Saturday, February 26, 2011


As a lot of you know, since my brain surgery, a little over fifteen months ago, a lot of things changed in the way my mind works (including my still making many more typos than I used to before the surgery, though thank God not as many as I was making for the few months right after it) (i.e. I've rewritten this first sentence many times to correct a slew of typos over and over again).

One of the main ways it changed, as I've pointed out many times, is that the compulsion to make lists in my mind when it had any down time—like before falling asleep, or to help myself fall asleep or back asleep, or when walking around or pretty much doing anything that didn't engage my mind fully—that I had as long as I can remember, completely disappeared.

I included a lot of those lists on this blog, usually a couple a week. Ones with very intricate requirements, like favorite movies with titles that start with the first letters of the alphabet and contain only one syllable etc. But since the operation I can hardly get myself to make any list, let alone many of them throughout any given day.

So my usual obsession with the Oscars, again since childhood, and my own movie awards each year since I started this blog, just isn't there. I don't think I even offered my choice for my own awards last year.

But I thought I'd try this year to at least lists my picks for the Lally's Alley Movie Awards, if not the nominees etc.

My choice for best picture wasn't even nominated for an Oscar: BARNEY'S VERSION.

A close second was THE FIGHTER.

My choice for best male actor is Paul Giamatti for BARNEY'S VERSION.

Again, he wasn't even nominated. There are other great performances, some not nominated also, like Mark Wahlberg, whose performance was the heart of THE FIGHTER, and a very generous performance it was, letting the other actors do most of the talking and emoting, while he played the fighter Micky Ward as the relatively quiet center of the storm that he was.

It seems like Colin Firth is the top contender for the Oscar, and his was a fine performance in THE KING'S SPEECH. But he really deserved it for A SINGLE MAN last year, and if he wins it will be partially for that performance as well that a lot of Academy members probably didn't even see until it was too late and felt guilty they hadn't rewarded it for the amazing performance it was.

My choice for best actress is a tie between Anette Benning for THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT, another amazingly nuanced performance that pretty much played every note in an actor's instrument, and Rosamond Pike in BARNEY'S VERSION, also a beautifully nuanced performance that didn't have one false note in it.

A close second was Jennifer Lawrence, the teenage actress who starred in WINTER'S BONE. An impeccable performance that deserves the Oscar nomination it got, and if the competition wasn't so tough, may even have taken the Oscar home (and still might if Natalie Portman and Bening split the vote for top choice).

I'd be surprised if Christian Bale doesn't win as Oscar for best male supporting actor for THE FIGHTER. There's some who think Geoffrey Rush might win for THE KING'S SPEECH. But as good as a lot of actors were in supporting roles, no one can touch Bale's performance. It's seminal. Historic. Bale does what people got so excited about Diniro for in Raging BULL, only Deniro, for my taste, was way too obvious (especially the weight fluctuations, which were seen as so uniquely brave at the time). Bale so embodies Dicky Eckland's ways of talking and walking and throwing punches and speaking and just being, that if you watch footage of Eckland and compare it to Bale's performance, it feels like Eckland's spirit has actually entered Bale and taken possession of him. It's one of the greates film performances in movie history, period.

The choice for best female supporting actor is a tough one, but again, Melissa Leo creates such a believably genuine mother of Micky Ward and Dicky Eckland in THE FIGHTER, it's transformative. Some folks think Leo screwed her chances for the Oscar because of a not very tasteful series of ads she did promoting herself for the award. It'll be interesting to see if that's the case, because no matter what she may be like outside her roles (and full disclosure, I read my poetry at an event with her a couple of years ago and had lunch with her and others afterwards), she's one of our best actors working in movies and TV right now, period.

My choice for best director is David O. Foster for THE FIGHTER, mostly because everyone is so perfect in it, from the stars to the bit players who were often amateurs, Lowell locals used either as themselves (as in the trainer O'Keefe) or people like themselves. To make a movie in which everything rings true and every player seems genuinely who they're playing is not easy, but THE FIGHTER pulls it off, and that's because of the director.

My second choice, even though I disliked so much about the movie, would be Aronovsky for BLACK SWAN because despite what I saw as cheap emotional tricks to create the kind of heightened melodramatic tension and had half the actors chewing the scenery, it is still incredibly powerful filmmaking, and that's Aronovky's doing.

My choice for best original screenplay is Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg for THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT. Because even though I didn't like some of the story's devices, it felt to me like the most original in many ways and uncomfortably unpredictable at times.

The Oscar will probably go to Aaron Sorkin for THE SOCIAL NETWORK and that's a pretty valid choice too, because with his usual panache he made what should have been the most boring story with the most boring legal details into an incredibly dramatic work of art with the kind of tension usually only found in thrillers.

For best adapted screenplay, again my choice is BARNEY'S VERSION and Michael Konyves for his adaptation of the Mordecai Richler novel the movie's based on. It's a huge challenge to reduce a person's entire adult life down to two hours but they did it, and did it brilliantly.


-K- said...

"Restrepo" was the only movie, nominated or otherwise, that I saw this year. Sebastian Jundger and his cameraman (didn't think to look up his name) spent weeks if not more in the remote Konegal Valley of Afghanistan. As a piece of journalism it was just astounding. Without drawing a second's worth of attention to themselves, it was all about the the foot soldiers who not only defended but attacked the Taliban in the absolute middle of nowhere.

Robert G. Zuckerman said...

Michael, I may have made it through the whole year without going to a theater. The films I saw were either in hotel rooms or on airplanes. But I enjoy and appreciate your observations and commentary. Here's a little morsel for all: in early 1993 I was photographing Marcello Mastroianni for Venice magazine during the press junket for "Used People" at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills (where I photographed so many greats over the years, including Claude Chabrol and Javier Bardem). I had an unoccupied hotel room to work with and up to half an hour, although I never took more than 15 minutes out of respect to the subjects. During our session, I tried to make small talk with this screen legend who was such an essential part of my love of cinema through my early years. "Marcello, do you have a favorite film that you worked on?" I asked. He thought about it for a moment, puffing on his cigarette, then answered: "Eight and a half....I still don't know what the hell it means, but it's my favorite film!"

Lally said...

K and Robert, I hear you both and have been wanting to see that doc K, and envy you your time with Marcello Robert!

Robert G. Zuckerman said...

I also once spoke, unexpectedly, with Orson Wells on the phone, in 1984, but that's a story for when we're breaking bread!

Lally said...

I lok forward to hearing that story Robert.