Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The 2010 Alexis Awards

I’ve been working on this as the year progressed. Let it be known that my system for awarding is based on my own personal taste, mood, appeal, and knowledge of film. Although I do judge films based on the standard criticisms, I do not cater to Hollywood’s opinion or anyone else’s. To argue or dispute my statements would be futile, as I am not forcing anyone to accept my choices but me. I chose people based on the proficiency and uniqueness of their work and productions for the same reasons. Anyway, here they are!

Alexis’s Awards: 2010 Films

Best Picture

Best Director(s)
Joel and Ethan Coen and Christopher Nolan (tie)

Best Screenplay (adapted)
True Grit, Joel and Ethan Coen

Best Screenplay (original)
Inception, Christopher Nolan

Best Animated Film
Toy Story 3 and Tangled (tie)

Best Actor
Colin Firth in The King’s Speech

Best Supporting Actor
Christian Bale in The Fighter

Best Actress
Hailee Steinfeld in True Grit

Best Supporting Actress
Amy Adams in The Fighter

Best Cinematography
Roger Deakins True Grit

Best Visual Effects
Tron: Legacy

Best Editing
Lee Smith for Inception

Best Art Direction
David Goetz and the team from Tangled
Best Costume Design and Make-Up
Colleen Atwood and the team of Alice in Wonderland

Best Original Song
“I See the Light” from Tangled

Best Original Score
Daft Punk and Hans Zimmer for Tron: Legacy

Favorite Films of 2010
The first ten are my top choices, the rest are films I also liked but not the list toppers. Now you’ll notice that this list is my “favorites” which means films that I particularly appreciated as an individual. I’m not giving some pretentious regurgitation of an Academy’s Best list; I’m telling you what I most enjoyed this past year.

9. RED
10. IRON MAN 2


Movies I missed and still need to see:

1. 127 HOURS
5. THE SOCIAL NETWORK (mainly because people won’t shut up about it, my interest isn’t really that keen)
6. SCOTT PILGRIM (ditto the above)

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Chuck? Awesome.

"Hi, I'm Chuck. Here are some things you need to know about me, or maybe you just forgot..." is the adorable episode recap that precedes every episode of this wonderful series. There are very few shows I will watch and even fewer that don’t have J.J. Abrams or Bad Robot Productions stamped all over them, Chuck is one of those exceptions. A good series to me is the same as a good film and all the same requirements apply.

Chuck follows its self-titled character Charles “Chuck” Bartowski (played by the oh-so-cute Zachary Levi). He is in his later 20s working a dead-end job at a Buy More store. Buy More is a lovely spoof of a Best Buy and Chuck is the leader of the Nerd Herd, the spoof of the Geek Squad. Although the show is absolutely wonderfully hilarious and full of witty satire of the world of retail and contemporary American Society, it also has thrilling drama. You see, Chuck’s old college roommate, Bryce Larkin, is a member of the C.I.A. and after years of not talking to Chuck he sends him an e-mail of encrypted information, in which thousands of government secrets upload themselves into a new computer, Chuck’s own brain. This computer was called "the intersect".
With the original intersect destroyed and Chuck’s brain being the only source of this vital information, he has to be protected by an unlikely pair of agents: Sarah Walker, the ideal “hot blonde” who works for the C.I.A. and John Casey a hard-as-stone, duty-bound agent of the N.S.A. Sarah is obviously cut out to be Chuck’s true love from the start, but like anything it doesn’t come easy. Though I was skeptical about her character at first, by the end of the first season I loved her.

Though Chuck is filled with wonderful characters and I love them all, my favorite is John Casey. I may be a little biased as I am a huge Adam Baldwin fan as both an actor and a person. His mere presence fills the room with masculinity haha, but he also is highly intelligent and passionate political thinker.
Casey is cast first as being a “jerk” but anyone with half a brain, who knows good storytelling, knows better than to fall for that. He is like the Han Solo or Severus Snape of the crew, the reluctant hero. Casey is dutiful to the point of being a fault. He lives to serve his country and has literally given up everything to do so. What I like is that John Casey is the first Conservative character I have ever seen on a TV show that isn’t portrayed in a condescending light. Casey’s hysterical one-liners are often times mean, but as the show goes on the truth comes out that he is capable of the highest forms of love and loyalty. He is easily the most mysterious and interesting of the bunch, at least for me. Any time there was an episode of his back-story I was glued to the screen. Team Casey!

My one disappointment with the show is that it follows the same TV formula of annoying “will they won’t theys” and unnecessary love triangles. I REALLY hate that, but I guess no matter what, television is television. But the flip side is that the consequences of these heartbreaks and failed relationships are very present and it does not glorify that lifestyle even though it kind of passes it off as okay. That’s my biggest complaint; otherwise, the show has more morality than pretty much the rest of TV.

What makes Chuck a great show is the characters. The trio, Chuck, Casey, and Sarah all have wonderful arcs and really grow as the series progresses. I have yet to start season 4, which is the current season, but in the first 3 seasons the scene writing and character development are superb. They grew as people and in their relationships to each other. Even the side characters, who are an endearing bunch, ie, Chuck’s best friend Morgan Grimes, Chuck’s sister Ellie and Ellie’s husband Devon aka: Captain Awesome haha. Captain Awesome is beyond hilarious. In fact, he’s awesome.

