Friday, January 29, 2010


Nominations Bring No Real Surprises
I want every single Best Picture race from the past 20 years changed to incorporate the year’s cheesy, “true story” sports melodrama.

RudyRemember the TitansMiracleInvincibleCoach CarterPrideSeabiscuit (wait…), the list goes on. In short, The Blind Side being nominated for film’s top honor is a crock, a complete and utter crock.

Ok I’m done. Now for some highlights:

COOL that The Hurt Locker matched Avatar for most noms= 9 each.

INTERESTING that Avatar didn’t pick up a screenplay nom (same as Titanic)

COOL COOL COOL that The Cove earned a Best Documentary nom

COOL that Inglourious Basterds picked up 8 noms, the most of any QT film

COOL that Maggie Gyllenhaal and Jeff Bridges are doing exactly what Mickey Rourke and Marisa Tomei did last year

VERY COOL that Kathryn Bigelow is the 4th woman nominated for Best Directed (and could very well be the first winner)

ODD that Up can be nominated for Best Animated Feature AND Best Picture. Why is that? The Cove can’t be nominated for Best Documentary and Best Picture… when are they going to get rid of this Best Animated Feature nonsense?

Basically, even though there are a few surprises in this year’s race… the end result won’t matter. It’s still between Avatar/The Hurt Locker, Bridges/Clooney, Bullock/Streep, Waltz/no body, Mo’Nique/ no body.

The only real surprise I suspect will happen on March 7th is that Sandra Bullock and Meryl Streep will spilt the Best Actress vote, giving an Adrien Brody-type win to Gabourey Sidibe.

We shall see.


With the "real" nominations just a few days away, I present one of my favorite film traditions: creating my own Oscar list. If I was the sole member of the Academy, which films and performances would I nominate and which would I choose to win? Keep in mind there are 10 Best Picture contenders this year. My winners are in bold.

The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans
The Cove
An Education
The Girlfriend Experience
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
A Serious Man
A Single Man
Up in the Air

Kathryn Bigelow- The Hurt Locker
Lee Daniels- Precious
Tom Ford- A Single Man
Jason Reitman- Up in the Air
Quentin Tarantino- Inglourious Basterds

Jeff Bridges- Crazy Heart
Nicolas Cage- Bad Lieutenant
George Clooney- Up in the Air
Matt Damon- The Informant!
Colin Firth- A Single Man

Marion Cotillard- Nine
Charlotte Gainsborg- Antichrist
Michelle Monaghan- Trucker
Carey Mulligan- An Education
Gabourey Sidibe - Precious

Woody Harrelson- The MessengerChris Messina- Away We Go
Alfred Molina- An Education
Stanley Tucci- The Lovely Bones
Christoph Waltz- Inglourious Basterds

Vera Farmiga - Up In The AirMaggie Gyllenhaal- Crazy Heart
Mariah Carey- Precious
Mo’nique- Precious
Julianne Moore- A Single Man

(500) Days of Summer
The Hurt Locker

Inglourious Basterds
A Serious Man

An EducationThe Informant!
A Single Man
Up in the Air

The Girlfriend Experience
The Hurt Locker
A Serious Man
A Single Man

The Cove
A Single Man
Where the Wild Things Are

The Girlfriend Experience
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
A Serious Man

Thursday, January 28, 2010

2009: Best Quotes/Biggest Disappointments

10. “Are you cussin’ with me?!” – George Clooney, Fantastic Mr. Fox

9. “Bye bye Blackbird.” – Stephen Lang, Public Enemies

8. “Here… it make me feel, here.” - Gabourey Sidibe, Precious

7. “After that, I knew no one was ever gonna fuck with me again.” – Mike Tyson, Tyson

6. “The dolphin smile is nature’s greatest deception, it creates the illusion that they’re always happy.” – Ric O’Berry, The Cove

5. “Whoooa, whooa, whoa whoa whoa whoa, Terry. Whoa. Big mistake. Aw yeah. Whoa whoa whoa whoa. Big. Mistake. Whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa…whoa. OH YEAH.” – Shea Whigham, Bad Lieutenant

4. “I wanna talk about how bad you make this room look.” – Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart

3. “Me… there’s only one thing I love.” – Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker

2. “You know somethin’, I think this just might be my masterpiece.” – Brad Pitt, Inglourious Basterds

1. Mo’Nique’s final monologue in Precious (quite simply the best delivered monologue in years)

5 Biggest Disappointments of 2009

I’m not interested in telling what movies suck, as you may have already guessed (ahem, Transformers 2). Instead, this list is for movies that I thought/hoped would be good but completely under-delivered.

