Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Anti-Oscars Part 4

Ok, if I weren’t as long winded as you know I’m want to be this would be THE list. If I were an Academy member these would be the 5 Best Picture nominees and one Best Animated Feature nominee that I would have voted for.

THE WRESTLER: I love Darren Aronofsky and THE WRESTLER is yet another masterpiece to be added to his already impressive resume. Mickey Rourke gives the performance of the year and his career as Randy “The Ram” Robinson a washed-up beaten down has-been of a wrestler whose life and career closely reflect that of the man playing him.
From the moment this movie begins you know you’re in for something special. Shot in a loose and rough fashion as if a documentarian or wildlife photographer is following some exotic and wild animal the movie instantly immerses you in Randy’s world and gives you brilliant insight into the make believe world of professional wrestling that and the very real toll it takes on the lives of those involved. THE WRESTLER serves as a blistering expose of not only the human frailties of our heroes but also that of the American mindset over the past several decades.
Through it all Randy a character who could very easily garner very little if any sympathy in the wrong hands causes the audience to instantly identify and root for him, bruised face, sub par intellect and all. This is in no small part thanks to the genuine warmth and heart Rourke brings to the character. The two most effective scenes in the film are when we see Randy working at the local meat market, engaging, fun and gregarious, showing the promise of living a normal life and his haunting final act of proud yet foolish placation of the masses as he succumbs to that which will only lead to his destruction.
Such brilliant dichotomy displays the genius of all involved as no matter what happens in the movie or the decisions made by the main character do we ever begrudge him or think less of him. Instead, we can only watch enthralled and horrified as the gleaming spotlight of fame strips away any hope for normal life and replaces an existence of peace and happiness with one of infamy and tragedy. Your typical sports film this is not and that amongst many other reasons is why THE WRESTLER was by far one of the brightest stars of 2008.

RACHEL GETTING MARRIED: As I made mention of earlier in this gigantic rambling mess of a year end review CHASING AMY is one of my favorite movies of all time. One of the reasons for this is because I think it holds one of the best acted, most emotionally raw scenes in the history of cinema. The scene in question involves Ben Affleck’s character (That’s right Ben Affleck, seriously when the dude tries he can act his ass off) confessing his love to the lesbian played by Joey Lauren Adams. Hands down it is one of the most brutal, emotionally naked scenes ever caught on film. All of RACHEL GETTING MARRIED is like that scene.
Shot in a fly on the wall, almost voyeuristic style this movie is a master class in acting by everyone involved, not the least of which is Anne Hathaway giving an Oscar worthy and career performance. Likewise just as much credit goes to Jonathan Demme who proves he is far more than just the SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, PHILEDALPHIA guy.
I think my sister put it best when she said after watching this film you feel like you’ve been through the entire wedding process along with the characters. She didn’t mean that in a mean or cutting way towards the film, but instead that the movie does such a good job of immersing you in the lives and situations of Kym and her family that when all is said and done you feel just as emotionally drained as the characters you were watching up on the big screen.
Every single aspect of this film is beyond brilliant, from the way the entire soundtrack is done externally to the first rate script. Sitting in the theatre after the movie had finished unspooling before my eyes I sat in awe and reverence for every bit of work done in this film. It is a testament to the quality of some of the other films this year that this movie was not my single favorite film of the year because I guarantee you in a lesser year it most assuredly would have been.

