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Dear Readers,

This is a continuation of Mimi’s Oscar Picks from February 22, 2011.

As far as acting is concerned, “The King’s Speech” fills the bill. King George VI of England takes the throne after his brother abdicates.  He stutters and needs help to be able to address the nation in a clear and distinct voice. He employs a speech therapist to help him.  Colin Firth, who plays King George VI and Geoffrey Rush as speech therapist, Lionel Logue, have great scenes together. They are two great actors playing off each other.  In fact, I think the real star of the movie is Geoffrey Rush.  Helena Bonham Carter plays Queen Elizabeth and has been nominated for Best Supporting Actress.  Her small part does not justify an Oscar nomination!

L. Kent Wolgamott of the Lincoln Journal Star called “The Illusionist” ‘a simple story with emotional depth’.  Tatischeff is an illusionist or magician performing during the late 50’s.  His type of entertainment where a rabbit is pulled from a hat is no longer appreciated.  Audiences want to see and hear Rock ‘n Roll bands.  After running out of jobs in Paris and London, he ends up at a pub in a small Scottish town.  It is there he meets Alice, a young girl who loves magic shows.  He buys her a new pair of bright red slippers and gives them to her as part of a magic trick.  She is enchanted with the “magic” and follows him to Edinburgh, where they form a kind of father-daughter relationship.

The movie is animated but not computer-generated.  It is hand-drawn in a distinct manner where each character is elongated and rather clunky.  The real beauty is in the background scenes of the city.  Full of eye-pleasing color and detail, each scene could be a framed piece of art.  I found this movie to be a real treasure!

The last movie I saw was “Winter’s Bone” and I consider it to be the best movie of all.  A 17 year old girl living in the Ozarks searches for her father in order to save the home, where she is raising her 10 year old brother and 7 year old sister.  Her mother has given up on life and is mentally unstable.  The meth-cooking father used the family home as collateral to post bail.  He failed to appear in court so the bond company is poised to seize the home.  The girl has to find her Dad so she can save the house and keep her family together.

The movie features life in the poverty stricken Ozarks where cooking meth has taken the place of making moonshine.  It is a dull and dreary place to live.  But there is one bright light in this hopeless landscape and that is Ree Dolly, the 17 year old played by Jennifer Lawrence.  She portrays a strong young woman determined to keep her family’s home.  Lawrence does a superb job and is worthy of an Academy Award for Best Actress.  She is a newcomer but I hope the Academy is smart enough to recognize her considerable talent!

Here is how I rank the 7 movies I’ve seen:

1.  Winter’s Bone

2.  The Illusionist

3.  The Fighter

4.  The King’s Speech

5.  True Grit

6.  Black Swan

7.  The Social Network

How would you rank these movies?  Let me know and remember to always

Keep smilin’!

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Dear Readers,

Every year I try to view the Oscar-nominated movies before the awards ceremony to see if my picks are the same as the Academy.  I didn’t get to see all of the nominated movies but here are the ones I’ve viewed along with my impression of them.

“True Grit” is a good, old-fashioned cowboy story starring Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon and the young Hailee Steinfeld.  It chronicles the adventure of Mattie Ross (Steinfeld) who hires a US Marshal (Bridges) to find her father’s murderer.  The marshal is Rooster Cogburn and Bridges does a super job of playing a dirty, dusty, drunken cowboy.  Jeff Bridges was born to play this role.  Matt Damon plays LaBoeuf, a Texas ranger, who joins up with Cogburn and the girl to help track down the killer, played convincingly by Josh Brolin.  Hailee Steinfeld is a talented, fresh young face and has a great career ahead of her.

Jesse Eisenburg stars as Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, in “The Social Network”.  He appears to be an arrogant nerd who apparently stole the idea of social networking from Harvard twins, Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss.  Zuckerberg does not know how to make friends.  He treats his one friend, Eduardo Savarin, quite shabbily and shuts him out of his company.  If this movie is true, Zuckerberg is not a very nice person.  The movie is not worthy of 8 Academy Award nominations; especially the one for Best Original Score!

“The Black Swan” starring Natalie Portman is a real downer.  It starts out very intense and the intensity level stays high throughout the entire movie.  It is very dark and very sad.  Natalie Portman reportedly lost 20 pounds to play the role of the tortured ballerina and she really looks the part.  Nina is a perfectionist who is slowly going mad.  She tries so hard but never seems to please anyone, including the cruel ballet director and her mentally unbalanced and domineering mother, played by Barbara Hershey.  I think Natalie will probably win an Oscar but I feel it is not a stretch for a talented actor to portray a character slowly going insane.  This was not a fun movie to watch.  Mimi was ready for a couple of margaritas after watching it!

