Oscar Nominations 2011: My Thoughts

The nominations for the 83rd Annual Academy Awards were announced early this morning and, like most years, it seemed to be quite the ho-hum affair – very few surprises, many who were snubbed, and even more who won a nomination thanks in part to fervent studio campaigning and “bandwagon word-of-mouth” via the blitzkrieg that is the media. Though it doesn’t lead the pack in nominations garnered, David Fincher’s The Social Network looks to be the early odds-on favorite – and though I thought it was a very good film, I can’t help but think how lucky it is to be released in what was yet another weak year in motion pictures. I look at the titles of the 120+ films I have screened so far this year (and still a few I must soon see) and see many good films that made their way to movie screens in 2010. What I fail to see are many great films released. One, two….three? Does anyone see three? Can I get a three? Anyone? [insert cricket noise here] It seems to me, to be indicative of last year and the recent years that preceded it – a bunch of solid, quality films and very few truly remarkable ones.

In any case, I thought I would share with you my immediate reactions to the list of nominations for this year’s Oscar. Please feel free to comment and leave your own thoughts on the Oscar race.

And let’s be real. All of these Awards ceremonies, the gluttony of presentations we see with each new year are just fodder…they really don’t mean very much at all…To be honest, it is all just meaningless filler – that is, until my own prestigious Magic Lantern Award nominations are announced! The most distinguished always makes the final entrance – and, if I may say, that holds true here as well. I will make sure to post the 1st Annual Magic Lantern Awards noms within 7-10 days. Sorry for the delay – I just need to make sure and see a few more select films.

OK, enough. My quick reactions to the Oscar noms:

What is the point of having a category for the ‘Best Animated Feature’ if you are just going to consider these films for the ‘Best Picture’ category? It seems to me that nominating Toy Story 3 for ‘Best Picture’ is an absolute waste – and completely unfair to a number of films that were very deserving of the 10th slot. We all know how this plays out anyway – no chance in hell of winning ‘Best Picture,’ but a shoo-in to win the Animated category.

I was afraid that Jesse Eisenberg would win a ‘Best Actor’ nom and sure enough, he did. Eisenberg did what he always does in the very same manner. He just happened to do it in a critically acclaimed film. What’s next? Michael Cera gets a nod for the one role he doesn’t wear a hoodie for?

Kudos to the voters for remembering and honoring much smaller/lesser seen films that deserve recognition such as: Jacki Warner’s chilling performance in Animal Kingdom, John Hawkes’ terrific work in Winter’s Bone, the intriguing documentary Waste Land, the very nice costume designs in the otherwise lackluster I Am Love, the impressive art direction and costumes in Alice in Wonderland.

Did Robert Duvall do or say something to piss Hollywood off at some point? His performance in Get Low was one of the year’s best and I thought, a shoo-in for a ‘Best Actor’ nom. Seems a shame that James Franco and Eisenberg get these slots. Don’t worry, Bob…there’s always the Magic Lantern nomination soon coming.

Speaking of James Franco – it has crossed my mind that if he were not co-hosting the Oscars this year, he would not have been voted in for ‘Best Actor.’ So he cut off an arm. Big deal. Not many stand-out performers by lead actors this year, but I can think of 5 better right off the bat. And while on the topic of hosts – this odd experiment of Franco and Anne Hathaway has boring flop written all over it.

Thank you voters for not encouraging the pretentiousness of Christopher Nolan with a ‘Best Director’ nomination. It’s bad enough the film is nominated for Picture (though certainly deserving of its Cinematography and Art Direction nominations). Thank God it was left out of the Editing category too – because that could have used some chopping up.

I saw Rabbit Hole (good) and Blue Valentine (not so good). Nicole Kidman and Michelle Williams give good performances. That’s it. Good. So many others are far more deserving this year – we nominate male leads in foreign films…why not Hye-ja Kim (Mother) or Noomi Rapace for giving the year’s gutsiest performance in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. The omission of Rapace is this year’s biggest snub. And, Annette Bening surely deserves a nomination here – they just picked the wrong film to nominate her from.

