Wednesday, November 20, 2013


I do not own the above picture.  Copyright Brandi Brothers Productions.  All Rights Reserved.

                The worst thing a movie can do is not try.  Not try to be anything other than a 100 minute piece of fleeting entertainment that you may laugh at once or twice and tell your friends about just how “good” it is.  Then said friend sees the movie & screams at their friend “IDENTITY THIEF is awful!”
            But I digress.  What is a movie tries and fails miserably?  And by miserably, I mean there is nothing positive to say about the movie that would be visible to the average moviegoer.  A movie where the only element worth writing home about may be non-existent to any human besides yours truly.
            LIE WITH ME is a small movie from the twin brother team of Jamison & Jason Brandi.  The film, their second full-length feature, follows Carla (Younger), a prostitute whose specialty in the world’s oldest profession is with gentlemen in wheelchairs, as she returns home with her significant other Ian (McEvoy).  Back home, there’s crippled father Stan (Gordon), jealous younger sister Susan & terminally ill mother Deanna (Strassman).  But it’s the fifth family member who has run of the house: revulsion.
            LIE WITH ME starts interesting enough but quickly, very quickly, the film falls apart at the seams.  First, I can’t help but feel the screenplay is only 60% finished.  There are scenes where we are just dropped in the middle of conversations and are given no opportunity to catch up.  Or, if we do, the scenes abruptly end.  Plus, some of the dialogue in the serious scenes is cringe-worthy.  A fight between two people where one person says the same thing three or four times in a non-comedy is the definition of cringe-worthy.
In addition, the boyfriend/fiancé character is, I guess, supposed to be us.  At least, I think he represents us when he’s holding his tiny digital camera for some documentary he never gets into detail about.  He just doesn’t really need to be there the whole time.  The family itself is interesting but the mother is wasted.  The movie starts (I assume, since it’s never really mentioned in the movie that’s why Carla goes home) because Deanna is dying.  What she’s dying of isn’t important, or so say the filmmakers.  But we also don’t get a scene between the three women.  Even if they had no relationship, you’d think there would be something that gets either daughter in her bedroom before the rising action scene.  But we get nothing and the mother just feels useless too.  The sisters' hate/love relationship is fairly effective and their relationship to their father is the driving force of the movie.
            While the Brothers Brandi did put maximum effort into the making of the film, on a technical level, the movie is a mess sometimes.  You can have the most professional, affordable cameras; but if you can’t place them at logical or interesting angles, they’re worthless.  Most shots come from low angles with the camera tilted up.  They could be showing us what the wheelchair-bound father sees but the camera is usually too low to be that way and why in the world would we want to see the world from the perspective of that despicable human being.  Plus, serious emotional moments are amplified by jump cuts.  Very distracting.  But worse of all is the sound.  You can hear the points where the dialogue was cut during the editing process.  Unbelievably distracting.
            I get the sense that I know where the Brandi twins wanted to go with this: a serious dysfunctional family drama.  But at 84-ish minutes, there isn’t enough time to tell that story.  There is something there, begging to get out.  But with a half-finished screenplay, a broken tripod and high school film class quality sound, it appears trapped.  Just like Carla.


Friday, August 23, 2013

5 BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN Issues More Pressing Than the #Batfleck Hire

I do not own the above image.  Copyright Warner Bros. Entertainment/DC Comics.  All rights reserved.

            For about 24 hours, Ben Affleck has been Bruce Wayne.  The reaction to the new resident of Wayne Manor has been decidedly mixed, from the indifferent to the livid to even suicidal.  Seriously, look it up on Facebook.  Am I thrilled with the hire?  Count me in the “indifferent” camp.
            While the casting of Bruce Wayne/Batman is over and controversial, BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN has much, much greater issues.  I’ve got five.

1.      Screenplay/Small Production Window
MAN OF STEEL writer & THE DARK KNIGHT trilogy co-writer David Goyer will return.  Just one problem: there are no reports of a finished first draft.  And even if there were, the release date (July 17, 2015) is less than 23 months away.  So, if there are story issues (and just about major studio release ends up with some), there will be little time to fix them.
Once the script is finished, then you need to film, edit, market and screen the film.  An indie flick needs about 6 months to do all this.  But a big budget, potential blockbuster?  The production crew will be doing double-time to reach the release date.  Plus, I’m sure Warner Bros. and any potential companies with product tie-ins will want to see a final cut before July.  At worst, BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN will have to be done & in the can by Memorial Day weekend 2015.  That’s 21 months.  Good luck.

