Sunday, 30 January 2011

Book to Film Club January 2011: I Am Number Four (Book)

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The Book to Film Club book selection for January is I Am Number Four by Pitticus Lore.

I Am Number Four is a young adult science fiction novel that is the first of a proposed 6-part series (and the only series included in the book club). I keep trying to write a brief description but it keeps feeling spoilery. Sigh. You can get I Am Number Four here at Amazon.ca (Canada) and Amazon.com (US).

I Am Number Four Book Reviews by Book to Film Clubbers:

I Am Number Four will be our February Film selection. The film stars Alex Pettyfer (Wild Child, Beastly), Timothy Olyphant (High Life, "Deadwood"), Dianna Agron (Quinn on "Glee"), Kevin Durand (Legion), Jake Abel (Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief) and Teresa Palmer (The Sorcerer's Apprentice), and is directed by D.J. Caruso (Eagle Eye, The Salton Sea).

The film comes out February 18, 2011 and you can see the trailer below, although I'd only recommend watching trailer after you've read the book if you are planning to read as it's certainly got spoilers:



What did you think of the book? Are you looking forward to the film? How do you feel about the casting? Looking forward to hearing everyone's reactions!

I Am Number Four (Book Review)

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Reason to Read: January book selection for the Book to Film Club!

I Am Number Four
is a young adult science fiction book following 15 year-old John Smith and his guardian Henri who move from place to place and do their best to live under the radar for very important reasons. The after one move John starts to settle into a sleepy town more strongly than the ones before and at the same time begins to come into his own in a unique way.

I really liked the characters of John and Henri, and their dog Bernie Kosar. I liked the family dynamic they created and new spin on the new-kid-in-town story. I also really enjoyed how visual the book was and I could really see what they were describing, which I don't always find an easy thing with science fiction. It was pretty light in the relationship department and I did often feel like I knew where it was going but that is easily in part from hearing general chatter on the book and seeing the trailer (which is hugely spoiler-y if you plan on reading the book) while I was in the middle of reading it. I was a little worried it might go in the 'we're different and different is better' kind of message, but it's wasn't overly definitive. I do hope they will keep the series going, and am very curious how they will handle the 'possible 6-book series' aspect as they translate it to a film.

In terms of a reading experience, it was really nice to start the year off with a book that completely absorbed my attention and didn't want to put down. I read it mostly in transit and during breaks, and really looked forward to each moment I could get back to the book. I found it quite a quick read, which isn't surprizing given that it's a young adult title. Overall I found it engaging, energetic and delightful.

The casting for the film looks great. I think both Timothy Olyphant (High Life, "Deadwood") as Henri and Dianna Agron (Quinn on "Glee") as Sarah are perfect. It's also easy to see Jake Abel (Luke from Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief, Adam on "Supernatural") as the bully-ish Mark, but judging from pictures along looks like they are going for a different vibe for the Sam with Callan McAuliffe. For me the big question lies in the hands of our protagonist John played by Alex Pettyfer, whom I've only see so far in Wild Child, where he was good but it wasn't a huge role. We will be seeing more of Alex Pettyfer in the very near future as he'll be starring in the lead role in Beastly (March 4, 2011) which is a modern re-visioning of Beauty and the Beast, another adaptation this time of the book Beastly by Alex Flinn.

I Am Number Four will be our February Film selection. The film will be released Friday February 18, 2011.



Friday, 28 January 2011

Film Fan Fridays for Friday January 28, 2011

Hello Film Fans and Fanatics!

Welcome to Film Fan Fridays for Friday January 28, 2011! You know what time of year it is? Countdown to Oscar's time! The nominations were announced this past Tuesday and as per tradition I have my three lists up of full nominations, as well as film list with nominations detailed and straight-up films list, and it's very exciting to see the Canadian film Incendies nominated for best foreign language film of the year. This year I've actually done pretty well in preparation as I've seen 21 of the 41 feature films nominated, and only think I can/will/need to see an additional 2-3 films before the show on Feb 27, 2011. How did you do this year?

In limited release we have three films hitting the theatres including some theatre and Oscar competition to Incendies with the highly acclaimed and Oscar nominated Dogtooth / Kynodontas which is up for Best foreign language film of the year for Greece (in a real first, Dogtooth / Kynodontas actually hit DVD release earlier this week before it's theatrical debut here in Toronto). We also have our second Canadian release of the year, Casino Jack which is a crime/comedy inspired by true events starring Kevin Spacey as a Washington DC Lobbyist. Last up for limited release is the Thursday January 27, 2011 release of the documentary The Agony and the Ecstasy of Phil Spector.

In wide release this week we have two biggies going head to head with the heist/action flick The Mechanic starring Jason Statham (The Expendables), Ben Foster (Pandorum, 3:10 to Yuma (2007)) and Donald Sutherland and the supernatural horror film The Rite starring Colin O'Donoghue, Anthony Hopkins and Ciarán Hinds and reminds me of a cross between themes in Stigmata & The Last Exorcism which means I have to see it. To be honest, I strongly want to see both of them! Rounding out the wide releases is the Bollywood comedy Dil Toh Baccha Hai Ji, which recently received an rating from the film board in India which limits the film to adults after the director refused to cut certain scenes, and now this film has got me curious too! Another week with a great selection of films!

Have a great weekend!

Shannon

Festival Watch

The 8 Fest Small-Gauge Film Festival
A festival focusing on small-gauge film including 8mm, Super 8, 9.5mm, loops and zoetropes
January 28 - 30, 2011 at Trash Palace in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Special Screenings

Canada's Top Ten 2010

Continues until February 1, 2011 at TIFF Lightbox, see here for more information

Thunder Soul
This month's selection for the monthly Doc Soup screening by Hot Docs is the funk music documentary focus directed by Mark Landsman. Thunder Soul screens Wednesday February 2, 2011 at 6:30 and 9:15PM at The Bloor, more info on the screening here.

Advance Screening

The sport documentary Chasing Legends has advance screenings around town on Wednesday Feb 2, 2011 at Varsity, Eglinton Town Center and other locations - check local listings for more details. This one feels really super advances, as there is no official film site or IMDb page!

