2010 Citizen Awards

10) Winter’s Bone

 Winter’s Bone is a very independent and extremely well shot Noir-like mystery set deep in the backwoods meth-lands in the Ozarks of Arkansas.  It is adapted from 2006 novel by Daniel Woodrell and is directed by Debra Granik.  Ree (Jennifer Lawrence) is a young teenage girl and the sole provider of her two younger siblings and her mother who is incapacitated.  She must track down her father, a fugitive and meth-addict, in order to keep her house from being put up as his bond.  On her journey she goes through a gauntlet of a mysterious underground Ozark mob community and a frozen labyrinth of warehouses, dilapidated farmlands and blown up meth labs.  She encounters violent meth addicts, unfriendly family friends and corrupt police.  Everyone seems to know something but nobody wants to fill Ree in on the whereabouts of her runaway father or any information related to the subject.  Determined to save her home and family, Ree has no choice but to find her father, enduring an incredible amount of abuse and torture in order to get the answers to her questions.  The journey is strange and things are never quite what they seem.  This “hick-boiled” noir is extremely well acted by the whole ensemble, but Jennifer Lawrence and supporting actor John Hawkes really shine.  Winter’s Bone was declared the film of the year by the San Diego Film Critics and was nominated for numerous other Best Picture awards.  Jennifer Lawrence has earned five best actress awards and John Hawks has received two for supporting actor.  Both have received quite a few nominations as well.  Over time this film has really grown on me.  It’s one of the best films of the year that you really have to get out there and find.

9) Toy Story 3

This is perhaps the only trilogy in the history of the world where each installment is better than the last.  Toy Story 3 is just as strong as its predecessors and the quality of the Pixar animation is at highest here.  Toy Story 3 is the cleverest of the three.  It is set in a daycare full of thrown away toys and controlled by a godfather-like stuffed bear.  This film uses a slight variance on the very familiar Pixar formula of that of being lost and having to find the way back.  This time, we get to watch Woody infiltrate the daycare with spy-like skills reminiscent of Sidney Bristow and save his fellow toys that have once again lost faith in their friend and leader.  There are evil toys and nice toys and back stories to go along.  Being set in a daycare provides the film with the opportunity to incorporate a wide array of old-school toys that some of us might recall.  Conceptually, the film is nearly perfect and director Lee Unkrich executed it amazingly.

Examiner #9: Toy Story 3

8) The Fighter

I was so pleasantly surprised by this film.  Perhaps it’s because I went into it with somewhat low expectations.  By far the strongest aspect of The Fighter is the individual performances of the its ensemble cast.  But what’s more impressive is that the actors don’t overshadow each other when they’re all together.  The sum of the parts is not greater than the whole, although Christian Bale is by far one of the acting highlights of the entire year.  He completely steals the show but doesn’t detract from the other cast members.  Christian Bale plays a former boxer turned crack-head who is the manager of his younger boxer brother, Mickey Ward, played by Mark Whalberg.  Bale completely transforms himself to become the character and plays the part very well.  One look at him in the very first shot of the film and you know that you’re going to get a great performance.  Mickey is managed by his mother, played by Melissa Leo, and is continuously overshadowed by the attention his brother still gets from his family.  Leo’s performance is somewhat of a transformation as well.  Leo and Bale virtually jump off the screen at you, but it’s not overkill.  They have both earned many supporting actor awards so far this awards season and Bale is an absolute lock for the Oscar for Supporting Actor.  Whalberg’s performance is very low-key.  He plays that of a young talent who is constantly overshadowed and ignored by his family, yet is used to it and has learned to accept this fact of life.  Amy Adams plays her part just a subtly, being the voice of reason and a constant source of level-headedness available to Mickey.  She not only has his best interests at heart, but puts Mickey first.  It’s the cohesive synergy between the two heavy-hitting performances of Bale and Leo combined with the understated performances of Whalberg and Adams that really make this film great.  The Fighter is not just acting, though.  It’s directed, paced and shot well and contains some well-choreographed boxing scenes.  This one really grows on you, too.

