James Frazier

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In James' words: "I’m a 23-year-old graduate student who sort of stumbled into film reviewing. It seemed like something that would look good on a film school application, but turned into a sort of passion and miniature career. I’m a critic for the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier and The Northern Iowan, and am thrilled to get paid to write about stuff I love, and occasionally hate. I also operate the blog James' Mad Grasp For Relevancy. My taste lies somewhere between mainstream and arthouse, with an appreciation for films that powerfully express important ideas. I rarely watch movies twice because there are so many out there that I’ve yet to see."

Best Feature-Length Film
1. 3:10 to Yuma
2. Zodiac
3. Gone Baby Gone
4. The Lives of Others
5. There Will Be Blood
6. Rescue Dawn
7. Across the Universe
8. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
9. Eastern Promises
10. Once

Best Lead Performance, Male
1. Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood
2. Christian Bale, Rescue Dawn
3. Russell Crowe, 3:10 to Yuma
4. Hugh Grant, Music and Lyrics
5. Viggo Mortensen, Eastern Promises

Best Lead Performance, Female
1. Ellen Page, Juno
2. Rose McGowan, Grindhouse
3. Christina Ricci, Black Snake Moan
4. Jodie Foster, The Brave One
5. Naomi Watts, Eastern Promises

Best Supporting Performance, Male
1. Chris Cooper, Breach
2. Brad Pitt, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
3. Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men
4. Tom Wilkinson, Michael Clayton
5. Jason Bateman, Juno

Best Supporting Performance, Female
1. Amy Ryan, Gone Baby Gone
2. Martina Gedeck, The Lives of Others
3. Jennifer Garner, Juno
4. Tilda Swinton, Michael Clayton
5. Ruby Dee, American Gangster

Best Direction
1. David Fincher, Zodiac
2. Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be Blood
3. James Mangold, 3:10 to Yuma
4. Julie Taymor, Across the Universe
5. Florian Henckel von Donnarsmarck, The Lives of Others

Best Screenplay
1. Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be Blood
2. James Vanderbilt, Zodiac
3. Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, The Lives of Others
4. Andrew Dominik, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
5. Steven Knight, Eastern Promises

Best Cinematography
1. Robert Elswit, There Will Be Blood
2. Roger Deakins, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
3. Roger Deakins, No Country For Old Men
4. Bruce Delbonnel, Across the Universe
5. Peter Suschitzky, Eastern Promises

Best Music (original, adapted, or compiled)
1. Once, Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova
2. Across the Universe, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, and Elliot Goldenthal
3. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Nick Cave and Warren Ellis
4. There Will Be Blood, Jonny Greenwood
5. Zodiac, David Shire

Best Cinematic Moment
1. 3:10 to Yuma, Dan bolts with Wade for the train
2. Zodiac, Words not necessary (conclusion)
3. There Will Be Blood, Milkshakes and bowling pins!
4. Across the Universe, Revolution?
5. No Country For Old Men, “Call it.”
6. Rescue Dawn, Dieter gets rescued
7. Eastern Promises, Never knife-fight naked if you can avoid it
8. Live Free or Die Hard, John McClane kicks the shit out of femme fatale at power plant
9. The Lives of Others, “To "HGW XX/7, with gratitude"
10. Gone Baby Gone, Execution in the house of horrors

Best Cinematic Breakthrough
1. Casey Affleck, Gone Baby Gone/The Assassination of Jesse James
2. Ben Affleck, Gone Baby Gone
3. Ellen Page, Juno
4. Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men
5. Paul Dano, There Will Be Blood

Best Body of Work
1. Christian Bale
2. Casey Affleck
3. Josh Brolin
4. Roger Deakins
5. Seth Rogen

Best Ensemble Performance
1. 3:10 to Yuma
2. Zodiac
3. No Country for Old Men
4. Grindhouse
5. Juno

Best new DVD Release
1. Blade Runner: The Final Cut 4-Disc Collector’s Edition
2. Zodiac
3. The Lives of Others

10th Anniversary Award, Best Feature Film 1997
1. Boogie Nights
2. Grosse Pointe Blank
3. In the Company of Men
4. The Fifth Element
5. Chasing Amy

