August 30, 2010

Poster fail

It's not uncommon for various countries to produce misleading or incorrect advertising for American films. Perhaps the film hasn't premiered there yet or maybe someone's just plain lazy. Whatever the case, it can lead to hilarious results such as these (if you don't want to click on the link, you should know that there's a French poster for King Kong that heavily implies that the ape faces off against a giant shark). It's understandable how these things might happen in other countries. What I don't understand, however, is how an American poster would completely misrepresent an American film. Now, I know that sometimes advertisers will make a film appear a certain way to lure audiences, but that explanation doesn't really jive in the following case.

I was cruising around on movie poster site Carteles de Cine today, which is an incredible resource for high-res movie posters from around the world (albeit in Spanish - you can navigate it fine without knowing anything beyond "taco," but search by actor or director since English titles trip it up sometimes). I was on the hunt for a poster image for On the Waterfront, which as you probably know is a gritty drama that won a boatload of Oscars including Best Picture. But you can hardly tell from these bizarre American posters, which seem to believe the film is a... 

...horror movie about Satan! (I'm not even sure who the red dude is supposed to represent, since he doesn't look like anyone in the film.)

...Looney Tunes cartoon and/or 60s beach movie!

And to complete the triumvirate of failure, here's another American poster that isn't quite as misleading as the other two, but does seem to indicate that Marlon Brando either appears in drag or plays the Joker...

Explanations? Conspiracy theories? Mocking comments?

August 24, 2010

Movie Memories: Hot Fuzz

It's March 2007, and I'm outside my beloved Brattle Theater with a group of friends. The occasion is a free preview screening of Hot Fuzz, and we could not be more excited. We all love Shaun of the Dead, with some being "Spaced" fans as well (I hopped on that bandwagon later). Not only that, but director Edgar Wright and stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost will be in attendance!

We get there probably about two hours early - eating, schmoozing, and goofing around in the (thankfully!) nice weather. The line of nerds grows longer and longer as we wait. A few promo people cruise through the line, and while a couple of my cohorts are out getting food the rest of us score T-shirts that inexplicably read "Grow your fanbase without having to sleep with gross people!" It was advertising something - not sure what, but it hardly matters. (I still have the shirt somewhere - I could check, but why ruin the mystery?) Our friends were mad jealous of our oversized duds when they got back.

And then, release the nerds! We crowd into the vintage theatre, scoring less-than-ideal seats even after being so early. We settle in the watch the flick and it couldn't be better - I even liked it more than Shaun, to be honest (seriously, if you like...anything, see this movie). The crowd is great too, responding enthusiastically to the action, comedy, and gross-outs. Afterwards, there's a Q&A with the three Brits (of which I can't claim to remember much), and then they indulge the crowd in requests for autographs and photos. This is where my absurdly bad luck reared its ugly head.

I push myself into the pulsating mob of geeks - I have nothing I want autographed but I'm vying for a picture with Pegg. A slight semblance of order and hierarchy forms, and I wait patiently as various fans get their DVDs and posters signed (including my friends - my now-boyfriend's boxset of "Spaced" bears the John Hancocks of two of the three lads, I believe). Then I hear the distant voice of the event organizer saying that the guys have to wrap it up. My turn hasn't come yet, and I might have resorted to some light pushing and shoving. It seems like I can still make it. Finally, I'm next - but then Simon declares the girl before me to be his last and starts walking away!

I panic, and since I still want something to show for my efforts but have no interest in physically dragging a celebrity into a photo op, I quickly toss my camera to one of my friends and say dammit, just get me and him in the same frame. He did, just as Pegg was making his exit across the stage. I got my picture with him...sort of.

I've posted the resulting picture below, which I find kind of hilarious. It makes it seem like I'm posing in front of animals at the zoo that I know damn well would never make an effort to pose with me. Due to being somewhat uncomfortable with plastering pictures of myself across the internet and/or destroying the illusion that I'm blindingly hot, I've blacked out my face. I promise I'm not on any wanted posters...just a bit shy in the photo department. I also added a couple of other pics from the event. Sorry for the low quality!
Pegg is the fellow with the hat that appears to be emerging from the right side of my head, Frost is the one is the blue striped shirt. Click to enlarge! I promise it's really them!

Blurry Nick Frost.

