Category Archives: acting

I’m never gonna see a merman. Top 5 Favorite Films of 2012

I saw 30% of all the movies released theatrically this year. I say this to put this list into context, and to show my complete lack of any expertise. My three blockbusters did not disappoint: The Avengers is probably the most fun I have ever had at the movies (it was my childhood dreams come true), Prometheus was a visual masterpiece (hopefully Scott will make more genre features), and The Dark Knight Rises was a satisfactory conclusion to Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” trilogy. Two other movies that made a ton of money, but got panned by critics were The Amazing Spider-Man, which I think is the second best Spidey movie, and Skyfall, which was so much better than Quantum of Solace, a lot of people dubbed it the greatest Bond movie (it’s actually Casino Royale).

Before I get into the list, I want to drop five comedies that I think you should check out. These movies were not only funny, but had heart and brains:
1. 21 Jump Street – ignore what you think about this from marketing, hilarious.
2. Seven Psychopaths – Absolutely hysterical, plus it has the best cast of any movie this year.
3. Sleepwalk With Me – An unexpected journey into the brilliant mind of Mike Birbiglia.
4. Safety Not Guaranteed – Almost made the Top 5 list. Science Fiction, Comedy, Romance, plus a “wam-bang finish”
5. This is 40 – I love Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann. Apatow knows how to make an awkward moment super funny.

Now, the list. Remember, these are my favorite. They are not necessarily the best.

5. Looper – Rian Johnson is a magnificent storyteller. This movie was ambitious as it was inventive. It had a very realistic impression that made it easy to ignore some of the plot holes. I am partial to Bruce Willis, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Emily Blunt. The three of them were great in this movie about choices, time travel, and love. While I did not like it as much as Brick, it made me think and left an impact on me. I am eagerly anticipating revisiting this film and hope that Johnson makes more in the genre.

4. The Cabin in the Woods – This “genre-bender” was so unexpected; I didn’t even get to see it in theaters. Luckily I went in without knowing much about it. That is the way to see this movie. If you don’t like horror, fine, this is not a horror. Just a great movie that is fun, and interesting, and does not fit into any stereotype of any characters or plots. Joss Whedon’s finger prints are all over this. I guarantee this will become a yearly viewing every October.

3. Django Unchained – The older Tarantino gets, the less he embellishes himself in his movies. Both Inglorious Basterds and Django Unchained are perfectly executed. Django was well-paced, fun, violent, and was a great “western”. Jamie Foxx and Christoph Waltz had a chemistry that oozed off the screen and the show was stolen by Leonardo DiCaprio’s psychotic villain. While I do not believe that Reservoir Dogs has stood the test of time, I believe this movie shows that QT has fully matured and become a completely realized and capable director and writer. I want to see more and more.

2. Cloud Atlas – This is a movie that I ear-marked as “suspicious”. I was interested in seeing the latest from The Matrix creators, The Wachowskis. The first trailers looked kind of cool, and the closer the release date got, the less interested I became. Then I saw the movie and was not immediately moved. It was not until the second viewing that I started analyzing and thinking and feeling what the movie was about. This is a movie to be experienced multiple times, each time learning more about yourself and the story. The visuals were unsurprisingly stunning, the score was fantastic, and the acting was superb. This is one of the most ambitious movies ever made, therefore it has imperfections. But there are so many layers and emotions to be uncovered in this film, that the journey is the most important thing. It delivers beyond hope in that regard. This movie can change the way you look at big budget studio films.

1. Moonrise Kingdom – I have been a vocal supporter of Wes Anderson since I saw Rushmore. I love every one of his movies; this may make me extremely biased. I love The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and The Darjeeling Limited more than The Royal Tenenbaums. This may make me a “hipster” and it most definitely makes me a blind supporter. I do not care; Moonrise Kingdom was such an amazing movie! It had that awesome 60s atmosphere with the best cast Anderson has put together yet. It was about children, without watering them down and making them “cute”. It had depth and meaning and if you cannot relate to any of the characters, you probably don’t have a soul. I am not quite ready for this to dethrone Rushmore as my favorite Wes Anderson film, but it is close.

You may be asking where Lincoln and The Master fit. They don’t. I thought Lincoln was really interesting, but we all knew how it was going to end, and it felt like a History Channel special. I had extremely high hopes for The Master; I really liked all of P.T. Anderson’s previous films. I think There Will Be Blood is one of the best movies ever made, it had emotional weight. The Master was interesting, and the actors were phenomenal, but I never felt strong emotions about the characters or the story. This may be a fault of mine and not the director.

