-Ass": Though many movies try to re-create the feel of comic books on the big screen, very few come as close to accomplishing it as this thoroughly fun flick from Matthew Vaughn (for the opposite kind of failure, view the almost completely lifeless "Iron Man 2".) Sure, there are moral questions about having a 13-year-old assassin spray bullets all around, but young Chloe Moretz is electric as Hit-Girl, and she and Vaughn create at least two of the year's best action sequences here.

"Toy Story 3": Being sometimes a fairly cynical fellow, I doubted that all the hype about this Pixar flick could be true, but it really does pack the emotional and entertaining punch to launch the "Toy Story" series into any discussion about the best movie trilogies. And "Toy Story" fans take note: The franchise will live on, sort of, as Barbie and Ken will star in the short movie that will precede "Cars 2" next summer (and will probably be better than the main attraction).

"The Other Guys": A Will Ferrell movie? Really? Yes, because Ferrell and Adam McKay bring all kinds of funny and just enough smarts to this comedy that skewers the buddy cop genre almost as well as Edgar Wright's "Hot Fuzz." And besides, this movie has both the best opening and closing credit sequences of the year, which may not sound like much, but they really are small wonders to behold.

"Animal Kingdom": This Australian gangster flick lacks all of the glamour of "The Godfather" or "Goodfellas," but packs even more of the grit. The story of the less-than-two-bit Cody clan, a crime family that never rose too high and is already on its way down as the movie opens, is hardly a sunny tale, but it's extremely compelling, thanks in large part to the chilling performance of Jacki Weaver as the menacing matriarch.

"The American": This is probably the flick on this list that most divided audiences, but I know that along with me, at least Roger Ebert and Reel Fanatic reader Jeremy Jirik also love it, so at least I'm not alone. "Control" director Anton Corbijn displays all of that titular quality here as he strips this tale of George Clooney as a hit man on what could be his last mission in Italy down to the barest bones of a thriller, making it instead a slow-moving but riveting character study and just a good story well told.

"127 Hours": Though the tale of what lengths trapped climber Aron Ralston had to go to remove himself from underneath a boulder in a valley was as hard to watch as I could have expected, it's also completely imbued with optimism thanks to director Danny Boyle and energy thanks to James Franco, even at its darkest moments. And even though Boyle used two different cinematographers, Enrique Chediak and Anthony Dod Mantle, you'd never know it as they merge their talents to drop us into every treacherous step of Ralston's journey, and should definitely share an Oscar for their efforts.

"True Grit": Even the ridiculous coda at the end, which is loyal to the source but just drains the energy right off the screen, can't ruin the fact that this remake is one of the Coen brothers' very best flicks. Restraining from most of their usual oddity, they instead just let the actors have a ball here, as The Dude, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, Barry Pepper and, most of all, young Hailee Steinfeld as Mattie Ross all do, elevating both the humor and heart of Charles Portis' great novel. I've seen it twice already, and just may again before it leaves theaters.

"Black Swan": There's not an ounce of subtlety in this Darren Aronofsky flick, but since at its most basic level he's essentially made a great B horror movie (albeit it one of the psychological variety set in the world of ballet), he didn't really need any to make it soar. I'd have to imagine Natalie Portman is the odds-on favorite for the Best Actress Oscar, but Vincent Cassel should hear his name called in the Best Supporting Actor category too as the ballet guru who leads Portman's Nina Sayers to the darkest reaches of her own mind.

"Winter's Bone": Definitely saving the very best for last, I first saw this movie this summer while on vacation with mi hermano in Philadelphia, and it's been burned on my brain ever since. I watched it again recently to make sure, and yes, Debra Granik's tale of a young woman (the fantastic Jennifer Lawrence, who would get my Oscar vote if I had one) forced to go on a hunt through the American underbelly that is the Ozarks to search for her deadbeat father - who has put the house she's raising her two younger siblings in as a guarantor for a court appearance he's almost guaranteed not to make - is every bit as good as I first thought. Bleak? Of course, but as Lawrence's Rhee Dolly searches for the truth in this mess, this flick combines all the best elements of film noir with a coming-of-age tale of sorts to cook up my best movie of 2010 by a pretty wide margin.

And there you have it. Please, as usual, feel free to share any of your favorites or any that I've just unfairly snubbed, and have a simply splendid new year. Peace out.

Friday, December 24, 2010

So, Kevin Smith has made a horror movie. Can that possibly be a good thing?

Actually, before I jump into that, though I don't have the time this morning for anything even approaching a full review, I just wanted to say that if you do one thing this weekend (beyond, of course, celebrating Christmas), go see "True Grit."

Sure, it's a remake, but it's also one of the best movies the Coen brothers have ever made, largely because they restrain themselves and let The Dude and young Hailee Steinfeld as Mattie Ross have a ball. It has more of the humor from the book than the original movie did and a hauntingly perfect score by Carter Burwell. And even though the last five minutes or so is a thoroughly unnecessary coda of sorts, before that, from the point that Josh Brolin and even better, Barry Pepper as Lucky Ned Pepper turn up, it's the best 20 minutes or so I've seen in a movie this year.

So, just go see it already. After that today, I've just got a series of clips that caught my eye, and a "Community" treat at the end since my DVR has missed the show during its Christmas break.

Every time mi hermano hears the name Kevin Smith, he simply calls him a tool, and given the director's most recent public antics, I most often have to agree with him. That said, however, it really looks like he just may have cooked up something fascinating with his upcoming horror movie (yes, really) "Red State."

I try to be a pretty tolerant dude, especially when it comes to religious views, but when you picket soldiers' funerals (and I really still can't understand why in the world they do that) and those of just about anyone else you decide is somehow unworthy, than you go straight to hell in my book. Or end up the model for a horror film by Kevin Smith, which seems to be the all-too-well-deserved fate of the Rev. Fred Phelps.

As you'll see from this teaser trailer for the flick, which is debuting at next year's Sundance Film Festival, Michael Parks plays the preacher here, and Stephen Root, Melissa Leo and John Goodman factor into this too. Enjoy the clip, and then stick around for some more.

I have a sinking feeling that, like most likely "Red State," Miguel Arteta's "Cedar Rapids" won't open wide enough to reach my little corner of the world whenever it drops next year. And that will be a real shame, because as you'll see from this first trailer I know of, it looks like just the broadest kind of comedy, and quite possibly the very funny variety too. Veryfunnyguy Ed Helms of "The Office" stars as an insurance salesman sent to a conference in the titular city, where he encounters John C. Reilly, Anne Heche and assorted other oddballs. Enjoy the clip.

