Sunday, February 26, 2012

Beginners (2010)

1 Nomination, 1 Win

Win: Best Actor in a Supporting Role - Christopher Plummer

The Academy is well known for giving de facto "lifetime achievement awards," in which an older performer is thought to have received an award more for his or her career body of work than a particular role. This usually happens in a year when there is no clear cut winner in a category, and popular sentiment shifts behind a nominee whose "time has come." This year's example of this phenomenon is Christopher Plummer, who won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his role in Beginners.

Beginners tells the dual stories of a man (played by Ewan McGregor) dealing with his father's transition to living openly as a homosexual and coping with his father's death. The man is emotionally stunted, and his father's newfound acceptance of himself leaves him lost as he struggles to figure out who he is. The film avoids the easy cliches associated with such a story, and I was glad to see that McGregor's character had little if any problem with his father's homosexuality; rather, he seems perplexed that his father is now showing emotions and happiness that he can barely understand.

Where the film struggles is the coping plotline. These scenes are robbed of the vibrancy of Plummer's character, and McGregor walks around with a blank look on his face. I spent most of these scenes waiting for the narrative to shift back to Plummer's scenes.

Plummer turns in a nice performance in Beginners, and it is easy to see why he attracted the attention of the Academy. He's a living legend, and in Beginners he shows a side of himself unseen in previous roles. Yet I thought the screenplay did not give Plummer the opportunity to create a multifaceted character, and thus his performance feels a bit shallow. His Oscar win was by no means an outrage, but my vote would have gone to Nick Nolte's scene-stealing turn in Warrior or Jonah Hill's breakout role in Moneyball.

Beginners is a film worth watching, but I suspect I will have forgotten about it almost entirely within a few months. Plummer's performance is the highlight, and even though he likely won the award for his body of work more than this particular performance, I'm glad that he will add Oscar gold to his mantle.

Remaining: 3168 films, 874 Oscars, 5446 nominations

Thoughts from the 84th Academy Awards

The biggest night of the year for the Every Oscar Ever project has come and gone, and though much of the night went as expected (The Artist winning the big awards and Hugo cleaning up on the technical side), there were also some surprises (Meryl Streep winning her first Oscar since Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister). My favorite moments of the telecast were Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis's presentation, Michel Hazanavicius's Billy Wilder shout-out, and Christopher Plummer's dignified acceptance speech. Billy Crystal was solid, if unremarkable, though I still would have liked to have seen Eddie Murphy as host, if he allowed himself to be the real Eddie and not the family-friendly Eddie of recent years.

2011 was a year with many very good films, but few if any masterpieces. My favorites of the year were Tree of Life, The Descendants, and A Better Life, and there were many more I found exceptional, if flawed. Moneyball was far better than I expected, Hugo was stellar in its first half but wandering in the second, and Bridesmaids and Midnight in Paris were two of the most enjoyable films of the year. The most fun I had in a theater all year was at The Muppets, and I'm still sad that "Man or Muppet" was not performed at this year's Oscar show.

15 films were awarded Academy Awards tonight, nine of which I have seen (I have seen Beginners, but have not yet posted my review of the film). The six remaining films (The Iron Lady, Saving Face, The Shore, Undefeated, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and A Separation) received seven awards, raising my total unseen count to 875 Oscars.

Each year's Academy Awards encourages me to see many more great films, but also makes the task of the Every Oscar Ever Project even more difficult. I'm looking forward to watching the remaining nominated films of this year as they are released on DVD, and hope to make significant progress in the Every Oscar Ever project before the 85th Academy Award nominations are announced.

Remaining: 3169 films, 875 Oscars, 5447 nominations

Puss in Boots (2011)

1 Nomination, 0 Wins

Nomination: Best Animated Feature Film - Chris Miller

I have never been much of a fan of the Shrek series of films. Though both of the first two films had their moments, I find the films to be one-dimensional and one-note, and lacking the timeless quality of the films of Dreamworks Animation's biggest rival, PIXAR. The one part of the films that I have loved since his arrival in Shrek 2 is the character of Puss in Boots, voiced in a bit of perfect casting by Antonio Banderas. The character's combination of dashing Don Juan and helpless house cat make for a perfect supporting character, and Puss breathes life into what I often find to be dull, hackneyed scenes.

