Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Sullivan's Travels



October 10, 2012

Sullivan's Travels (1941) *****
Directed by Preston Sturges

My tweet:

Sullivan's Travels (1941) (second viewing) Crowd pleasing masterpiece about the importance and virtue of pleasing crowds. ***** out of 5  

Other thoughts: 

Like all works of art, a film begins as a blank slate. When additions to the slate are influenced by the Hollywood studio system, often the purity of the film-making itself becomes compromised. Many say that a director should make the film he or she wants to make with complete freedom. On the other hand, sometimes the film that resides in the director’s head is not the movie that’s, for lack of a better word, “destined” to be. Sullivan’s Travels is about the irony that has come to be a staple of almost all comedy films made these days.

The great Joel McCrea plays John Lloyd Sullivan, a director of mindless films who wants his next picture to capture the zeitgeist of the post-depression hardships of the early 1940s. Born and raised with privilege, Sullivan decides that he will live the life of a poor person in order to make his film more authentic.

The studio decides to follow Sullivan as he tries multiple times to escape Hollywood only to find himself back where he started. During one of his botched escapes, he meets a sultry young aspiring actress ready to throw in the towel and leave Hollywood herself. The two become an unexpected pair as they jump on freight trains and sleep on crowded, dirty floors.

Eventually, Sullivan gets arrested for real for a crime he did not commit. The studio and the girl lose track of him. He’s forced to do manual labor, and he’s punished more than once for not following the rules. Thankfully for him, he does not lose the privilege to go to a local black church in order to watch a Pluto Disney cartoon.

Here marks a turning point for Sullivan. So determined to hold a mirror up to the suffering all around, he comes to realize that film has the power to heal. The miserable criminals find themselves screaming in laughter at Pluto, and so does Sullivan, much to his own surprise. That night, absolutely nothing else could have conjured such elation in these people.

There are two standout qualities which help elevate Sullivan’s Travels into the pantheon of great film comedies. First, this movie co-stars Veronica Lake. Enough said. She wears her hair almost like a mask, shielding part of her face, adding a palpable allure. When Veronica Lake enters the picture, you stop what you’re doing and watch. Second, writer/director Preston Sturges peppers Sullivan’s Travels with witty, high-energy dialogue. The movie moves at a brisk pace, helped in great part by Sturges’ masterful screenplay.

I’ll take Citizen Kane and Vertigo any day. Give me some Fellini and Renoir, and I’m a happy guy. Yet, I must not forget that films pleasing mass audiences are not our enemies. Sullivan’s Travels is a screwball comedy with a great deal of low-brow humor, and yet, it’s a glorious achievement. It’s a crowd pleaser about the virtue of crowd pleasers, which have absolutely no reason to cater to the lowest common denominator. Like Sullivan’s Travels, movies can be popular and be masterpieces at the same time.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Iron Lady

August 25, 2012

The Iron Lady (2011) ***
Directed by Phyllida Lloyd

My tweet:

Other thoughts:

With the Republican Convention right around the corner, it's chilling for a liberal such as myself to hear semi-radical conservative economic policies speechified as they are by Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady, a film that summarizes the Thatcher legacy in Britain through a fictionalized present day Thatcher suffering from dementia. Though the character of Margaret Thatcher is shown as a pioneering female icon of government leadership, screenwriter Abi Morgan pulls no punches highlighting the stubborn principled side of her politics. Without a doubt, Thatcher had her share of victories and defeats. She could also be quite the bully, and we see that very clearly here as well.

Streep won her third Oscar for this film. As the elderly Thatcher, Streep is a wonder to see. She strikes the perfect balance between frailty and vitality. It could have been all too easy to play up the pathetic reality of the struggles within dementia. Instead, Streep holds onto that spark Margaret Thatcher had to have had throughout her life. As the middle-aged Margaret Thatcher, Streep does a fine job, though her performance remains slightly on the surface. She's great with the mannerisms, the voice and the line delivery, but I never got the feeling that I was watching a fully-realized character come to life in her performance. So far, I've seen all of the nominees for Best Actress except for Rooney Mara in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and I believe Viola Davis gave the best performance in The Help, which is saying something considering that I didn't like The Help at all.