Three Amigos

For more proof the universe hates me, this wasn't even the first time that this had happened - a couple of years before, I was just squeezed out of an elevator (as in I would be the first person too many) containing Denis Leary. And one of my friends was in there, thinking the whole time that he was Willem Dafoe. Clearly I deserved to be there more than her! (But I'm not bitter).

Tune in next time, when I will regale you with a Movie Memory involving a much more minor celebrity...

August 20, 2010

A-Z #2

Here's another solid 26 for ya...this time they have to be from between 1951 and 1980. The same rules apply - I'm going for a variety of years, genres, and countries, and for the tricky letters (Q, X, Z) they just have to be somewhere in the title. I endorse and recommend all of the below for your viewing pleasure!

A Alien (1979)
B Big Deal on Madonna Street (1958)
C Charade (1963)
D Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972)
E Executive Suite (1954)
F F for Fake (1973)
G Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)
H The Hustler (1961)
I In the Heat of the Night (1967)
J Judgement at Nuremberg (1961)
K The Killing (1956)
L The Last Metro (1980)
M The Misfits (1961)
N The Night of the Iguana (1964)
O On the Waterfront (1954)
P Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975)
Q EQuus (1977)
R Room at the Top (1959)
S Scandal Sheet (1952)
T The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)
U The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964)
V Vivre sa vie (1962)
W What a Way to Go! (1964)
X TaXi Driver (1976)
Y The Young Girls of Rochefort (1967)
Z All that JaZZ (1979)

August 18, 2010


The lovely nerds over at Total Film posted a list of what they consider to be the most disturbing movies ever - and based on the synopses alone, it's hard to argue. The link is here, but it's that annoying thing where you can only see one at a time - plus, the accompanying photos may be more than you asked for. For impatient types, a cheat sheet of the list is below:

25) Antichrist
24) Blue Velvet
23) Shivers
22) Martyrs
21) Man Bites Dog
20) Begotten
19) Aftermath
18) The Human Centipede
17) A Clockwork Orange
16) Flower of Flesh and Blood (aka Slow Death: The Dismemberment)
15) The Last House on the Left
14) Irreversible
13) Nekromantik
12) Men Behind the Sun
11) I Spit on Your Grave (aka Day of the Woman)
10) Happiness
9) Funny Games
8 ) Visitor Q
7) Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom
6) Cannibal Holocaust
5) In a Glass Cage
4) Eraserhead
3) Audition
2) Threads
1) The Exorcist

I haven't seen very many of these films, and the ones I have seen are the more conservative or "commercial" of the bunch (you know, relatively speaking). In trying to establish my own limits on the freaky, gross, or upsetting, I realized that there's no firm line. An act of violence that's extremely disturbing in one film may be deliciously vengeful, perhaps even comical in another. The fact that I have an overactive imagination that fixates on the frightening means I have to stay away from horror for the most part. It's really just to protect my sanity and mental health - like a pregnant woman who would otherwise enjoy drinking alcohol avoiding it for the sake of the baby. I do like myself some dread and suspense, but most of the films on this list have provocations of the more visceral variety.

But in pondering this topic further, I realized that I can tolerate a fair amount of disturbing content in two situations. The first is if the tone is anywhere from silly/funny (Shaun of the Dead) to pulpy/entertaining (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo). The second is if it has a point. I'm fine with a realistic war film, for instance, but few people would take issue with that (or they'd make themselves sit through it because it has historical importance). But taking it a step further, it just needs to have a point within the narrative. The violence in A Clockwork Orange works because you see Alex both as an aggressor and a victim, and the film uses that to paint a picture of moral ambiguity. In Happiness, where all of the horrors are spoken or implied (I think the worst thing you actually see is a guy masturbating), the characters are all three-dimensional and have both good and bad qualities (yes, even the child molester). Blue Velvet weaves a nice-guy-gets-in-over-his-head tale that seeks to unmask the hypocrisy of the suburbs. Even the infamous Audition has only two or so upsetting scenes, which underscore and enhance what is really a dramatic satire of gender roles in Japan.

Compare these to something like Salo or Antichrist, which from my understanding through the reading of detailed synopses consist primarily of psychosexual torture scenes, leaving you without much to compare against or build on. Who are these people other than that they do sick things? What does it mean? What purpose does it serve? Personally, I don't have much interest in watching disturbing content for its own sake. Obviously these films are trying to shock and provoke you, but I feel that goal is undermined when it's a 2-hour barrage of horror as opposed to some of the lines quietly uttered by characters you sympathize with in Happiness. There are plenty of cinephiles that would defend the examples I just listed, but what about #19, Aftermath, which is a documentary-style short film depicting nothing except a man doing horrible things to a female corpse? Would it make me close-minded to say that I'm not really sure what the merit of that film is?

