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The Reel Deal: A movie mash-up of Oscar faves
A bevy of films – usually the ones studios deem award-worthy – were released in late December. Being the dutiful reviewer, I went to see four of them within the span of a week and two days.
With the holiday season of indulgence, there were two films that made you want to put down that (fifth) frosted cookie and get up and exercise. They were “The Fighter” and “Black Swan.”
In “The Fighter,” which is based on a true story, Mark Wahlberg plays Micky Ward, a boxer who is considered a stepping stone in his sport. Meaning other boxers fight him to pad their stats and move up a division. He lives in the shadow of his older half-brother Dicky Eklund (Christian Bale), who is known in his hometown of Massachusetts as “The Pride of Lowell” for (debatably) knocking down Sugar Ray Leonard during a bout years earlier. Whereas Micky wants to improve his legacy and compete for a light welterweight title with his brother as his trainer, Dicky is more content basking in his one moment of glory and hitting the crack pipe.
So now, with a increasingly drug-addled brother and his manager mother (played by the terrific Melissa Leo) scheduling fights he can’t possibly win, Micky has to make the decision to sever ties with his tight-knit family while he pursues his dream or become bogged down by their issues and becomes a could-have-been.
This is a terrific, character driven film by David O. Russell that examines aspiring and broken dreams, family obligations, family ties, and personal loyalty with amazing performances by every actor. It’s one of my 2010 favorites. A-
Also on that list is “Black Swan,” a stunning and much-talked about movie featuring Natalie Portman as a ballerina who starts to become unhinged when she is cast as the Swan Queen in a darker and edgier production of Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s ‘Swan Lake.’
With her physical dedication to the role of the delusional Nina Sayers, Portman is absolutely worthy of the Oscar hype, but I just wished I liked and cared about her character more. I blame the sometimes muddled and bland script in this otherwise twisty and exquisite feature from Darren Aronofsky. B+
The King’s Speech
Another character driven film I adored was Tom Hooper’s “The King’s Speech.” This is a true-life story about how British monarch King George VI (Colin Firth) struggled to overcome his debilitating fear of public speaking and speech impediment from an unorthodox Australian commoner (Geoffrey Rush) and become the voice of a nation on the brink of war.
It’s sad, charming, funny and the performances by Firth, Rush and Helena Bonham Carter (who plays the supportive Queen Elizabeth) are so, so good. Definitely a must-watch. B+
The last film I saw was “True Grit,” a remake of the 1969 film featuring John Wayne. In this update, newcomer Hailee Steinfeld plays 14-year-old Mattie Moss, a stubborn and whip smart Arkansas girl who hires a drunken, eye-patch wearing U.S. Marshall named Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) to help her track down the man who killed her father.
This film, which is directed by brothers Joel and Ethan Coen, was not a favorite of mine.
I appreciate that it is a genuine-to-the-era movie with fabulous sets and costumes, and portrays the sudden brutality of the Wild West, but even the Coen Brothers and solid acting by its leads couldn’t get me into this slow-moving story.
It could be a genre thing though; I’m not really into Westerns, but thought I would give it a shot because of its directors and stars. Might have been the wrong choice for me, but otherwise I think I was fortunate with my other movie picks. C
Dedra Cordle is a Messenger staff writer.
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