I also hated Killing Them Softly. Brad Pitt was good, but the movie was bland and nearly put me to sleep.

Honorable Mentions:
Chronicle – out of left field! Great movie.
Dredd – one of the best pure and brutal action movies made in a long time. Inspired by, but not too much like The Raid.
The Comedy – not a true comedy, but Tim and Eric are brilliant.

Other movies I liked:
Zero Dark Thirty, Holy Motors, Argo, Ruby Sparks, Flight, The Grey, Your Sister’s Sister, Lawless, Life of Pi.

What Designer are you wearing? Who cares?! 2012 Oscar Selections!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I love the Oscars, I hate the Oscars. It is like the Super Bowl at my house. I come back every year and dig in deep and see as many of the films as I can, that is the great part; expanding my mind through the education of a wide range of films. The thing I hate is the stupidity of the Academy and its predictable and political motives. I can get over it easy, because I love films, actors, writers, set designers, etc., etc.

This year I am taking a different approach. Instead of actually predicting who I think will win, I will just tell you my choice in these selected categories. I am typically 50% wrong, it is not because I do not know what I am talking about, it is because I cannot set aside my personal taste and preference when it comes to these “art” films.

Also, follow me on twitter @jwfyler as I “live-tweet” the show. Because you really care about my opinion. I will try to be funny, I make no promises.

 

Sound Mixing

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Hugo

Moneyball

Transformers: Dark of the Moon

War Horse

I am not exactly sure how they actually choose the winner in this category. Of the five, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo had the best mix of all the sounds in it. Haha.

 

Sound Editing

Drive

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Hugo

Transformers: Dark of the Moon

War Horse

This is the only thing that Drive is nominated for, thus, it should win.

 

Visual Effects

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

Hugo

Real Steel

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Rise of the Planet of the Apes did a great honor to the original movies by keeping the same level excellence. CG, backgrounds, all of it was fantastic.

 

Film Editing

The Artist

The Descendants

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Hugo

Moneyball

David Fincher’s team knows how to pace a movie, editing is the key to his success. Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall are true wizards.

 

Makeup

Albert Nobbs

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

The Iron Lady

Old ladies, women as men, done before. I think this category is a joke this year. The original Planet of the Apes should just hold this honor for all time.

 

Art Direction

The Artist

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

Hugo

Midnight in Paris

War Horse

More so than the other films on the list, it felt exactly like the time period. Not just as a movie, but the atmosphere, acting, and color were all perfect.

 

Cinematography

The Artist

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Hugo

The Tree of Life

War Horse

Back to Fincher’s team. Angles, speed, focus, these things matter more than people ever realize. Jeff Cronenweth started with Fight Club and has kept that level of greatness in all his work.

 

Costume Design

Anonymous

The Artist

Hugo

Jane Eyre

W.E.

I hate the Jane Eyre story, it is so boring. I find that I am of a small percentage here. The film did have great casting and costumes. A classic British tale, it is kind of a shoe in. Michael O’Connor has already won for The Duchess.

 

Foreign Language Film

Bullhead

Footnote

In Darkness

Monsieur Lazhar

A Separation

Sadly, this is the only one I have any experience with. I make a promise do to better in this category next year.

 

Documentary Feature

Hell and Back Again

If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front

Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory

Pina

Undefeated

Again, the only one that I actually saw. It was so good though. The story of the Memphis Three, this film is one of three that have been a major factor in bringing this case to light across the whole country.

 

Animated Feature Film

A Cat in Paris

Chico & Rita

Kung Fu Panda 2

Puss in Boots

Rango

Down year for animation. A Gore Verbinski/Johnny Depp film has the best shot in a year when Pixar put out a turd.

 

Music (Original Score)

The Adventures of Tintin

The Artist

Hugo

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

War Horse

John Williams holds the record for most Academy Awards nominations of any living person. He has two in the fight, and I preferred War Horse. This is a situation where I cannot set aside body of work.

 

Music (Original Song)

Man or Muppet

Real in Rio

Only two nominated. Bret McKenzie, of Flight of the Concords fame, wrote a song worthy of The Muppets I grew up with.

 

Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

The Descendants

Hugo

The Ides of March

Moneyball

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

I have not read the original material, but of these five films, The Descendants felt the most honest and real. It was an interesting family tail that had depth without being too depressing.

