movies


Only eleven days to the Oscars.

I’ve wrangled an invite to a friend’s house with cable.

We’ve started pinning down a menu: orange chicken fajitas, posole, chocolate cake…

And now I’m frantically watching as many of the nominated movies as humanly possible. District Nine was JUST FREAKY.

Here is a link to printable oscar ballot for those you, like us, who get into that sort of thing.

Or if you prefer to scan the list without downloading a pdf file, here is the 82nd Oscar nomination list at imdb, which has links for every single name mentioned.

Chad’s best movies of the year list was posted previously here. I’ve only watched six of his top ten so far…

And in case you were wondering,

Chad thinks The Hurt Locker (directed by James Cameron’s ex-wife – sheesh, talk about power couple) is shoo-in for Best Director and will probably get Best Picture as well. He also thinks that Jeff Bridges will get Best Actor and that Sandra Bullock will get Best Actress. Based on what’s already happened at the SAG and Guild awards ceremonies, it doesn’t look like there will be a lot of surprises this year.

I am glad to see that The Fantastic Mr. Fox is up for best animated feature, even though there is no way it will when against Up. Wes Anderson did a great job – that is a funny movie – and just enough quirky for my taste. Chad was doing imitations of Mr. Fox’s signature whistle for weeks.

At least Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin will be entertaining as MCs.

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As those of you who know Chad know – he is not just an information guy, but he is also a movie and music guy. He borders on obsessive when it comes to watching movies, so if your taste is similar to Chad’s, you’re in luck. He probably saw every movie that will make it on the nomination list at the Oscar’s this year and here’s his Top Ten Movies of 2009 in order (with a shortlist).

My list will follow shortly, although since I saw relatively few movies, the list will be more like “Some Movies I Liked This Year…”

1. Up In The Air
2. Up
3. The Hurt Locker
4. (500) Days of Summer
5. In The Loop
6. Avatar
7. District 9
8. Watchmen
9. Inglourious Basterds
10. Zombieland

Shortlist:

Moon
It Might Get Loud
I Love You, Man
The Hangover
The Boat That Rocked

As those of you who know Chad know – he is not just an information guy, but he is also a movie and music guy. He borders on obsessive when it comes to watching movies, so if your taste is similar to Chad’s, you’re in luck. He probably saw every movie that will make it on the nomination list at the Oscar’s this year and here’s his Top Ten Movies of 2009 in order (with a shortlist).

My list will follow shortly, although since I saw relatively few movies, the list will be more like “Some Movies I Liked This Year…”

1. Up In The Air
2. Up
3. The Hurt Locker
4. (500) Days of Summer
5. In The Loop
6. Avatar
7. District 9
8. Watchmen
9. Inglourious Basterds
10. Zombieland

Shortlist:

Moon
It Might Get Loud
I Love You, Man
The Hangover
The Boat That Rocked

In our home, bigger than the Superbowl, bigger than the season premiers of Lost, Battlestar Galactica, and Heroes all combined – is the 81st Academy Awards, which airs February 22, 2009. And seeing that we don’t have TV or cable reception at our house this means finagling an invite from one of our friends or family. And organizing a food fest. I don’t know why particularly, but food looms large in my mind right now. It may be perhaps because the baby has become so active that I’ve scarcely had a moment to scarf down a meal.

Chad’s co-workers get into the Academy Awards too, and usually they have a contest. Chad’s typically seen most of the movies on the list and usually has a strong opinion about who will win what, backed up by the usual pre-academy award’s indicators, like the scores of different awards ceremonies hosted in January. My ideas are, of course, completely influenced by his…

Sounds like Slumdog is a shoo-in for best picture; Mickey Rouke – Best Actor; Heath Ledger – post-humously, Best Supporting (although Michael Shannon in Revolutionary Road should give him a run for his money – but there’s no competing against a well-loved dead guy); probably Kate Winselet for The Reader (she won BOTH Best Actress  and Supporting Actress at the Globes); and Penelope Cruz – Best Supporting for her role in Woody Allen’s movie.

If you’re interested in a printable Oscar Ballot, you can get one here.

If you want to see my favorite movies of the year (I’ve expanded the post to include pictures and descriptions of each of the ten films), click here.

Here’s my totally personal, subjective list. I am also including some films I saw in January (in 2009), because they will be remembered as 2008 films. You can see my entire list for 2008 and the grades I gave them here.

I am including Chad’s top ten as well – although he says that only the top three are in order.

