Three Contenders: Shutter Island, Toy Story 3 and Inception

I feel like 2010 has been a relatively slow year for movies. It’s almost universally acknowledged that this has been one of the worst movie summers ever. There are only about two or three films that have already been released this year that I’ve yet to see that I actually really want to see. That being said, there has also only been three films released this year that are even close to Best Picture quality: Shutter Island, Toy Story 3 and Inception. If the Academy is really going to keep having ten slots in that category, Hollywood is going to have to do a lot better than only three great films in a matter of seven months. I love all three of these films. Toy Story 3 made my whole family cry, including my 59-year-old father. I still can’t decide if I liked Shutter Island more or Inception more. The thing is both movies are full of great performances, but Shutter Island is really about Leo’s performance, whereas Inception felt like a true ensemble piece. I think I’m going to have to see Inception one more time before I can make that decision.

Spoilers may lurk after the cut.

Shutter Island was originally supposed to be released in October of 2009. Paramount has said the decision to movie it to February 19th, 2010 was partially based on their small 2009 marketing budget and DiCaprio’s unavailability to promote the picture last year. I have mixed feelings about this gamble. Since last year was a ten Best Picture year, Shutter Island might have had a chance at one of those spots. This year is also a ten Best Picture year, so perhaps it will have a chance, if  the Academy can remember all the way back to February by the time voting begins. It worked for The Silence of the Lambs way back in 1991, so maybe it can work for Leo and Scorsese.

Although I love all of the aspects of this film – the costumes, the set decoration, the music (which was a collection of modern classical music hand-picked by Scorsese’s long-time collaborator Robbie Robertson. It’s almost a shame that it isn’t original, because it’s maybe the best soundtrack/score of the year.), the great ensemble of supporting characters. But what really holds this film together is Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance. I think this is perhaps his best performance (followed very closely by his turn in Scorsese’s 2004 flick The Aviator) and if he doesn’t get a lot of love for this performance come awards season I will be sorely disappointed. What I love about his performance is it’s a mixture of mania, memory, drive and regret. The very last scene between DiCaprio’s “Teddy” and Mark Ruffalo’s “Chuck” is one of the more heart-rending scenes I’ve ever seen.

Speaking of Mark Ruffalo, I think he gives his finest performance since 2007’s Zodiac. He plays second fiddle to DiCaprio’s Teddy, but really that’s the only way his character can work. And although Ruffalo’s performance is subtle, it is also a strong one. A lot of his performance is in his eyes and in his silent reactions to DiCaprio. The two have amazing screen chemistry together and both fit perfectly within the world of this film.

Michelle Williams has really grown on me in the last five years and with her stunning turn in this film I am now sold on her talent. She is creepy in the best ways and also perfectly forlorn at times. Also, if you’ve ever heard her speak in person you know that she put on one hell of a Boston accent for this role. I would like for her to get another Best Supporting Actress nod for this performance. It is most definitely an Oscar calibre performance; it’s really going to depend on Paramount’s campaign come awards season.

This film also contained amazing performance from each and every one of the actors in its supporting cast. It also included some of my absolute favorite people. Ben Kingsley, Emily Mortimer, Max von Sydow, Jackie Earle Haley, Ted Levine, John Carroll Lynch, Elias Koteas and Patricia Clarkson were all marvelous. I really hope this film get its due come awards season. If the rest of the year is as bland as this spring and summer has been, then it might just have a chance.

There is no doubt in my mind that Toy Story 3 will get one of the ten spots this year for Best Picture, it may even win. I think this film one-ups Up when it comes to setting the bar for animated films. Or films in general. It is a near perfect movie and is the best reviewed film of the year. What’s so wonderful about this film is that it is entertaining to adults and children alike, but also makes some heavy commentary and reflection on what it’s like to grow up and what it’s like to watch your child grow up. It is perhaps the best “coming-of-age” film I have ever seen.

I can’t talk about this film without first giving Michael Keaton’s voice performance as Ken a shout out. He was fabulous. I love Keaton’s early work and it has always made me sad to see how talented he was in things like Beetlejuice and how he often does not live up to his own potential. I think with this voice performance, we once again got to see how talented this man really is.

I also have to say I love all the new characters they introduced with this film. I particularly liked Timothy Dalton as Mr. Pricklepants, mostly because I really love Timothy Dalton. This whole story line was really wonderful. And the very last scene between Andy and Bonnie is so very touching. I was already crying at this point, but when Andy gets back in his car and goes “thank you” to his toys I lost it. This is the part of the film that was for adults. I have so many fond memories of playing with my toys and when I had to go to college and leave them all behind and/or give them away I cried for days and this film managed to capture that moment in life so perfectly.

I also have to point out that the main villain in this film had more depth and complexity of character than most villains do these days. This was such a great screenplay and it shows so well with the character development they did with Lots-O. Whoever thought to make the cuddly pink bear that smells like strawberries the villain was a genius. But also, the back-story explaining why the bear was so damaged was brilliant. I would really love to see this film get a Best Ensemble nod at the Screen Actors Guild, but I highly doubt that will happen.

Speaking of the Best Ensemble award at the Screen Actors Guild, if the cast of Inception doesn’t get one of those nominations it will be a real shame. This cast, also led by DiCaprio, includes Ken Watanabe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Ellen Page, Cillian Murphy, Tom Hardy, Tom Berenger, Dileep Rao, Lukas Haas and Michael Caine. I loved each and every one of these characters and each and every person in this cast gave a compelling, mesmerizing performance. The interactions between the cast was amazing as well. There was a great, palpable energy shared by all the actors.