Thursday January 27, 2011 Releases

The Agony and the Ecstasy of Phil Spector
Dir: Vikram Jayanti (Snowblind)
Documentary
USA/UK
Limited Release
No Official Film Site Found, IMDb Page, Trailer

Friday January 28, 2011 Releases

Casino Jack

Dir: George Hickenlooper (Factory Girl, Hearts of Darkness)
Cast: Kevin Spacey, Barry Pepper, Kelly Preston, Jon Lovitz, Rachelle Lefevre
Canada
Limited Release
Official Film Site, IMDb Page, Trailer

Dil Toh Baccha Hai Ji
Dir: Madhur Bhandarkar (Traffic Signal, Chandni Bar)
Cast: Tisca Chopra, Shradha Das, G.K. Desai, Ajay Devgan
India
No Official Film Site Found, Wikipedia Page, IMDb Page, Trailer

Dogtooth / Kynodontas
Dir: Giorgos Lanthimos (Kinetta, My Best Friend)
Cast: Christos Stergioglou, Michele Valley, Aggeliki Papoulia, Mary Tsoni, Hristos Passalis, Anna Kalaitzidou
Greece
Limited Release
Official Film Site, IMDb Page, Trailer

The Mechanic
Dir: Simon West (Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, Con Air)
Cast: Jason Statham, Ben Foster, Donald Sutherland, Tony Goldwyn, Jeff Chase, Mini Anden
USA
Official Film Site, IMDb Page, Trailer

The Rite
Dir: Mikael Håfström (1408, Derailed)
Cast: Colin O'Donoghue, Anthony Hopkins, Ciarán Hinds, Alice Braga, Toby Jones, Rutger Hauer
USA
Official Film Site, IMDb Page, Trailer

**please note this list of releases reflects first run film released in Toronto, Ontario, Canada as of January 28, 2011**

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Film Festivals in Toronto Archive

I'm a huge fan of film festivals and have attended many Toronto Film Festival since 2007 and always share which ones are hitting town each week in Film Fan Fridays (which you can sign up for here).

Given that we have such a huge number of festivals here in Toronto, I decided in 2008 to create a listing of the festivals to anchor festivals past and also provide give us an idea of what future years may hold.

2011
2010
2009
2008

2011 Film Festivals in Toronto

This is a listing of confirmed dates for film festivals in 2011 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Listings are added throughout the year when dates are confirmed. Festivals are also notated weekly in Film Fan Fridays, which you can sign up to receive in your inbox weekly.

Want to look ahead? Take a look at 2010 Toronto Film Festival Listing or check out the yearly archive for an idea of how the year may turn out.

January 2011

The 8 Fest Small-Gauge Film Festival
A festival focusing on small-gauge film including 8mm, Super 8, 9.5mm, loops and zoetropes
January 28 - 30, 2011 at Trash Palace in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

February 2011

Cuban Film Festival
February 4 - 5, 2011 at The Royal in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

The Great Digital Film Festival 2011
A selection of classic, cult and popular film shown in digital or High Definition
Titles include: Alien, Aliens, Predators, Lord of the Rings Trilogy, The Usual Suspects, Dirty Dancing & more
February 4 - 10, 2011 in Toronto as well across Canada in Montreal, Ottawa, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver

The Found Footage Film Festival
February 4, 2011 at The Bloor in in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Reel Artists Film Festival
February 23 - 27, 2011 at TIFF Lightbox in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Toronto Human Rights Watch Film Festival
February 22 - March 4, 2011 at TIFF Lightbox in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Cinéfranco School Program
February 22 - March 4, 2011 at TIFF Lightbox Toronto, Ontario, Canada

March 2011

Toronto Irish Film Festival
March 6, 2011 at TIFF Lightbox Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Canadian Music Week Film Festival
March 11 - 12, 2011 at TIFF Lightbox in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Toronto Nepali Film Festival
March 12, 2011 at Innis Town Hall in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

The Female Eye Film Festival
March 16 – 20, 2011 at various locations in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Toronto Japanese Short Film Festival
March 17 - 20, 2011 at Innis Town Hall in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

UofT Film Festival
March 23, 2011 at Hart House in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Cinéfranco
14th Annual Celebration of International Francophone Cinema
March 25 - April 3, 2011 at TIFF Lightbox Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Toronto Silent Film Festival
March 30 - April 7, 2011 at various locations in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

April 2011

Images Festival
24th Annual festival of independent film, video and other time-based media
March 31 - April 9, 2011 at various locations in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Sprockets
Toronto International Film Festival for Children and Youth
April 5 - 17, 2011 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Reel World Film Festival
11th annual festival celebrating diversity in film, video, and new media
April 6 - 10, 2011 at various locations in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Hot Docs
Canadian International Documentary Film Festival
April 28 - May 8, 2011 at various locations in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

May 2011

Toronto Jewish Film Festival
May 7 - 15, 2011 at various locations in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Toronto Russian Film Festival (TRFF)
May 11 - 15, 2011 at various locations in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Doc Now.ca Festival
Film, Photography & New Media
May 11 - June 25 2010, at various locations in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

4th Annual Toronto-Romanian Film Festival
May 20 - 22, 2011 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Inside Out
21st Annual Toronto Lesbian and Gay Film and Video Festival
May 19 - 29, 2011 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

June 2011

Worldwide Short Film Festival
May 31 - June 5, 2011 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Subtle Technologies Festival
14th year of exploring questions and inspire work at the intersection of art, science and technology.
May 28 - June 5, 2011 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Luminato
Toronto Festival of Arts + Creativity
June 10 - 19, 2011 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

North by Northeast Music and Film Festival & Conference (NXNE)
June 13 - 19, 2011 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

The Disposable Film Festival
Screening as a part of NXNE
June 14, 2011 at the Toronto Underground in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Toronto Youth Shorts Film Festival
June 19, 2011 at Innis Town Hall in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

ReelHeART International Film Festival
The Filmmakers Film Festival
June 20 - 25, 2011 at various locations in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Greek Film Retrospective
June 24 - 26, 2011 at The Royal in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

International Indian Film Festival

June 24 - 26, 2011 at various locations in Toronto, Ontario, Canada including the IIFA Awards on Saturday June 25, 2011 at Rogers Centre

Parkdale Film and Video Showcase
June 24 - 26, 2011 at various locations in Parkdale in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

