2008 House Clark “Simpson” Awards
Most Annoying Performance
CATE BLANCHETT – Elizabeth: the Golden Age
Best Comedy Team
Music and Lyrics – Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore
Best Ensemble Cast
3:10 to Yuma - Christian Bale, Russell Crowe, Peter Fonda,
Ben Foster, Logan Lerman, Gretchen Mol,
Dallas Roberts, and Vinessa Shaw,
WTF did I just see?
Most overrated movie
No Country for Old Men
Best juvenile performance
Abigail Breslin; No Reservations
Notes from awards committee:
The Academy winners and noms for the 2008 Oscars were, once again, wildly off the mark. In the top categories – Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Actress – only ONE out of the fifteen nominations matched up at HouseClark, namely Best Actress award to Marion Cotillard for her outstanding role as “the little sparrow” in La Vie en Rose. The Academy got everything else wrong. La Vie en Rose was snubbed by Oscar for the five top films in the Best Picture category. So it is with great pleasure to correct that mistake and award the Best Picture Simpson for La Vie en Rose. The film is not your typical Rags-to-Riches movie; the storyline is complex and is more a rich mosaic of Edith Piaf’s singing career rather than a dry, year-by-year book report of her life. The film requires an adult attention span but is not difficult to follow. I agree with one reviewer who wrote that some people shun foreign language films with subtitles, but to have dubbed this from French would have been a crime. Sixty years after her death, Edith’s music is still popular, and La Vie en Rose is a fitting tribute.
Best Actor Simpson award goes to Brad Pitt for his turn as Jesse James in The Assassination of Jesse James by the coward Robert Cole. Snubbed by Oscar, Pitt’s Jesse James performance captures the essence of a charismatic person with a tendency towards anti-social violence. The film delves deep into his inner conflicts and emotions, without sentimentality or hero-worship. The artistic style of the film is evident in the first action scene: a nighttime train robbery. It was amazing to see. The lighting, camera direction, and music blended perfectly to produce a measure of realism and strange beauty not expected. There have been plenty of good Westerns over the past several years, but not one that so handsomely re-invents the genre as this film.
Fun Surprises -
The Bourne Ultimatum – This is a chase film taken to an unheard of level of skill and daring. Mind-blowing action with Big Screen impact that jumps all over the world. This is the third film of the very popular Jason Bourne trilogy, but is also a great stand-alone movie.
No Reservations 2007 - Welsh beauty Catherine Zeta-Jones stars as an uber-feminist lady chef (Kate) who learns the value of family and love after meeting a real man. It is her best role in years. Abigail Breslin (Zoe) is the cute, little kid and Aaron Eckhart is Nick, the fun, carefree chef working in Kate’s kitchen. Lots of good laughs – I loved the safari pizza dinner night. Great scenes of an upscale, very busy kitchen dynamics, and a few comical clashes with the clientele. Lots of food talk but not too intense, as the focus stays on a budding romance. The best romantic comedy of the year.
Hitman & Elite Squad – kick-ass action.
Death Proof - Stuntman Mike, played by Kurt Russell, is one of the most charming, deadly villains ever presented on the big screen. The film also features one of the greatest, life-or-death car chases ever filmed, with stunt legend Zoe Bell strapped to the hood of a car.
Mr. Brooks – the best psychological thriller of the year with a clever take on Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Earl Brooks (Kevin Costner), a mild mannered, successful businessman, lives a secret life of a serial killer. Mr. Hyde (William Hurt) is the evil alter-ego who can be seen and heard by Mr. Brooks. It is a clever device that allows us to hear his thoughts as he converses with his own mind – usually about the next victim.
1408 - John Cusack, who has long been underrated as a performer, gets the chance to really show us his acting skills in this role – a writer who specializes in debunking paranormal activity. Soon after he checks into Room 1408 in the Dolphin Hotel, he confronts genuine horror and realizes that he is in over his head. Can he make it through the night and check out?
The Brave One – Jodie Foster gets mugged by reality and becomes a fascist vigilante. She really puts her heart and soul into it once she gets a semi-auto 9mm. Wonderful tribute to the 2A.
No Country for Old Men - Chigurh, a homicidal maniac, goes Jack Rippering across Texas. His victims are Mexicans, a police officer and poor, rural whites. In the movie universe these folks are often treated with scorn, and nobody cares if they are brutally murdered; consequently, the killer is lazily pursued by a small town sheriff. In the real world, the law would have been on this crazy killer like white on rice, but not in this twisted flick. The media movie critics went orgasmic over this movie, and the hype was through the roof.
3:10 to Yuma – I love a good western, but this movie has an absurd and incoherent plot and is very overrated. I cannot understand how so many viewers do not see how illogical this movie is – the final big showdown scene made no sense. In a nutshell, Bale (good guy Dan) is left as the only one standing to take Crowe (bad outlaw Ben Wade) to the train station for the trip to courthouse and jail. Wade’s gang of seven sits atop their horses ready to rescue Ben Wade. Bale must take his prisoner (Crowe), not only past the gang but half the town that has been offered bounty money. So how does he do it? The Director decides to turn the movie completely upside down and have Crowe aid and abet Bale in running the gauntlet. Not only aid and abet, but kill off every last one of his loyal outlaw gang. The utterly non sequitur ending was so bad it ruined the movie experience. I don’t blame the excellent cast of actors; this flick was screwed up well before they took the stage.
Charlie Wilson’s War – This is a flag waving flick intended to celebrate Americans helping the Afghans defeat the Soviets in the 1980’s. It was based loosely on the non-fiction book by the same name. It presents the inside story how Americans armed Afghans fighters with advanced weapons. In the book by George Crile, it is clearly stated that some of the fighters receiving American arms were anti-Western Muslim extremists. One man in particular was a hardcore jihadist. His name was Osama Bin Laden. The final movie script edited out any mention of Muslim extremists, at the insistence of Tom Hanks. While this movie presents a sanitized version of history and omits the negative blowback from aiding Muslim extremists, it unintentionally shows the beginning of the path to 9/11. On a tactical level Charlie’s Afghan aid was a success. The Stinger missiles neutralized Soviet air power and tipped the scales in favor of the Afghan fighters. But it was a short lived success followed by catastrophic collapse leading to the Taliban, Al Qaeda and the 9/11 terror attacks on America. Rah, rah, hell of a job Charlie! Enjoy the movie, just don’t think too much.
Elizabeth: The Golden Age – The film glosses over the 1588 Spanish Armada crisis, and instead dwells on a palace soap opera interspersed by much fussing with wigs & hair-dos. Kate Blanchett takes a shot and misses with her too modern take on Elizabeth. She fails to capture the strength and majesty and vanity of the real Queen. To see how it is done, watch Flora Robson play the Virgin Queen in Fire Over England (1937).
Transformers - Who would have thought that giant, talky robot cars + Megan Fox prancing around in a tank top = Box Office Gold?
Juno - Ellen Page spewing snarky, bullshit teenage slang completely ruined the movie. Very overrated.
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