I am thrilled to see little-seen The Illusionist nominated in the ‘Best Animated Film’ category. But where the hell is the absolutely charming and intelligent My Dog Tulip? The film has received nothing but praise and they only nominate three films anyway. Seems to be a glaring omission from here. Gorgeous animation, wonderful narration by Christopher Plummer and one of the year’s smarter films.

Jeff Bridges. That is all.

Looks like comedies get left out in the cold again. It’s tough to squeeze them in, I understand – but in looking at all of the nominations – there aren’t a lot of laughs going around. City Island, Kick-Ass, Wonderful World, Please Give are all fine films…just couldn’t break through here. I know I piss all over the Golden Globes, but maybe the Oscars should start thinking of having a ‘Best Comedic Film’ category. Something to mull over, at least.

I still strongly believe there needs to be an award for “Best Performance by a Child.” There always seems to be a few solid performances given by actors under the age of 16. It is my belief that the work of a young child of say, 12 should not be compared to the work of an actor with years of experience and training. This would also avoid the whole Tatum O’Neal and Anna Paquin disasters. The Academy made the smart step in creating a category for animated films – this needs to be the next step. Chloe Moretz was too good this year to be excluded and Ms. Hailee Steinfeld (who was wonderful in True Grit) should not be going up against the multi-layered talents of Helena Bonham-Carter and Melissa Leo.

We’ll see how the race takes shape over the next few weeks. The King’s Speech made a mighty statement by winning the most nominations, perhaps putting a small dent in the momentum of The Social Network. Right now, it seems like a 2-horse race, but again…we’ll see how the media’s influence starts to shape the outcome.

As always, I am looking forward to watching the telecast, despite the inane choice in hosts and predictable ‘Best Picture’ nominations.

Next Up – The Magic Lantern Award Nominations!!!

You know…the real shit!

10 Fun Film Superlatives for 2010

Two things. One is that with 2010 now complete, everyone’s Top 10 lists have been coming out. I can’t do this just yet as there are still a handful of films I need to see before composing my own. I never like to rush such a list as I take it kind of seriously (too seriously, if you ask me) and it takes a while for me to figure it all out. So my personal Top 10 List of 2010 will probably be posted in the next few weeks.

Second nugget. I don’t follow any Awards shows, but have been glued to the Oscars since I was a child. I watch them each year without fail and many close to me refer to the Oscars telecast as my Christmas. I know they are very political in nature, but this does not seem to deter my passion for following them. Each year that the nominees are announced, I (like most of my film blogging companions) am left feeling happy for some who are recognized and angered at the omissions who I feel were worthy of great praise. I see where all of the marketing, campaigning and politicking take effect and taint the list of nominees. So, I have come up with my own solution. Now that I wield such enormous power with this Film Blog, I will start my very own listing of Awards — The Magic Lantern Awards. I will post my own list of nominees in the “major” categories and decide upon a winner, who will be awarded the prestigious Lantern (small print: actual award not real). Sure it will all be just one movie buff’s opinion, but I shall not be swayed by anything doled out by the media or other awards ceremonies. So I will be working on that and releasing the nominees quite soon (I know – you are all waiting with bated breath).

In the meantime, here are 10 superlatives (or stand-outs) in film for the 2010 year – 6 very positive and 4 that are…well, not so positive. As always, your comments and feedback are encouraged. And here we go!

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT

Awarded To: The Red Riding Trilogy

This honor does not go to a terrible film that I wasn’t expecting much from in the first place (see Grown Ups or Cop Out). This is for a movie I thought would be great and turned out to be a big let-down. When I saw the trailers for The Red Riding trilogy, I couldn’t wait to see all three films (1974, 1980, 1983) that centered around the Yorkshire killer. It looked suspenseful, exciting and dark. Turns out that it was all one big snoozefest. I couldn’t believe how slow and uninteresting it all was. What a downer.

MOST OVERRATED FILM

Awarded To: Inception

I have already come to terms with the fact that Christopher Nolan’s opus is going to garner a slew of awards and nominations in the months ahead. I want to make clear that I don’t think this was a bad film at all. There were some great aspects to it (see my review here). I just never got on the bandwagon that many bloggers and critics hitched to declaring it to be some kind of masterpiece. It was visually stunning and challenged its audience. But there was a lot left to be desired, such as plot holes, poor characterization, and much needless over-indulgence on Nolan’s part. Again, not a bad flick – just so highly overrated.

