My Ballot: LIONs for LAMBs and The OMIEs

As I indicated earlier, when there are public or open to membership voting that I qualify for, I will write a post here to discuss my picks and to publicize the poll. I have included two polls here.

They are both run by the LAMB, the Large Association of Movie Blogs, of which I am a part, or a member thereof. The first is Lions for the Lambs, which seeks ranked submissions in various categories. Since that closely reflects my BAM Award selections, I also included my Omie choices where I more closely considered “Oscar-viability” in my decision-making process.

LIONS for the LAMBs

Best Film

1. Django Unchained
2. The Turin Horse
3. Anna Karenina
4. The Dark Knight Rises
5. North Sea Texas
6. The Cabin in the Woods
7. Les Misérables
8. The Dynamiter
9. The Perks of Being a Wallflower
10. Kauwboy

Best Director

1. Bela Tarr The Turin Horse
2. Quentin Tarantino Django Unchained
3. Bavo Derfune North Sea Texas
4. Joe Wright Anna Karenina
5. Christopher Nolan The Dark Knight Rises

Leading Male Performances

1. Daniel Day-Lewis Lincoln
2. Hugh Jackman Les Miserables
3. Denis Lavant Holy Motors
4. Matthew McConaughey Killer Joe
5. Logan Lerman The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Leading Female Performances

1. Keira Knightley Anna Karenina
2. Tilda Swinton We Need to Talk About Kevin
3. Magaly Solier Amador
4. Noomi Rapace The Monitor
5. Erika Bók The Turin Horse

Supporting Male Performances

1. Leonardo DiCaprio Django Unchained
2. Samuel L. Jackson Django Unchained
3. Eddie Redmayne Les Misérables
4. Mikkel Boe Foesgaard A Royal Affair
5. Matthew McConaughey Bernie

Supporting Female Performances

1. Anne Hathaway Les Misérables
2. Samantha Barks Les Misérables
3. Gina Gershon Killer Joe
4. Sally Field Lincoln
5. Anna Gunn Sassy Pants

Best Screenplays

1. Patrick Wang In the Family
2. Bavo Defurne and Andre Sollie North Sea Texas
3. Quentin Tarantino Django Unchained
4. Laszlo Krasznahorki and Bela Tarr The Turin Horse
5. Tom Stoppard Leo Tolstoy Anna Karenina

Best Foreign Film

1. The Turin Horse
2. North Sea Texas
3. Kauwboy
4. Holy Motors
5. The Raid: Redemption

As for the Ormies, as intimated above, it’s more of a snubbed award so here are my choices based on Oscar expectations. A few are admittedly wished-for surprises. These are open to anyone. Submit your choices here via email.

Best Picture

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Best Director

Tom Hooper Les Misérables

Best Actress

Keira Knightley Anna Karenina

Best Actor

Matthew McConaughey Killer Joe

Best Supporting Actor

Leonardo DiCaprio Django Unchained

Best Supporting Actress

Samantha Barks Les Misérables

Best Original Screenplay

The Cabin in the Woods

Best Adapted Screenplay

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Foreign Language Film

Kauwboy

Animated Film

Rise of the Guardians

Documentary

Bully

Original Song

“The Big Machine” Safety Not Guaranteed

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Summer Olympic Movie Picks- Part One

I did a post like this for the Vancouver games a little more than two years ago and I shall unearth it again at some point at least on Letterboxd because that was certainly a lot more fun and in many cases weirder. However, the variety that is provided by the over-stuffed nature of the summer games is nothing to sneeze at. I think that these films that feature the sports of the warmer Olympiad will likely introduce you to something you want to check out. I know I found a few. These picks will be posted in three parts.

Archery

The very first sport alphabetically is one that will illustrate to you rather quickly that there are two ways you can see a sport portrayed in a film: direct (e.g. sports movies) or indirect (wherein the sport is a component of the film but not the focus). Archery is an ancient practical discipline, which is rather visually appealing. Thus, it makes cameos in myriad ways: whether the super-human precision of Hawkeye in The Avengers or the cold brutality of Kevin, as in the one who needs talking about.

Films about the sport itself are harder to come by but with all the Robin Hoods there should be something that tickles your fancy.

My official pick will by Walt Disney’s Robin Hood, though of course Disney/Pixar’s Brave also features a prominent competition, and Katniss Everdeen of The Hunger Games is quite skilled too.

Athletics

Another permutation of the sports movie you get is that of the biopic. This seems to be a particular purview of Athletics, specifically track and field events. Clearly, Chariots of Fire is the first title that comes to mind. Then there are the lesser known but still worth looking out for like Prefontaine and Saint Ralph.

