L.A., New York online, and Boston Critics speak and “The Social Network” is the word + the AFI’s Top 10 (updated)

Jessie Eisenberg in

Three major critics groups gave out their awards on Sunday and, while there were differences, the common thread isn’t going to give Facebook boy billionaire Mark Zuckerberg any relief for his PR agita. The awards also have some good news for Best Actress contender Natalie Portman and possible Best Supporting Actor shoo-in Christian Bale. Among the Best Actor possibilities, however, it was a split with between actors portraying Zuckerberg and his fellow real-life guys turned movie characters, Aron Ralston, and King George VI.

Simply because of geography, the Los Angeles Film Critics is probably the most influential group. The awards here, however, were the quirkiest of the three, with a split of sorts between “The Social Network” and this year’s cinephile cause celebre, “Carlos,” which may well be shut out of the Oscars altogether for a number of reasons. Though a shorter cut of the reportedly action-packed-yet-thoughtful multi-lingual French film about the real-life left-wing terrorist of the 1970s has been playing to general plaudits, a 5.5 hour television version of the film by Olivier Assayas has had shorter but successful engagements here at the American Cinematheque and is much on the mind of many of us film geeks (I just blew another chance to watch it all in a theater and I’m not happy about it.)

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Assayas and “Network” director David Fincher tied while Fincher’s movie won Best Picture with “Carlos” as the runner up and also the Best Foreign Film winner. Aaron Sorkin won for his “Social” screenplay while Colin Firth won best actor for “The King’s Speech,” the first runner-up in the category was Edgar Rameriz for playing Carlos, yet another real life person.  Kim Hye-Ja from the cinephile-approved Korean thriller “Mother” and Niels Arestrup from France’s violent “A Prophet” won in the Best Actress and Best Supporting Actor categories. While those awards are unlikely to be replicated by the Oscars, Jacki Weaver’s hopes for a possible Oscar nomination and even a win for the Australian critical and festival hit, “Animal Kingdom,” are looking up ever more with another Best Supporting Actress award. The LAFC site has the complete list of winners.

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Big weekend at the box office: Twi-Hards turn out; proof that young men don’t listen (to critics)

This week, most of whatever suspense there was was not at all about which movie will be #1 or, as it turns out, #2 (not quite a 100% sure thing earlier). It had to do with what actually matters when the show business rubber meets the audience road: how much cash did the movies generate from the summer’s biggest holiday weekend but amid gloomy news and gloomier punditry regarding the economy? The answer seems to be what Joel McCrea learned at the end of “Sullivan’s Travels,” people in dire straights need entertainment and fantasy more, not less. I only wish they were getting something as thoughtful as “Ants in Your Plants of 1939.”

Edward and Bella...ooooohhhhhhhhhOver the three day Friday-Sunday weekend, Summit’s “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse” earned an estimated $69 million according to the Box Office Mojo chart. For the broader and potentially confusing numbers covering the extended movie weekends for the two new major new releases this week, I’ll rely on Anne Thompson’s pal Anthony D’Alessandro. He tells us “Eclipse” earned an estimated $175 million and change, just a few million bucks below the similar six-day frame of 2004’s “Spiderman 2,” though not adjusted for ongoing movie-ticket inflation.

This is the point in the series ordinarily where some might wonder if interest is starting to flag, but this is a long-running movie/book soap opera and a continuing tale similar to the Harry Potter in terms of fan interest/involvement. Also, this entry overall got significantly better reviews than the second film in the series, which might indicate the film itself is more boyfriend friendly for this very female-driven franchise.

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Academy Awards recap: Oscar loves Nazis, hates robots, superheroes

Wow. Just…wow. Do you ever wonder just what movies the Academy voters are watching, and if they’re seeing the same movies the rest of us are? I certainly had that thought after scouring through the list of nominees for the 81st Academy Awards, when I saw that most of my favorite movies – one of which made over half a billion dollars – were discarded in favor of an overripe Nazi legal drama. And, just to have some fun with how far off some of these selections are, I’m going to include the Rotten Tomatoes freshness ratings. Let’s start at the top:

Best Picture
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (72%)
Frost/Nixon (91%)
Milk (92%)
The Reader (60%)
Slumdog Millionaire (95%)

Now, fellow BE movie critic Jason Zingale and I admit that we are in the minority on “Milk” – it’s a fine movie, but neither of us understands what people think is so wonderful about it – but I’m not surprised to see it here. It’s about a gay California poilitician in the year that Prop 8 passed. Of course Hollywood’s going to get behind this one. But “The Reader” for Best Picture? You have got to be kidding me. Look again at that freshness rating. Sixty percent, which means only three out of every five people liked it. Granted, “Benjamin Button” isn’t rated much higher, but movies with that kind of scope and reach always have their detractors. (Indeed, in our local film critics’ poll, “Benjamin Button” finished ninth.) Simply put, “The Reader” has no business whatsoever being nominated for Best Picture, not in the same year that saw the release of “The Dark Knight” (94%) and “WALL-E” (96%).

So why is it here? My personal theory: because Hollywood’s liberal populace sees Kate Winslet’s character getting tried for war crimes, and fantasizes about doing the same to George W. Bush. Get over yourselves, people. “The Reader” isn’t about you, or us, or now. It’s overdone melodrama, nothing more.

Best Actor
Richard Jenkins, The Visitor
Frank Langella, Frost/Nixon
Sean Penn, Milk
Brad Pitt, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler

Man, I’m torn here. On the one hand, I’m thrilled for Richard Jenkins that he finally got a lead role, and earned an Oscar nomination for his efforts. On the other hand, Clint freaking Eastwood just gave his final acting performance, and it was unforgettable. Again, I don’t think Sean Penn belongs here, but I’m starting to think Jason is right when he says he’s going to win. Damn. I’m totally pulling for Mickey Rourke.

Best Actress
Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married
Angelina Jolie, Changeling
Melissa Leo, Frozen River
Meryl Streep, Doubt
Kate Winslet, The Reader

Kate was far better in “Revolutionary Road,” for my money, and for the life of me I can’t understand why the Academy is throwing that movie under the bus. This is not a strong list of nominees, if you ask me. My money’s on Melissa Leo to surprise the world.

Best Supporting Actor
Please. Does it even matter who else is nominated here? This is Heath Ledger’s to lose, and he’s not going to lose. Bonus points for nominating Robert Downey Jr. for “Tropic Thunder,” though.

Best Supporting Actress
Both Amy Adams and Viola Davis from “Doubt” were nominated, and will surely split the vote. I’d like to see Marisa Tomei (“The Wrestler”) or Taraji P. Henson (“Benjamin Button”) win, but my gut tells me Penelope Cruz (“Vicky Cristina Barcelona”) will be the winner.

Best Director
Danny Boyle, Danny Boyle, Danny Boyle. Again, Stephen Daldry is here for “The Reader,” while Christopher Nolan (“Dark Knight”) and Andrew Stanton (“WALL-E”) watch from the cheap seats. Absurd.

Best Animated Feature
Here’s your bone, “WALL-E.”

Best Foreign Language Film
Where the hell is “Let the Right One In”? Inexcusable oversight, that.

Best Song
Where the hell is “The Wrestler”? They know that Springsteen wrote it, right? Wouldn’t that alone guarantee it a nod? Ugh.

Best Documentary
God help them if something other than “Man on Wire” wins this.

Come Oscar night, I’m going to make sure I don’t have anything heavy in my hands when they announce the Best Picture winner. Because, if for some ungodly reason “The Reader” wins, I will kill my television, then fly to Hollywood and burn the place to the ground. Academy, you’ve been warned. Do the right thing.

  

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