July 2011

Bite Me! Film Festival
Toronto International Body Image Film and Arts Festival
July 8 - 10, 2011 at the NFB in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Shinsedai Cinema Festival
The New Generation of Japanese Film Festival
July 21 - 24, 2011 at The Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

August 2011

Bicycle Film Festival
August 12 - 13, 2011 at The Royal in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Fan Expo
Horror, Gaming, Anime, Comic Book & Sci Fi Expos
August 24 - 28, 2011 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

September 2011

Caribbean Tales Toronto Film Showcase
September 7 - 17, 2011 at Harbourfront Centre

Toronto Independent Film Festival
Festival of Independent Filmmaking
September 8 - 18, 2011 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Toronto International Film Festival
September 8 - 18, 2011 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Toronto Urban Film Festival
Collection of 1 minute silent films shown on the TTC
September 9 - 18, 2011 on TTC subway platforms in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

COMMFFEST
(Global) Community Film Festival
September 22 -25, 2011 at various locations in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

October 2011

Brazilian Film Festival of Toronto
September 29 - October 2, 2011 at various locations in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Toronto Palestine Film Festival
September 30 - October 7, 2011 at various locations in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Planet in Focus Film Festival
International Environmental Film and Video Festival
October 12 - 16, 2011 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Est Docs
Estonian Documentary Film Festival
October 14 - 18, 2011 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Moving Image Film Festival
This festival focus is to welcome fusion and clash of different genres and the experimentation of moving images
October 14 - 16, 2011 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival
Celebrating works of Indigenous peoples from around the world
October 19 - 23, 2011 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Toronto After Dark Film Festival
After 2 bouts of summer fun the Horror, Sci-Fi, Action & Cult Film Festival returns to the month of Halloween and crispy goodness
October 20 - 26, 2011 at the Toronto Underground in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Ekran Film Festival
Toronto Polish Film Festival
October 21 - 23, 2011 at The Revue in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Israel Film Festival
October 22 - 27, 2011 at the Sheppard Grande in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Brazil Film Fest
October 27 - 30, 2011 at various locations in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

November 2011

International Diaspora Film Festival
November 1 - 6, 2011 at various locations in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Regent Park Film Festival
9th annual free event with complimentary childcare
November 2 - 5, 2011 at Lord Dufferin Public School in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Rendezvous with Madness Film Festival
Films focusing on mental health and addiction
November 4 - 12, 2011 at various locations in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival
November 8 - 13, 2011 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada
November 18-19, 2011 in Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada

Found Footage Festival
Wednesday November 9, 2011 at The Royal in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

European Union Film Festival
November 17 - 30, 2011 at The Royal in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Toronto International Portuguese Film Festival
November 11 - 13, 2011 at Casa Do Alentejo in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Do you know about a festival or screening not on the list? Contact me by email

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Poll Results: What January 2011 Release Are You Most Excited About?

You have had your say and the results are in for what January 2011 Release Are You Most Excited About, and it's a tie then a tie than a tie - just like awesome lace up boots. The first tier tie is 23% to both Blue Valentine & Season of the Witch which I think are the most diverse choices out there. Then the second tier tie goes to 15% to both the Canadian Incendies & Jason Statham/Ben Foster action film The Mechanic. Rounding out with the last tier is Another Year, The Illusionist & The Way Back each with 7%.

23% - Tie: Blue Valentine & Season of the Witch
15% - Tie: Incendies & The Mechanic
7% - Tie: Another Year, The Illusionist & The Way Back

Thanks for voting!

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

83rd Academy Awards Nominations

It's time, it's time, it's time! Oscar nominations were announced at 8:30am this morning and every year I spend the morning wading through the nominations by category and compiling my traditional three this, the full nominations (below), by film with nomations detailed and a simple film list. While reading through and absorbing all the information, here are some reactions:

The King's Speech leads the way with 12 nominations, then True Grit with 10, the Inception and The Social Network with 8, The Fighter with 7, 127 Hours with 6 and Black Swan & Toy Story 3 with 5 each. The most nominations last year was Avatar & The Hurt Locker with 9, so this is a big shift.

I'm thrilled to see Incendies up for foreign language film of the year, Jacki Weaver nominated for supporting actress for Animal Kingdom, John Hawkes for supporting actor for Winter's Bone, but I'm surprized Christopher Nolan not nominated for director for Inception (although he is nominated for original screenplay and the film has 8 nominations total). As predicted, it feels odd that James Franco is one of the hosts of the show (along with Anne Hathaway) and he is up for an award for 127 Hours - that's going to be one nerve wracking night for him!

A category that I am loving this year is Achievement in sound editing: Inception, Toy Story 3, Tron: Legacy, True Grit and Unstoppable. Great set of films. Re-iterate for emphasis that that I love that Tron: Legacy was nominated for an Oscar. More awesome strangeness is that I'll be cheering for the Coen Brothers (this is the most surprizing, I'm very polar on them but loved True Grit).

The Achievement in costume design nominations and we have have great work acknowledged here with I Am Love (Antonella Cannarozzi), The King's Speech (Jenny Beavan), True Grit (Mary Zophres) and Alice in Wonderland (multiple-winner Colleen Atwood). I'm now kicking myself even more for not seeing The Tempest (Sandy Powell), it's the only film in this category I haven't seen and looks delicious.

We also have a powerhouse group of nominees in Original Score category with Hans Zimmer (Inception), A.R. Rahman (127 Hours), Alexandre Desplat (The King's Speech) nominated along with some more non-traditional nominees including Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (The Social Network) and John Powell (How to Train Your Dragon). I've come to really appreciate scores over the past could of years, so this is a category I always enjoy.

Animated films have come so far in the past few years, and although I'm surprized to see only 3 films in the nominations category itself (Toy Story 3, How to Train Your Dragon, The Illusionist), they have made waves in other categories as well with Toy Story 3 getting 5 nominations including best motion pictures, and How to Train Your Dragon got 2 nominations.

Films that are now bumped up my to see list are The Fighter, Toy Story 3 and Exit Through the Gift Shop, although overall I've seen the majority of the films that have been available to see. I'm on the fence on 127 Hours, still not really interested in seeing it

A short list of recommends I'd highly recommend people see The King's Speech, True Grit and Inception as we'll be seeing a lot of those during the ceremony. We'll also see a lot of The Social Network and Black Swan although I wasn't particularly fond of either of them.
I really hope we'll be able to see some of the foreign films here in Toronto, Dogtooth is on DVD today and opens at the Royal on Friday January 28, 2011 but I'd also love to see the Danish film In a Better World.

