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Posts Tagged ‘Carey Mulligan’

Artist Tavis Coburn takes us back to the 1950’s with his retrospective interpretation of five of the ten Best Picture nominees. Fantastic stuff!

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The Oscars. The most prestigious show that honors the esteemed works of an intimate community? Or meaningless, arbitrary titles that are granted to the elitists of Hollywood? Either way you look at it, here are my opinions on some of their nominations.

Full List of Nominations

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
Coraline
Fantastic Mr. Fox
The Princess and The Frog
The Secret of Kells
Up

2009 was an excellent year for animation, and the Academy thankfully decided to recognize that by extending the number of nominations to five. It is, however, pointless because Up is destined to win; its transcendence to Best Picture nominee is enough to seal the victory in its own specific category.

Unashamed to admit this, I think Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox is more deserving of the award . The hands-on approach that went into developing the minutiae of his world is such an astonishing feat in today’s world of cinema, and it shouldn’t be overlooked. His meticulous vision served as both a nostalgic nod to old-school filmmaking and as a reminder which demonstrated what the stop-motion medium can surprisingly achieve.

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ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Mark Boal – The Hurt Locker
Quentin Tarantino – Inglourious Basterds
Oren Moverman – The Messenger
Joel and Ethan Coen – A Serious Man
Pete Docter and Bob Peterson – Up

Seeing Quarantino Tarantino and the Coen Brothers up for a writing award makes sense. The screenplays to Inglourious Basterds and A Serious Man could only spring out of the minds of geniuses who’ve been penning wonderfully creative stories for over a decade. Both of these films were personal and audacious, and they were exactly in touch with what the authors love-Tarantino and his love for film, the Coens and their love for absurdity.

The Coens have won twice for screenplay (Fargo and No Country for Old Men). Tarantino won for Pulp Fiction, and I think he’ll be taking home his second Oscar this year.

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BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell – District 9
Nick Hornby – An Education
Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci, Tony Roche – In the Loop
Geoffrey Fletcher – Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire
Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner – Up in the Air

Of all the great nominees for Best Adapted Screenplay,  District 9s inclusion makes me the most content. It fits more in the realm of original screenplay (it’s an “adaptation” of the short film District 9), but it still surprisingly rests as a science-fiction screenplay among three dramas and a British satire. Cynics who disregard the Academy for its pretension can be appeased by its decision to honor a Summer popcorn flick. How much of a chance does it have? Not too much. Jason Reitman’s Up in the Air should be walking away with the victory.


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ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Penelope Cruz – Nine
Vera Farmiga – Up in the Air
Maggie Gyllenhaal – Crazy Heart
Anna Kendrick – Up in the Air
Mo’Nique – Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire

ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Matt Damon – Invictus
Woody Harrelson – The Messenger
Christopher Plummer – The Last Station
Stanley Tucci – The Lovely Bones
Christoph Waltz – Inglourious Basterds

Christoph Waltz and Mo’Nique have sauntered through this year’s awards circuit. They’ve nabbed just about every award that precedes an Oscar, and the humility with which they have accepted all of their prestigious and critical praise shows how much all of this means to them. The two gave memorable and terrifying performances, and it will be touching to see them give one more great acceptance speech this Sunday.

Two more nominees that deserve attention are Anna Kendrick for Up in the Air and Woody Harrelson in The Messenger. One, a young budding star; the other, an experienced veteran. Both performances were surprisingly wholesome and unforgettable. However, it’s not their time to win.

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ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
Sandra Bullock – The Blind Side
Helen Mirren – The Last Station
Carey Mulligan – An Education
Gabourey Sidibe – Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire
Meryl Streep – Julie & Julia

ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
Jeff Bridges – Crazy Heart
George Clooney – Up in the Air
Colin Firth – A Single Man
Morgan Freeman – Invictus
Jeremy Renner – The Hurt Locker

Having only seen the performances of Carey Mulligan, George Clooney, Gabourey Sidibe, and Jeremy Renner, I can’t really say anything substantial about these two prominent categories. It is apparent, though, that this awards season has been very kind to Jeff Bridges and Sandra Bullock, and with only a week left until the big show, they seem more like solidified locks than assumed frontrunners.