I was both excited and concerned when I heard Dreamworks was making a feature length Puss in Boots film. Even the best characters often become annoying and nearly unwatchable when stretched out into a feature-length film (see: 75% of Saturday Night Live inspired films), as the jokes that sustain a character for a few scenes often wear thin when stretched out over an entire movie. After viewing Puss in Boots, nominated for an Oscar this year for Best Animated Film against the far superior Rango, I was sad to find that my concerns were well founded.

Puss in Boots briefly tells the story of Puss's childhood with best friend Humpty Dumpty, voiced by Zach Galifianakis, and how he brought shame to his home and became a cat permanently on the run. Puss meets up with Humpty and Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek), and is given a chance to redeem himself. The film follow's Puss's journey for redemption as he - in a play from the Shrek playbook - encounters other fairy-tale characters along the way.

The central problem with Puss in Boots is that the central character is just not very interesting. He's a parody of the "Latin lover" ideal, an idea that works well in small doses, but doesn't make for a well-rounded protagonist. His backstory is shallow, and because he shows so little interest in redeeming himself until the opportunity is given to him, his goal doesn't feel immediate or essential. The villains (voiced by Bill Bob Thornton and Amy Sedaris) are unthreatening and uninteresting, and the romantic subplot falls flat. Galifianakis is very good as the sidekick Humpty Dumpty, and I have a feeling that he'll be doing voice work in animated films for a long time.

Puss in Boots is a missed opportunity to take a wonderful character and build a film around him, but the result is a disappointing film that reminds me of much of the output of Dreamworks Animation.

Remaining: 3169 films, 868 Oscars, 5447 nominations

The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom

1 Nomination, Wins TBD

Nomination: Best Documentary, Short Subjects - Lucy Walker and Kira Carstensen

When I first moved to Washington, D.C. almost four years ago, I was unaware of the significance of the cherry blossom tree to the city. I was vaguely aware of their existence, but did not recognize the level of importance the cherry blossoms play in the city's identity. The trees came from Japan as a gift in 1912 to recognize the friendship between the two nations, with even more coming in 1965. Each year there is a festival held in Washington to celebrate the blooming of the trees, attracting over 700,000 visitors to D.C. each year.

Yet the importance of the cherry blossom trees is dwarfed by the role they play in Japan, especially in the Miyagi Prefecture, and that significance is the subject of Lucy Walker's beautiful short film "The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom." The Miyagi Prefecture was where the tsunami caused by the March 11, 2011 earthquake off the coast of Japan hit land. At its impact point in Miyagi, the tsunami was over ten meters in height, and the amount of damage it caused cannot be overstated. Walker's film begins with an amateur video shot as the tsunami hit land, and the word harrowing does not even begin to describe the video. The water continues to rush further and further inland, against all logic, annihilating everything it rushes over.

The footage is terrifying, and when it is over, Walker looks at what has happened to the region now that the water has receded. Interviews with survivors of the tsunami, images of what the region looks like now, and scenes of the cleanup combine to show just how significant the damage of the tsunami has been. The amount of perspective shown by the film would be impressive under any circumstances, but is all the more remarkable considering that the film was released less than a year after the tsunami.

Yet as expertly as the film shows the effects of the tsunami, this is not what the film is about. Instead, it is about the rebirth of the region, as symbolized by the cherry blossom. The film takes a meditative, poetic look at the cherry blossom and what it represents, framing the rebuilding of the prefecture through the lifecycle of the cherry blossom. This sounds a little hokey, but I assure you it is not. The film's opening footage gives it a grounding, so there is enough of a foundation to support the film when it takes on a more allegorical look at the recovery.

Short documentaries focusing on the aftermath of a destructive event are nothing new; almost every year the Academy nominates at least one. This film's novel approach to the subject is what makes it unique and special, and the film shows hope in what seems like a hopeless situation. Lucy Walker has been one of the most talented documentarians of the last decade, making such standouts as Waste Land and Devil's Playground. I hope she returns to the documentary short form, as she has a strong voice and talent for the form.

