Sunday, February 26, 2012

Oscar Predictions and Personal Choices

Best Picture
Will Win: The Artist
Should Win: Hugo or Tree of Life
This has been a foregone conclusion for a few months.  Some even predicted the win after Cannes in May.  The Artist, whether you believe it is worthy or not, is almost exactly what the Academy loves: an old, simple story that celebrates movies.  That said, two (of the five) better options also celebrate wonderful things.  Hugo is a wonderful celebration of old movies and the need for study and preservation.  Tree of Life is, simply, about life and experience of living and learning in life.

Best Director
Will Win: Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
Should Win: Terrance Malick, Tree of Life
Since 1950, the DGA Award and Oscar have not matched only 6 times, the last time was nine years ago.  Hazanavicius won DGA and will win here.  It was simply put his vision, with Harvey Weinstein's lobbying, that made The Artist I phenomenon that it was.  But if you look at all the movies released in 2011, it is Malick's vision on his most personal of projects that stands out.

Best Actor
Should and Will Win: George Clooney, The Descendants
The one "upset" I will predict.  The award is simply between Clooney and the real heart & soul of The Artist, Jean Dujardin.   Both were fantastic.  But what Clooney is able to do in the last few scenes is simply remarkable.

Best Actress
Will Win: Viola Davis, The Help
Should Win: Rooney Mara, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Another two way race.  This time, between two women who shared a screen three years ago,Viola Davis and 17-time nominee Meryl Streep.  Streep, playing Margaret Thatcher, will once again be a bridesmaid.  Davis would become the 2nd African American to win Best Actress.  But, when you rent Dragon Tattoo in a few months, pay very close attention to Mara as Lisbeth.  I think she gives the best acting performance of the year.  You will see why.

Best Supporting Actor & Actress
Should & Will Win: Christopher Plummer, Beginners and Octavia Spencer
These races are over.  If anyone else wins, there needs to be a recount.  PriceWaterhouse messed up.

Best Original Screenplay
Should and Will Win: Midnight in Paris
He routinely snubs them but the Academy loves Woody Allen.  Tonight, he should get his 3rd screenplay Oscar and first since 1987.  The Artist love could spill over to here but I don't think so.

Best Adapted Screenplay
Should and Will Win: The Descendants
He may have won before, but Alexander Payne may have surpassed 2004's Sideways in the writing aspect.  There is little to no competition.

Best Animated Feature
Will Win: Rango
The category stinks this year.  This March release has been buzzed about since it opened.  No contest.

Best Foreign Language Film
Will Win: A Seperation

Best Documentary Feature
Will Win: Paradise Lost 3

Best Art Direction
Will Win: Hugo

Best Cinematography
Should and Will Win: Tree of Life

Best Costume Design
Will Win:  The Artist

Best Editing
Will Win: The Artist

Best Makeup
Will Win: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

Best Score
Will Win: The Artist

Best Song
Should and Will Win: "Man or Muppet", The Muppets

Best Sound Editing
Will Win: Hugo

Best Sound Mixing
Will Win: Hugo

Best Visual Effects
Will Win: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

Best Animated Short
Will Win: La Luna

Best Documentary Short
Will Win: The Barber of Birmingham

Best Live Action Short
Will Win: The Shore

Friday, February 24, 2012

Review: Wanderlust

In the past several years, there has been a comedic revolution of sorts in at the cinema.  Many argue it started with Old School, but I think that Anchorman gave it the biggest jolt with the climax (hehe, climax) coming (coming...smirk) with 2005's The 40-Year-Old Virgin.  And while the quality of these wickedly hilarious and sometimes ridiculously smart comedies has only slightly fallen, I can't help but get the sense that these movies will be getting a rude awakening sooner rather than later.  It will be sooner if more movies like Wanderlust rear their (somewhat) ugly heads.

A married Manhattan couple, George & Linda (Rudd & Aniston), believe they are on the way up.  They each have careers on the upswing and just bought an "micro-loft".  Then, everything collapses.  Linda's "An Inconvenient March of Penguins" style documentary is rejected by HBO and George's company was shut down by the feds.  On their way to George's brother's in Georgia for a restart, they happen upon a commune run by a 90's era free spirit (Theroux) and owned by an old school hippie (Alda).

It is at this point where hilarity ensues.  At least it kind of does.  Paul Rudd continues to be one of the comedic actors in the business.  He could make reading the phone book the laugh out loud comedy of the year.  Rudd has a scene in front of a mirror that will have even the straightest-faced person rolling in the aisles.  It felt as if director David Wain, who also directed Rudd in Role Models a few years back, gave him free rein in the scenes where Rudd goes insane.

It is just a downright shame that none of the characters, not even George, is the least bit interesting.  The supporting characters seem to be the rejects from Forgetting Sarah Marshall.  The most interesting character is a wanna-be wine-making novelist nudist who has the largest fake schlong since Dirk Diggler.  Memo to Hollywood: stop giving Malin Akerman this kind of role.  I don't care how free spirit looking she is, she can't act very well at all.  And when did I miss Justin Theroux enter the movie industry?  Because I want to kick him out.  He added nothing to the character that was written for someone much more famous in mind who rejected the role.  And George's brother in Georgia?  Don't get me started on him.  One word: pathetic.

I could go more into the main plot revolving around the fate of the commune is so tacked on and uninteresting that it is not worth getting into.  Plus, if you go see this movie, it is to laugh, not to, like myself, ridicule the lame tacked on story.  And yet, after all that complaining, I laughed.  Isn't that the point of comedy?  To make the audience laugh.  I laughed in spite of myself.  But the story?  Just terrible.