Overall it's been a really, really strong year for film!

Reviews of Nominated films:

The King's Speech, True Grit, Inception, The Social Network, Black Swan, Alice in Wonderland, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, Animal Kingdom, Blue Valentine, Country Strong, Hereafter, Incendies, Salt, The Wolfman, Tron: Legacy and Unstoppable

See also nominations listed of films ranked by number of nominations with nominations detailed and nominated films list.

The 83rd Academy Awards will be hosted by Anne Hathaway and James Franco, broad casted live Sunday February 27, 2011 starting at 8pm EST on ABC.

83rd Academy Awards Nominations

Best motion picture of the year
Black Swan
The Fighter
Inception
The Kids Are All Right
The King's Speech
127 Hours
The Social Network
Toy Story 3
True Grit
Winter's Bone

Performance by an actor in a leading role
Javier Bardem in Biutiful
Jeff Bridges in True Grit
Jesse Eisenberg in The Social Network
Colin Firth in The King's Speech
James Franco in 127 Hours

Performance by an actor in a supporting role
Christian Bale in The Fighter
John Hawkes in Winter's Bone
Jeremy Renner in The Town
Mark Ruffalo in The Kids Are All Right
Geoffrey Rush in The King's Speech

Performance by an actress in a leading role
Annette Bening in The Kids Are All Right
Nicole Kidman in Rabbit Hole
Jennifer Lawrence in Winter's Bone
Natalie Portman in Black Swan
Michelle Williams in Blue Valentine

Performance by an actress in a supporting role
Amy Adams in The Fighter
Helena Bonham Carter in The King's Speech
Melissa Leo in The Fighter
Hailee Steinfeld in True Grit
Jacki Weaver in Animal Kingdom

Best animated feature film of the year
How to Train Your Dragon
The Illusionist
Toy Story 3

Art Direction
Alice in Wonderland - Robert Stromberg (Production Design), Karen O'Hara (Set Decoration)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 - Stuart Craig (Production Design), Stephenie McMillan (Set Decoration)
Inception - Guy Hendrix Dyas (Production Design), Larry Dias and Doug Mowat (Set Decoration)
The King's Speech - Eve Stewart (Production Design), Judy Farr (Set Decoration)
True Grit - Jess Gonchor (Production Design), Nancy Haigh (Set Decoration)

Achievement in Cinematography
Black Swan - Matthew Libatique
Inception - Wally Pfister
The King's Speech - Danny Cohen
The Social Network - Jeff Cronenweth
True Grit - Roger Deakins

Achievement in costume design
Alice in Wonderland - Colleen Atwood
I Am Love - Antonella Cannarozzi
The King's Speech - Jenny Beavan
The Tempest - Sandy Powell
True Grit - Mary Zophres

Achievement in directing
Darren Aronofsky for Black Swan
David O. Russell for The Fighter
Tom Hooper for The King's Speech
David Fincher for The Social Network
Joel Coen and Ethan Coen for True Grit

Best foreign language film of the year
Biutiful - Mexico
Dogtooth - Greece
In a Better World - Denmark
Incendies - Canada
Outside the Law / Hors-la-loi - Algeria

Best Documentary Feature
Exit through the Gift Shop
Gasland
Inside Job
Restrepo
Waste Land

Best documentary short subject
Killing in the Name
Poster Girl
Strangers No More
Sun Come Up
The Warriors of Qiugang

Achievement in film editing
Black Swan - Andrew Weisblum
The Fighter - Pamela Martin
The King's Speech - Tariq Anwar
127 Hours - Jon Harris
The Social Network - Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter

Achievement in makeup
Barney's Version - Adrien Morot
The Way Back - Edouard F. Henriques, Gregory Funk and Yolanda Toussieng
The Wolfman - Rick Baker and Dave Elsey

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original Score)
How to Train Your Dragon - John Powell
Inception - Hans Zimmer
The King's Speech - Alexandre Desplat
127 Hours - A.R. Rahman
The Social Network - Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original Song)
Coming Home from Country Strong - Music and Lyric by Tom Douglas, Troy Verges and Hillary Lindsey
I See the Light from Tangled - Music by Alan Menken Lyric by Glenn Slater
If I Rise from 127 Hours - Music by A.R. Rahman Lyric by Dido and Rollo Armstrong
We Belong Together from Toy Story 3 - Music and Lyric by Randy Newman

Best animated short film
Day & Night
The Gruffalo
Let's Pollute
The Lost Thing
Madagascar, carnet de voyage / Madagascar, a Journey Diary

Best live action short film
The Confession
The Crush
God of Love
Na Wewe
Wish 143

Achievement in sound editing
Inception - Richard King
Toy Story 3 - Tom Myers and Michael Silvers
Tron: Legacy - Gwendolyn Yates Whittle and Addison Teague
True Grit - Skip Lievsay and Craig Berkey
Unstoppable - Mark P. Stoeckinger

Achievement in sound mixing
Inception - Lora Hirschberg, Gary A. Rizzo and Ed Novick
The King's Speech - Paul Hamblin, Martin Jensen and John Midgley
Salt - Jeffrey J. Haboush, Greg P. Russell, Scott Millan and William Sarokin
The Social Network - Ren Klyce, David Parker, Michael Semanick and Mark Weingarten
True Grit - Skip Lievsay, Craig Berkey, Greg Orloff and Peter F. Kurland

Achievement in visual effects
Alice in Wonderland - Ken Ralston, David Schaub, Carey Villegas and Sean Phillips
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 - Tim Burke, John Richardson, Christian Manz and Nicolas Aithadi
Hereafter - Michael Owens, Bryan Grill, Stephan Trojanski and Joe Farrell
Inception - Paul Franklin, Chris Corbould, Andrew Lockley and Peter Bebb
Iron Man 2 - Janek Sirrs, Ben Snow, Ged Wright and Daniel Sudick

Adapted screenplay
127 Hours - Screenplay by Danny Boyle & Simon Beaufoy
The Social Network - Screenplay by Aaron Sorkin
Toy Story 3 - Screenplay by Michael Arndt. Story by John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich
True Grit - Written for the screen by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
Winter's Bone - Adapted for the screen by Debra Granik & Anne Rosellini

Original screenplay
Another Year - Written by Mike Leigh
The Fighter - Screenplay by Scott Silver and Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson. Story by Keith Dorrington & Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson
Inception - Written by Christopher Nolan
The Kids Are All Right - Written by Lisa Cholodenko & Stuart Blumberg
The King's Speech - Screenplay by David Seidler

83rd Academy Awards Nominations - by film, with nomations detailed

List organized by most nominations, then alphabetical. Documentaries and all shorts listed separately at the end as the categories lend themselves to only have 1 nomination per film.