2.      Decrease of Christopher Nolan Involvement
For anyone who watched any of the trailers knows just how important Christopher Nolan to the marketing.  “From the Producer of The Dark Knight Trilogy” was about as large as the title itself.  Zack Snyder’s name was basically hidden.  From what I understood, Nolan was on the set & over Snyder’s shoulder for a good percentage of filming.
This time around, however, Christopher Nolan has downgraded himself to Executive Producer.  How far down the food chain did Nolan fall?  His name is not on the Warner Brothers press release announcing Affleck’s hiring.  Nolan will have his hands full with his new original idea INTERSTELLAR.  So he won’t be on set or in the editing room watching…

3.      Director Zack Snyder
Confession: I HATE Zack Snyder.  Hate him.  I think he has little talent or an eye for quality.  His best received movie by critics & audiences?  A horror remake.  His personal “best” to me:300.  And I wasn’t that impressed  The rest of his filmography?  The uneven WATCHMEN, the awful SUCKER PUNCH and the rightly forgotten movie about the owls. Yuck!
            Sure, I enjoyed MAN OF STEEL.  But how much of what I enjoyed was Zack Snyder unchained and how much was Snyder on Nolan’s leash?  Sadly, we won’t find out until you purchase your ticket in two years. 

4.      Expectations
This issue has two sides and one of the sides is a double edged sword.  The target audience to impress here aren’t Superman people. It’s Batman people.  The Dark Knight Trilogy, especially the middle film, outperformed beyond anyone’s fantasies.  The Batman fanbase is as large & as active as they are ever going to be.  Nolan & Bale, in the eyes of WB, quit on them.  Studios don’t quit when they are ahead; only when the well is out of stones that make up the well (See THE HANGOVER trilogy).  Batman folks are going to expect something special.  Most fans will show up but WB hopes everyone does.
            This is where the hiring of Ben Affleck gets interesting.  Hiring Affleck puts a bonafide movie star in a comic book movie.  But that begs the question: if it weren’t for the success & subsequent inclusion of Bruce Wayne/Batman, would the world get a MAN OF STEEL sequel?  Would MAN OF STEEL have gone by way of SUPERMAN RETURNS?  This situation just screams that WB has little to no confidence in Superman.

5.      Every Other Summer 2015 Release
A few weeks ago, Brad Brevet wrote about the stacked schedule already for summer of 2015.  There will be a bloodbath at the box office.  Such potential blockbusters include STAR WARS VII, THE AVENGERS: ULTRON, PIRATES 5, ID4 II, JURASSIC PARK IV, MOCKINGJAY PART DEUX, BOND 24, FINDING DORY...  The list is endless.
            After the disaster that was the summer of 2013, the number of movies that will fail to reach a large audience in two summers with that slate may be higher than the number that succeed. 

BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN will be successful.  But with all these pre-production issues, Warner Brothers needs to hope bad press stays away.  Now that Affleck’s reputation is at an all-time high and with a majority of the fanboy backlash out of the way, it probably won’t be an issue.  Probably.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Spectacular Now

I do not own the above image.  Copyright 21 Laps Entertainment.  All rights reserved.

