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Months of Meryl: THE RIVER WILD

"Great post and comments. Yes, Streep had to navigate the rough waters of being in her 40's! I do think she smashed through the glass ceiling for women since she persevered and then became an even bigger star in her 50's." - Sister Rona

"One of my favourite movies from my teen years - I'm shocked at how long ago this was released. It was Meryl that sold this movie for me and is the reason I saw it. At the time, and I still feel this way, she is the reason to watch and believe this film." -Filmboymichael

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« Interview: Roger Deakins, The Man With the Golden Light | Main | Best Pictures: The Hit Parade of 2010 »

Heroes & Villains: From Hiccup to Hailsham

More Film Bitch Awards coming at'cha. The Snow White casting news last week got me to thinking of heroics at the movies. Snow White isn't really an active heroine is she? She's more like a pretty pretty princess waiting to be rescued.

None of my choices for hero of the year waited for rescue -- not even Rapunzel in Tangled --  though a few of them did need to be cajoled into action.  I can relate. Hero, rescue thyself! But in the end, it doesn't matter how you get to your heroics, so long as you eventually get there. The top ten in no particular order. [Edited to add: TOP ELEVEN. I forgot to list one of my intended medalists. An excel error!]

  • Sally Hawkins as "Rita O' Grady" in Made in Dagenham
  • Dany Boon as "Bazil" in Mic-Macs
  • Colin Firth as "King George VI" in The King's Speech
  • Angelina Jolie as "Salt" in Salt
  • "Hiccup" in How To Train Your Dragon
  • Hilary Swank as "Betty Anne Waters" in Conviction
  • Jennifer Lawrence as "Ree Dolly" in Winter's Bone
  • "Rapunzel & Flynn" in Tangled
  • Mark Wahlberg as "Mickey Ward" in The Fighter
  • Hailee Steinfeld as "Mattie Ross" in True Grit
  • Michael Cera as "Scott Pilgrim" in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

There was less to choose from as villains go even if you get creative. Do you cite the financial institutions in Inside Job. I mean, come on, they were SCARY... like scarier than Jason or Freddie.  But I decided that was too diffuse to be a single entity... Sometimes though, if you narrow the lens, system do work as symbolic primary villain:. Hailsham haunts in Never Let Me Go

Elsewhere in 2010 villains were just no match for the heroes. I normally love Josh Brolin and Barry Pepper but True Grit was totally unbalanced; the villains had no performative spark in comparison to the heroes. I didn't like Kick-Ass but even there the villains didn't measure up the heroes. It takes two to make beautiful battle. Is it too much to ask for great heroes and great villains simultaneously?  I think only Tangled managed that this year. Finally, I was about to cite Jacki Weaver's wicked "Smurf" in Animal Kingdom but in the end the villain of the piece is really the family. Smurf is but a henchwoman, to use superhero vernacular, who fills in when the bosses are on vacation (i.e. jail, six feet under, etcetera). The top ten:

  • "Gru" in Despicable Me
  • "The Cody Boys" in Animal Kingdom
  • "7 Evil Exes" in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
  • Helena Bonham Carter as "The Red Queen" in Alice in Wonderland
  • "Mother Gothel" in Tangled 
  • Hailsham in Never Let Me Go
  • "Lotso Huggin' Bear" in Toy Story 3
  • Niels Arestrup as "César Luciani" in A Prophet
  • Mickey Rourke as "Whiplash" in Iron Man 2
  • Justin Timberlake as "Sean Parker" in The Social Network


Which heroics thrilled you and which evil deeds made you grip your armrests last year?

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Reader Comments (15)

Mattie Ross and Lotso FTW.

February 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew R.

I realize this post went up briefly the other day (ACCIDENT) eveyrthing is working now if you want to check out the page. chase the link for the write ups.

February 9, 2011 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

I don't like that you changed Pope to the Cody Boys!!! Leave it at Pope!

