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Cyrus Movie PosterThe new off-beat romantic comedy Cyrus has been tearing up the theaters in limited release. Last weekend was its widest expansion yet. Still only playing in 200 theaters it has already grossed over 3.4 million dollars. There have been few ads and most people seem not to have heard of the film. I caught it with a friend on Sunday and I thought I’d share my thoughts.

John C. Reilly stars as John, an easy name to remember for him, a depressed divorcee who still spends an inordinate amount of time with his ex-wife (played by an aging Catherine Keener) despite her being about to remarry. When she drags him to a party he meets Molly (the still hot Marisa Tomei) and they hit it off immediately. There’s a typical “meet cute” which leads to Tomei’s memorable opening line “Nice penis.” But when she refuses to let him see anything of her life he, in a somewhat creepy moment, stalks her to her home. There he meets Cyrus (Jonah Hill), her 22-year old socially maladjusted aspiring musician son. Everything seems fine at first, but John comes to realize Cyrus is waging a quiet war to drive him out of his mother’s life.

The biggest thing that hit me about this film is that it was not what I expected at all. The ads had focused on some of the most obvious and extreme parts of John and Cyrus’s feud. So I was expecting an over-the-top slapstick comedy about their escalating war. What I got was a much more subdued and subtle film about psychological warfare and the different types of love. Cyrus is a tough character to sympathize with as he goes through his plots but John isn’t perfect either. His relationship with his ex-wife is just as co-dependant as Cyrus and his mother’s. And his eventual anger and defeatism makes it hard to know if everything is going to work out in the end.

Reilly is playing in his comfort zone so he delivers a fine performance. Johan Hill as Cyrus shows he can play a more subdued version of most of the zany characters he usually plays. Marissa Tomei and Catherine Keener don’t have as much to work with since the focus is so heavily on John vs. Cyrus, but they both turn in believable performances. Worthy of singling out for praise, however, is Matt Walsh as Keener’s fiancé. While he has virtually no lines he is able to convey with a simple look more than many people can convey in two minutes of dialogue. The Duplass brothers handle the direction in a low-key, unflashy manner than at times seems like you’re watching these people’s home movies. It’s not spectacular, but it’s what the material requires.

Overall, Cyrus is an entertaining film that will make you squirm with awkwardness more than once during its 92 minute run-time. You should be satisfied with the ending, even if it is a tad abrupt. Cyrus may be too off-beat to ever break out as a mainstream hit and would work just as well on video. But if you get a chance to see it someday it’s definitely worth the time.

***½

What interests me most about this category is that I had one person nailed for this award, and have since completely changed my mind.

Prediction:

Oscar Nominated Penelope Cruz

Penélope Cruz. Originally I thought Viola Davis had this one for sure, but after seeing Vicki Cristina Barcelona, my mind has been completely changed. Cruz’s performance is raw, real, and amazing.

What Should Win:
I’ll go with Cruz. While I thought the Academy would flip for Davis’ performance, I wasn’t completely sold on it to begin with and the same thing goes for Henson. I’d love to say Tomei, but unfortunately for Marisa, The Wrestler is all Mickey’s show.

I saw this film at the AFI Festival back in November. It was actually a pretty cool experience- I’ve been to AFI galas before, but this one was at the Chinese theater in Hollywood and I had to walk the red carpet on my way in. It was a lot of fun that night, plus I saw the movie over a month before it was released in theaters.

The Wrestler with Micky Rourke

Mickey Rourke plays Randy “The Ram” Robinson, a professional wrestler whose glory days are far behind him. He spends his weekends as a local legend- the last act of the night at small time gigs and doing signing appearances that attract few. On the weekdays he works in the warehouse of Acme and frequents the local strip joint. After a health scare, the doctors tell him he needs to quit wrestling, causing him to take a good look at his life outside of the ring. He pursues a relationship with Cassidy (Marisa Tomei), an older stripper at the club, and upon her advice seeks out his estranged daughter (Evan Rachel Wood). I wonder if I had seen this film amongst all of the other nominees this year if things would have been different, but the fact is that I loved this film so much that it set my standards for the year, a standard that no other film I’ve seen since has met. Mickey Rourke fully embodies The Ram and Aronofsky captures every moment be it glorious, gritty, embarrassing, or desperate. A lot of the film literally follows The Ram from behind, tracking his every movement from behind Rourke’s head- it’s so real and introspective that I felt as though I was watching a documentary of this man’s fall from fame.

Nominations:

Best Actor – Mickey Rourke
I have no doubt in my mind that Rourke deserves this Oscar more than anyone else this year. Yes, Langella is astounding as Nixon and Penn does a fantastic job as Milk, but I’ve never felt so engrossed in a character than Rourke’s Randy the Ram.

Best Supporting Actress – Marisa Tomei
She’s great in this role- I’d say it’s one of her best performances, but her competition here is very steep. And let’s face it, this is really Mickey’s film.

Snubbed?
I could talk a lot here about how it got snubbed for a ton of awards (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Song), but instead I’ll just implore everyone to see it and form your own opinions, since mine appears to be in the minority. This was my favorite film of the year and that’s enough for me.

*****

Best Picture

  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • Frost/Nixon
  • The Reader
  • Milk
  • Slumdog Millionaire

Best Director

  • David Fincher, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire
  • Ron Howard, Frost/Nixon
  • Gus van Sant, Milk
  • Stephen Daldry, The Reader

Continue reading to check out the full list of 2009 Oscar Nominees! And keep checking back with the site as Phasekitty watches and takes a look at all of the nominees as we march towards the awards show.

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I saw Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler at the AFI Film Festival a couple weeks ago. It is gripping, powerful, and at times hard to watch. Check out this all new trailer for the film, and if you get a chance, I’d highly recommend seeing it!