The intrigue and the grand plot of the show are quite brilliant, the further you watch, the more secrets are revealed and an epic story unfolds. 
On top of the interesting plotline involving the “spy” side of things, there is a well written funny side that gets retail work down to a T and throws in so many references to history, films, pop culture, music, etc… that you have to be sharp to keep up with it sometimes. Even though two side characters, Jeff and Lester, are disgusting and often times annoying haha. I love their musical band Jeffster that redoes a bunch of 80s songs, it’s amazing.
The nerd references are possibly the best thing ever. As an avid nerd myself I love that I can relate to it all, from the Tron poster on Chuck’s wall to the Zelda games, Chuck and Morgan’s cute nerdiness makes my day every time.

Chuck embodies my favorite things. The witty and random humor of The Office and Pushing Daisies mixed with all the intrigue of Alias (which is probably my favorite series of all time). If you like excitement and humor, you’ll love this show. It’s one of the few things I’ve seen that has the power to both engage my excitement, my emotions and my ability to LOL.

Chuck you are TVs brightest star!

Sunday, January 2, 2011


I am going to take the time I have on Winter break to write as many blogs as I can. Yesterday I saw The King’s Speech. I went in knowing very little about it, besides that it was about England’s current Queen Elizabeth’s father and he had a speech impediment. I was completely wowed by this film, such a simple premise and so much depth beneath that surface.

I am going to simply talk about the characters as I did with True Grit. This movie was filled with actors I know to be excellent, particularly Geoffrey Rush who is a personal favorite. And though I have always loved Colin Firth and found him adorable, I was never convinced he was an amazing actor. Throughout the years he stayed in kind of a safe box with and didn’t do very many roles outside of that. He always was recognizably Colin Firth with the same mannerisms, vocal tone, and same expressionless face. (sorry Colin!) But more recently he has really broken out of that mold and has grown to be great at his craft. I think chiefly in his roles as the Dutch painter in Girl With a Pearl Earring and this film, The King’s Speech. I also heard he was extraordinary in A Single Man, but I really had no desire to see that one. Anyway, in this film he stunned me with his ability to not only pull strenuous emotion from himself, but also from me, the viewer.

Although all the actors were great including Helena Bonham Carter as his adorable but often times pushy wife, and Timothy Spall as Winston Churchill (FTW!!!) no one stole the screen the way Colin Firth as King George the VI or “Bertie” and Geoffrey Rush as his eccentric speech therapist Lionel Logue. These two had great chemistry and a believable friendship and admiration that will not only choke you up, but make you believe them every step of the way.

England in the 1930s: We follow Bertie as he stammers his way through life. This impediment keeps him from so many things, and principally, it humiliates him. He is everything a good man ought to be, a loving husband and father to his two girls (one of which is our current Queen Elizabeth of course, given away by her adorable Welsh Corgis in the film) and he also is a man of moral character and integrity. His wife Elizabeth is endearing and loves him very much, but smothers him in many ways, out of love, to push him to better himself and break free from the stranglehold his speech impediment has put on every aspect of his life.

Elizabeth stumbles upon Lionel Logue. Geoffrey Rush’s performance is flawless as the Australian speech therapist with slightly eccentric practices in therapy. Before you meet him, you hear him calling out from the loo, if that’s any indication of his adorable impropriety. Though she is first taken aback by Lionel, she likes his boldness and honesty and asks him when he can start.

In the scenes to follow Lionel and Bertie begin their “lessons” together. These scenes are filled to the brim with lusciously witty and bluntly hysterical dialogue. What is so astounding is that when Bertie is with Lionel he is totally stripped down and you see that his speech problem is the product of many years of neglect by those whom he needed most. We find out that as a child he was abused by his nanny who doted on his older brother David (played by Guy Pearce) but physically abused and starved Bertie, which later gave him health problems.

Though David is supposed to be king, he is a wild card that really cannot be trusted with anything. He runs around with a twice married and divorced woman of questionable character and takes no responsibility for the throne. This responsibility is then thrown upon Bertie who still a young prince inside needing to find his own manhood. He completely dissolves on screen under the weight of the tasks thrown at him and desperately needs someone to listen to him and let him be heard.

He finds that man in Lionel, and even though he insults and rejects Lionel at one point in the film, he later realizes that he was very wrong and that Lionel is the best and most caring friend to him. Lionel has no proper credentials, he’s not a doctor, and he is wonderfully silly (a washed up Shakespearean actor to boot!) but just like Bertie he is also a good husband and father and a man of integrity. What better counselor credentials are needed?

By the end of the film it’s clear that Bertie’s stammering wasn’t because he couldn’t speak but because he needed to be truly listened to. Lionel draws out his issues and makes him face them with courage. It’s absolutely beautiful. By the end of the film I was so moved by their friendship that it nearly brought me to tears. A perfect portrait of what a real, selfless friendship should be like.

I don’t know why I never heard much about either of these men until this film, but they were half as awesome as portrayed in this film I would surely love to read about them further. Not only was Bertie a man of integrity, who overcame a great obstacle, he helped his British people in their darkest hour during World War II. If a man like him ran for president in our country, he’d get my vote in a split second. This film shows that leadership and greatness come from within a man, from his heart, and not from his deeds or surface appearance.