25th Anniversary Award, Best Feature Film 1982
1. Blade Runner
2. Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan
3. ET: The Extra-Terrestrial
4. First Blood
5. Rocky III

3:10 to Yuma

Commentary on some favorites of 2007:

Best Feature-Length Film
1. 3:10 to Yuma
Out of all of the great films this year, I wouldn't have guessed that my favorite would be the remake of a Western, but here it is, 3:10 to Yuma. Christian Bale plays a Civil War veteran that puts his life in jeopardy to escort a captured outlaw (Russell Crowe) to a prison train, facing a myriad of dangers along the way, not the least of which is the outlaw himself. Bale is fantastic as the noble man determined to do the right thing, while a spellbinding Crowe undergoes his own moral crisis when confronted with true good for the first time. The final moments are breathtaking, thrilling, and shatteringly poignant.
2. Zodiac
David Fincher's Zodiac is a masterpiece of crime cinema, and the year's most unnerving film. Based on the true story of a serial killer that terrorized San Francisco for years, it doesn't follow the murderer, but a number of men driven to madness in order to catch him. Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey Jr., and Mark Ruffalo play the Zodiac's primary pursuers, each with his own discoveries to make and his own failures to face. The characters accumulate piles of evidence that point to one man, but they never know for sure. And that we don't either means that the Zodiac won, after all, and will taunt us forever.
3. Gone Baby Gone
Ben Affleck's first film as director didn't give his detractors new ammunition, but instead produced a thoughtful, deeply moral detective story about the way the sins of adults destroy children. Younger brother Casey Affleck stars as a private detective scouring Boston for an abducted child, the sordid case forcing him to make a number of choices with profound consequences for all involved. Absorbing and sad in a way precious few films are.
4. The Lives of Others
For those who claim Communism is such a great idea, observe The Lives of Others, a devastating portrait of life in 1980's East Germany. The late Ulrich Mühe plays a secret police agent (Stasi) assigned to monitor everything that occurs in the life of a "subversive" playwright Sebastian Koch). From his listening post in the attic of the playwright's apartment, the Stasi man quietly begins his own rebellion against the tyrannical government. Devoid of sensationalism or the phony conflicts that plague so many films, The Lives of Others slowly builds to a conclusion that quietly celebrates man's capacity for good in the face of evil.
5. There Will Be Blood
Yes, there will be blood, and it pours from the victims of its madness in the same way that oil gushes from the veins of the earth. Paul Thomas Anderson's grand character study follows a greedy, cruel, oil man (Daniel Day-Lewis) from the turn of the 19th century to the late 1920s as he builds an empire from Texas Tea. He's such a misanthrope that his ultimate goal is to seal himself off from all others, and he eventually succeeds, his malice finally blowing up like oil gushing from the ground.
6. Rescue Dawn
Dieter Dengler (Christian Bale), U.S. fighter pilot and German immigrant, is shot down over Laos and thrown into a POW camp. But his hope never wanes, and his true-life escape is a miracle borne of hope and perseverance. Legendary German director Werner Herzog is right at home in the madness of the jungle, while his thoughtful admiration for America means that Dengler is a character he knows like few others can. In an age where Hollywood rarely makes patriotic films, it's notable that a foreigner can do it with such intelligence, and so well.
7. Across the Universe
How wonderfully fun and magical this tribute to The Beatles is, full of timeless music played out in visually and acoustically thrilling ways. Or at least I thought so; many critics despised it, while others embraced it. Count me in the latter group; how could one resist a musical that hits all the right notes?
8. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Celebrities weren't invented yesterday, as we see in this melancholy anti-Western about the death of the notorious outlaw. Brad Pitt slides into the role of the killer like a glove, his eyes so evil they look black, as if they would bleed out onto his face at any moment. Casey Affleck stars as his assassin, a star struck kid who sees his own chance for fame and takes it.
9. Eastern Promises
David Cronenberg's surprisingly mainstream drama tackles the Russian mob in London in a way that seems both unstated yet gruesome at the same time. Viggo Mortensen deserved his Oscar nomination as a gangster that looks out for a woman (Naomi Watts) who stumbles into the London underworld. The film's visceral centerpiece, which sees a nude Mortensen knife-fighting in a bathhouse, almost belies that film's subtle, patient story line and character development.
10. Once
Perhaps the most overlooked film of the year, Once would be ridiculously popular amongst college students if they knew it existed. This offbeat musical follows a Dublin musician and a Czech immigrant who meet and bond over songs they craft together. Romantic and touching in unexpected ways, it's also filled with beautiful music, and topped with a delightfully bittersweet ending.