Remaining: 3170 films, 868 Oscars, 5448 nominations

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Masters of Disaster (1986)

1 Nomination, 0 Wins

Nomination: Best Documentary, Short Subjects - Sonya Friedman

"The Masters of Disaster" is a documentary short subject that tells the story of an unlikely youth chess team from Indianapolis who went on surprise the chess world with their success. The team, made up of young African Americans with no previous experience and led by their devoted teacher, went on to win the United States elementary school chess championship.

Sonya Friedman and her team did an admirable job in crafting "The Masters of Disaster." Because of the nature of the story behind the short film, it would have been very easy for the filmmakers to turn in a piece of cheeseball filmmaking, obsessing on the circumstances of each of the young students on the team. Instead, the filmmakers recognize the enormity of the achievement of the students without overly focusing on their backgrounds.

The amount of material the filmmakers pack into its running time is impressive. Several of the young students, as well as their teacher, are profiled, and the film follows the students to an international tournament. The final moments of the tournament are captured by the filmmakers without comment, and the finale is emotional and sincere without a trace of manipulation.

"The Masters of Disaster" isn't a brilliant film, and its straightforward narrative style is very much of its time and comes across as dated. Yet what the film lacks in style it makes up for in sincerity, and the filmmakers exhibit great maturity in allowing the story to speak for itself without overhyping the circumstances, and what results is a well made and touching film.

Once again, thanks go out to the Shirlington Branch of the Arlington Virginia Public Library ( for helping me track down this short movie through their interlibrary loan system.

Remaining: 3171 films, 868 Oscars, 5449 nominations

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Sometimes a Great Notion (1970)

2 Nominations, 0 Wins

Nomination: Best Actor in a Supporting Role - Richard Jaeckel
Nomination Best Music, Original Song - "All His Children" by Henry Mancini, Alan Bergman, and Marilyn Bergman

Sometimes a Great Notion (alternatively known as Never Give an Inch), has the makings of a classic John Steinbeck story: conflicts between half-brothers, a father and his sons, and between a labor union and mill owners. The film is based on a novel by Ken Kesey (of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest fame), a famously impenetrable book that was significantly simplified for the film. Sometimes... is a bit uneven and the film has tonal issues, but it is an occasionally brilliant film with a typically ferocious performance from Paul Newman.

The tonal issues of Sometimes... begin from the very opening of the film, as "All His Children," the Academy Award nominated song plays over the opening. The song is an upbeat, jangly tune out of sync with the rest of the film. The film then meanders awhile before finding its central conflicts, the battle between two brothers. The film is ostensibly about the Stamper family's conflict with the local striking labor union, but this conflict is a backdrop to the more localized drama of the Stamper brothers. Paul Newman and Richard Jaeckel, and to a lesser extent Michael Sarrazin, are each compelling in their parts, and no one plays a patriarch like Henry Fonda.

The film is best known for its emotional and haunting climactic scene, which Newman both directs and acts without relent. There are many outstanding actors who act as if they were in a vacuum, failing to elevate the performances of those around them; Newman, however, always rose the talents of those he worked with. Sometimes a Great Notion is no exception, and the whole cast ups their game in their scenes with Newman, especially in the climax.

Sometimes... could have been much more, and the screenplay (written by John Gay) could have benefitted by digging a bit deeper into the conflicts of the Stamper family, giving the characters greater depth. Though it doesn't live up to its potential, it is still a carefully crafted and worthwhile film, and is a minor classic in the Paul Newman canon.

Remaining: 3172 films, 868 Oscars, 5450 nominations

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Teddy the Rough Rider (1940)

1 Nomination, 1 Win

Win: Best Short Subject, Two-Reel - Warner Bros.

When I was in middle school, I used to take every opportunity possible to complete class assignments by making short films. Instead of a report about the Gettysburg Address, for example, I made a short movie recreating President Lincoln's speech in my living room. Instead of writing about Louis Leakey's work in developing our understanding of human evolution, I made a silly short film showing one of my 12 year old friends dressed Leakey digging a hole in my backyard. Little did I know that if we had made these films back in 1940, with only a bit more care we might have been able to win an Academy Award. At least, that's the lesson I learned from watching "Teddy the Rough Rider," the 1940 short that won the Academy Award for Best Two-Reel Short Subject.