            Every once in a while, a movie comes around that I don’t want to talk about before you see it.  A movie so special that referencing a single detail almost feels like spoiling the experience.  THE SPECTACULAR NOW is that.  If you’re like me & want to know as little as possible, trust me: go see this!
            Sutter (Teller) is lost in adolescence.  The product of a divorced home, Sutter has all the social pressures (partying, relationships) and academic issues we did at 17.  When Sutter meets classmate Aimee (Woodley), surely his life is turned completely upside down.  Luckily, the answer is no.
            Screenwriters Michael Weber & Scott Neustadter of (500) DAYS OF SUMMER fame understand that not everyone in the movie-going public is stupid.  They know that clichés & genre tropes are overplayed like “Blurred Lines”.  So just like they did with SUMMER, TSN goes against the grain.  Director James Ponsoldt’s film, based on a novel by Tim Tharp, is something I’ve never seen before: a teenage borderline dark comedy.  Many random chuckles were had by the preview audience.  Yours truly?  Not so much.  I just sat there for the entire 95 minute runtime with a slight frown the entire time.  TSN has a complete tent of depression on top of it.  Alcoholism
            But why only slight frown?  Simply, this movie is wonderful.  The teenagers (played by twenty-somethings) act & talk like teenagers.  The romance feels quite organic.  Every character’s relationship to each other has real sense of authenticity to them.  The two leads are perfect in their roles.  The supporting cast, including a cameo from one certain overlooked “football coach”, is superb.
            Best of all are the little things.  Little things that blockbusters or horny teenager or cookie-cutter rom-coms don’t dare have.  There is a simple dialogue scene that lasts over 2 minutes.  There are no interruptions, no fireworks and it’s done in a single shot.  What was the longest single shot in IRON MAN 3 or THE AVENGERS?  The average ticket buyer gets bored way too easily for shots like that.  Sutter & Aimee make love.  Notice I didn’t say have sex.  In the movies, when two people jump into bed together, usually you see clothes throw all over the place, breasts are shown (if the actress is ample & young enough) and the guy dances beforehand.  Here, the shot is simple.  Just two people in love, in bed, just talking.  Then the clothes slowly come off, they make-out, contraception is discussed…  In other words, this is a real love scene.  Nothing in this movie is sugar-coated.
I can’t say that the “L” word for any element or the film as a whole but TSN certainly entertained the heck out of me.  It’s a film about teenagers but not a “teen movie”.  It has romance but it’s not a “chick flick”.  THE SPECTACULAR NOW is a “human film”: the kind of movie that works on all levels and is for all (age appropriate) mankind.


Thursday, August 15, 2013


I do not own the above image.  Copyright Relativity Media. All right reserved.

par·a·noi·a   [par-uh-noi-uh]
1. Psychiatry. A mental disorder characterized by systematized delusions and the projection of personal conflicts, which are ascribed to the supposed hostility of others, sometimes progressing to disturbances of consciousness and aggressive acts believed to be performed in self-defense or as a mission.

2. baseless or excessive suspicion of the motives of others.

            Above is the definition of paranoia.  PARANOIA has little to do with paranoia.  Sure Adam (Hemsworth) is paranoid for about 10 minutes in the second-to-third act bridge, but not nearly enough for PARANOIA.
            Adam has just lost his & 4 co-workers’ jobs at Wyatt Corporation.  After a night out on the town with a company credit card, Adam is “rehired” by Wyatt (Oldman) to commit corporate by spying on rival Eikon, run by Wyatt’s frenemy Jock Goddard (Ford).  To complicate things, one of Adam’s co-workers is Emma (Heard), his one night stand during his night out.
            Cutting to the chase, PARANOIA is the worst kind of movie: a boring movie.  Name a cliché and this movie has it.  Kinetic dance club scene?  Check.  Seeing the love interest across a loud, crowded room?  Yes.  Shady guy in a track suit in a bar scene?  Of course.  Bedroom scenes where they cover themselves up as to retain the PG-13 rating?  Si.  God awful dialogue?  During all 100 minutes.
            PARANOIA has little to offer in the relationship department.  The best one is Hemsworth/Dreyfuss as father/son, but since everyone over 30 is phoning it in, it’s nothing to write online about.  Oldman’s Wyatt is written so blandly that even he despises himself and Ford’s Goddard has a weird thing going with his cell phones.  Heard’s Emma is nothing more than set decoration.  She & Hemsworth are a couple simply because they are the two prettiest & horniest people on screen.
            I have to say it: Liam Hemsworth, unlike older brother Chris, is not leading man material.  He’s not Taylor Lautner terrible, but there is nothing there beyond average line delivery & facial expressions.  Hemsworth is who he will always be know as: third-fiddle to JLaw & JHutch in THE HUNGER GAMES.
            I spent the entire movie wondering who was paranoid to satisfy the title.  It’s obviously not Wyatt or Goddard.  What do the villains have to be worried about?  Sure Adam’s dad is worried about his emphysema, but paranoid, not really.  Adam’s BFF?  He’s a throwaway character, so no.  As I said before, Emma is completely useless, so not her.
It has to be Adam.  But Adam only freaks out after finding out the apartment Wyatt gives him is bugged like Fort Knox.  But what about when Wyatt tells him he knew Adam spent $1,600 in one night?  Or the time Adam was discovered in the middle of New York by Wyatt to escort him to the “interview”?  Maybe the “answer my calls without exception” rule would have raised red flags.  At the very least, the realization that Wyatt KNEW HIS EVERY MOVE AND WAS LISTENING TO EVERY WORD AND INFULTRATED HIS HOUSE would be the tipping point.  Nope, the Big Brother apartment crossed the line.  Then, all is mostly forgotten after one scene in the park.  That is, of course, if it isn’t the audience who suffers.  Were we duped into seeing another bad, would-be star making movie?  Maybe I’ve been suffering from paranoia for almost a decade…
So why a half star instead of zero?  To quote Richard Roeper reviewing THE HOT CHICK, “It’s in color.  And it’s mostly in focus.”  The cliché record keeping was a blast in retrospect.
            PARANOIA is like a car you can win on The Price is Right.  There is just enough story to be considered a movie.  But if you’re looking for any “extras” like power windows or any actual thrills, you’re out of luck.