**1/2 (out of 5 stars)

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Review: The Vow

 I do not own the above image.  For entertainment purposes only.  Copyright Sony Pictures Entertainment.  All rights reserved.

There have been a few times where I have eaten crow after watching a movie.  I was skeptical of Harry Potter back in the summer of 2002.  I never thought "The Hurt Locker" would have lived up to the hype two and a half years ago.  And "United 93" caught me completely off guard.  But rarely is it that a movie which I expect to be completely awful shocks me enough to give it a solid positive review.

In the first few moments, The Vow doesn't waste time introducing us to the couple (Paige & Leo, played by McAdams & Tatum), the rising action (Paige loses about seven to eight years of memory) and the conflicts (Leo's inability to convince Paige they are married and Paige's parents' insistence that Paige go back to how things were at the point at which she remembers [understand?]) fairly quickly, even for a 100 minute movie.  The parents' conflict could have spiraled into absolute cheeseball and the wanna-be-rekindled romance could have been in Lifetime movie territory.

But something, or someone, got in the way, thankfully.  Jason Katims is that someone.  Who you may ask?  Katims is the Emmy winning writer of beloved yet under-watched TV shows such as classics "My So-Called Life" (including the greatest Christmas episode in TV history), "Friday Night Lights" and "Parenthood".  Katims understands the intricacies of life and love of young adults.  It is never more evident than in the 45 minutes after the accident that this script is in good hands.  McAdams is better than her average self as the lost Paige.  But it is Channing Tatum who shines.  That is not a typo.  Tatum has to be the heart & soul of this movie and he succeeds.

The flaw, however, is in the overhauled third act.  There are hints of cliches throughout but aren't fully expressed until the sister's wedding.  The conflict between Paige & her parents is way too obvious and concludes with a speech that makes no sense at all.  The ex-boyfriend is really cookie cutter.  In fact, if it weren't for the final scene between Tatum and McAdams, this review may not have been all that positive.  So Hollywood, listen up: Give Jason Katims more work and Channing Tatum better roles. Did I really just write that second part?

***1/2 (out of five stars)

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Movie Review: The Woman in Black

This is a guest review by my lovely wife.

I have to wonder what the audience thought was in store for them when they showed up for The Woman in Black. Being scared in our day an age is so different than it was in the Golden Age of suspense with Hitchcock and Hammer. When I was deciding whether or not I wanted to see it for this blog, I watched a featurette “Ghost Story” on IMDB with different people involved in the film talking about it. As soon as director James Watkins said, “It’s about what’s in the corner of the eye, what you can’t quite see.” I was intrigued. When he finished with, “We want to make scares that really linger with people, real chills that when they walk out of the cinema, they stay with them slightly.” I knew I had to see this film.

My main problem with a lot of modern “scary movies” is that they don’t make us feel for our protagonist and The Woman in Black takes care of that almost right away. The introduction to Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe) and his son has you worried about what will happen to them throughout the film. The flashbacks and daydreams that fill you in on his character are perfectly placed and well done. The supporting cast is amazing and even though most of them don’t get backstories, you still feel for them and their families as well.

For a true ghost story, there’s got to be a reason for the ghost to haunt, and this story does not disappoint. Where a lot of movies just scare you to scare you, the movie’s namesake has a really good reason, to her at least, to be terrorizing the town. The little clues Arthur finds as he is going through all the papers at her sister’s mansion are a very nice touch and when he finally finds her reason for haunting the mansion the story doesn’t just end neatly and happily.

As can often be expected, a lot of the scary parts are in the trailers and commercials to the point that you are expecting them and they don’t startle you like they should. This isn’t your average scary movie that has you jumping in your seat but instead keeps you wanting to look over your shoulder. It’s the unexpected things that aren’t even typical in horror any more that get to you and keep you on edge. This also makes the “scary parts” you haven’t seen yet even more chilling and is what really sets it apart. Yeah, it’s a period piece, everyone has accents and some things had the audience giggling. But do what they did in a modern setting, and you might be able to revive true horror films from the graves scary movies dug them. And no matter where or when this is set, you still aren’t going to sleep after seeing it. Unless you sleep in a room with no windows or mirrors, that is. And that’s going to keep this girl coming back for more, no matter how many red bulls I have to drink the morning after.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Blog Update

Greetings, my wonderful readers.  As you may know, it is now February.  And February means only one thing in my profession: tax season.  I now work 10 hours three days a week and starting next Saturday, 8 hours on weekends.  This means during the week I have at most three hours of awake time par day.  Which means, simply, there will be fewer screenings and fewer postings.  And it will only get worse.

However, I will still work on this blog.  For the next ten to eleven weeks, I will do my best to create at least two posts a week.  This month, there will be at least one opening day review (next Friday), one guest review (this Friday), a "5 Questions for Oscar Night" post or posts, reviews of (hopefully) all 9 Best Picture nominees, the obligatory predictions post, and a special tribute/commentary post in a few weeks.  I will Tweet as often as I can, which includes live-Tweeting movies from Netflix or network TV (I am too poor to have HBO or Showtime).

During this time, I ask for patience.  I love my job, no matter how boring it may appear sometimes.  Without my job, there is no blog for everyone to enjoy, no way to see some wonderful images that I have enjoyed as much as I have.  Come April 18th, I will come back with a vengeance.