Funny People
After his brilliant 40-Year-Old Virgin and the equally funny, if not too long, Knocked Up, Judd Apatow had to get all serious on us. Funny People doesn’t suck all of the time; its first few minutes are well done, but then it just drags on. And on. And on. Every “serious” moment in this movie fell flat (and had audience members laughing when Apatow wanted them crying).

The Lovely Bones
Visually, Peter Jackson can work his magic. But what he does in every one of his recent films (LOTRKing Kong) is overdirect. There is way too much going on in The Lovely Bones. I wasn’t sure who I was supposed to care about or fear or like. I know this is a common question, but: why leave out the best parts of a book, and leave in the lamest parts?

The Men Who Stare At Goats
Dear God, what a disaster. Given the fabulous cast, it isn’t asking a lot to expect a genuinly good time. Such is not the case with this dud. I had no idea what the hell was going on, and more importantly, I couldn’t care less what was happening. A complete waste of time.

Taking Woodstock
Ang Lee, one of the best foreign directors of American films, struck out bad with this coming-of-age story surrounding the biggest concert in history. You catch on pretty quick: “Oh ok, we’re not going to see or hear any of the music.” After you come to that conclusion, you’re let down for the rest of the film. No redemable quality whatsoever.

Tyler Perry’s I Can Do Bad All By Myself
Oh good Christ. I saw this for one reason only: to break my personal record of amount of movies seen in one month (this awful film was my 22nd in October). But holy shit was it painful to sit through. I had never seen a Tyler Perry flick before this, and bet your ass, I won’t be seeing another one.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Top 10 of 2009

10. The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans
Pure bizarro fun. The great, über-eccentric Werner Herzog teams up with the sometimes great, über-eccentric Nicolas Cage to craft this absurdist work of art. Cage plays a cop so void of morals that it initially makes your jaw drop in disgust. Then the shift happens. Somewhere along the way, you start to accept Herzog’s vision and his complete disregard of continuity. By the time Cage’s accent changes for the third time, you’re either hooked, or have walked out of the theatre. Consider me hooked. Oh yeah. (available on DVD April 6)

9. The Girlfriend Experience
I may be one of 10 people that saw this movie, but that’s beside the point. Steven Soderbergh (with his pure, raw talent) made this film on a shoestring budget in just 16 days during the height of our economic collapse. In a ballsy bit of casting, real life porn star Sasha Grey is electric playing a confident, yet damaged high-class escort. The film, bathed in striking blue hues, scored to addicting music and cut with jumpy editing, is pure Soderberghian bliss. What other director would make a movie about a prostitute, starring a porn star, and not have a single sex scene? Soderbergh is all about the tease. Amen to that. (now available on DVD)

8. Inglourious Basterds
Let me put it this way: if you don’t like Tarantino, you will hate this film. Tarantino, a director of pure pulp style, delivered his best, most successful film since Pulp Fiction with this witty, suspenseful war revenge flick. How was this movie such a success? It’s in four different languages, stars no one you’ve heard of (accept Mr. Pitt, of course, who’s barely in the movie), and has some of the longest conversations ever filmed? I’m not sure, but damn if QT didn’t nail it. Christoph Waltz, in the greatest, most demonic performance of the year, should take home the Oscar without looking back. Honestly, did you have more fun at the movies this year? I think not. (now available on DVD)

7. Hunger
Again, probably one of a dozen people that actually saw this movie. In fact, this is a bit of a cheat. This indie, about the bathing and hunger strikes by Irish prisoners during the IRA revolution, was released in 2008. But because of its slim budget and limited release, I had virtually no way of seeing it until it was available via Comcast OnDemand. Here’s the thing: I started this movie at 2:30 a.m. one sleepless Saturday night. After a while I looked at my watch; and hour and a half had passed and I hadn’t moved an inch. Its shockingly violent content is undeniably compelling. There’s hardly any dialogue and virtually no character development, you’re just… there. The long shots of the prison brutality are impressive, but nothing beats IRA leader Bobby Sands talking with a priest in a bravado, 17-minute single shot scene. As the two moral men battle with words, the camera doesn’t dare move. And believe me, neither will you. (available on Criterion DVD Feb. 16)

