NEWS – Movie Mantz Movie Reviews and Industry News from Scott Mantz Wed, 23 Mar 2016 19:08:55 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Scott Mantz Wins Press Award! Fri, 28 Feb 2014 15:38:02 +0000

On February 28, 2014, I was truly grateful, thankful and honored to win the Press Award from the ICG Publicists Guild!  The highlight of my career, for sure!  You can watch my speech right here!

Best Movies of 2013 Fri, 20 Dec 2013 17:41:59 +0000 “Movies 2013: An Embarrassment of Riches”

Every December, film critics batten down the hatches to practice the one ritual for which they are most qualified: determining the year’s ten best movies. Actually, it’s more than just a ritual: since most critics see between 250 to 300 movies a year (if not more), it’s a hard-earned, God-given right.

In past years, it usually went down like this: there were (maybe) six or seven truly great films that deserved to make the cut without hesitation, while the last remaining three or four were a little harder to determine.

But 2013 was different, and that’s because there were so many great movies to choose from – especially after the Telluride, Toronto and Venice film festivals unspooled what turned out to be an embarrassment of riches.

But that was just the tip of the iceberg, and weekend after weekend, the hits just kept on coming. As a result, 2013 turned out to be a landmark year for film that easily featured the strongest slate since 1999, when cinematic gems like “The Matrix,” “Three Kings,” “The Sixth Sense,” “Fight Club,” “The Insider,” “Being John Malkovich” and Best Picture-winner “American Beauty” graced the big screen.

So unlike past years, where critics were hard-pressed to come up with enough movies to put on their list, this year, they’ll will be faced with an even bigger problem; what to leave off.

Talk about a good problem to have. That’s why, for the first time ever, I’ve taken the unprecedented step of expanding my best-of list from 10 to 13 – in honor, of course, of the great year for film that was 2013. And wouldn’t you know it, I still had a hard time deciding what to leave off. Ah, if only I had this problem every year…

1) “Gravity”: Wow, what a ride! Can you remember the last time a movie made you sit on the edge of your seat and ask yourself “How’d they do that?” over and over again? (Okay, maybe it was “The Matrix,” but that was 14 long years ago.) Director Alfonso Cuaron (“Children of Men”) changed the game with this breathtaking, pulse-pounding, awe-inspiring masterpiece that absolutely had to be seen on the big screen (and in IMAX 3-D), and Sandra Bullock rose above it all with a career-defining performance that was – dare I say it – out of this world.

2) “Her”: Spike Jonze doesn’t make a lot of movies, but when he does make them, they’re usually pretty great (witness “Being John Malkovich” and “Adaptation”). But his latest masterwork was more than just “great”; it’s his crowning achievement. Graced with glorious production values, beautiful cinematography and a haunting musical score (by Arcade Fire), this profound, compelling, wildly imaginative and heartbreaking love story about a lonely man (a never-better Joaquin Phoenix) who falls for his operating system (seductively voiced by Scarlett Johansson) was both a brilliant allegory about artificial intelligence and a cautionary tale about where the smartphone generation might be headed in the not-too-distant future.

3) “12 Years a Slave”: A harrowing movie about slavery that was hard to watch? What did you expect from this cinematic triumph based on Solomon Northup’s autobiography, which depicted the horrors of slavery with the same level of unflinching brutal power that “Schindler’s List” depicted the Holocaust? Director Steve McQueen pulled no punches with this masterpiece about one of humanity’s darkest hours, and Chiwetel Ejiofor gave a grueling performance as a slave whose spirit could not be broken.

4) “Inside Llewyn Davis”: Directors Joel and Ethan Coen and soundtrack producer T-Bone Burnett made beautiful music together when they teamed up for 2000’s southern-set “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”, but they’re even more in tune with this exquisite take of the New York folk scene in the early 1960s. Toplined by an incredible breakthrough performance from Oscar Isaac as a gifted troubadour whose talent was no match for his wisdom (or lack thereof), “Inside Llewyn Davis” represented the Coen Brothers at their superb, graceful and darkly comic best.

5) “Blue Jasmine”: Cate Blanchett gave a tour-de-force, Oscar-caliber performance as a self-entitled New York socialite who becomes unhinged when she loses everything, but writer-director Woody Allen’s best film since “Match Point” also featured stellar turns from Sally Hawkins, Bobby Cannavale and (of all people!) Andrew Dice Clay. They effortlessly brought to life one of Allen’s best-ever screenplays, and as a result, “Blue Jasmine” wasn’t just a great Woody Allen movie; it was a great movie, period.

6) “Saving Mr. Banks”: An instant classic about the making of an instant classic that also featured an icon playing an icon, the best film yet from director John Lee Hancock (“The Rookie,” “The Blind Side”) was an elegant, whimsical, enchanting crowd-pleaser about how Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) won the battle to make “Mary Poppins,” even though its uptight author, P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson), fought him every step of the way. Thompson was radiant despite playing someone so difficult, while Hanks humanized Disney as a charming businessman who just wanted to make a movie.

7) “The Wolf of Wall Street”: Yes, the story of 80s greed, debauchery and corruption has been done before. The same goes for the stylish, voiceover-saturated, adrenaline-fueled pace that director Martin Scorsese and editor Thelma Schoonmaker perfected with “Goodfellas” and “Casino.” But put them together, and the result was this wild, crazy, hilarious and totally outrageous three-hour sprint down Wall Street that featured the Oscar-winning filmmakers and five-time Scorsese collaborator Leonardo DiCaprio firing on all cylinders (and then some). DiCaprio gave the performance of his career as a fast-talking, morally bankrupt stockbroker whose love of sex, drugs, rock’n’roll and money-money-money made Gordon Gekko look like a wimp.

8) “All Is Lost”: After spending the better part of last two decades as something of an elder statesman for independent film, Robert Redford sailed away with a career-defining performance as a lone man struggling to survive on a sinking yacht in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Writer-director J.C. Chandor’s sparse, spare, nearly dialogue-free one-man show was as much of a tale about man versus nature as it was about man versus himself. Think “Gravity” on a boat, but without all the bells and whistles.

9) “Blue is the Warmest Color”: If a coming-of-age romance could ever be described as “epic,” it would be this intimate, sweeping, emotionally gripping love story masterfully directed by Abdellatif Kechiche. Despite being best-known for the sexually explicit love scenes that bordered on pornography and led to the film being slapped with a dreaded NC-17 rating, Adele Exarchopoulos and Lea Seydoux gave daring, committed, soul-bearing performances as the star-crossed lovers who grew up, grew together and grew apart over the course of ten heartbreaking years.