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

We're the Millers

I do not own the above image. Copyright Warner Bros. Pictures. All rights reserved.

                Let’s say you’re a drug dealer in Colorado.  You’ve just lost your entire stash and funds.  You’re in deep.  But you’re offered a chance to break even with your supplier if you trek down to Mexico to retrieve more drugs.  What do you do?  You hire a stripper, a runaway and a nerd in your building to pose as your family to retrieve the “smidge” of pot.
            That’s exactly what David Clark (Sudekis) does.  With the newly single/unemployed/homeless stripper Rose (Aniston), teen runaway Casey (Roberts), nerdy, virgin hanger-on Kenny (Poulter) and a brand new RV, they travel together, masquerading as a family.  Their mission is simple: sneak into Mexico, get the stash and sneak back to Colorado.
            The journey is far from simple.  The “Miller family” battles other drug kingpins over the deal.  They also constantly run into a typical Midwest American family anchored by Ron Swanson (fine, Nick Offerman).  Not to mention, David deals with his extremely uncooperative drug lord and his increasing ridiculous requests.
            I know, 150+ words but I never answer the all important question: Is it funny?  Simply put, yes and at times, uproariously funny.  But don’t let the “family” element fool you, WE’RE THE MILLERS earns its ‘R’ rating.  Swearing out the wazoo with innuendos every 90 seconds on average, WE’RE THE MILLERS has a perfect situation for an ‘R’ rating, unlike another ‘R’ rated “comedy” in 2013, whose IDENTITY shall remain unknown.
            Directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber of DODGEBALL fame, MILLERS does lag for a while multiple times.  The introductions to the primary villains are almost minimal but the villains themselves are rather pathetic.  I am not against a movie having multiple antagonists, but they must be of quality & near equal in terror.  A gag reel straight out of the mid/late 90’s, while featuring the two biggest laughs of the night, lessened the preceding movie.
            Luckily, there are plenty of laughs to garner a recommendation.  The material, especially anything involving the bad guys, falters occasionally; but when a movie surprises me, I admit it.  I had zero expectations.  It’s a comedy and I laughed, a lot.  Enough said.


Monday, August 5, 2013


I do not own the above image. Copyright Levrock Pictures.  All rights reserved.