How does that make me feel? Well, I’d love to see Carey Mulligan take home the statue for her charming performance in An Education. But it’s not her time, and such is life. As for Jeff Bridges…he is a truly amazing actor who’s gone far too long without touching gold.

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DIRECTING
Kathryn Bigelow – The Hurt Locker
James Cameron – Avatar
Lee Daniels – Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire
Jason Reitman – Up in the Air
Quentin Tarantino – Inglourious Basterds

Kathryn Bigelow is the fourth woman ever to be nominated for Best Director, and she has a damn good chance of actually grasping the title. Seeing her join the pantheon of directors, amongst the ranks of Martin Scorsese, Ang Lee, the Coen Brothers, and Clint Eastwood (all winners in the 2000’s), would be an incredible moment for cinephiles. Here’s hoping she gets it. I’ve extensively professed my affection for The Hurt Locker, and Ms. Bigelow is absolutely deserving of the acclaim.


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BEST PICTURE
Avatar
The Blind Side
District 9
An Education
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire
A Serious Man
Up
Up in the Air

This year’s race for Best Picture has truly been exciting. During the Summer, Precious and Up in the Air received unanimous praise from indie festivals while The Hurt Locker and Inglourious Basterds were slowly gaining buzz from their theatrical releases. Then came Winter and James Cameron’s tour de force that swept the entire globe. His revolutionary Avatar became a phenomenon among the common man, and while it was mixed amongst critics, it’s been too large to ignore. Precious and Up in the Air eventually made their ways into theaters, but their status as frontrunners diminished with Cameron’s international campaign. The Hurt Locker and Inglourious Basterds have maintained their energy due to the inherent quality of the two films.

So who will win? My bet is Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker. But the Academy has been known to surprise us.


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It is now 2010, and everything from reviews to teasers is suddenly culminating to this. A reflective and hopefully not so irrelevant list of my favorite movies from 2009. I know that publishing such a compilation seems so out of date when we’re already in the new decade, but I want to contemplate on the past year a tiny bit before plunging into the future.

Before we count down, I’d like to share with you the ineligibles and the honorable mentions. The ineligibles are movies that seemed likely in making the list, but are ones I never got around to seeing. The honorable mentions are films that just barely missed the cut.

Ineligible: In the Loop, Fantastic Mr. Fox, A Single Man, The White Ribbon

Honorable Mentions: Drag Me to Hell, Anvil: The Story of Anvil, Coraline, Moon

And so we begin. It’s time to throw all numerical scores out the window and to simply go with intuition.

10. Where the Wild Things Are

Spike Jonze’s adaptation of beloved children’s book, Where the Wild Things Are, is an assortment of innocence, wonderment, and loneliness. The treatment of these consolidated emotions is a bit rushed and unfocused, however, and what remains is a frenetic and rather sloppy movie; but where the film lacks in steadiness is where it succeeds in providing unabashed and sometimes painful emotion. Jonze’s artful construction of a purely fantastical world serves as a harbor of nostalgia for those who were once tormented children. From building forts to feeling ignored, Where the Wild Things Are manages to beautifully exhibit both the wonder and terror of growing up.

9. Humpday


Humpday is a cleverly inquisitve movie. At first, the film asks questions about sexuality and masculinity, but as it meanders to a fitting end, these queries slowly transform into examinations of a concept that is far more frustrating than sex. Growing up. Unbeknownst to our main characters, Andrew and Ben, they do make discoveries about themselves, and their inner demons are quietly exorcised. What makes this overall experience so cathartic is the innate goodness and relatability of the characters we follow. Now being twenty years old, I often bump into the proverbial quarter-life crisis. Thoughts of past accomplishments and future ambitions come up for dissection, and I’m sometimes unsure how to assess myself. Humpday happens to mirror some of my thoughts and apprehensions perfectly.

