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The Nickel Awards: Part 1

In the wake of this year’s Oscars, we here at The Nickel Screen felt compelled to give out some awards of our own. All of those supposedly learned movie people obviously know nothing compared to us, so sit back, relax–actually, sit forward and pay attention. We put a lot of thought into this 3-post extravaganza, and you’d better enjoy it.

Nerd’s Fantasy Nominees: Scarlett Johansson (Iron Man 2), Olivia Wilde (Tron: Legacy), Gemma Arterton (Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time), Emma Watson (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1), Rapunzel (Tangled)

Winner:

If there’s one category the Academy Awards blatantly lacks, it’s this.

Why do movies really, truly exist? To spin heart-warming tales of kings who grapple with their issues? To show people how tough cutting off your arm can be? I don’t think so. Movies exist to make money, and who has money? That’s right, nerds. We sit eternally at our computers, hiding from the day star and pitifully pecking at the keys that provide our sustenance, but you know what? We make bank.

But money doesn’t equal happiness. We understand that all too well as we sweep our gazes across our rooms, eyes alighting on our mint condition Millenium Falcon replica. It sits, dusty, right next to our extensive comic book collection. To its right, a poster of Captain Kirk looks outward, ignoring the Atari 2600 which rests just below him, unused. But we don’t see happiness. No, because happiness is more than belongings.

As The Beatles taught us, money can’t buy you love, and love is all you need. But unfortunately, no real woman can ever hope to win our hearts, for we have already fallen, fallen for the phase-shifting sublimity of Kitty Pryde, for the Amazonian intensity of Wonder Woman, and for the stripping strippiness of Stripperella. Human women be damned! If only we could somehow make these fantasy babes real!

And by god, movies are the closest thing we’ve got. If there’s one dangling carrot that can get us away from our apartments—make us sit up from the chair, change out of our pajamas, and face the daylight—it’s a film version of those girls we think about day and night. That’s why movies exist. They exist for the nerd.

This year was an excellent showing of sexy. Olivia Wilde donned a skin-tight, light-up, spandex suit, drove a futuristic light-car and kicked ass on a bunch of evil programs. Only problem was that she herself was a computer program, and that’s not really my thing. Gemma Arterton trekked through the desert as Tamina, a beautiful Persian princess who wasn’t afraid to get her hands dirty, killing a bad guy by stabbing him in the eyes with a live snake. Emma Watson continued to age, making her hotter than ever, and more legal, and Rapunzel, despite being animated, was the epitome of purity and innocence (and the only blonde, a lot of blonde).

But despite the caliber of the competition, Scarlett Johansson won out. As Black Widow in Iron Man 2, I’ll let her catch me in her web any day. By the end of the movie, I couldn’t agree more with Tony Stark’s initial reaction of “I want one.” We get to see her change in the back of a car then run down a hallway filled with nameless henchmen, electrocuting the first one and backflipping off a table onto the second, snapping his neck between her legs. By the end of the hallway, she’s killed like 8 guys, no fewer than 3 with the leg around the neck method. Please god, I know I haven’t been the perfect person, but if you can hear me, if you truly are as benevolent as they say, that is how I want to die.

Worst Nerd’s Fantasy: Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit)

Oh, and I’ve gotten some complaints about Hailee Steinfeld losing this category. I keep hearing things like “she’ll grow up,” and “standards were different in the old west,” but seriously people? I mean, I agree completely, but that doesn’t make her any less annoying.

Worst Picture Nominees: Dinner for Schmucks, The Last Airbender, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse

Winner:

I hate The Last Airbender. I hate him and his bendy friends and his stupid enemies and that weird-ass creature he rides. I loathe them all. I hate what they’ve done to my eyes. I hate the memories they’ve burned into my brain that, no matter the amount of therapy, I cannot remove. I want those hours of my life back. I want to return to a time of innocence, when I thought the world was filled with good and honest movies, that it was a place of joy and happiness untainted by the foul, festering, fetid touch of M. Night Shyamalan.

I hate The Last Airbender. There is no plot other than that which is condensed into interminable, emotionless, soul-crushing narration. There is no tension but the tension of whether you’ll be able to make it to the end without committing a gruesome, sinful, ritualistic suicide. There is no dialogue, save that which sounds as stilted as the mad gibbering of my great Uncle Wallace, whose father was a chimpanzee and whose mother fed him nothing but industrial grade turpentine. There is…nothing. No crime so heinous, no sin so foul, no soul so tainted that warrants the horrible fate of viewing the The Last Airbender. It is, without a doubt, the Worst Picture.

