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Warning you about crappy movies since 2008.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Little Movies I've Loved, part 4

126. The Band’s Visit (Members of an Egyptian police band find themselves lost in Israel – and manage to make connections with a few of the locals and make peace with each other. Melancholy with little bits of hope. Wonderfully and naturally acted.)
127. The Visitor (Written and directed by the guy who gave us “The Station Agent,” this is another lovely story about lonely people. Richard Jenkins is subtly amazing in the lead role of a man who is emotionally dead until he finds squatters – illegal aliens – living in his rarely used NY apartment. A sweet tale of the transformative power of friendships and finding love where you least expect it.)
128. Young @ Heart (Documentary about senior citizens – several of them sick and dying – who rehearse and perform songs by much younger musicians. David Bowie’s “Golden Years” has new meaning when sung by octogenarians. A flawed movie – we have no idea what made the chorus founder/director Bob Cilman devote his life to this elderly bunch – but such a wonderful story.
129. Jellyfish (Beautifully shot Israeli movie that gives us a snapshot of three lonely women as their paths intersect. Some elements of magical realism – is the little girl who emerges from the ocean real or imagined? – and performances so real that these women don’t even seem like actresses.
130. The Rape of Europa (Joan Allen-narrated documentary about more “innocent victims” (as someone in the film calls them) of WWII – priceless works of art looted by the Nazis.
131. Boy A (A Scottish movie filmed in bleak, washed-out tones that tells the story of a young man just released from a juvenile detention center who is trying to rebuild a life that never fully got started. We learn his back story, including the story of the crime that landed him in jail, in flashbacks. His relationships with his empathetic social worker and his first-ever girlfriend will make you smile. But, his transition back to the real world may ultimately prove to be impossible …)
132. JCVD (Jean Claude Van Damme stars as himself in a movie that pokes fun of our obsession with celebrity and humanizes the much-maligned action hero. JCVD winds up in the wrong place – a bank – at the wrong time – during a robbery in which hostages are taken. The public and cops have reason to suspect HE is the perp of the robbery, and his fans who gather outside the bank want their hero released – even if he is guilty of armed robbery.)
133. Tell No One This multilayered French thriller plays out a little like “The Fugitive,” as more and more people grow suspicious that our protagonist, a gentle pediatrician, murdered his wife eight years ago. But, there’s more than that ongoing chase. The pediatrician begins getting e-mails with real-time video that seem to point to his wife being alive. He’s got to get to the bottom of that mystery – and before he is framed for an eight-year-old murder as well as a more recent murder (yet another subplot!) or is killed himself. Subtitled.
134. Four Months, Three Weeks, Two Days A feature film with the gritty look and extended camera shots more common to a documentary. Set in bleak, communist Romania in the late 1980s, the film focuses on a college girl “in trouble” at a time when abortion was illegal. The real star of the film is the clueless girl’s friend and roommate, who is almost a Christ figure in the lengths she goes to in order to help. You feel as if you’re not watching acting – but watching a real life drama unfold before your eyes. Subtitled.
135. Happy-Go-Lucky Mike Leigh wrote and directed this treatise on the art (and pitfalls) of being eternally happy. The protagonist is oblivious that her insistence on staying happy may be misread by others. She is unable to convert her misanthropic driving instructor to her happy-go-lucky ways. And, in fact, meeting her may have made him more miserable.

