Review: The Shape of Water

Yesterday was Oscar Nominations Day and Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water garnered 13 nominations, more than any other film this year.

Of the nine Best Picture nominees, Alli and I had only seen three up to this point so we took the opportunity last night to trek to our local AMC and check out this movie.

I’m not sure what I expected as my experience with del Toro is fairly limited. I saw the first Pacific Rim, but I’ve never seen Pan’s Labyrinth or any of his other movies. The opening scene immediately takes you into Elisa Esposito’s life. As we learn about her, we are introduced to her work, where we meet the rest of the story.

A more well-done version of Splash

I’m hesitant to describe much about the story. I went in with very little expectation or knowledge of the story outside of the trailer. However, after the fact, Alli very accurately described the movie as “a more well-done version of Splash.”

This is exceedingly accurate.

The cinematography and set design of this movie are stunning and Sally Hawkins is fantastic as the mute Elisa. Richard Jenkins puts in another amazing performance as Elisa’s artist neighbor. Michael Shannon provides just enough villainy to push the story along and Octavia Spencer plays, well…Octavia Spencer. I don’t mean to discount her performance…it’s fine. But is it Oscar-worthy? Not really.

Should you see this movie?

It really depends. Are you someone that wants to see all the Best Picture Oscar-nominated movies? Well then, yeah. See it. Are you creeped out by someone falling in love with a fish-man? Maybe don’t see this one, then.

Do you like Guillermo del Toro’s more subtle work? This movie isn’t over the top in its effects or monsters. In fact, I’d argue that this “monster” shows more humanity than some of the human counterparts at times.

It’s a unique take on a love story and I really enjoyed it a lot.

Why The Muppets Should Win an Oscar

Consider this the beginning of my official letter-writing campaign to get at least one Oscar for The Muppets, one of my favorite movies of the year.

I looked forward to Jason Segel and James Bobin’s take on my favorite Jim Henson characters for a while and when it finally reached the screen, it was everything I’d hoped for and more. It had the feel of one of the classic Muppet movies and yet, it felt updated for today’s audience.

One of my favorite parts of the movie was the terrific soundtrack that was overseen by music supervisor, Bret McKenzie, aka Rhymenocerous, aka one half of Flight of the Conchords.

McKenzie was responsible for the opening number, “Life’s a Happy Song” and the pivotal “Man or Muppet” song:

My favorite musical moment of the movie, however, comes early on in the plot, when Gary and Walter are trying to convince Kermit to get the gang back together and put on a show. Kermit sings this very sweet, heartfelt tune in the hallway of his office called “Pictures in My Head,” written by Jeannie Lurie, Aris Archontis, and Chen Neeman (produced by McKenzie).

That song represents what I think a lot of people love about the Muppets. Sure they are nostalgic and a little corny, but they are also a beloved part of pop culture and American society. Jim Henson’s creations have always been a favorite of mine and I’m so glad that their movie delighted so many people this year.

My hope is that the Academy Awards this year will acknowledge the great songwriting of McKenzie and his team and at least nominate one song for an Oscar. I’d prefer if it was “Pictures in My Head”, but honestly, the whole soundtrack is great and I’d be happy with just one song being recognized. I truly can’t think of a reason why they shouldn’t be nominated. Randy Newman’s been nominated time and time again. Why can’t The Muppets?

Clever songwriting at pivotal times during the film…what are the actual requirements for a song to be nominated for “Best Song”? Whatever they are, I am unaware of any reason why The Muppets don’t qualify or are not deserving.

I encourage you to tweet #muppetsbestsongoscar if you agree with what I’m saying. Who knows? Maybe we’ll be able to inspire some voters online.

My Favorite Movies of 2010

THE GOLDEN GLOBES WERE ON THIS WEEKEND. THE GOLDEN GLOBES WERE ON THIS WEEKEND!!!

It’s awards season once again…my favorite time of year. Snow on the ground and statues are being handed out left and right of metal naked dudes.

One of the great benefits of working where I work is free movies. So Alli and I have seen a lot this year and without bias, I wanted to present my favorite movies of the year. Now these might not necessarily be Oscar- or Golden Globe-worthy, but they were my humble favorites. First the list, then write-up below.

  1. The Social Network
  2. The King’s Speech
  3. The Fighter
  4. Inception
  5. True Grit
  6. Toy Story 3
  7. The Town
  8. Cyrus
  9. Tangled
  10. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

DISCLAIMER: I work for AMC Theatres so I saw nearly all of these movies in the theatre for free as a part of my benefits. However, the opinions expressed in this post are solely my own.