Honorable mention should go to all the praise that Jesse Eisenberg is getting for his lead role in The Social Network. I really liked this movie and he was fine in it – but he really didn’t do anything he hasn’t already done in his other films. Same delivery, same persona, same style. I am hoping that a ‘Best Actor’ Oscar slot isn’t wasted on this mediocre performance.

BIGGEST PIECE OF SELF INDULGENCE

Awarded To:     Prodigal Sons

I wanted to go with Casey Affleck’s I’m Still Here — absolutely fitting in that it seemed as if Joaquin Phoenix and Affleck served only to gratify themselves here with this ho-hum project. In the end, I had to go with Prodigal Sons, a documentary by Kimberly Reed. Reed happily turns the camera on herself (and her family) in her return to Montana for her high school reunion where she was once a star athlete, and yes, a young man. In her long absence away from home, she had a sex change operation which has caused much friction between herself and her adopted brother, Marc. Marc made for a fascinating subject, but Reed is so overly concerned with herself throughout the film that we are left wanting more of an exploration on Marc. It is oh-so-obvious that she wants so desperately to get dramatic reactions from her old classmates when they now see her as a woman. It backfires, as everyone seems more than fine with the extreme transformation. The whole time I kept thinking this came off as a glorified home video made by someone who wants much more attention than she deserves. A real, “Look At Me!” piece of filmmaking.

BIGGEST WASTE OF MY VALUABLE TIME

Awarded To:     Catfish

Again, I’d love to go with Grown Ups here, but I kinda knew what I was in for walking into the theater. Instead, I’ll go with the “documentary” that led viewers to think one thing in the trailer and provide something completely unsatisfying with the end product. I have made my strong feelings pretty clear in earlier postings (see here), so I will try not to repeat myself. Suffice it to say that this was a manipulative, anti-climatic and insulting film. And after the appearance made by its creators (Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman, & Nev Schulman) on the nationally televised “20/20,” I still say that they’re hypocrites (see why here). This was a tremendous waste of 87 minutes that I will never get back – 87 minutes that I would have rather spent doing something else that I hate…like trying to repair something or ironing all of my trousers…even turn on any of the crap that airs on primetime TV would have been a welcome reprieve.

And Now For The Good….

 

BEST ENSEMBLE CAST

Awarded To:     The Fighter

Marc Wahlberg, as the struggling boxer Mickey Ward, is very good as the centerpiece to David O. Russell’s powerful film….the supporting cast around him is nothing short of extraordinary. The casting could not have been more ideal here. Melissa Leo again proves that she is one of our most gifted actors (though often overlooked) in a towering performance as matriarch of her clan. Though the character doesn’t win our sympathy, Leo certainly owns the screen and commands our attention. Jack McGee plays her husband and is terrific as a man torn between his loyalty towards his wife and his dilemma-ridden son. All of the Eklund sisters are cast beautifully and have the look and feel of Lowell, Massachusetts. It is also a pleasure to watch Amy Adams finally take off the princess tiara and get her hands dirty in a meaty role that she takes complete advantage of. Adams is wonderful and is a force to be reckoned with as she battles wits with her boyfriend’s over-protective mother. She is also pretty damn sexy to watch as well. But the real standout among this talented ensemble is Christian Bale. Now, I am not a fan and I really don’t much care for the guy, but I never let my personal feelings inhibit my critique and what this gifted actor does as Dicky Eklund, the drug-addicted former boxer clinging to a what-might-have-been past, is nothing short of spectacular. Sitting in the theatre, I could not believe what Bale was doing and he had my complete attention. A marvelous performance that is deserving of every accolade I am sure it will get. A stellar job by a top-notch cast.