6. An Education
A true delight of a film. Newcomer Carey Mulligan is ravishingly charming as a young girl who falls for an amiable older man. This movie, like so many this year, didn’t concern itself with a three-act structure, instead acting as a genuine experience. The quickly developing romance between Mulligan and Peter Sarsgaard is subtly addictive. Watching this movie is witnessing a girl become a woman, better than any film in recent memory. Great fun, but will hook you with its authentic, heartbreaking emotion. (DVD release date TBD)

5. A Single Man
The best late-in-the-game surprise of the year. Rom-com staple Colin Firth is flawless in the role of George, a homosexual British professor conflicted after the death of his longtime partner. The film, directed by former fashion designer Tom Ford, is as meticulous as an exquisitely designed outfit. Every frame is staged out, every word pronounced with thought, ever string of score plucked with delicate precision. An experimental film that bridges the gap between surrealism and mainstream. Mr. Firth… your Oscar is waiting. (currently in indie theatres)

4. Up in the Air
This is a tough one to describe. Jason Reitman’s third, and very best, film is being marketed as a witty adult comedy. But it isn’t. There are scenes of gut-busting humor, sure, but they are embedded in a serious, adult drama. Either way, Up in the Air is successful in multiple genres. It’s funny, sad, poetic, and remarkably romantic as is evident by the dynamic chemistry between a career-best George Clooney and a sultry Vera Farmiga. This film says a lot about our culture and general attitude toward the thoughts and feelings of others. But, more importantly, it proves that no matter how shallow the person, a tender heart is aching to come out. (now in theatres)

3. The Hurt Locker
Take you pick: best action film in years, best war film in years, most suspenseful film in years; anyway you put it, The Hurt Locker is dynamite. From its first heart pounding scene to its final heavy-metal finale, the tension never subsides. Jeremy Renner is a revelation in the lead role, humanizing his precise, yet death-wish prone, soldier. This is the only film made so far that has portrayed the Iraq War with such effortless conviction. You’ve heard nothing but good things about it, so it’s time for you to see it. Kathryn Bigelow... your Best Director Oscar is waiting. (now available on DVD)

2. The Cove
The best documentary I’ve seen in years. It does what any good exposé doc should: discovers an issue, explains it, then blows it wide open. What begins as an eco-friendly movie about a dude who goes around saving dolphins, quickly turns into a heartbreaking tragedy as we learn of the pointless annual slaughter of 23,000 dolphins in Japan. It doesn’t take long for The Cove to hit its stride, and the Ocean’s 11-style placement of hidden cameras is as suspenseful as anything in The Hurt Locker. The final scene of this film, as activist Ric O’Barry stands in the middle of the International Whaling Commission conference with a television strapped to his chest, is the single best scene from any film released in 2008. It gives me chills just thinking about it. (now available on DVD)

1. Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire
For over a year, I’ve hailed Precious as a mini masterpiece. Lee Daniels’ miracle of a film makes you feel its characters, its setting, its… life. Why the hell do I like this film so much? I have nothing in common with any of the characters. I’m not an abused, overweight, illiterate, black female teenager in Harlem with serious anger issues. But therein lies the beauty. You don’t just watch Precious, you live in it. So no matter you’re background, you understand Precious’ pain. It’s hard to articulate, and much better explained in the film’s gut-wrenching 110 minutes. Watching this for the first time on DVD, you may be tempted to turn the film off. Don’t. Stick with it. This isn’t a movie about how shitty life can be. It’s a story of hope. Insurmountable hope. Gabourey Sidibe and Mo’Nique… your Oscars are waiting. (on DVD March 9)

And 10 tied for 11th:
(500) Days of Summer was the best romantic comedy in decades.
Avatar lived up to the hype, beyond my wildest expectations.
Away We Go was a little-seen but memorable young-adult love story.
Crazy Heart will get Jeff Bridges his first Oscar, rightly so.
Fantastic Mr. Fox was the best animated film of the year, in a year filled with great ones.
Gomorra was a brilliant, one-act film about the Italian mafia.
The Informant! offered another fresh dose of Soderbergh, with an excellent Matt Damon.
Invictus continues Clint Eastwood’s remarkable streak as a director.
Paranormal Activity scared the shit out of you. Admit it.
Public Enemies was pure, Michael Mann heaven. The cast is great and the action pops.
A Serious Man is everything you expect from the Coen brothers. Weird, hilarious, genuine.

Best Movie Only I Saw:
Read my full review here. But this is a great one that fell through the cracks.

