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Gutenfilm Presents: A Christmas Beeracle: Santa Claus Conquers the Martians

“Thank God, this movie is only 80 minutes long.” That was my initial response upon loading up Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. As it turned out, however, the penultimate entry in this feature turned out to be 80 minutes too long, and yet 80 minutes of pure trashy goodness at the same time.

The main plot thread running through Santa Claus Conquers the Martians is that on Mars, the children Girmar and Bomar (which means Girl Martian and Boy Martian, respectively) have no idea what fun is, having no freedom of thought as a result of all of their knowledge being fed directly into their brains through machines. Momar (Mom Martian) and Kimar (King Martian) are concerned that their children spend all of their time watching Earth television, particularly the programs with Santa Claus. The Martian leaders consult an 800 year old wizard sage that tells them who Santa is, and the Martians decide to go to Earth to kidnap Santa Claus to bring Christmas to Mars. Unable to find the actual Santa after witnessing multiple “Charity Santas” (you know, the Salvation Army ones), the Martians also take a pair of children to help them. The plot of this movie is so stupid I’m actually having trouble thinking of ways to make fun of it.

One of the Martians, the evil Voldar, dislikes this idea of fun for Martian children and years for the days when Mars was a planet of war. He and his cronies consistently try to kill Santa and the children, but Santa is magic and always manages to stop him. Then everyone goes home, the end.

"Drugs? Ho ho, I don't do drugs! Why, do you have some?"

One of the weirdest things about the movie is the plot progression. Santa truly does not seem to care that he is getting kidnapped, laughing his way through the movie. Even a brief monologue about how everything on Mars is automated is followed by more chuckling. I’d even go so far as to estimate that 70% of Santa’s dialogue in the movie is either a jolly chuckle or a “ho ho ho”. It’s true to the character, at least. Most of the Martians seem to be nice, and after the kidnapping Santa and the kids they make sure the trio is comfortable and really care about them. So there’s really no “conquering” in the movie. I’m guessing that Santa Claus Gets Taken To Mars and Does Some Shit and Then Goes Home was too long of a title.

There is a popular rumor about Santa Claus Conquers the Martians that the entire cast was high during the production. It’s probably not true, but if one were to disregard common sense it could be possible. Most of the actors either overact, overreact, or simply have bizarre behavior that might suggest the presence of some drug. A couple of the actors literally laugh between every piece of dialogue. Segments of the script seem to be the product of drug abuse as well, what with talks of “nuclear curtains” and “Q-Rays” and other Martian technology that is obviously supposed to appear advanced and complicated.

This is the part where Google actually did not have any more color stills for the movie.

I had trouble trying to figure out if this was supposed to be a bad movie. It’s truly horrible, but in such a way that everyone seems to be in on the joke, attempting to make a movie that is so bad it can only incite laughter. In that respect, they have succeeded; it’s so abysmal in every aspect of its production, it’s just hilarious. From the idiotic script, to the cardboard sets, to the public-domain sound effects and bargain-basement special effects, this film is the definition of “no budget”. The best part, undoubtedly, is a fight between two Martians that has a shaking camera, point-of-view camera angles, and abysmal choreography.  The sequence where the Martians display the technology that allows them to freeze people was also hilarious in how utterly ridiculous it was. The film later tries to be sweet, but by that point everything is so stupid that it’s a hard pill to swallow.

Santa Claus Conquers the Martians is a weird sort of fun: it’s completely awful, yet utterly hilarious. From top to bottom, it deserves the title of one of the worst films ever made. However, it is rarely so horrible that it is unbearable. If you’re the type that gets a savage thrill from these kinds of movies, as I am, you might find something entertaining here, even though you’ll hate every second of it. It’s another of those “So bad it’s good” cult flicks, and I almost have to recommend it merely on those terms.

"Martians? What's wrong with that?"

New Feature: Hall of Greats

Hello everyone,

Today I’m introducing a new type of article called Hall of Greats.  This is for films that I feel deserve recognition for superior quality, and need more than a review to do so.  Films in the Hall of Greats get an article slightly longer and more in-depth than a normal review, and are only inducted if they are among the very best films I have seen, for whatever reason.  When asked what some of my favorite movies are, these are the films that first come to mind. The first film to receive this honor is Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s 2010 picture Micmacs.  Enjoy!

Fast Five (Review)

Fast Five injects massive amounts of testosterone and machismo into the Fast & Furious franchise, as well as moving from street racing series into heist film, making for an action flick that delivers on the thrills but falters everywhere else. 