Examiner #8: The Fighter

7) The Social Network


A film could not have been more hyped during the weeks leading up to the time when I actually got to see it last October.  It had been compared to the Godfather and Citizen Kane (blasphemy).  I was cautious when watching the film.  I didn’t want the over-hype to leave me feeling underwhelmed after it was over.  I wanted to give it a fair shot.  But there’s no denying that this is an amazing film.  It goes without saying.  I don’t know what I could possibly say that could shed any sort of profound light on the greatness of this film that hasn’t already been shed.  It’s awesome.  It’s unprecedented.  Of the 31 precursor awards thus far in the award season, The Social Network has won Best Picture 21 times, Best Director 17 times and 28 times for Aaron Sorkin’s Adapted Screenplay.  As a matter of fact, no other film has won an award for Adapted Screenplay except for The Social Network (I would say this is a lock for the Screenplay Oscar, but Up in the Air had a similar run last year and lost to Precious).  And a well-deserved run at domination it is.  Fincher and Sorkin team up to develop a very intriguing narrative based on the conception of a website that is so very near and dear to all of our hearts.  The timing of its release is surprisingly perfect.  I would’ve thought that a movie about something so relevant and current would be better released a decade or so from now.  But the stove’s still hot and The Social Network struck and hit a home run to say the least.  Nevertheless, The Social Network I believe will be a film that is timeless, despite the relevant and perhaps temporary subject matter (as we don’t know how long Facebook will remain as it is).  Every element of the film is great and the cast is full of break-through actors from Mara Rooney to Brenda Song and Andrew Garfield to Jesse Eisenberg really broke out with this film.

6) Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows Part 1


David Yates improves with every installment of Harry Potter that he directs.  Smartly, the franchise split the last book into two films which is what they should’ve done with the last four books.  The Deathly Hallows Part 1 is the best Harry Potter movie to date.  It’s the perfect combination of action and storytelling.  The cinematography is absolutely beautiful and effectively assists in telling the story of our trio who have now gone into hiding.  The direction and pacing of the film is pitch-perfect.  The visual effects are completely unlike any other effects that we see in other films.  There’s something about them that’s different.  They have their own unique value. The costumes, makeup and art direction are pristine, as usual and the actors have really matured an extraordinary amount specifically, Emma Watson.  Our trio is on the run for most of the film so our story really focuses on the relationship between these three characters on a more personal level than it has in any of other films.  Along with this fugitive-on-the-run feeling of Harry, Ron & Hermione comes the natural responsibility of Hermione to act even more than usual as that motherly figure and voice of reason to the other two, which allows Emma Watson to shine more.  She is one of the stronger actors in the film, which is saying a lot considering that the film is jam packed with legendary actors.  Part 1 has been converted from book to film magnificently and is a perfect lead-up to the grand finale which comes out this July.

5) Black Swan

Black Swan has been called many things.  People have tried to put a label on it or shoe-horn it into a genre, but there’s no need.  It can’t be done and why would we want to stamp a label on this?  It’s just a great film.  Whatever the case, Aronofsky has left me speechless again.  Aronofsky comes out with a completely different genre with every film that he directs.  Black Swan, stylistically is the best of the year.  It’s thrilling, slightly melodramatic, spooky and mysterious all for the sake of style.  But the style by no means overshadows its substance.  Conceptually, Black Swan is quite remarkable.  The color pallet is meaningful and used very well throughout the film.  Matthew Libatique’s cinematography is quite thoughtful and imaginative.  It stands out.  The brilliant use of mirrors in the film is awe-inspiring and is some of the best camera work I’ve seen in any film.  It’s shot in a grainy style similar to The Wrestler though a little less bumpy and first-person.  The art direction, makeup and costume design are sure to be remembered come Oscar time.  Natalie Portman gives the best female performance of the year and deserves the Oscar.  She made a complete transformation by turning herself into a ballet dancer and she is in every single scene.  Portman has dominated the precursors this awards season and is very deserving of the Oscar.  Mila Kunis has found herself solidified and is sure to be taken more seriously in the future because of this role.  This is another film that I like more and more the more time I had to mull it over.

Examiner #5: Black Swan

4) Rabbit Hole

I saw this film at the Belcourt followed by a Question and Answer session with Nicole Kidman.  In the film, she plays a mother who has lost her very young son.  Rabbit Hole is about her and her husband’s struggle to deal with their horrible loss.  The film is directed by John Cameron Mitchell and was adapted from the 2006 Broadway play by the same name and written by David Lindsay-Abaire and starring Cynthia Nixon, who won the Tony.  The performances of every single cast member are simply superb.  The film itself doesn’t try to do anything special.  It’s a simple stage to screen transition, but it is extremely well made.  Kidman (also the producer of the film) gives the performance of her career and by far one of the best of the year.  Aaron Eckhart really brings it and gives one of the better supporting performances this year, though I’m sure he will be forgotten come Oscar time.  Dianne Wiest, as usual, brings her A-game, but unfortunately will probably not be recognized when the nominations come out.  The real surprise of the film is the performance of the young Miles Teller.  He doesn’t have many lines or a whole lot of screen time, but it doesn’t matter.  He’s hauntingly believable and not at all imposing.  He’s living the character.  It’s scary-good.  The acting is superb but it in now way takes away from the story.  John Cameron Mitchell really knows how to put a film together to tell a great story.  It’s so refreshing to have a film make such an impact on you, without using any tricks or gimmicks.  Rabbit Hole is about the writing and the performances.  That’s what brings it home.