The Lovely Bones

Okay. Any film that begins with a Brian Eno song – his masterpiece "1/1" at that – starts off on a really good note in my book. But when the opening credits are the best part of your movie, it’s hard to remember how it all started.

Watching The Lovely Bones, you quickly understand why it was pushed back a year from being released: it simply isn’t any good.

Why? Take your pick. Like all of Peter Jackson’s films, The Lovely Bones is over-directed. There’s way too much happening here. Wait, am I supposed to feel bad for the family? Feel bad for Susie? She really seems to be enjoying herself in heaven. Feel angry toward Stanley Tucci? Laugh at Susan Sarandon? Because, she... isn’t that funny.

I’ve said it a dozen times, and you’ve heard it all before, but why do filmmakers leave out the best parts of a book and leave in the worst parts? The mother’s affair with the police officer in charge of her daughter’s case is one of the best, most desperate, parts of Alice Sebold’s novel. But no, in Jackson’s film the mom (played by the underrated Rachel Weisz) goes off to grieve at in… apple orchid? Really?

Maybe I’m being a little too rough. Watching the film I thought, “wow the acting is AWFUL”. But it isn’t. Only Mark Walberg is awful. The dude can act, but he’s been distracted lately (remember The Happening? yesh). Maybe these latest roles were just paychecks to tide him over before his much-anticipated turn as real-life boxer ‘Irish’ Mickey Ward in David O. Russell’s The Fighter. Time will tell.

The only nomination this will get is Best Supporting Actor for Tucci, which is well deserved. He’s quite good, but isn’t really in it that much. The heaven scenes may garner a few technical Oscar noms, but this movie looks nowhere near as good as Avatar.

One final jab: why would you end your film with the same exact awful line that made the end of the book so terribly didactic? D

The Book of Eli

You’ve seen this kind of movie before. The kind that barely gets by with a shred of plot, relying on special effects and overacting to fill the seats. The kind that - to try and make up for the rest of the boring film - throws in a hail mary ending. An ending that either makes the movie (hmm, that is interesting) or completely ruins it (hmm, that is total bullshit).

Take a wild guess which category The Book of Eli falls under? Seriously, what’s with American cinema’s recent fetish of making barren end-of-the-world flicks? Looking at parts of The Road, 2012 and now this, I’m starting to think the Hollywood suits need some new ideas.

People looking to escape Oscar-heavy movies, may very well scurry to this faux-action trash. Which puts Denzel Washington (watch it dude, your career is slowly losing credibility a la Nicolas Cage), on Earth 30 years after a “storm” wiped everything out.

He’s heading “west” to take a precious book… where? West? What the hell is that? Some small-town baddie (Gary Oldman) wants the book for himself so he can become a God-like figure, having everyone bow at his feet. (PS, why are a lot of the main villains in films today skinny little pussies? I love me some Gary Oldman, but the dude is not physically intimidating.)

Oh and that ending? Pretty cool until you put roughly 13 seconds of thought into it. Moving on. D

Monday, January 18, 2010

A Global Blowout

I will pay someone to explain to me... no no, convince me, that Sandra Bullock did a good acting job in The Blind Side. I understand why the movie has made boat loads of money, people want to see an uplifting story, quality of content be damned. But Bullock's performance is so over-the-top, so unrealistic, so hokey-pokey, that I simply do not understand her awards attention. The only “justifiable” excuse I've heard is: "Well she's been around for a while, so this is her chance to gain some real positive attention." Oh bullshit.

Here's the thing: I actually like Bullock as a person. In interviews (or even in her speech last night) she is always humble and honest. She seems like a really cool woman, and I've even enjoyed her in certain roles (Speed, Crash), but The Blind Side, and her performance in it, is a crock, a complete and utter crock.

I've been hearing that Best Actress is now between Bullock and Meryl Streep (for the painstakingly boring Julie and Julia).

Jesus, I guess I was the only one that saw Carey Mulligan in An Education, or Gabourey Sidibe in Precious?

At least Actor, Supporting Actor and Supporting Actress promise to be worthy.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Crazy Heart

I knew this would happen. (Sigh).

I’m not even going to say it. I’m not going to say, for the fourth time in a month, that I have a new favorite for the Best Actor Oscar. Instead, I’ll go a little safer and predict that the Best Actor race will be stronger than it has been in years.

There’s a movie like Crazy Heart every year. A movie virtually no one has heard of, gets seen by enough studio execs and gets bumped to a late year opening, just in time to qualify for awards. For a film that was inches away from being released on cable TV, Crazy Heart packs one hell of a wallop.