10) “Enough Said”: The fifth feature from writer-director Nicole Holofcener (“Lovely and Amazing,” “Friends with Money”) was a mature, hilarious and heartfelt romantic comedy for grown-ups that featured four-time Emmy Award-winner Julia Louis-Dreyfus doing something she’s never done before: she carried a movie, and she was so good as a single mother faced with empty nest syndrome that it felt like we were watching the TV legend’s talents unfold for the very first time. She also had irresistible chemistry with the late great James Gandolfini, who left behind a revelatory performance as a lovable and vulnerable romantic leading man.

11) “The Conjuring”: Much better than it had any right to be, this superbly-crafted and genuinely terrifying summer offering about real-life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (effectively played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) was a pleasant surprise – that is, if you can call being scared out of your wits “pleasant.” After cutting his teeth with the horror hits “Saw” and “Insidious,” director James Wan put a fresh spin on old scare tactics, resulting in the best fun-scary movie to hit the big screen since 1982’s “Poltergeist.”

12) “Captain Phillips”: Tom Hanks epitomized grace under pressure as Richard Phillips, the commander of a U.S. cargo ship hijacked by Somali pirates in this visceral, riveting and very intense fact-based drama directed by Paul Greengrass (“The Bourne Ultimatum,” “United 93”). On a structural level, the movie played out like “Zero Dark Thirty” on a boat, but it displayed intelligence, sophistication and depth for its balanced depiction of wildly different cultures and for making the pirates resonate as more than just one-dimensional bad guys.

13) “Lone Survivor”: Peter Berg – who previously directed commercial entertainment fare like “Friday Night Lights,” “The Rundown” and “Battleship” – upped his game to join the ranks of master-class filmmakers like Kathryn Bigelow and Paul Greengrass with this brutal, intense and superbly-crafted powerhouse about an ill-fated 2005 military mission in Afghanistan. The outstanding ensemble cast included Mark Wahlberg, Ben Foster, Emile Hirsch and Taylor Kitsch as grossly outnumbered Navy SEALs caught behind enemy lines, where they were forced to endure non-stop combat scenes so visceral and gripping that they left you shell-shocked.

Honorable Mentions: “Dallas Buyers Club,” “Europa Report,” “Out of the Furnace,” “Frances Ha,” “Short Term 12,” “Prisoners,” “Before Midnight,” “The Way, Way Back,” “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” “Rush,” “Fruitvale Station,” “20 Feet from Stardom,” “The Spectacular Now,” “Lee Daniels’ The Butler,” “Nebraska”

-Scott Mantz

Best of the Fest: Toronto 2013 Wed, 18 Sep 2013 17:51:34 +0000 “Best of the Fest: Toronto 2013”

Covering a major international film festival for a broadcast show like “Access Hollywood” is a lot of fun, but it’s also a lot of work: every day is like a house of cards that’s filled to the rim with celebrity interviews, red carpet premieres and press conferences. If one event goes wrong or runs late, it can cause a ripple effect that throws the rest of the day into a tailspin. (I know, cry me a river, right?)

And forget about eating a decent meal. The best I can do is grab a hot dog while on the run, which is why it’s a good idea to carry around a few protein bars, just in case hunger strikes when you least expect it (which it almost always does). As for sleep, forget it. I’ll sleep when I’m dead.

And then, there are the screenings for brand new movies that, most likely, have not yet been seen by anyone. There’s nothing like discovering something new and exciting for the very first time, especially when it happens at a gala premiere, where the energy and euphoria can have an irresistible effect on the audience. I’ll never forget being at the prestigious Roy Thomson Hall at last year’s Toronto Film Festival (otherwise known as “TIFF”) for the world premiere of “Argo.” Before the ending credits even rolled, there was no question that Ben Affleck’s rousing masterwork would go the distance both at the box office and at the Oscars.

But in all my years covering film festivals, this year’s fest in Toronto – my eighth year in a row north of the border – was the very best yet, thanks to an exceptionally strong slate the effectively kicked off what’s bound to be a very busy awards season. This, in my opinion, was the best of the fest (and, really, it’s just the tip of the iceberg)…

1) “Gravity” – Since jaded moviegoers have gotten used to the computer-generated special effects that have come to define modern Hollywood spectacles, it’s been a long time since people watched a sci-fi, fantasy, superhero or action thriller and asked, “How did they do that?” That’s a question they’ll ask themselves over and over again while watching this groundbreaking, game-changing space disaster epic directed by Alfonso Cuaron (“Children of Men”), which can best be described as “Apollo 13” on steroids. Sandra Bullock gives the performance of her career in an existential 90-minute thrill ride that’s breathtaking, beautiful and awe-inspiring – and a must-see in IMAX 3D. Brace yourself for the ride of your sweet life.

2) “12 Years a Slave” – Director Steve McQueen follows his disturbing sex addiction drama “Slave” with the most relentless and uncompromising depiction of slavery ever depicted on film. An instant Oscar frontrunner for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor, Chiwetel Ejiofor stars as a free black man from the north in pre-Civil War United States who is abducted, stripped of his civil rights and sold into slavery. It’s a powerful, unforgettable cinematic masterpiece in every sense of the word.

3) “Rush” – Oscar-winning director Ron Howard (“A Beautiful Mind”) rebounds bigtime from his rare dud “The Dilemma” with this gritty, sexy, thrilling, pulse-pounding drama based on the true story about the competitive rivalry between two very different formula one race car drivers in the 1970’s – the charismatic playboy James Hunt (“Thor’s” Chris Hemsworth) and the more disciplined Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl). The racing scenes are visceral, but the screenplay written by Peter Morgan (“Frost/Nixon”) is what really fuels this character-driven story.

4) “Prisoners” – What would you do if your child was abducted? How far would you go to protect your family? And what does that do to a person’s mind? Tough questions to be sure, and moviegoers are bound to find the answers both disturbing and unsettling in this riveting and powerful drama directed by Denis Villeneuve. Hugh Jackman gives the performance of his career as a conflicted father who walks a moral tightrope, while Jake Gyllenhaal is equally strong in a more understated turn as the police detective assigned to his case. Villeneuve tightens the screws on the intensity with each passing scene, while ten-time Oscar-nominee Roger Deakins underscores the gloomy atmosphere with his incredibly effective cinematography.