The more I see of "Source Code," Duncan Jones' followup to the rather sensational "Moon" (rent that already!), the more it just looks like the most generic kind of early-year thriller, but here's hoping I'm wrong. Jake Gyllenhaal stars and finds himself transposed into the body of a soldier so that he can stop the impending bombing of a train. These ticking-clock kind of thrillers really are just about my single least favorite little subgenre of movies, but I'll probably give this a chance just for Mr. Jones' sake when it hits April 1. Enjoy the UK trailer.

Before that comes out, I think the movie I'm most looking forward to seeing early next year would be Peter Weir's "The Way Back," which supposedly opens "wide" Jan. 21. Colin Farrell and Ed Harris are the only name stars among a slew of Russian actors in this tale of a group of men who escaped from a Russian gulag in the 1940s. Not the cheeriest of subjects, perhaps, but Weir is a master at grand storytelling, so this should be pretty great. Enjoy this clip of Farrell from the flick, and like I said, stick around for a "Community" treat at the finish.

To watch more, visit

Of all the shows on hiatus right now, I think I miss "Community" the most, so I guess that makes it my favorite network show right now. And a lot of the spirit of why the show is so great is captured in this Avengers sendup of the cast. I'm not sure who did it, but kudos, because they're all really funny, especially Shirley as the Scarlet Witch and Pierce as the not-terribly-incredible Hulk. Enjoy the picture, have a great Christmas weekend, and go see "True Grit." Peace out.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

For Wednesday, a small cache of clips

Before that, on the day I finally get to see "True Grit," there's a bit of surprising news about one of my favorite actresses.

It's no surprise that on the box office earnings per actor list, Leo DiCaprio came in at No. 1 with the double shot of "Inception" and "Shutter Island," but I seriously doubt anyone could have guessed that Mia Wasikowska comes in at No. 2.

According to the report I read, that's thanks mostly to "Alice In Wonderland" and somewhat more to "The Kids Are All Right," two good but not great movies in my book, but she also appeared in one of my favorite movies of 2010 in Scott Teems' "That Evening Sun." Bully.

After that, there's also a bit of TV news, led by the second season premiere of FX's "Justified," which has been set for Feb. 2. This show started slowly in season one but built into a solid crime drama with a doozy of a finish. And besides, the only thing on my DVR for the next two weeks is "Men of a Certain Age," which I love, but it could certainly use some company. FX also has a promising-looking boxing drama, "Lights Out," due Jan. 11 (and which has been promoted pretty much nonstop since August or so.)

And if you happen to get HBO, which I can never quite manage to quit, Pee-wee Herman has something rather seriously cool coming to the channel fairly early in the new year. Paul Reubens is currently bringing his famous character back to life on Broadway in the rather obviously titled "The Pee-wee Herman Show on Broadway," and it seems that HBO will film at least one night of the production for a 90-minute special to air some time after the Broadway show ends its run Jan. 2. Nothing but awesome there.

After that today, as promised, it's all about clips, and they're pretty much in descending order of quality until a timeless big Christmas finish from The Muppets (of course.) First up comes the second trailer for "Your Highness," the fantasy/stoner drama from director David Gordon Green starring James Franco, Natalie Portman, Danny McBride and Zooey Deschanel that's set to come out April 8. I'd watch those four in just about anything, and this should be seriously funny, but unfortunately, what's most notable about this trailer is that the studio behind it has apparently digitized a bikini bottom over what used to be a long-distance shot of Portman's bare bum. For shame! Enjoy.

Next up comes the first trailer I know of for something that could be extremely cool. "Hanna," from director Joe Wright, stars young Saoirse Ronan as the titular daughter of an ex-CIA agent (Eric Bana), who has been raised in the wilds of Finland to be the ultimate assassin (because, I suppose, everyone needs a life skill). She of course gets sent out on some crazy mission that somehow includes Cate Blanchett and Olivia Williams (huzzah!) too, so this should definitely be worth keeping an eye out for on, coincidentally enough, also April 8. Enjoy

Now, as I said, descending quality, because "The Lincoln Lawyer," starring one Matthew McConaughey as the titular attorney, would just look like the most generic of legal thrillers if it didn't have a rather stellar supporting cast. McConaughey's character is hired to defend Ryan Philippe, who's apparently the son of a very rich dude who's accused of some unsavory sexual behavior. Fortunately, this also stars Marisa Tomei, William H. Macy, Michael Pena, John Leguizamo and even Bryan Cranston too, so it just might be redeemable. Enjoy the trailer and keep an eye out for this one March 18.

OK, as promised, where to end up any set of clips than with a Christmas clip from The Muppets? I have no idea how old this clip of the Swedish Chef (not Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, as I originally put before an alert reader politely corrected me!), Beaker and, naturally, Animal, doing the Ringing of the Bells is, but of course its ultimately timeless. And with that, I'm off to do some swimming, do my laundry, buy some blank CDs and then, yes, finally see the Coen brothers' take on "True Grit," for which I'm utterly psyched. Peace out.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Men of the year: My favorite male movie performances of 2010

I waited to compile this list until seeing "Black Swan" and "The Fighter" as a truly odd double feature last Saturday, and that day yielded one entry here I expected and one that caught me by surprise.

It's still dangerous to do it before The Dude surely abides this week in "True Grit" and without having seen the performance of Oscar favorite (if I'm reading the cards right) Colin Firth in "The King's Speech," but I'm fairly confident that with those two exceptions I've seen most of the best movies of 2010, so here goes: My favorite male performances of 2010, in order only of release date until the very end, for which I've saved my vote for the best.

Leonardo DiCaprio, "Shutter Island": Sure, Leo played pretty much the same constantly stressed out character in both this and "Inception" this year, but he was better here as FBI agent Teddy Daniels in this flick based on the Dennis Lehane novel, which is so good that it will likely end up on my overall best movies of 2010 list, too.

Ricardo Darin, "The Secret in Their Eyes": In this Argentinian film noir, Darin's character undergoes a rather epic journey, returning to both the scene of a brutal crime from his career as a legal inspector and reuniting with an unrequited but still smoldering love, and his performance carries us every step along the way.