See also: full nominations list and film list only

The King's Speech (12)
Best motion picture of the year
Art Direction
Achievement in Cinematography
Achievement in costume design
Achievement in directing - Tom Hooper
Achievement in film editing
Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original Score)
Achievement in sound mixing
Original screenplay
Performance by an actor in a leading role - Colin Firth
Performance by an actor in a supporting role - Geoffrey Rush
Performance by an actress in a supporting role - Helena Bonham Carter

True Grit (10)
Best motion picture of the year
Art Direction
Achievement in Cinematography
Achievement in costume design
Achievement in directing - Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
Achievement in sound editing
Achievement in sound mixing
Adapted screenplay
Performance by an actor in a leading role - Jeff Bridges
Performance by an actress in a supporting role - Hailee Steinfeld

Inception (8)
Best motion picture of the year
Art Direction
Achievement in Cinematography
Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original Score)
Achievement in sound editing
Achievement in sound mixing
Achievement in visual effects
Original screenplay

The Social Network (8)
Best motion picture of the year
Achievement in Cinematography
Achievement in directing - David Fincher
Achievement in film editing
Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original Score)
Achievement in sound mixing
Adapted screenplay
Performance by an actor in a leading role - Jesse Eisenberg

The Fighter (7)
Best motion picture of the year
Achievement in directing - David O. Russell
Achievement in film editing
Original screenplay
Performance by an actor in a supporting role - Christian Bale
Performance by an actress in a supporting role - Amy Adams
Performance by an actress in a supporting role - Melissa Leo

127 Hours (6)
Best motion picture of the year
Achievement in film editing
Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original Score)
Adapted screenplay
Performance by an actor in a leading role - James Franco
Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original Song)

Black Swan (5)
Best motion picture of the year
Achievement in Cinematography
Achievement in directing - Darren Aronofsky
Achievement in film editing
Performance by an actress in a leading role - Natalie Portman

Toy Story 3 (5)
Best motion picture of the year
Best animated feature film of the year
Achievement in sound editing
Adapted screenplay
Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original Song)

The Kids Are All Right (4)
Best motion picture of the year
Original screenplay
Performance by an actor in a supporting role - Mark Ruffalo
Performance by an actress in a leading role - Annette Bening

Winter's Bone (4)
Best motion picture of the year
Adapted screenplay
Performance by an actor in a supporting role - John Hawkes
Performance by an actress in a leading role - Jennifer Lawrence

Alice in Wonderland (3)
Art Direction
Achievement in costume design
Achievement in visual effects

Biutiful (2)
Performance by an actor in a leading role - Javier Bardem
Best foreign language film of the year

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 (2)
Art Direction
Achievement in visual effects

How to Train Your Dragon (2)
Best animated feature film of the year
Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original Score)

Animal Kingdom (1)
Performance by an actress in a supporting role - Jacki Weaver

Another Year (1)
Original screenplay

Barney's Version (1)
Achievement in makeup

Blue Valentine (1)
Performance by an actress in a leading role - Michelle Williams

Country Strong (1)
Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original Song)

Dogtooth (1)
Best foreign language film of the year

Hereafter (1)
Achievement in visual effects

I Am Love (1)
Achievement in costume design

In a Better World (1)
Best foreign language film of the year

Incendies (1)
Best foreign language film of the year

The Illusionist (1)
Best animated feature film of the year

Iron Man 2 (1)
Achievement in visual effects

Outside the Law / Hors-la-loi (1)
Best foreign language film of the year

Rabbit Hole (1)
Performance by an actress in a leading role - Nicole Kidman

Salt (1)
Achievement in sound mixing

Tangled (1)
Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original Song)

The Tempest (1)
Achievement in costume design

The Town (1)
Performance by an actor in a supporting role - Jeremy Renner

The Way Back (1)
Achievement in makeup

The Wolfman (1)
Achievement in makeup

Tron: Legacy (1)
Achievement in sound editing

Unstoppable (1)
Achievement in sound editing

Documentary & Shorts Nominations (each with 1 nomination)
Day & Night - Best animated short film
Exit through the Gift Shop - Best Documentary Feature
Gasland - Best Documentary Feature
God of Love - Best live action short film
Inside Job - Best Documentary Feature
Killing in the Name - Best documentary short subject
Let's Pollute - Best animated short film
Na Wewe - Best live action short film
Poster Girl - Best documentary short subject
Restrepo - Best Documentary Feature
Strangers No More - Best documentary short subject
Sun Come Up - Best documentary short subject
The Confession - Best live action short film
The Crush - Best live action short film
The Gruffalo - Best animated short film
The Warriors of Qiugang - Best documentary short subject
Waste Land Lucy Walker and Angus Aynsley - Best Documentary Feature
Wish 143 - Best live action short film

83rd Academy Awards Nominations - Film List Only

List organized by most nominations, then alphabetical. Documentaries and all shorts listed separately at the end as they have 1 nomination per film.