Director Phyllida Lloyd ratchets up the stylistic camerawork, and the results are mixed. Considering that we're supposedly witnessing Thatcher through the mind of an unreliable narrator, Lloyd uses strange edits, sweeping handheld camera shots and bizarre close-ups. The problem is that she really only does this in one scene towards the end when Thatcher brutally bullies the president of her party in front of a room full of members of government. Because of the dramatic change in style, the direction of this scene draws attention to itself and runs the risk of taking the viewer out of the film, as it did for me.

The elderly Thatcher hallucinates that her dead husband, played by Jim Broadbent, is alive and counsels her on how to live her life. After what is usually a spirited conversation between the two, he will disappear, leaving Thatcher confused and frustrated. Fully aware of her own importance, she works diligently to maintain her composure, which can be seen when she's asked about politics at a dinner party and offers a provocative, powerful answer. Clearly Thatcher has not come to terms with her past all the way back to the earlier years of her life. The Iron Lady showcases Thatcher forcing herself to face her life head-on. Perhaps then will she be able to live these last years of her life on her own.

The Iron Lady passably asks us to look at a human being with all her qualities and all her faults. Still, Margaret Thatcher, despite her historical significance, was a polarizing figure. The poor got poorer while the rich got richer, and frankly, she didn't seem to care. All the suffering and inequality in Britain at the time was, in her eyes, a stepping stone towards a better country based in fiscal responsibility and smaller government. Ultimately, she was voted out of office because she was not willing to compromise at all with the opposition. I'm going to need more than being manipulated by an elderly Thatcher with dementia to ignore the damage that she did.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Four Lions


 May 30, 2012


Four Lions (2010) ***
Directed by Christopher Morris

My tweet:

Four Lions (2010)- Writer/director Christopher Morris is smart & funny. Too bad he made a lazy film. Cartoonish w/ some good laughs *** of 5

Other thoughts:

Four Lions is profoundly politically incorrect on its surface. Within a decade which shot Islamic terrorism to the forefront of Americans' minds, this cartoonish comedy asks us to enjoy spending time with a group of five terrorists. It almost seems like that conceit would be bound to fail in this day and age. After watching Four Lions, I'd find it hard to believe that anyone could really be offended by this film except maybe Islamic terrorists themselves who probably wouldn't be watching anyway. I imagine regular Muslims would view the characters as such bumpkins that they couldn't even see them as real people, let alone Muslims. Thus, writer/director Christopher Morris walked that difficult balance beam successfully.

On the other hand, walking that other balance beam between a good film and a bad film, Morris really struggles to find his center of gravity. From the very beginning, it's clear that nothing in the world within Four Lions actually exists in any sort of dimension rooted in logic and truth. Most of the characters are simply vessels through which aggressive one liners, comic rants and buffoonery are hurled at the audience. Some of them land quite effectively. The mastermind behind the plan for the group to blow themselves up is forced to communicate with the others through a children's chat room where everyone has an avatar of a puffin bird because he believes that the feds will never expect that. When another character's car breaks down at an inopportune time, he claims that all the parts in his car are Jew parts. Another character asks how part of a car can be Jewish. The response is that Jews made spark plugs to control global trafficking.

I laughed loudly a handful of times, and, given that the film is an hour and forty minutes, I guess that's good enough, but just barely. Sadly, the laziness with which Morris constructed this world did bother me. If a filmmaker purposefully does not establish rules to follow, then he or she could really do anything at all. If you can do anything, then you run the risk of putting absolutely no effort into the narrative and the story structure. Morris must have spent all his time on the uneven humor. Too many jokes are really juvenile, which would be okay if some of them were funny. One character mentions that another character initiated him into the group by something involving urination. I felt like I was back in the locker room in middle school. As is the case with any broad comedy, the jokes that don't land stand out so much more. If a storyteller yells the entire story, you'll definitely hear the good parts, but you'll also be forced to hear the unpleasant parts in an unpleasant way.