I’ve always been a huge fan of car chases in movies.  It’s something about taking something as dangerous as cars and pitting them against each other as they weave dangerously through traffic and pedestrians as high speed.  Car chases are fast, dangerous, and epic.  As much as I love car chases, however, I can’t say I’m a huge fan of cars.  That may be why I have never been a huge fan of the Fast & Furious franchise.  The absurd sense of car lust never exactly appealed to me, and the street racing action didn’t do enough to make me a believer.  However, for Fast Five, the series dispenses completely with the street racing slant of the former films and moves into heist territory.  It’s a step in the right direction and marks the first time I’m notably interested in a Fast & Furious film.

 

Fast Five pick up exactly where the previous film, Fast & Furious, left off: Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) is loaded onto a prison bus to carry out a 25-to-life prison sentence, and is of course saved by his sister Mia (Jordana Brewster), and his best friend,  former police officer Brian O’Connor (Paul Walker).  The trio meets with their friend Vince (Matt Schulze), who has been recruited by a crime lord named Hernan Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida) to steal some DEA-possessed cars.  Things go sour during the heist and the crew ends up on the wrong side of Reyes and framed for the murder of several DEA agents.  This puts them squarely in the crosshairs of the obscenely macho DSS agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), who is notorious for always being able to find the men he hunts.  To get revenge on Reyes, Dom recruits and old crew (comprised of characters from across the entire film franchise) in order to steal a safe containing $1oo million that is located in the middle of a police station (because of course it is).  What follows is the standard heist movie montage of preparation, comical trial-and-error planning, and witty banter between the ragtag crew.

 

Like I said, I’ve never been a fan of the Fast & Furious franchise.  When the first film, The Fast and the Furious, came out, I enjoyed it well enough but it was not exactly memorable.  I didn’t care for the sequel, 2 Fast 2 Furious, but I rather liked Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift.  The next film, Fast & Furious, just left a bad taste in my mouth and left me disinterested in any further sequels.  Fast Five mercifully moves away from the immature street racing scene of the franchise, and focuses on the theft of Reyes’s fortune.  There’s even a street race that is hinted at but skipped over in the actual film.  I liked this new slant, as the heist film is one that I enjoy as long as it is executed well enough.  Unfortunately, while this is a step in the right direction, the film still reads like a laundry list of heist film cliches: the aforementioned montage and ragtag crew, testing various methods for making the heist, and always barely escaping the cops and bad guys.  It’s fun, but also very easy to predict what’s going to happen next in the story.

 

Where Fast Five unmistakably delivers is in the action sequences.  Director Justin Lin, who has helmed the franchise since Tokyo Drift, has crafted some extremely entertaining action setpieces for the film, and each of the major ones are undeniably pulse-pounding, from a high-speed car theft aboard a speeding train to an absurd chase through the city streets towing a massive safe between two cars as mobsters and police take chase.  In fact, that final chase ranks as one of the most satisfying car chases I’ve seen in an extremely long time.  A hand-to-hand fight between Dom and Hobbs late in the film has them destroying tables, shelves, and walls.  The action in most of the film has a rather ridiculous edge to it, and it makes for a film that is, at least in the action scenes, a lot of fun.

 

I say “at least in the action scenes” because the rest of the movie really isn’t as entertaining.  The recycled Ocean’s 11 character archetypes are not that funny anymore, and the constant arguing between several of the characters got old really fast, especially in a script that is, at best, lukewarm.  Reyes is disappointingly weak as a villain as well, popping up now and then to look menacing or kill one of his henchmen, then disappearing again, and failing to ever create a truly formidable presence.  Fast Five also sports the most machismo that I’ve seen in a movie since The Expendables, and coupled with the adolescent male fantasy of fast cars and hot women, it creates the perfect storm of absurdity, and not always in a good way.  Dwayne Johnson sports a pair of ridiculously muscular and shiny arms and shouts lines like “If he goes to the john, I want to know how many times he shakes it”.  Such displays of masculinity are to be found throughout the film, and are fun for a while, until it really starts to strain the film.  It’s a one-note tone that, in a film whose running time exceeds two hours, gets old after a while.