“The Fighter” was an enjoyable movie about two brothers, Micky and Dicky Eklund.  Dicky, expertly played by Christian Bale is a washed-up fighter addicted to cocaine.  An HBO documentary is being made about him.  He thinks it’s about his glory days as a fighter but it’s really a story about drug abuse.  The real fighter in the family is his brother Micky (Mark Wahlberg).  He has to learn to break free from his dysfunctional family to find success in the ring.  Amy Adams does an excellent job as his girlfriend.  She’s an under-achieving bartender from Lowell, Massachusetts.  She nailed the working-class accent of that area.  She should get the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. The mother of the Eklund boys played by Melissa Leo is very convincing in her role as a Mom who favors one child above the rest. 

To be continued on Friday, February 25.  Until then, be sure to

Keep smilin’!

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Mimi’s Oscar Picks

Dear Readers,

Please bear with me as I post another movie review before the Oscars ceremony.  Saw “The Wrestler” starring Mickey Rourke a couple of days ago and had to write about it.

It is rated “R” for a good reason – there are lots of violence, nudity and foul language.  But believe me, this is all necessary to tell the story of this has-been wrestler.  His world is full of dark and creepy places, not exactly a paradise.  You are led through this world by Randy as the director used a hand-held camera in many scenes to give the audience the impression of walking in his footsteps.  The physical pain of the wrestler is thrown right in your face.  His acting is convincing, heartbreaking and real.  When Randy tells his daughter he’s “a broken down piece of meat”, it’s entirely believable.

A friend suggested that Mickey Rourke’s acting wasn’t Oscar-worthy because he was acting out his own life.  I say it takes a lot of guts to open up your heart and soul in front of a camera.  He definitely deserves an Oscar for this role.  Go see this movie!  You’ll get a better understanding of the life of a wrestler.  It is interesting and very powerful.

Also saw Anne Hathaway in “Rachel Getting Married”.  She plays a woman on leave from a rehab clinic attending her sister’s wedding.  The family is dysfunctional and all of them have been hurt by Kim’s addictions.  I feel sorry for the whole family and the pain they have suffered.  But I don’t think Hathaway’s performance merits an Oscar.

Here are my Oscar picks:

Best Actor – Mickey Rourke

Best Supporting Actor – Heath Ledger

Best Actress – Kate Winslet

Best Supporting Actress – Amy Adams (didn’t see Penelope Cruz)

Best Motion Picture – Slumdog Millionaire

It will be an interesting year to watch the Oscars ceremony!

Keep smilin’!

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More Mimi Movie Picks

Dear Readers,

My title today is a real tongue twister.  Try saying it quickly 3 times and see what happens!  Seriously, I’m trying to see many of the Oscar nominated movies before the awards are given next Sunday.

Revolutionary Road:

Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio give a raw and emotional performance here.  But let’s face it, the story is a real downer!  My jaws were sore from clenching my teeth during the movie.  It also struck a nerve.  It is difficult to watch a married couple hurl insults to each other in the heat of battle (something most couples are guilty of) and then feel the pain once those words are spoken.  And we all know those same words can never be taken back, only apologized for.

It is an intimate look into a marriage where, in my opinion, both partners are rather immature.  They seemed to feed off of each other’s unhappiness.  The movie puts forth the idea that a lot of their unhappiness was due to their move to suburbia of the 50’s, where everyone was expected to fit into a certain mold.  I feel these characters would be unfulfilled no matter where they lived!

If a friend asked for a recommendation, I’d say great acting, depressing story line!

Gran Torino:

It’s not up for an award, but is extremely entertaining.

If you’re a Clint Eastwood fan (and who isn’t?), you will enjoy watching him as a Korean War vet tough guy who is bitter and full of prejudices.  He’s an aging Archie Bunker who is finally mellowed by his friendship with an immigrant brother and sister.  The sister is feisty and is not afraid to invite Walt Kowalski over for a family barbecue.  He reluctantly becomes entangled in their lives and decides to help the boy who tried to steal his Gran Torino.  Walt wants to keep him from the influence of his cousins who are thugs and gang members.

One of the best scenes in the movie is when Walt tries to “man up” the young man.  He takes him into a local barbershop and tutors him in the manly art of trading insults with the barber.  It is hilarious!

Kowalski is a walking commercial for beer as he downs quite a few cold “pbr’s”.  Watching this movie is enjoyable and Eastwood rewards the audience by “singing” a song during the closing credits.

Keep Smilin’!

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Even More Movies

Dear Readers,

Here are two more Oscar-nominated movies I’ve recently seen.  (Don’t worry, Roger Ebert!  Mimi won’t be taking over your job anytime soon!!!)

Frost/Nixon:

This movie chronicles the events of the four televised interviews between David Frost and ex-President Richard Nixon.  The interviews were not nearly as sensational in reality as they are shown here.  (But then I guess most movies sensationalize true stories.  Real life sometimes needs spicing up a bit!)