Little Movies I've Loved, part 3

101. Real Women Have Curves (a Mexican-American mother and daughter at odds over education, life – and the daughter’s weight.)
102. Y Tu Mama Tambien (translates as “And Your Mama, Too.” Coming of age story with lots and lots of s-x that is actually necessary to the plot. Surprising life lessons learned on a road trip.)
103. Winged Migration (Documentary about the magnificence of birds in flight.)
104. The Taste of Others (In French, with English subtitles. 2001 Oscar nominee for best foreign language film … about good taste and bad taste, wanting to acquire a taste for the arts and how we can never really know the desires and motivations of others, even those closest to us.)
105. Shattered Glass (Hayden Christiansen stars as the compulsive liar/wunderkind who fabricates stories at The New Republic.)
106. Touching the Void (Docudrama about two mountain-climbing friends in the Andes tethered together, when one breaks his leg – in the middle of a white-out – and the other must decide if he can possibly save himself and his friend. A nearly unbelievable story about survival instinct and the will to live.)
107. Buffalo Soldiers (Saw this story about unsavory, amoral U.S. soldiers at the same time the photos of abuses in the Iraqi prisons came to light, which gave it even more weight. Joaquin Phoenix is a bored (but not boring), intriguing, loathsome, yet watchable character on a U.S. base in Germany during peacetime.)
108. Blood Simple (early Coen brothers, with adultery, murder-for-hire and lots of plot twists.)
109. Osama (What could be worse than being a girl in Al Quada-run Afghanistan?)
110. The Fog of War (Robert McNamara reflects on his tenure as Secretary of Defense during Vietnam.)
111. Bad Education (Gael Garcia Bernal stars in a Pedro Almodovar gender-bending film noire.)
112. The Machinist (Christian Bale lost a scary 60 lbs. to play the sleep-deprived, skeletal factory worker who’s haunted by something – but what?)
113. Vera Drake (A kindly woman in 1950s London “helps young girls out” – and she and her family pay a price.)
114. The Sea Inside (Javier Bardem deserved – but didn’t get – an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of Ramon Sampredro, a quadriplegic who fought for the right to die with dignity. Based on a true story.)
115. Melinda and Melinda (Woody Allen tells the same story from a tragic and comic perspective. As always, Manhattan looks gorgeous!)
116. Dear Frankie (Sweet story of a mother who stays on the move to protect her son – you find out late in the film why – and the sailor/adventurer father she forges letters from to keep her boy happy.)
117. Paperclips (Documentary about middle schoolers in a white-bread Tennessee community who study the Holocaust as a way to understand the dangers of prejudice. When they can’t comprehend the number 6 million (the number of Jews killed in the Holocaust), they decide to collect 6 million paperclips. Wonderful.)
118. The Edukators (German with subtitles. Two twentysomethings want to get under the skin of the upper class. The break into their plush homes, rearrange the furniture and leave notes with messages such as, “Your days of plenty are numbered.” Then, a young woman – the girlfriend of one – wants in on the fun. And, it all unravels …)
119. Water (An 8-year-old widow in India is forced to live out her days in a home for widows. Touching, sad and ultimately uplifting.)
120. Match Point (Woody Allen muses on the nature of luck. Even the irritating Scarlett Johnasson couldn’t ruin a film this good.)
121. Why We Fight (A documentary that makes the case that the U.S. – thanks to the military/industrial complex Eisenhower warned about – cannot afford NOT to fight.)
122. Tsotsi (A young hoodlum in the South African slums steals a baby – by mistake – during a carjacking and discovers his own humanity.)
123. House of Sand (NOT to be confused with “House of Sand and Fog.” This Brazilian movie is about so many things: familial ties, acceptance of fate, making something out of nothing/creating a sense of community where there is none, the meaning of ‘home.’ Slow in parts, but with a HUGE payoff.)
124. No End in Sight (And, indeed there is no end in sight to the Iraq War we started. If you don’t already think W is the biggest dolt to ever “lead” our country, this documentary will make you believe. We destroyed an entire country – eradicated their history, emasculated their men and stood by and watched it all happen. Shame on us.)
125. A Man Named Pearl (As feel-good as “No End in Sight” is feel-bad. A documentary about a man who simply wanted to win “Yard of the Month” in his neighborhood and ended up, quite possibly, saving his town. Even horticulture experts are at a loss to explain why some of the plants are able to thrive in a climate they should die in. Pearl Fryars would probably tell you it’s just God’s will.)