 

I did enjoy Fast Five, even though the story dragged when things were not crashing or blowing up.  Striking that delicate balance between drama and action, and being able to keep the film engaging throughout both, is not easy to do, but it seems like the screenwriters were not even trying.  The non-action bits of the film seem culled from the book of heist film cliches and the dialogue appears to have been written by pro wrestlers.  I certainly enjoy such absurdity from time to time, but here it borders on idiotic, whereas the “serious” moments were simply boring.  Even so, it’s still the best film in the series and certainly worth checking out from some very entertaining action.  Just don’t expect to get blown away by anything else.

Score: ***1/2 (out of 5)

Rated: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, sexual content and language.

 

 

Sucker Punch (Review)

Sucker Punch may not quite achieve the lofty heights it aims for, but the massive ambition of Zack Snyder’s first original project is impressive and entertaining.

Sucker Punch is the fifth film in Zack Snyder’s catalog of directorial efforts (following Dawn of the Dead (2004), 300 (2006), Watchmen (2009), and Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole (2010)).  After this sequence of films based off of other works, Warner Brothers gave Snyder a budget and allowed him to direct his own production; Sucker Punch is written, produced, and directed by Snyder and is a 100% original piece.  It’s clear that Snyder took this creative freedom to heart: his movie is ambitious, bombastic, and absurd.  It’s a massive collection of ideas and influences from each end of every spectrum, making for an extremely busy and unconventional action picture.

The film’s first frames are styled as an opera house.  As the curtains adorned with studio logos rise, we are shown a 20-year-old girl, “Baby Doll” (Emily Browning) taking center stage.  The camera moves fluidly toward her and into her house, and a wordless opening montage in Snyder’s trademark graphic novel-style slow-motion shows Baby Doll’s tragic home life and sexually abusive stepfather, set to the song “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” hauntingly sung by Emily Browning.  After she tries and fails to shoot her stepfather after he attempts to lay hands on her sister, Baby Doll is shipped off to an insane asylum by her stepfather.

Arriving at the asylum, Baby Doll meets and befriends Rocket (Jena Malone), Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens), Amber (Jamie Chung), and Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish).  The mysteriously pornographic names of the girls are explained when the girls describe to Baby Doll how the owner of the asylum, Blue Jones (Oscar Isaac), has turned the asylum into an underground brothel where he forces these young girls to dance for rich and powerful customers while he makes massive profits.  Baby Doll decides that she must escape before the mysterious “High Roller” (John Hamm), comes for her in a few days.  To do so, she must recover several items that will enable her escape.  Baby Doll realizes that she has the ability to dance an entrance all onlookers, which she uses to distract the men that oppress her as her allies snag the necessary item.  These dance sequences, which were regrettably cut from the theatrical version of the film, serve as the bridge into the dream world.

The main draw of the film is the visual style.  Zach Snyder has at this point developed his own feel for his films, making the images look like they are leaping from the pages of a graphic novel. There is no doubt that for any faults he may have in terms of plotting or character directing, he is a wizard behind the camera when it comes to aesthetics.  The fact that many of the scenes feel like a graphic novel set on the stage of a large-scale opera production is what drives the whole film.  Once the scenes move to the dream world, Snyder allows his imagination to run wild.  Dragons, robots, orcs, steampunk Nazis, and towering samurai get knocked around a lot, all within a variety of themed venues such as a snowy dojo, dragon’s lair, or runaway train.  One of my favorite sequences of the film was on this train, where an army of robots gets decimated by the girls, all in one long, sweeping take that lasts several minutes.

Snyder’s film is a massive gamble.  It takes risks I would have never thought mainstream films would have.  The narrative is frequently open to interpretation, and multiple tropes and motifs come and go throughout the film, culminating in an ending that may or may not be metaphorical.  Internet forums are still buzzing about the significance of certain characters and what constitutes reality within the film.  This is simultaneously an ingenious element and a stumbling block for the film.  It makes the narrative feel fresh and daring, yes occasionally felt like it was being symbolic and nonlinear for the sake thereof.  Even so, the film is a lot of fun to try to deconstruct and figure out what was going on in Snyder’s mind.  Sometimes, it feels a bit overstuffed.  Snyder is easily one of my favorite directors, and I will defend my love for his stunning adaptation of Watchmen with whatever force is necessary.  However,  there are so many great ideas going on at one time in Sucker Punch that they occasionally step on each other.  Snyder still has a lot of growing to do as a storyteller and as an independent creative force, but he shows a ton of promise here.