"Teddy the Rough Rider" is one of those short subject biopics from the first half of the 20th century that attempts to tell the life story of a great individual through a series of short (usually less than 30 second) scenes representing key moments in the individual's life. These scenes almost always come across as goofy, as the short film just isn't the right medium for a biography. "Teddy the Rough Rider" is particularly silly, with Sidney Blackmer's Teddy Roosevelt spouting off several of his famous quotes in scenes representing key moments in Roosevelt's life, yet showing no depth of character or any subtlety whatsoever. The script was written by Charles L. Tedford, who wrote dozens of scripts for shorts, but it really comes across as only slightly better than the scripts I wrote for my ridiculous middle school films.

Aside from his constant squint, Blackmer's portrayal of Roosevelt is capable, and the resemblance is striking. He cannot be faulted for the lack of depth in his portrayal, as the script is incredibly shallow and ludicrous. Still, his performance is a bit manic, and though Roosevelt was certainly an energetic individual, the short could have benefited from Blackmer holding back a bit more.

I was excited to see "Teddy the Rough Rider" on Turner Classic Movies, as I have long been interested in the life of Theodore Roosevelt, but I was greatly disappointed, and I am baffled as to how this won an Academy Award.

Remaining: 3173 films, 868 Oscars, 5452 nominations

Calgary Stampede (1948)

1 Nomination, 0 Wins

Nomination: Best Short Subject, Two-Reel - Gordon Hollingshead

This year's 30 Days of Oscar on Turner Classic Movies has centered around the theme of Destinations, and the network has curated films around a variety of locations. As part of the collection of films taking place in Canada, the network aired the 1948 short film "Calgary Stampede," which documents the Calgary Stampede, an annual rodeo and exhibition held in some form since 1886.

"Calgary Stampede" is a short travelogue, documenting the various events of the Stampede. It's a straightforward travelogue, but does an excellent job presenting the events of the Stampede. The film is beautifully shot, and the visuals of the events of the Stampede are impressive for its time. The film would of course look very different if made today, but the film was ahead of its time in its technical competence, and successfully takes the viewer into the world of the Calgary Stampede, the goal of every travelogue.

"Calgary Stampede" is a well made, admirable travelogue, and it is a wonderful thing to have such a competent recording of the Calgary Stampede 64 years later.

Remaining: 3174 films, 869 Oscars, 5453 nominations

Main Street Today (1944)

1 Nomination, 0 Wins

Nomination: Best Short Subject, Two-Reel - Jerry Bresler

"Main Street Today" is one of the many short films produced during World War II that was made to encourage American citizens to support the war effort in some way, whether through enlistment, buying war bonds, or displaying greater patriotism. "Main Street Today" tells the story of a town that has grown upset at the government's request to add an additional shift at the factory, before one individual reminds the town of its patriotic duty.

Films such as "Main Street Today" are quite dated, and it is difficult to imagine a time in which these films could be effective. They tend to come across as quite naive and a bit ridiculous. Yet so many of these films were made that they must have been effective to some degree. "Main Street Today" isn't one of my favorites of the type, as it comes across as especially corny and over-the-top.

I will likely never understand the appeal of films such as "Main Street Today," since I was born several generations after the generation that it was made for. While there is a certain charm in these shorts, I'm afraid they're just not my cup of tea.

Remaining: 3175 films, 869 Oscars, 5454 nominations

School in the Mailbox (1947)

1 Nomination, 0 Wins

Nomination: Best Documentary, Short Subjects - Australian News and Information Bureau

Getting an education online seems to be a modern day convention, but the 1947 short film "School in the Mailbox" proves that the concept of distance learning goes back over half a century. The short film details Australia's efforts to educate the nation's youth who live far from city centers. In the days before broadband internet and mobile phone access, it was a difficult challenge for the Australian government to education children who lived in the most remote parts of the island, but the country set up a system using correspondence and radio broadcasts to teach children everywhere.

"School in the Mailbox" describes this system in a straightforward, less than thoughtful manner. The film is very much a promotional tool, and doesn't offer any analysis of the effectiveness of the system, nor does it personalize it by introducing us in a meaningful way to the children of the program. The program seems worthwhile and was clearly quite resourceful, but there just wasn't much of an effort to challenge the viewer or ask questions about the program. The film thus serves as an interesting historic artifact, but this isn't much more than a promotion for a program of the past.

