More Awards: Online Film Critics Pick ‘Tree of Life,’ ‘Cave of Forgotten Dreams’

Posted on January 2, 2012 at 9:43 am

The Online Film Critics have announced their awards for 2011:  

Best Picture:

The Tree of Life

Best Animated Feature:

Rango

Best Director:

Terrence Malick – The Tree of Life

Best Lead Actor:

Michael Fassbender – Shame

Best Lead Actress:

Tilda Swinton – We Need to Talk About Kevin

Best Supporting Actor:

Christopher Plummer – Beginners

Best Supporting Actress:

Jessica Chastain – The Tree of Life

Best Original Screenplay:

Midnight in Paris

Best Adapted Screenplay:

Tinker Tailor Solider Spy

Best Editing:

The Tree of Life

Best Cinematography:

The Tree of Life

Best Film Not in the English Language:

A Separation

Best Documentary:

Cave of Forgotten Dreams

Special Awards (previously announced):

To Jessica Chastain, the breakout performer of the year

To Martin Scorsese in honor of his work and dedication to the pursuit of film preservation

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Awards

Midnight in Paris

Posted on May 26, 2011 at 6:00 pm

B+
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for some sexual references and smoking
Profanity: Some strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Drinking, smoking
Violence/ Scariness: None
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: May 27, 2011
Date Released to DVD: December 20, 2011
Amazon.com ASIN: B005MYEQ4U

Woody Allen’s best film in years is a nostalgic tribute to nostalgia.  And this is one you’ll enjoy more by knowing less, so consider this entire review a spoiler alert and stop now if you want to preserve all of its surprises.

It begins with postcard Paris, a series of shots of iconic locations and a rueful jazz score.  

Gil Pender (Owen Wilson) is a successful Hollywood writer who longs for something richer and more challenging.  He has come to Paris with his fiancee, Inez (Rachel McAdams, doing her best in a thin role), and her parents, caricature Californians who prefer Napa Valley wine and American movies, even when they are in France.  A character calls him Miniver Cheevy because he romanticizes the Paris of the past, when Hemingway and Fitzgerald wrote and drank and things seemed — at least in retrospect — simpler and filled with promise.  It all seems even more appealing as he struggles to do the writing he says he wants to do and fumes as Inez seems enthralled by Paul, a fatuous know-it-all (Michael Sheen).

Okay, now spoiler alert again — stop reading if you don’t want to know what happens.  One night, when Inez has gone dancing with Paul and his girlfriend, Gil goes for a walk.  Just as the clock chimes twelve, a car pulls up and he is beckoned inside.  At first, he thinks he has happened upon a costume party, but then he realizes that he is not talking to a couple dressed as Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald (Tom Hiddleston and Alison Pill); he is speaking to the legendary writers, and seeing them when they were young and happy and excited by the world around them.  He meets his heroes.  They accept him as one of them.  He begins to live the life he believes he was meant to live — but only at midnight.

And there’s a girl.  Marion Cotillard plays a free-spirited but warm-hearted girl who has had relationships with some of the now-legendary names of the era.  And Gil is engaged.  But she and Gil are drawn to each other and suddenly the only thing he can remember that he has in common with Inez is a fondness for Naan bread.

Allen makes no attempt to re-create the historical Paris of the lost generation.  Part of the charm of the story is the way that it is very much Gil’s idealized dream of the era, with all of the now-famous names friendly and obliging.  Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates) is perfectly happy to read his novel (about a man who owns a nostalgia shop) and give him both encouragement and constructive suggestions.  Just from reading what Gil wrote, a famous author (portrayed with great wit and gusto by Corey Stoll) has insights about Inez that Gil could not see.   In a Jungian sense, each of the real-life characters is here simply as a manifestation of some aspect of Gil, a way for him to think through things he has been too successful to consider.  When the story takes an “Inception”-like inverted twist, Gil begins to understand, like Dorothy Gale of Kansas, that the power is inside him when it is time to go home.

The retro scenes are brimming with charm, an all-star parade of early 20th century luminaries, charmingly written and beautifully portrayed.  They may be Gil’s projections, but they are enchanting.  The opening postcard shots shimmer into the dream of Paris and we embrace it as happily as Gil does, swept up in the bittersweet nostalgia you can only feel for something you never really experienced.  Those midnight excursions for Gil are what movies like this one are for us, an emotional vacation that, if we are lucky, provides respite, clarity, and renewal.  Allen continues his exploration of the great capitals of Europe next year with Rome.  I’m nostalgic for it already.

(more…)

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May MVP — Tom Hiddleston

Posted on May 14, 2011 at 3:59 pm

Tom Hiddleston is about to be a big star.  But I can’t say too much about why.

This month alone, he plays Loki, the super-villain in Thor and he has an important part in Woody Allen’s new film, “Midnight in Paris.”  Those of you who have seen “Thor” and stayed through the credits know how important Loki is.  For those who have not, I will just say that when you go, watch Hiddleston.  Director Kenneth Branagh made a savvy decision in casting the Cambridge-educated actor.  In the middle of a superhero special effects blockbuster, Hiddleston gives a performance of grace and complexity that is exactly serves the tone of the film.  I always say that superhero movies should be judged by their villains and he may be the best of all time.

I can’t give away any of the surprises of “Midnight in Paris” by even saying what part he plays.  I will just say that it is a daunting challenge — some in the audience will have strong feelings about the character and others may know nothing about him and there are some complexities of tone and tempo.  And Hiddleston is superb.  Next, he will appear in “The War Horse,” based on a huge box office hit play in London (recently opened on Broadway) and directed by Steven Spielberg.  I can’t wait to see it.

In this clip, he talks about the importance of compassion, even compassion for the characters he plays.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U94cuE4f77g&feature=related
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