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The Forgotten Oscars 2011

By MICHAEL NEEL  |  February 28, 2011

Best Picture: Kick-Ass
Release Date: April 16

Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) is an average high-school kid who loves comics and gets nervous around cute girls. Longing to be like a comic book hero, he has an epiphany: why can't he dress up like a superhero and fight crime? So he dons a green wetsuit and takes to the streets. He confronts some thugs, determined to lay the smack down — and instead he gets beaten, stabbed, and hit by a car. Welcome to Kick-Ass.

Kick-Ass, based on the comic of the same name, is not your usual superhero story. Lizewski isn't a gifted masked crusader, he's just a determined kid who can take a beating. The other heroes in the film are also grounded in reality: Red Mist (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), a wealthy Kick-Ass wannabe; Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage), a professional crimefighter; and Hit-Girl (Chloe Moretz), Big Daddy's viciously lethal eleven-year-old daughter. None of them have super-human strength or organic web-shooters in their wrists — they're people who put on a costume.

This movie has it all: great characters, acting, music, and a quick pace that moves the story along. Each actor is perfectly cast, the film is incredibly funny, and the action scenes are tremendous. And it's all tied together by a sense of realism that's established as soon as Lizewski gets beaten up and hit by the car. Sure, this follows the same formula that many superhero movies do. But in Kick-Ass you feel like people might actually get hurt. Even though Peter Parker has some growing pains as he learns how to be Spider-Man, you know that he's not in any real danger. The heroes in Kick-Ass are real people doing heroic (and often stupid) things.

>>READ: Phoenix review of Kick-Ass<<

The real achievement in this movie is the relationship between Hit-Girl and Big Daddy. Hit-Girl is one of the most original characters I've ever seen: an eleven-year-old lethal killing machine, with a mouth like a sailor and the fearlessness of Wolverine. She's such an efficient and talented killer that she would be unbelievable if not for her Big Daddy, her father. His single-minded focus on her training embodies the modern parent determined to mold their kid into physical and mental perfection. John Romita Jr., artist of the comic, likens Big Daddy to “parents that turn their kids into super athletes,” and despite Hit-Girl's extreme nature she is entirely plausible.

But their relationship is not solely built on Big Daddy's single-minded intensity; they have a loving relationship, whether they're brutally killing bad guys or going out for ice cream. It's a sweet, tender bond. Their characters' plausibility is the key to this film — if they were caricatures the realism that holds the film together would crumble. The chemistry between Nicolas Cage and Chloe Moretz is wonderful. I was reminded of how immensely talented Cage is — given some of his questionable film choices, it's easy to forget. And Moretz is a revelation. She caught my eye in a small yet scene-stealing role as Joseph Gordon-Levitt's sister in (500) Days of Summer, playing a girl with knowledge of romance far beyond her years. Hit-Girl is a very different character, and her performance is astounding. Watch out for her in the coming years — she could very well get a Best Actress nomination before she's 18.

Minutes into Kick-Ass I had a feeling I was watching something special. As the film progressed, I became more certain; the action, performances, script, and comedy were all top-notch. And then a scene came out of the blue that completely floored me. It was an incredibly emotional scene amidst an already spectacular action/comedy movie. I'm not going to say what it is; you should find out for yourself. It stands with Watchmen and Sin City as one of the best comic book movies ever — and the best film of 2010, period.

Michael Neel is the co-creator of anthology-horror-filmDrive-In Horrorshow and animated web seriesInfinite Santa 8000. He can be reached at:

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