The final sequence doesn't work at all. It's repetitive and tonally inconsistent. Also, there's a scene early on where one of the terrorists talks to his son using The Lion King as a way to possibly prepare his son for the reality of what the father is going to do. This scene should have been cut since its sentimental tone comes out of nowhere. Morris really needed to tighten up the many loose ends if he wanted a more consistently successful final product. Perhaps Morris was afraid to add truth to Four Lions fearing that he might offend Muslim viewers. If that's the case, then for a film that prides itself as being politically incorrect, Morris decided to be quite politically correct, and Four Lions suffered as a result.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

A Dangerous Method

April 1, 2012

A Dangerous Method (2011) ***
Directed by David Cronenberg


My tweet:

A Dangerous Method (2011)- Limited and on-the-nose historical adaptation. Stagey, but works because of a handful of good moments. *** of 5

Other thoughts:

Recently, I've become hooked on the late-90's/early 2000's television show Frasier about a radio psychiatrist and his practicing psychiatrist brother Niles. The show is truly brilliant and is among the best written shows I've seen. However, I am amused how incorrect the writers are when dealing with psychiatry. Niles is more of a therapist, when, in reality, psychiatrists really only prescribe medication. It's not too often that they do psychotherapy with their patients. If they did, it would be silly to go through medical school only to do something which simply requires a Masters degree.

The reason I bring this up is the fact that it was mentioned on Frasier that the title character is a Freudian while Niles is a Jungian. This, mixed with some study of Freud and someone mentioning one time that Jung was big on dream interpretation, pretty much comprises my only knowledge about these two pioneers of modern psychotherapy. Thus, I was hoping that A Dangerous Method would enlighten me to these two historical icons of the twentieth century.

I am happy to report that it does a satisfactory job of teaching its viewer about the rocky relationship between the two. In a terse letter to Freud towards the end of their friendship, Jung calls him a "father figure." That warm relationship eventually breaks due to undeniable tension which can't be repressed. The film emphasizes the irony of the fact that Freud was the discoverer of the Oedipal Complex, which states that a child is afraid of his father because he is in love with his mother and fears castration by his father due to the father's jealousy. There is a woman that Jung loves, and Freud does become jealous of Jung's breakthroughs with her. This does ultimately cause anxiety and tension. Freud analogously experiences his own theory returning to haunt him.

Keira Knightly plays this very woman, whose name is Sabina Spielrein. We first see her forced inside a mental institution. She obviously suffers from a serious mental illness, which manifests itself in brutal ticks and contortions. Alongside the physical manifestations of her illness, she's also paranoid, manic and delusional. Dr. Carl Jung, played well by the talented Michael Fassbender, is a young admirer of Freud who decides to use psychotherapy (which he prefers to call psychtherapy) to heal Sabina. A few years pass, and Sabina improves so much that she's able to enroll in medical school. As Jung continues his work, he starts to feel frustrated with Freud's insistence that our sexuality defines who we are, and there is nothing that we can do about it.

Jung's frustrations increase when he becomes friends with Freud. He doesn't want to betray his friendship and Freud's reputation by embracing his own differing conclusions. Further, he sees the dangers of Freudian theory taken to the extreme when he meets another psychiatrist named Otto Gross, played by Vincent Cassel. Gross' theory is that we shouldn't repress our sexuality at all. He practices this philosophy with his patients whom he often engages in sexual relations. Perhaps because of Freud, Gross or both, Jung begins an affair with Sabina, which goes against his ethics as a doctor. He begins to crumble with self-loathing, which isn't helped by the fact that Sabina has severe sexual dysfunctions due to her sadistic father. Because of his feelings for Sabina, who becomes a distinguished scholar of psychiatry on her own, ultimately studying under Freud, Jung discovers who he is, allowing him to break from Freud and progress with his scholarship and the conclusions which result.

Another none-too-subtle irony with this whole ordeal is that Jung, who rejects that sexuality is what is controlling us at our most base level, discovers his own identity by engaging in a very animalistic sexual relationship. His own life gives credence to Freud's theories. These analogies are among the aspects of A Dangerous Method which don't work. Everything is so literally played out, not allowing for any nuance beyond these analogies which are shoved in audiences' faces. For a movie about psychology, this film teaches nothing about the human condition. Instead, it functions with Jungian and Freudian theories in the background. Because this movie exists within these semi-arcane schools of thought, any themes that could emerge become stifled.