5) “Dallas Buyers Club” – Naturally, everyone’s going to be talking about the dramatic weight loss endured by both Matthew McConaughey (47 pounds) and Jared Leto (40 pounds), especially because the former had months to prepare for his role as a dying AIDS patient in the 1980’s, while the latter had just three weeks. In both cases, their gaunt appearances are upsetting and disturbing, which, for better or worse, serves the film’s subject matter well. McConaughey plays Ron Woodroof, a small-time loser who’s diagnosed with just 30 days to live, but extends his expiration date by more than seven years with the help of experimental (and illegal) drugs. But if McConaughey is the brain of “Dallas Buyers Club,” then Leto is the heart as his business partner and eventual friend. Place your bets on guaranteed Oscar noms for both.

6) “Enough Said” – The fifth feature film by writer-director Nicole Holofcener is her best yet, by far. Where her previous efforts, like “Lovely and Amazing” and “Friends with Money,” were slice-of-life ensembles, “Enough Said” is her first to focus on just one relationship. It’s a smart, mature romantic comedy for grown-ups that features three-time Emmy winner Julia Louis-Dreyfus in her first lead role in a feature film (she’s in every scene). But the late James Gandolfini is the real revelation, bucking the trend established by a career defined by tough guy roles to play the loveable, vulnerable love interest to Louis-Dreyfus. His first time playing a romantic leading man is, sadly, also his last, but at least Gandolfini went out on a high note. Enough said, indeed.

-Scott Mantz

Oscar Predictions 2013 Fri, 08 Feb 2013 19:04:19 +0000 “Oscars 2013: All Systems Argo!”

I feel like I’ve been following the Academy Awards since I started breathing, but I simply cannot remember the last time Oscar pundits, analysts, bloggers, fans, nerds, whatever, went into such a tizzy over not just one, but two glaring omissions from the coveted list of nominees – and we’re not even talking about omissions from any of the high-profile acting categories.

I am, of course, referring to Ben Affleck and Kathryn Bigelow, who were infamously, shamelessly, disgracefully snubbed as Best Director for “Argo” and “Zero Dark Thirty,” respectively, despite the fact that both fact-based masterworks topped numerous year-end “Best of” lists from critics (mine included) and even started winning some awards back in late-December (especially for Bigelow). I mean, how dare they?

But right after New Year’s, the tide changed – and mighty fast – for “Argo.” Just hours after being passed over by the Academy in the early hours of January 10, a vindicated Ben Affleck took the stage at the Critics’ Choice Movie Awards to collect his first statue of the season for Best Director (“Argo” won Best Picture too). In an all-too-obvious dig, Affleck addressed the elephant in the room by thanking “the Academy” just seconds after he bounced up to the podium (he was joking, maybe).

And that was just the first of many stops on what has turned out to be Affleck’s “Argo-F**k Yourself Redemption Tour.” In the days that followed, “Argo” won Best Director and Best Picture at the Golden Globes, it won Best Picture again at the Producers Guild Awards and it even trumped the presumed victor “Silver Linings Playbook” to win Best Acting Ensemble at the Screen Actors Guild Awards.

The icing on the cake came from his peers at the Directors Guild, which also named him Best Director. So while all of these back-to-back victories much have taken some – but let’s face it, not all – of the sting out of his snub, this groundswell of support for Affleck has become a blessing in disguise for “Argo,” which has now emerged as the movie to beat for Best Picture at the Academy Awards.

To that extent, that makes at least one of the categories easy to predict on my annual Oscar predictions list. As for the others, there could be a few upsets, but I stand by my predictions. Hopefully you will too – and if you don’t, well, then “Argo-f**k yourself.”

THE NOMINEES: “Brave,” “Frankenweenie,” “ParaNorman,” “The Pirates! Band of Misfits,” “Wreck-It Ralph”
THE BREAKDOWN: Major kudos to Disney for leading a strong year for animated films, three of which are nominated here. But where Disney-Pixar has dominated this field in years past, its latest offering, “Brave,” lacked the ingenious touch of previous gems like “Up” and “Toy Story 3.” Tim Burton’s “Frankenweenie” may resonate with Academy voters who will appreciate the nods to classic horror films, but “Wreck-It Ralph” is the cleverest of the bunch by far, since it did for 80s video game characters what “Toy Story” did for, well, toys.
SHOULD WIN: “Wreck-It Ralph”
WILL WIN: “Wreck-It Ralph”

THE NOMINEES: “5 Broken Cameras,” “The Gatekeepers,” “How to Survive a Plague,” “The Invisible War,” “Searching for Sugar Man”
THE BREAKDOWN: All strong contenders to be sure, but “Searching for Sugar Man” takes the cake for its crowd-pleasing and rousing stranger-than-fiction story about the resurrection of Rodriguez – a long-lost singer-songwriter from the 70s who finally got the long-overdue fame and recognition that he deserved.
SHOULD WIN: “Searching for Sugar Man”
WILL WIN: “Searching for Sugar Man”

THE NOMINEES: “Amour,” “Kon-Tiki,” “No,” “A Royal Affair,” “War Witch”
THE BREAKDOWN: With strong showings in four other major categories (including Best Picture and Best Director), Michael Haneke’s gripping emotional drama about a long-married couple facing the ravages of old age is a lock for Best Foreign Film.
WILL WIN: “Amour”

THE NOMINEES: Chris Terrio (“Argo”), Lucy Alibar & Benh Zeitlin (“Beasts of the Southern Wild”), David Magee (“Life of Pi”), Tony Kushner (“Lincoln”), David O. Russell (“Silver Linings Playbook”)
THE BREAKDOWN: For a low-budget sensation like “Beasts of the Southern Wild” to get nominated for four Academy Awards, the nominations will have to serve as the prize (including this one). But it’s strange that Chris Terrio’s screenplay for “Argo” doesn’t have the frontrunner status that it deserves, since it has so many great one-liners. Then again, David O. Russell’s beautiful screenplay for “Silver Linings Playbook” is an actor’s dream that features so many profound, funny and touching moments, but Tony Kushner’s dense screenplay for “Lincoln” weaves a true ensemble of history’s finest characters, and it will likely pick up the slack here after losing steam in the Best Picture and Best Director categories.
SHOULD WIN: David O. Russell (“Silver Linings Playbook”)
WILL WIN: Tony Kushner (“Lincoln”)

