Washington Area Film Critics Pick ‘The Artist,’ Scorsese, Clooney, Williams

Posted on December 5, 2011 at 8:38 am

The Washington Area Film Critics announced our awards for 2011 this morning:
Best Film:
The Artist
Best Director:
Martin Scorsese (Hugo)

Best Actor:
George Clooney (The Descendants)

Best Actress:
Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn)

Best Supporting Actor:
Albert Brooks (Drive)

Best Supporting Actress:
Octavia Spencer (The Help)

Best Acting Ensemble:
Bridesmaids

Best Adapted Screenplay:
Alexander Payne and Nat Faxon & Jim Rash (The Descendants)

Best Original Screenplay:
Will Reiser (50/50)

Best Animated Feature:
Rango

Best Documentary:
Cave of Forgotten Dreams

Best Foreign Language Film:
The Skin I Live In

Best Art Direction:
Dante Ferretti, Production Designer, and Francesca Lo Schiavo, Set Decorator (Hugo)

Best Cinematography:
Emmanuel Lubezki (The Tree of Life)

Best Score:
Ludovic Bource (The Artist)

(more…)

Related Tags:

 

Awards

Drive

Posted on September 15, 2011 at 6:40 pm

Danish director Nicholas Winding Refn said that “Drive” is his vision of a contemporary fairy tale about a princess who has to be rescued from a dragon.  It is a highly stylized, brilliantly acted, and brutally violent story about a man we know only as “the Driver” (Ryan Gosling), a mechanic, sometime movie stunt driver, and occasional getaway driver.  He befriends a young mother named Irene (Carey Mulligan) and her son while her husband is in prison.

“You put this kid behind a wheel and there’s nothing he can’t do,” says a gimpy guy named Shannon (“Breaking Bad’s” Bryan Cranston), who runs the garage where the Driver works.  “How’s the leg?” asks Nino (Ron Perlman).  “I paid my debt,” says Shannon, acknowledging the real question.  This is a world where debts must be paid and reminders of that fact can be painful.

And this is a world where the Driver is not the only one who has a range of roles that include both sides of the law.  And there are bad guys and really bad guys and really, really bad guys.  Irene’s husband Standard (a superb Oscar Isaac) gets out of prison.  When he is sucked into one more robbery, the Driver goes along to make sure nothing bad happens.  And then a lot of very bad stuff happens, and that makes him a target.  Irene and her son are at risk and so is a woman named Blanche (“Mad Men’s” Christina Hendricks, looking great in tight jeans, even when she’s terrified).  Behind much of what goes on are the deceptively genial Bernie Rose (look for a Supporting Actor nomination for Albert Brooks) and the hot-tempered and impetuous Nino.

It is a volatile situation, and Refn plays that off the minimalist storyline, stripped-down dialog, retro electronic soundtrack, and cool compositions, with each frame as perfectly laid out as a still life waiting to be painted, each movement as swoon-worthily choreographed as a ballet.

 

(more…)

Related Tags:

 

Action/Adventure Mystery

Finding Nemo

Posted on May 21, 2003 at 1:10 pm

Pixar Studios may have the most advanced animation technology in the world, but they never forget what matters most in a movie: story, characters, imagination, and heart. “Finding Nemo” has it all.

It is an epic journey filled with adventure and discovery encompassing the grandest sweep of ocean vastness and the smallest longing of the heart.

Marlin (Albert Brooks) is a fond but nervous and overprotective clown fish. A predator ate his wife and all but one of their eggs. The surviving egg becomes his son Nemo (Alexander Gould), and when it is time to start school, Nemo is excited, but Marlin is very fearful.

Nemo has an under-developed fin. Marlin has done a good job of making Nemo feel confident and unselfconscious. They call it his “lucky fin.” But it still makes Marlin a little more anxious about protecting Nemo, and it still makes Nemo a little more anxious about proving that he can take care of himself.

On his first day of school, Nemo swims too far from the others and is captured by a deep sea diver, a dentist who keeps fish in his office aquarium. Marlin must go literally to the end of the ocean to find his son and bring him home.

And so, in the tradition and spirit of stories from the Odyssey to “The Wizard of Oz,” Marlin takes a journey that will introduce him to extraordinary characters and teach him a great deal about the world and even more about himself. He meets up with Dory (Ellen DeGeneres), a cheerful blue tang who has a problem with short-term memory loss. They search for Nemo together, despite stinging jellyfish, exploding mines, and creatures with many, many, many, many teeth.

Meanwhile, Nemo has made some very good friends in the dentist’s aquarium, including a tough Tiger Fish (Willem Dafoe) who helps him plan an escape before the dentist can give Nemo to his careless eight-year-old niece, whose record with fish portends a short lifespan.