The story is unremarkable and the director uses a hand-held camera a little too often for my taste.  But you should see this movie to witness the superb performance given by Frank Langella.  He truly captures the complexity of Nixon’s personality and deserves an Oscar nomination.  Just watching his facial expressions is extremely entertaining!  Go see this movie, observe Langella and you’ll absolutely get your money’s worth!

The Reader:

This movie is very, very powerful.  Walking out of the theatre, I was emotionally spent!  This story is beautiful, interesting and at times very painful.  Kate Winslet does an outstanding job as the older lover with a past.  The young actor who plays the 15 year old seduced by her also does a fine job.  He’s a young actor on the way up!  Ralph Fiennes is very good as the grown man.  The sense of betrayal, guilt and sadness is everywhere on his face.  There are a couple of interesting story lines going on.  I can’t go into detail as it would ruin the movie for you.  The Reader is not a feel good movie but it is one that you will want to discuss with others.  I highly recommend this movie but bring a handkerchief with you!

You are probably wondering why I have so few negative comments about these Oscar movies.  That’s because there is a bumper crop of excellent movies this year.  Take advantage of this situation.  It doesn’t happen all that often!

Keep smilin’!

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Another Good Movie

Dear Readers,

As you can tell Mimi has been on a quest to see many of this year’s Oscar nominated movies.  Well, today I deviated from the list and am I glad I did!  Saw “Last Chance Harvey” starring Emma Thompson and Dustin Hoffman.

It’s a touching love story; not perhaps for the young but certainly for the “young at heart”.  You have to have suffered some of life’s indignities to really appreciate this movie.  Dustin Hoffman plays “Harvey” a jingle writer for commercials who really aspired to be a jazz musician.  He just didn’t have enough talent for that.  Stately Emma Thompson plays “Kate Walker”, a lonely single woman who is very busy taking care of her Mom.  By the way, I am extremely prejudiced in this review because in my opinion, Emma Thompson can do no wrong on the big screen.

There a few scenes that many of us can relate to.  Kate finds herself out on a blind date with someone who is way too young for her.  And Harvey arrives at his daughter’s wedding feeling like an outsider.  There’s nothing worse than being in a situation where you don’t fit in and all you want to do is either melt into the floor or run away.

Don’t won’t to spoil the story for you but here are a few other observations.  There is a marvelous chemistry between Thompson and Hoffman.  It is not explosive but is a calm feeling of emotional security between two people who have been beaten down by life in one way or another.  Their eyes and facial expressions say everything about what they’ve been through.

It is truly a story of  last chances; and when you’re older, you realize that these chances should never be taken for granted.

Go see this movie; it hasn’t been nominated for any awards but it will surely brighten your day and put a smile on your face!

Keep smilin’!

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Mimi’s Movie Picks #2

Dear Readers,

Here are my thoughts on 3 movies I’ve recently seen.

The first movie is “Doubt” starring Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman.  It’s the story of the suspicions of a school principal  that a parish priest is behaving inappropriately with a young lonely student.  Meryl Streep is so stern in her betrayal of the principal.  I attended Catholic school and never encountered a nun as mean as Sister Aloysius!  But the scene in which she confronts the priest, Hoffman, is terrific.  They’re both great actors and it’s like watching two heavyweights slugging it out in the ring.  Amy Adams does a great job of playing an innocent young nun who isn’t certain if the priest did anything wrong.  Viola Davis plays the mother of the young boy involved in the situation.  She holds her own in the scene with Streep.  Their scene together is short but very thought provoking.  Thoroughly enjoyed the movie.

The next movie is “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”.  It tells the unusual tale of a baby born an old man and as he grows, he gets younger.  Makes for an interesting story but Brad Pitt’s acting is nothing out of the ordinary.  The real star is the makeup person who transforms him from an aged man to a teenager.  The love story between Pitt and Cate Blanchett is touching.  The woman who plays Button’s adopted mother does a great job.  One friend of mine remarked that the movie reminded her of “Forrest Gump”.  Did some research and found that Eric Roth wrote the screenplay for both “Benjamin Button” and “Forrest Gump”.  Keen observation, Maureen!  It’s a good movie – not a great one.  But Brad Pitt is eye candy and he keeps looking better as the movie progresses!!!

The final movie is “Milk”, the story of the “first openly gay man elected to public office in the U.S.”  It chronicles the formation of the gay political movement in San Francisco.  Milk eventually becomes a martyr for the cause.  There is a lot of actual film footage used, so it is easier to visualize the Castro District in the 1970’s.  The best feature about this movie is Sean Penn’s protrayal of  Harvey Milk.  He seems so fragile and sensitive in this role.  Penn even looks like Harvey Milk.  He definitely deserves an Oscar for this role.  See this movie and enjoy the work of a gifted actor!

Keep smilin’!

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