THE NOMINEES: Michael Haneke (“Amour”), Quentin Tarantino (“Django Unchained”), John Gatins (“Flight”), Wes Anderson & Roman Coppola (“Moonrise Kingdom”), Mark Boal (“Zero Dark Thirty”)
THE BREAKDOWN: “Zero Dark Thirty” bolted out of the gate last December by reaping enormous critical praise, only to face controversy over its allegedly favorable depiction of using torture to hunt down Osama bin Laden. Support for this proficient masterwork has sadly since waned, but there’s no denying its visceral impact (especially in the last 40 minutes). Mark Boal’s meticulous screenplay is the backbone of Kathryn Bigelow’s gripping thriller, but older Academy voters might be more drawn to the personal ordeal depicted in Michael Haneke’s emotionally powerful “Amour.”
SHOULD WIN: Mark Boal (“Zero Dark Thirty”)
WILL WIN: Michael Haneke (“Amour”)

THE NOMINEES: Amy Adams (“The Master”), Sally Field (“Lincoln”), Anne Hathaway (“Les Miserables”), Helen Hunt (“The Sessions”), Jacki Weaver (“Silver Linings Playbook”)
THE BREAKDOWN: If there’s a sure thing in any of the acting categories, it’s Anne Hathaway for “Les Miserables.” And that comes down to a single scene: her one-take performance of “I Dreamed a Dream,” which is comparable to Jennifer Hudson’s show-stopping performance of “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going,” which won her the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for 2006’s “Dreamgirls.”
SHOULD WIN: Anne Hathaway (“Les Miserables”)
WILL WIN: Anne Hathaway (“Les Miserables”)

THE NOMINEES: Alan Arkin (“Argo”), Robert De Niro (“Silver Linings Playbook”), Philip Seymour Hoffman (“The Master”), Tommy Lee Jones (“Lincoln”), Christoph Waltz (“Django Unchained”)
THE BREAKDOWN: How there could be any debate in a category that features Philip Seymour Hoffman’s brilliant performance as the complex cult leader Lancaster Dodd in “The Master” is beyond me. But even though it sure is nice to see Robert De Niro back in fine form as a football-obsessed father in “Silver Linings Playbook,” the tide does seem to be leaning more towards Tommy Lee Jones’ scene stealing turn as Thaddeus Stevens in “Lincoln” (especially after his victory at the SAG Awards).
SHOULD WIN: Philip Seymour Hoffman (“The Master”)
WILL WIN: Tommy Lee Jones (“Lincoln”)

THE NOMINEES: Jessica Chastain (“Zero Dark Thirty”), Jennifer Lawrence (“Silver Linings Playbook”), Emmanuelle Riva (“Amour”), Quvenzhane Wallis (“Beasts of the Southern Wild”), Naomi Watts (“The Impossible”)
THE BREAKDOWN: In a category that features both the youngest-ever acting nominee (Quvenzhane Wallis: 9) and the oldest (Emmanuelle Riva: 85), look for a possible upset here from the latter, especially if Academy voters sympathize with her ailing character in “Amour.” But while Naomi Watts should win based on the power of her grueling turn as a tsunami survivor in “The Impossible,” 22-year-old Jennifer Lawrence exudes the spirit of an old soul while giving a strong, vulnerable and heartbreaking performance in “Silver Linings Playbook.” And since “Silver Linings” is the first movie since 1981’s “Reds” to feature nominations in all four acting categories, it has to win at least one of them. (Doesn’t it?)
SHOULD WIN: Naomi Watts (“The Impossible”)
WILL WIN: Jennifer Lawrence (“Silver Linings Playbook”)

THE NOMINEES: Bradley Cooper (“Silver Linings Playbook”), Daniel Day-Lewis (“Lincoln”), Hugh Jackman (“Les Miserables”), Joaquin Phoenix (“The Master”), Denzel Washington (“Flight”)
THE BREAKDOWN: So, it’s all about Daniel Day-Lewis’ monumental turn as the 16th President of the USA, right? Well, not so fast. Sure, Day-Lewis successfully managed to humanize an iconic figure like Honest Abe, but don’t rule out Hugh Jackman, who not only gave a tremendous physical and emotional performance in “Les Miserables,” but did so while singing the whole darn thing live – no small feat, and one that’s bound to resonate with Academy voters (and besides, Day-Lewis already has two Best Actor Oscars, while Jackman has none). But “Les Miserables” got otherwise mixed reviews and, well, Daniel Day-Lewis simply is Lincoln. More than anything, the film succeeds by depicting what it must have really been like to have been in his presence.
SHOULD WIN: Daniel Day-Lewis (“Lincoln”)
WILL WIN: Daniel Day-Lewis (“Lincoln”)

THE NOMINEES: Michael Haneke (“Amour”), Benh Zeitlin (“Beasts of the Southern Wild”), Ang Lee (“Life of Pi”), Steven Spielberg (“Lincoln”), David O. Russell (“Silver Linings Playbook”)
THE BREAKDOWN: Well, well, well! What to do about a category where the person who should win (and probably would have won) wasn’t even nominated? Okay, we’ve already addressed this, but suffice to say that Best Director now comes down to two people: one who turned a seemingly unfilmable best-selling novel into a breathtaking, groundbreaking, beautiful and emotionally profound 3-D masterpiece, and one who made an “important” film that will find a permanent home in American History classes ‘til the end of time. Look for the Oscar to go to the latter, since “Lincoln” has to win one of the top two big awards, and it sure as heck won’t be Best Picture.
SHOULD WIN: Ang Lee (“Life of Pi”)
WILL WIN: Steven Spielberg (“Lincoln”)

THE NOMINEES: “Amour,” “Argo,” “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” “Django Unchained,” “Les Miserables,” “Life of Pi,” “Lincoln,” “Silver Linings Playbook,” “Zero Dark Thirty”
THE BREAKDOWN: Aaaand, we’re back. Even though I laid out my argument for why “Argo” will win Best Picture at the top of this article, here’s why it should win: it’s the best movie of the year, period. “Argo” has it all: drama, suspense, satire, humor, excitement, a fascinating (and still-relevant) true story, fully-realized characters and a rousing finale. What more do you want from a Best Picture?
WILL WIN: “Argo”

-Scott Mantz

Best Movies of 2012 Tue, 25 Dec 2012 16:46:21 +0000 “Best Movies of 2012”

Another moviegoing year has come and gone, but never before has a year been as bottom-heavy with quality films as 2012, thanks to a plethora of great movies that came out during the fall season.