Badminton

Here is the first of the challenging sports on this list. In looking into it I was reminded that badminton, like so many other things, has been included on The Simpsons. In film terms, I learned of two features that involve it, one I’d be interested in seeing and one not so much. The first is National Lampoon’s Golddigger, a newer and prior to this unknown to me installment of the series, and then an Indonesian biopic about Liem Swei King simply called King, which is clearly more appealing for the purist.

Basketball

Basketball is one of the sports that has most frequently made for popular or entertaining films. Now, the two that jump immediately to mind are Hoosiers and Blue Chips. Having said that, since there are so many basketball titles, such that you can specifically cite the Olympics in some; I’d choose HBO’s documentary :03 from Gold about the ’72 Gold Medal Game between the US and USSR.

Beach Volleyball

It was incredibly difficult to parse beach volleyball films from traditional volleyball ones. Beach ones are clearly more popular, but rather than being crass and to respect the differences between the two disciplines, they will each get their own films. The beach volleyball choice is Side Out, which I do believe I’ve actually seen Side Out (so help me God).

Boxing

Boxing is the sport where I’m sure you’ll find the most movies to choose from. Of course, a movie about Olympic boxing is disqualified since the scoring system instantly introduces plot holes and confusion, but you can pick among the classics here Rocky, Raging Bull or whatever your preference may be you’re spoiled for choice with this sport.

Canoeing


Any of the paddle sports will be rarely found on screen and usually as a background element. In the Social Network the Winklevoss twins were part of a crew legacy, which could qualify that as a rowing movie.

With regards to the canoeing/kayaking end of the spectrum that’s where you get to fudging it a little. The first thing that came to mind was White Water Summer, that was immediately followed by more Kevin Bacon in The River Wild, which is a rafting film but less all around odd and not at all ’80s. You could also turn to A River Runs Through It.

With regards to paddle sports it all depends on how ensconced you want to be. If you want just a hint of it you can certainly fudge a movie in in easily.

Cycling

With many of these films I’m discovering them and wanting to find them at some point, with some they are oddities that I have seen and want to recommend. When it came to cycling I’ve seen two of the bigger cycling movies Breaking Away and American Flyers thanks to a family member who is obsessed with the sport.

They have their moments but have also bred some inside jokes based on the fact that it’s a “shown movie,” as in a “You should see this” kind of thing. However, in fairness, they seem to be the go to choices for enthusiasts.

One of those sports that pops up at the Olympics that grabs my interest are the track cycling events, which are more intriguing to me that the other disciplines. The Flying Scotsman seems to be a popular choice for that particular modality.

Diving

Diving, whether it be platform or springboard, is usually an affectation wherein we witness the externalization of a protagonist’s fear and his overcoming it, and rarely the focus of a film.

Perhaps the most notable examples are Greg Louganis: Breaking the Surface, and now with the games in London, Tom Daley four years on from a debut at the age of 14, wherein he finished 7th and 8th in his two events; has a BBC documentary about him to his credit along with being a serious medal threat.

Equestrian

I’m not going to say I’m a horse whisperer or even any kind of an expert, but what invariably ends up bugging me in some horse movies is the whole nature of them participating in a sport. A notable example being The Black Stallion. The beginning, say the first 40 minutes is a gem, a perfect replica of a silent film. Then the horse becomes a racehorse and it’s kind of trite from there. I think that’s one of the greatest things about the handling of Secretariat, it makes it seem like the horse is more willful than his jockey.

When it comes to equestrian disciplines that’s less of a concern because I believe that typically it’s the rider facing more danger and if the horse doesn’t want to jump, he won’t jump; or whatever maneuver is intended. That and watching these maneuvers is rather hypnotic at times.

A recent film I saw that dealt well with equestrian if nothing else was Harley’s Hill. In reading a similar list I was enlightened towards International Velvet. If you can’t drop your reservations about equine sports, and are a member of the Disney Movie Club, you can look up The Littlest Outlaw wherein a boy frees a showhorse.

Fencing

Fencing is another sport wherein you can shoehorn many a film into your viewing to suit your taste. Any Zorro, Three Musketeers, Peter Pan will feature fencing-like swashbuckling. You can take your pick from those oft told tales or you can be a little more literal with something like By the Sword, a 1991 film featuring Mia Sara, Eric Roberts and F. Murray Abraham. Or perhaps The Fencing Master, there was one in 1915 and 1992, I suspect the latter would be easier to find.

However, if you want to get creative I suggest Theatre of Blood. Not only does Vincent Price play a crazed, thought-to-be-dead Shakespearean actor seeking vengeance on a critics circle but he recites the Bard as he kills and once such scene is a fencing duel!