The film tells a clichéd story, but wisely leaves out the clichés. There’s the old, washed up country singer. He’s a hard drinkin’, hard smokin’, hard livin’ fella. He had a string of hits early in his career, selling out massive venues, but is now reduced to small gigs in bowling alleys dumped in Middletown America.

Sound familiar? Actually, Crazy Heart is a lot like my favorite film from 2008, The Wrestler. Washed up famous guy. Parties too much. Has a long-lost kid. Meets a girl that turns him around., etc.

In the Mickey Rourke role, we have Jeff Bridges as Bad Blake. While I was watching the film, I wasn’t really impressed with Bridges, and then something clicked. I had a grand epiphany in the theatre: I’m not impressed because it looks like Bridges isn’t doing anything. But he’s actually doing everything. His performance is so nuanced, so subtle, that I’m sure it will lead to Oscar gold. Think about it, how many great Jeff Bridges performances have you seen?

The Last Picture Show, Starman, The Fabulous Baker Boys, The Fisher King, Fearless, The Contender, The Door in the Floor, and lest we forget is revelatory turn as ‘The Dude’ in The Big Lebowski. I mean seriously, this Dude can act. But why don’t we remember him all that much? Why isn’t he mentioned among the greats? When was the last time you saw De Niro or Pacino deliver work as good as this?

Well, you get the point, I’m a fan. And Crazy Heart is Bridges’ swan song. I haven’t really talked about the film, written and directed by first-timer Scott Cooper. I haven’t mentioned Maggie Gyllenhaal (always good) as Bad’s new muse. She plays the role wonderfully, never giving too much, never going the way we think. And there’s Colin Farrell… playing a famous country singer with beautifully restrained conviction. Colin Farrell can sing country music? No shit.

Oh yeah, and the songs, produced by O Brother, Where Art Thou maestro T-Bone Burnett and Stephen Bruton, prove to be as enduring as the story itself. Ryan Bingham’s theme “The Weary Kind” should be a shoo-in for Best Song. (But then again, so should’ve Springsteen’s “The Wrestler” last year, and that wasn’t even nominated.)

There are some good flicks out there to see. Stop treating yourself like a moron with the cookie-cutter garbage currently spewing out of the most multiplexes. Venture to an indie theatre. That’s where the gold is.

PS, Jeff Bridges has a line of endearment in this film that is so perfect, so exquisitely executed, that I’d be shocked if it wasn’t featured as his Oscar clip. Stay tuned. A

It's Complicated

Here’s my problem with this flick (and most chick flicks in general): they’re made for one, very specific type of consumer. Think about it, ladies: when the guys dragged you to Avatar, you enjoyed yourself. Sure the fellas probably liked it more, but that film was in no way a dreadful experience. Now switch it around. When you take us to garbage like It’s Complicated, there is virtually nothing in it for us.

Is it really that complicated? Meryl Streep - divorced, successful, three grown kids - hooks up with ex husband Alec Baldwin - successful, hot wife, annoying step kid- at their son’s graduation party. She feels weirded out, he feels like it’s a new start. Then, randomly, for no reason whatsoever except to add “star power” to the film, we get thrown a new love interest, Streep’s reserved, considerate architect, Steve Martin.

How complicated is that? It’s a simple love triangle. Which will she choose? She sleeps with her ex again, OH NO! She has feelings for her architect today, OH NO! This movie thinks it’s clever. We’ve all seen the twentysomething love triangle before, so here director Nancy Meyers thought, “Hey, why not make ‘em old, we’ll hit a whole new demographic." YAY!

Meryl Streep is always good. I thought Julie and Julia was a complete waste of time, but she’s good in it. And she is here too, I guess. Don’t expect the Jack Donaghy-esque humor that Baldwin so excellently brings to 30 Rock in this film. I think it’s best summed up like this: every major player in this movie seems bored. Like they are just coxing along, getting a paycheck. I’m sure the film’s five-month shooting schedule didn’t help (most films shoot for a month), but It’s Complicated ain’t it all complicated, it’s just lame. D

PS: why is this film rated R? The MPAA says for “some drug content and sexuality”. So two 60-year-olds smoking one joint and seeing a body double of Alec Baldwin’s ass earns an R rating? You saw Diane Keaton naked in Something’s Gotta Give, and that was PG-13. That, my friends, is complicated.

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

Okay, let’s be honest. The only reason people are going to see a movie called The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, is because it features Heath Ledger’s final performance. Hell, that’s the only reason I sat through this crap.

