Best Actor

[6.5] Broderick Crawford plays a small-town hick who attracts a populist following that takes him all the way to the governor’s mansion, even though his ascent is riddled with corruption and crime. All the King’s Men is really about Crawford’s support team and how they weather his immorality. John Ireland and Mercedes McCambridge play the two key supporters. They begin the film bright-eyed and full …

[7.5] A curmudgeonly obsessive-compulsive (Jack Nicholson) falls for a charming waitress (Helen Hunt) and strikes up an unlikely friendship with a gay neighbor (Greg Kinnear) in As Good as It Gets, another comedy/drama hybrid from the sometimes brilliant mind of James L. Brooks (Terms of Endearment, Broadcast News). In lesser hands, this one could have turned out a tonal mess, but Brooks and the cast …

[8.0] Rami Malek stars as Freddie Mercury in Bryan Singer’s (X-Men, Valkyrie) biopic about the formation and explosive success of rock group Queen. The film centers primarily around Mercury — his estranged relationship with his family, his homosexuality, his drug use, and eventual battle with AIDs — but without ignoring the other members of the band, played by Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy, and Joseph Mazzello …

[9.0] Not since 1980’s Ordinary People have we had such a genuinely affecting movie about loss and mourning. In Manchester by the Sea, a man with a tortured past discovers he is the legal guardian of his late brother’s teenaged son. Casey Affleck is remarkable and nuanced in the lead role, playing a character who has repressed his feelings for so long that the mere …

[7.0] Colin Firth plays the stuttering King George VI, who never wanted to be king for fear of his speech impediment bringing shame to him and his family. The King’s Speech focuses on the antagonistic relationship between the king and his therapist, Lionel Logue, played by Geoffrey Rush, and culminates in a live radio speech the King gives on the eve of Britain’s declaration of …

[8.0] A family tragedy reunites three men who share a traumatic childhood experience in Mystic River. Sean Penn and Tim Robbins took home richly-deserved Oscars for their performances in this Oscar-nominated best picture from the ever-reliable Clint Eastwood. Mystic River is a gripping, well-paced mystery that employs misdirection and plot twists better than any other film in recent memory. Eastwood is at his directorial best …

[7.0] William Holden leads an ensemble cast in Billy Wilder’s adaptation of Stalag 17. The film takes place entirely in a German prisoner-of-war barrack, where the captured Americans are beginning to suspect that Holden’s pessimistic black marketeer character may be informing on them to the Germans. But Holden knows better — that there’s a German spy planted in their midst, secretly thwarting all their chances …

[7.5] Sidney Poitier plays a black Northern detective who reluctantly aides a white Southern sheriff (Rod Steiger) in solving a murder case. The mystery itself is a bit thin, but it’s bolstered by good performances from the leads and a commendable handling of volatile subject matter. (Though the film takes place in Mississippi, the film’s crew decided to shoot no further south than Tennessee for …

[7.0] John Wayne took home the Oscar for his performance as crotchety Rooster Cogburn, an alcoholic US Marshall recruited by a young girl (Kim Darby) to capture her father’s killer and bring him to justice. Wayne is low key as always, but it works pretty well for him. Except for Robert Duvall as the villainous Ned Pepper, the rest of the casting leaves something to …

[7.0] Matthew McConaughey stars as Ron Woodruff in this true story about a womanizing electrician whose given thirty days to live after doctors discover he carries HIV. The year was 1985 and the American government was loathe to take HIV/AIDS very seriously at the time, with most people believing it was only a ‘gay disease.’ Indeed, Woodruff loses many of his old buddies when they …

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