My list:

1. Revolutionary Road (IMDb 7.9/10.0) I think I had watched twenty minutes of this film before turning to Chad and saying, This is going to be the best movie I’ve seen all year. And I was right. Apparently, Kate and Leo have been BBF since the Titanic… And Kate is the one behind this film – she convinced her husband Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Road to Perdition, Jarhead, need I say more?) to pick it up as a project and then he convinced Leo to do it with her. Lucky for Kate as she has already won the Globe for Best Actress in it. This movie is very theatrical – and brings to life the very real warring forces that sometime happen in a marriage. Emotionally intense.

2. Let the Right One In (IMDb 8.3/10.0) – I almost put this one as my top movie of the year, because I think it was my favorite – even though it is, *gasp* yet another vampire movie – A Swedish vampire movie to boot. I can’t stop thinking about it. What can say now that will stop you from thinking I am obsessed with vampires? I liked that the stars of the film were two kids age 12 – and that the subject of vampires was dealt with in a very practical, yet creative way. A fresh imagining, if you will, without all the sentimentality of the Twilight series. And if you get a chance to watch it, the Morse code at the end of the film spells *kiss*.

3. Happy-Go-Lucky (IMDb 7.3/10.0) – This is one of the worst titles for a movie ever, but it still made my top three. The story revolves around an elementary school teacher who could be perceived as happy-go-lucky, but is, is, is, so much more than that! Poppy is crazily giddy on life and enjoying the heck out of being young, single, and attractive, but she also has a deep-seated humanitarian desire to help those around her which leads her into questionable situations. You, as the viewer, follow Poppy into places that might make you uncomfortable. Stunning acting by Eddie Marsan, her driving teacher.

4. Slumdog Millionaire (IMDb 8.7/10.0) I’m already a bit sick of hearing how much everybody LOVED this film, but what can I say – what was there not to love? Adorable Indian brothers who are as tough as nails and not only escape the guy who mutilates children, but end up making loads of cash as “tour guides” for the Taj Majal? Undying love for a childhood girl friend? The absolute serendipity that allows Jamal to know that answer to every question to millions of rupees? Danny Boyle (I’ll watch anything by the guy who directed Trainspotting) directs with unabashed glee – and it works! Hurray for the Bollywood dancing at the end.

5. Burn After Reading (IMDb 7.4/10.0) – I ask you, how could you go wrong with the Coen brothers, Frances McDormand, Brad Pitt, John Malkovich, and people like Tilda Swinton playing minor roles? And the dead dad from Six Feet Under crushing so hard on his employee that it’s painful to even watch? You can’t. This movie is a good laugh – and one to save to watch again. I would call it this generation’s Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Atomic Bomb. It’s that kind of hysterical silly-ness making fun of all that is political paranoia CIA. Wonderful moments with J.K. Simmons as a CIA superior.

6. Son of Rambow (IMDb 7.3 /10.0) – Another film about two young boys, and not surprisingly – awfully sweet, with lots of boyish exuberance and some childhood reality (you know, facing up to the fact that you hate your family’s religion or that you hate that your mom’s not there for you – ouch) These two boys fall in together to make a film sequel to Rambo and their unstoppable enthusiasm will make you grin from ear to ear. The tagline for the movie is goofy, but great: Make Believe. Not War.

7. Wall-E (IMDb 8.6/10) – So Chad tells me that they are thinking about letting this movie compete in the “Best Movie” category, not just “Best Animated Movie” category (which is obviously a slam dunk). Not likely to happen, but says something about how people feel about this movie: we love to make fun of how fat and lazy we’ve all become. Yipes. And how many movies, series, shows are we going to watch about the world ending? I think this movie is about nostalgia for old stuff, but then you leave the theater wanting to upgrade your iPod…

8. Man on Wire (IMDb 8.1/10.0) – This is an excellent documentary about an unusual man whose lifelong dream was to walk a tightrope between the twin towers – and his dream was born when he first heard about the towers being built! And like other passionate dreamers, Philippe Petit roped in a team of believers who helped him commit “the artistic crime of the century.” Fascinating to hear the detail that went into the planning and harrowing hours part of the team spent frozen under tarps while an unexpected watchguard showed up on their floor. Petit too, is an interesting man who has dedicated his life to his art. Don’t meet many of them these days.

9. Milk (IMDb 8.2/10.0) – Sean Penn gives an outstanding performance as Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man to win an elected political position in California. You already know that he, and the mayor of San Francisco at the time, are shot to death by their colleague, Dan White, so the film is not so much about the storyline (James Franco as his lover and lifelong friend) but a close, but not too sentimental examination of Milk’s steadfast determination to work his way into the system – indeed, how any disenfranshised minority might work to obtain a voice. (Did you read about Barney Frank in the Jan 12, 2009 New Yorker? He was the first member of Congress to voluntarily reveal that he is gay back in 1987. Great article.)