See also: full nominations list and film list with nominations detailed

The King's Speech (12)
True Grit (10)
Inception (8)
The Social Network (8)
The Fighter (7)
127 Hours (6)
Black Swan (5)
Toy Story 3 (5)
The Kids Are All Right (4)
Winter's Bone (4)
Alice in Wonderland (3)
Biutiful (2)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 (2)
How to Train Your Dragon (2)
Animal Kingdom (1)
Another Year (1)
Barney's Version (1)
Blue Valentine (1)
Country Strong (1)
Dogtooth (1)
Hereafter (1)
I Am Love (1)
In a Better World (1)
Incendies (1)
The Illusionist (1)
Iron Man 2 (1)
Outside the Law / Hors-la-loi (1)
Rabbit Hole (1)
Salt (1)
Tangled (1)
The Tempest (1)
The Town (1)
The Way Back (1)
The Wolfman (1)
Tron: Legacy (1)
Unstoppable (1)

Documentary & Shorts Nominations (each with 1 nomination)
Day & Night
Exit through the Gift Shop
Gasland
God of Love
Inside Job
Killing in the Name
Let's Pollute
Na Wewe
Poster Girl
Restrepo
Strangers No More
Sun Come Up
The Confession
The Crush
The Gruffalo
The Warriors of Qiugang
Waste Land Lucy Walker and Angus Aynsley
Wish 143

DVD Releases for Janaury 25, 2011

I'm posting the weekly DVD releases a little bit early as on Tuesday January 25, 2011 on top of having all the below films released we are also going to be hearing the Oscar Nominations bright and early at 8:30am. Can't wait! But until then, let's have a looks at what's hitting the shelves this week.

  • Enter the Void (DVD Review) An absolutely spectacular visual spectacle that is a likely to enamour as it is to annoy viewers with it's visually aggressive style and voluminous amounts of explicit content. I for one, thought it was brilliant.
  • Nowhere Boy Absolutely lovely early-days John Lennon biopic that easily made the 2010 Perfect List
  • RED really fun action/comedy centred on Retired, Extremely Dangerous ex-hit-folk and the cast is so much fun as it includes Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren and John Malkovich.
  • StreetDance 3D one of the two 3D dance films of 2010 and I really enjoyed this one as the main character is not only a dancer but also a choreographer plus it has the tried & true both sides of the tracks working through differences dynamic
  • Made The Movie (DVD Review) sweet and catty coming of age via finding yourself teen drama
  • The Hair of the Beast aka Le poil de la bête (DVD Review) Historical set in New France werewolf film
  • Dogtooth highly acclaimed from the genre crowd this Greek film is actually also hitting Toronto on Jan 28, 2011 at the Royal
  • Bran Nue Dae Feel good Australian film that has won people over left, right and centre
  • Red Hill How am I only just hearing about this Australian crime/western starring Ryan Kwanten ("True Blood")? It was at Fantastic Fest 2010 and wounds pretty brutal and slightly similar to The Proposition, but I still really want to see it.
  • Dead Space: Aftermath I'm still trying to quite sort this one out, it looks like an animated film that has a video game tie in
  • The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest final film which completes the The Millennium Trilogy films based on the books by the late Stieg Larsson
  • Love the Beast car-focused documentary directed and starring Eric Bana
  • Glee, Season 2 Vol 1 I guess we are past the 1/2 way point of Season 2 of Glee as half of it is now out on DVD. I really need to catch up on Glee!
  • Saw: The Final Chapter Apparently it really is the final Saw film. I'm not holding my breath though!
  • Lebanon limited location (inside tank) thriller from last year
  • Secretariat long shot horse centric historical film starring Diane Lane
Titles on Amazon.ca(Canada):


Titles on Amazon.com (US):


StreetDance 3D, Made: The Movie, Hair of the Beast and Bran Nue Dae are not currently available on Amazon.com

Monday, 24 January 2011

Enter the Void (DVD Review)

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Courtesy of eOne Films

Dir: Gaspar Noé (Irreversible)
Cast: Nathaniel Brown, Paz de la Huerta, Cyril Roy, Olly Alexander, Masato Tanno, Emily Alyn Lind, Jesse Kuhn
France/Germany/Italy, 2010

Reason to see: Complete polarizing reports ranging from wild acclaim to completely not, got me complete curious.

Finally I got to see Enter the Void. I was excited but hesisitant going it as director Gaspar Noé also brought us the film Irreversible, which is one of the few films on my "I will never see it" but this one I thought I wouldn't have a problem with. And I didn't have a problem with Enter the Void as it is freaking brilliant.

Right from the get go Enter the Void stakes it's claim at being highly demanding visually with an aggressive strobe-light like opening credits sequences which is just the first among effects, moments, ideas and images that can an will turn people off the film (see full warnings below). But I love the fact that it was aggressive, unapologetic, neon-gritty and full of abrasiveness while also being definitively trippy, floating and dream like. Whether it's a singular, long conversation in real time between protagonist Oscar (Nathaniel Brown) and his drug-buddy Alex (Cyril Roy) or an all-out dream-like feeling sequence, the film requires the audience to be 100% actively engaged in the film. This is in part because you have to work to figure out what is going on, or trying to understand what someone is saying (either literally or contextually) or just to figure out where they are. After all that work, it feels like we get a virtual reward via visual treat of neon-heavy and heady lights contrasted against often dark settings of nighttime and night clubs.

We also get a highly successful use of first person point-of-view perspective, which I adored. I'm curious if people found it hard to connect to Oscar from this point-of-view, but I found it immensely effective especially when trying to understand him as a character as well as his relationship with his sister Linda (Paz de la Huerta), which is the central relationship of the film and although it isn't like any other sibling relationship I've seen on screen it does depict a beautiful sense of family.

Enter the Void is one of the most experiential films I've ever watched and even with all the warnings, jarring visuals, disturbing images and a running time of 2 hours and 41 minutes I'd happily watch it over and over again because it is literally a piece of art. An absolutely formidable vision brought to the screen.

Warnings (visual) flashing lights, strobe lights, shaky-cam, trippy-visuals. Pretty much anything you can think of that can push the visually boundaries is in here.