The Social Network

This movie was just everything. Extremely timely story. Great acting. Incredible script. Best movie score…maybe in the last decade. I saw the movie three times in the theatre. Loved it every time. | Buy at Amazon.com

The King’s Speech

Gorgeously filmed and acted. Colin Firth is perfect and is complemented so well by the brilliant Geoffrey Rush. I was actually surprised that the Hollywood Foreign Press did not crown this as best picture at the Golden Globes since they tend to favor movies made outside of the U.S. | Find showtimes

The Fighter

I’m not a huge Mark Wahlberg fan, but the man can put a project together. He was committed to this movie for 3 years, so he stayed in boxing shape until it finally came together. Christian Bale gave probably the best performance by an actor in any role as Dickie and Melissa Leo transformed into the unrecognizable controlling mother Alice. | Find showtimes

Inception

It’s a shame that Christopher Nolan’s dream thriller came out so early in the year. With a year as back-end heavy as this 2010, it got lost in the shuffle a bit, which is a shame. It’s a wonderful story, amazingly directed in seven different countries and Nolan’s story was one of the most original of the year. In a world of sequels and remakes, original stories are tough to come by. | Buy at Amazon.com

Toy Story 3

I am a sucker for Pixar. I never thought the third movie about talking toys would move me to tears. But Lee Unkrich’s amazing film blasted it out of the park. Who knew that some of the best filmmakers in the world would work at an animation studio? | Buy at Amazon.com

True Grit

I don’t really like the Coen Brothers, but this movie was just fabulous. Such an entertaining movie that is carried by its young star, Hailee Steinfeld. Jeff Bridges is a great Rooster Cogburn. Better than John Wayne. YEAH, I SAID IT. It immediately became my favorite Coen Brothers movie. And Hailee Steinfeld won’t win the Best Supporting Actress Oscar (Melissa Leo made sure of that as Alice in The Fighter), but man, she was great. | Find showtimes

The Town

Ben Affleck made a crime movie that was on par with Scorsese’s The Departed. Not only did he star in it and help write it, but he directed a well-made, tight crime thriller. Jon Hamm, Jeremy Renner, Rebecca Hall and the late Pete Postlethwaite all turn in terrific supporting performances. Entertaining and exciting. | Buy on Amazon.com

Cyrus

Such an underrated film. I don’t know how many people saw it, but Alli and I caught a late Sunday night showing and I was so glad that we did. Marisa Tomei, John C. Reilly and Jonah Hill really deliver in this small movie about a mother’s relationship with her grown son and new boyfriend. It’s really a lot of fun. | Buy on Amazon.com

Tangled

A Rapunzel story? Another animated movie? YES. Tangled was sweet, funny, creative and it was fun for both kids and adults. | Find showtimes

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

Edgar Wright’s movie based on the graphic novel of the same name was one of the most creative, visually stunning movies of the year. Michael Cera is great as…Michael Cera…errrr…the title character and while much of what makes this movie great is the source material, it wouldn’t work without Edgar Wright’s vision. A lot of fun. | Buy on Amazon.com

Honorable Mentions

Kick-Ass was the more hilariously violent than The Expendables and more enjoyable. It’s Kind of a Funny Story was completely overlooked in the indie circuit.

So what were your favorite movies of the year?

The Oscars

This was the first time in four years that Alli and I have not hosted an Oscar party at our house. With the job change and everything going on, we needed to take a break this year and just enjoy the show on our own. HOWEVER…

Why is it impossible for them to stay on schedule? My DVR cut off and I missed the final 4 awards (read: THE MOST IMPORTANT ONES). Fortunately, the Internet came to my rescue and I was able to see the acceptance speeches from Jeff Bridges, Sandra Bullock, Kathryn Bigelow and…Kathryn Bigelow.

I have to be honest. Last night’s awards were somewhat of a disappointment to me. Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin weren’t funny (nor really were both of them necessary…why two hosts?) and the outcomes — well, I just can’t get on board with The Hurt Locker. Look, I appreciate the significance of Bigelow’s win. It’s ludicrous that a woman has not already won a directing Oscar. But I think that Peter Sciretta from /film said it best in his tweet:

What I liked:

  • Pete Doctor wearing the bottlecap pin on his tux to commemorate Up.
  • The way that the Best Original Score nominees were presented by the League of Extraordinary Dancers.
  • Ben Stiller dressed up as a Na’vi from Avatar, which was hilarious.
  • John Hughes tribute. The man was responsible for some of the funniest movies of the 80’s and 90’s.
  • Christoph Waltz finally getting his acceptance speech right. Everything else he had said in acceptance speeches had been an incoherent mess.
  • Up winning for Best Score (seriously, I was probably happier about this than anything else during the evening). Giacchino is amazing.
  • Doug Benson’s (host of the I Love Movies podcast) live tweets during the show. Hilarious.