John Hawkes, "Winter's Bone": The key to this Debra Granik movie, another film noir of sorts and, like "The Secret in Their Eyes," also shown this year by the Macon Film Guild, is the mysterious motivations of all the characters Jennifer Lawrence's Rhee Dolly encounters while searching for her missing father - and the most important of those is Hawkes' Teardrop (yes, really), who plays his cards close until the end and makes this my vote for the best movie of 2010.

Steve Carell, "Despicable Me": Can a voice-only performance really be one of the best of the year? When it's as good as Carell's as the criminal mastermind with a heart Gru, absolutely, and besides, even though "Toy Story 3" will rightly get most of the animated kudos this year, this was just a thoroughly charming flick.

Kevin Kline, "The Extra Man": I was expecting the worst from Kline in this, and so was that much more pleasantly surprised by how restrained he was as the "gentleman" Henry Harrison, whose sole job is squiring wealthy widows around NYC. Both Kline's performance and the movie overall, out now on DVD, are winning portraits of the kind of eccentric New York that's now all too rare.

Kieran Culkin, "Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World": Comedy rarely gets is just due in awards season, and for my money, no one was funnier this year than Culkin as Scott Pilgrim's gay roommate who constantly pops up to provide a snarky commentary of sorts in the best movie that virtually no one saw in 2010.

Kodi Smit-McPhee, "Let Me In": Matt Reeves' "Let Me in" would have been a completely soulless remake of the clearly superior vampire movie "Let the Right One In" if it weren't for the performances of the two kids at the story's core. McPhee and Chloe Moretz draw us deep into the doomed world of young Owen and Abby and, against steep odds, improve on the performances of the kids in the original movie.

Vincent Cassel, "Black Swan": The two things that surprised me about Darren Aronofsky's movie is just how much of a B-movie schlockfest it really is (albeit about the ballet, of course), and just how good Vincent Cassel is as the ballet director who expertly manipulates his young dancers, never with overt menace but an equally dangerous charm.

Christian Bale, "The Fighter": Bale's extreme measures - and weight fluctuation - to get into his roles would be easy to mock if there clearly weren't more than madness to his method. Here, he's on the very gaunt side as Dicky Eklund, the crack-addicted brother of Mark Wahlberg's titular "Fighter" and the main thing that helps David O. Russell's movie rise above the pack of standard sports underdog flicks.

James Franco, "127 Hours": As I said, the best for last, and this year it's by a pretty wide margin. As Sam Rockwell did last year in the seriously smart sci-fi flick "Moon," Franco dominated almost every frame of Danny Boyle's movie, and never once lets the viewer get bored of watching him. From the exuberance of the beginning of Aron Ralston's perfect day to the extreme desperation of being trapped under a rock for the titular "127 Hours," Franco takes us along every inch of this often very hard to watch journey, making the payoff all the more rewarding at the finish. Just an all-around excellent performance.

And there you have it. Please feel free to let me know of any I may have snubbed (in the honorable mention, I've already got Christopher Plummer in "The Last Station", Michael Nyqvist in "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo"/"The Girl Who Played With Fire" and George Clooney in "The American"), and have a perfectly endurable Monday. Peace out.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Want the best job in the world? Sorry, it's taken

Actually, for me, that would probably be librarian at the American Film Institute, but this would have to be a close second.

In one of the already funny developments for the new Muppets movie being cooked up by Jason Segel, it seems that Animal will have to check in to anger management and will be replaced on the skins by none other than Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl (yes, he'll always be the drummer for Nirvana to me).

Think for a second about just how fun that would be. And with that disgustingly brief thought, I'm off, because with a double feature of "The Fighter" and "Black Swan" on the movie menu for me today, with perhaps some Chinese food stuffed in between, it's the very best movie day of the entire year, so I have to get to it. Peace out.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Could this be the funniest movie of 2011?

Actually, a better question this morning is why in the world is it so hard for Alfonso Cuaron to make a potentially smart and winning sci-fi flick?

I'm not sure I have this all right, because the saga of his attempt to make the movie "Gravity" is a story with many twists before the camera even starts rolling.

First, if I have this right, Angelina Jolie signed on for and then bailed on this tale of a female astronaut trying to get home after an accident in orbit, and then Natalie Portman did pretty much the same thing.

Well, Cuaron eventually settled on Sandra Bullock (a step back in my book, and an odd fit for this, but oh well), but seemingly just as soon as that was settled, Robert Downey Jr. backed out of playing the main supporting role (I'd assume some kind of NASA dude in touch with our heroine from Earth, but who knows for sure). Sheesh.

That move put this solidly in development limbo, but now in the latest twist, George Clooney has apparently stepped in to that role, so it's game on again ... for now.

Follow all that? If you've seen Cuaron's "Children of Men," you know why I'd certainly like to see him make another sci-fi flick, so here's hoping this really all does come together this time.

And what my world, at least, always needs is more real Westerns ("True Grit" next Wednesday, and I can't wait!), so it's certainly good news that director James Mangold is getting into that game.

He tried once with his remake of "3:10 to Yuma" with Russell Crowe and Christian Bale, but while that was a technically proficient flick, I really just couldn't get past the rather thorough unnecessaryness of it (I'm not sure that's even a word, but you get the point).

Now he's signed on to direct something called "The Gunslinger" for New Regency, which is being described as a "revenge thriller" about an ex-Texas Ranger who sets out to punish the men who killed his brother. Bully.

But the main course here today is the second - and much longer - trailer for "Paul," coming just in time for Valentine's Day, for some reason.

If I had to list my 10 or so favorite directors, Greg Mottola would make the list every time. "Superbad" is a comedy classic in my book, and though it goes down a lot drier, "Adventureland" is a heck of a lot of fun too.

Now, for "Paul," he's reunited the "Shaun of the Dead" and "Hot Fuzz" comedy duo of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost as two geeks on a road trip to Comic-Con who just happen to encounter the titular extraterrestrial along the way. You'll be able to tell from the trailer that Seth Rogen voices the alien, and the alwaysveryfunny Kristen Wiig and Jason Batemen appear in this too. It's rare that we get something potentially this good so early in the year, so enjoy this new trailer (which could disappear any minute now, since I swiped it from some kind of Russian video site), and have a perfectly great weekend, which for me will include both "Black Swan" and "The Fighter" on Saturday, so bring it on! Peace out.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Details emerge about Roger Ebert's new show, plus the first look at "Water for Elephants"

As with many things that don't come immediately to my fairly little burg when it's promised to be "opening at a theater near you," we won't be getting the return of "Roger Ebert Presents At The Movies" in its first-run airings. Nards.

