Monday, June 30, 2008

Movies at Mid-Year

Today marks the end of June and the halfway point of the year. The calendar year, at least. The movie year, as always, has back-loaded its schedule so much that while we may have seen half the movies this year, but probably a quarter of the good movies.

Still, I wanted to do a post on the best of the year (so far), both to set the table for the rest of the year, and to remind you all that the best movie I've seen this year gets released on DVD tomorrow is recently available on DVD.

runner-up: The Strangers

The best movie of the year so far and a terribly underrated one, too. It's easily the best comedy and among the best action of the year, it's headlined by a pair of excellent performances by Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell, it's unexpectedly touching for such a foulmouthed movie, and yet it's also unexpectedly violent for such a funny movie. All due credit to Martin McDonagh for blending it all with such a light touch. This is a good-time movie you can feel good about, and you should pick it up on DVD tomorrow any time you like.

Big ups to The Strangers, too, for being a tight, straightforward nightmare of a horror flick.

BEST ACTOR: Colin Farrell - In Bruges (also Cassandra's Dream)
runner-up: Robert Downey Jr. - Iron Man

It was such a great start of the year for Colin Farrell that I'm not even going to link to those photos of him looking like a homeless bag of bones. After seeing Cassandra's Dream, I got a feeling -- almost too fragile to speak about -- that Colin Farrell might be back on an upswing, and after In Bruges I was sure of it. Maybe he just needs to play thuggy lowlives with easily-corruptible hearts of gold. It's weird for a big movie star to play smaller than he is to such great effect, but that's exactly what he does. I'll just cross my fingers that he doesn't forget that as he hollows himself out to play Heroin-Bones McGee or whatever the hell he's doing.

On the completely opposite tip, Robert Downey Jr. called upon every inch of his movie star charisma to carry the Iron Man movie across the finish line.

BEST ACTRESS: Naomi Watts - Funny Games
runner-up: Frances McDormand - Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day

If Funny Games weren't a shot-for-shot remake of an intentionally off-putting film by an intentionally off-putting director, Naomi Watts would've gotten a whole lot more credit for her performance here. The point of the movie is to make you feel guilty for sympathizing with Watts's character and wanting vengeance on her behalf, and even knowing that going in, she still manages to draw you into her fear and struggle.

McDormand delivers a solid performance in a decent film, but I'll be honest when I say that the rest of the year had better be more equipped with strong female lead roles, because this was a bit of a defauly.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Michael Angarano - Snow Angels
runner-up: Joseph Gordon-Levitt - Stop-Loss

Angarano's been on my radar as far back as when he played the even-younger version of Patrick Fugit's character in Almost Famous (ask Jay Baruchel -- even the smallest bit players in that movie earned unending loyalty from me...unless your name is "Jimmy Fallon" or "Bijou Phillips). So imagine my delight when he delivered such an affecting, tragicomic turn in David Gordon Green's depresso-matic movie? Way to go, kid.

JGL stole Stop-Loss from the sidelines whenever he got a chance and proved once again that he's an invaluable addition to any movie. And now we wait to see if Cobra Commander disproves that theory or not.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Olivia Thirlby - Snow Angels
runner-up: Clare Higgins - Cassandra's Dream

I saw Snow Angels not very long after I saw Juno, and it's a very good thing I did, because it allowed me to have another impression of Thirlby besides the second-in-command spouter of all that annoying Juno-speak. She's a great counterpart to Angarano in Snow Angels, and together they create a much stronger storyline -- funnier and more touching -- than the Kate Beckinsale/Sam Rockwell stuff.

Clare Higgins was a loud, brassy hoot as the nag-tastic mother to Colin Farrell and Ewan McGregor in Cassandra's Dream. Every single line reading drew laughter.

Will any of these films or performances stick around for the year-end awards? I doubt it (though Robert Downey Jr. has the best shot of all of them). But I'd expect at least a few of them (Farrell and In Bruges in particular) to hang around the top of my lists until something awfully great knocks them off.


Shandrea said...

I think maybe you meant to post this last Monday because In Bruges came out on DVD last Tuesday. Unless my local video store cheated... I loved it and now I can't wait to see Cassandra's Dream and Snow Angels. I am with you on Angarano and I too have been watching him since Almost Famous.

Joe Reid said...

Well, shit. Thanks, though!

JA said...

Terrific picks, Joseph. I just rewatched In Bruges in fast-forward (checking my burned DVD, ya know) and I just wanted to squeal every time Colin was on-screen, being all adorable and woe-is-me-I-shot-a-little-boy -in-the-face. Aww. That's the cutest cute to be, ya know.

Sandman said...

I've been watching Kidnapped on DVD; I'm sorry I never made it as far as Thirlby's first appearance when the show was airing. She's excellent - never less than interesting onscreen, in a part that could easily be a walking cliché: the college-age oldest daughter in a family centred around her gifted middle brother Leopold, the titular kidnappee. I'll have to keep an eye out for her. Thanks, Joe.

Joe Reid said...

Oh my god, she was the daughter in Kidnapped! Yet another reason to love that canceled-too-soon show!