It’s a release pattern that’s common practice among film distributors, due to the false impression that Academy voters will only remember the last movies they saw while filling out their Oscar ballots.

But that ritual of saving the best for last became glaringly obvious to me while I rounded out my best-of list for 2012, which included just one studio film that came out before the fall. (Can you guess which one it is?)

10- “End of Watch”: Written and directed by David Ayer (who wrote “Training Day”), this gritty, violent and visceral look at the professional and personal lives of two LAPD officers was intense from start to finish. But what really made it the best cop thriller in years was the authentic chemistry between Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena, who played the devoted partners who had each other’s backs at all costs.

9- “Wreck-It Ralph”: A sweet, clever and funny animated gem from Disney that did for classic video games what “Toy Story” did for, well, toys. Without question, it’s the best animated film since “Toy Story 3.”

8- “Life of Pi”: More than just being a groundbreaking technological achievement with the best visual effects to hit the big screen since “Avatar,” director Ang Lee’s fully immersive 3D adaptation of the best-selling novel was a magical, compelling and deeply profound meditation about the nature of survival, faith and existence.

7- “Searching for Sugar Man”: A documentary so incredible and unbelievable, it’s hard to believe that it really happened. But it did, and the true story of a lost 1970’s singer-songwriter from Detroit who got a hero’s welcome from adoring fans in South Africa – where he was more popular than Elvis – was a beauty to behold.

6- “Amour”: Winner of the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, director Michael Haneke’s haunting and wholly absorbing drama about an elderly French couple faced with declining health was touching, intimate, delicate, harrowing, scary, devastating and powerfully acted by Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva.

5- “The Dark Knight Rises”: The crowning achievement of Christopher Nolan’s landmark Batman trilogy was intelligent, relevant, grounded, epic, exciting and full of surprises. Upon its release in July, it brought this trailblazing series to the rousing and unforgettable conclusion that it deserved.

4- “Skyfall”: Nobody did it better than James Bond’s excellent 23rd installment, a reboot of sorts that effectively did for Bond what “The Dark Knight” did for superheroes. Daniel Craig’s third outing as Agent 007 collectively paid tribute to Bond’s 50-year-old past, made him relevant for the present and paved the way for his future.

3- “Silver Linings Playbook”: Writer-director David O. Russell’s charming, funny, smart and very moving follow-up to “The Fighter” cast an irresistible spell, thanks to stellar performances from a terrific ensemble cast (Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver) and a razor-sharp screenplay that infused family dysfunction, mental illness, romance and hilarity.

2- “Zero Dark Thirty”: This gripping and incredibly intense procedural thriller about the hunt for Osama bin Laden came from director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal, the Oscar-winning team behind 2009’s Best Picture-winner “The Hurt Locker.” If the intelligence-gathering build-up wasn’t engrossing enough, the visceral 35-minute raid scene all but sealed the deal for their return visit to the Academy Awards.

1- “Argo”: After proving his prowess as a director with 2010’s gritty crime thriller “The Town,” director Ben Affleck upped his game in just about every way for his third time behind the camera. More than being a fascinating, informative, riveting, tense, funny and very entertaining crowd-pleaser, “Argo” also represented a seamless shift in tones before culminating with a rousing conclusion.

Honorable mentions that came really, really close to making this list: “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” “Lincoln,” “The Master,” “Flight,” “The Queen of Versailles,” “Room 237,” “Safety Not Guaranteed” and “Arbitrage.”

-Scott Mantz

News: “Hitchcock” Gets a Release Date Thu, 20 Sep 2012 21:21:04 +0000 “‘Hitchcock’ Moves into the Oscar Race”

Good Eeeevening, indeed!

Just when it looked like this year’s Oscar race was starting to take shape – thanks to the big bows received by the likes of “Argo,” “The Silver Linings Playbook” and “The Master” (among others) at the Telluride, Toronto and Venice film festivals – along comes a last-minute entry to the fall schedule that could change the game considerably.

Fox Searchlight announced that it will open “Hitchcock” on November 23 – that’s just about two months away. Since the highly anticipated drama tells the story of legendary film director Alfred Hitchcock and his relationship with his wife, Alma Reville, during the making of his landmark classic “Psycho,” the surprise move by the specialty division seems worthy of the Master of Suspense himself.

And “Hitchcock” is certainly graced with some serious awards season pedigree. Oscar-winner Anthony Hopkins (Best Actor for 1991’s “The Silence of the Lambs”) plays the famed filmmaker, and if his performance is anything like his uncanny appearance in the just-released one-sheet, he’ll get nominated for sure. The same goes for Oscar-winner Helen Mirren (Best Actress for 2006’s “The Queen”), who plays Hitch’s wife.

Then there’s Fox Searchlight, which has a great track record with the Academy Awards. In addition to nurturing the campaign of 2008’s “Slumdog Millionaire” from the fall film festivals all the way through to its wins for Best Picture and Best Director at the Oscars six months later, there was also the last minute addition of “Crazy Heart” to the Holiday Season of 2009, which earned Jeff Bridges his first Oscar for Best Actor.

And after “The Artist” won a slew of awards – including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor – at this year’s Oscars, Academy members might want to continue their self-congratulatory mode by honoring yet another film that pays tribute to the classic days of Hollywood. “Psycho” is inarguably one of the most famous suspense thrillers of all time, and watching the genesis of the groundbreaking shower scene as re-created by Scarlett Johansson (who plays Janet Leigh) and James D’Arcy (Anthony Perkin) could alone be worth the price of admission.

Of course, the jury is still out until anyone actually sees “Hitchcock.” The same goes for other potential awards contenders like “Lincoln” and “Les Miserables.” But for a film that didn’t even wrap until this past May, the prospect of seeing a film like “Hitchcock” is just about as suspenseful as anything the Hitch himself brought to the screen.

-Scott Mantz

News: Tragedy in Colorado Fri, 20 Jul 2012 19:55:54 +0000 “We Will Rise Above This”

I’ll never forget the first few days after 9/11…

Like everyone else in America, I was glued to the TV and the Internet, trying to soak up and absorb every last bit of information that I could about the horrific tragedy that had just unfolded.

I was upset, I was angry and I was depressed. And after a few days of non-stop news, I felt like I had enough. I needed a break from the doom and gloom that had permeated the media, and just turning off the TV and the computer wasn’t enough to tune out the madness.

I needed an escape. So I did what I always do when I need an escape. I went to the movies.