You can watch "School in the Mailbox" at the website of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation at

Remaining: 3176 films, 869 Oscars, 5455 nominations

Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore (2011)

1 Nomination, Wins TBD

Nomination: Best Short Film, Animated - William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg

If the guardians of printed literature ever wished to make a commercial to fight back against Kindles, iPads, and other e-readers, they couldn't do much better than to just show the lovely animated short "The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore."

"The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore" is a silent short film that tells the story of the joy one man finds in his books. The animation is a combination of mediums, and appears simple while being both beautiful and sophisticated. The filmmakers employ some creative, wonderful devices to tell the story, particularly the Humpty Dumpty flipbook, which give the film a charming lightness to counter the underlying melancholy of the film, resulting in a perfect tone.

"The Fantastic..." is the first of the nominated animated shorts that I have seen this year, so I can't say where it ranks with the other nominees, but it is a wonderful film and I wouldn't be surprised in the least if it ends up being my favorite animated short of the year.

You can watch "The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore" at the website of Moonbot Studios:

Remaining: 3177 films, 869 Oscars, 5456 nominations

The Happiest Millionaire (1967)

1 Nomination, 0 Wins

Nomination: Best Costume Design - Bill Thomas

Of the thousands of films remaining to view for the Every Oscar Ever project, a nearly three hour musical family film that flopped at the box office and was nominated for a single award wasn't too high on my viewing list. I likely would have waited a long time to view the film, if not for the fact that it was a childhood favorite of my wife, who regularly sings "Fortuosity" and "Let's Have A Drink On It," and who asked to view it while we celebrated her birthday. So before watching such esteemed films as Gandhi, On Golden Pond, or Judgment at Nuremberg, I sat down to watch The Happiest Millionaire.

The film tells the story of the family of Anthony Biddle (played by Fred MacMurray), a real-life eccentric Philadelphia millionaire known for his talents in boxing, training soldiers for combat, and promoting Christianity. The film's extremely loose plot centers around the arrival of an Irish butler, played by Tommy Steele, and the engagement of Biddle's daughter Cordy, played by Lesley Ann Warren. Much of the film moves along with little plot development, and it's easy to imagine that when Walt Disney Pictures cut the film's running time, not much was sacrificed in the way of narrative or character development. The film's central conflict is that the family of Cordy's fiance, particularly his mother (the legendary Geraldine Page), does not approve of the eccentric Biddles, and the young couple must work to overcome the gulf between the two families. This is a classic plot, seen in films such as La Cage aux Folles and The Birdcage, and nothing happens that is terribly surprising or unique.

Yet despite the film's lack of creativity, there are moments of real joy in it that make it obvious to me why my wife loved the film so much as a child. Tommy Steele is impossibly likeable in the film, and his performance of a few songs, particularly "Let's Have A Drink On It," are classic Disney numbers. The songs were written by the famed Sherman Brothers, and while not every song is a gem, there are plenty of winners, and Steele was perhaps the second best match for the Sherman Brothers style, trailing only Dick Van Dyke.

I'll never understand the deep love for this film held by my wife, as it's impossible to explain the deep love of childhood favorites to those who come to the films later in life, which is why my wife will never understand my dedication to Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and Pee Wee's Big Adventure. Yet I can still see the charm in The Happiest Millionaire, and if the viewer is able to look past the wandering plot and over-the-top performances by several of the film's leads, there is a lot to love in The Happiest Millionaire.

Remaining: 3178 films, 869 Oscars, 5457 nominations

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011)

3 Nominations, Wins TBD

Nomination: Best Achievement in Sound Editing - Ethan Van der Ryn and Erik Aadahl
Nomination: Best Achievement in Sound Mixing - Greg P. Russell, Gary Summers, Jeffrey J. Haboush, and Peter J. Devlin
Nomination: Best Achievement in Visual Effects - Scott Farrar, Scott Benza, Matthew E. Butler, and John Frazier

The Every Oscar Ever Project has given me the opportunity to watch wonderful films that I would have otherwise never seen: insightful documentary shorts, foreign films that shed light on places and issues completely new to me, and hundreds of older films that have been largely forgotten by all but the most devoted fans. Yet I have also been forced to spend far too many hours watching films that have managed to sneak a nomination or two, usually in the technical categories, that are truly awful. In their infinite wisdom, the Academy has chosen to bestow nominations on all three films in the Transformers series, forcing me to watch 448 minute of mindless dreck. The last time I enjoyed a Michael Bay film I was 14 years old, a fact I am embarrassed to admit since the average 14 year old is far too sophisticated for the idiocy of Michael Bay's movies. What surprises me most is not that the Academy nominated these films - the technical achievements are actually quite stunning - but that any Academy members, all of whom are presumably older than 14 years old, could sit through these films.