Honorable Mentions The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and You will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger

BIGGEST WAKE-UP CALL

Awarded To:     Waiting for Superman

As I said in my initial review (which you can view here), if you have a child or want to see how pathetic the education system is in this country (as opposed to others who are ahead of us by leaps and bounds), then you must see this eye-opening documentary by Davis Guggenheim. The statistics here are startling as teachers and school systems across the country continue to fail the generations of tomorrow. Unlike Guggenheim’s An Inconvenient Truth, which I considered to be a somewhat biased documentary with some errors in facts presented, Waiting for Superman is not subjective at all and lets the facts do all the talking. The film explores our joke of a tenure system as well as those educational crusaders who know how to turn the madness around and educate our children properly – but fight tremendous opposition and a futile uphill battle. Like Food, Inc., The Cove and Jesus Camp, this is an alarming wake-up call for anyone who is willing to open their eyes.

MOST IMPRESSIVE BREAKTHROUGH PERFORMANCE

Awarded To:     Noomi Rapace (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo)

This was a toughie as the distinction could just as easily go to Jennifer Lawrence (Winter’s Bone), Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit), or Chloe Moretz (Kick-Ass; Let Me In) – all doing astounding work in 2010. I must also add that it is nice to actually embrace and feel good about the success of a child star…I was getting so used to experiencing my knee-jerk reaction of wanting to turn off the TV if my eyes landed on Dakota Fanning.

In the end though, I was left most impressed by the work of Swedish actress, Noomi Rapace for her jaw-dropping performance in the Stieg Larsson trilogy (mostly for its 1st installment, which I still can’t get out of my mind). Rapace turned in one of the most courageous performances by a leading actress that I have seen in years (Tilda Swinton in Julia or Mimi Rogers in The Rapture come to mind). As the troubled and fearless computer hacker Lisbeth Salander, Rapace is flawless and is more than up to the ever-demanding task of everything this poor character has to endure. And it’s not simply what Rapace must portray, but her every move, however subtle, is right on the money. It angers and upsets me that her name is barely being mentioned by critics throughout all of the year-end Awards hoopla. Was the first film released too soon in the year? Is everyone’s memory that poor? Or is it because she is a foreign actress that we are not acknowledging this remarkable talent? Whatever the case, the American version of this trilogy is (sadly) in the works and I don’t even have to see it to feel secure in the fact that no matter how effective Rooney Mara may be, she won’t come close to what Rapace was able to capture here.

MOST DESERVING OF AN OSCAR NOMINATION
(Though Will Likely Be Snubbed)

Awarded To:     Noomi Rapace (see above)

                   

You can also include Michael Nyqvist for the same film, who many overlook and is overshadowed by the “showier” role of Lisbeth. I also fear that Hye-ja Kim’s fascinating performance in Joon-ho Bong’s compelling Mother will go unnoticed, due to either forgetfulness and/or sheer ignorance. Jeff Bridges rightfully won the Oscar for ‘Best Actor’ last year and I hope that doesn’t deter those in power to nominate him once again for his magnificent turn as the drunken U.S. Marshal, Rooster Cogburn in the Coen Brothers’ impressive remake of True Grit. It should come as a shock to no one that Bridges is the epitome of awesomeness in this gripping western.

BEST FILM YOU HAVEN’T SEEN

Awarded To:    Cemetery Junction

I was getting used to seeing Ricky Gervais in ridiculously funny comedies, but here, he and co-writer/director Stephen Merchant present us with a more touching and heartfelt dramatic comedy. This is one of the films that I can’t imagine anyone watching and not enjoying it. Set in the 1970’s in a blue-collar English town, the movie revolves around 3 young friends, with one (Christian Cooke as Freddie) dying to get out and onto bigger and better things. The supporting cast is great, which includes a stuffy Ralph Fiennes, Emily Watson, Felicity Jones and Gervais himself in a backseat role as Freddie’s father. I also appreciated the depth given to all of the supporting characters and what they were going through too. Gervais’ scenes are quite amusing, but the film is a moving drama at heart that showcases the scope and talent of Gervais and Merchant. I don’t recall ever seeing this in U.S. movie theaters, but I rented and did a write-up of it (see here) because I was so happily surprised at how good it was. Charming and poignant, the movie tackles such themes as love, family, friendship, and loyalty. A great little film that unfortunately, I don’t think many have seen just yet.