That’s all for now. Suggestions are more than welcome, and tomorrow’s films start with those about or involving football (aka soccer).

Review- We Need to Talk About Kevin

Tilda Swinton and Ezra Miller in We Need to Talk About Kevin (Oscilloscope Labs)

I’ll never get used to living outside of the New York/Los Angeles inner-circle in cinematic terms, even if I was there it would not change the fact that I take umbrage with the end of year release patterns that delay viewership of many good films for those living in the rest of the country. I was going up to NYC and my plan was to catch this film during that trip, that plan hit a snag when I realized the limited one-week Oscar-qualifying engagement ended right before my planned trip. Thus, I have not had a legitimate chance to see it until just recently, and it becomes a 2012 BAM eligible film, and not a 2011 film, despite its technical release date.

We Need to Talk About Kevin
is a film that’s largely about perspective, memory and how that may influence the perception of reality. That’s not all its about but that certainly plays a large part. It tells the tale of Eva (Tilda Swinton) who is struggling to move on with her life after her son, Kevin (Ezra Miller), commits a mass murder at his high school. All that is established early on, and much of the narrative is her reflecting back on his upbringing, from his birth to the present.

Memories are built on one fact that lends us a clue to an incident and over time they become either hazy or gilded depending upon the emotion we associate with that memory. There is a truth to all she remembers but just how much embroidering her subconscious does in a futile search for answers is not clear. One of the best things the film does thematically is to not treat so difficult a subject with facility, but rather depth. There are precursors to the event but also other moments that belie it. Therefore, Kevin is not always a black and white antagonist he has moments of seemingly lucid humanity, which he then counteracts but any flatness of character can be an affectation of the storyteller’s, Eva’s, perspective. Having already lived these things and now reliving them in hindsight her associations and interpretations of relationships are set: Her husband, Franklin (John C. Reilly) is placating, non-confrontational and an ineffectual parent and Kevin is opaque, she doesn’t know what goes on in his head, except that she feels constantly antagonized by him.

While the film functions on two planes, the present and past, for the most part it moves in relative chronology within those planes. Flashbacks typically are done as sequences. There are quick flashes when she encounters someone from her former life whom she is trying to separate herself from. This relative chronology does give the film a fairly even and steady pace that is truly only broken in occasions by the steadily increasing severity of Kevin’s actions. It’s a film that needs to be told as it is, for the story elements told in precise chronological order with no flashbacks whatsoever would not be effective at all. Instead you get a very cinematic treatment of the story, a story that visually takes you into its protagonist’s thoughts.

Much of my interest in this film was not just due to the amount of positive buzz I heard about the film itself on Twitter but also the praise being heaped upon Tilda Swinton, whom I love. I can see now why she got the attention she did, she is brilliant and understated in this film. With regards to her Oscar snub, I both get it and don’t get it: I get it because there’s not really a great clip moment, which is cliché but that seems to drive things in terms of perception, but I don’t get it because it’s just so good. There’s a tremendous understanding by her, and everyone in the film about acting for and into the edit. Things are done very precisely as if they know where the cuts are and what impact they’ll have. Clearly, this is also a credit to the editor and director, however, that point plays into the concept of not doing too much. It is a film and these actors employ film techniques and know the assist they’ll get on the technical end and exploit it greatly. It’s a must see for students of the craft.

Yet as much as this is is Eva’s and Swinton’s film she does get some tremendous support. Based on the aforementioned interpretation of his character John C. Reilly is perfectly cast. Granted he does have range but in his even tone he does come off as a man who would be a buddy style of father and wouldn’t harm a fly. Ezra Miller doesn’t have a tremendous amount of credits to his name as of yet but the roles he has taken thus far have been challenging and have made him one of the go to actors in indie films and perhaps he will find a crossover success soon. As for this film he plays the part to a tee, meaning though his actions might be mostly one note the way he plays them aren’t always.

Typically, when you have a character who is aged during the course of a story you don’t have significant screen time dedicated to all the actors who play said character, in this case three. Jasper Newell, who is the middle incarnation of Kevin, carries much of the middle of the film and is very impressive, even more so when you consider its his feature film debut. Not to be outdone there is another solid performance in the young cast by Ashley Gerasimovich, who has one of the great moments where the numbness you can feel watching it breaks as she engenders tremendous sympathy.

We Need to Talk About Kevin may not be an easy film to watch in a number of ways but it is all the more rewarding for it. All facets of the production contribute greatly to a mind-play wherein a mother is lost searching for answers about just how her child could do such a thing and if anything could’ve been done. It’s a visual tale that is truly pure cinema, it’s truly great.

10/10