The Curt Critic featured in the Wisconsin State Journal

The Curt Critic in the news: This recent Wisconsin State Journal article is validation that Liz Zélandais' quest to see all 53 Oscar-nominated films for 2013 is a fascinating enterprise worthy of public interest, rather than merely nuts.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Drive - 2012 Oscar Nominee for Best Sound Editing

Ryan G0sling, who was utterly fabulous in The Ides of March, is the driver with no name--stuntman by day, getaway wheelman by night. His character in Drive is almost a caricature, with the eternal toothpick clamped between his teeth, the steely glances, and 5-second pauses between words. He makes the screen earn even the semblance of a smile.

Ron Perlman (as Bernie, the Jewish mobster) looks a helluva lot better as Hell Boy. (I loved the movies Hellboy and Hellboy II. Oh, Ron, how the mighty have fallen--and become so grizzled looking.)

It's not easy for an action flick to earn the right to be deemed pretentious, but Drive manages that small feat. It should also be nominated for most annoying original score. All that being said, it was a rare treat after being held hostage last night by The Tree of Life.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Tree of Life - 2012 Oscar Nominee for Best Picture, Director, and Cinematography

If I have not already established myself as obtuse, I fear that this review will peg me in the ranks of the Philistines if not troglodytes of great art. Goin' down... and Scott's coming with me. His assessment at the end of the movie was, "I enjoyed Tintin more than The Tree of Life. That's not fair to Tintin--I enjoy going to the dentist more than I enjoyed The Tree of Life."

My quick and dirty review is: WTF?

The pluses: It is beautifully acted and filmed. Brad Pitt, Jessica Chastain, and Hunter McCracken are great. Sean Penn is always great, but it's not like he has a lot to do here.

The film addresses the marriage of Mr. and Mrs. O'Brien (Pitt and Chastain), their three children, Mr. O'Brien's engineering and musical brilliance as well as his abusive nature, the formation of the earth, the cooling of the earth, dinosaurs, the fucked-uppedness of the eldest O'Brien son Jack, and the death of the middle son R.L. at age 19. R.L.'s death is pivotal to the movie, and between volcanoes and creation scenes I kept thinking they were going to let me know how and why. They didn't. Even after 2-1/2 hours. The bastards.

I am now hungry for some mindless action flick that lets me know in no uncertain terms what the hell is going on. Or a root canal. Please do not make me watch The Tree of Life again.

The Adventures of TinTin - 2012 Oscar Nominee for Best Original Score

First let me offer full disclosure of my expertise, fingers-on-the-pulse-of-Hollywood, top-of-the-heap film critic nature. In my quest to watch all 61 Oscar-nominated films for 2012, yesterday I learned that I had watched the wrong "Undefeated", having viewed the 2011 Sarah Palin documentary rather than the 2010 documentary about the Memphis, TN football team of Manassas High School turning its losing record into glory road. Who knew? (Obviously, not The Curt Critic.)

On a parallel Mr. Magoo path, I went into The Adventures of TinTin thinking it was based on the new book about the movie star dog, Rin Tin Tin, first brought back from Europe in World War I. Wrong again, grasshoppah. It is based on the enormously popular Belgian comic strip of 1929-1976. To make this self-commentary even more damning, before the movie started, my husband Scott reminded me that we had even visited the Tintin museum in Brussels a few years ago. Oh yeah. That. I have slept and had several drinks since then--you can't really expect me to remember.

Anyway... on with the show. When the young journalist Tintin purchases the model of a three-masted sailing ship at an outdoor market--followed with immediate "name your price" offers and threats upon his refusal--the adventure is launched for him and his dog Snowy. The film is beautifully animated, keeps its audience breathless with an Indiana Jones-type pace, and has some wonderful moments of comic relief with the bumbling Thompsons from Interpol. A great flick for kids and grown-ups alike.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

If a Tree Falls - 2012 Oscar Nominee for Best Feature-Length Documentary

A well-paced account of the Earth Liberation Front, the story is told with an obvious bias favoring some of the ELF members and their cause. It nevertheless maintains an even-handedness throughout, even in how it portrays some of the prosecutors positively and alternatively, displays an obvious distaste for certain of the ELF participants.

That balance is carried throughout the film in documenting the historical events, the then-and-now characterization of the participants, and maintaining an absorbing storyline from the beginning to the closing credits.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Real Steel - 2012 Oscar Nominee for Best Visual Effects

This is like a double feature of Ironman meets Warrior, as programmed humanistic robots take boxing to the max in some not-distant future and the ne'er-do-well father becomes something one could proudly take to a family reunion. Despite the high praise this movie has elicited, I went into this thinking, "At least it has Hugh Jackman. Maybe that will get me through it." It was so absorbing, I'm still trying to get my heart rate down.

My father, in his youth, was an amateur prize fighter; and some of that never left him. Way "back in the day" before Monday Night Football, he wouldn't miss NBC's Gillette fight of the week broadcast from Madison Square Gardens. He would unconsciously bob, weave, twist, punch, and jab for 12 rounds right along with the pugilists. Tonight I discovered some of that DNA is part of me. In the final scenes of Real Steel, I became part of every on-screen move to the point of getting an excellent aerobics workout--and having a fine time at the movies.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Hell and Back Again - 2012 Oscar Nominee for Best Feature Documentary

Embedded with US Marines Echo Company in Afghanistan in 2009, photojournalist Danfung Dennis interweaves scenes of combat missions with the recovery of wounded Marine Sgt. Nathan Harris after his return home. A noble subject, but the film is overwhelmed by a slow and ponderous delivery. The Oscar-nominated documentary short "Incident in New Baghdad" covered parallel subject matter in a far more riveting manner in 22 minutes, compared to Hell's 1:28 running time. Hell and Back again wasn't a bad movie. It simply was not compelling.

In addition, I could not bring myself to like Harris. I wanted to. He has served our country. He was seriously wounded. My heart goes out to him, and I wish him speedy recovery and every VA benefit for his service. But he's an asshole. That is not an asset to the movie.