Honorable MentionsMy Dog Tulip and La Barbe Bleue (Bluebeard)

MOST DELIGHTFUL SURPRISE

Awarded To: Kick-Ass and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (TIE

                                    

These two films were such pleasant surprises to me and among the year’s best films. Matthew Vaughn’s highly entertaining Kick-Ass took me completely off-guard with its intelligence, humor and unpredictability. Chloe Moretz rocked in this movie as Hit Girl and Aaron Johnson made a charming lead as the awkward teenager who has fantasies about becoming a real life superhero. Nicolas Cage hammed up his supporting role – and I mean that in the best way possible. Judging by the way it ended, a sequel is surely in the works and this time, I won’t wait to rent it. I have high hopes now.

As far as Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, word of mouth led me to finally watch this one. I’m not big on Michael Cera. I mean, he’s funny at what he does, but he only does one thing. Here, he is pretty much the same (albeit a different hoodie), but the film is just done in such a unique, stylish fashion. Adapted from a graphic novel, Scott must defeat his new girlfriend’s 7 evil exes if he has any shot at staying with her. Sounds silly, but I loved it. The screenplay (like Kick-Ass) is clever and the supporting cast is great. If you haven’t seen either of these films and you’re in the mood for a comedy, I would surely recommend both — as they had me laughing out loud.

So that’s it. Ten fun movie superlatives to kick-off the end of 2010. Now to get to those few films I have yet to see – and work on my exalted Top 10 List…and the nominees for the 1st Annual Lantern Awards! I know…you can’t wait, right?

Golden Globes Prove Again How Laughable They Really Are!

Golden Globes, you suck. To be completely honest, I have never sat down in the cozy comforts of my home to sit and actually watch this sorry excuse for an Awards ceremony. I never took them – or the Hollywood Foreign Press – very seriously at all (and the nominees that come out each year give me very good reason to ignore them completely; this year’s roster of contenders being no exception). In my estimation, they are one notch up from an MTV Movie Award. I can vividly recall an old Simpsons episode that made fun of how useless the Golden Globe award is (compared to others) – and it is, to this day, very much appreciated by this viewer.

It is true that this year (like the past few years) has been a relatively weak year for film. As always, there have been some stand-outs and I look forward to compiling my own Top 10 of the Year list in the near future. Since my big move down to Virginia in early November, I have not only been slacking in my blogging duties (which I hope to get back into the swing of, starting with this entry), but in my viewing of films as well. To date, I have only seen 85 eligible films for 2010 – with about 40 still left on my “Must-See” list. It will happen…it always does, even if it means renting these films in the early months of the new year.

So I look over this year’s Golden Globe nominees and the first deadly sin is that nowhere do I see The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – one of the Top 3 films of the year, for certain. Never mind that the 2nd and 3rd installments were not nearly as solid as the first and the early-in-the-year release date – it is a shame that this remarkably powerful film was left out in the December cold. And poor Noomi Rapace. I have yet to see a better, more courageous performance by a leading actress this year. And I will take it a step further – I think Ms. Rapace gave the most daring, most uninhibited performance by a female star in years. I can only hope that other awards (including the prestigious Oscars) don’t make this same terrible mistake.

Here is where it gets truly comical – Red? The Tourist? Burlesque? All nominated for Best Comedic Motion Picture?! Really???!!! This is what it has come to? Ah, yes…but I forget. This is the same Association that nominated Basic Instinct for “Best Picture.” Even Alice in Wonderland was nominated. Now I enjoyed Tim Burton’s film more than most and thought it was very well made, but “Best Picture” material? Four more reasons why this “Award” is laughable right there. So I guess when The Kids Are All Right wins (which it most surely will) in this category, that manages to bring some legitimacy to the evening’s festivities for the very lame, right?

I have already come to grips with the fact that Christopher Nolan’s Inception will get a slew of nominations for every film awards ceremony despite the fact that, in my opinion, it was much more shine over substance. Before the film was even released people were hailing it as a masterpiece, and the praise continued long after its summer frenzy. I still contend that there are far too many holes in this film with supporting characters that walk around with little to no meaning for existing.