8. Adventureland


Adventureland isn’t just a movie that’s set in 1987. It’s a recollection of personal memories that vicariously warps us back to our own pasts. While watching this film, it’s natural to recall that sacred instance we first fell in love; it’s reactionary to conjure up memories of simply hanging out with old friends and realizing that life is pretty amazing when shared with the right people. Adventureland’s ability to feel like something in the past tense is a reminder that these years are the best years of our lives. Its depiction of joy, frustration, regret, and inebriation is honest and endearing, making us want to latch onto our own Adventureland, whatever that may be, forever.

7. A Serious Man

The latest Coen Brothers film, A Serious Man, opens with the quote, “Receive with simplicity everything that happens to you.” What follows is an hour and a half of comically tragic torture, all befalling our gentle and very disgruntled subject, Larry Gopnik (Michael Stuhlbarg). How we respond to his misfortune depends on our own religious beliefs, considering that Joel and Ethan Coen never pamper us with their own direct discernment, other than to antithetically “Accept the mystery.” Many of this film’s oddities and philosophical undertones are stylistically reminiscent of one of my favorite authors, Kurt Vonnegut, and that is perhaps why I adore it so much. Its wandering nature is not only thought provoking, but also brave, for it ultimately encourages us to find our own meaning to the movie’s unfortunate events ourselves.

6. An Education

Collectively, college students can be as pretentious as they are naive. I am no different. Nor is the main character of An Education, Jenny (Carey Mulligan). Her desire to become an adult far too quickly is triggered by the splendor of pop culture. She eventually finds herself circumscribed by an exquisite, highbrow life for which she is not yet ready, and it all clusters into a horrible yet calculated mess by the end. The illusion with which she is enamored is undeniably charming and elegant, and credit must be given to those across the Atlantic who made this film. Interestingly enough, behind said illusion is a reality we, myself included, should try to accept. We mustn’t be so quick to let our pretension overbear our not so necessarily terrible innocence.

5. The Hurt Locker


The most cataclysmic dangers in Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker are not epic or turbulent. Rather, they are unforeseeable and omnipresent. Trouble could be within a crowd of seemingly innocent civilians, or behind a wall hundreds of feet away, or dangling between loose bomb wires that are within one’s grasp. The notion that these dangers are all “could be’s” and “what if’s” is what makes the experience all the more terrifying. Additionally, the characters we see endure these crises are communally unstable and unpredictable, only heightening the already established tension. The intensity that is embedded within The Hurt Locker damages our characters psychologically, and we are challenged to accept them as imperfect individuals who are merely trying to survive.

4. Star Trek

As made evident by his television series, Lost, JJ Abrams has a penchant for creating thoughtful relationships between strong characters. With Star Trek, he takes familiar faces from a renowned franchise and still manages to create crisp dynamics. It’s an absolute joy to watch the relationship between James Kirk (Chris Pine) and Mr. Spock (Zachary Quinto), one that traverses both directions in time, blossom from pure hatred to something a little less vile. Their exchanges, which range from simple bickering to physical engagement, are some of the best parts of the film, and where their individual character arcs conclude makes the journey with them that much more satisfying.

3. Up in the Air

Ryan Bingham’s (George Clooney) forlorn philosophy on relationships is one that I, more often than not, subscribe to. Yet, his gradual but never completed metamorphasis into a more susceptible person is alleviating on multiple levels. I say “never completed” because we don’t really know if he is a changed man by the end. Along the way, Ryan is damaged, betrayed, and abandoned, and we are left without a cathartic, warmhearted climax. Knowing that everything is literally up in the air by the end of this film, we become refugees who are forced to find a home in whatever makes the film seem whole to us. Our interpretations of such a bold ending will be subject to debate, and this is where our human tendencies will be examined. This beautiful experiment that director Jason Reitman conducts is one that I will not forget being a part of.

