Best Actor

[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 …

[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 …

[7.5] Ethan Hawke plays a freshman L.A. narcotics officer crash-coursing with a rogue, undercover detective played by Denzel Washington. Training Day hits the ground running and turns into a taut, character-driven thriller that throws a few twists and surprises I didn’t see coming. The power-play between the two characters is the backbone of the movie. Denzel has the more colorful role, but Hawke is required …

[4.5] SPOILER REVIEW I really liked American Beauty when it was first released. Maybe I was wooed by its quirky introspection and aesthetic achievments. Or maybe it was screenwriter Alan Ball’s fresh new way of blending the real with the surreal. Or even the meditative lilt of Thomas Newman’s trend-setting score. But whatever the reason(s), watching the film ten years later, I realize — American …

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