What does work is the history when it is actually presented. The character of Sabina is an interesting one. The debates between Freud, played as well as he could by a miscast Viggo Mortenson, and Jung about the psychology of the human person are well-written and thought-provoking. Despite the fact that we're only presented material which would be taught in the first two weeks of an Introduction to Psychology undergraduate course, Freud's focus on the past contrasts clearly with Jung's focus on the present and future. I personally find psychology fascinating, and it's these scenes that allowed me to engage with this material.

Cronenberg usually directs ultra-violent films such as A History of Violence, Eastern Promises and The Fly. This costume drama seems like a departure for him, but there are a handful of brutally uncomfortable scenes that could only come from Cronenberg's dark vision. A Dangerous Mind is adapted from a play and a book, and it's these scenes which frees it from its otherwise stagy feel. That being said, the scenes are gratuitous and feel like they belong in another movie altogether. Another flaw is Keira Knightly's performance. She has charisma, but she overacts all the way through, employing a brutal Russian accent which grates on the nerves.

Psychology enthusiasts will most likely somewhat meet this movie on its own terms. I fear that everyone else will find A Dangerous Method frustrating and unsatisfying. Though I could never find out the answer, I'd bet money that Frasier and Niles would scoff at the simplicity with which the early history of psychoanalysis is dealt. On the other hand, Freud and Jung wouldn't recognize anything they saw on Frasier regarding the subject they pioneered.

Young Adult

April 1, 2012

Young Adult (2011) ***1/2
Directed by Jason Reitman

My tweet:

Young Adult (2011)- Great acting. Cody's tone works better w/ pregnant teenager than 30-something narcissist. Still insightful. ***1/2 of 5

Other thoughts:

Writer Diablo Cody and director Jason Reitman unite once again for Young Adult, their first collaboration since 2007's Juno, to which I gave five stars and placed on my ten best of the year list. Reitman, especially, has proven his talent since then, directing the brilliant Up in the Air in 2009. Young Adult therefore had a great deal to live up to.

Cody maintains her signature sardonic tone in Young Adult. This worked in Juno because the main character was a teenager dealing with an unwanted pregnancy. Juno's sarcasm defined a girl not yet able to deal with the prospects of having a baby. In Young Adult, Charlize Theron's Mavis Gary is in her thirties, thus allowing the tone to demonstrate a severe immaturity within the main character.

Assisted by personal issues and hampered by an emerging alcoholism, Mavis journeys closer and closer to a complete breakdown. It's all pretty uncomfortable to watch. The first two acts work very well, giving us a portrait of a developmentally stunted, mean-spirited woman rapidly losing her ability to navigate her surroundings while coming face to face with people from her past still living in her hometown.

Despite excellent performances from Theron and Patton Oswalt, Young Adult loses its way in an over-the-top final act which doesn't work. The intelligence and nuance of the first two acts ends in a train wreck of epic proportions that feels at once both inorganic and predictable. In order for Mavis Gary to sink as far as she does, the characters around her are required to be profoundly stupid and naive.

Young Adult could have been great, and it has moments of true human insight and pathos. Despite going off the rails at the end, Young Adult is worth seeing because the journey we take with Mavis can easily be separated from the journey's conclusion, and that's where Diablo Cody shines. Mavis feels like a real character on a real journey for so long that this achievement on the part of both Cody and Reitman deserves credit. Cody is a master of sarcasm masking insecurity. In Juno, everything leads to a birth. In Young Adult, the journey of a misanthropic thirty-something seems to have nowhere to go. Next time, Cody should start at the end. Her beginnings and her middles are quite good.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Update on Me and Myself as a Movie Blogger

February 16, 2012

Ben Vargas (@bensower) sees more movies than almost anyone else I know. He's relentless in his pursuit to absorb as much cinema in his lifetime as one (or possible two) human beings logically can. He's unbelievably generous in the way he engages people on Twitter into discussing whatever film that person just viewed.

In the past, as Ben Vargas could probably attest to better than anyone, I was able to keep up with the best of the movie aficionados regarding the sheer number I was able to consume. In 2008, I think I saw nearly 280 films. I saw close to 200 2009 releases alone. Luckily, from 2007-2010, when I was at my best, I saw most of the classics necessary to give me the ability to teach a high school film class, which I love to do and plan to continue for many years to come.