Little Movies I've Loved, part 2

52. Girlfight
53. Dancer in the Dark
54. Best in Show
55. This is Spinal Tap
56. Waiting for Guffman
57. Lovers of the Arctic Circle (The paths of a couple who first meet and fall in love during childhood keep crossing … will they ever live happily ever after?)
58. East is East
59. Hard Eight
60. Broken Hearts Club
61. Felicia’s Journey
62. State and Main
63. Like Water for Chocolate
64. Manchurian Candidate (Original version with Angela Lansbury and Frank Sinatra.)
65. Requiem for a Dream
66. Traffic (OK, not such a little movie …)
67. The Five Senses
68. Bring It On
69. The House of Mirth
70. The Dish (delightful … feel-good … Neil Armstrong lands on the moon, and the people in Parkes, Australia go gaga over their role in this historic event.)
71. The Castle (as in, “A man’s home is his …” – even if it’s a lean-to by the airport …by the same writer/director as The Dish … very funny.)
72. House of Games (Who can you trust? Virtually no one in David Mamet’s world.)
73. With a Friend like Harry
74. The Anniversary Party
75. Sexy Beast
76. Truly Madly Deeply (Like “Ghost,” but so much better, b/c Alan Rickman rocks.)
77. Under the Sand (Charlotte Rampling, crazy with grief, cannot let go of her no-longer-there husband. Did he commit suicide? Did he leave her, without a trace? Was he kidnapped? She remains convinced that he is still very much with her, and shuns her friends and a suitor who want her to forget.)
78. The Deep End (How far would you go to protect your child?)
79. Faithless (Ingmar Bergman script; Directed by Liv Ullman – An old director conjures up a woman from his past ... a woman discovers the horrible repercussions of her infidelity. As hard to watch as a war movie.)
80. The King is Alive (People hopelessly stranded in African desert slowly go mad as they rehearse and perform King Lear.)
81. In the Bedroom
82. Iris
83. Following (first movie by Christopher Nolan, who directed Memento)
84. Monsoon Wedding
85. Panic (William H. Macy wants out of the family business. His father, Donald Sutherland, can’t quite let him do that – because they’re in the murder-for-hire business. Dark, yet funny in places.)
86. Frailty (Bill Paxton directs and stars. Eerie tale with a Sixth Sense-like ending.)
87. Lantana (Geoffrey Rush, Barbara Hershey and an ensemble cast of Australians … about marriage, infidelity, death and its aftermath for survivors. Four plot lines going at the same time, and none seem connected until the death brings all plots and characters together. Easy to follow, unlike some complicated stories. Most everyone is flawed, but not in the way you think. Full of surprises.)
88. Nine Queens (Buenos Aires setting for a Mametesque con game tale.)
89. Late Marriage (Israeli film about a 31-year-old ne’er-do-well who won’t take any of the brides his parents keep finding for him b/c he’s happily having an affair with a 34-year-old divorcee with a child. When his parents find out, they’ll have none of it …)
90. My Big, Fat, Greek Wedding
91. Kissing Jessica Stein (The scene where Jessica’s mother subtly lets her know that her new lifestyle choice is OK is one of my favorites in any movie, ever.)
92. Shallow Grave (Early Ewan McGregor … scary!)
93. Proof (early Russell Crowe … a blind photographer alienates everyone he encounters b/c he insists on proof that people are trustworthy.)
94. The Princess & The Warrior (Tom Tykwer – director of Run, Lola, Run – directs this haunting story about fate and longing. Much of the action takes place inside a mental hospital. Eerie and wonderful, and a great soundtrack, to boot.)
95. Freeway (Reese Witherspoon and Kiefer Sutherland in a twisted, redneck take on “Little Red Riding Hood.” I still laugh about the “Well, look who got hit by the ugly stick” scene.)
96. The Quiet American
97. The Last Kiss (Italian. Almost 30-something men who don’t want to grow up and the women who put up with them.)
98. In the Mood for Love (Chinese. Gorgeous music, gorgeous lead actress. Perfectly paced, melancholy tale of two people who love each other but can’t be together.)
99. The Grey Zone (Holocaust drama – but the first to show prisoners to be flawed characters.)
100. A Mighty Wind (“Never did no wand’rin’ …” Skewers the folk music movement … by the geniuses who gave the world “Spinal Tap,” “Waiting for Guffman” and “Best in Show.”)