Examiner #4: Rabbit Hole

3) 127 Hours

I realized that 127 Hours had potential to be one of the best this year, but wasn’t at all looking forward to seeing it.  The idea of impending doom can be too much for me.  Movies that center around one torturing idea can very easily become over-exploitative and for me, that’s a turn-off.  127 Hours is the film adaptation of the autobiography of Aron Ralston called, “Between a Rock and a Hard Place”, documenting Ralston’s mountain climbing expedition in which he was trapped for over five days when I boulder fell on his arm.  Boyle doesn’t exploit the fact that Ralston is trapped.  In fact, he very tastefully adds his style that makes the film both enjoyable to watch and relatable for the audience.   We don’t just see a guy stuck for 5 days.  We get to know him.  We become him.  Danny Boyle directs the film without necessarily harping on the idea that a person is trapped under a boulder.  He doesn’t take the easy route and shock us with the literal details that so many other directors would.  There’s no unnecessary suspense stemming from the fact that Ralston is stuck.  That would be too easy.  Boyle takes us inside Ralston’s mind.  We know the thoughts that he keeps going over and the songs that get stuck in his head.  In as true a way as possible, the audience almost feels the pain (at least mentally) and despair that Ralston is going through.  It is Boyle’s genius in directing that makes this film as great as it is.  I thoroughly enjoyed it even though I knew eventually what was coming.  Instead of making a bloody and gory amputation scene reminiscent of so many horror films, Boyle preps the audience so that the inevitable decision becomes a final road to freedom.  It is a necessary sacrifice in order to live.  We know it must come and we cheer him on.  Boyle and Simon Beaufoy adapt the book to screen.  The same composer and cinematographer, who won Oscars in 2008 for Slumdog, are all employed here as well, though at somewhat understated and less flashy final products.  James Franco is one of the elite actors today and I can’t possibly say enough about his performance.  It’s by far one of the best of the last few years.  In my opinion, no one could have played this part like Franco.  Seeing a performance like this makes me excited for what he will bring to us in the future.  127 Hours did not get a very good release, though.  That remains a mystery to me.  With Boyle coming off a huge Oscar win with Slumdog Millionaire and Franco being a huge up-and-comer, you would think that it would go wide on day one.  Can’t figure that one out.

Examiner #3: 127 Hours

2) Inception

Watching this film was some of the most fun I’ve had at the theatres since The Dark Knight.  It’s the epic thriller of the year.  Right or wrong, I fully expect to be wowed like this with every film Christopher Nolan makes.  Inception takes the blockbuster aspect of a film and combines it with the technicality and screenwriting of legitimate filmmaking.  Nolan has made it possible for us to have fun at the movies while enjoying a film that is quite legit.  There’s no need to try and figure out the storyline as it’s happening.  Just sit back and have fun.  Nolan has never made a bad film.  Nolan has A-list actors waiting in droves to work with him.  As a director, I would imagine that you’re at the top of your game at that point.  Part of what makes Inception so great is that it’s an original idea.  Watching such an epic film about something completely new and learning about the subject matter and experiencing it as you go really makes for a fun time. Inception combines the old fashioned heist film style with a mind-bending concept of stealing secrets in dreams.  Only Nolan could pull this off.  He creates a world in which dreams can be infiltrated, built, designed, fabricated and altered.  Information and ideas can be found and stolen.  What’s more intriguing is that ideas can be planted and take root into someone’s consciousness.  Inception is the ultimate heist film.  I was floored from beginning to end and couldn’t take my eyes off the screen.  The effects are the best all year and the acting hasn’t received the acclaim that it deserves.  Leonardo DiCaprio carries the film easily with help from a supporting cast would normally be leads in any other film.  It’s encouraging to know that this type of film-making is still happening these days.  Inception is what going to the movies should be like.

1) The King’s Speech


This is a near perfect film.  The cinematography in particular for me stuck out.  A lot of the more impressive shots were in very close spaces, like a small apartment room or a sound booth.  The King’s Speech has a perfect color pallet with a bit of a filtered look to it.  The art direction is some of the best of the year.  What’s astounding are the many brilliant shots of Firth looking, peering despairingly at the microphone, his mortal enemy.  There are shots under, above and through different microphones, as if to set a tone of a waging war between King George and his obstacle.  Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush’s performances are some of the best ever.  Firth can act with just his face better than most actors do with their whole body.  This bodes well from him in The King’s Speech since he plays a king with a speech impediment.  He is able to communicate his despair and frustration without saying a word.  Rush has given the performance of his career.  Both actors don’t necessarily rely completely on speaking moments to act.  The chemistry between the two is perfect.  The timing of both of these actors is impeccable.  If it were me, I would nominate Geoffrey Rush for a lead actor and give both him and Colin Firth the Oscar.  Another encouraging aspect of the film is the fact that it could so easily have become melodramatic or predictable.  It’s a great story, but there is no obvious formula or natural order of things being applied here.  The King’s Speech goes its own way just enough so that we don’t predict scene after scene, but at the same time we’re not thrown off by unnecessary twists or turns.  Director Tom Hooper is very impressive especially being so young.  When I talk about my favorite film of the whole year it’s really not those flashy films with great effects or those more relevant here and now films that carry all the buzz.  More than likely, it’s going to be those films with particularly good acting performances, a solid screenplay, beautiful cinematography and of course it has to pull at the heart strings.  It’s going to be the film that, just as soon as it’s over, you want to sit right back down and watch it again.  That’s why The King’s Speech is my favorite movie of a year.

