Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 - The Year in Review - Best Movies

We come to it at last. I loved this film year, and I'm definitely not one who declares, each December, whether or not it was a good year for movies. I simply had a ball. I saw and reviewed more movies in 2010 than in any other year, and 12 of those movies landed in my 5-star column (if we must compare, last year there were only 9).

You can read my Top Ten of 2010 list now at, complete with honorable mentions and the two runners-up that were very hard to demote. CLICK HERE.

*For more year-end fun, check out my Worst Films of the Year, as well as my essay/exercise, "If I Were a Movie." 

*Still here? Then read my best and worst of 2009, 2008 and 2007.


Thursday, December 30, 2010

'Rabbit Hole' Review

I can't say my tastes align with all of the awards bodies this year (I simply do not get the whole Mila Kunis thing), but in a year packed with great female turns, I'd be very happy to see Nicole Kidman among the Best Actress nominees for Oscar. Though she's made some interesting choices through the better part of the last decade, I don't believe I've ever seen Kidman give less than a fine performance, and her work in "Rabbit Hole" is her best since "The Hours."

And on that note, I've never been with the consensus that the actress's "work" has gotten in the way of her work. I'm talking, of course, about Kidman's lips and whatever else she's altered, which critics have notoriously cited as a barrier against her plausibility as an actor. I disagree. Either that or I'm just missing something. I've always felt she's embodied her characters in whichever ways they require.

Read more on what I had to say about her and her new film in my review of "Rabbit Hole," now online at CLICK HERE.

Monday, December 27, 2010

'If I Were a Movie'

In one of multiple year-end articles, I put myself in the shoes of my favorite and most-detested films of 2010. So much fun was this exercise, I made it my Year in Review round-up for

To read the article, and thus check out my Top 10 films of the year for the first of three times, CLICK HERE. Satisfaction guaranteed!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Happy Holidays

...from Your Movie Buddy.

Hope you're all getting your Holiday rest. CHEERS.

Friday, December 24, 2010

'Animal Kingdom' Review

I'm finally chiming in on the superb Australian crime thriller "Animal Kingdom." Read my mini-review, over at my work blog, Popcorn for Dinner. CLICK HERE.

I'm rooting for you, Jacki!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

2010 - The Year in Review - Worst Movies

I think I'll let my boo (hehe) from "The Princess Bride" introduce this year's bottom-of-the-barrel cinema:

"Boo! Boo! Rubbish, Filth, Slime, Muck. Boo...Boo...Boo!!!"

It's true: these movies royally sucked. So much so that they get their own special year-end article from moi. To read all about it, in my special feature over at, click the link below.
(Next week: the year's BEST.)

'True Grit' Review

Oh, Hailee Steinfeld. You were such a revelation in the Coen Brothers' "True Grit." I'm sorry I cut you out of my "If I Ran the Oscars" article, which arrives next week. I didn't want to buy into the category fraud that's been dropping you into the Supporting Actress field, and, frankly, you weren't quite good enough to unseat any of my five Best Actresses (it's been a very strong year for leading ladies, as you know).

I did, however, sing your praises in my new review of "True Grit," which is now online at CLICK HERE to read it. And fear not, you're probably going to get an Oscar nomination anyway.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

'Was I good?'

Yes, dear, you were, and I don't think I would have wanted anyone else filling in as Nina Sayers's understudy. But...

...awards-worthy you were not. I don't care what the HFPA and SAG have to say.

Friday, December 17, 2010

'I Love You Phillip Morris' Review

I only just "liked"  this long-delayed gay crime comedy, which largely pleases then starts to test your patience. But I sure did love Phillip Morris himself, played by an impossibly endearing Ewan McGregor. Best Supporting Actor nomination?  If only.

Read my mixed review of "I Love You Phillp Morris," now online at CLICK HERE.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Posters of the Year 2010

It's that time of year again! To count down the best movie posters of the past 12 months. I opted to compile this year's countdown over at my work blog,'s Popcorn for Dinner. It's a fun read, I promise you. Are your favorites on the list?

CLICK HERE for the countdown. To check out my poster picks for the last three years, CLICK HERE and HERE and HERE.

