Now that the Oscars are over... How about more Oscars! Edition:
Way back in the long forgotten year of 2011, there were a whopping, eye-popping 10 Best Picture nominees (as opposed to this year's 9). Those of you who follow the site, or even just speak to me in person, probably know that I preferred last season's line-up to the one we saw this last Sunday about twice over, and The Fighter is a big reason why. A boxing movie isn't exactly uncharted Oscar territory, but the energy and verve of this flick make it stand out from the pack. Mark Wahlberg stars as real-life Middleweight Mickey Ward, a Boston native whose violent expressions in the ring disguise his permissive personality, as he allows his hoard of bickering sisters, domineering mother (Melissa Leo), and Crack-addled big brother (Christian Bale) to conduct his career. This all changes when Mickey meets Charlene (Amy Adams), a no-nonsense type who is stands by her man, and lights a fire under the situation. Director David O. Russell is a master of capturing odd-ball social situations, a knack that makes The Fighter's moments of discourse just as electric as the battles peppered around them. The Fighter is a grand sports movie, making you care about its characters, staging events both massive and nail-biting.
I am a complete and total sucker for the Coen Brothers. I could seriously watch either of them eat a sandwich, and probably be completely entertained. I walked into True Grit expecting the brilliant pranksters to reinvent the Western, and at first, I walked away a little underwhelmed. Turns out, the problem was all in expectations. The pair had already re-written the genre a few short years earlier (No Country for Old Men); This was a loving return to something gone, but not even slightly forgotten. Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) is out for retribution: After the 14-year-old girl's father is murdered in cold blood, Ross hires Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) to track down the killer. Filled with stunning visuals, sweeping music, whip-smart olden dialogue, and the west's particular brand of heroism, True Grit is a joy to watch from start to finish, proving that these patron saints of the art-house can appeal to mass audiences without losing their unique sensibility.
If you're one of the bagillions who already have their The Hunger Games midnight showing tickets, and you haven't seen this movie, you've got something to remedy. Jennifer Lawrence's true coming-out party is a gritty neo-noir set in the Ozark Mountains that sees her displaying all of the earthy, strong-willed, kick-ass qualities that make her a shoe-in for Katniss Everdeen. Her Ree Dolly has quite a problem on her hands; While taking care of her ailed mother and two siblings, Dolly is informed that her meth-cooking father has jumped bail, and if he doesn't turn up, the family's house will be seized. Dolly sets out to find him, plummeting into the dark and seedy underbelly of the area. Winter's Bone isn't exactly easy-watching, but it's riveting cinema, with towering performances by Lawrence and John Hawkes, and an ending that rattles around in your head for days.