Ultimately, I think that messed-up stuff in movies should serve the same purpose as cinematic technology - it should enhance the film, not be the film. Just as "I can shoot it in 3-D!" is not and should not be a movie pitch, neither should "There is so much necrophilia!" even if it's a movie about necrophilia (Almodovar's film Matador is about necrophilia, but in a balanced sort of way that explored what it meant to various characters and their relationships). A movie overloaded with viscerally provocative material can often come off looking like it has nothing to say.

What do you think? Do you enjoy or loathe disturbing films? Furthermore, how do you even define "disturbing" in terms of cinema?

August 13, 2010

Who are your most-watched directors?

Whether by accident or on purpose, have you devoured a significant percentage of any one director's filmography? If you're not sure, tally them up - the totals might impress you! Sometimes you catch on to a director early in their career and can follow their releases theatrically; other times they are long gone and you have a lot of catching up to do. I never really made it a point to see every work by a certain director (except perhaps Pedro Almodovar), since there are usually a few duds holding me back. But through some vague combination of effort and coincidence, here are the directors whose films I've seen the most of, either by quantity or percentage - and I suppose they do paint a pretty accurate picture of my tastes. For my purposes, I am only counting feature-length narrative films that they directed all of (i.e. not just a segment), and requiring that the person in question directed at least five qualifying films (I mean, I've seen all of Jason Reitman's movies, but that wasn't very hard, now was it?).

The Whole Enchilada
PT Anderson - all 5 (including his debut film Sydney aka Hard Eight from 1996)
Wes Anderson - all 6
Christopher Nolan - all 7 (including his debut film Following from 1998)

Almost the Whole Enchilada
Quentin Tarantino - 6 out of 6.5 or 7 (I haven't seen Death Proof/Grindhouse, so however you'd count that)
Charlie Chaplin - 8 out of 11
Stanley Kubrick - 8.5 out of 13 (the half is for The Shining, which I watched with some friends in high school but was so terrified that I was looking away for a considerable amount of the running time. I heard the whole movie though...)
Orson Welles - 9 out of 11 (I'm counting F for Fake, his 1973 documentary/fiction hybrid)

The Double Digit Club
The brothers Coen - 12.5 out of 14 (the missing one is The Ladykillers, which is supposed to be terrible but I might watch someday to be a completist, and the half refers to the fact that I watched Intolerable Cruelty on a plane with varying degrees of attention) 
Pedro Almodovar - 14 out of 17 (a number that will unfortunately remain the same until the final three get Region 1 releases or play at a rep house)
Woody Allen - 15 out of 39 (this excludes You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, which comes out in September)

Billy Wilder - 17 out of 26
Alfred Hitchcock - 23 out of 58ish (the ish is because there's some unfinished, uncredited or co-directed business)
Special thanks to the various rep houses that helped me fill in some gaps!
How about you? Who are your most-watched directors?

August 11, 2010

Which is worse - trying and failing, or not trying at all?

How do bad movies happen? In the most general sense, bad movies are born in one of two ways - either the filmmaker/creative team doesn't put in any effort, or do they try very hard and fail. But are all failures created equal?

I'm not sure. One on hand, these lack-of-effort films (think empty, loud blockbusters) seem to be easier to sit through. They're kind of dull and uninvolving, but they will never actively offend or agitate you, and you might even get a couple of laughs or thrills. You'll forget them quickly. The spectacular failures, on the other hand, can get under your skin. Their (subjective, sometimes) badness is confrontational and forces you to become involved (to cite an extreme example, some who have seen and disliked Antichrist seemed to have felt violated by the experience).

And yet, I find that deep down, I always have a begrudging respect for artistic failures. I could never accuse these films of being easy cash grabs - I know they were works of passion and vision. Sometimes I even find myself feeling a bit bummed out that a promising idea wasn't executed to its full (or correct) potential - I almost want to rescue the good parts from the flames and find them a loving home in a better film.