 

Writing (Original Screenplay)

The Artist

Bridesmaids

Margin Call

Midnight in Paris

A Separation

Woody Allen either nails it, or bores me with the same old game. Midnight in Paris was funny, witty, and not over the top. Plus I love the 20s.

 

Actress in a Supporting Role

Berenice Bejo: The Artist

Jessica Chastain: The Help

Melissa McCarthy: Bridesmaids

Janet McTeer: Albert Nobbs

Octavia Spencer: The Help

No stand outs here, in my opinion. That said, Octavia stole the show in The Help and I really hope she wins.

 

Actor in a Supporting Role

Kenneth Branagh: My Week with Marilyn

Jonah Hill: Moneyball

Nick Nolte: Warrior

Christopher Plummer: Beginners

Max von Sydow: Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

This is really tough. Nick Nolte gave his best performance since Blue Chips and I have a soft spot for Christopher Plummer (General Chang). My final decision came down to the fact the Plummer played more out of his element and was marvelous. Nolte was extremely believable, but not an unexpected role.

 

Actress in a Leading Role

Glenn Close: Albert Nobbs

Viola Davis: The Help

Rooney Mara: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Meryl Streep: The Iron Lady

Michelle Williams: My Week with Marilyn

Another hard one. Rooney Mara took over a role that was done very well by Noomi Rapace, but she did it all better. She was brutal, mean, sexy, vulnerable, all the stuff the Academy looks for. Michelle Williams was the perfect Marilyn Monroe, which is a great feat. I loathe Meryl Streep and Glenn Close; they very seldom evoke any emotion in me. I will call a tie between Williams and Mara, loved them both…Oh, I can’t do that? Ok, Michelle Williams, there.

 

Actor in a Leading Role

Demian Bichir: A Better Life

George Clooney: The Descendants

Jean Dujardin: The Artist

Gary Oldman: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Brad Pitt: Moneyball

Most of the time the person who wins this category is an anti-hero of sorts, or an addict, or dying, etc. George Clooney showed me his great acting talent by pulling off a completely normal and real human being in a somewhat unusual circumstance. When I “buy” an actor, is when I no longer see that person, and I can imagine it would be hard to fully commit to someone who has no great conflict, disease, or war and completely “sell” it.

That being said, I think Michael Fassbender should have been nominated for Shame, and should win. He did four movies this year; his body of work is incomparable this year. I know, “the Oscar’s aren’t about body of work”. Really? Scorsese won for The Departed and not Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, or Goodfellas?

Someone else who had a great body of work this year was Ryan Gosling, three great films. Drive is crazy-awesome.

 

Directing

The Artist: Michel Hazanavicius

The Descendants: Alexander Payne

Hugo: Martin Scorsese

Midnight in Paris: Woody Allen

The Tree of Life: Terrance Malick

I think this was the best movie of the year, and in turn Martin Scorsese the best director. Malick’s The Tree of Life was too much of an art piece for me to think that he/it was the best. The other three are on the next level of good.

 

Best Picture

The Artist

The Descendants

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

The Help

Hugo

Midnight in Paris

Moneyball

The Tree of Life

War Horse

The most heart, the most interesting, and the most entertaining. A great film about a boy who has fallen in love with film and technology before Hollywood and before computers and smart phones controlled our lives. The awe and wonder of this film struck a chord because I remember falling in love with motion pictures at a young age. I related to this film, thus my choice for Best Picture.

Hey, you want a toothpick? Top 5 Favorite Films of 2011

Over 250 films are released in the average year. I do not get to see even half of them. That being said, I saw a lot of movies this year. Marvel literally exploded, David Fincher continues to put out great products, and Woody Allen won me over again. Some of my favorite filmmakers did not contribute to this year, so for me it was a bit of a down year. Down in that there were only about 20 films that I really liked. Of those 20 or so, these are my favorites:

5. X-Men: First Class – this is what an X-Men movie should look like. Thanks to Bryan Singer’s vision and his involvement in this picture, I believe we have come full circle since the 2000 cinematic super hero explosion. Singer produced and Matthew Vaughn directed this long delayed, much changed, rushed version of the beginning of the X-Men universe. Vaughn’s follow up to Kick-Ass, this film marks his first attempt and big time Hollywood blockbuster. Taking place in the 60s at the height of the Cold War, Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr meet, become friends, and introduce the world to mutants. It was executed perfectly, mainly because the casting was so fantastic. Fassbender as Magneto was inspired casting in the class of Patrick Stewart, Christian Bale, Hugh Jackman and Heath Ledger. This movie is cool, historical, fun, and makes you feel something other than just visual stimulation. It makes me excited to see what will happen next with my favorite super hero franchise.

4. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo- This did not originally make the list. It was because I wanted to avoid comparison with the original and the source material, plus I always put Fincher in my Top 5. After a second viewing, I knew that I enjoyed it so much; I could not leave it off the list. This mystery-thriller that takes place in Sweden is a return to form for David Fincher. Think back to his 90s films that were edgy, witty, and unapologetic. Se7en, The Game, Fight Club; these films caused some outcry about desensitization and the current state of movies. This film is dark, depressing, exciting, and has the perfect amount of Fincher charm. A story about a washed up journalist who is trying to solve an old case, then gets mixed up with a girl with a shady past and together they uncover years of deception, hatred, and cruelty. Rooney Mara is someone to watch in the future, I have been cheering since her small role in 2010’s The Social Network, also a David Fincher movie. Though not an original piece of work, this movie was great and, I think, better than the Swedish version. Nice to see that Fincher still has the Indie chops after a decade of Zodiac, Benjamin Button, and The Social Network. Plus the opening credits are really cool.

3. Drive- This was the most unexpected film of the year. Ryan Gosling is usually pretty good, I do not flock to his movies the way some people (read: critics and girls) do. But, this film was masterful on his part. He is a reserved individual with a great talent for driving for whoever offers him work. He has a moral code that keeps him alive. When he breaks that code and falls for a girl, trouble follows. This movie has a great soundtrack, style, atmosphere, acting, etc. etc. Just a great piece of realism and understatement. If you like the grand theft auto games, if you like Gosling, if you like mob movies, or you just like good movies; check it out.

2. Midnight in Paris- A somewhat unexpected addition to the list. I like Woody Allen films, but I don’t typically love them. Annie Hall is good, Scoop is great, and there are a couple in between. Then there are the bad ones too. I will leave my opinions on those as to let you decide how you like your Woody Allen. Midnight in Paris is a great one. Owen Wilson is back to his element of being a little self-deprecating and witty as opposed to boyish and charming. I like Wilson like this, let Luke be the good looking one. Only a few movies make me want to see Paris, 2 are on this list. The more I think about it though; it is not modern Paris, but the pre-WWII France that I desire. Much like Owen Wilson’s character, I love the 1920s. Hemingway, Dali, and probably my favorite, Fitzgerald. The Great Gatsby was the start of obsession with the roaring 20s. The cast is great fun and well put together in small and large roles a like. I think Woody Allen is at his best when adding a little fantasy and philosophy to his films, so much as to avoid some of his neurotic overplaying of relationships. This is solid romantic comedy with an original take and lighthearted attitude.

1. Hugo- I was able to avoid seeing this in 3D, I believe that made all the difference. There is so much to say about this film, but I will edit myself. It takes place in 1931 and primarily in a train station. A story of a boy who has lost his father and whose imagination sets him on a journey that is not at all self-serving. That is a great delight in modern cinema, a hero who in the end helps someone else more than he helps himself. Set in Paris after the first war, the depth and atmosphere that Martin Scorsese creates is fantastic and shows his love of film history. I am no scholar of film, but I know the story of Georges Méliès and fell in love with the pictures from A Trip to the Moon in collage. This is the best PG movie I have seen that was not Pixar in a long time. It captures to the wonder of motion pictures and the purity of children who experience them, not just view them. The only other film that I have seen that balances childhood, adventure, and a history of film so well is Cinema Paradiso. Movies do not have to be gimmicks and mindless entertainment; they can mean something and speak to our inner adventurer who we have hidden since we “grew up”. This will be a film that I will revisit throughout the years.

Another year done with movies and I feel I fall further and further behind, I saw what I could and enjoyed myself immensely.

Top 5 Movies of 2010

To round out the first series of Top 5, I have saved the best for last. My Top 5 favorite films of 2010. These may not be the very best films, they may not be recognized by the Academy or Rotten Tomatoes, but I have seen a lot of movies and these accomplished their goal as well as entertained me.

5. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

A movie about a guy in love dealing with his girlfriend’s exes has never been so funny and “epic”. Witty comedy and splashy special effects let you know you are at the movies, this film hides nothing. It gives audiences what they want, nerdy bass players kicking the crap out of Brandon Routh.