'The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader' Review

If you've never seen a "Narnia" film, and you're curious, the best one to give your time to is "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader," which is guided by a better director and fashioned with far better visuals. But seriously, why waste your time with this flick during awards season? I can count on at least 10 fingers the wiser options waiting for you.

The "Narnia" kids search for a better script.

Read my full review of "Narnia 3," now online at CLICK HERE.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Things I Love About 'The Social Network'

Last night I treated myself to a second screening of "The Social Network," the smartest, speediest, coolest and, most likely, best movie of the year.

I didn't want to take notes again, but I started jotting down what I loved and my hand couldn't keep up. Repeat viewings of great movies are the best. You've got the foundation down, and now you can focus on the struts.

Let's take a brief, mostly chronological look at my select highlights from this most inspiring -- and consistently refreshing -- of films.


* "Stairmaster."

* That its perpetually low lighting requires you to watch it in a very dark room (and that my theater during this viewing was completely empty save one late-arriving couple).

* That the ambient sounds in the score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross make you think of circuits working, or brain cells firing, or code...coding.

* That at the same time Zuckerberg is whizzing through the Frankensteinian creation of FaceMash, we see an elite batch of Phoenix Club partiers, who didn't invite the geek but will soon be enamored with the fruits of his genius.

* "Moving right along..."


* That Fincher can occasionally put Armie Hammer and double Josh Pence in the same frame by keeping Pence just slightly out of focus.

* How the simple wearing of sandals can speak volumes about a new type of entrepreneur.

* That geeks have never looked cooler, mainly because these particular geeks have changed all of our lives.

* "I can't stop staring at that loop of Niagara Falls, which has nothing to do with the Caribbean..."

* The fun connotations you can apply to that dart Mark plays with while hacking.

* That it's just shy of being JUST as engrossing and exhilarating the second time around.


* That Mark lifts his legal pad during depositions to reveal a page full of doodles.

* How the moments of creative spark and innovation could put a great many bajillion-dollar action sequences to shame.

* "The site's live." [voice fails]

* That it boasts the year's finest and tightest ensemble cast, and all of the principal actors are under 30.

* That it makes you feel like you've been given an insider's tour of Harvard.

* That Natalie Portman managed to sneak into not one, but two of the year's best movies ("Which movie star?").

* "It will never be finished, like fashion will never be finished..."


* How beautifully Rooney Mara's Erica stands her ground when confronted by Mark in the club ("I don't want to be rude to my FRIENDS").

* That Fincher and Sorkin take only the most delicious opportunities to liken Zuckerberg to a mad scientist ("We have to expand...").

* That the new setting of Stanford is revealed on the panty-wearing butt of a coed (sorry, it's an appreciation-of-tone thing, not a sexist thing).

* "You're Sean Parker?"
   "Aha...the shoe's on the other..."

   "Table. Which is turned."

* The priceless cameo performance by film producer Douglas Urbanski as the dry and unaffected Harvard president, Larry Summers, whose shooting down of the Winklevi is a joy ("I don't know who they are, but they look like they want to sell me a Brooks Brothers franchise").

* The sound Mark makes while falling asleep and humiliating Eduardo in a meeting with a potential New York investor (played by Aaron Sorkin, no less). It's like a "glottle stop," or a "gag reflex." In fact, it's kind of like the sound Colin Firth makes in "The King's Speech," the movie that's seeming less and less a worthy adversary for Fincher's masterpiece.

* The brilliant casting of Justin Timberlake ("A Sean-a-thon").

* "Private behavior is a relic of a time gone by..."


* The amazing smoothness and effectiveness of Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall's Oscar-bound, cross-chronological editing.

* The sad pain of a shattered frienship that you feel ping-ponging across the deposition table.

* The awesome power and earth-shaking resonance of the words, "Welcome to Facebook."

* That the boundlessly gifted stylist David Fincher has one of the savviest, most bad-ass 20-somethings around living inside his 40-something body.

* The isolated, dreamlike, frozen-in-time beauty of the regatta scene -- a reason in itself why DP Jeff Cronenweth should net an Oscar nom.

* Thinking about Eduardo hunting for advertisers in Manhattan (personal reasons).


* The parallel that's created between Christy setting fire to her scarf in Eduardo's apartment and the company catching fire with a $500K investment.