Little Movies I've Loved, part 1

1. The Sweet Hereafter
2. Fast, Cheap and Out of Control (documentary)
3. In the Company of Men
4. Kiss or Kill
5. Two Girls and a Guy (Robert Downey, Jr. gets caught two-timing.)
6. Sunday
7. Wings of the Dove
8. Love & Death on Long Island
9. Breaking the Waves
10. When We Were Kings (documentary: Muhammad Ali and George Foreman in the Rumble in the Jungle)
11. Daytrippers (Parker Posey, Hope Davis, Liev Schreiber, Ann Meara …)
12. Microcosmos (Who knew insects were this fascinating?)
13. Shall We Dance? (Please note: The ORIGINAL Japanese version, not the J. Lo remake.)
14. Jackie Brown
15. Ma Vie en Rose
16. Déjà vu * (A couple keeps barely missing each other …)
17. Spanish Prisoner (Plot twists and turns from David Mamet)
18. The Opposite of Sex
19. Smoke Signals
20. Next Stop: Wonderland
21. Whatever
22. Without Limits
23. Prefontaine
24. The Governess
25. Happiness
26. Gods & Monsters (Ian McKellan and Lynn Redgrave both ROBBED of Oscars …)
27. Affliction
28. Lock, Stock and 2 Smoking Barrels
29. Hilary & Jackie
30. Little Voice
31. October Sky
32. Rushmore
33. Waking Ned Devine
34. 20 Dates
35. Election
36. Go *
37. My Son the Fanatic
38. Limbo (John Sayles directs … Kris Kristofferson, M.E. Mastrantonio, David Straitharn)
39. Run, Lola, Run
40. Buena Vista Social Club (documentary: Cuban musicians)
41. Cinema Paradiso (** all-time fave **)
42. Babette’s Feast
43. Bend
44. Twin Falls, Idaho
45. The Big Tease (International hairdressing championship – ‘nuff said)
46. The Big Kahuna (Kevin Spacey)
47. Flawless
48. The Winslow Boy
49. Croupier
50. Eyes of Tammy Faye
51. Insomnia (The original version!)

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The year (in movies) that was 2007

My faves:
1. Michael Clayton. A successful litigator who has defended the bad guys his whole career suddenly gets a conscience. Unfortunately, he takes his clothes off at a deposition, so everyone thinks he’s gone mad, although he’s just off his meds. He’s actually seeing clearly for the first time. George Clooney plays the title character – the firm’s “fixer” sent to hush up the reformed defense attorney. His multilayered character is a joy to watch. Lots of plot twists – but none are too complex to keep track of. Tilda Swinton makes a great bad guy.

2. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. The life of a large-living playboy – the successful editor of the French Elle magazine – changes in an instant. After a stroke, he is left with the rare “locked-in syndrome.” He’s paralyzed from head to toe, except he has the ability to blink one eye. The film doesn’t make a hero of the Jean-Dominique Bauby; we see his failings, including one particularly callous act toward the mother of his children. But, it’s miraculous to watch him fashion a life for himself given his severe physical limitations: He still has his imagination and a way with words. So, he dictates his memoir – one blink of an eye at a time.

3. Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead. My boyfriend, Philip Seymour Hoffman, again proves he’s the bravest actor working today. There’s nothing he won’t do. This storyline and the acting are so good that not even Ethan Hawke could ruin it for me. Actually, I should give him props for keeping it real as Hoffman’s also-ran brother in this desperate family. Greed, child support payments and a heroin habit force these brothers to do the unthinkable. Robbing their parents’ jewelry store seems like a victimless crime (insurance will cover the losses, the brothers think) until something goes horribly awry.

