Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Kids in the Movies

I recently watched Beasts of the Southern Wild, and like most people who've seen it, I marveled at young Quvenzhane Wallis. I wanted to like the movie more, but it didn't quite connect with me. I found Wallis riveting though. Her performance perfectly captured the innocence and purity of childhood. She absolutely deserves her best actress nomination, and it would be very cool if she actually won.

Wallis got me thinking about other great performances by kids in movies. A list has been rattling around in my head for a few days, and of course, a top five has emerged. These are my favorite performances by actors 16 or younger:

5) Mary Badham, To Kill a Mockingbird: Badham, like Quvenzhane Wallis, had never acted before her film debut. She was also nominated for an Oscar, at the time the youngest best supporting actress nominee ever.

4) Keisha Castle-Hughes, Whale Rider: First of all, if you haven't seen this movie, check it out. There's a scene in this movie that had me bawling like a baby, a scene that will stick with me for life. KCH was nominated for best actress, and I remember being very bummed that she didn't win.

3) Haley Joel Osment, The Sixth Sense: Osment was nominated for best supporting actor for his performance. Could anyone else have made "I see dead people" such a memorable line?

2) River Phoenix, Stand by Me: I love this movie. The scene at the end when Chris Chambers fades away makes me verklempt every time. I miss River Phoenix.

1) Abigail Breslin, Little Miss Sunshine: Breslin is like a mini Meryl Streep. She's always good. LMS is one of my favorite movies, and Breslin is a big reason why. You gotta love Olive Hoover.

Let me know what you think of the choices, and by all means, share some of your favorites.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Love from LeBron

Without out a doubt, LeBron James is the best athlete I have ever seen. I really want to like the guy, but when he famously took his talents to South Beach, I had to stand with jilted Cleveland fans and cheer against him. 

Then he goes and pulls this stunt. Keep it up LeBron and I might just change my mind about you. It's pretty hard not to like the guy in this video.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Oprah Can't Save You, Lance

You didn't have to be a cycling fan to admire Lance Armstrong. In fact, I would guess most of Armstrong's fans were as clueless about cycling as I was. That's what made Armstrong a true icon, he transcended his sport.

How could you not admire the guy? The man was given very little chance to live, and not only did he survive cancer, he went on to dominate his sport. I have no idea what it takes to win a big time bike race, but it doesn't take a genius to know it ain't easy. 

It also doesn't take a genius to realize the emperor had no clothes.

The world of modern sports is full of cheaters. Performance-enhancing drugs make many of today's athletic feats suspect at best and contemptible at worst. It seems to me the dividing line, as always, is the truth. I don't blame Armstrong for taking substances banned by his sport to gain a competitive advantage. If he'd just come clean when the accusations started flying, we'd be good. Unfortunately, Armstrong went into denial mode, attacking his accusers like a mob boss.

The truth wouldn't go away, so Lance went to Oprah looking for redemption. I didn't watch the interview because as far as I'm concerned, you can't trust a thing the guy says.

And that's what disappoints me the most.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Top Ten Movies of 2012

I watched 82 movies in 2012, not including all the bits and pieces I caught while channel-surfing. The first movie I watched in 2012 was Beginners and the last movie I watched was In Bruges. Overall, 2012 was a very strong year for movies, one of the better years I can remember. If you're heading out to the theaters or looking for something to rent, you can't go wrong with any of these films. Unlike my top ten books, I've only included movies that were released in the US this year.

10) Big Miracle: This great family film is based on a true story. Back in the late 80s, a group of people came together to save some whales in Alaska, proving that people with very different concerns and opinions can indeed work together to solve problems. I think the US Congress should sit down and watch this one.

9) The Grey: A plane crashes in the Alaskan wilderness, and the survivors must evade a pack of wolves as they try to get back to civilization. Liam Neeson is great as the leader of the survivors. Some of the wolf special effects are iffy, but thanks to Neeson, this little action/adventure movie was surprisingly compelling.

8) Bernie: This is the second of three movies based on true stories on the list. Jack Black plays Bernie, a beloved mortician who shocks everyone in a small Texas town. Black's performance is brilliant, and I won't be surprised at all to see him nominated for a bunch of awards.

7) Salmon Fishing in the Yemen: This was a classic case of liking a movie a lot more than I thought I would. A fisheries expert helps a sheik with his seemingly impossible dream of bringing fly-fishing to the desert. While I didn't like the romantic angle of the film that much, it didn't lose me. The unusual friendship between the fish guy and the sheik ultimately made this movie for me.

6) The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel: A group of aging Brits take up residence in a suspect retirement home in India. Score one for the old folks. This movie nicely shows that new beginnings aren't only for the young.

5) The Dark Knight Rises: The Avengers may have won the box office battle, but for my money, TDKR was a much better movie. I didn't like this one as much as The Dark Knight, but it is certainly a worthy conclusion to Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy.  

4) The Silver Linings Playbook: I'm not a big fan of romantic comedies, but this one is quirky, the good kind of quirky. The romantic relationship at the core of this movie is excellent, but it's everything else going on in this movie that makes it so great. Of course, any movie that weaves football into the lives of its characters so thoroughly and genuinely can't miss in my book.

3) Flight: Denzel is typically brilliant as a pilot who prevents a catastrophic plane crash despite being drunk and hopped up on coke. There have been a lot of good movies about addiction, but this may be the best one I've ever seen.

2) Argo: Don't look now, but Ben Affleck has become one helluva director. Dare I say, Eastwoodian. Of course, let's hope we don't see Affleck talking to a chair any time soon. Or maybe we should hope for that. Sorry, I digress. This is another movie based on real events, this time the stranger-than-fiction escape of 6 American diplomats during the Iranian hostage crisis.

1) Life of Pi: Ang Lee took a beloved book and created an eye-popping film masterpiece. The best thing I can say about this movie is that it will leave you asking life's ultimate question: What do I believe?

Let me know what you think of my choices, and of course, I'd love to hear what you enjoyed watching this year in the comments, maybe some movies to watch in 2013. Your top movie, top 3, 5, 10, whatever works for you.