Of course there can be grey zones, particularly in determining the artistic intent of the filmmaker - you don't want to psychoanalyze. James Cameron said that he had been developing Avatar in some capacity since 1994, which prompted many snide remarks about his inability to write a half-decent script even over a 15-year span. But was he even that concerned with the script as opposed to the technical side? Maybe he really did just want to make something dumb and explodey that just looked really really cool (and a closer look reveals he only worked on the actual screenplay for about a year). Also, was Christopher Nolan even trying for the complexity and depth of emotion and psychology that some critics claimed he failed at? (There are also the unclassifiable oddities like Tommy Wiseau's infamous opus The Room, which he originally made thinking it was a masterpiece but eventually came around and embraced its cult status as one of the worst movies ever made.)

So why does any of this matter? Well, I believe in giving credit where credit is due, and it's frustrating when people push a film like Inception aside with the same indifference and snark as Transformers. That's completely unfair. Christopher Nolan made a film that, even if it wasn't the gift from heaven that we all expected it to be, is an exciting and well-crafted thriller. Like Avatar to Cameron, Inception was Nolan's pet project for years, and he built it with loving care and intelligence. Entertaining the masses while trying to offer something beyond robots and explosions is a noble goal, and even if the final product didn't work for you I can't really see how it deserves downright scorn. It probably has something to do with certain people's compulsion to shoot down popular films with a venom that would be absent if the film were more obscure. At any rate, I would hope that my esteemed colleagues would know better than to fall into that trap...but perhaps they need the reminder!

Multiplexes are loaded with no-effort failures that come and go (typically without being missed). But really, we need more noble failures (particularly of a mainstream variety)because they prove that filmmakers give a damn and think audiences are more than just dumb walking wallets. And even when people don't like a film that tried, we still get discourse. It's been heartening to see all the honest-to-god discussion of Inception, which is far more evolved than the usual "Iron Man 2 was okay" or "Clash of the Titans was gay and if you liked it you're gay." Here we have analysis, conspiracy theories, interpretations - what was the last mainstream film that could possibly have multiple interpretations?!

Ultimately, it's important to support these films even if they're not perfect, and tell Hollywood that you like to see them take risks. What do you think? Does it matter how a movie fails?

August 6, 2010

A to Z

Here's a fun idea I found courtesy of Raquelle at Out of the Past - naming a movie you like/recommend for every letter of the alphabet. I started to compile my list, but I quickly realized that leaving it open to every movie ever made wasn't very interesting or challenging. Therefore, I gave myself a theme to work with, so that in the future I can come up with new themes/rules and see how long I can go without running out or doing repeats (if possible). My restriction on this round was that the movie had to be released during or before 1950. I stayed away from the more famous or obvious choices (as much as I could), and aimed for a mix of decades, genres, and countries. For the impossible letters, I tried to just find a title that included them. And this isn't a definitive list of favorites, but rather just films with my coveted seal of approval - all IMDB-linked for your pleasure. Off we go!

A - Adventures of Robin Hood, The (1938)
B - Brute Force (1947)
C - Children of Paradise (1945)
D - Diary of a Lost Girl (1929)
E - Ecstasy (1933)
F - Five Graves to Cairo (1943)
G - Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933)
H - Heiress, The (1949)
I - The Invisible Man (1933)
J - Jezebel (1938)
K - Kid, The (1921)
L - Lifeboat (1944)
M - Midnight (1939)
N - Night Train to Munich (1940)
O - On the Town (1949)
P - Panic in the Streets (1950)
Q - Quai des brumes (1938)
R - Rope (1948)
S - Stage Door (1937)
T - Trouble in Paradise (1932)
U - Bringing Up Baby (1938)
V - Visions of Light (Okay, I'm cheating. This is a documentary from the 1992 about cinematography, but they have extensive coverage of classic Hollywood. There's also a Ginger Rogers and Jimmy Stewart movie called Vivacious Lady that's not on R1 DVD and I saw that it was on TCM but this was before I had TCM but my mom's boyfriend did so we recorded it there but her DVR was messed up so it didn't work. So if I had actually seen that movie and enjoyed it, I'd put in here instead. But alas.)
W White Heat (1949)
X Pandora's Box (1928)
Y Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)
Z Girl Crazy (1943)

August 4, 2010

Movie Memories: John Q

If the name of this film is unfamiliar to you, don't worry. It's a lame Denzel Washington drama/thriller that's completely forgettable - to everyone but me, that is. For you see, what was just another paycheck to Denzel set the backdrop for a milestone in my adolescence.