And as always, it was just what the doctor ordered. For almost two hours, I was able to forget about the atrocities of the outside world. The fact that I was watching a terrible movie (“Glitter”) didn’t matter, and to this day, I will always be grateful to Mariah Carey for providing that much-needed distraction.

Like most people, I have always loved movies. But more importantly, I have always loved going to the movies.

When I went to the movies, I felt safe, I was happy and I felt comfortable – sometimes more comfortable than I did even in my own home. It didn’t matter what theater I went to, because the feeling was always the same. As the smell of stale popcorn permeated the air, I knew I was just a few moments away from losing myself in another life, another love or another world.

And then, as the lights went down, I could literally feel the weight of the world disappear from my shoulders. I thought that feeling would go away when I got older, or maybe I would get jaded to the experience after I started spending a lot more time in movie theaters when I became a film critic.

But nope, I still get that same exact feeling. Every. Single. Time.

In a sense, movie theaters are my home. Or rather, they’re my home away from home – a home that I shared with a different group of people from one movie to the next. Like snowflakes on a cold winter’s day, no two moviegoing experiences were the same, and it was because of the audience that I was grateful to share the experience with.

And in the early hours of July 20, 2012, in Aurora, Colorado, my home – or rather, our home – was invaded by a lunatic who killed 12 people and injured 58 more.

The theater was filled with passionate movie fans who wanted to be among the first to see “The Dark Knight Rises,” the epic conclusion to the excellent trilogy of Batman films directed by Christopher Nolan. Had I not already seen it two weeks prior at a press screening, I would have gone to one of those midnight screenings somewhere in Hollywood. After all, there’s nothing like seeing a big event movie like this with the opening night crowd, whose energy and enthusiasm helped turn an already great cinematic experience into an even better one.

And now, that safe haven has been shattered, maybe for good. Here it was, the one place left in the world where people could go to escape from their personal problems and the problems of the outside world had become the scene of a devastating crime.

Of course, the priority here is about the victims, their loved ones and their families. Not since Columbine, 9/11 and Virginia Tech has my heart been so heavy with mourning and sadness, and I pray for everyone affected by this incomprehensible crime.

But I am also concerned about a pastime that I hold so dear. Will going to the movies ever be the same? Will the tragedy of Aurora, Colorado, have the same effect on going to the movies that the 9/11 terrorist attacks had on air travel? How can something like this be prevented from happening again? Will this finally lead to tougher restrictions on gun control? Will metal detectors be set up outside movie theaters? Will undercover U.S. Marshalls sit in the audience in an effort to ensure our safety?

Tough questions to be sure. And who knows what the answers are.

As with 9/11, I’ve been glued to my TV and the Internet, trying to soak up and absorb every last bit of information that I can about the aftermath of the theater massacre and, of course, why it happened in the first place.

And when I feel like I’ve had enough – when I feel like I need an escape from the madness – I’m going to do what I’ve always done when I need an escape. I’m going to go to the movies.

And the movie I’m going to see? You guessed it: “The Dark Knight Rises.”

We live in tough times, and in times like these, movies are more important than ever. We go to the movies to be inspired, to be enlightened, to be informed and – most of all – to be entertained. As hard as it may seem for the time being, that experience cannot be compromised.

So if you do go to the movies, do yourself a favor and see “The Dark Knight Rises.” It’s the crowning achievement of the Batman trilogy, and it’s the biggest, best, most exciting Batman of them all. Don’t be surprised when this epic masterpiece gets nominated for Best Picture, and when that happens, you’ll be able to say that you saw it the way it was meant to be seen: at the movies.

-Scott Mantz

News: 2012 LA Film Fest line-up Tue, 01 May 2012 18:49:47 +0000 One of the greatest sci-fi films of all time — 1982’s “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” — will get a special 30th Anniversary screening as part of the 2012 LA Film Festival.

“Wrath of Khan” is widely hailed as the very best of all the “Star Trek” feature films — that is, next to director J.J. Abrams’ terrific reboot, which came along in 2009 to (dare i say it) re-energize the long-running franchise.

And if the rumors are true about Khan being the baddie in the “Trek” sequel shooting now, then seeing the 1982 classic on the big screen again will be sure to get fans excited about next summer’s highly anticipated installment (due May 17, 2013).

Here’s the rest of the lineup for the LA Film Festival, which runs from June 14 to June 24, 2012…

Narrative Competition (10): The Narrative Competition is comprised of films made by talented emerging filmmakers that compete for the Filmmaker Award. The winner is determined by a panel of jurors, and films in this section are also eligible for the Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature or Best International Feature.

  • All Is Well, Pocas Pascoal – Portugal – NORTH AMERICAN PREMIERE
  • Breakfast with Curtis, Laura Colella – WORLD PREMIERE
    • The Compass is Carried by the Dead Man, Arturo Pons – Mexico – NORTH AMERICAN    PREMIERE
    • Crazy and Thief, Cory McAbee – NORTH PREMIERE
    • Dead Man’s Burden, Jared Moshé – WORLD PREMIERE
    • Four, Joshua Sanchez – WORLD PREMIERE
    • A Night Too Young, Olmo Omerzu – Czech Republic – NORTH AMERICAN PREMIERE
    • Pincus, David Fenster – WORLD PREMIERE
    • Red Flag, Alex Karpovsky – WORLD PREMIERE
    • Thursday till Sunday, Dominga Sotomayor – Chile – NORTH AMERICAN PREMIERE

 Documentary Competition (9): The Documentary Competition is comprised of films made by talented emerging filmmakers that compete for the Documentary Award. The winner is determined by a panel of jurors, and films in this section are also eligible for the Audience Award for Best Documentary Feature or Best International Feature.

  • 25 to Life, Mike Brown – WORLD PREMIERE
  • A Band Called Death, Jeff Howlett, Mark Covino – WORLD PREMIERE
    • Birth Story: Ina May Gaskin and the Farm Midwives, Sara Lamm, Mary Wigmore –  WORLD PREMIERE
    • Call Me Kuchu, Katherine Fairfax Wright, Malika Zouhali-Worrall – US PREMIERE
    • Drought, Everado González – Mexico – US PREMIERE
    • The Iran Job, Till Schauder – USA/Germany/Iran – WORLD PREMIERE
    • Sun Kissed, Maya Stark, Adi Lavy – WORLD PREMIERE
    • Vampira and Me, R. H. Greene – WORLD PREMIERE
    • Words of Witness, Mai Iskander – Egypt/USA – US PREMIERE

International Showcase (15): The International Showcase highlights innovative independent narrative and documentary features from outside of the United States. Films in this section are eligible for Audience Awards for Best International Feature, Best Narrative Feature, or Best Documentary Feature.