Most Epic Kill Nominees: B.A. motorcycle leap+neck break (The A-Team), Iron Man laser sweep (Iron Man 2), John Malcovich bullet to rocket launcher shot (Red), Perseus lightning sword throw (Clash of the Titans)

Winner:

Each year, blockbuster movies create increasingly evil and powerful antagonists for our heroes to face, but there’s only so many ways to kill a man. Iconic villains require iconic deaths, and even henchmen can earn some bit of glory by dying at the hands of a good guy’s masterful move. Iron Man’s sweeping laser that cuts a dozen evil drones in half (though can they really be called evil if they’re just drones) was memorable, but it invalidated all the fighting until that point. B.A. had some badass wrestler moves, and John Malkovich’s shooting a speeding rocket with a bullet required some serious precision, but Clash of the Titans walks home with the Most Epic Kill. Like I said, there’s only so many ways to kill a man, but how do you slay a god?! As Hades hovers ominously in the stormy sky, Perseus, standing atop the highest point in the city, raises his sword toward the heavens, drawing a sparking lightning bolt to the blade, then hurls it toward the god of the underworld. Lightning and sword strike the demon as one, sending him back to the land of the dead. Epic.

Best Fight Nominees: A-Team Flying Tank, How to Train You Dragon Final Battle, Inception Hallway, Scarlett Johansson Hallway, Scott Pilgrim Final Battle

Winner:

Inception’s magical world of dreams led to some iconic action sequences whose out-of-this-world physics were much better explained than in most movies. Standard action heroes seem to possess superhuman flexibility and strength for basically no reason, but because we could believe the fighting in Inception, it became much more memorable. The zero-gravity hallway battle between Joseph Gordon-Levitt and the security projections was by far the coolest thing on a screen this year. Jaded by the barrage of unoriginal action sequences that accost my eyes every year, very few things truly wow me, but watching Gordon-Levitt spin undaunted through a hallway of alternating gravity, using the fluctuations to his advantage as if it were the simplest thing in the world, that was a moment to behold.

Worst Fight: Random water benders lifting evil Zhao into air and dropping him like 10 feet

Best Line Nominees:

“Being Vegan just makes you better than most people” Vegan Todd Ingram, explaining the origin of his superpowers (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World)

“I Want One” -Tony Stark, after seeing Scarlett Johansson (Iron Man 2)

“It must be some kind of hot tub time machine…” -Nick Weber, upon realizing their hot tub must be some kind of time machine (Hot Tube Time Machine)

“Release the kraken!” -Zeus, before releasing the fuckin’ Kraken (Clash of the Titans)

Winner:

In a year with no standout line to claim a clear victory, we opted not for the powerfully dramatic nor the entertainingly epic, or even for the ridiculously bad. This year, we give the award to a line that broke the fourth wall, because we need more of this literally outside-the-box thinking in comedies nowadays. Too often, movies follow their formula, forgetting the audience that craves something inventive. Having Craig Robinson say “It must be some kind of hot tub time machine,” then turn and face the camera showed that the writers clearly understood the absurdity of the movie’s conceit but just didn’t care. It might have been silly, but it was also hilarious.

Worst Line: “Earthbenders! Why are you acting this way? You are powerful and amazing people! You don’t need to live like this! There is earth right beneath your feet! The ground is an extension of who you are!”

That was just Part 1! Click Here to Continue to Part 2: The Continuation.

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The Nickel Awards: Part 2

Best Scene Nominees: Cunnilingus (Black Swan), Confrontation (True Grit), Cursing Scene (The King’s Speech), Melting Scene (Toy Story 3), Ruffian’s Singing Their Dreams (Tangled)

Winner:

For best scene, we wanted to find those moments in movies that stuck with you long after you’d left the theater. There were no specific criteria, but you know the scenes when you see them. An aging teacher, coaxing a king to let fly a string of profanities. A young fourteen-year-old confronting her father’s killer. Mila Kunis going down on Natalie Portman. In the end, however, we decided to go with the climactic scene from Toy Story 3, when Woody and friends are about to be melted into indistinguishable plastic goop. One often wondered throughout the span of this trilogy of films, watching various plastic anthropomorphs undergo bizarre dismemberments and mutilations…how do toys die? Well here it is, folks: utter annihilation in the form of slow, melting torture. The moment went on for a shockingly long time, and we watched, horror struck, as realization dawned on the characters and each one accepted their death. And then at the last moment, an impossible, uplifting salvation from above. We would never have imagined that our beloved toys would be faced with such an implacable mortal peril, but the fact that it was so heart-wrenching was proof of the power of Pixar to move our hearts. Well done, good sirs. That took balls.