February 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAnthony Mai

I'd think:

Hero Winner: Scott or Hiccup. (Not enough character definition for Salt or Mattie Ross (single minded heroes are boring winners), so I could only see Rapunzel and Flynn as potential upsets for you.)
Villain Winner: Gotta be Mother Gothel. (I almost got the sense from your writeup that if you decided to put VO performing next to full live performing, she'd get in your Supporting Actress lineup. The only question is: Over Olivia Williams or Kimberly Elise?)

February 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

"A life of bug eating monotony." LOL

The same LOL goes for the under-construction categories which are hilariously psychedelic!

February 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJames T

Aron Ralston in 127 Hours: Hero? Victim? Both?

February 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSan FranCinema

FINALLY! The Bonus Categories! Yaaaay! I'm rooting for Scott Pilgrim all the way, though I feel Hiccup is winning this one. The Cody Bros, surely, are in it to win it.

February 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterWalter

I think it's a misreading of Never Let Me Go to call Hailsham the villain. I know the details of the book are not translated so well into the film, but even the film tries to make the point that even though Miss Emily and Marie-Claude may have set up Hailsham within the confines of the 'system', their purpose was almost heroic. The students at Hailsham had a better life compared to the other schools, and the whole purpose of the art gallery was as evidence for a human rights campaign.

I also don't think Kathy, Tommy or Ruth ever really thought of Hailsham as villainous either. I'm sure their feelings for it were complicated, but it was home to them after all, and they never fought against anything that was taught to them. I think the tragic thing about Never Let Me Go is that no villains ever materialise; the three leads have nothing to fight and accept their place in the 'system' for what it is.

February 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDrew

You have an interesting point Drew, but I don't think Miss Emily or Madame ever wanted to help the students. All they were interested in doing was proving that they had souls because some people said they couldn't. That's all. Is it really THAT much more noble to raise somebody up, somebody who could fall in love and find passion in something, and then cruelly take it away from them without any sort of choice?

February 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMatt

I still don't understand how Niels Arestrup didn't even make the semi-finals for your Best Supporting Actor award...

February 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRobert Hamer

Unsung Heroes...

Sally Hawkins as Rita O'Grady in “Made in Dagenham”
Noomi Rapace as Lisbeth Salander in “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”
Rachel Weisz as Hypatia in “Agora”

February 10, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterjoy

Joy -- OH CRAP. i forgot SallY Hawkins. ayiyiyiyiyi she was supposed to be anominee.

February 10, 2011 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

she was supposed to be a medalist. damn this day! argh. page must be corrected. excel error misplaced her.

February 10, 2011 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

I agree with Drew that at least in the book (my favorite book of all time, probably), Hailsham is far from a villain. But I'd go even farther- at the end the donors are let down by the system of course, but they still absolutely loved Hailsham, and as we see in that scene in the diner, they would talk about it fondly and incessantly for the rest of their lives.

As for Matt's points that Miss Emily and Madame didn't really care, they flat out say that they did. They organized a campaign to prove that this was a barbaric practice and they prove to themselves that the donors are indeed normal people. Unfortunately, as the audience learns in the final act, society didn't want to hear it. Once the donor system was extending lifespans enormously, there was no going back. Society was completely unwilling to go back to the days where people lived thirty or more years shorter.

In my reading, Hailsham and its staff are actually fallen heroes, not villains.

Argh- this is why I was incredibly disappointed in the movie- it's not like the Harry Potter adaptations which leave out a few charming details of Hogwarts life just for length purposes. It completely fails in describing key parts of the book's story and specifically its character's motivations.

February 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

I'm really enjoying these criticisms actually. Hailsham to me is evil in that it is playing this shell game of offering dreams that it knows it will squash, which seems ridiculously cruel to me all told. and it's one reason i liked Sally Hawkins scene so much.

but i haven't read the book.

February 10, 2011 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R
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