TROPIC THUNDER: Hands down one of the single funniest movies I’ve ever seen. In the 6 months since first seeing this movie my love for it has only grown more and more and I am now more than convinced that this is one of the all time great comedy classics that will stand the test of time.
There is not a single solitary thing about this film that isn’t completely, brilliantly inspired. I’ve been a fan of Ben Stiller as a writer and director for quite some time now but I never could have guessed he had a movie like this in him. Every single aspect of this film isn’t just funny, its laugh until you’re on the verge of wetting yourself hysterical. Each actor, each moment is perfectly picked to deliver the maximum amount of comedic gold in a way that very few movies do. TROPIC THUNDER would have been more than worth the price of admission alone for Robert Downey (Putting the icing on the greatest year of his career) as Kirk Lazarus and Tom Cruise as the greatest studio executive in the history of film, but once you throw in Danny McBride, Jack Black, Nick Nolte, Steve Coogan and Simple Jack… er, I mean Ben Stiller you have a barrage of humor that even the most frumpy, stuck-up person is powerless to resists.
I’ll freely admit I’m not sure this movie plays quite as well to people that aren’t movie obsessed or knowledgeable about the industry, but frankly I don’t care. In a year filled with truly great comedies, movies that made me wish the Oscars would steal the one thing that works about the Golden Globes and add a Best Comedy or Musical category, TROPIC THUNDER stood head and shoulders above all that tried to bring humor to our hearts and laughter to our lips this year.

IRON MAN: I’ve been going to Comic-Con for at least a decade now. In that entire time I’ve sat in on dozens and dozens of panels and none of them have ever come close to matching the experience I had 2 years ago at the Paramount panel. Jon Favreau a man whose career I’ve followed since his debut as a writer and actor in SWINGERS all the way to his criminally under seen children’s film ZATHURA surprised the amassed geek audience and showed 5 minutes worth of footage from his upcoming film IRON MAN. Up until that point we had all been cautiously optimistic based on his casting and story choices that the dude that gave us ELF might turn in a halfway decent comic book movie. By the time the footage was done rolling there wasn’t a single person in Hall H, that most blessed of Comic-Con auditoriums, that hadn’t been knocked flat on his or her fanboy / fangirl ass. In May of 2008 almost a full year after seeing that footage and growing more and more excited about the idea that Favreau and company may have flat out nailed it the world as whole got to bear witness to one of the greatest comic book movies of all time and in my humble opinion one of the single best tent-pole, big budget, summer blockbuster films in ages.
I LOVE IRON MAN! I mean seriously I could write pages upon pages as to why this film kicks so much ass on every single conceivable level. Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark is one of the single greatest pieces of casting in the history of cinema and the performance he turned in honestly should have netted him an Academy Award. The supporting cast from Jeff Bridges to Terrance Howard and Gwyneth Paltrow is all uniformly great as are the visual and practical effects that sadly pay a fitting tribute as the late, great Stan Winston’s final masterpiece.
Above all else though Jon Favreau and his team of screenwriters deserve every bit of credit in the world for not only turning in one of the most faithful comic book adaptations of all time but also flat out one of the best movies of the year. Amidst all the high tech coolness and quippy dialogue IRON MAN is the best character piece of the year, featuring the most interesting, fully realized character arc of the year, the kind you’d expect to see in a film nominated for an ISA, not writ large across your local multiplex screen while jet fighters and mechanized beasts duke it out with personal demons and issues of responsibility for your attention.
In a year of spectacular comic book movies and great genre features IRON MAN set itself up as the film to beat very early on. The fact that this film, along with at least one other wasn’t nominated for more Oscars perfectly displays why I was so disgusted with the entire proceeding this year. For years now people have bitched that the only “good” movies come out of the independent film world, that this is the only place where strong, character, plot driven films can hope to thrive. IRON MAN and several other films proved how much of a fallacy that is given you put the material in the right people’s hands. This gigantic, big budget event film wasn’t just as good as anything that came from Fox Searchlight or Paramount Vantage, it was actually better. IRON MAN is one of the rare films that tells a deep, personal and emotional story and still manages to blow enough crap up to keep everyone happy all the way through. PLEASE Hollywood make more films like this!

1 comment:

Senor Granto said...

I was suprised at how good Iron Man turned out too. I always loved the character but I didn't think he'd translate to screen as well. Its by far my favorite Marvel comic film adaptation.

See you at the SDCC!