                I have reached the next level in my amateur film critic hobby-dom.  A few weeks ago, I got an email from an independent movie studio executive asking me to review his movie.  When I could, I watched it with my wife.  During the whole 82 minute runtime, I felt conflicted.  Conflicted about how the professionals do this.  How are they able to write reviews of movies they are given?  How are they able to be truthful about a movie that they know the person who sent you the movie WILL be reading their review?  Are they able to really beat down a bad movie?  Is this something I have to learn as I embark on this odyssey of film criticism?  Here goes nothing.
            WILD GIRL WALTZ has the basics of being a decent comedy.  Two young women are bored on a picturesque New England summer day.  They decide to each take a drug one of the women got from a co-worker.  They start tripping out.  Their boyfriend/brother has to make sure they survive.  Surely this is going allow hilarity to ensue?  Not really.
            I have a theory about movie comedies.  There is a realism spectrum for comedies.  On one end you have “100% realistic” on the other is “100% absurdly ridiculous”.  To be a successful comedy, you should be close to either end of the spectrum but not on the edge.  Most Wes Anderson movies are on the realistic end of the spectrum, while most other modern successful comedies are on the ridiculous end.  Right in the middle, you have Adam Sandler movies and you know how those are.  WILD GIRL WALTZ starts at around 65% absurd but moves closer to the center quickly.
            Don’t get me wrong, I remember laughing.  After a (very) rough start, there are 20 nice minutes where the three main characters do some interesting things.  I started writing this review about 7 hours after it ended.  I just don’t remember one thing I laughed at.
I also don’t remember laughing at all during the last 55 minutes.  All I remember is sitting on my futon, just like I am now, and have nothing to positively react to.  WGW is full of little scenes that make little to no sense while they happen and look like terrible SNL skits afterwards.  An early scene deals with the girls’ “babysitter” trying to collect a debt.  The debt is never mentioned again.  Another scene involves a woman being knocked out for attempting to steal from the guy’s truck.  Makes little sense and doesn’t advance the plot.  The movie also goes on a love story tangent ala FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF.  It worked there, but doesn’t here.
            But for those 20 glorious minutes, the movie tries and somewhat succeeds.  There is plenty of potential here.  This looks more professional than most current blockbusters.  The material & consistency just isn’t there.  WILD GIRL WALTZ just deflates like a cheap beach ball.  Then suffocates you with its dullness.


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Olympus Has Fallen

I do not own the above image. For entertainment purposes only.  Copyright Millennium Films.  All rights reserved.

                Pro-American patriotism in movies has existed for about as long as movies have existed.  At first, most were war propaganda movies but over time the subtlety slightly dropped until the Reagan years when moved more towards individual non- or former-military American superiority.  OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN continues in this tradition, even adding a new, hypocritical layer to the system.
                Mike Banning (Butler) was at one time President Benjamin Asher’s (Eckhart) Secret Service right hand man.  Eighteen months after a tragic accident, Banning is behind a desk, relegated to the sidelines of the sidelines.  While Banning receives a little respect from his fellow agents, his marriage is falling apart.  Everything changes when the Prime Minister of South Korea arrives in town.  Soon after arriving, the President, the VP, Cabinet members, the PM and his security detail are all trapped in the White House’s (or is it Whitehouse?) underground bunker.
                Director Antoine Fuqua’s most ambitious project to date, OLYMPUS features a terrorist plot that makes the heist in OCEAN’S ELEVEN look like a the robbery at the end of FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH.  First-time screenwriters Creighton Rothenberger & Katrin Benedikt go all out, sometimes needlessly so, throwing in double-crosses, aircraft w/ anti-anti-aircraft flares and even armed & armored garbage trucks.  This operation would make the IRA blush and say, “Whoa, guys!  Tone it down a little.”
                The star-studded cast didn’t disappoint, least of all, star/producer Gerard Butler as Agent Banning.  Butler takes the second half of the movie and has his way with it.  To paraphrase my best college friend, “The last half is like DIE HARD and RAMBO had a kid.  Then that kid started taking drugs at age five.”  Aaron Eckhart is a great President of the United States, playing cool confidence better than most.  The rest of the cast including Morgan Freeman, Angela Bassett and an (at least to me) unrecognizable Melissa Leo are solid.
                But OLYMPUS has a few glaring issues.  First, there is what I would like to call “written exposition”.  And what I mean by that is that many places and people are introduced to us by medium-sized white text in the bottom left corner of the screen.  For instance, the first time we meet many members of the executive & legislative branches, such as Freeman & Leo, we see “Speaker Trumbull” or “Defense Secretary Ruth McMillan” in said text.  Even the obvious stuff is labeled, such as a scene where the enemy’s plane veers left and we see beautiful Washington D.C.  But do we know this because we recognize the Washington Monument & the U.S. Capitol Building or because of the “Washington D.C.” text on the screen?  The filmmakers assume you and I are complete morons! 
                But what really bugged me was something I would like to call faux-patriotism.  I understand that the power & ingenuity of individual Americans is what makes America great.  But do we really need the obligatory “stupid police/military officer”, especially since the General never showed any of this trait until the helicopter rescue attempt.  Showing a man who dedicated his life to his country acting like a fool when his country needs him most?  And yes, the Secret Service is selfless and heroic.  But why is one of the enemies an ex-Agent who shows little to no signs of animosity towards the President or his colleagues?  Greed is the American way nowadays, but to cash in by selling out your country?  God bless America indeed.
                But two elements really ground my gears.  First, no respect to Mr. Butler, but why is the hero played by a Scotsman?!?!  I know that many heroes have been played by foreigners, but if a similar movie coming out this summer can get Channing Tatum, surely Fuqua could have gotten a fellow American?  To paraphrase Chris Rock: if Denzel isn’t available, wait!
Second, and more egregious offense, the visual effects.  It’s bad enough that the effects work is awful.  It took everything I had not to howl when the enemy plane crashed into the cheap looking Washington Monument, whose collapse momentarily resembled one of the Twin Towers.  The CGI flag left me Did I say cheap effects?  That’s because they were created by a company in BULGARIA!  Seriously!  Check the credits.  Sofia, Bulgaria!
Those are just the large issues.  OLYMPUS contains some truly ridiculous things.  Like anti-aircraft weapons THAT RISE FROM THE ROOF OF THE WHITE HOUSE!  South Koreans are able to crack anything, even the President’s nuclear code, despite the fact that they couldn't crack the codes of two lower officials.  And did you know the White House is able to track whether or not a Secret Service Agent is alive or not?
I could go on forever but 800 words is 775 too many for this mediocre, at best, action movie.  OLYMPUS wears its patriotism on its sleeve but constantly wipes its filthy hands with it.  As thrilling as the last half is at times, there are too many things to ruin the fun.