  • Bestiaire, Denis Côté – Canada
  • Bunohan: Return to Murder, Dain Said – Malaysia (Oscilloscope Pictures)
  • Canícula, José Álvarez – Mexico
  • The First Man, Gianni Amelio – France – US PREMIERE
  • The Last Elvis, Armando Bo – Argentina
  • Neighboring Sounds, Kleber Mendonça Filho – Brazil (The Cinema Guild)
  • On the Edge, Leila Kilani – France/Morocco/Germany
  • P-047, Kongdej Jaturanrasamee – Thailand
  • Return to Burma, Midi Z. – Taiwan/Myanmar
  • Sister, Ursula Meier – Switzerland (Adopt Films) – NORTH AMERICAN PREMIERE
  • The Strawberry Tree, Simone Rapisarda Casanova – Canada/Cuba/Italy
  • Summer Games, Rolando Colla – Switzerland
  • Teddy Bear, Mads Matthiesen – Denmark (Film Movement)
  • Unforgivable, André Téchiné – France (Strand Releasing)
  • Without Gorky, Cosima Spender – UK

Summer Showcase (16): The Summer Showcase section offers an advance look at this summer’s most talked about independent film releases from the festival circuit. Films in this section are eligible for Audience Awards for Best International Feature, Best Narrative Feature, or Best Documentary Feature.

  • About Face, Timothy Greenfield-Sanders (HBO Films)
  • Beauty Is Embarrassing, Neil Berkeley
  • Big Easy Express, Emmett Malloy
  • Celeste and Jesse Forever, Lee Toland Krieger (Sony Pictures Classics)
  • Gayby, Jonathan Lisecki (Wolfe Releasing)
  • Gimme the Loot, Adam Leon (IFC Films)
  • The House I Live In, Eugene Jarecki
  • It’s a Disaster, Todd Berger – WORLD PREMIERE
    • La Camioneta: The Journey of One American School Bus, Mark Kendall –                   USA/Guatemala
    • Neil Young Journeys, Jonathan Demme (Sony Pictures Classics)
    • An Oversimplification of her Beauty, Terence Nance – USA/France
    • People Like Us, Alex Kurtzman (Dreamworks Pictures) – WORLD PREMIERE
    • The Queen of Versailles, Lauren Greenfield (Magnolia Pictures)
    • Reportero, Bernardo Ruiz
    • Robot and Frank, Jake Schreier (Samuel Goldwyn Films)
    • Searching for Sugar Man, Malik Bendjelloul (Sony Pictures Classics)

Community Screenings (6): These films will be presented free to the public. New films in this section are eligible for Audience Awards for Best Narrative Feature or Best Documentary Feature.

  • Dirty Dancing (1987), Emile Ardolino – Grand Performances Screening
  • E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982), Steven Spielberg – FIGat7th Screening
    • G-Dog, Freida Mock – WORLD PREMIERE
    • The Invisible War, Kirby Dick (Cinedigm)
    • LUV, Sheldon Candis – Project Involve Screening (Indomina)
    • Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982), Nicholas Meyer – FIGat7th Screening

The Beyond (3): The Beyond offers films that dare to be different. Films in this section are eligible for Audience Awards for Best International Feature or Best Narrative Feature.

  • The History of Future Folk, J. Anderson Mitchell, Jeremy Kipp Walker – WORLD PREMIERE
  • Juan of the Dead, Alejandro Brugués – Cuba
  •     Saturday Morning Massacre, Spencer Parsons – WORLD PREMIERE

Retro (3):

  •    Ballads, Blues and Bluegrass (1961), Alan Lomax – WORLD PREMIERE
  •    Banishment (2007), Andrey Zvyagintsev – Russia – LAFCA’s The Film That Got Away
  •    The Breaking Point (1950), Michael Curtiz – Film Foundation Screening

Short Films (48): Shorts are shown before features and as part of four short film programs. With their diverse and complex content, these films shine brilliantly. Most short films, domestic and international, will compete for prizes in Narrative, Documentary, and Animation/Experimental categories. The winner is determined by a panel of jurors. An Audience Award for Best Short Film is also presented.

  • Shorts Program 1-4

Future Filmmakers Showcase: High School Shorts (31): These two programs of shorts are made by high school students from around the country, featuring work by the next generation of filmmakers.

  • Programs 1-2

Music Videos (40): The Music Video Showcase consists of two programs. Eclectic Mix is a visual mix tape of this year’s best independent music videos with a few innovative major label artists thrown in for good measure. As a Special Focus, DANIELS and Walter Robot go head to head in an event peppered with music videos, shorts, production secrets, feats of strength, audience challenges and possible mime. Music videos will compete for an Audience Award.

  • Eclectic Mix 1
  • Thunderdome: DANIELS vs Walter Robot
Will Whitney Houston Get Nominated? Mon, 02 Apr 2012 16:31:34 +0000 Will Whitney Houston Earn An Oscar Nomination For “Sparkle?”

The Oscar nominations are still more than nine months away, but I’m calling this now: Whitney Houston will get nominated for Best Supporting Actress for “Sparkle.”

I know that sounds crazy, and I never would have predicted that before – not even in the days that followed Houston’s tragic death at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on February 11, 2012 (the day before the Grammys).

But now that Houston’s first big screen performance in 16 years has sadly turned out to be her last, there’s bound to be a fair amount of scrutiny and sympathy from film critics, moviegoers and even Academy members when the movie – a remake of the 1976 Irene Cara-starrer of the same name – opens in theaters on August 17, 2012.

And based on a sneak peek of the first footage of the film, thanks to the new trailer that goes up in theaters with “Titanic 3-D,” there’s enough to suggest that Houston hits all the right notes with what could be the finest performance of her all-too-brief movie career – prior to 1997’s TV version of “Cinderella,” she made just three feature films: 1996’s “The Preacher’s Wife,” 1995’s “Waiting to Exhale” and her most famous movie, 1992’s “The Bodyguard.”

It helps that for better or worse, “Sparkle” isn’t much of a stretch for Houston. She plays Emma, a former professional singer and mother of three sisters who form a successful group while dealing with the pitfalls of fame, bickering and drugs.