* The terrible emotional impact of Eduardo's "ambush" and eruption -- easily one of the strongest emotional moments in film this year.

* One million users ("REFRESH!!").

* Sean Parker's "paranoia."

* "Farm animals."

* The f**k-you postscript that insists on noting the Winklevi placed sixth when rowing for the U.S. team in the Beijing Olympics.

* Friend request -- REFRESH, REFRESH, REFRESH.

* And finally, moving out of order a bit, the mini-monologue that should be filed away in the annals of great mini-monologues...the one that knocks you back in your chair...the one, some variety of which, I'd like to fire at a heaping pile of other movies that dared to ask for my...attention:

Thursday, December 2, 2010

'Burlesque' Review

So, everybody knew the majority of critics would boo "Burlesque" off the proverbial stage. But, I'm sorry, I don't exactly trust you if you didn't have a good bit of fun in this all-for-entertainment musical. It entertained the hell out of me, crap script and all.

Read my full review, now online at CLICK HERE.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Kerry Washington Interview

I don't need to tell you I was thrilled to sit down -- for a full half-hour -- with one of my favorite movie-improvers, the gorgeous and gifted Kerry Washington. She really was a joy to talk to, playing by her own breezy rules and not the rules of an agent or studio. The full feature is below.

Kerry Washington means business
...sort of
The traffic-stopping star of Night Catches Us and For Colored Girls has used her formidable skills as a serious actress to build an enviable career. But off camera, she balances her heavy work load by keeping her mood light.

By R. Kurt Osenlund

Kerry Washington is busy. As I enter her hotel suite on a late afternoon in mid-October, the 33-year-old actress is seated at the far end of the room, huddled over a long wooden desk topped with notes, folders and a datebook. With pencil in hand, she's on the phone, fielding questions from another journalist about her role in Night Catches Us, a Philly-made indie she's in town to promote during its run in the 19th Philadelphia Film Festival.

“The rewards are different when doing a smaller film,” I hear her say as I make my way past. She's wearing a stylish, knee-length dress with a painterly print; a black blazer tailored to her lean physique; and cream-colored platform pumps that must make a mean clack when she moves through a hallway. With everything but the stare-sharpening glasses, she looks like a hotshot editrix, or maybe a no-joke CEO, more than ready to snap her fingers and bark orders.

But that's not at all who I meet when Washington slips in to greet me in a small room next to her all-business headquarters. Flashing a smile too perfect for real life, the star of such films as Ray, Lakeview Terrace and The Last King of Scotland suddenly seems quite incapable of barking. She's cordial, unfussy and refreshingly off-script. She's the sort of person you almost instantly wish were part of your social circle.

“You've got some great hair going on here,” she says to me, motioning toward my head. I smile, mainly at the irony that this gorgeous woman, with her pristinely-in-place black curls resting softly on her shoulders, is giving me hairstyle compliments. Washington is smaller than she looks on screen, which is of course partly due to the fact she's no longer stretched to a size of 70 by 30 feet.

“No one should see themselves that big,” she says with a laugh, acknowledging that she has yet to master the skill of “gracefully” watching her own work. She admits to being the only actress from Tyler Perry's ensemble drama For Colored Girls who hasn't seen the finished cut. Winding back the clock, she recalls the time she first saw herself in action. While watching TV with a boyfriend, she flipped to a channel that was playing Save the Last Dance, the 2001 urban romance she refers to as her “first big movie.”

“It was very surreal,” she says, “like, 'who is that person?'”

Washington with Julia Stiles in Save the Last Dance.

The person in Save the Last Dance was an unknown just starting to show her knack for stealing scenes. The person sitting across from me is someone who's grown into one of the more intriguing actresses of her generation – someone whose association with a film can affect whether or not you're going to see it. She can ably raise the tough-girl factor while playing sidekick to Angelina Jolie's assassin in Mr. & Mrs. Smith, or, as a fiery potential mistress, bring a sassy allure to an otherwise forgettable film like I Think I Love My Wife. In the role of a blind love interest, she can add grace to ungraceful fare like Fantastic Four, or brighten up the casts of Spike Lee films like She Hate Me or Miracle at St. Anna. Quite simply, she makes movies better.