I'm still fairly certain that we'll still get it within a week or so of its initial airing in Atlanta, and with, according to Ebert at least, "81 percent" national coverage and the top 20 markets all getting this in first-run, most of the country will get to see this, and that can only be a great thing.

Before being resurrected from the ashes by Ebert and returned to its public TV beginnings, the "At the Movies" franchise was terminated by Disney after a rather impressive run. Now, with Ebert in charge and, of course, the show airing at truly God-awful times (more on that below), here's hoping it will at least find a limited audience for a five-year run or so.

When it makes its debut on some stations on Jan. 21, it will return to the simple thumbs up/thumbs down format, but seems to have lost one co-host. Christy Lemire of the AP, who likes odd movies and deplores by-the-numbers romantic comedies,which I can certainly appreciate, will still make up one half of the main duo of hosts. Elvis Mitchell, however, who starred on the pilot they released earlier this year, has apparently left, which is a real bummer.

As for who will step into that slot, you'll know when I do, and for a complete list of when and where "Roger Ebert Presents At The Movies" will makes its debut, check out this pdf.

And all I have after that today is the first trailer I know of for "Water for Elephants," which is based on one of my all-time favorite novels. Thankfully, the movie is coming out fairly soon, April 15, so definitely keep an eye out for it.

As you'll see from the trailer, I think they got the casting just about perfect. The story, a rather grand bit of historic and romantic fiction, tells the story of Jacob Jankowski, a veterinary student who leaves school and finds work tending to the animals of the Benzini Brothers Circus. There, he becomes involved in a rather steamy love triangle with the beautiful horse lady Marlena and her husband, the brutal head animal trainer August.

Already known was that one Robert Pattinson would play Jacob (fair enough), Reese Witherspoon plays Marlena (even better) and Christoph Waltz plays the often maniacal August (just about perfect). What I didn't know until this morning, however, is that, best of all, the truly great Hal Holbrook plays the narrator of this tale, the elder Jacob from his nursing home. I really can't see anyway this flick, being directed by Francis Lawrence ("I Am Legend," among other things), should be anything short of fantastic (at least if it is, I'll be rather sorely disappointed). Enjoy the trailer, and have a perfectly pleasant Thursday. Peace out.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

For Wednesday, a cache of fun clips

First off, and to segue right into the videos, a hearty huzzah to the Golden Globes for recognizing that "The Walking Dead" was easily one of the best TV dramas of 2010.

The word unique is thrown around way too loosely, and I'm probably as guilty of that as anyone, but it certainly fits here. If you watched the series, you know there's nothing like it on TV: Genuine horror as the inevitable zombie apocalypse (yes, we're certainly headed there) strikes (and in Atlanta no less, kudos), but also plenty of humanity since this comes from the mind of Frank Darabont.

Things don't bear terribly well for season two with the word that all the writers were let go and replaced by freelancers (except for Darabont, of course), but I suppose that's the way of the world. In case you missed the show and doubt just how gruesome it could get, enjoy the video below, but be warned: The title tells you exactly what you get, "every zombie killing in 'The Walking Dead'."

You know, with "Black Swan" finally opening in Macon and "The Fighter" here too - and then hopefully the Coen brothers' "True Grit" (which mi hermano and his Minneapolis-St. Paul homies have apparently already seen - jealous) opening here Wednesday, when I have the day off, this is indeed the best movie week of the entire year for me. There's also apparently a "Yogi Bear" movie opening this weekend too, but as close as you'll see me coming to that is this fantastic clip of what you'd have to call "The Assassination of Yogi Bear By the Coward Boo Boo." Again, the title really says it all, and this is plain brilliant. Enjoy.

OK, enough with the bloodshed, cartoon or otherwise. Nothing but good holiday cheer from here on out, I promise. Though I'm rarely up late enough to see his show live, I often DVR it, and I'm definitely a member of Team CoCo. And it's videos like the backstage clip below that show exactly why Conan O'Brien is so good. If you've never heard what Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward are doing as She & Him, definitely check it out. The closest thing I'd compare it to is Dusty Springfield, but they really just make dreamy sweet pop songs. Enjoy this clip of them getting in the holiday spirit with Conan.

And finally, after watching the clip below, I think Funny or Die needs to add a third option, because this clip featuring Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly as, respectively, David Bowie and Bing Crosby, is - at least until the very funny ending - simply sweet. And with that, I'm off, because I had to get up at 6 a.m. and make a shrimp and grits casserole (office holiday feast day, huzzah!), so I'm already running behind. Enjoy this clip, and have a perfectly passable - if not downright festive - Wednesday. Peace out.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

10 truly odd Christmas movies that capture the spirit

I have nothing at all against the traditional holiday favorites when it comes to movies and specials. I tune in every year for "A Charlie Brown Christmas," and always watch one of the 1,000,000 or so times that TBS airs "A Christmas Story."

But as with most categories of movies, I like my Christmas flicks with at least a few drops of odd, so here are my 10 favorite Christmas-related movies that you might not always think of this time of year.

"A Midnight Clear:" Before the two sides inevitably get back to, well, war, this Peter Berg movie has plenty of Christmas spirit as an American intelligence squad comes across a German platoon wishing to surrender in 1944 France, and everyone enjoys a good holiday feast before they get back to battling.

"Bad Santa": Not only easily the funniest Christmas movie (but certainly not one for the kids), I'd also argue that Billy Bob Thornton's mall Santa has his very drunk, extremely foul-mouthed heart still mostly in the right place. After all, all he wants to do is get his new friend a pink elephant (of course) for Christmas.

"Eastern Promises": OK, this gangster movie might only take place between Christmas and New Year's Eve and have little else to do with the holidays, but David Cronenberg's flick is still here because I wouldn't mess with Viggo Mortensen's Nikolai and tell him otherwise, would you?

"Die Hard": What could exemplify the Christmas spirit more than Bruce Willis' dream of spending the holiday with his estranged wife - even if he has to blow up half of Los Angeles to make it happen?

"In Bruges": Talk about a bummer: Not only does Colin Farrell's hit man end up accidentally killing a child, he then has to spend Christmas in the most boring place on Earth, Bruges (having been there, I can tell you it's far from that, but that's just one of the things that make this wickedly funny movie one of my all-time favorites).