Given Houston’s history of substance abuse-related headlines, “Sparkle” could be seen as eerily prophetic of her fate, especially when her character tells her daughters, “Was my life not enough of a cautionary tale for you?”

Then there’s the sympathy vote, as the Academy has a long history of rewarding actors who passed away during that year. A recent example includes Heath Ledger, who died of a drug overdose a full six months before his Oscar-winning performance as the Joker (in 2008’s “The Dark Knight”) even arrived in theaters.

Of course, the jury is still out, at least until “Sparkle” opens in just over four months. But what should have been hailed as a long-awaited return to form for Houston will sadly be seen as her swan song (she also provided new music for the soundtrack).

And if she is indeed as good as the early footage suggests, what could be more fitting than to honor her legacy than with an Oscar nomination?

-Scott Mantz

Movies: Best of 2010 Tue, 25 Jan 2011 01:14:29 +0000 Wow, could 2010 have flown by any faster?  I swear, it feels like I just got back from the Sundance Film Festival, and that was back in January.

That’s just one of the reasons why I originally could not fathom the prospect of coming up with a list of the 10 best movies of 2010.  Of course, the other reason is that there were so many truly bad movies, some of which approached epic proportions.  Submitted for your disapproval: “When in Rome,” “The Tooth Fairy,” “The Bounty Hunter,” “The Back-Up Plan,” “Killers,” “The Last Song,” “The Last Airbender,” and the crème de la crème of movie badness, “Furry Vengeance.”  (I mean, really, what the heck was Brendan Fraser thinking?)

But as always, there were a few diamonds in the rough, so picking 10 amazing movies turned out to be easier than I anticipated.  And since 2010 marks the true end of the decade from a technical perspective, there’s a good chance that a couple of these movies would have made the cut on the “Best of the Decade” list I came up with last year.  As for what they might have been, read on.

10) “How to Train Your Dragon”
The first must-see movie of 2010 was also one of the year’s best surprises.  What started off as an animated 3-D romp that was aimed squarely at kids soon turned into a rousing, exciting and very moving family adventure that adhered to the timeless sensibilities of “boy-and-his-dog”-style classics like “E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial” and “The Black Stallion.”  With the “Shrek” series running on fumes after four installments, DreamWorks Animation scored a fire-breathing hit that launched a brand new franchise.
Best Movies of 2010
Best Movies of 2010 9“The Town”
In Hollywood, everyone loves a great comeback story (just ask Robert Downey Jr.).  So after years of being better known as a tabloid punchline than as an esteemed filmmaker, Ben Affleck followed his solid directorial debut, 2007’s “Gone Baby Gone,” with this gritty Boston crime drama that was gripping, entertaining and wholly engrossing from start to finish.  With only his second time behind the camera, Affleck proved that he was as technically proficient at staging elaborate bank heists and intense car chases as he was at crafting an engaging story with fully realized characters.
8) “Kick-Ass”
Talk about a movie that lived up to its name, “Kick-Ass” gave the superhero genre, which had been getting a bit stale and formulaic in recent years, a swift kick in the you-know-what.  Thanks to an energetic vibe, a smart story and amazing performances from Aaron Johnson and Chloe Grace Moretz (who stole the movie as the foul-mouthed Hit-Girl), “Kick-Ass” did just that as one of the best superhero movies of all time.
Best Movies of 2010
Best Movies of 2010 7)  “Waiting for Superman”
 By taking an exhaustive review of the U.S. public school system that was just as informative as it was infuriating, director Davis Guggenheim did for education what his Oscar-winning documentary from 2004, “An Inconvenient Truth,” did for the environment.  Despite the efforts of a few idealistic saviors who had brave ideas to restore the system to greatness, the government, as usual, turned out to be its own worst enemy.  If you still haven’t seen “Waiting for Superman,” see it now; you might learn something.
6) “127 Hours”
Director Danny Boyle and screenwriter Simon Beaufoy followed up their Oscar-winning Best Picture “Slumdog Millionaire” with another unforgettable cinematic experience that celebrated the instinct to survive and the triumph of the human spirit.  But it was James Franco’s bravura performance as trapped adventurer Aron Ralston that took the film to a powerful emotional level that stayed with you for well over 127 hours.
Best Movies of 2010
Best Movies of 2010 5) “Inception”
If there was ever a movie that absolutely needed to be seen twice, this was it.  Actually, seeing it just twice barely scratched the surface of writer-director Christopher Nolan’s cerebral, mind-bending and mind-blowing puzzle, whereupon layers and layers of dreams (many of them happening at the same time) made for a riveting and all-consuming cinematic experience that duly rewarded moviegoers who were up for the challenge.
4)  “The Kids Are All Right”
Director and co-writer Lisa Cholodenko drew upon personal experience for this smart, charming and ultimately moving portrait of a lesbian couple whose kids meet their biological sperm-donor father.  But what really made it so refreshing was how ordinary it depicted the same-sex parents (wonderfully played by Annette Bening and Julianne Moore) as they grappled with a variety of domestic issues, their frustration with the careers and their never-ending challenge to keep the passion burning between them. 
Best Movies of 2010
Best Movies of 2010 3)  “Black Swan”
It would have been easy to praise Natalie Portman for her tour de force performance as a competitive ballerina whose obsessive dedication to her craft had disastrous consequences on her sanity.  But Mila Kunis, Barbara Hershy and Vincent Cassel also gave Oscar-worthy performances in this dark, twisted, sexy and altogether breathtaking psychological melodrama that’s the best movie yet from director Darren Aronofsky (“The Wrestler”).
2)  “The Social Network”
Director David Fincher and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin seamlessly crafted a riveting and exceptionally well-written masterwork about the formation of the most important technological phenomenon of the last 10 years.  As for who really created Facebook, well, that’s the bone of contention, and that’s why “The Social Network” brilliantly combined the tragic elements of ambition, greed, betrayal, jealousy and loss of innocence to ultimately triumph as the “Citizen Kane” of the 21st Century.  “Rosebud,” indeed.
Best Movies of 2010
Best Movies of 2010 1) “Toy Story 3”
It took Disney-Pixar 11 years to get from “Toy Story 2” to “Toy Story 3,” but the third installment was all the better for it, so it was worth the wait.  It made the central focus of this otherwise clever, funny and exciting masterpiece – about the relentless passage of time – so much more effective, profound and ultimately moving.  As Woody, Buzz and the rest of the “Toy Story” gang learned to let go of the past and embrace the future, so we should all do the same – especially since time really does fly by..