Sucker Punch is a fascinating film.  It works on many levels but falls short on others.  Essentially, however, it succeeds magnificently on what its primary focus is: a thrilling girl-power psychological action movie.  It’s a liberating flight of imagination that, despite being excessively busy with ideas at times, is a blast to watch.  There is still something that keeps every element from clicking together perfectly, but at the very least, I have to give Zach Snyder and his crack team of visual wizards, in all of their creative genius, a sincere round of applause for blasting forward with more ambition then I have seen in a movie in years. I cannot wait to see what he does for Man of Steel.

Score: **** (out of 5)

Rated: PG-13 for thematic material involving sexuality, violence and combat sequences, and for language.

Oscar Nominations!

The list of nominations for the 83rd annual Oscars is finally here.  This is the entire list, along with my personal picks from each category.

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Best Motion Picture

Black Swan

The Fighter

Inception

The Kids Are All Right

The King’s Speech

127 Hours

The Social Network

Toy Story 3

True Grit

Winter’s Bone

My Pick: The Social Network.  I haven’t seen every single film on this list, but out of the ones I have seen, David Fincher’s film is the most entertaining and flat-out well done.  Even beyond the ones on this list, The Social Network was my favorite film of the year, period, without contest.

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Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role

Javier Bardem, Biutiful

Jeff Bridges, True Grit

Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network

Colin Firth, The King’s Speech

James Franco, 127 Hours

My Pick: Jesse Eisenberg.  With The Social Network, Eisenberg moved out of his comfort zone of awkward, Cera-esque teenager and embraced the (somewhat fictionalized) character of Mark Zuckerberg.  Subtle nuances in his character, little ticks, and rapid-fire inner and outer dialog were delivered flawlessly.  Out of any other award on this list, I am really, really pulling for Mr. Eisenberg here.

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Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role

Christian Bale, The Fighter

John Hawkes, Winter’s Bone

Jeremy Renner, The Town

Mark Ruffalo, The Kids Are All Right

Geoffrey Rush, The King’s Speech

My Pick: Christian Bale.  I didn’t think The Fighter was an amazing movie, and I don’t care for boxing movies in general, but I love Christian Bale and he always gives intense, deep performances no matter what he’s acting.  The same applies to The Fighter, for which he lost a ton of weight for the role of Mark Wahlberg’s brother.  Bale is one of my favorite actors in the business currently, and I can’t get enough of him.

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Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role

Annette Bening, The Kids Are All Right

Nicole Kidman, Rabbit Hole

Jennifer Lawrence, Winter’s Bone

Natalie Portman, Black Swan

Michelle Williams, Blue Valentine

My Pick: Natalie Portman.  Given Portman’s acting history, there was a fairly significant amount of doubt over how well she would do in a film with as much weight as Black Swan.  She pulled if off magnificently, however, and in her performance brought a great deal of darkness in her portrayal of an obsessed ballerina’s downward spiral into madness and despair.  After seeing Black Swan, I’m pretty excited for whatever Portman does next.

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Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role

Amy Adams, The Fighter

Helena Bonham Carter, The King’s Speech

Melissa Leo, The Fighter

Hailee Steinfeld, True Grit

Jacki Weaver, Animal Kingdom

My Pick: Hailee Steinfeld.  Though I would personally put Steinfeld in the “Leading Actress” category, as she was a main character in True Grit, this also conveniently allows me to give both her and Portman nods for their acting.  Steinfeld’s portrayal as the whip-smart your girl who recruits Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) on her journey of revenge was powerful indeed for a girl her age.  It’s rare to see a child actress outshine most of her peers, and even more rare to witness such good chemistry as she had with Bridges in True Grit.

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Achievement in Directing

Black Swan–Darren Aronofsky

The Fighter–David O. Russell

The King’s Speech–Tom Hooper

The Social Network–David Fincher

True Grit–Joel Coen and Ethan Coen

My Pick: Boy, was this a hard one.  After almost an entire day of consideration, I finally went with David Fincher, despite my intense admiration for both Aronofsky and the Coen Brothers.  The reason for this is that The Social Network is, as a whole, the most expertly constructed film of the year on every level.  The pacing and the nonlinear story progression are just a couple of the great ideas that went into the creation of this film.