In the last two years, however, I lessened my watching habits drastically. There are many reasons for this, some of which I won't share because they are personal. I will say, however, that there came a point when I felt like I didn't NEED to see anymore specific films considering that I watched every single movie on AFI's 100 Greatest Films lists. Sure, I have yet to watch Metropolis, but I have seen The Birth of a Nation, Intolerance and Sunrise, so I am conversant regarding silent film. Further, I've seen Man with a Movie Camera, Broken Blossoms, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, The Passion of Joan of Arc and many Chaplin and Keaton films. I feel confident in the basics of cinema history.

The real reason, however, that I slowed down my watching and writing was because of issues of anxiety. As my list of movies to see kept growing, my anxiety grew as well as my thoughts kept returning to my goal of tackling chunks of the list in short periods of time or else I'd never finish. This anxiety often resulted in weeks without watching any movies at all. I always imagined (up until now) that I'd get through this list. Now, I realize that I won't and can't. I'll never see every film I want to see. That's the realization to which I just resigned myself.

Sounds sad, sure, but, on the contrary, I feel more at peace with this blog than I have in years. This doesn't mean I'm getting out of the film blogging business. Instead, I hope to reignite Brian's Film Review Blog big time. However, I'm going to get rid of all lists of films to see, resolutions of watching so many movies a week, and marathons to finish by a certain point. I'm going to simply watch movies when I want to watch them and write about films when I want to write about them.

I'm never going to be a professional film critic, but I think I have the ability to keep up a pretty damn fine movie blog. That's what I'm hoping to do. Things have happened in my life that make it necessary to lower anxiety and stress for my own personal well-being. Today, I'm letting go of what I like to call "blog stress." Ironically, I think this will make my writing more frequent and hopefully worthy of the 120 blog followers whom I appreciate more that I can say.

So, thank you to all of you who have stuck with me during this multi-year transition. No longer am I in Ben Vargas' league regarding consumption, but thankfully, he hasn't unfollowed and blocked me because of my inferiority (at least not yet). I do look forward to taking this step back in order to move ahead.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Golden Globes Winners and Nominees

January 16, 2012

Sure, what I'm about to do is a little strange. I'm about to post the winners of the Golden Globes on my blog before watching them. Also, as I write this sentence, I do not know who the winners are. I have the winners page ready to be looked at, but I haven't looked at it yet. Here's the thing. I told someone that I'd definitely post the winners this morning, which is totally fine with me. I'm sick this weekend, and trying to recover, so unfortunately, I had to sleep through the Golden Globes. I DVR'd it, so I will watch it sometime today. Therefore, I know nothing about any speeches made or any antics which occurred. That will be the surprise I look forward to when watching the awards. As for the winners, I'll already know...but that's okay. I really want to know them right away anyway. Awards shows are just pageantry. It's the awards themselves that matter for me.

By the way, even if the planet Melancholia was about to kill me, I would watch the Oscars live. I don't care how sick I am. The Golden Globes are...well...The Golden Globes. Comparing the Oscars and the Golden Globes are like comparing apples and the Kardashians regarding importance.

What I will do is give my initial reaction to the winners right now, since I haven't watched the show or seen any feedback from anyone.

Here are the nominees and winners:

Best Motion Picture- Drama
Winner- The Descendants
Other nominees:
The Help
Hugo
The Ides of March
Moneyball
War Horse

My take:
I've seen The Descendants, The Help, The Ides of March and Moneyball. Out of those four, my favorite is The Ides of March and my least favorite is The Help. Moneyball is second and The Descendants is third. I really didn't like The Descendants. I found Payne's insistence on sarcastic humor off-putting regarding the fact that he also wants to imbue true moments of insight and profundity. I also didn't believe in the specific journey within the film. I'm pretty alone in my dislike for the film, but as long as The Help didn't win, I'm feeling okay. I also think Clooney was excellent in it! Speaking of which, I think The Ides of March is very good, but I don't think it deserves a Best Picture win (or even a Best Picture Oscar nomination for that matter). Therefore, I'm really looking forward to seeing Hugo and War Horse to see if there's a film that clearly deserved to win. If not, then I'm pretty nonplussed by the victor in this category.