10. Frozen River (IMDb 7.4/10.0) – This one’s a low-budget indie film that follows a single mom in desperate straits, just a few days before Christmas. Basically a hard look at trailer-life, Indian reservations, and what we will do to keep our dignity and to provide for our families. No big action scenes or fancy effects, but a perfectly tempo-ed look at Ray Eddy’s hard choices as single mom. Melissa Leo got an Oscar nomination here for her performance as the mom.

Chad’s list:

The Dark Knight
Wall-E
Slumdog Millionaire
The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button
Burn After Reading
Gran Torino
Iron Man
Paranoid Park
Revolutionary Road
The Bank Job

Although we now watch movies piecemeal when the baby is sleeping – we still seem to get through a good number of movies on DVD. Here are a few of my favorite from the last couple months.

The Argentinian flick, The Aura (IMDb 7.6/10.0), gets an A. I find it fascinating when film portrays interiority eloquently. There is relatively little speaking in this movie, as the main character is a man of few words – he’s more of an observer. Through his eyes the viewer also gets to piece together a criminal heist that he falls into. The “aura”  is the moment of absolute clarity and inevitability before an epileptic convulsion.

Slow-paced, but riveting.

I also gave Mongol (IMDb 7.5/10) an A, even though there was more style than substance. Well, I just mean that there wasn’t too much of a plot – but still I never lost interest. The cinematography was magnificent and there was an underlying theme of enduring love. Genghis Khan appears to have not been a man of many words, but of great integrity. I just enjoyed this slow-moving epic of about the first half of Genghis Khan’s life and I hope they get around to doing the sequel. This movie reminded me a lot of another favorite of mine, Himalaya, which I highly recommend. (It was originally titled Caravan.)

Bon Cop, Bad Cop (IMDb 7.1/10) only got a B because despite a strong first half, the tail end of the movie spiraled into ridiculous fantasy. Which was really too bad. The acting is pretty spot on.  But if you have any familiarity with Montreal or the antagonism between folks from Toronto and Montreal, I say you’ve got to see this one. You will guffaw, guaranteed. In a nutshell, a straight-laced cop from Toronto is paired with a bad-ass hottie cop from Montreal (think Frenchified Bruce Willis) to solve a sick crime that involves an ice hockey obsession.  Btw, most of the movie is in Quebequois – which will make you laugh in it of itself.

And lastly, The Visitor, gets a solid B+. This movie is technically excellent, but somehow the whole thing together never rises to A-level for me. We got it from netflix though, because of its unusually high user rating (IMDb 8.0/10), which means that other people LOVED it. The acting from some unknowns is terrific – as is the performance by the lead, Richard Jenkins; you may remember him as the dead dad in Six Feet Under. Basically, an emotionally dead professor gets a second lease on life through a chance encounter with two illegal aliens.

We are in the beginning hectic swirl of moving to another condo. This weekend we moved the majority of the upstairs furniture (master bedroom and Bella’s bedroom) into the garage. Our plan is to be ready for a moving truck move next Sunday, even though we will technically still living here until the following Friday.

Within our crazy weekend of packing, cleaning, moving, and having two out-of-town guests (they were a big help) there were two stand-out moments. Chad saw The Dark Knight, which he proclaimed the best movie he’s seen this year, and a definite ten out of ten (At the moment it’s also the number one movie on IMDb’s top 250 and it’s broken records for top-grossing movie in three days…)

And I made my first batch of Kung Pao Chicken! Besides being delicious, it’s fast and easy to make. I share Mark Bittman’s recipe here, with a few of my own notes. Note: I didn’t measure any of the ingredients.

1/2 tsp cornstarch

1 tbsp Shaoxing wine or dry sherry (I got the cheapest sherry from Trader Joe’s)

1 1/2- 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2 chunks (I buy in bulk and pack several ziplocks of chicken meat in the freezer)

3 tbs corn, grapeseed, or other neutral oil (I used canola)

5 small dried chiles (I used one chili powder packet from our last take-out pizza)

2 garlic cloves, minced (I used at least 4 cloves, and pressed them)

one 1/2 piece of ginger, peeled and minced (I cut it into slices, so the ginger flavor would be milder and the girls could fish the pieces out)

1 tsp sugar

3 Tbs soy sauce

1 tsp dark sesame oil

1 scallion, trimmed and chopped

1/2 roasted peanuts, chopped (roasted 1 cup from TJ’s and didn’t chop…)

1. Whisk cornstarch into the sherry. Mix in chicken. Let marinate.

2. Heat oil in wok, add chiles until slightly blackened (5 min). Add garlic and ginger for 10 seconds. Add chicken and cook through.

3. Turn heat low. Add sugar and soy sauce and cook 5 min. more. Remove from heat and stir in sesame oil and scallions. Garnish with peanuts.

I guarantee this will be a hit with your family. Especially over rice and with a veggie side.

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