2. Mary and Max

Australian film, Mary and Max, is a claymation feature that is crude and sophisticated. The tone is childlike in appearance, but its deeply sad themes resonate particularly well with me at this point in my life. Currently attending college, I feel like I’m inside some sort of purgatory or in-between. I’m no longer a kid, but I’m not yet an adult. This place can be, at times, very lonely. The film’s characters are from both ends of the spectrum-Mary is a young, lonely girl, and Max is an old, misunderstood hermit. Where they converge in similarities and differences is exactly where I reside-that bubble of misunderstanding and uncertainty. Complemented by a captivating score, Mary and Max unfolds with the innocence of a children’s book, but its insight is extremely powerful.

1. Inglourious Basterds

I never thought I’d ever be putting a Tarantino film at the top of a favorites list. He’s a filmmaking genius, but the romantic in me doesn’t necessarily anchor to his masculine movies. However, upon further meditation, there’s no doubt in my mind that Inglourious Basterds is my favorite film of 2009. Tarantino’s orchestration of remorseless action serves as a shrewd device for both entertainment and examination, and I love everything that occurs on screen. More impressively, beyond the conscious brutality that Inglourious Basterds sustains is a great deal of lacerating tension that comes from people simply talking. Tarantino’s loud audacity is most prominent in his quietest scenes, creating a wholesome, epic experience-one that I admire from beginning to end.

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Writer Nick Hornby’s (High Fidelity, About a Boy) most recently adapted screenplay is quite the morally ambiguous tale. However, because of his sophisticated writing, Lone Scherfig’s pristine direction, and the entire cast’s wonderful performances, An Education is able to tell an inappropriate story with great taste and thought.

Jenny (Carey Mulligan) is a sixteen year old intellectual whose path in life has been meticulously determined by her parents. Her inquisitve and independent mind, however, gravitates towards things outside the linearity and banality of school. Literature, art, music, films, other cultures. She serendipitously comes across David, a charming man in his thirties who shows her just what she wants, and the two eventually form a romantic and, therefore, taboo relationship.

Carey Mulligan delivers one of the best performances I’ve seen this year, and the supporting cast is just as powerful. Peter Sarsgaard, who plays David, is attractive with his charm, but a hint of sliminess permeates through his good looks. Alfred Molina does very well as Jenny’s father, a stern but ultimately naive man who’s easily deceived by anything that might benefit his daughter.  The film’s heavy themes are expertly balanced in the modest performances. Never does An Education become extremely melodramatic, and this is a testament to the elegant style of British filmmaking.

The art direction is both dazzling and quiet as well. The film transports us to 1960’s England, displaying their way of life through jazz clubs, auctions, concerts, fine dining, etc. Each place we’re taken to feels so wholesome and comfortable, and they never become distractions to what the movie is trying to say.

The film clashes traditional ideals of education against the more independent approach to learning. Jenny’s character is present in so many of my college peers who have difficulty finding value in going to school just to get a pointless degree when we’re capable of learning so much more about the world through travel and experiences. An Education handles these thoughts impressively, and it ends by showing us how young Jenny truly is, despite her vast knowledge of pop culture.

Unfortunately, this movie crumbles in the final ten minutes, and it’s heartbreaking to watch. After telling its story with poise and profoundness, An Education falters in its final moments, wrapping up in conventional fashion. The movie also fades out with a voice over, but it’s completely out of place because there is no other narration present in the film.

An Education is a graceful coming-of-age story that provides laughter, reflection, and wonder. The colors of the world coincide with the deep characters, and the elegant pacing of the film (minus the last ten minutes) flows very well with the great writing. As the end of 2009 approaches, numerous top ten lists will be made; I see myself putting An Education on mine.

8.5 out of 10

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