Best Motion Picture- Musical or Comedy
Winner- The Artist
Other nominees:
Bridesmaids
50/50
Midnight in Paris
My Week with Marilyn

My take:
I've seen all of these films except My Week with Marilyn. I really loved both The Artist and Midnight in Paris almost equally, so I'm totally pleased (and not at all surprised) that The Artist won. I really enjoyed Bridesmaids, but it's a step or two below the other two. 50/50 did work for me, but it's perhaps a step or two below Bridesmaids. Overall, nice job HFPA (Hollywood Foreign Press Association)!

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture- Drama
Winner- George Clooney- The Descendants
Other nominees:
Leonardo DiCaprio- J. Edgar
Michael Fassbender- Shame
Ryan Gosling- The Ides of March
Brad Pitt- Moneyball

My take:
I've seen Clooney, Gosling and Pitt. I think Pitt maybe deserved it a little more, just because I really don't like Pitt, but he was fantastic in Moneyball. Clooney, whom I like more than Pitt as an actor, was also fantastic in The Descendants, so I'm really fine with his win. Gosling was one of the weaker aspects of Ides of March so I'm happy he didn't win. I'm looking forward to seeing DiCaprio and especially Fassbender. I hear Fassbender's excellent!

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture- Drama
Winner- Meryl Streep- The Iron Lady
Other nominees:
Glenn Close- Albert Nobbs
Viola Davis- The Help
Rooney Mara- The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Tilda Swinton- We Need to Talk About Kevin

My take:
I've only seen Davis in The Help. Davis was spectacular in that film, but I'm kind of okay she didn't win because any (no pun intended) help for that film is another step to that atrocious film winning the Best Picture Oscar. I want to make it clear, though, Davis is just amazing in The Help, and if she wins the Oscar, I'll be very happy. I can't wait to see the other four performances. I've been saying for a while that it will take something pretty extraordinary for Streep to win another Oscar. She'll be nominated until she's dead, but it'll be hard for her to win since she's almost always deserving of winning every year. Therefore, her talent is her own worst enemy. I don't think she'll win the Oscar at this point, but it's definitely a real possibility now. Therefore, I really can't wait to see The Iron Lady.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture- Musical or Comedy
Winner- Jean Dujardin- The Artist
Other nominees:
Brendan Gleeson- The Guard
Joseph Gordon-Levitt- 50/50
Ryan Gosling- Crazy, Stupid, Love
Owen Wilson- Midnight in Paris

My take:
Haven't seen Gleeson or Gosling yet, and Levitt was good at times in 50/50, though, in general, I think he's still growing as an actor. He hasn't won me over in general quite yet, but I think he'll get there. I thought Owen Wilson was tremendous in Midnight in Paris. He absolutely deserves an Oscar nomination, and he should be one of the front runners. His performance is the most underrated of the year. That being said, Dujardin will be nominated for an Oscar and will be one of the front runners, AND HE ABSOLUTELY DESERVES IT! I hate to abandon my campaign for a Wilson Oscar nomination for a second, but I will. Dujardin gives the male leading performance of the year out of those I've seen. He deserves to win this award. There are a few more performances I need to see before I actually call his performance the best leading male performance of the year, but he's close to perfect in The Artist.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture- Musical or Comedy
Winner: Michelle Williams- My Week with Marilyn
Other nominees:
Jodie Foster- Carnage
Charlize Theron- Young Adult
Kristen Wiig- Bridesmaids
Kate Winslet- Carnage

My take:
I've only seen Wiig, and I loved her performance. I'd love to see her get an Oscar nomination, though I don't see that happening at this point. Can't say I'm the biggest Theron fan, but I hear she's great in Young Adult. Otherwise, I ADORE Williams, Foster and Winslet. I can't wait to see all three films in this category which I haven't yet checked out.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture
Winner: Christopher Plummer- Beginners
Other nominees:
Kenneth Branagh- My Week with Marilyn
Albert Brooks- Drive
Jonah Hill- Moneyball
Viggo Mortensen- A Dangerous Method

My take:
I've only seen Hill, and I wasn't impressed. Good for Christopher Plummer! If he wins the Oscar, which I think he very well might, that'll be great to see. I've heard him referred to as the most talented living actor who has never won an Oscar. Can't wait to see Beginners (and the other three films nominated as well, especially Drive).