"The Nightmare Before Christmas": Though its full title bears the name of Tim Burton and its in fact based on a poem Burton wrote, this tale of what happens when Jack Skellington opens the portal between Halloween Town and Christmas Town is pure Henry Selick, and that's what makes the stop-motion animated tale a timeless treat.

"Trading Places": Though I like presents as much as anyone, what's Christmas if we can't occasionally poke fun at all our excess, as this '80s flick starring Eddie Murphy and Dan Akroyd (easily one the best movies either of them ever made) does so well.

"The Muppet Christmas Carol": Of course Michael Caine (as Ebenezer Scrooge) just wants poor Bob Cratchit (Kermit the Frog, naturally) to work on Christmas - does that man ever stop working? Just in time for Christmas next year - or maybe a little earlier - we'll get a great gift, a new Muppets movie. Bully.

"Go!": Another one that's not for the kids, but Christmas is definitely a time to party, as Sarah Polley, Katie Holmes and others do as they rave their way through a chaotic Christmas Eve.

"Life of Brian": Sacrilegious? Most certainly, but the Monty Python take on the life of Jesus Christ is of course extremely funny too. And believe it or not, I really did first see this at an Episcopal youth group gathering when I was a teenager.

Merry Christmas to everyone!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Gervais and Merchant bringing their "Idiot" to American TV soon ... bully

Actually, the best thing I could find this morning is the above photo, which is from director Thomas McCarthy's "Win/Win," which is due probably fairly soon in certain corners of the world and is definitely playing next year's Sundance Film Festival.

As you see, the flick stars Paul Giamatti (never a wrong first step) as a struggling attorney who volunteers as a high school wrestling coach and takes on the guardianship of an elderly client in an attempt to save his practice. When the client's teenage grandson runs away from home and turn up at his grandfather's door, Giamatti's coach eventually discovers he has some wrasslin' skills and, well, I suppose something similar to "The Blind Side" will unfold.

Except for in McCarthy's hands it will almost certainly be something much better than that. McCarthy, also an actor who starred on the final season of "The Wire" and also somehow in "2012" (hey, a man's gotta eat, right?), has so far directed the simply sublime "The Visitor" and before that the almost as good "The Station Agent" (and, according to his IMDB biography, at least the pilot episode of HBO's upcoming "Game of Thrones" series, too ... bully.)

So the man knows what he's doing, and he's got the always enjoyable Amy Ryan and Jeffrey Tambor on board for "Win/Win" too, so this is definitely one to keep an eye out for.

And in great news that will benefit American TV viewers much sooner, Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant are bringing the worldly adventures of their comic foil, Karl Pilkington, to something called The Science Station, with the debut tentatively set for Jan. 21.

Now, I'm really not that much of a Luddite, though I still don't own a cell phone, and probably never will. I read just about every science article I come across in the New York Times, but until this morning, I really had no idea there was something called the Science Channel, but thankfully I do indeed get it.

So I'll be able to tune for the six-part series "An Idiot Abroad," and certainly will. But what in the world is it?

Well, if you've ever tuned in for one of Gervais and Merchant's podcasts (and if you haven't, certainly check one out), you know that Pilkington is the frequent subject of their abuse as, well, more than a bit of an idiot. It can get pretty brutal at times, but mostly its just very, very funny.

And along with his great "Monkey News," one of Pilkington's most common lines of thought is that he fears anything that isn't familiar, and particularly anything not British. So what do Gervais and Merchant do? Send him around the world, of course, and in particular to several of its wonders, including Chichen Itza in Mexico, Christ the Redeemer in Brazil, the Giza Pyramid Complex in Egypt, the Great Wall of China, Machu Picchu in Peru, Petra in Jordan and the Taj Mahal in India, and film the whole thing.

I haven't seen any of what came of all this beyond the trailer below, but I'm betting on very funny, and will definitely be tuning in to find out. And with that rather short report, I have to get ready for what is always about a 10-hour Monday work day. Enjoy the trailer, and have a perfectly nonirritating Monday. Peace out.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

A behind-the-scenes look at "True Grit," plus four new clips

Actually, the very best thing I could find this morning was this rather awesome photo of Seth Rogen, Elijah Wood and Danny McBride as the Beastie Boys. Although it's pretty much a trip by itself, what's even better is that it's from a short that Beastie Adam Yauch has cooked up for next year's Sundance Film Festival titled "Fight For Your Right Revisited."

Best as I can tell, the short film will be about the making of the Beasties' video for "Party for Your Right to Fight," and will somehow also star Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly and Jack Black too. There will surely be better movies at Sundance next year, but I'm betting there will be a very few that are more fun.

And after that today, the second best thing is a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the Coen brothers' "True Grit," plus four great clips from the film, set to open, I believe, on Christmas day. It's not terribly surprising, but I was still struck by how real it all is in this world of CGI-3D crap, and it's certainly the movie I'm most looking forward to seeing for the rest of this year, most likely when I hit NYC for the end of the year with my family. Enjoy the clips, and stick around for the the end for some truly inspired hilarity.

Before watching this last gem, do know that I'm confident Darren Aronofsky has made something pretty magical with "Black Swan," but you have to admit this clip mashing it up with the trailer for "Showgirls" is pretty inspired (as was that "We're two black swans" moment that closed the "30 Rock" Christmas episode - easily the funniest thing they've done this year.) Enjoy the clip, and have a great weekend, which for me will include going to see "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader" today. Peace out.

Showgirls | Black Swan Trailer MASH UP from Jeffrey McHale on Vimeo.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

A one-star turkey? Sheesh

Actually, before we get in to that, there's two bits of interesting news out there today about James Franco and the one-season wonder that launched him.

Franco, who apparently won a Golden Globe for playing James Dean in a 2001 TV movie I have never seen, is returning to the scene of "Rebel Without a Cause," but this time to look at the rather juicy life of Sal Mineo.

He's optioned the rights to the new book "Sal Mineo: A Biography" (way to put a lot of thought in to that title!) by artist and photographer Michael Gregg Michaud for his Rabbit Bandini shingle to so far at least write and direct a movie from, but I'd imagine he'll probably want to play Mineo in this too.

In his short life, before being murdered at age 37 in West Hollywood by a pizza delivery man, Mineo of course got to hang with Dean, Natalie Wood and other beautiful people, and became (at the time) the youngest performer nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his work in "Rebel Without a Cause."

