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Movie reviewer has possible Oscar nominees on radar

Posted: Thursday, November 04, 2010

Those who know me or read me regularly will find it no surprise that I didn't run out to be first in line for "Saw 7" or "Saw 3-D," as it's been so cleverly titled. I watched the first "Saw" movie and thought it was a mean, grimy little one-note film with a relatively interesting ending. Since then, the series has gleefully ridden the wave of "torture-porn" horror movies, and is now desperately trying to hold on, even as that nasty little trend has started to play itself out. I know people think they're just harmless fun, but it's not for me.

With Halloween over, however, we enter the serious season, with the major, and minor, studios ramping up their awards fare. Naturally, most of these won't arrive here on the Peninsula until January, February, or never, but at least we had the opportunity to see "Jackass 3-D" for several weeks running. What follows is a list of films to watch for - movies that have been getting a lot of film festival buzz. Most haven't come out in wide release, but those film critics lucky enough to go to Sundance, Toronto, or Cannes have started the Oscar talk already. A few of these have already been released, and I can almost guarantee you've seen them. A few of these may never get released, at least not anywhere around here. But with the Academy Awards having expanded the Best Picture race to ten films, I can assert with absolute confidence that you will see some of these pictures make the cut on the big night. Now, in no particular order:

"The King's Speech"

"The King's Speech" is the true story of how King George VI reluctantly assumed the throne after his brother abdicated, and the speech impediment that nearly made his rule impossible. Luckily he befriends a quirky speech therapist who helps him find his voice and the confidence to lead his nation. I know this sounds like a joke, but it's real, and supposed to be good. "The King's Speech" stars Colin Firth and comes out Nov. 26.

"The Social Network"

A blistering recap of the history of Facebook, "The Social Network," had some of the best acting and one of the best scripts I've seen all year. Many people have seen it by now, and it's one of the top contenders for a number of the big awards.

"Black Swan"

I don't know much about "Black Swan," except that it concerns a crazed ballerina and her performance of "Swan Lake." The posters and the preview look very creepy, and Natalie Portman is being called a shoo-in for a nomination at the very least. This was directed by Darren Aronofsky who gave us both the disturbing "Pi" and the incredibly depressing "Requiem for a Dream," so I'm not expecting "Swan" to be much of a laugh riot. Release date is Dec. 3.

"Blue Valentine"

"Blue Valentine" sounds like a pretty basic indie romantic drama when you read the synopsis: A couple marries, has a child, and then experiences the slow dissolution of their feelings for each other. What makes it more interesting is that the critics describe it as shatteringly sad and heartbreaking. Also, in an odd turn, the MPAA has slapped it with the dreaded NC-17, meaning virtually no theatres will show it. I haven't seen the movie, so I can't judge the validity of the rating, but based on my feelings about the ratings board, I can bet I'll disagree. "Blue Valentine" stars Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams, and comes out never at a theatre near you unless they work that rating out.

"Toy Story 3"

You've seen it. You've probably bought it for your kids by now. You know that the Pixar people seem to make miracles happen, even on a three-quel. This will almost assuredly be nominated for Best Picture, but will win "Best Animated Feature" hands down.

"True Grit"

The Coen Brothers don't do many remakes, and it seems strange that they would be redoing a famous John Wayne movie like "True Grit," but they did it. I don't know anyone who's seen this movie, nor have I heard any critical response at all. But the Coen's are usually nominated, so I doubt this year'll be any different. Plus, this stars Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon, both Oscar faves. "True Grit" comes out Christmas Day.

"127 Hours"

How can "127 Hours," the story of the guy who had to saw off his own arm after getting it wedged under a boulder while hiking in Utah, be anything more than a cheesy movie-of-the-week? I don't know, but critics are raving about director Danny Boyle, who won two years ago year with "Slumdog Millionaire." Also getting a lot of talk is James Franco, as the hiker, Aron Ralston. Praise has been pretty much universal, so I guess I'll give them the benefit of the doubt. Release is set for Nov. 5.

"Hereafter"

Clint Eastwood's spiritual drama about a guy, Matt Damon, who can talk to the dead, and the lives of the people swirling around him, seemed like a natural for Oscars. First, it's directed by Clint Eastwood, who's been nominated multiple times, and has won twice for Best Director. Also, there's the Matt Damon factor, which we touched on already. Critics, however, have kind of cooled on this one, so it's a little bit of a longshot at this point. "Hereafter" came out Oct. 22.

"Inception"

"Inception" was pretty cool, and everyone went to see it this summer, but the main reason it'll be nominated has nothing to do with Christopher Nolan's twisty tale or Leonardo DiCaprio's acting. With ten nominees, the Academy will want something with a little entertainment value in the mix, so "Inception" is in.

"The Kids Are All Right"

Living in a red state as we do, I doubt this movie will come anywhere near us, unless it's a theatre pub in Anchorage, or possibly Homer. "The Kids Are All Right" is a comedy/drama about a lesbian couple who decide to have children via artificial insemination. The two children later decide to look up their "father," and wackiness ensues. Take out the "lesbian" part, and it sounds fairly standard, but I guess it's causing all manner of uproar, though mostly positive. Stars Annette Bening and Julianne Moore. "The Kids Are All Right" came out July 30, and has been slowly making it's way around the country.

Chris Jenness is a freelance graphic designer, artist and movie buff who lives in Nikiski.



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