Film

Gangsters, death, and spaghetti westerns: must be another week of movies!

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Well, they announced the Oscar nominations yesterday, and much-lauded import Amour is opening today (review below the jump), so if you're curious about the hype and don't mind having a downer of a Friday night ... you're set. Other films opening this week include the Robert Carlyle drama California Solo (Dennis Harvey's review here), Marlon Wayans horror spoof A Haunted House, Ryan Gosling-in-a-fedora cop flick Gangster Squad, and (at the Roxie), teen-skater doc Only the Young.

Also! The Pacific Film Archive's "The Hills Run Red: Italian Westerns, Leone, and Beyond" series starts this week. Plenty of good spaghetti western action to be had; check out my round-up here. Read on for more short takes on this week's releases.

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Honest Abe and everyone else: Oscar nominations

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Congratulations, Mr. President. Better luck next time, Ms. Bigelow, Mr. Affleck, and Mr. Anderson.

Yep, as you already know, the Oscar nominations were handed down this AM. Like every year, there were some predictable picks and some shocks, snubs, and head-scratchers. The ceremony is Feb. 24; I predict it'll be a three-way tie for Best Dressed among Jennifer Lawrence, Denzel Washington, and Quvenzhané Wallis. As for the big five categories ... let's discuss. (Full list of nominees here!)

Best Picture: Nine nominees but no spot for The Master or dark horse The Dark Knight Rises. Lincoln, which raked in the highest number of nominations overall, is a shoo-in. Second place: Silver Linings Playbook, followed by upstart indie Beasts of the Southern Wild.

The rest: Amour (will win Best Foreign Language Film); Argo, Django Unchained, Les Miserables, and my original pick to win, Zero Dark Thirty (these all have lesser chances, since their directors weren't nominated); and Life of Pi (likely to clean up in the technical categories).

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High midnight

'The Hills Run Red' fest showcases lesser-known spaghetti westerns

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cheryl@sfbg.com

FILM With Django Unchained-related posts currently filling up your Facebook feed (and box-office receipts stuffing Quentin Tarantino's pockets), now seems the perfect time to amble over to Berkeley for the Pacific Film Archive's spaghetti western series.Read more »

The damage done

The versatile Robert Carlyle hits a melancholy note in 'California Solo'

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arts@sfbg.com

FILM Robert Carlyle is the kind of actor who usually elicits a slow-dawning response in realm of "Oh, right ... that guy. What was he in again?" Well, a lot, but if you're not British (let alone Scottish), his visibility has probably been erratic and infrequent — plus he does that exasperating English thing of taking TV assignments like they're perfectly OK, as opposed to the US approach of doing series work only when your big-screen career is in the toilet.Read more »

Oscar contender 'Zero Dark Thirty' opens today! Plus (a few) more new movies

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At last, the movie most likely to challenge Lincoln for Best Picture opens in San Francisco, with an even wider release coming next week. Check out my review of Zero Dark Thirty here. Highly recommended, and even if it doesn't snag the top trophy, look for Jessica Chastain to win Best Actress. (More Oscar predictions here, in case you're getting your pool in order extra-early.)

Also this week: Texas Chainsaw 3D (the first two films in this series, I'll defend to the death ... no interest in seeing this one, frankly), a re-release of Luis Buñuel's 1970 drama Tristana, and freewheeling New Orleans doc Tchoupitoulas (reviews of the latter two after the jump).

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Golden doodles

Oscar predictions (and wishful thinking) for 2013

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Still the fairest

Heigh-ho to 'Snow White' on her 75th birthday

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arts@sfbg.com

FILM One of the few upbeat by-products of the increasing infantilization of popular movies is that the same impulse to dumb down live action for permanently adolescent tastes also raises the bar for animation, which no longer has to target grade schoolers as its primary audience. Even not-so-special 2012 had more sophisticated and interesting animated features than you'd find in any given year a couple decades or more ago. Wreck-It Ralph won't win the Best Picture Oscar. But it will almost certainly be better than whatever movie does.Read more »

Bigger than Bigelow

Bin Laden thriller 'Zero Dark Thirty' courts controversy — and acclaim

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cheryl@sfbg.com

FILM There was hella hoopla over Kathryn Bigelow being the first woman to win an Oscar for Best Director, for 2010's The Hurt Locker. It's a good possibility she'll soon be the first woman to win two directing Oscars, if Zero Dark Thirty's remarkable haul of critical kudos continues into statuette season.Read more »

No headbutting?

A Lee Child fan follows Jack Reacher to the big screen

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tredmond@sfbg.com

LIT/FILM The folding travel toothbrush is a central element in every Jack Reacher novel. It's his only possession, the only thing the wandering ex-military cop takes with him when he throws away his old clothes and buys new ones, the only thing that ties him directly to his old life in the U.S. Army. It's part of the Reacher formula, one that consistently works through 17 books by Lee Child.

It's not in the Jack Reacher movie.Read more »

Of grumpy cats and Kony kings

YEAR IN FILM 2012: The video memes we couldn't get off our screens

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YEAR IN FILM Welcome to "Shit Year-in-Film Writers Say"! This was a swag/YOLO year for video memes (vemes?): they helped take down a major presidential candidate (47 percent, baby), helped elect another presidential candidate (Obama hugging Sandy victims), made sure "Call Me Maybe" and "Somebody That I Used To Know" popped up in some form or other on our feeds all year. Also, if .GIFs count as videos — and 2012 was surely the year of the .GIF revival — then even McKayla Maroney is impressed. Forget Angelina Jolie's leg, texting Hillary, botched Ecce Homo, and stingray photobomb. Read more »