And in much better news that I would have to assume would involve Franco, Judd Apatow has let slip that for next year he's plotting a 10-year-or-so reunion of the cast of "Freaks and Geeks," the one-season wonder that also just happens to be easily one of my all-time favorite TV shows, for Paleyfest 2011.

Given that, along with Franco, the cast also featured Seth Rogen, Jason Segel, Lina Cardellini and veryfunnydude Martin Starr, this would have to be a very hot ticket, and if I were anywhere near L.A., I'd certainly be there.

But for the second weekend in a row here at my local multiplexes, the entertainment options are looking surprisingly bleak, especially since I at least thought it was the holiday movie season.

How much do I like going to the movies? Enough that I even went to see "Warrior's Way" last week, and even though it was a truly awful flick, Kate Bosworth's guaranteed-to-garner-a-Razzie performance made it well worth the price of a matinee ticket.

And this week, there is the third "Chronicles of Narnia" movie, which I'm quite looking forward to, but also "The Tourist," which has landed as much more of a dud than I would have imagined.

When the word came down on Tuesday that the movie, starring Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp (heard of them?) and directed by "Lives of Others" helmer Florian Henckel Von Donnersmarck (try saying that five times fast!), wouldn't be reviewed until midday Wednesday, still well in time for me to include it in the entertainment section I lay out each week, I wasn't worried ... yet.

What I wasn't expecting, however, was a one-star review from Christopher Kelly of the Dallas Morning News, calling it an empty charade of a flick that's much too in love with itself. Roger Moore (the Florida movie critic, unfortunately, not James Bond), who is usually the more kind of the two, gave it two stars, but was really just as harsh in his assessment.

Sheesh. Just to make sure, I checked Rotten Tomatoes, and it's only at 27 percent positive, so I guess that seals it. I had been looking forward to this one for much of the year, but that's why I, at least, still read and cherish movie critics: To be warned when a real turkey arrives in fancy duds. Oh well. At least there's Narnia.

And tonight, there's something really cool coming to NBC for its best show, "Community." Though the entire Thursday night comedy block will be doing Christmas episodes (including an hour-long "The Office," so hopefully no "Outsourced"), "Community" is - not surprisingly - upping the ante by making a stop-motion episode in the vein of all the old TV Christmas specials. This episode, which supposedly teaches Abed (the supremely funny Danny Pudi) about the meaning of Christmas, should be a real hoot. Enjoy this brief preview, and have a perfectly pleasant Thursday. Peace out.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

An early Merry Christmas from me and Charlie Brown

Actually, the best gift I could give anyone who happens to stop by here today is to tell you to subscribe to Roger Ebert's newsletter.

I think it's mostly compiled by Ebert's minions, but it's still a great read that comes once or twice a month or so. But what is it? Mostly just a collection of fun clips, everything from trailers to complete movies, and always with some truly odd and fun choices.

In this morning's missive, in fact, was the complete "A Charlie Brown Christmas," and what could possibly be better than that for getting through a dreary and rather cold Wednesday? Enjoy the special below, and if you want to, subscribe to Ebert's newsletter here for a measly $4 a year. Peace out.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Vive la femme: The best female performances of 2010

Though it would be hard to call 2010 a banner year for great female movie roles, there have still been some great performances this year from actresses young and old.

So, with the caveat that I have yet to see some potentially great work from Amy Adams in "The Fighter," Natalie Portman in "Black Swan" and newcomer Hailee Steinfeld in "True Grit," here are my picks for the best female performances of 2010. As always, please feel free to sound off in the comments with anyone I may have snubbed.

Noomi Rapace: "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo"/ "The Girl Who Played With Fire": Though she is almost a complete mismatch with the picture of Lizbeth Salander you get in the wildly popular books by the late Stieg Larsson, you won't soon forget how tough and yet vulnerable Rapace is in the role of the talented hacker. Take a weekend and watch these back to back for two of the best thrillers of the year.

Helen Mirren, "The Last Station": The most surprising thing about this movie about the last days of Leo Tolstoy, which was screened by the Macon Film Guild, is just how much fun it is, due in large part to the the interplay of Dame Helen Mirren and Christopher Plummer.

Chloe Moretz: "Kick-Ass"/"Let Me In": With her work in these two movies, one I love ("Kick-Ass") and one I pretty much despise ("Let Me In"), I'd say the young Georgian Moretz had the best year of any actress in 2010, and probably had the most fun too as the extremely lethal Hit-Girl in "Kick-Ass." Keep an eye out for her next year in Martin Scorsese's "Hugo Cabret."

Jennifer Lawrence: "Winter's Bone": Lawrence's performance as Rhee Dolly, the young woman forced to enter the seamy world of her tangled relations to search for her deadbeat (and possibly just dead) father was the best of 2010, and her reward: She gets to play Raven/Mystique in "Kick-Ass" director Matthew Vaughn's "X-Men: First Class." Bully.

Annette Bening: "The Kids Are All Right": I'd have to say she's the odds-on favorite for the Oscar for Best Actress, and why not? Though I found the movie itself to be pretty pedestrian, her performance as one half of a lesbian couple (with Julianne Moore) is fantastic.

Jacki Weaver: "Animal Kingdom": Weaver gets the nod for the scariest character of the year as the matriarch of the Cody clan in this extremely unglamorous Australian gangster flick, and once you see it, she will be burned on your brain (and quite possibly your nightmares). Coming to DVD on Jan. 18.

Emma Stone: "Easy A": A silly movie? Sure. But also extremely funny, and at the center of it, Stone is a bundle of comedic energy that never stops running through it. Expect her to make a big breakthrough next year in something more serious, as Eugenia "Skeeter" Phelan in the movie based on Kathyrn Stockett's entertaining bestseller "The Help."

Ensemble award: "For Colored Girls": Tyler Perry's movie based on the play by Ntozake Shange is more than a bit of a muddled mess, but his love for black women still shines through in the performances he managed to pull from his large ensemble cast of talented women. Best are Kimberly Elise, Tessa Thompson and Phylicia Rashad as the busybody at the center who ties it all together.

And there you have it. Like I said, please feel free to add anyone I unintentionally snubbed, and have a passable Tuesday. Peace out.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Review: Danny Boyle's exhilarating "127 Hours"

As hokey as it sounds, "127 Hours" is the kind of movie that makes you (or at least me) think about what constitutes a "perfect day," and for me the day I saw Danny Boyle's fairly amazing new flick was one of them.