Worst Scene: Aang explaining to the earth benders that there was earth all around them (The last Airbender)

Best Dialogue Nominees: The King’s Speech, The Social Network,  True Grit

Winner:

It’s hard to look at True Grit in the context of the Coen’s recent triumphs such as No Country for Old Men and A Serious Man. Compared to them, True Grit is a by-the-numbers film, much less ambitious, and surprisngly simple and short. But like all the Coen’s films, it was made with a perfectionist’s attention to detail, particularly the dialogue. Not only is it historically accurate, it’s dense with characterization and flavor. Jeff Bridges is simply a joy to hear talk in his rustic grumble, and Hailee Steinfield is pleasurably precocious as a girl far more mature than her years belie. A true actor’s piece, the dialogue becomes the star of this film, revealing cultural insights and illuminating interesting power dynamics. While not a show-stopper in terms of action and spectacle, True Grit is meaty and satisfying for its brilliantly written dialogue, given to actors who know what to do with it.

Worst Dialogue: The Twilight Saga: Eclipse

Best Story Nominees: Inception, The King’s Speech, The Social Network, Toy Story 3, True Grit

Winner:

While the accuracy of The Social Network’s biographical content is clearly debatable, no one can deny that the story was compelling. We loved it for its writing and plot, the way each line worked overtime adding layers, and how every scene advanced the plot in a new, crucial way. The structuring of the film within two intense legal battles focuses themes of ownership, friendship, power and success, and its unconventional, almost anticlimactic ending has echoes of Greek tragedy. Aaron Sorkin’s dialogue may be unrealistically verbose, and at times he forced melodrama upon the story, but the clear attention to detail and overall polish make this a screenplay worth paying attention to.

Worst Story: The Last Airbender

Best Sci-Fi / Fantasy Nominees: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, Iron Man 2, Inception

Winner:

With Inception, we reached new depths of science fiction invention. Dreams within dreams within dreams, all linked together—a matrix where only some are aware, a crime scene that leaves no evidence, an idea that stunned the world. This concept created unforgettable sets set in zero gravity, arctic fortresses, and, of course, “Limbo.” For days, the world spoke of nothing but unraveling the mystery and the science behind this mentally stimulating film. We watched over and over again, picking out every detail: the ring, the music, the top.
Christopher Nolan gave us what we’d all been dreaming of: great science fiction.

Worst Sci-Fi / Fantasy: The Last Airbender

Best Comedy Nominees: Easy A, Hot Tub Time Machine, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, The Other Guys

Winner:

2010 was a particularly weak year for comedies, but Scott Pilgrim vs. the World displayed a very special brand of humor that wryly embraced the hypersaturated modern sensibilities, riffing off of indie music, video games, and awkward relationships. Though Michael Cera probably wasn’t to best choice to play this movie’s eponymous hero, the clever script, snappily edited by the talented Edgar Wright, kept the laughs coming steadily throughout the film. While 3rd act sloppiness and some apparent last-minute rewrites prevent this film from being a classic, we at The Nickel Screen think that this was the funniest and most original comedy to hit theaters this year.

Worst Comedy: Dinner for Schmucks

Best Drama Nominees: Black Swan, Shutter Island, The King’s Speech, The Social Network, True Grit,

Winner:

While we may have a flare for the dramatic, dramas themselves are not our strong suit. I tried to watch 127 hours on a plane one time, but my headphone jack was broken. And nobody even got close to making it to The Fighter, but we saw a few, and while they all had virtues that spoke for themselves, The King’s Speech rose above the rest.

The Social Network and True Grit had undeniably excellent acting and dialogue, but in the end, neither was as rousing as George VI’s change from stammering duke to dominant sovereign. Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush played off each other perfectly, the plot was well-paced, and the story was riveting.

So Much for Part 2! Click Here to Continue to Part 3: The Culmination.

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The Nickel Awards: Part 3

Best Directing: Black Swan (Darren Aronofsky), The Social Network (David Fincher),  The King’s Speech (Tom Hooper), True Grit (Ethan Coen and Joel Coen)

Winner:

Best Directing is a tough award to determine, because even though a director might have their fingers in every part of a film, it’s not always clear whether credit is due to them or the hundreds of people that work under them. We chose Darren Aronofsky for his work on Black Swan because, of all the directors, his personal mark was apparent throughout the film. Because of its focus on the creative process, Black Swan seemed more intensely personal that any of the other nominations, which were excellent but straightforward stories. The nod goes to Aronofsky because the story of Natalie Portman’s tortured ballerina is told as much through the camera work and the editing as it is through plot.

Worst Directing: M. Night Shyamalan (The Last Airbender)

Best Animated Feature Film: How to Train Your Dragon, Tangled, Toy Story 3

Winner:

Unlike their live-action counterparts, animated films are usually a little more, well, animated. High energy, fun, and light-hearted, these movies exist to make people happy, but that in no way lessens them. Toy Story 3 is just as poignant and heart-wrenching as any film this year, and it’s made better by its wide appeal. How to Train Your Dragon threw us into a world of dragons and created the cutest creature ever. Tangled brought us back to the Disney of old, singing us a charming tale of romance. These three films were some of the best animated features to date, but Toy Story 3’s snappy dialogue, ceaseless humor, and perfect pacing, not to mention its wild emotional swings, make it the best animated film of the year. Honestly, who could resist Buzz’s Spanish setting?