4. The Savages. Two siblings, scarred from a childhood spent with a brutal father, must deal with their estranged dad when he begins to suffer from dementia. Laura Linney and my man, Phil Hoffman, play the brother and sister who are each battling their own demons as they try to do right by the father who never did right by them. The cinematography perfectly matches the mood of the film. Buffalo, N.Y., is as gray and wet as you’d imagine. But, typically sunny Arizona looks washed out. Bleak, depressing and beautifully acted.

5. In the Shadow of the Moon. Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Mike Collins gave Americans hope at a time we needed it. Seeing this documentary about the men who have walked on the moon makes you long for modern-day heroes like those first fearless, hunky astronauts.

6. There Will be Blood. Yes, there will be a bit of blood, but first there will be fire (and fire and brimstone), betrayal, greed and dirty dealing. Epic in scope and length (both of time elapsed on screen and – at 2 hours, 40 minutes, in real time), this film marks Daniel Day-Lewis’s fiery return to film after an extended absence. He’s perfect as the misanthropic oilman who’s out only for himself.

7. Juno. Ellen Page as the title character is clearly a star-in-the-making. A funny, bittersweet, if unrealistic, story with dialogue that’s at times too hip for its own good. A strong supporting cast (Jason Bateman, Allison Janney, Jennifer Garner) and a great soundtrack are bonuses.

8. Away from Her. Heartbreaking portrayal by the still-gorgeous Julie Christie of a woman fading away from her husband and herself from Alzheimer's. It’s painful to watch as her loving spouse witnesses the decline.

9. Atonement. A beautiful-to-watch adaptation of an amazing story-within-a-story. The first half of the movie, which takes place on one hot summer afternoon, isn’t matched by its sometimes dragging second half. The young actress who plays Briony was awarded an Oscar™ nomination. It’s a shame the casting director couldn’t find someone as good to play Briony at 19. And, who thought you could give three very different looking actresses (at the approximate ages of 12, 20 and 75) the same blond bob wig and call it a day? The kid Briony, the teen Briony and the old Briony look nothing alike. Any girl as theatrical as the young Briony would surely have changed her hairstyle over the course of 60 years.

10. 2 Days in Paris. As wonderful as Woody Allen at his best, and remarkable because Julie Delpy wrote, directs and stars. A couple, together for two years, bicker their way through two days in the world's most romantic city.

But, wait! There’s more!

11. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Johnny Depp is creepily good as the title character – a man seeking revenge after having his wife and daughter taken from him and being unjustly sent to prison. Revenge comes in the form of slitting unsuspecting people’s throats while they sit in his barber chair. Oh, and it’s a musical.

12. In the Valley of Elah. Tommy Lee Jones's grief is palpable. As a retired military man himself, his Hank is certain that his missing son, just back in the U.S. after a tour in Iraq, couldn't have been murdered by the men who fought alongside him. And yet, this war turns out to be very different from previous ones.

13. No Country for Old Men. It’s not nearly as great as the Coens’ “Fargo,” but – mercifully – their latest effort isn’t as awful as their “The Big Lebowksi.” Javier Bardem plays a psychopath who calmly goes about the business of killing people. Javier may have more screen time, but the movie belongs to Tommy Lee Jones. A less-than-satisfying ending keeps this otherwise brilliant movie from being higher on my list.

14. No End in Sight. To the Iraq War, that is. Former administration officials and military officers tell the story of how things went from bad to worse in this disturbing documentary.