This movie is directed by Edgar Wright of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz fame. Stars Michael Cera in the title role, with a supporting cast that includes Chris Evans, Kieran Culkin, Jason Schwartzman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and Anna Kendrick. This ensemble made for great cameos as well as awesome villains; no one steals the show while they all do.

For a generation of boys and girls obsessed with getting to the next boss and winning all the coins, this movie nails it. At the same time funny and awesome. It is Rom-Com meets Capcom.

4. Toy Story 3

I may be partial to this movie, seeing as how I was 9 when the first in the trilogy was released. My timeline fits very neatly with Andy’s, I have my X-Men and Star Wars action figures in the attic waiting for my son. I cried in this movie multiple times, Pixar can do that to grown men.

Directed by Lee Unkrich, written by the Pixar team lead by John Lasseter, this is my favorite Pixar film since Toy Story was released in 1995. This film, as with any good sequel, has matured out of the original story. Woody has grown more laid back; Buzz and Jessie are less adventurous. They all still hold hope that one day they will be played with again. It is a theme I first saw in the John Lasseter original idea of The Brave Little Toaster (1987). What if the things we cherish so much as a child have personalities and life, and what if we outgrow them?

Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, and Ned Beatty top of the cast of the masterful animated adventure. See any Disney Pixar film you can, but most definitely see the Toy Story Trilogy.

3. Black Swan

Hauntingly real and insane at the same time. Having little interest in ballet, this film made me scared of ballerinas. This movie is about a young girl who receives the part of the swan princess in Swan Lake. She performs her version of the white swan flawlessly, it is her black swan that she has trouble letting go of. In an effort to set free her inner darkness for the performance of a lifetime she opens up a side of herself she had been hiding for many years. Obsession is an understatement in this film.

Directed immaculately by Darren Aronofsky and starring Natalie Portman in the title role, with Vincent Cassel and Mila Kunis. As much as I love Requiem for a Dream and The Fountain, I firmly believe this is Aronofsky’s best work. It is simple and to the point, yet you still leave somewhat baffled by what you just witnessed.

Natalie Portman will win the Oscar. This story of the depth of the human mind reaches a part of you that you may be aware of but do not understand. It is portrayed to perfection by an incredible cast. If you don’t like ballet, go see this movie, you may learn to fear it.

2. Inception

This was the movie I most anticipated this year. After hearing about Christopher Nolan’s idea for this film after The Dark Knight, I knew it would be incredible. A large blockbuster that is crazy-awesome that really boils down to love and loved lost.

Written and directed by Christopher Nolan, who first bent our minds with Memento (2000). A great ensemble cast of Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Ken Watanabe, Tom Hardy, Marion Cotillard, and Cillian Murphy. The best group of actors in a movie since Ocean’s Eleven.

The wonder of this movie is that it is a tragic love story hidden as a heist movie, hidden as a science fiction film, hidden as a summer action smash. You have to watch it over and over again to through all the levels, but they are there. This one didn’t surprise, but it did exceed expectations.

1. The Social Network

600 million people use Facebook, that is a BIG number. This is a dramatic retelling of how that came to be. How a self proclaimed nerd got pissed off one night and started a revolution with a friend. There can be an argument made that this may be the most relevant movie made for its time. I think so. I have a Facebook, chances are you do to. Mark Zuckerberg can be thanked for that. In the film it is balanced between loving him and hating him, but if you stop and think, you will somewhat understand him. He is a genius, he made money on it, anyone else would do the same if given the opportunity.

David Fincher makes great movies that make people think. All the way back to Se7en up to the Oscar darling The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, he loves his craft. He saturates his films with a blurry vision reality, of heightened versions of characters that we want to follow into project mayhem. The young and untested cast sold this film. The three players are Jesse Eisenberg as Zuckerberg, Andrew Garfield as Eduardo, and Justin Timberlake as Sean Parker. These three young men are guaranteed bright futures (Timberlake as an actor). The honesty they each gave to their characters made you forget you were watching actors. That is a sign of a great film.

On a philosophical, emotional, intellectual level, this movie connected with me and obviously many others. Great pace, great vision, great acting. The most perfect film of 2010.

Honorable mentions

6. True Grit

7. The King’s Speech

8. Kick-Ass

9. The Town

10. Tron: Legacy

Top 5 Performances 2010

The first part of this inaugural 3-part series is Top 5 Performances by actors (actresses) in 2010.