Best Supporting Performance Nominees: Andrew Garfield (The Social Network), Geoffrey Rush (The King’s Speech),  Matt Damon (True Grit)

Winner:

Geoffrey Rush’s performance in The King’s Speech was simply sublime. His portrayal of failed Shakespearean actor turned elocutionist Lionel Logue was a delight to watch, his pleasant attitude masking a deep-seated determination. Rush was able to conjure up many laughs throughout the film, and yet his was also a deeply moving character, drawing us seamlessly into the king’s plight. Seeing him treat the king as an equal—making him swear and do silly vocal lessons—was just as excellent as watching his interactions with his family, be they acting out plays for his sons or hiding the truth of who he was training from his wife. In my opinion, Geoffrey Rush stole the show, even from a supporting role, and proved yet again how truly talented he is.

Worst Supporting Performance: Dev Patel (The Last Airbender)

Best Lead Performance Nominees: Colin Firth (The King’s Speech), Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit), Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network), Natalie Portman (Black Swan)

Winner:

There are those who would argue Darren Aronofsky’s schlocky ballerina psych-thriller is not a great film, and they would have plenty of ammunition. But Natalie Portman’s incarnation of protagonist Nina is indisputably flawless. Though her character is thoroughly unlikeable, the audience still finds themselves reeling from Portman’s relentless disorientation, fear, and brittleness. Her confusion and her apprehension chill us so that we the audience tiptoe like our fragile star through the plot.

“Stop being so fucking pathetic!” Vincent Cassel’s instructor shouts at her, finally giving voice to the audience’s sentiments in the first act. Portman’s exquisite weakness is intentionally what makes her so ugly in the film, so repulsive. But as her mind and body come apart in the film’s acceleration, Portman imbues her character with a haunting and resounding spirit. That transformation is so believable in Portman’s face that one almost forgets the incredibility of the plot. Even beyond this, Portman communicates the underlying fear that lingers behind the mask of the Black Swan.

And the scene in which Portman calls her mother after getting the starring part–we dare you to name another actress in her generation who can display that level of genuine emotional complexity. Congratulations, Ms. Portman.

Best Picture Nominees: Inception, The Social Network, The King’s Speech, Toy Story 3, True Grit

Winner:

Even though year after year we face the stifling wasteland of unoriginality, even though most films are born only to die a quick death, crippled by their lack of creativity, even though Hollywood’s fear of greatness keeps new ideas mired in the backwaters of production hell, even though all we see is sequel after sequel of popcorn-selling eye candy, I still had a dream.

I had a dream that one day someone would rise up against the confines of Hollywood orthodoxy and say “enough is enough.”

I had a dream that one day in the deserts of Southern California, sweltering with the heat of bureaucracy, writers and producers would sit down at a table of imagination.

I had a dream that one day movies would be made not because of the marketability of their branding, but because of the character of their content.

I had a dream…fulfilled.

Hollywood’s been looking increasingly weary this year, and in case you haven’t noticed, they’re all out of good ideas. But a welcome break from the churn of vampire-robot-action was Christopher Nolan’s Inception. Not only did Inception exceed every action film to have been released this year, it revealed the very structures by which our thrillers are created. In fact, it can be read as a meta-commentary on the nature of film itself. By incorporating filmmaking techniques into the structure of the story (with its random setpieces, effortless culmination of tension, and possibly untrustworthy protagonist), Inception became an action movie that was its own formula. At the same time, it offered a compelling love story, a thought-provoking concept, and bad-ass action, all wrapped up in one incredible movie. Inception immediately became one of our favorite movies of all time, and we predict that it will be appreciated for its many many layers for years to come.

The End!

There you have it. Those are our picks for 2010. From all of us here at 5¢S, we sincerely hope you enjoyed your time here at The Nickel Awards.

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Welcome!

Welcome to The Nickel Screen! Like ‘the silver screen,’ only a similar transition metal instead. Named after our founder Russ Nickel and established in July 2010, The Nickel Screen endeavors to bring you the most intriguing*, most provocative*, and wittiest* commentary on the arts* of motion pictures, television, and entertainment.

Written by a crack squad of three screenwriters out of the San Francisco Bay Area, 5¢S will undoubtedly be your next home page, provided you are a compulsive list-maker with a penchant for disputing heatedly the irrelevant opinions of others.

*Results may vary.

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