The movie is a visual feast. The play of light on the water is breathtaking. The characters imagined by Pixar in “Monsters, Inc.” were fabulously inventive, but they have nothing on the even more fabulously inventive Mother Nature. This movie will make an ichthyologist out of anyone, because all of the characters are based on real-life ocean species, each one more marvelous than the one before. While preserving their essential “fishy-ness,” Pixar and the talented people providing the voices have also made them each wonderfully expressive, and it seems only fair to say that they create performances as full and varied as have ever been on screen.

There are some scary moments in this movie, including the off-screen death of Marlin’s wife and future children. It is handled very discreetly, but still might possibly be upsetting to some viewers. There are terrifying-looking creatures, but one of the movie’s best jokes is that even the sharks are so friendly that in an AA-style program, they keep reminding each other that “we don’t eat our friends.” There really are no bad guys in this movie — the danger comes from a child’s thoughtlessness and from natural perils. The movie has no angry, jealous, greedy, or murderous villains as in most traditional Disney animated films.

Another strength of the movie is the way it handles Nemo’s disability, frankly but matter-of-factly. But best of all is the way it addresses questions that are literally at the heart of the parent-child relationship, giving everyone in the audience something to relate to and learn from.

And there is another special treat — the chance to see Pixar’s first-ever short feature, “Knick-Knack,” shown before the feature. It shows how far the technology has advanced, but it also shows that Pixar’s sense of fun was there right at the beginning.

Parents should know that even though there are no traditional bad guys in this movie, there are still some very scary moments, including creatures with zillions of sharp teeth, an apparent death of a major character, and many tense scenes with characters in peril. At the beginning of the movie, Marlin’s wife and all but one of their eggs are eaten by a predator. It is offscreen, but might upset some viewers. There is a little potty humor. The issue of Nemo’s stunted fin is handled exceptionally well.

Families who see this movie should talk about how parents have to balance their wish to protect their children from being hurt (physically or emotionally) with the need to let them grow up and learn how to take care of themselves. They should talk about Nemo’s disability and about everyone has different abilities that make some things easier for each of us to do than for most people and some things harder. How do you know what your abilities are, and what do you do to make the most of them?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the other Pixar films, “A Bug’s Life,” the “Toy Story” movies, and “Monsters Inc.” They will appreciate other movies with underwater scenes, including Disney’s “The Little Mermaid,” “Pinocchio,” and “Bedknobs and Broomsticks,” and “Yellow Submarine,” with innovative animation, a witty and touching script, and, of course, glorious music from the Beatles. Families with younger children will enjoy reading “The Runaway Bunny,” and families with older children will enjoy “Amazing Fish” from the outstanding Eyewitness series.

Related Tags:

 

Action/Adventure Animation Classic Family Issues For the Whole Family Talking animals

The Muse

Posted on December 13, 2002 at 5:16 am

The latest film by writer/director/actor Albert Brooks has him portraying Steven Phillips, a Hollywood screenwriter who is let go by the studio when a young, arrogant executive tells him he has lost his “edge.” On the advice of a friend, he seeks inspiration from a muse (Sharon Stone), the daughter of Zeus, who now lives in Los Angeles under the name “Sarah.”

Sarah does indeed work miracles for Steven, inspiring him to write a successful script. But Sarah is demanding. She insists on lavish gifts and constant attention. And she is frustrating. Steven wants her full- time dedication, but she is busy inspiring his wife to start a cookie business and “Titanic” writer/director James Cameron to make something other than a sequel.

The satire and Hollywood in-jokes will have little appeal to kids, but Stone’s performance as the ravishing, maddening, and truly inspiring muse is wildly funny and can lead to family discussions about art and about relationships. Kids may also want to look up the mythological muses and talk about the costs and benefits of being inspired. Parents should note that there is some suggestion that Sarah is mentally ill, but this is intentionally left vague enough so that each viewer can decide if she really is a muse after all.

Related Tags:

 

Comedy Fantasy Satire
THE MOVIE MOM® is a registered trademark of Nell Minow. Use of the mark without express consent from Nell Minow constitutes trademark infringement and unfair competition in violation of federal and state laws. All material © Nell Minow 1995-2024, all rights reserved, and no use or republication is permitted without explicit permission. This site hosts Nell Minow’s Movie Mom® archive, with material that originally appeared on Yahoo! Movies, Beliefnet, and other sources. Much of her new material can be found at Rogerebert.com, Huffington Post, and WheretoWatch. Her books include The Movie Mom’s Guide to Family Movies and 101 Must-See Movie Moments, and she can be heard each week on radio stations across the country.

Website Designed by Max LaZebnik