Warnings (content) Explicit sexuality, disturbing situations, violence

DVD Extras:
  • Deleted Scenes (8 Scenes, 12 Minutes) These were really interesting to watch, and understandable to cut considering the film is already over 2 1/2 hours. I did absolutely love #4 (and it's just cool that they are numbered), although think it would have been too weird to have in the film.
  • Teasers (7 teasers, 7 minutes) these are great, show a nice range of different takes on same idea and different ways to hook, connect and grab the audiences attention
  • Trailers (2 trailers, 3 minutes)
  • US Trailer (2 minutes)
  • Unused Trailers (6 trailers, 4 minutes)
  • VXF (11 minutes) It's kind of wild that the visual effects extra has absolutely zero verbal explanation but rather is a visual depiction of the effects themselves, often the use of layered effects. Beautiful to watch to boot.
  • Vortex (5 minutes) Exactly what it sounds like, a changing vortex that's stunning to watch.
  • DMT (2 minutes) More great visuals to enjoy, these ones are more geometric and constructed over the rather organic vortex.
  • Posters - 20 poster images
Enter the Void is available on DVD and BluRay as of January 25, 2011. Check it out over at Amazon.ca (DVD), Amazon.ca [Blu-ray] & Amazon.com (DVD), Amazon.com [Blu-ray]

Shannon's Overall View:
I loved it
I'll watch it again, repeatedly
I'd highly recommend it, but strongly advise noting the warnings before viewing

Return to Film Reviews or see more DVD Reviews

© Shannon Ridler, 2011

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Paz de la Huerta in Enter the Void - Courtesy of eOne Films

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Courtesy of eOne Films

The Hair of the Beast / Le poil de la bête (DVD Review)

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Courtesy of eOne Films

Dir: Philippe Gagnon (Dans une galaxie près de chez vous 2)
Cast: Guillaume Lemay-Thivierge, Viviane Audet, Antoine Bertrand, Mirianne Brulé, Gilles Renaud, Patrice Robitaille, Marc Beaupré
Canada, 2010

Reason to see: Werewolf films are always a go for me, but the fact that this is a historically set Canadian werewolf film had me over the moon (howl!)

I was absolutely beside myself reading the description of The Hair of the Beast / Le poil de la bête. A historically werewolf film set in New France? Plus romantic undertones and obviously it just had to be Canadian. I was totally ready to check this one out.

Set in 1665 New France, we follow petty criminal Joseph Côté (Guillaume Lemay-Thivierge) through his morally grey although mostly legal misadventures which lead him to takes refuge in the seigneury of Beaufort, where many women are anticipated to arrive as "daughters of the king". The women who are waiting to become wives aren't always treated that well and even given the time it feels simply bizarre to see them excited about meeting strangers to marry, but alas, given the historical setting and specific context it's easier to take. The time period also lends the film to have great costumes and rich art direction.

Of course, being a werewolf film we are going to need some furry creature action and therefore it is set during the full moon and before long there are werewolf attacks after Joseph Côté's arrival. The attacks are only threatening the residents but also the women who have arrived including sisters Marie & Sophie Labotte (Viviane Audet & Mirianne Brulé) whom are looking to catch the eyes of the sons of de Beauport and secure marriages.

As a werewolf film, I wanted more wolf-ness, although after seeing many, many werewolf films for the Wolfathon that does appear to be to be pretty norm for the course that the furry fellas only come out to play on a few occasions. But, as a historically set film with both romantic and horror tones to it, I enjoyed The Hair of the Beast / Le poil de la bête.

DVD Extras (French only):
  • Making of Les Coulissses du Fantastique (42 minutes) extensive making of including film clips, behind the scenes, costume creation and a fair amount about the created and modified effects for the werewolf-ness, I found them fun to watch even though they were in all French. Also includes interviews with several members of the production team and cast.
  • Segments with Cast (12 segments each up to 1 minute each)
  • Behind the Scenes Segments (6 segments of behind the scenes footage, 19 minutes)
  • Trailer

The Hair of the Beast / Le poil de la bête is available on DVD as of January 25, 2011. Check it out over at Amazon.ca

Shannon's Overall View:
I enjoyed it
I'd watch it again
I'd recommend it for fans of historical drama with horror elements

Return to Film Reviews or see more DVD Reviews

© Shannon Ridler, 2011

Made: The Movie (DVD Review)

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Courtesy of eOne Films

Dir: Samir Rehem ("Degrassi: The Next Generation", "Skins (2011)" )
Cast: Cyrina Fiallo, Rachel Skarsten, Stacey Farber, Marline Yan, Brett Dier, Kyle Kass, Ashley Leggat
Canada, 2010

Reason to see: I love films about 'finding yourself', plus it's Canadian!

Made: The Movie stars Cyrina Fiallo as Tuba, a high school band geek and band member whose dreams was to always be a cheerleader. Although her geekness does feel certainly livable as she has band-friends Emerson (Stacey Farber) and Kitty (Marline Yan), it's embarrassingly accentuated by her popular older brother basketball player Marshall (Brett Dier) who is of course dating head cheerleader Andi (Rachel Skarsten).

Using the classic popular kids vs geek crowd set up, Made: The Movie is smart to add some extra layers to complicate matters further and adds twists and turns along the way. One of the funnest things about the film was the clear as glass innuendo dialogue between Andi and Marshall and the all around general cattiness of the the cheer leading crowd. I certainly wasn't rooting for them, but you have to give credit where it's due and they were rolling out the attitude like there was no tomorrow. Now, I did find the time line of the events in the film felt very generous to accommodate for all the character development needed to connect all the dots that we need to see in the plot for this kind of school competition format film (it also happens in dance & martial arts movies too - got to get that training in!), so it's a bit of a given and I can give it a grace period for that.

I really enjoyed Tuba's journey to find herself and to really go for her cheer leading dream, even though picking a popular activity to dive into was not supported by any means, she still stubborn soldiered on and that shows a heck of a lot of spirit. Overall, I found the film nice combination of catty and sweet, bringing out both the awkward truths of finding your own way along with the fun spirited nature of friendship plus the great persistence of working to live your dream.

DVD Extras:
  • No extras
Made: The Movie is available on DVD as of January 25, 2011. Check it out over at Amazon.ca

Shannon's Overall View:
I enjoyed it
Ill watch it again
I'd recommend it fun spirited find-you-way film

Return to Film Reviews or see more DVD Reviews

© Shannon Ridler, 2011

The Green Hornet

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Dir: Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Be Kind Rewind)
Cast: Seth Rogen, Jay Chou, Christoph Waltz, Cameron Diaz, Tom Wilkinson, Edward James Olmos
USA, 2011

Seen: January 15, 2011 at AMC (in 2D!)

Reason to see: Super hero films tend to be a yes for me

I chat about The Green Hornet on my most recent podcast, and as I was prepping for that I realized that any previous knowledge I had about the previous The Green Hornet was purely from documentaries, specials and pop culture references centred on Bruce Lee who played Kato on the 1960s TV show. So, that's not the widest knowledge base but at least it was something!