For a brief replay, here goes: A rare Friday off beginning with a mile swim (about as close as I'll ever get to the kind of extreme sports Aron Ralston likes), a trip to Atlanta to see "127 Hours" and eat at the Original Pancake House (a Texas crepe - excellent), then home again to watch "Winter's Bone" on the Blue Ray, which on second viewing still stands up as the best movie of 2010.

I tell you all that to tell you this: One of the many charms of Boyle's movie is that we are dropped right into the middle of what we can tell is at least at the beginning Ralston's perfect day, and Boyle dives into it with every trick in his bag (and a few too many, but I'll get into that later.) It's the energy that flows throughout the flick, before, during and after the nightmare we all know is coming, that makes this not just watchable but often a real joy to behold, even when it's only James Franco on screen alone for long stretches.

It's both Franco and Boyle that give this flick, right from the start, the trademark of Boyle's best movies, unvarnished - yet always unsentimental - optimism. Filmed (rather amazingly, given its cohesive feel) by two directors of photography, Enrique Chediak and Anthony Dod Mantle, the Utah landscape Ralston gleefully rides into comes to vibrant and beautiful life, and Franco embraces it with all the goofy energy he can muster.

And just when you're thinking Ralston's ideal day couldn't get any better, he runs into two beautiful young women, played by Amber Tamblyn and Kate Mara, who just happen to be lost (yes, if this weren't certainly a true story, it does often seem completely unbelievable), leading to one of the movie's best - and most prescient - scenes: When the three of them do a several hundred foot freefall between two rock walls into a clear blue pool of water. This moment just perfectly captures the mix of fear and exhilaration that drives "127 Hours."

But as sunny and fun as all this is, we know it's all just a 30-minute-or-so setup for what we know is coming (I'm going to have to assume anyone reading already knows), the moment when Ralston, having left his new friends behind, falls into a very narrow valley and gets his arm pinned under a boulder for the titular "127 Hours." Now, I've never seen "Castaway," because I just couldn't bring myself to watch Tom Hanks on screen alone for nearly two hours, so I can't make any comparison, but I can tell you that for several reasons, "127 Hours" doesn't become any less engaging once it's Franco all alone for a very long stretch.

First up is the work of Boyle's two cinematographers, who take us right into the hole with Franco, and with acute use of camera angles, make it feel just as uncomfortable for us as it was for Ralston. And Boyle himself makes a wise choice in not using anything approaching standard flashbacks as Ralston's mind inevitably starts to wander when left to its own devices. Instead, we get several arresting flights of fancy, including a vision of Ralston's future and, best of all, a feel-good montage of soda pop commercials that take his mind away for a little while.

Inevitably I suppose, Boyle does occasionally get bored with this scenario, and lets his hunger for camera tricks get the better of him on a few occasions, particularly with the use of water. Yes, we get it, when water flows it can look really cool on screen, but by the fourth or fifth (or yes, maybe as many as 10th) time, it just gets extremely old.

But what really holds this all together as a cohesive work is Franco himself, and after watching him and thinking about it, I really couldn't think of anyone else who could have pulled this off. I saw an interview with him in which he said Boyle almost didn't hire him because the director thought he was high. That's funny in itself, but it also perfectly captures the mood Ralston is in when this adventure begins.

Once its just him on screen, Franco lets his performance naturally turn more introspective, always leavened with enough humor to make this all go down so well, especially when he interviews himself and lays out exactly why the trip was so ill-fated to begin with. He makes it a coming-of-age tale that's at times very poignant, and unless Colin Firth manages to swipe it away from him, will most likely have co-host Franco (with Anne Hathaway - enough pretty for you?) celebrating on Oscar night.

And, of course, there's one more thing to deal with, and if you don't know what happened to Ralston, please DON'T READ THIS PARAGRAPH. Knowing what Ralston had to do to get out of that hole, I had my sweater in my hands, ready to cover my eyes (and it did at several points - yes, I'm just a big wuss.) Though Boyle certainly could have made it more bloody, he nonetheless makes it very hard to watch as Ralston methodically saws off his own arm with the smallest of pocket knives. Grueling to watch, for sure, but the payoff when Ralston finally works his way out and back to the light of day is more than worth the squirming in your seat.

The bottom line: This isn't Danny Boyle's best movie (for me those are still "Trainspotting' and "Shallow Grave"), but it's one brimming with energy and great storytelling. Highly recommended for a perfect movie day. Peace out.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

DVD review: "The Extra Man"

Be warned: Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini's "The Extra Man" is indeed a "character study," but thankfully it's a genuinely odd and often endearing one.

Based on the Jonathan Ames novel of the same name, it stars Kevin Kline as the titular "Extra Man," a bizarre, sexless gigolo of sorts for rich old ladies, and Paul Dano as his protege. Much like Ames' "Bored to Death" on HBO, it's also an ode to the kind of New York eccentrics that are being buried by the city's continued Disneyfication.

Berman and Pulcini, who wrote and directed the fabulous "American Splendor," about the late Harvey Pekar, are at their best when they shine the light on American oddity, which is certainly the case with "The Extra Man."

Fans of "Bored to Death," of which you can certainly count me as one, should be warned, however: The humor is much less broad than with that NYC stoner romp starring Jason Schwartzman, Zach Galifianakis and Ted Danson. That doesn't mean, however, that the laughs aren't here, there just more delicate and sometimes hard to watch.

Ames always writes a lot of himself into one of his characters, and in this case you have to wonder how many of the issues he shares with Dano's Louis Ives. As the movie opens, he's being fired as a professor at Princeton because his boss discovers him trying on a co-worker's bra in the teacher's lounge.

From there, he sets his sights on New York City, and ends up matched up with Kline after answering an ad seeking a roommate who's a "gentleman." From there on out, the movie is mostly about the relationship of that odd couple and their various adventures squiring old women around town (yes, it often really is as crazy as it sounds.)

Having read on the DVD box that this was "Kevin Kline's best performance since "A Fish Called Wanda'," I was bracing for an over-the-top mess, but for the most part he dives into the part of Henry Harrison and delivers a portrait of a genuine New York eccentric. Dano, for his part, slowly learns to give as good as he gets with Henry's odd life advice, and they play off each other very well.