It was February or March 2002, and I was 14 years old. I'm pretty sure it was a Monday, even though I hadn't gone to school that day - a snow day perhaps? February vacation? At any rate, I was just lounging around in my pajamas when I got a call from my boyfriend Andy. Now Andy was my boyfriend only so far as a 14-year-old could be anyone's boyfriend. The grounds of the relationship was that we declared ourselves to be dating, and talked on the phone almost every day. We were comically mismatched in every way imaginable - isn't it just always the case that at that age, you confuse the notion of "compatible suitor" with "available warm body?" (and you can't blame hormones, because these were typically very chaste relationships). So anyway, Andy calls and asks if I want to go to a movie. My first official date.

We decide on John Q somehow, and make the necessary driving arrangements with our parents. I hurry to get ready, throwing on my favorite shirt - a little airbrushed and rhinestone-studded number that says "FREE" across the chest for some reason. It's all so sudden that it takes a little while to realize what this night could mean. I have never been kissed before, and I'm quite aware of the long legacy linking movie theaters with hanky-panky. It's not long before I'm insanely nervous.

We get chaffeured to the theater by my mom, and soon the movie starts. Now, apparently this movie is terrible and boasts a whopping 22% on Rotten Tomatoes, but at the time I had no way of judging it objectively. For all its flaws, it's almost preposterously tense and manipulative. The suspense of Denzel running around a hospital with a gun and trying to save his dying son melded with my intense fear that I might experience my first kiss. Not anticipation or excitement. Fear. So imagine Mia Wallace immediately after the adrenaline shot in Pulp Fiction, but sustained for two hours. As far as date movies for 14-year-olds go, it couldn't have been more appropriate - they were plentiful opportunities for being jolted into clutching the other person.

So the climax of the film comes and goes, and I find myself literally paralyzed with terror, a terror so palpable that I can almost feel it again as I write this. I truly cannot move. Andy, meanwhile, is all too aware of the opportunities that this outing might provide, and he's staring at me with his face so close to mine that we're almost touching, albeit in a perpendicular fashion. I'm so terrified that we end up watching the entirety of the credits this way. Yup, right from Denzel to the very last intern, with Andy joking that I must find these credits exceptionally fascinating. Finally, the lights come up and the theater staff comes in to clean. I made it! A huge feeling of relief comes over me and I leap up to leave. Andy follows, and we make for the exit. But then a very unexpected thing happens.

We're in that narrow passageway that you have to walk through to get to the seating in a typical multiplex theater. I'm a woman on a mission, bolting for the door. Suddenly I hear Andy say "Wait," and then softly grab my arm and pull me in for a kiss. Now, admittedly from an outsider's perspective, this all sounds very suave and romantic. For me, however, it was a nightmare. He went in for the kill, and my body froze. I think it's fair to say that I did not participate whatsoever. We both had braces, which could not have helped matters. When my gal pals later asked if tongue was involved, I said I didn't know, which was the truth. It seemed to go on for hours, and yet it's as if I blacked out. One thing was for sure, however - the second it was over, I knew I didn't want to be his girlfriend any more. It had nothing to do with his kissing skills, but I guess that moment just crystallized that we had nothing in common and no spark.

Andy went on to date my best friend for four years (we had an amicable breakup, so I hardly considered it betrayal) and now he's in the Marines. I'm not in touch with him anymore, but no matter what, he'll always be my first. It happens to everyone - for me, it was Andy and John Q.

August 2, 2010

Underrated child performances

Kick-Ass comes out on DVD tomorrow, which reminded me how awesomely bonkers Chloe Grace Moretz was in it. She plays an 11-year-old assassin whose fierce performance got somewhat overshadowed in the media by the fact that she says some bad words. I thought she did a great job, especially with the demanding physicality of the role (she fights grown men!), but acting-wise, I think she delivers more roundkicks than actual lines. She's a promising young talent with an interesting slate ahead, including the remake Let Me In and the Scorsese fantasy Hugo Cabret. But until then, I thought of some of my favorite child performances that were more, shall we say, verbal/emotional.

Here's the thing. I hate children. I absolutely loathe them. So if they're just sitting there osncreen looking cute, that's not enough to win me over. But at the same time, I cut them slack because, well, they're kids. Acting is hard at any age, and especially when they're young you just can't really expect them to be exceptional. So I don't hold it against them, but that makes it even more of a treat when one shines.

