For a switch, Oscar bait

Movie theaters around town are starting to heat up with releases of potentially Oscar-nominated films. Whether their creators end up thanking or cursing the Academy, many of the films being released this month will surely find their way onto end-of-the year top ten lists.

Films opening this weekend range from a ballet dancer (Natalie Portman) struggling to control her demons in Black Swan; a different take on St. Nicholas and the Christmas spirit in Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (as the photo above suggests, this is definitely not for the young ones); an actress looking for a break in Queen of the Lot with lead actress Tanna Frederick (who will be present at the Lagoon Cinema on Friday and Saturday nights); Boxing Gym, a new documentary from 80-year-old prolific director Frederick Weisman (La Danse and High School), examining Lord's Gym in Austin, Texas; the third film based in the children's series the Chronicles of Narnia, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader; and two of the biggest movie stars in the world, Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp, teaming up in the dramatic thriller The Tourist, by Oscar winner Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck (The Lives of Others).

It's hard to judge what is going to be the best film to check out this weekend. The only one I have seen is Rare Exports, and while my expectations were high for this Finnish film, I was a bit disappointed by the fact that the film drags, although it's only 75 minutes long. The idea is top-notch and it did make me laugh a few times, but director Jalmari Helander can't seem to keep the narrative moving fast enough and has long stretches of uncertainty from its two main protagonists, a father and son team who capture Santa Claus and sell him back to the corporation responsible for digging him up in the Korvatunturi mountains. While this may sound outlandish, I'd still recommend catching Rare Exports at the Lagoon, since it's the only film that qualifies as having a Christmas theme, but The Tourist, set in Italy, will probably look more appealing to people who are already tired of shoveling and looking at snow on the ground.

A film released theatrically over the summer and released on DVD/Blu-Ray yesterday, proved to be every bit worth of the exposure and hype, is Christopher Nolan's dazzling Inception. Inception demands multiple viewings and grows more fascinating upon each viewing; every theory you have on the film will be different than someone else's. Inception is a rarity among movies today: it was released by major studio Warner Brothers and was carefully advertised in a way that left the viewer challenged and entertained, and it really delivered on the trailer's promises. Many find Nolan's direction and storytelling to be manipulative, but I'd defend his narrative twists and striking vision: he trusts his audience in connecting clues, without hammering mindless exposition over your head and spelling out his endings a la M. Night Shyamlan. Now that the Academy Awards have expanded Best Picture nominees from five to ten, Inception should certainly secure one of those spots and Nolan should receive nominations for best original screenplay and director, unless the Academy decides to leave him out in the cold again, like they did for his 2008 genre-bender The Dark Knight.

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Minneapolis, MN 55408

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Jim Brunzell III's picture
Jim Brunzell III

Jim Brunzell III (djguamwins [at] yahoo [dot] com) was born in the 70's, went to school in the 80's, played sports in the 90's, and has been writing on film for the Daily Planet since 2007.  He is also the Festival Director and programmer for the Sound Unseen Music/Film/Art festival in the Twin Cities, lead programmer for the Flyway Film Festival in Pepin and Stockholm WI, the creator of "The Defenders" series at the Trylon microcinema and has been working on a novel since finishing college.  You can follow Jim on Twitter at (@JimBrunzell_3).