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role- Musical or Comedy
Winner- Octavia Spencer- The Help
Other nominees:
Berenice Bejo- The Artist
Jessica Chastain- The Help
Janet McTeer- Albert Nobbs
Shailene Woodley- The Descendants

My take:
NO NO NO NO NO!!!! I really can't stand The Help, and I thought Spencer's performance was totally over the top and added to my dislike of the film. Chastain didn't register to me much either way, so I'm glad she didn't win, and Woodley's performance was one I didn't really like in a film I really didn't like. Haven't seen McTeer, but I have seen Bejo, and that's who deserved to win! Bejo was radiant on screen! NO NO NO NOOOO!!!!

Best Director- Motion Picture
Martin Scorsese- Hugo
Other nominees:
Woody Allen- Midnight in Paris
George Clooney- The Ides of March
Michel Hazanavicius- The Artist
Alexander Payne- The Descendants

My take:
The only film I haven't seen is the one that won. I'm not kidding when I say that Hugo is the film I am most excited to see. If I weren't sick right now, I'd go out and see it right now. Therefore, I believe it could be the best directed film of the year, but I don't know. Also, am I not mistaken, but isn't Scorsese's win a bit of a surprise? I wouldn't have thought of him as a favorite in this category. I would have thought Payne was the favorite with Hazanavicius as the other favorite. I think The Artist is gorgeous, but, since I found it a bit derivative, I'm actually not in favor of Hazanavicius winning. Also, though I really love The Artist, it's not among the five (or maybe even ten) of what I'm assuming will be the best films of the year when I eventually see the ones I plan to. Out of the 30 films I've seen from 2011, The Artist is only the fourth or fifth best film I've seen. There are some that are gushing over The Artist--not me. It's a wonderful movie, though.

Best Screenplay- Motion Picture
Winner: Woody Allen- Midnight in Paris
Other nominees:
The Artist
The Descendants
The Ides of March
Moneyball

My take:
Wow! Unexpected! Out of those five, Woody Allen would have been my choice, but I would have thought I had no chance. Excellent job HFPA! By the way, this is the first category for which I've seen all five films.

Best Original Song- Motion Picture
Winner: Masterpiece- W.E.
Other nominees:
Lay Your Head Down- Albert Nobbs
Hello Hello- Gnomeo & Juliet
The Living Proof- The Help
The Keeper- Machine Gun Preacher

My take:
I could care less about this category, though it is fun to say "The Keeper from Machine Gun Preacher" out loud.

Best Original Score- Motion Picture
Winner: The Artist
Other nominees:
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Hugo
War Horse
W.E.

My take:
Ummm... what's W.E.? I'm going to have to do a little research and maybe add that film to my list. I've never heard of it. Only seen The Artist out of these five. No surprise here, and I'm happy, though I know there's been some people saying that The Artist's use of some music from the film Vertigo was really corny and flawed. Not sure what that's all about, but still, there's gorgeous music in The Artist, which is to be expected in a silent film.

Best Animated Film
Winner: The Adventures of Tintin
Other nominees:
Arthur Christmas
Cars 2
Puss in Boots
Rango

My take:
(Yawn) I bet most thought Rango was the favorite. I've only seen Rango and Tintin, and Rango was better, but I wasn't a huge fan. I'm not surprised Tintin won since it's such an iconic character overseas in comparison to America. I also hear it's doing well overseas. I do hear Puss in Boots is very good. It's on my list to see. Oh well... (yawn)

Best Foreign Language Film
Winner: A Separation (Iran)
Other nominees:
The Flowers of War (China)
In the Land of Blood and Honey (USA)
The Kid with a Bike (Belgium)
The Skin I Live In (Spain)

My take:
Some of these films might be 2012 releases in the US. I haven't seen any of them, though A Separation and The Skin I Live In are both on my list to see, and more than one critic (including Ebert) have called A Separation the best film of the year. It is playing near me, so I will check it out once I feel better.

The remaining categories are television categories, which I won't get into, but I do want to mention the Television Film or Miniseries winners. I'm also going to shorten the obnoxiously long category titles for television films.

TV Movie Actor- Idris Elba- Luther
TV Movie Actress- Kate Winslet- Mildred Pierce
Best Miniseries or TV Movie- Downtown Abbey