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Wednesday, Feb 23, 2011
PopMatters Film Blog Celebrates the Films and Performances of 2010 With Its Own Unique Acknowledgments.

Apparently, it’s between a stuttering kind and a billionaire prick. That’s what opening up the Oscar nominations to ten Best Picture nominees has done. No chance for better fare like Black Swan or Inception, no acknowledgment of masterworks like Never Let Me Go or Let Me In. Instead, the Academy’s patented publicity grab has once again boiled down to the standard “old vs. new” disagreement to a championing for either The King’s Speech or The Social Network. It’s fogies vs. the freshmakers, an antiquated attack that fails to really address the artform’s accomplishments for the year. While 2010 wasn’t a wholly banner year for amazing motion pictures, we did she quite a few fine efforts grace the annual awards season shill. Of course, with the AMPAS doing everything it can to get those vaunted ratings up, almost all are invited for a Kodak Theater shindig.

That leaves little for Short Ends and Leader‘s yearly SEAL Awards to shift through. As usual, if Oscar has poised a certain picture of performance for little gold statue possibility, we immediately ignore the option. Our focus is on those unheralded entertainments that made a lasting impression in our otherwise preoccupied mind. Sometime, the choices are obvious. At other instances, our “No Academy” rule ruins an apparent selection (Dogtooth, Exit Through the Gift Shop). In either case, our selections come straight from the aesthetic heart, not as part of some elite group’s uncomplicated consensus. Some of the choices may shock you (as they have in the past), but for the most part, we seem to be moving closer toward the mainstream all the time. Or maybe it’s the other way around. Maybe the inclusion of ten Best Picture noms has broadened the field so much that outsides and insiders are becoming almost indecipherable.

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Tuesday, Dec 7, 2010
The enduring impact of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead might be the manner in which Stoppard takes on the Big Questions that philosophers, poets, priests and everyone else have agonized over for centuries.

Spoiler alert: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern die.

They are, in fact, already dead. And they always have been.

But you knew that already, right?

Another spoiler: You, too, shall die one day.

Here’s the rub: they didn’t know when or why, and neither will you.

But you already knew that, didn’t you?

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Thursday, Dec 2, 2010
Anyone who can remember the era when Beta briefly held sway over VHS will surely remember seeing Nielsen in Airplane! (Don't call me Shirley). Impossible as it might be to believe, nobody from this generation had any idea who he was, which only made him funnier.

Real Leslie Nielsen fans will immediately understand the title of this tribute. It is as good as any of his iconic quotes, but it resonates for the way it applied to his career: if any actor held his breath, figuratively speaking, Nielsen waited patiently for his big break. He waited until his hair turned white, literally speaking.

Anyone who can remember the era when Beta briefly held sway over VHS will surely remember seeing Nielsen in Airplane! (Don’t call me Shirley). Impossible as it might be to believe, nobody from this generation had any idea who he was, which only made him funnier. As in: who is that old guy and holy shit, he’s hilarious! And he was. I’m sure you’ve already read more than a few career retrospective/obituaries that detail his long, patient struggle to make a mark—meaningful or otherwise—in Hollywood. (If you haven’t, they won’t be hard to find). It was, clearly, as unexpected for him as it was for audiences all around America when he ended up stealing the show in that low-budget 1980 movie.

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Monday, Nov 29, 2010
Many came to see the return of The Rock. What they got, instead was something unexpected - and by all accounts, unwanted.

So, you saw Faster this weekend, right? Actually, that’s a bit of a stretch, considering the new action film from former wrestler turned actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson failed to ignite the box office over the traditional Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Indeed, for the muscular star, his return to hard-R territory was an unmitigated disaster, failing to make the Top 5 for the five day accounting (it was 7th) and unable to outpace established titles like Unstoppable and Megamind. Indeed, all of the new releases for 24 November found their niche - from Disney’s delightful Tangled to the tacky and somewhat tacky Cher-tina musical Burlesque. Heck, even Jake Gyllenhaal’s Viagra-tinged adult romance Love and Other Drugs did better.

As with most flops, there are many compelling reasons for why it failed to connect. One of the most important is the sudden shift back to brawn and bombast for the genial genetic anomaly. Over the last few years, ever since the decent drama The Gridiron Gang, Johnson has dropped the steroid portion of his onscreen personality to play a more likable, somewhat lunkheaded version of his pumped up self. He especially excelled in family oriented films, titles like The Game Plan, Race to Witch Mountain, and most recently, Tooth Fairy.  Interestingly enough, each one of those movies took in more money on their opening weekends - $23 million, $24.4 million, and $14 million, respectively) - than Faster could muster ($12 million) over an extended stay.

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Tuesday, Nov 16, 2010
A look back at ten performances that helped turn Dickens seminal skinflint into a seasonal holiday tradition.

In a literary catalog that contains such brilliant masterworks as David Copperfield, Oliver Twist, A Tale of Two Cities, and Great Expectations, Charles Dickens remains best known for his early novella A Christmas Carol. A standard morality tale about mending one’s ways and enjoying the true pleasures in life, the famed author used the brief book as a means of doing what he did best - commenting on class, championing the poor, and deconstructing the severe social stigmas of his viable Victorian age. Though he would come up with far more complicated expressions of his views, A Christmas Carol‘s seemingly simplistic message continues to resonate, even 160 years after it was originally written.

Of course, it helps that Dickens created a classic antagonist/protagonist with the character of miserly moneylender Ebenezer Scrooge. Like Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the author forged a part so palpable that, immediately upon publication, actors were lining up to play the role. A Christmas Carol was such a huge hit that stage adaptations and other theatrical versions immediately sprang up - each with its own unique interpretation of the main role. In fact, Scrooge has become such a symbol of the holiday ‘spirit’ that we seemingly get new versions of the tale every year. From female-ccentric takes to radical rethinkings, A Christmas Carol always manages to maintain its timelessness.

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