The incarnation of The Green Hornet stars Seth Rogen as son-of-rich-newspaper-man Britt Reid (aka The Green Hornet), who is really funny and I've enjoyed him in just about everything I've ever seen him in. The challenge here is, the character of Britt isn't all that likable, coming off as spoiled but at the same time it feels like we are suppose to be rooting for him with an underdog-like energy. But the two energies mostly cancel each other out so although we tend to be in the moment with him, rooting one minute but completely not caring the next - which is really too bad, because I like to root for people. Especially Seth Rogen.

Ironically, like the 60's series, it's Jay Chou that we are actually rooting for. They updated the character to be a bit more balanced as a uber-mechanic type, but again that feels like it's cancelled out a bit as he serves coffee as well. But, Jay Chou is great as Kato - great timing, really funny in a less is more way which is a great pairing with Seth Rogen, and he gets to make lots of cool stuff. I wasn't particularly fond of what they did with Kato in terms of the physical fighting, however it's not a bad choice on principle to do something different instead of trying to step into the shadow of Bruce Lee (for a comical take on what that could look like, I highly recommend checking out Finishing the Game: The Search for the New Bruce Lee).

Although I could spend lots of time pointing out the things that didn't quite work (setting up dynamics and then breaking them later, non-alignment with the violence affecting the characters), the truth is I did enjoy the film. I could have done without the oddly adult crass jokes amongst what was other wise a pretty PG film, but other than that it was a lot of fun. When it was funny, it was really funny. A lot of the action is a lot of fun. I also really dug Lenore Case's character (played by Cameron Diaz), and how she wasn't just the 'love interest' but actually a big part of the brains of the operation. That was very refreshing. But in the end, did I have fun watching it? Yep. I did.

Shannon's Overall View:
I enjoyed it, but not as much as expected
I'll easily watch it again
I'd recommend it fans of superhero comedies that don't mind the occasional crass humour

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© Shannon Ridler, 2011

Blue Valentine

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Dir: Derek Cianfrance (Brother Tied)
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Michelle Williams
USA, 2011

Seen: January 11, 2011 at Scotiabank

Reason to see: Acclaim and I have been impressed with both Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams

I was expecting Blue Valentine to be a quirky art-house like romance from the quirky relationship-centric trailer, but it turns out it's more like living through really real relationship pains. The isn't quite to my personal likely, but I hold true to the fact that the acting by the duo of Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling is absolutely extraordinary.

The film has a very naturalistic feel to it, set in the everyday lives and activities of Dean (Ryan Gosling) and Cindy (Michelle William), with a perfect pace and tone as it unfolds the story of their relationship. It's also rather clever as the story is told in a often non-linear fashion, but you always are confident of exactly where they are, what they are doing and why. So kudos where they are due and I applaud the writing and editing, on top of the acting.

My one, big, caveat is that I didn't enjoy watching the film. Any time we get a glimmer of hope, it circles back to the pain of the relationship giving it an ever-present ominous feeling which completely suits the film but I found quite a lot to sit through. It's not that it didn't feel real - it always did, every moment, every second of the film feels real. But it was so real, and so painful.

I'm not surprized to see Blue Valentine get nominated for several awards as it really does deserve, I just wish I had liked it more. It's quite unsettling on several levels, and I'm sure there many things people will find uncomfortable but if you are into really heart wrenching relationship films this is one you won't want to miss. Oddly, I don't regret seeing it at all as just for Ryan Gosling amazing performance it was worth enduring. Similar to Half-Nelson, it's his performance that knocks the film up from great to astonishing.

Shannon's Overall View:
I didn't love it, but I appreciated the amazing acting
I may watch it again
I'd recommend it fans of naturalistic acting and emotionally 'real' films

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© Shannon Ridler, 2011

Country Strong

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Dir: Shana Feste (The Greatest)
Cast: Gwyneth Paltrow, Garrett Hedlund, Leighton Meester, Tim McGraw
USA, 2011

Seen: January 8, 2011

Reason to see: The trailer hooked me in with the whole singer down-on-their-luck vs younger-up-and-comer vibe

Country Strong stars Gwyneth Paltrow as Kelly Canter, a rehab-ing country singer dealing with several issues as she tries to get back in the swing of the music business life with her husband/manager James (Tim McGraw), while being surrounded by up-and-comers Chiles Stanton (Leighton Meester) and Beau Hutton (Garrett Hedlund from TRON: Legacy).

I had such a powerful experience watching Country Strong. I was excited but slightly skeptical of the premise as we've see this story of the down-and-outer trying one more time (Crazy Heart, A Star is Born - several versions), but it just tells you the reason some stories are told over and over - because they are such good stories. I really appreciated the emotional journey we take with the characters which can be from messy and heartbreaking to fresh and heartfelt. It also is a interesting choice to go with an ensemble cast, although I think if Kelly Canter's character was a guy we'd see this as a male-protagonist film, but in truth it's an ensemble as all the characters has personal journeys that are interconnected but separate and unique to each individual. That was something I really appreciate, seeing similar scenarios with different takes and different choices. Although if we were gauging the film on the power of charisma, Garrett Hedlund would win hands down. He lights up the screen every time he is on and I'm sure is melting the hearts of millions.

Although the emotional connection and the music were the strongest elements of the film, I did get a sense that there might be an undercurrent of old school C&W versus New Country vibe, but being unfamiliar with the genre outside biopics and listening to lots of Johnny Cash, I'm not sure what or if there was a message in there. I also have to mention that the editing at times has a little jarring, leaving me thinking more than once "How did we get there?" or "How did they have time to do that?", but it really was just a few moments and didn't take that much away from the overall experience.

I was happily surprized with the film, although I know it's likely not for everyone. It doesn't always paint a pretty picture of life in a fame-centric industry, but it certainly gives you a lot to think about. The songs in the film are amazing, many of which are performed by the cast (although the soundtrack isn't alway the cast singing them), and I added them to my playlist and have listened to them many times on repeat, in particular Silver Wings, Give Into Me & Me and Tennessee.

Shannon's Overall View:
I loved it
I'll buy it
I'd recommend it to fans of emotional journey films

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© Shannon Ridler, 2011
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