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Best Adapted Screenplay

127 Hours–Danny Boyle & Simon Beaufoy

The Social Network–Aaron Sorkin

Toy Story 3–Michael Arndt

True Grit–Joel & Ethan Coen

Winter’s Bone–Debra Granik & Anne Rosellini

My Pick: Aaron Sorkin.  I’ll be honest–one of the reasons I was initially interested in The Social Network was because Aaron Sorkin was on board.  The man is an absolute genius of smart, realistic dialog that pulls you in and keeps you engaged and paying attention.  Previously, Sorkin write the script for the brilliantly entertaining Charlie Wilson’s War.  That same style of clever writing carried over into this film.

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Best Original Screenplay

Another Year–Mike Leigh

The Fighter–Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy, and Eric Johnson

Inception–Christopher Nolan

The Kids Are All Right–Lisa Cholodenko & Stuart Blumberg

The King’s Speech–David Seidler

My Pick: Christopher Nolan.  While some of the other movies on this list might have some better-written dialog, Inception’s script carefully and effectively constructs a detailed dreamscape with its own set of rules and explains everything so well that it’s easy to stay engaged and entertained.

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Best Documentary Feature

Exit Through the Gift Shop

Gasland

Inside Job

Restrepo

Waste Land

My Pick: Exit Through the Gift Shop. This documentary about Bansky, the renowned street artist, is simultaneously extremely engaging and very funny.  Watching Bansky construct his works of art is a sight to behold, just like any other, more “traditional” artist.  There’s something breathtaking about watching any sort of artist work, and this is a front-row seat to one of the most talented names out there.  There are rumors that this documentary is not genuine, and is instead an intricately manufactured farce like the also-excellent Joaquin Phoenix prank I’m Still Here, but like that film, it doesn’t make the experience any less engaging–if anything, it further enriches the experience.

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Best Animated Feature

How To Train Your Dragon

The Illusionist

Toy Story 3

My Pick: Toy Story 3.  Not only is Toy Story 3 one of my favorite animated films, it’s a damn near perfect film altogether.  Pixar has recently been making films with a great deal more emotional weight than in the past, moving beyond light entertainment with the classic Disney message and into children’s films with adult themes.  The resulting emotional complexity is masterful and beautiful.

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Best Foreign Language Film

Buitiful–Mexico

Dogtooth–Greece

In a Better World–Denmark

Incendies–Canada

Outside the Law (Hors-la-loi)–Algeria

My Pick: Dogtooth.  The dark psychological framework of Dogtooth is what holds the film together.  The story–children in their late teens who have never been allowed out of their house, and as such only know the world that is their home–is disturbing to watch unfold, particularly as the deception of the parents (such as teaching the children incorrect definitions for words) shapes the psychological constructs of the children.  Their entire way of thinking has been shaped by the world their parents have manufactured for them, and it is a disturbing and engaging story to watch.

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Art Direction

Alice in Wonderland–Robert Stromberg (Production Design), Karen O’Hara (Set Decoration)

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1–Stuart Craig (Production Design), Stephanie McMillan (Set Decoration)

Inception–Guy Hendrix Dyas (Production Design), Larry Dias and Doug Mowat (Set Decoration)

The King’s Speech–Eve Stewart (Production Design), Judy Farr (Set Decoration)

True Grit–Jess Gonchor (Production Design), Nancy Haigh (Set Decoration)

My Pick: Stuart Craig and Stephanie McMillan.  The more recent Harry Potter films have sported a much darker and more mature style, and it is a massive benefit to the darker direction of the story.  It’s always fun to see how the art direction in a film differs from my own visualization of the story when I read it on a page, and the decisions made here are visually exciting and very creative.

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Achievement in Cinematography

Black Swan–Matthew Libatique

Inception–Wally Pfister

The King’s Speech–Danny Cohen

The Social Network–Jeff Cronenweth

True Grit–Roger Deakins

My Pick: Matthew Libatique.  The way Black Swan illustrated its nightmarish imagery and the unfolding of madness was unparalleled by anything else this year.  Black Swan wasn’t quite a psychological horror film, but some of the disturbing and downright terrifying cinematography brought it very close.

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Achievement in Costume Design

Alice in Wonderland–Colleen Atwood

I Am Love–Antonella Connarozzi

The King’s Speech–Jenny Beavan

The Tempest–Sandy Powell

True Grit–Mary Zophres

My Pick: Sandy Powell.  The costume design in The Tempest was colorful and exciting, as a Shakespearean production should be.  While the film itself was flawed, the visual flair of the costumes stood out and made the film worth watching at least on a visual level.