The big surprises:

  • Precious winning the Best Adapted Screenplay award. Really was certain it was going to Up in the Air.
  • The Hurt Locker winning Best Original Screenplay (although once you saw how much the night was swinging towards Bigelow’s movie, it wasn’t as surprising). I thought this would be Tarantino’s for Inglorious Basterds.
  • Farrah Fawcett being left out of the In Memoriam montage, but not Michael Jackson.
  • Mo’Nique didn’t get played off the stage. I was sure that when she won that she would ramble on for 5 minutes.

What I didn’t like:

  • Baldwin and Martin. Just not very funny.
  • Really shocked about Up in the Air getting shut out. After seeing all 10 Best Picture nominees, I truly believe this was in the top 3. Fortunately, Jason Reitman is young. He’s doing great work and will continue to do so.
  • The pre-show hosted by Kathy Ireland was just PAINFUL to watch.

So, what did you think? Did you watch the whole telecast?

Best Picture Showcase – Weekend 2

So, it’s one of my favorite weekends of the year — Oscar Weekend. And that means that we also finished up the Best Picture Showcase at AMC today.

First things first, a disclaimer: I am recently employed by AMC and have to state that these opinions are my own.

Last weekend, we had Avatar, Up in the Air, Precious, The Blind Side and Inglorious Basterds. (If you want to read about weekend 1 of the Best Picture Showcase, you can revisit my previous post.)

So to complete the 10 Best Picture Nominees today, the lineup was:

As we did last weekend, we arrived late since we’d seen (and own) Disney Pixar’s brilliant UP.

So technically our day was supposed to start with A Serious Man, but we actually kicked it off with the movie I was most looking forward to today: An Education.

I really loved An Education. Carey Mulligan is just unbelievably charming and complex in a terrific coming-of-age story penned by one of my favourite (with added ‘u’ because he’s British) authors, Nick Hornby. Filled with great performances from Peter Saarsgard, Alfred Molina, Emma Thompson and that dude who is supposed to marry Amanda Seyfried in Mamma Mia!, all are eclipsed by Mulligan, who just brings so much wonderful charm to Jenny, the main character. The story is one we’ve heard before, but I just really connected with this story and thought to myself, “It’s too bad that nobody has a clue about this flick.”

Next flick up was The Hurt Locker, many critics’ pick to win the coveted Best Picture Oscar. I guess I just didn’t see the same movie because to me, it did NOT live up to the hype. It was a decent enough movie, but it really reminded me a lot of Jarhead (hat tip to Alli, who helped me remember the name of that movie). It’s a decent movie, but I really didn’t like it as much as I wanted to for whatever reason. Anthony Mackie was really the saving grace here.

A Serious Man was one of the worst movies I’ve seen in a long time. I have never really liked the Coen brothers, but have tolerated them. This flick was just incomprehensible. And I wasn’t alone in this assessment. Nearly everyone in our theatre felt the same way, wondering how it’s possible that this horrible, make-you-want-to-blow-your-brains-out-depressing movie could have a chance as the Best Picture of the year. Absolutely hated it.

My feelings on A Serious Man may have helped me to hate District 9 considerably less. I got a text from my brother telling me that he guaranteed I would hate it. Well, Jake, you were wrong. I didn’t hate it. It was unbelievably ambitious, but we’ve come to expect that from Peter Jackson. The beginning of the flick was a bit disjointed, but once it, *ahem*, takes its “turn”, it becomes a lot more entertaining. For those of you that have seen District 9, I have a question for you: did you think that the story had some parallels with Avatar? Alli brought that up after the movie and I had to chuckle because it’s not terribly far off.

So, after 2 weekends, Alli and I tackled 8 out of the 10 Best Picture nominees, having seen the other two multiple times. The Best Picture Showcase experience is such a blast (and I’m not just saying that because I work for AMC) if you love the movies. I happen to love the movies.

So my final rankings of all 10 films (my opinion, based upon how much I actually liked the films…I realize that I have no ability to judge these films based on anything else but my own personal opinion):

  1. Avatar
  2. Up
  3. An Education
  4. Up in the Air
  5. The Hurt Locker
  6. Inglorious Basterds
  7. District 9
  8. The Blind Side
  9. Precious Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire
  10. A Serious Man

I realize that putting The Blind Side as high as I did leaves me open for ridicule. But I really didn’t like Precious or A Serious Man. AT ALL. As far as what is going to win? I think it is a two-horse race between Avatar and The Hurt Locker. I’m giving the edge to Avatar right now. But The Hurt Locker has a ton of momentum. We’ll have to see…

So what were your thoughts? What do you think will take the Oscar for Best Picture Sunday night?