Best Lead Performance, Male
1. Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood
What's so incredible about Daniel Day-Lewis' performance isn't just how powerful it is, but its Rorsach effect on audiences and critics. Is his Daniel Plainview a sociopath, or just a severe misanthrope? Does he really want to be severed from all human contact, or is that claim a defense mechanism against hurt and disappointment? Whatever your take may be, it's a dazzling, unforgettable performance, the kind that instantly immortalizes that character in the minds of moviegoers forever.

Best Lead Performance, Female
1. Ellen Page, Juno
Predictably, there has been a battle between those who think Juno is a wonderfully human and charming little comedy and those who label it annoying and phony. But what you don't see is a debate about Ellen Page, a fabulous young actress brimming with charm and possessing talent to spare. It's hard to imagine that Juno could have been played better, as Page imbues the character with a perfect mixture of intelligence, naivete, vulnerability, and likeability. Love or hate the film, Page's performance is a slam dunk, homeskillet.

Best Supporting Performance, Male
1. Chris Cooper, Breach
Robert Hanssen is a mean son of a bitch. The minute we meet the devout Catholic FBI agent that he's cruel and vindictive, but a funny thing happens; we start to admire him. His devotion to God and country is laudable, and we see the man behind the stony demeanor. That's why when his assistant is told that Hanssen is actually a traitor funneling information to the Russians, we are as shocked and hurt as he is. Chris Cooper is used to playing good ol' boys and lunatics, but he's just as good here, playing a complicated and ultimately evil man whose tics and motivations are so labyrinthine that the film doesn't attempt to crack them, but merely hand us the puzzle.

Best Direction
1. David Fincher, Zodiac
There's no doubt that many looked at Zodiac's three hour running time and balked. Surely it would be dull and tedious, right? That's what I thought, but David Fincher turned what could have been a boring procedural into an examination of obsession and the way murderers claim victims other than those killed. It's a brief three hours, suspenseful and heartbreaking in equal measure, a wonder considering that we essentially know the story before sitting down to watch.

Best Cinematic Moment
1. 3:10 to Yuma, Dan bolts with Wade for the train
The odds are against Dan. Outside the hotel where he holds Wade captive is a gang of killers and a couple dozen men willing to blow his head off to make an extra buck. Yet he makes the run anyway, willing to sacrifice his life to prove to his son that doing the right thing is worth dying for. Some have criticized Wade's actions during the closing minutes, but in 3:10 to Yuma, good is contagious, and we can only hope that the same holds true in real life.
2. Zodiac, Words not necessary (conclusion)
The Zodiac was never caught, but Zodiac's hero Robert Graysmith is certain that Arthur Leigh Allen is the culprit. However, Allen is never charged, driving Graysmith to the brink of madness. At the end, after many years have passed, Graysmith approaches Allen at his job at a hardware store, and words aren't necessary; a angry, sad stare between the two men says it all.
3. There Will Be Blood, Milkshakes and bowling pins!
How to interpret the ending of There Will Be Blood, which sees a confrontation between decades-long enemies Daniel Plainview and Eli Sunday. Here, we witness the breathtaking zenith of Plainview's frothing hatred for Sunday and perhaps all men as uses a milkshake analogy to destroy Sunday's hopes before literally destroying his brain with a bowling pin.

Best Cinematic Breakthrough
1. Casey Affleck, Gone Baby Gone and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (actor)
What a year for the younger Affleck. Though on the scene for years, it wasn't until star performances in two of 2007's most powerful films put Casey on the radar of the general public. In both films he excellently expressed a sense of conflicted morality in a violent world that helped make them great.

