It’s Oscar time. This Sunday, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will pass out their latest round of golden statues to the most deserving in the movie business. The Oscars celebrate the magic in movies, but sadly, there’s no movies about magic in this year’s list of nominees (except for “The Illusionist” in the animated feature category).
So we have some “Golden Deckies” of our own we’d like to give out. Movies about magic in the style of wizards and fantasy don’t cut the mustard for this list — we looked at instances featuring magicians in the real-world sense of the word. With that in mind, the awards go to:
Best use of card cheating moves: “The Sting”
Yes, it’s from 1973, but it remains one of the sharpest movies to feature card sharps. The legendary John Scarne subbed for Paul Newman’s character when scenes like these were featured. The tense card work involved in the portrayal of a confidence man was a strong part of a movie filled with great moments — enough to win seven Oscars. Plus, those Tally-Hos look pretty good.
Best card trick done by a hot actress: Rachel Weisz, “The Brothers Bloom”
Far from her bumbling, klutzy mannerisms of the character she played in “The Mummy,” Rachel Weisz plays a socially isolated and maladroit heiress named Penelope Stamp. She tells a con man how she ended up never leaving home while pulling off an incredible card trick, which includes one of our favorite lines: “The trick to not feeling cheated is to learn how to cheat.” As if that wasn’t enough, Ricky Jay plays the narrator.
Best mix of cards and cartridges of ammo: “Smokin’ Aces”
Call this one a sentimental favorite. “Smokin’ Aces” is not a very good movie. But it features two “Lost” alums (Matthew Fox and Nestor Carbonell), Vegas and some great card magic performed by both Jeremy Piven and the Bucks. The straight to DVD prequel, “Smokin’ Aces 2: Assassin’s Ball,” also featured some pretty good sleight of hand with Tom Berenger.
Best use of bizarre magic: “Wizard of Gore”
There’s two versions of thie movie; we’re talking about the completely gory 2007 remake featuring walking creepshow Crispin Glover. The movie doesn’t feature much in the way of magic that isn’t aided with movie special effects. But the haunting message of Montag moves and inspires us, once it stops freaking us out: “Did you feel something?”
Best movie about magicians: “The Prestige”
There’s not a lot of debate about one of the best movies about magicians ever created. First, it was directed by Christopher Nolan, whose “Inception” is up for a Best Picture award. Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale go all out in their roles and portray the rivarly between two turn-of-the-century magicians with a respect for the art. And it features an actor who plays magicians well: Sir Michael Caine. If that’s not enough, there’s another Ricky Jay appearance.