This was really Leonardo DiCaprio’s year. Both of his lead performances this year were amazing, and although I prefer his performance in Shutter Island best, both are Oscar calibre. I would kind of like to see both performances awarded this awards season. I think he can manage to get double noms at least at the Golden Globes, but I’m not sure any actor or actress has ever been double-nom’d in one category before at the Oscars. There have definitely been many who have gotten Lead and Supporting nominations in one year, but double Lead nominations? The closest thing to that was when Steven Soderbergh was nominated for Best Director for both Erin Brockovich and Traffic (he won for the latter). I find it kind of interesting that both of DiCaprio’s character are, in a sense, haunted by their late wives. But really, what haunts them is their own guilt regarding how their wives died. What’s so wonderful about DiCaprio as an actor is, although the two characters share eerily similar pasts and carry similar guilt, he created two distinct characters, each with their own complicated layers.

Marion Cotillard is such a fabulous actress and has clearly not been suffering from post-Oscar slump, giving one compelling performance after another in the three years since she won Best Actress for her portrayal of Edith Piaf in La Vie En Rose. I think she gives the best performance in this film and I would love to see her, alongside Michelle Williams, in the Best Supporting Actress race. As Mal, a sort of shade of the late-wife of DiCaprio’s Cobb, Cotillard is both sinister and tender. Although her character pops in and out of the story, her presence is always felt.

The last thing I want to talk about is the amazingly antagonistic relationship between Tom Hardy’s Eames and Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Arthur. These two are so wonderful together. To be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever seen Tom Hardy in anything before and after his scene-stealing performance in this film, I have an urge to rent everything he’s ever done. I also have major love for Joseph Gordon-Levitt and think he was perfectly cast in this role. He has great rapport with each of the cast members with which he interacts. But it is his dynamic chemistry with Hardy that I loved the most.

I really have to commend Christopher Nolan for getting this film made and for writing such a complex original story. Much like the plot of the film, Nolan creates a whole new world, peppered perhaps with bits and pieces of other films, but a world all its own. I think using a familiar film genre – the heist – added to the originality of the film, in that although each character is an archetype, Nolan turns that archetype on its head. The best example of this is Tom Hardy’s Eames, who is a forger. In your typical heist film, the forger creates perfect fake copies of important documents – travel visas, passports, etc. But in Inception, Nolan’s version of a forger, he forges people. That just blew me away. I really feel this film deserves multiple Oscar nominations, most definitely including a shot at Best Picture.


About Marya E. Gates

Cinephile to the max.

Posted on July 17, 2010, in Contenders, Review and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. These were 3 fantastic movies. I loved the mystery of Shutter Island, the sheer action of Inception, and the originality of Toy Story 3.

    I do not understand all the pre-release discussion about Inception being too hard to follow. I have hearing problems and I never was confused even once. I thought the story was very easy to follow and the brilliant editing made that possible – what a ride!

    The first time I saw Shutter Island I found it very scary. When real things like a mental hospital are used fear is generated. Most of us are afraid of the mentally ill and in this case they are used to create the mystery. It was a little like being in a haunted house movie except that these weren’t ghosts. Well, Except in Teddy’s nightmares.

    Of these three, I like Toy Story Best. It was full of action, demonstrations of love, chances for redemption, nobility, and acts of courage. With all that it was quick witted and not sappy at all. We could relate to these characters both human and toy. I would really like to see this win Best Picture and not just best animated movie. It’s the best movie I have seen so far this year. 🙂

  2. In my Oscar predictions, I want Christopher Nolan to win Best Director and “Toy Story 3” to win Best Picture.

  3. I have moved Leonardo DiCaprio from The One to Watch list to my all time favorite actors list (only two others are in that list – Kevin Spacey and Samuel L. Jackson). Tho I’ve seen DiCaprio’s earlier films (Romeo + Juliet, The Beach, Titanic), I only spotted DiCaprio’s acting brilliance performance in Catch Me If You Can. From then on he went to act in Aviator (which I thought – a little trying too hard to be ‘mature’), Blood Diamond, The Departed, Revolutionary Road, the brilliant Shutter Island, and now this. That babyface boy has depth and this is what I look for in actors.

    For the sake of sharing, I’d like to list some other actors that I find talented (but I feel havent reached their potential or given the challenging roles to do so). Three of them are in Inception.

    1) Cillian Murphy (spotted in Red Eye – truly amazing performance as a villain)
    2) Ellen Page (spotted in Hard Candy – she alone made the whole movie worthwhile)
    3) Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s (spotted in The Lookout)
    4) James Marsden (spotted in Sex Drive)
    5) Steve Zahn (spotted in Joyride and Management)
    6) Abigail Breslin (spotted in Little Miss Sunshine, My Sister’s Keeper)
    7) Missy Peregrym (spotted in Stick It)
    8) Milla Jovovich (spotted in The 5th Element) – I wish she does alot more dramatic roles… I think she’s well known as just Alice for now.
    9) Jim Carry (spotted in The Truman Show) – I seriously wish he could do serious roles without applying his comical face or funny voices.
    10) Zachary Quinto (spotted in Heroes)

    Mmmm I think thats all I can think of…

  4. i haven’t seen toy story 3, but i dfeinitely agree with your two other films here for sure!

  5. lucuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu

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