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Achievement in Film Editing

Black Swan–Andrew Weisblum

The Fighter–Pamela Martin

The King’s Speech–Tariq Anwar

127 Hours–Jon Harris

The Social Network–Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter

My Pick: Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter.  The seamless transitions between scenes in the film, and between the film’s past and present, were extremely impressive and immersive.  It is said that the best editing work is when you don’t notice the editing.  Wall and Baxter have done just that.

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Achievement in Makeup

Barney’s Version–Adrien Morot

The Way Back–Edouard F. Henriques, Gregory Funk and Yolanda Toussieng

The Wolfman–Rick Baker and Dave Elsey

My Pick: Rick Baker and Dave Elsey.  The Wolfman was a very stupid movie and I didn’t care for it, but admittedly the work done on the werewolves was pretty impressive.

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Achievement in Music Written for Motion Picture (Original Score)

How to Train Your Dragon–John Powell

Inception–Hans Zimmer

The King’s Speech–Alexandre Desplat

127 Hours–A.R. Rahman

The Social Network–Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross

My Pick: Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross.  Every single one of the nominees this year was extremely good, though I lament the travesty that is the omission of Daft Punk’s incredible soundtrack for Tron: Legacy, which I keep on a fairly frequent rotation in my car stereo.  My pick out of the list, however, is the one for The Social Network, in all of its tense, minimalist glory.

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Achievement in Music Written For Motion Picture (Original Song)

“Coming Home” from Country Strong–Tom Douglas, Troy Verges and Hillary Lindsey

“I See the Light” from Tangled–Alan Menken and Glenn Slater

“If I Rise” from 127 Hours–A. R. Rahman and Rollo Armstrong

“We Belong Together” from Toy Story 3–Randy Newman

My Pick: “We Belong Together”.  Randy Newman bookended a beautifully emotional film with an equally emotional song that perfectly fit with the tone of Toy Story 3 and captured exactly what the theme was encompassing; love, loss, and letting childhood live on.

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Best Animated Short Film

Day & Night

The Gruffalo

Let’s Pollute

The Lost Thing

Madagascar, carnet de voyage (Madagascar, a Journey Diary)

My Pick: Day & Night.  The preceding short to Toy Story 3 was a delightful and inventive little short that effectively combined the styles of Looney Tunes and the work of Pixar into one piece.  The marriage proved successful and the end result was a joyful little production.

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Achievement in Sound Editing

Inception–Richard King

Toy Story 3–Tom Myers and Michael Silvers

Tron: Legacy–Gwendolyn Yates Whittle and Addison Teague

True Grit–Skip Lievsay and Craig Berkey

Unstoppable–Mark P. Stoeckinger

My Pick: Gwendolyn Yates Whittle and Addison Teague.  The soundscape of Tron: Legacy was quite masterfully put together, and the way the sounds of the Grid made the world feel so intricately similar to a computer, yet not unlike the real world, was a treat for the ears.

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Achievement in Sound Mixing

Inception–Lora Hirschberg, Gary A. Rizzo and Ed Novick

The King’s Speech–Paul Hamblin, Martin Jensen and John Midgley

Salt–Jeffrey J. Haboush, Greg P. Russell, Scott Millan and William Sarokin

The Social Network–Ryan Klyce, David Parker, Michael Semanick and Mark Weingarten

True Grit–Skip Lievsay, Craig Berkey, Greg Orloff and Peter F. Kurland

My Pick: Ryan Klyce, David Parker, Michael Semanick and Mark Wringarten.  The way the different sounds of The Social Network (dialog and voice-over, music, and ambient sound) came together was as engaging as David Fincher’s direction.  Different sounds were emphasized at just the right time for the right effect.

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Achievement in Visual Effects

Alice in Wonderland–Ken Ralston, David Schaub, Carey Villegas and Sean Phillips

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1–Tim Burke, John Richardson, Christian Manz and Nicolas Aithadi

Hereafter–Michael Owens, Bryan Grill, Stephan Trojanski and Joe Farrell

Inception–Paul Franklin, Chris Corbould, Andrew Lockley and Peter Bebb

Iron Man 2–Janek Sirrs, Ben Snow, Ged Wright and Daniel Sudick

My Pick: Janek Sirrs, Ben Snow, Ged Wright and Daniel Sudick.  Easily the best part of Iron Man 2 was the attention to Iron Man’s suit.  Every single little component was lovingly detailed and worked into the suit’s animation.  The rest of the special effects were just as impressive, effectively making the suits appear functional in a real world sense.