Plot? Dear God. A thousands of years old man (Christopher Plummer) travels around London in a huge moveable cart, attracting passer-bys with his unique gift: that they can go into his mind while he creates a dreamscape for them based on their actual fantasies. Parnassus’ crew picks up a drifter (Ledger), the devil shows up... I don’t know. Make sense? Of course not. But who cares.

So, is Ledger any good? Does this final film do him justice? Yes, and yes/no. Ledger was never bad. Even when he was stuck in very mediocre films, he was always the standout, as he is here. Ledger, as he proved in director Terry Gilliam’s previous film The Brothers Grimm, fits well into the warped world of Mr. Gilliam. The movie is borderline incoherent, sure. But when Ledger is on screen, you can’t take your eyes off him.

When he’s on screen. You heard the story: Gilliam was in a scramble when Ledger died, as he hadn’t finished shooting this film. Stop the film? Get a stand in? No, and this is where the movie gets interesting. In three separate scenes, Ledger’s character follows people into Dr. Parnassus’ mind. Once he crosses the threshold into the imaginarium, he magically turns into a different looking person (as Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Farrell). When these different actors step into the character, they openly acknowledge that they look different. It’s a real ballsy move. Something Gilliam deserves much credit for.

However, the rest of the film simply blows. It’s boring, dumb and lacks any real humor. If you want to see Ledger’s final role, then by all means take your shot. But I’m not promising that you’ll be thrilled. D

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

A Single Man

After the first of every year, people are eager for my Top 10 List. I’m not ready, I always say. Because there are those few stragglers left that I have to see. The Oscar-friendly indies that I didn’t have the luxury of viewing at a press screening. A Top 10 List is never complete, but I like to make sure I can see as much as I can.

Case in point: Tom Ford’s A Single Man, which is, to say the least, a Top 10 dealbreaker.

Colin Firth stars as George, a homosexual Brit college professor who is wallowing in his grief after the sudden death of his lover. That’s it. Boom. It only took once sentence to describe what the film is about, but it’d take 10 pages to tell you how good it is.

Where to begin. Let’s start with the film’s style. Tom Ford, famous fashion designer, is known for his intricate steps and tedious details in making clothes. Tom Ford, first-time director, has begun his new career with a film so detailed, so precisely executed, that he deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Hitchcock and the Coen brothers.

It’s hard looking (and hearing) a film like this, without taking into account its beautiful story. It’s basic style vs. execution. The film’s brilliant use of sound and magical string score (by the Oscar-worthy Abel Korzeniowski) help propel the film’s stirring images. A Single Man is one of those rare films that is actually fun to look at. Watch when George talks with someone that excites him. Their face, from his point of view, slowly gains color. So instead of the film’s grainy, textured look, it slowly shifts to a dazzling, Technicolor delight. Really, very detailed stuff.

Now for Colin Firth. Firth has been around for a while, but honestly, has he ever really been tested? Love Actually, Bridget Jones’s Diary, What a Girl Wants, Easy Virtue… you get the point. These are cookie-cutter roles. But as George, Firth is a sheer revelation. He doesn’t say much, but that matters little due to Firth’s shocking ability to act with emotion. Watch him in the scene when he recalls first hearing of his lover’s death. He’s talking on the phone, not saying a word. The man is acting… with his eyes. I feel like a broken record. A few weeks ago I said no actor could beat Morgan Freeman for the Oscar. Then it was George Clooney. But now I gotta admit, I’m team Firth.

The film is backed by a trio of superb supporting performances, namely Julianne Moore as George’s neighbor and confidant. Moore has three scenes in the film (one of them wordless), and surprise surprise, she steals the show. When is she going to win an Oscar?

A Single Man is easily the best film from a debut filmmaker released in 2009. I don’t know how, if, or where Tom Ford studied filmmaking, but he is a hell of an artist. His film does have a stamp of a first time filmmaker (I’ll admit that his editing of conversations is a bit jumpy) but that stamp is one of approval, not failure. I’m genuinely excited about Ford’s future film career. But even more so, Firth’s new direction as an actor. I’m glad Ford chose Firth in this role instead of a more typical British leading man (Clive Owen and the like). This is the role of Firth’s career in a film that aches passion and tragedy. Forget Top 10, A Single Man just jumped to my Top 5 of 2009. A+

Note: In addition to being a great film, A Single Man has the very best trailer of the year. Check it out.