Ames' tale constantly straddles the line between genuine oddity and contrived quirk, and at least a few times dashes right across it. On the good side is Lewis' visit to a "recession spankologist," something that would be right at home on "Bored to Death" and funny enough that I won't tell you any more about it here.

On the down side, however, is the usually reliable John C. Reilly, who plays Harrison's neighbor with a high-pitched squeal that will grate on you almost as much as his overall performance. And, because of course any movie like this needs a potential love interest for our hero, Katie Holmes makes an appearance too, but never for long enough to be too annoying.

Watching "The Extra Man," I was reminded of two directors: Woody Allen (who turned 75 this week - bully) and Wes Anderson. Allen for the extremely strong sense of place that marks the best of his old New York movies ("Manhattan" being my all-time favorite) and Anderson, of course, for the oddity, at its very best and worst.

The bottom line: "The Extra Man" certainly isn't for everyone (it got a measly 41 percent positive at Rotten Tomatoes), but if you want to spend a little time with some genuine characters in a New York City that's rapidly fading away, you could do a whole lot worse than this mostly fun little flick.

And, of course, I always like to wrap things up with a couple of fun clips.

First up comes a clip from Julie Taymor's "The Tempest," which isn't likely to be on anyone's best of 2010, but along with "The Extra Man," it's sure to be among the craziest of the year, and that's always OK in my book. As you'll see below, this stars Dame Helen Mirren and Djimon Honsou, and also somehow Russell Brand, Alfred Molina, Chris Cooper and Alan Cumming. Keep an eye out for this in at least some corners of the world Dec. 10, and enjoy the clip.

Next comes the trailer for Steven Soderbergh's tribute to his friend, the late great monologist Spalding Gray, "And Everything Is Going Fine." It pains me that in the many times I've been to New York City, I never got to see Gray live before he dived off the Staten Island Ferry, but hopefully this IFC documentary will be playing somewhere when I return there in early January. Enjoy.

And with that, I'm off on this rare Friday off to go see Danny Boyle's "127 Hours" in Atlanta, and really looking forward to it. Peace out.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

The best movie of 2010 getting all kinds of kudos

Though Pixar's "Toy Story 3" comes in a close second, I haven't seen a better movie this year than Debra Granik's "Winter's Bone," and now that it's awards season, that great flick is starting to garner some very well-deserved recognition.

First this week, it really came up big at the Gothams, winning the awards for Best Feature and, perhaps even better, Best Ensemble Performance, because Jennifer Lawrence and John Hawkes also delivered the best two performances I've seen on screen this year.,

In the Best Feature category, it prevailed over some heavy hitters in "Black Swan," "The Kids Are All Right" "Blue Valentine" and "Let Me In." (I don't want to be hateful about it, but I thought "The Kids Are All Right" was severely overrated - at best a TV movie with exceptional acting from Annette Bening. And as for "Let Me In" even being on this list, that's a disgrace.)

On a personal side note, I was disappointed to see that "Summer Pasture," a truly odd but endearing documentary about Tibetan nomads that I saw at the Rehoboth Beach Independent Film Festival, didn't win in the category of Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You, which went to something called "Littlerock."

And now on top of that, "Winter's Bone" has also notched the most Independent Spirit Award nominations with seven, and in all the major categories (including for Lawrence and Hawkes.)

In case anyone's curious, here are the nominees in the major categories:

Best Film
* 127 Hours
* Black Swan
* Greenberg
* The Kids Are All Right
* Winter’s Bone

Best Director
* Darren Aronofsky – Black Swan
* Danny Boyle – 127 Hours
* Lisa Cholodenko – The Kids Are All Right
* Debra Granik – Winter’s Bone
* John Cameron Mitchell – Rabbit Hole

Best Actor
* Ronald Bronstein – Daddly Longlegs
* Aaron Eckhart – Rabbit Hole
* James Franco – 127 Hours
* John C. Reilly – Cyrus
* Ben Stiller – Greenberg

Best Actress
* Nicole Kidman – Rabbit Hole
* Annette Bening – The Kids Are All Right
* Greta Gerwig – Greenberg
* Jennifer Lawrence – Winter’s Bone
* Natalie Portman – Black Swan
* Michelle Williams – Blue Valentine

Best Supporting Actor
* John Hawkes – Winter’s Bone
* Samuel L. Jackson – Mother and Child
* Bill Murray – Get Low
* John Ortiz – Jack Goes Boating
* Mark Ruffalo – The Kids Are All Right

Best Supporting Actress
* Ashley Bell – The Last Exorcism
* Dale Dickey – Winter’s Bone
* Allison Janney – Life During Wartime
* Daphne Rubin-Vega – Jack Goes Boating
* Naomi Watts – Mother and Child

Best Foreign Film
* The King’s Speech
* Kisses
* Mademoiselle Chambon
* Of Gods and Men
* Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives

Best Documentary
* Exit Through the Gift Shop
* Marwencol
* Restrepo
* Sweetgrass
* Thunder Soul

Best Screenplay
* Lisa Cholodenko, Stuart Blumberg – The Kids Are All Right
* Debra Granik, Anne Rosellini – Winter’s Bone
* Nicole Holofcener – Please Give
* David Lindsay-Abaire – Rabbit Hole
* Todd Solondz – Life During Wartime

And if you haven't seen "Winter's Bone," I really can't recommend a rental any higher. I think it's sitting on my local redbox right now, so I plan to watch it again this weekend.

Granik's film, which takes place in the Ozarks, drops you deep into a side of America that I have to assume just about anyone who happens to read this has never seen.

As it starts, Rhee Dolly (Lawrence) gets a knock on the door of the home she shares with her two younger siblings, and a sheriff's deputy says her deadbeat father, who is due in court in a few days, has put up their house as a guarantor of his appearance.

From there, it's part film noir, part coming-of-age very fast in extremely tough circumstances and all very entertaining. Just watch it already.

And all I have after that today is something that's pretty old by now, but it's so cool that I just have to finish with it. I'm pretty much resigned to the fact that I'll never be able to stop paying for HBO. "Boardwalk Empire" has just gotten better and better this fall, and shortly after wraps up will come something even better, "Game of Thrones." I still have no idea when exactly this will hit the air, but it will be in winter or spring of 2011, and you can be sure I'll be eagerly tuned in for every episode of this series based on the books by George R. R. Martin. Enjoy the trailer below, and have a perfectly passable Wednesday. Peace out.