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“Frozen River” (Cohen Media Group)

1. What’s beautiful about this movie is its simplicity. Whereas most movies feel the need to show everything, “Frozen River” successfully tells its tale without overdoing the details. For example, one of the key characters of the storyline, a deadbeat gambling-addicted father, never even makes an appearance. But the rest of the cast brings him to life with the anger and resentment they hold for him.

2. Actress Melissa Leo, who portrays the film’s lead character Ray Eddy, deserves the Oscar hands-down for Best Actress. Of course, she’s the only non-rock star in the bunch and will be completely overlooked, but her performance is light-years beyond anything Kate Winslet did in her portrayal of a Nazi pedophile in the absolute worst movie of the year (possibly decade), “The Reader.”

3. The film is exceptionally realistic and doesn’t rely on standard Hollywood gimmicks in its storytelling. At times you feel as if you’re watching a real-life documentary, not a fictional movie that was distributed by Sony.

4. You end up either liking or at least sympathizing with each and every character in the film; from the credit card-stealing son, to the financially-struggling and human-smuggling mothers, to the 9-to-5 cop who’s just doing his job, it’s possible to relate to them all.

5. “Frozen River” is in my top five films of last year. So is “Slumdog,” and I know everyone has a boner for it right now, but “Frozen River” is an overall better movie. It lacks the Disney fairytale ending that “Slumdog” suffers from, instead deciding to stick to its realistic guns and leave viewers maybe not with a happy ending, but definitely with a better story.

Frozen River Phoenix,

-Shady

PS: Just in case you were wondering, my top five films of 2008 were (in order of first to fifth place):

1. “Wall-E”
2. “The Visitor”
3. “Frozen River”
4. “Burn After Reading”
5. “Slumdog Millionaire” and “The Wrestler” (tie)

And just for fun, here are my top five most-hated movies of last year (in order of totally shitty to just kinda crappy):

1. “The Reader”
2. “Rachel Getting Married”
3. “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”
4. “Indiana Jones & The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull”
5. “Revolutionary Road”

“The Visitor” (Groundswell Productions)

1. It’s well thought out, wonderfully written, and fully realized conceptually, so it figures it would get the total shaft from the Golden Globes. When your “best of” list includes “The Reader” and not this movie, the validity of your picks goes completely out the window.

2. After years of being a character actor, Richard Jenkins outshines nearly every performance of any other actor being considered for an award this year. And the man appears to be able to do everything, from dark comedy (“Six Feet Under” and “Burn After Reading”) to slapstick fart humor (“Step Brothers”) to more subtle dramatic works like this. Hopefully the Oscar nominations will acknowledge Jenkins and right the wrong the Golden Globes created.

3. “The Visitor” is writer/director Thomas McCarthy’s second film! As if I weren’t already jealous of his talents, he’s also an actor on “The Wire,” and will be playing Principal Caden in Peter Jackson’s movie adaptation of Alice Sebold’s novel The Lovely Bones. I hate people who are good at more than one thing! Leave something for the rest of us sad bastards!

4. The film pushes Fela Kuti. You should want to see it for that fact alone.

5. If you read this blog regularly you know my clear choice for “Best Picture” of 2008 is “Wall-E.” But that movie aside, “The Visitor” is definitely high on my list. I’d say it’s just as good as “Slumdog Millionaire” and slightly better than “The Wrestler.” It’s out on DVD now, so rent it.

RATING: Countless dialogues on race relations, immigration, and what’s truly important in life

Land of the free, home of the brown,

-Shady

Old Poop!