I won’t even get into the TV nominations because I don’t have a leg to stand on in that regard. I don’t watch TV – and I am very glad for that. I truly feel that the Golden Globes are really just for those dolts who want to sit and gawk at the stars having a good time – not for people who love cinema. These are people who also watch a lot of TV, read Us Weekly (or People…your pick) and like to know who is dating who and which couples are “on the outs.” I used to live with a woman who would occasionally fly out to California for the sole purpose of seeing this egomaniacal charade and doing the whole red carpet thing. She would take a bunch of photos of these celebrities who don’t know her in the least (let alone care about her) and then quickly and carefully put them all in a photo album and show it to everyone who would humor her by looking interested in it. I thought, “How sad is that.” And when January 16th rolls around and I see so many comments on Facebook actually taking this trash seriously, I will again shake my head and think to myself, “How sad is that…”

Peter Eramo Reviews: The Girl Who Played With Fire (** ½)

Sequels are a tough breed — and a bit of a bitch to get right. Recent history has shown that it is the rare film indeed that can stand up to its predecessor, let alone best it. Let me start by saying that I thought that Niels Arden Oplev’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (released earlier this year) was a marvelous film — powerful, gripping, haunting, and vastly entertaining (see my review here). As of this posting, it remains the best movie of the year in my opinion – it really isn’t even close. That was the first film of the trilogy based on the bestselling novels by the late Stieg Larsson. I have not read the books and didn’t know much about them at all, so the first film caught me completely off guard in the very best of ways. Then The Girl Who Played With Fire came out recently to lukewarm reviews, but I loved the first film so much and was so thoroughly impressed with its towering achievement that I most certainly had to check it for for myself.

Sadly, I must agree with the general consensus that this 2nd installment — directed by Daniel Alfredson (and not Oplev, which may have been a detriment) — doesn’t come close to touching the first. I think you would be hard-pressed to find anyone who says otherwise. It’s not a terrible film by any means, but there is so much wrong with it that it doesn’t make up for its intriguing storyline, frequent plot twists, and overall mystery. This film, by contrast, seems scattered and disjointed. The character development that was done so brilliantly in the first film is altogether lost here. The pacing is also somewhat slower, with the action taking the viewer to numerous locations throughout Sweden rather than keeping it centered and focused.

Part of what made the original so compelling was its two lead characters: the ever-resourceful Lisbeth Salander and disgraced journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Noomi Rapace and Michael Nyqvist respectively), working together throughout the film to solve the fascinating mystery. Rapace gave the grittiest, most multi-layered performance of the year and if she is denied an Oscar nomination for doing so, then something is most terribly rotten in the state of Denmark (or Sweden, if you prefer). Here, her computer whiz Salander has become the prime suspect in the double murder of two journalists right before an expose of the Swedish sex trade is launched in Blomqvist’s Millennium magazine. Refusing to meet with Blomqvist, she tries her best to avoid being detected and find the murderer(s) herself. In doing so, Rapace is given very little to do — and knowing her range and scope, it just seems to be a terrible waste. She is a loner, an outcast, autonomous, disconnected — too much so. For his part, Blomqvist is absolutely sure of Salander’s innocence and does everything in his power to prove this to everyone, including the police. His faith in and love for her is clear throughout and NyQvist does a good job of conveying this without going overboard.

There are some terrible bad guys here, which make for great villains — and some fascinating discoveries made along the way, some believable and some, unfortunately, too far-fetched. Peter Andersson makes another appearance as the “sadistic pig” Nils Bjurman and he is so effective in this role, truly creating one of cinema’s most vile characters. Yasmine Garbi does admirably as Lisbeth’s lover and woman who unwittingly puts herself in grave danger by taking over her friend’s apartment — and as Alexander Zalachenko, Georgi Staykov under all the heavy make-up is loathsome and harrowing. There is a line in the film that describes Lisbeth as being indestructible — and boy does the story really take that theory to its most extreme — to the point where it is almost too implausible.

However, for all of its faults and setbacks, The Girl Who Played With Fire does deliver in terms of suspense and intrigue. Alfredson manages to keep you on your toes and wonder what the next piece of the jigsaw puzzle will be. At its core, the film is a mystery/thriller and it does provide in that respect. But the ending — what were they thinking with this ending?! I can understand leaving viewers hanging a bit, but this was far too abrupt and left you more frustrated than anything else.