Best new DVD Release
1. Blade Runner: The Final Cut 4-Disc Collector's Edition
How often does a DVD collection deliver this well? Not only did fans of Blade Runner get five different versions of one of the most awesome films ever, they got oodles of bonus features, including telling interviews with all of the key players. Worth double the price.

10th Anniversary Award, Best Feature Film 1997
1. Boogie Nights
Whoever says that Paul Thomas Anderson's early work has no connection to There Will Be Blood wasn't watching. It's all here: the sweeping scope, the great performances, the hilarious dark humor, the bleak setting, the grim view of human nature. What Boogie Nights has that There Will Be Blood doesn't is a killer soundtrack, a terrific name cast, and some really hot screwing.

25th Anniversary Award, Best Feature Film 1982
1. Blade Runner
Forget the awesome special effects. Forget about the deep story and groundbreaking design. Ditto the exceptional performances. Consider this: how many films have different versions that just barely alter the plot but significantly change the story? Whether or not you protagonist Rick Deckard is a regular man or one of those he hunts, Blade Runner is one of the greatest meditations of what it means to be human ever put on film, not to mention the most dazzling.

Extras:

Overrated:
1. Atonement
"Claptrap," as Steve Carlson called it. The characters are flatter than pancakes, the story drags on endlessly, until it finally does end in one of the dodgiest cheats I've seen in a film. I dread the thought that this rubbish will win the Best Picture Oscar.

2. No Country For Old Men
Unlike Atonement, I'm not going to claim that this critical darling is bad. Call me a philistine, but I didn't care one bit for those final 20 minutes, which seemed to function mostly as an attempt to fool the audience into thinking they had just witnessed something seriously profound, when really it was only mildly profound. And please stop claiming that this represents some magical maturation of the Coens' filmaking prowess; this is perhaps their sixth best film.

Odd vote:
Hugh Grant, Music and Lyrics: Perhaps my guilty pleasure this year would be Hugh Grant's performance in Music and Lyrics, but I can't feel guilty about it. Grant's washed up pop star isn't a huge jerk, a womanizer, a hack, or even pathetic; he's a nice guy who misses being on top of the world and desperately wants to go back. I normally can't crack the 15-minute mark on romantic comedies, but Grant's performance made it difficult to turn away, and certainly carried the film.

Worst:
1. Shoot 'Em Up
What wasn't wrong with this rotten piece of trash? Horrid acting, pathetic action sequences, and childish screeds against bad drivers and parents who spank their kids. Davis even has the nerve to throw in anti-gun commentary, as if he weren't introducing thousands of 10-year-old boys to the joys of firearms (most kids are too stupid to know just how much these action scenes blow). Frankly, he could draft some of those kids to help write his next screenplay, because it can't be any worse. How did Michael Davis convince Paul Giamatti and Clive Owen, both who are embarrassed to no end, to participate in this?

2. Sicko
I'll admit to being an opponent of Michael Moore's politics, though he had me for a bit. You'd have to have a heart made of stone not to feel bad for those poor people raped by their insurance companies. Where it falls apart is when his trademark self-aggrandizing dishonesty comes into play, with a series of bogus claims that Canada, France, and the U.K. have utopian health care systems, an outright falsehood whether or not you support socialized medicine. It's not enough to ignore the shortcomings or critics of these systems; he has to claim that they're perfect. And the ending assertion (the film's big special effect) that Cuba of all places has a better health care system than the U.S. is demonstrably absurd, not to mention quite vile when one considers the abject poverty of most Cubans. Of course, this will win the Oscar for Best Documentary, because it would break tradition if every ceremony wasn't worse than the last one.

3. The Darjeeling Limited
I was shocked at how tedious this was, so devoid of charm or wit and mired in sequences designed to dare the audience to flee the theater. I got piles of hate mail over my review of this, and I was proud to be despised by its steadfast supporters.

4. Shooter
Stephen Hunter is a great critic, though I can only hope he is a better novelist than this nonsense, an adaptation of one of his books, implies. Pointlessly violent (though it pales here compared to Shoot 'Em Up) and relentlessly silly, it might be the bloodiest left-wing action film ever made. To its credit, the action scenes are competently done, though I'm a gun geek and still missed half the terminology.