This year, Washington has eschewed big Hollywood films and stuck strictly to more personal, art house titles. In May, she appeared opposite Annette Bening and Naomi Watts in Mother and Child, a maternal drama from female-centric filmmaker Rodrigo García. She played Lucy, a woman looking to adopt but encountering problems with the birth mother. In For Colored Girls, the powerhouse adaptation of the landmark play For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf, Washington is Kelly, another character searching for alternative paths to motherhood. And in Night Catches Us, a unique tale of former Black Panthers living in Philadelphia in 1976, Washington finally plays a mother, whose devotion to her daughter impacts a key portion of the plot.

“It's so much fun,” she says of working on independent projects, speaking again of the “rewards” she was discussing when I entered. “I love what I do, really love it, so I enjoy working on any film, but smaller films can be more creatively fulfilling. You get to see more of the process. That's what I'm drawn to right now.”

Washington with Anthony Mackie in Night Catches Us.

Regarding the motherly themes she's been exploring, Washington says she found a lot of inspiration from her own mother, specifically for her latest film. In Night Catches Us, Washington stars as Patricia, an ex-Panther who's invented a new life for herself in an attempt to leave her activism, and the strife that surrounded it, behind her. Washington's mother, Valerie, informed the actress' approach to her character's desire to make things perfect, the way she tolerated the polyester costumes on hot production days (“How'd you wear that stuff, Mom?!”), and her understanding of her character's politics.

“My parents weren't involved with the Panther party, but they had friends who were,” Washington says. “It's definitely something that was talked about in our home. What I like about this film is it breaks down the stereotypical images people see when they think about Black Panthers – the fist in the air, the machine guns – and gets to the humanity of real people on an intimate scale. In my experience, any political group, be it Panthers, Tea Partiers, Democrats, Republicans, whatever, is essentially based around people doing what they believe to be the best things for themselves. It may not be the same as what you or I believe, but I think it basically comes from a good place.”

Written and directed by local filmmaker Tanya Hamilton, Night Catches Us (now playing in limited release) was shot in Philadelphia. Washington's never lived in the city, but she's familiarized herself with a lot of its hotspots, thanks to her father's longtime involvement with the Penn Relays.

“When I was a child, we'd come every year as a family,” she says. “We'd stay in hotels and visit the Art Museum, the Franklin Institute, the Liberty Bell.”

Washington says a lot of what drew her to her role in Night Catches Us – which also features her friend and She Hate Me costar Anthony Mackie – was the film's honest depiction of an under-examined aspect of black culture in America. It's the same thing she and so many other people appreciate about For Colored Girls, which plumbs the experience of the black American female like few texts ever have. Washington lights up when talking about For Colored Girls, and for good reason. Apart from its cultural significance, the superbly acted movie (now playing everywhere) places her in a super-stellar cast that includes Loretta Devine, Whoopi Goldberg, Thandie Newton, Phylicia Rashad, Kimberly Elise, Anika Noni Rose and Janet Jackson.
Washington with Phylicia Rashad and Anika Noni-Rose in For Colored Girls.
“My favorite memory from the shoot was when we finished the last scene,” Washington says. “We were all on a rooftop, and when we finished and went back downstairs, we just saw this line of chairs with the names of all these incredible women on them: Whoopi Goldberg, Loretta Devine, Phylicia Rashad... To be able to see the names of all these accomplished and talented women of color in one place was amazing.”

One of the names, of course, was Washington's, and it's hard to think of a better way to illustrate the heights to which this Bronx-born star has risen. She deserves to be included in a lineup of great talents. She can command your attention on the big screen, starring in one of the movies she's improving, or face-to-face, in three dimensions. She's looking ahead, saying among other things that she dreams to work with Clint Eastwood, and even as we speak, she needs to wrap up and get to an interview with ABC. But it's not all work and no play for Washington. Before we part ways, and she exits the elevator we're now sharing, her heels indeed clacking, she offers a final confession.

“I have this image of being this serious actor person,” she says, “and that's definitely a big part of who I am. But my family would tell you different. They'd tell you I'm really just goofy and silly.”
*This article was previously published in the December 2010 issue of ICON Magazine. It has been reprinted with permission.