15. The Heartbreak Kid. Ben Stiller comes unglued after hastily marrying a hot woman he mistakenly believes is a chaste environmental researcher. She turns out to be possibly the most annoying person on the planet. Her environmental job is actually an unpaid volunteer gig, and she’s hilariously far from chaste. Stiller’s Eddie meets his dream girl while honeymooning with Ms. Wrong, and he’s forced to juggle time with his bride and time with the woman of his dreams. Fortunately, his real-life dad plays his on-screen dad, and he’s filled with grossly inappropriate advice. Plenty of gross-out humor, so not for everyone. How fabulous to hear one of my favorite little bands, The Weepies, on the great soundtrack.

16. The Breech. Edge-of-your seat thriller. That it is based on a true story of a conflicted religious zealot makes it all the more enjoyable.

17. The King of Kong: Fistful of Quarters. The protagonist of this documentary is a likable, smart, down-on-his-luck fellow searching for something at which he can excel after he's laid off. The villain is a loser with a mullet. Never mind that their battle is over who's best at … Donkey Kong. (Yes, the ‘80s video game.) The ultimate underdog story.

18. Year of the Dog. A complete original. Molly Shannon shows she has more dimensions than her previous one-note characters have let on.

19. Sicko. Michael Moore points out that prisoners at Guantanamo Bay are the only people on U.S. soil with guaranteed, paid-for health care.

20. Ratatouille. Sweet, animated story with a message: You CAN do anything you set out to do.

21. Hairspray. A toe-tapping, sing-along, good time. You really can't stop the beat.

22. Superbad. Raunchy and sophomoric. Not for everyone (my parents, for instance), but if you don't mind frat boy humor, you'll enjoy it.

23. A Man named Pearl. A documentary about a small-town man with an extraordinary talent. Tiny Bishopville, S.C. has embraced its local treasure, Pearl Fryars, and is leveraging his fame (mentions in the New York Times and Washington Post, feature on CBS Sunday Morning) to try to save itself.

24. Death at a Funeral. Everything that can go wrong at a funeral, does go wrong -- and to hilarious results.

25. Enchanted. It’s hard to imagine who could’ve been more princess-like than Amy Adams. A delight from animated start to happily-ever-after ending.

And, then there was …

Charlie Wilson’s War. Let’s see … Legendary director? Check. A-list, Oscar-winning stars? Check. A truth-is-stranger-than-fiction story that few Americans are aware of? Got it. A famous screenwriter to adapt the story for the movies? Check.

An effective dialect coach to teach the big-name stars how to sound like authentic Texans? Ooooops, there’s one important thing that was overlooked … and boy, was it ever distracting to listen to Julia Roberts – a native Georgian, for Pete’s sake! – say “Chaah-lie” as if she were from … Georgia.

My Phil (3 for 3!) saves the day by being such fun to watch as the wily, volatile, underappreciated CIA operative who helps Charlie with his secret mission in Afghanistan.

Into the Wild. When I want to see eagles soaring (and it is a majestic sight), I’ll watch the National Geographic channel. Proof that an absolutely riveting book can sometimes make for a dull movie.

The year (in movies) that was 2006

My faves:
1. Little Miss Sunshine. A dysfunctional family that will make you feel better about your own. From a porn-loving grandpa to a suicidal, gay uncle, the journey from New Mexico to California's "Little Miss Sunshine" pageant is as enjoyable as the ultimate destination. Let’s hope young Abigail Breslin begins to take a few roles away from the overexposed Dakota Fanning.

2. Borat. High five! The citizens of the US and A have never looked more ignorant or more bigoted. And, this reviewer has rarely laughed harder. Happy times.

3. Volver. It means “to return” in Spanish, and it’s what happens over and over again in this compelling movie. A once-dead mother is resurrected and reveals herself to one of her daughters … a dead man is returned to the earth in his favorite spot – in a most unusual burial … a daughter (Penelope Cruz) returns her mother’s affection after coming to terms with a devastating secret from years past.