There isn't much to say about the Transformers movies in terms of plot, character development, theme, or anything so trifling. Not only are the narratives moronic, but Bay neglects to put any real heart or emotion into the films. In his earlier films with Jerry Bruckheimer, Bay was, if anything, guilty of laying on the emotion too thickly. Once he began to work without Bruckheimer, Bay seems to have thrown all emotion out the window, and has replaced it with bigger effects and broader humor. Though the narrative suffers, if Bay's goal was to focus less on story and more on the visuals, he has succeeded. The visual effects in Dark of the Moon are quite possibly the most impressive and most detailed effects ever put on screen. During the film's biggest set pieces, the amount of visual stimulation Bay packs into each frame is completely overwhelming, as the eye can only focus on so much, but the effects team deserves to be commended for the enormity of their accomplishment. Transformers has raised the stakes as to what can be put on screen.

Yet despite the technical brilliance of the visual effects, I was left feeling hollow by the visual wizardry. Visual effects in service of a good story can be magical, but visual effects in service of a silly plot populated by hollow characters are little more than expensive magic tricks. Because the Carly Spencer character (played by Rosie Huntington-Whiteley) is one of the least interesting leading characters I have ever seen in a film, I didn't care at all what danger she was in, no matter how beautifully rendered the robot attacking her. In films such as Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II and Hugo, the drama created by the story was so significant that the effects had much more weight and significance; though they weren't as impressive, they were far more important.

If the teams responsible for the visual effects, sound mixing, and sound editing in Transformers win Academy Awards, it will be well deserved, as the film is a technical marvel. But these achievements are not created in a vacuum, and since they should exist only in service of the story, it would be a shame to see rewards given to a film that dispensed with the need for anything as trivial as plot or characters.

Remaining: 3179 films, 869 Oscars, 5458 nominations

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Margin Call (2011)

1 Nomination, Wins TBD

Nomination: Best Writing, Original Screenplay - J.C. Chandor

Margin Call surprised many with its Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay, as the film had not been the recipient of much Oscar buzz. Yet the film's nomination should not be terribly surprising, as it is a sharp, well-paced film about a timely issue, starring some of Hollywood's finest - in other words, total Oscar bait.

J.C. Chandor's screenplay for Margin Call is quite strong in some regards: its dialogue is sharp, it moves along at a perfect clip, and, most of all, tells a story of very complex financial machinations in an understandable and entertaining manner. This is no small feat, as the film could have easily been weighed down by the complexities of the financial transaction that is at the center of the film's narrative.

Yet for all that it does well, the script is not perfect. The film is the story of a difficult decision that must be made by the top executive of a financial institution, but the executive is not the protagonist of the film - he does not appear until the second half of the film. As a result of this structure, the film's major characters move along like chess pieces under Chandor's control, existing only to allow for the decision the film hinges on. This means that none of the film's major characters make any real choices, and thus there is little drama in any of their actions. Nearly the entire film thus feels like the first act of a larger story, which it very much is. Just when the major decision is made, instead of the second act beginning and the audience seeing the drama that follows from the decision, we instead see almost nothing before we move to the third act. The film feels much more like a two act play than a traditional film. While I do not mind films employing variations to the three act structure (my favorite film of the year, Tree of Life, completely eschews the concept), in Margin Call it creates an unsatisfying lack of weight to the character's decisions.

The other aspect of the script that I thought was weak was the extended metaphor of Kevin Spacey's dog. It's not a terrible metaphor, but it is heavy-handed and clumsy, and the film would have been better off without it.

Despite its odd structure, Margin Call is an enjoyable movie, and deserves credit for being the first narrative film to successfully respond to the financial meltdown.

Remaining: 3180 films, 869 Oscars, 5461 nominations