In honor of this weekend's Academy Awards, I thought I'd post my fave flicks of the year. Some of my choices made the cut for Sunday's Oscars, some didn't. What movies would you have nominated if you could?
1) Gran Torino
Eastwood starred, directed, and even sang the end credit tunes to this unexpected gem of a movie. My fave, hands down and also possibly the biggest Oscar snub this year. I didn't expect much from this film (I wasn't really a fan of Eastwood's Mystic River or his Oscar winning Million Dollar Baby) but Gran Torino was like watching a "what-would-have-happened-to-Dirty Harry" scenario and nobody could have pulled off the perfect grizzled, politically incorrect, growling main character but Clint Eastwood. It is funny, violent, touching, action-filled, well-acted, and has an outstanding script. This movie was pretty much ignored by both the Golden Globes and the Academy - nothing from the Academy and only one nod for "Best Song" for the Globes. Better than The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and most of the other nominations by far. Oh well, at least Eastwood can laugh all the way to the bank because as of February 15th, Gran Torino has raked in $128.9 million at the box office in Canada and the US, making it, I believe, the highest-grossing movie of his career.
Basically, a post-apocalyptic, science-fiction story where the main characters barely talk throughout the whole movie. Doesn't read like a recipe for success but if there was any animated movie worthy of being nominated for best motion picture of the year, it would be this one. While it is great that Wall-E has an Oscar nomination for best animated film it deserves better competition than Bolt and Kung Fu Panda. Don't get me wrong, they're cute animated kids flicks but Wall-E transcends the whole animated feature film classification. Personally, I think it should win raddest movie. Ever.
3) The Wrestler
Ok, for those of you who know me, you know I've loved professional wrestling since I've been a little kid. It's one of my guilty pleasures. I watched Hulk Hogan and "Macho Man" Randy Savage on TV with my grandparents, went to see WWF (yes back before it was WWE) live at the Montreal Forum, bought all the video games for my various game consoles, and still (when I can) tune into RAW on Monday nights. That being said, after all the bad press pro-wrestling's been getting lately (steroid abuse, the Benoit murder/suicide, etc.), never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that Hollywood could produce a sympathetic, fictional portrait of a wrestler. At best there's been some interesting documentaries about pro-wrestlers (Beyond the Mat and Hitman Hart: Wrestling With Shadows) but then you get crap like Ready to Rumble. The Wrestler is all Mickey Rourke. He inhabits the role of Randy "The Ram" Robinson perfectly and certainly deserves all the accolades he's been getting for bringing prestige to a normally maligned profession. Brad Pitt was flat (the special effects did all the acting in Benjamin Button), Richard Jenkins was good but not Oscar worthy in The Visitor, and knowing Sean Penn, I'm sure he hams it up like he always does, so I certainly hope Mickey Rourke wins best actor this time around.
4) Tropic Thunder
This movie was ridiculously stupid. But sometimes I'm in the mood to watch something ridiculously stupid and Tropic Thunder hit the spot. It's a weird blend of action and comedy, starring funny heavyweights like Ben Stiller and Jack Black but the scene stealer of this picture has got to be Robert Downey Jr. (in blackface!) in one of the most inappropriate yet hilarious characters I've seen in a long time. Downey's comeback was cemented in this year's surprise hit Iron Man but you get to see how good he really is in Tropic Thunder. I must not have been the only one who thought so because he's up for an Oscar for best supporting role. I don't think Robert Downey Jr.'s going to win, the best supporting role should go to the late Heath Ledger's turn as the Joker in The Dark Night but kudos to Downey Jr. for making an otherwise ok movie a blast to watch. Oh, I almost forgot the other scene-stealer to watch out for here: Danny McBride! Which brings me to...
5) Pineapple Express
I've been a fan of Seth Rogen and James Franco ever since they starred together in the Judd Apatow produced TV series Freaks & Geeks back when they were both young unknowns. Now Apatow has emerged as the go-to-guy for a very particular brand of humor, with hits like Anchorman, 40-Year-Old Virgin, Talladega Nights, Knocked Up, Superbad, and Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Many of these flicks star a lot of the same actors and often Freaks & Geeks alums but in Pineapple Express, we finally get to see James Franco back in the mix and showing off his comedic chops. Now how to describe this movie... A stoner buddy flick? Yeah, I think that works. Similar in humor to Tropic Thunder (action/comedy romp) but I think this is a better movie than Tropic Thunder overall. The whole cast is great in this one and Franco (usually a leading man or a more "serious" actor in the Spider-Man franchise and recently in the Oscar-nominated, Milk) gets to go against type and play, what could be a first, the drug-dealer with a heart of gold. Now as for scene-stealers in this one, I have to hand it to Danny McBride for making both Tropic Thunder and Pineapple Express just that much more hilarious. Thug life!
And with that I bring you my honorable mentions. The movies that I enjoyed this year but won't really write too much about. Pretty much because my hands are starting to cramp up but you should still check them out if you haven't already. They are:
-Young @ Heart. Here's a clip from the movie that puts a lump in my throat everytime: the seniors perform "Forever Young" by Bob Dylan just after having lost a friend and are singing to a group of prisoners. Beautiful.
-Slumdog Millionaire. Cinematic fireworks! Made me remember why we go to the movies.
-The Dark Knight. A little too dark for my tastes but worth it to see Heath Ledger's riveting last peformance.
-Australia. I think this movie got panned by critics and most audiences but I liked it. An epic, romantic adventure that hearkened back to the golden days of cinema. And a happy ending to boot! Doesn't happen much in the age of irony.
And I'm spent,