4. The Last King of Scotland. Forest Whitaker will almost certainly win the Oscar. And, he should. But, the movie is much more than a showcase for his considerable talents. It’s a fascinating character study of Idi Amin (Whitaker) and the young Scottish doctor who is unwilling to see the truth about the dangerous dictator who’s hired him as his personal physician.

5. Inside Man. (Denzel! Clive! Jodie!) The most brilliant concept for a heist movie EVER. Leaves you thinking days after the movie, "So that’s why they did that ..." Spike Lee directed.

6. Water. An 8-year-old widow becomes an outcast in India. Epic, moving and tragic. And, an amazing performance by the little girl in the lead role.

7. Strangers with Candy. Gut-busting funny. Jerri Blank (Amy Sedaris), fresh out of a women's prison where she's been for years, comes home to find her father in a stress-induced coma she caused. The family doctor recommends that she go back to high school to try to get it right this time if daddy is to have any hope of emerging from the coma. Matthew Broderick, Sarah Jessica Parker, Stephen Colbert, Philip Seymour Hoffman (presh!!) and Allison Janney show up for the fun, but Amy Sedaris owns the film. She has, in Jerri’s words, the “skills to pay the bills.”

8. An Inconvenient Truth. I can’t shake the image of the polar bear that drowns when it can’t find an iceberg on which to perch. Scary stuff, and Al Gore is more animated than you might recall from his time in office and on the campaign trail. A message worth hearing, regardless of what you think of the messenger. (I happen to love the messenger.)

9. Pan’s Labyrinth. Magical, inventive, original, sad, cringe-inducing.

10. Monster House. Animated fun. Maggie Gyllenhaal, who voices the Eddie Haskell-like teenage babysitter, is just perfect. There’s a fun little mystery associated with the house across the street (is it haunted?) and, of course, a sweet lesson in the end. Don’t plop the kids in front of this one, though.

Movies not even up for Top 10 consideration because I didn’t see them …
Blood Diamond. I loves me some Leo, but his poor attempt at a South African accent irked me so much in the trailer and the ubiquitous TV commercials, that I knew I couldn’t take 2+ hours of it.

Babel. Too many bad reviews and a general leeriness about Mr. Jolie playing Serious kept me away. Why’s it up for Best Picture? Oh yeah, if Helen Hunt can win one for her role in “As Good as it Gets,” anything’s possible.

Casino Royale. Pierce Brosnan should not have been fired.

Movies I endured, thinking they would eventually get good …
The Holiday.
Way too contrived and way too long. Kate Winslet, Jack Black and Jude Law deserve better material. (The material was about right for Cameron Diaz and her limited skills as an actress.)

The History Boys. If you are 1) a gay man and 2) love obscure literary allusions and 3) recall with actual fondness a corpulent, elderly high school teacher who enjoyed giving the lads a ride home (if you know what I mean …) OR wish you had known such a teacher, then you might be the niche audience for this one. Otherwise, you may find yourself wondering, as I did 1) why the play was a hit on Broadway that garnered a Tony for Richard Griffiths as the aforementioned teacher and 2) why the film got good reviews.

The Lake House. Just an embarrassment for all involved.

The Good Shepherd. And the Oscar for most miscast actor in a 2006 film goes to … the guy who plays the adult son of Angelina Jolie and Matt Damon. If you sat through this three-hour snorefest, I think you’ll know what I’m talking about. Twenty-some years elapse in the storyline, and I felt like I sat through it in real time.

Half Nelson. I cannot figure out why Ryan Gosling is nominated for an Oscar for his somnambulant performance as a doped-up teacher.

Little Children. The distracting narrator and the amateur performers (other than Kate Winslet and the guy who convincingly plays the creepy pedophile) ruin it. My theory is that Tom Perrotta, who wrote the book, was so in love with his own words that he couldn’t bear to cut them when he co-wrote the screenplay. Thus, the narrator … the actors should’ve been allowed to convey their characters’ thoughts and feelings through their, um … acting. Instead, you get to hear some detached voice tell you what they’re thinking.