When I started looking into this topic, I saw a lot of the same names/roles come up again and again. Your Portmans, Fannings, Osments. So since I don't want to just regurgitate those, I thought I'd highlight some of my personal faves that don't seem to get as much digital ink. For my purposes, I define "child" as age 12 or younger - 13 or older definitely counts as "teen" and that's a whole other barrel of monkeys.

Peter Billingsley in A Christmas Story (1983)
RALPHIEEEEE!!! Seriously, though, I think the credit here might actually go to Jean Shepherd as the narrator. Without Ralphie's adult reflections on his childhood, watching him ham it up might be a bit too cutesy. But still, the kid's got a knack for comedy, and Ian Petrella as his younger brother is pretty great too.

Mason Gamble in Rushmore (1998)
Gamble is great as Dirk Calloway, the very young friend of protagonist Max Fischer. He is mature and sensible beyond his years, but the bitterness he projects when Max betrays him is extremely heartfelt and well-projected through the prism of little boy rage. Dirk has a special place in my heart because he's the closest cinematic equivalent to what I was like as a kid - an extremely smart, mature (hey, it's what my teachers said), and curiously deadpan outcast.

Jeremy Blackman in Magnolia (1999) [Note: I can't find his birthdate, but he's listed as a 2009 college grad, which would probably make him either 12 or 13 at the time of filming. Whatever, I'm counting it.]
As isolated child prodigy Stanley Spector, Blackman delivers a heartbreaking and inspiring performance of a kid who just wants to be taken seriously. From softly telling his dad that he has to be nicer to him or standing up to a game show host after a denied bathroom break causes Stanley to wet himself, his is a triumph for children everywhere. And no one appreciates the (appropriately) bizarro ending more than Stanley.

Grant Rosenmeyer and Jonah Meyerson in The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
Though their screen time is relatively brief, this duo is very sweet as the identically-dressed sons of the overprotective Chas Tenenbaum, who constantly makes them run safety drills and never lets them have fun. They comply, but sadly and begrudgingly. So when their wacky grandfather takes them on a day of "forbidden" adventures, it's one of the most joyful moments in the film.

Maude and Iris Apatow in Knocked Up (2007)
Somtimes nepotism DOES work, as it does with Apatow casting his two daughters as the children of Leslie Mann (their actual mother) and Paul Rudd. What could have been essentially two glorified extras, these two imps are true scene-stealers, opting to play it a little more outrageous than you'd expect from little girls. Case in point: Maude's absurd and surprisingly graphic explanation of where she believes babies come from (it involves "your butt falling off").

Bill Milner in Son of Rambow (2007)

As I've mentioned previously, the whole "young innocent child" shtick has to really stand out for me to be taken with it. And here, as Will Proudfoot, Milner crafts just such a character. He belongs to a sort of Mormon/Quaker/Amish religious group that forbids him from numerous activities such as seeing movies. But life changes forever when a rebellious classmate named Lee Carter (Will Poulter, also great but disqualified from my list due to his age) shows him a bootlegged video of Rambo. From then on, we live vicariously through Will's thrills and mishaps of trying to recreate Rambo's adventures himself while bonding with the unpredictable Lee. Will has boundless energy and a sweet demeanor, and he serves as a great portal to one's own childhood memories of discovering taboo delights.

Kodi Smit-McPhee in The Road (2009)
Okay, so I didn't read the book because I am a bad person, but even just from seeing this movie I could tell that if you didn't have the right kid, it wouldn't have been worth making. I thought Smit-McPhee was incredible at maintaining the delicate balance the character needs. He has to be pretty frightened by certain events without being screechy and grating, and at the same time depict a character completely accustomed to a post-apocalyptic world without being unrealistically stoic. I was apprehensive going into the film, predicting that he would just be clinging to Viggo Mortensen and screaming "PA I'M SCARED!!!" the whole time, but I found myself very impressed.

The children of The White Ribbon (2009)
Maybe it's the stark black and white cinematography, or the austere 1910s clothing and environments, but I don't think I've ever seen more sinister-looking children outside of a horror movie. The young cast has an array of very interesting faces, made all the more creepy by the fact that their expressions are usually blank. There's an array of ages here, some of which are too old, but they all kind of meld together into an ominous ensemble.

I know that this list skews very recent, which is a total coincidence. Some of my older picks, such as Virginia Weidler in The Philadelphia Story (1940) and Diana Lynn in The Major and the Minor (1942) and The Miracle of Morgan's Creek (1944) turned out to be above the age limit. Oh well. So fill me in - what are your favorite performances by youngsters (under age 13)?