5. Jeff Bridges is suddenly very popular. Again. Most people who have recent memory of Bridges think of him as “The Dude” from The Big Lebowski, a masterpiece by the Coen Brothers. This year, after winning an Academy Award, he returns as the great-great-great grandfather of the dude, Rooster Cogburn. Another Coen Brothers film, True Grit is more an adaptation of the novel by Charles Portis, then a remake of the John Wayne classic. In the film a young girl is out for revenge for her father’s murder and she hires Marshal Cogburn to help her in this, despite is unkempt appearance, foul attitude, and willingness to bend to rules, he is a man with “True Grit”. While the character is from a novel and not an original, Bridges makes it feel new and add that to the dialogue, pace, and tone of the Joel and Ethan Coen, you get a wonderfully true performance. This is what Jeff Bridges does best, honest and heartfelt acting, true to form; he nails nearly every performance he ever does. This is no exception.

I will also mention his performance in Tron: Legacy, a perfect sequel to the Disney classic. In this movie Bridges returns as the hero, Flynn, who is now stuck in digital frontier he helped create. His son must come to his rescue some 20 years later. The moment you realize that Bridges gives his all is in the end when you see his face and his pain and love are perfectly mixed as he must save his son and destroy his creation. Even in this “popcorn” movie, Bridges goes all out.

4. Jesse Eisenberg has been in three movies I have seen. These are Adventureland, Zombieland, and The Social Network. Except for the last one, he was easily written off, good, funny, and not memorable by any means. Then this year we waited for yet another David Fincher film that would touch a nerve. The Social Network did just that, being part of a generation who barely remembers before we could check a girl’s “relationship status”, it was amazing to see where that very idea was born. This film, which takes many liberties with the story of Mark Zuckerberg and the birth of Facebook, seems the most modern of films in recent memory. Eisenberg plays Zuckerberg with a pace and tone of the genius that he obviously is. While the attitude may be a bit contrived, I believed every second of story, from being broken up with and blogging about it, to the lack of interest in breaking one million users. You never hate the character, you barely feel sorry for him either, you simply understand him, somewhat, and because you have Facebook and you now appreciate how it came to be. Eisenberg will not win an Academy Award, but being cast in a Fincher film is a major step in the right direction. I applaud his performance, and continue to watch this movie over and over again.

3. Hailee Steinfeld came out of nowhere. Of all the performances this year, this one was unexpected. In True Grit, Mattie Ross is narrator, heroine, and driving force behind the chase for justice. This 14 year old girl fits perfectly into this western world of Arkansas and the Oklahoma Territory; she stands her ground with Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, and Barry Pepper. As good as Bridges is in the film, Steinfeld is better. Having read the book a week before seeing this film, she embodies what Portis wrote. She is not whining, but determined and driven to get the revenge that will not satisfy her after her father’s death. Steinfeld has a bright future and like so many of the young actors this year, she has benefited from working with great directors and will hopefully continue to do so.

2. Colin Firth is King George VI. Having little knowledge of the British monarchy during World War II, I found this piece of historical fiction both entertaining and very interesting. Firth is the Duke of York, second son of King George V, he has a severe speech impediment which has embarrassed him most of his life. In an age of radio broadcasts across the country and the world, the prince is at a great disadvantage when it comes to public speaking. His old brother abdicates the thrown due to marrying a divorced woman, and Albert (his birth name) is forced to be crowned King of England. Firth plays this out smoothly, as do his peers Helena Bonham Carter and Geoffrey Rush, this film shows a modern king who is in the shadow of his father and brother and who’s only friend is an eccentric linguist, Firth embodies this king and shows his humanity. He is funny, noble, brave, and angry and you believe Firth has a real fear of speaking and has a hard time handling emotions of any sort. By far the best performance by any actor in a leading role, obviously the critics and the Hollywood Foreign Press agree.

1. Natalie Portman has dedication and heart, so much so, it is scary in Black Swan. Portman portrays a young ballerina who competes to be the swan princess, her white swan is clean and perfect, and it is her black swan that is not sensual, devious, and dark enough. The greatest performance by any actor is when you completely forget that they are acting and you believe you are seeing something completely different. This is nearly impossible to do, but Portman does it so flawlessly. We believe she is insecure, obsessive, and that she is going crazy. Darren Aronofsky sets the tone, the lighting, the angle, and Portman takes you into the psyche of young woman who will give everything for the greatest performance of her life. It is apparent that Portman will win all the awards, and I rightly agree. Her performance is the best performance by any actor, male or female.