Now it may be unfair to compare a sequel to its original, but that’s part of the bargain — and the studios and  filmmakers are well aware of this. It is almost impossible to critique a sequel without some comparison to its original, especially when its the second film of an immensely popular trilogy with all three films released in the span of under a year (and I should mention that those who have not seen the first chapter, will be at a complete loss if they go into this second film blind). The upside here is that it provides a more modest level of expectation for the third film, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest (also directed by Alfredson). Where the first film tidied things up rather soundly (though it sacrificed an utterly brilliant climax to do so), this second film leaves a few strings left untied, setting up the third and final installment quite nicely. Let’s hope it delivers in mighty fashion.

Rating:      
Director:    Daniel Alfredson
Year:          2010

To view the trailer for The Girl Who Played With Fire, click here.

Peter Eramo Reviews: “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” (****)

This film is certainly not for the faint-of-heart, but I am convinced that this grisly, fascinating Swedish thriller will be near the very top of the year’s best when 2010 draws to an end. Based on the popular novel by Stieg Larsson, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” is nothing short of a superb, well-crafted film, with outstanding performances and taut, stylish direction by Niels Arden Oplev. I am surprised to see it playing in a number of select “art-house” theatres around me – so if you see it around and you are not one of those ignorant Americans who are averse to reading subtitles, check out the trailer and see this wonderful movie.

Mikael Blomkvist is a journalist who is charged with defamation and is found guilty. The news is spread all over papers and television. Before serving his brief sentence, he is hired by the patriarch of the Vanger Concern (a wealthy & powerful family) to find his niece’s murderer. Forty years ago, Harriet Vanger mysteriously disappeared on the island owned by the Vanger’s and her body was never found. The uncle is convinced that the killer is a member of his own dark and troubled family, even though every year he receives a gift of nicely framed pressed flowers, which he thinks is sent by the murderer to taunt him.

Blomkvist pairs up with professional computer hacker, Lisbeth Salander (a remarkable Noomi Rapace) to investigate. She is tattooed, tough-as-nails, and a ward of the state who needs a legal guardian for a crime (though from flashbacks, it sure looked warranted) she committed years ago. The two begin to peel off layer after layer in trying to break this unsolved 40-year old case and in doing so, discover a link to a number of grotesque murders. They also begin to uncover a dark and twisted family history of this secretive clan.

Noomi Rapace is magnificent here playing the very complex and challenging role of Lisbeth and though it is only May should get some serious Oscar consideration here as I doubt there will be many performances that match this display right here. She exhibits a merciless, cutthroat behavior in one scene and easily transforms to that of a helpless and frightened little girl in the next. She has some gruesome, nearly unwatchable scenes to film here too. Two scenes in particular are opposite the older gentleman who has become her new legal guardian, though brilliantly executed are graphic and haunting. Rapace creates a fascinating character out of Lisbeth – a constant enigma living in a world filled with filthy and brutal men…and we certainly empathize with her throughout.

Michael Nyqvist is also excellent here as the disgraced journalist who falls into much more than he bargained for. The supporting cast is stellar, Peter Haber in particular. These are all actors I’m sure none of us have heard of – but so what…they’re amazing. One scene that I was blown away by takes place near the end in a basement…I don’t want to give anything away here, but I will say that the exchange between these two men is completely flawless…absolutely riveting.

At its core, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” is a mystery – and we go along on the journey set off by Blomkvist and Salander. The plot is filled with great twists and turns. The unforgiving, cold Swedish winter terrain adds to the tone and mood of the film. I have not read the books (it is part of a trilogy, I believe), but have read that this is very faithful to the novel. The film doesn’t stop and you are glued to the screen for over two hours. However, it does slow up in the final 15 minutes or so after the film’s climax which kills all of the momentum – but you understand why it continues after seeing the very last scene of the film. A great surprise of a film – and I am now eagerly awaiting the second installment (of the trilogy) due to be released this summer. It did win Sweden’s equivalent of the Oscar in the “Best Picture” and “Best Actress” categories already — so I am hoping that the A.M.P.A.S. takes equal note of this grand achievement.

Rating: 
Director: Niels Arden Oplev
Year:       2010

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