Examiner #1: The King’s Speech

Twitter: Citizen Craig

Top 10 Films

1) The King’s Speech

2) Inception

3) 127 Hours

4) Rabbit Hole

5) Black Swan

6) Harry Potter  the Deathly Hallows Part 1

7) The Social Network

8) The Fighter

9) Toy Story 3

10) Winter’s Bone


Winner: Christopher Nolan – Inception

 – Danny Boyle – 127 Hours

 – Tom Hooper – The King’s Speech

 – Darren Aronofsky – Black Swan

 – David Fincher – The Social Network


Winner: Colin Firth – The King’s Speech

 – James Franco – 127 Hours

 – Jesse Eisenberg – The Social Network

 – Mark Whalberg – The Fighter

 – Jeff Bridges – True Grit


Winner: Natalie Portman – Black Swan

 – Nicole Kidman – Rabbit Hole

 – Jennifer Lawrence – Winter’s Bone

 – Noomi Rapace – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Supporting Actor

Winner: Christian Bale – The Fighter

 – Geoffrey Rush – The King’s Speech

 – John Hawkes – Winter’s Bone

 – Aaron Eckhart – Rabbit Hole

 – Miles Teller – Rabbit Hole

Supporting Actress

Winner: Amy Adams – The Fighter

 – Hailee Steinfeld – True Grit

 – Melissa Leo – The Fighter

 – Helena Bonham Carter – The King’s Speech

 – Dianne Wiest – Rabbit Hole

Adapted Screenplay

Winner: The Social Network – Aaron Sorkin

 – Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows Part 1 – Steven Kloves, J.K. Rowling

 – 127 Hours – Danny Boyle, Simon Beaufoy, Aron Ralston

 – True Grit – Joel & Ethan Coen, Charles Portis

 – Rabbit Hole – David Lindsay-Aabaire

Original Screenplay

Winner: Inception – Christopher Nolan

 – The King’s Speech – David Seidler

 – The Fighter – Silver, Tamasy, Johnson, Dorrington

 – Black Swan – Heyman, Heinz, McLaughlin

 – Greenberg – Noah Baumbach, Jennifer Jason Leigh

Original Score

Winner: Inception – Hans Zimmer

 – Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows Part 1 – Alexandre Desplate

 – The King’s Speech – Alexandre Desplate

 – The Social Network – Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross

 – 127 Hours – A.R. Rahman


Winner: Inception – Wally Pfister

 – Black Swan – Matthew Libatique

 – Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows Part 1 – Eduardo Serra

 – The King’s Speech – Danny Cohen

 – True Grit – Roger Deakins

Film Editing

Winner: Inception – Lee Smith

 – The King’s Speech – Tariq Anwar

 – Black Swan – Andrew Weisblum

 – The Social Network – Kirk Baxter, Angus Wall

 – 127 Hours – Jon Harris

Sound Editing


 – Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows Part 1

 – Black Swan

 – The Fighter

 – Toy Story 3

Sound Mixing

Winner: Inception

 – Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows Part 1

 – Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

 – How To Train Your Dragon

 – Toy Story 3

Art Direction

Winner: Harry Potter the Deathly Hallows Part 1 – Stuart Craig

 – The King’s Speech – Netty Chapman

 – Inception – Freeborn, Ricker, Wolcott

 – Black Swan – David Stein

 – Alice In Wonderland – Stefan Dechant

Costume Design

Winner: Harry Potter the Deathly Hallows Part 1

 – The King’s Speech – Jenny Beavan

 – Black Swan – Amy Westcott

 – Alice In Wonderland – Colleen Atwood

 – True Grit – Mary Zophres


Winner: Harry Potter the Deathly Hallows Part 1

 – Black Swan

 – Alice In Wonderland

 – Shutter Island

 – Inception

Visual Effects

Winner: Inception

 – Harry Potter the Deathly Hallows Part 1

 – Alice In Wonderland

 – The Social Network

 – Iron Man 2


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