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Second Time's the Charm?: Precious, Based on the Novel "Push" by Saphire, Queen of the Desert: Part II, The Quickening

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

                Every year, there is usually a Best Picture nominee I disagree with.  Some disagreements are small, like LIFE OF PI this year.  A few are huge, like BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD.  In 2009, PRECIOUS, BASED ON THE NOVEL “PUSH” BY SAPHIRE (pretentious much?) took Sundance by storm, followed by the rest of the country in November.  It came to my neck of the woods on the first weekend of December.  You would be hard pressed to find someone who hated the movie more.
                PRECIOUS is a movie about a brutally beaten, abused and lonely teenager Precious Jones (Gabourey Sidibe) living with her mother Mary (Mo’Nique), the welfare queen Ronald Reagan warned us about.  Precious is pregnant (again), raped by her father, sent to an alternative school, is the butt of all jokes about her obesity and will be diagnosed with HIV.  How could this movie be anything but depressing?
                I saw the movie for a second time about three weeks.  And it really is two different movies: one where Mary Jones runs rampant and one where she doesn’t exist.  The latter is just marvelous.  We find out who Precious is.  She is fairly intelligent and loving.  Precious is the type of young lady who would thrive under normal circumstances.  Alas, Precious lives a depressing and torturous life.  All because of her mother.
Just to cut the chase, Mary Jones is a reprehensible thing.  To call her a human is an insult to the bacteria that causes the common cold in human beings.  She runs her household & family like a tyrant.  Mary is the worst kind of villain: one who has no redeeming quality.  No matter how terrible a villain is, we can really say something positive about them.  Hannibal Lector, Dr. Strangelove & Col. Hans Landa all have one thing in common: they are all geniuses.  Mary Jones is a fat, fugly, rude, egotistical bitch.  She is the kind of character, and I use that term loosely for this one note wench, who deserves nothing.  Which makes the final scene even more reprehensible.
Mary meets with Precious and their social worker in the office in order to get her assistance back.  In the scene, Mary spills her guts, talking about everything from the relationship she had with Precious’ father/baby daddy.  She goes into detail about when the bond between herself & Precious, which is only barely covered by pictures during one of the numerous beatings of her daughter, went sour.  In short, Precious was first abused at two or three while Mary & Precious’ father were in the middle of lovemaking.  And Mary, after unsuccessfully (half-assedly) trying to stop it, Mary GETS JEALOUS OF HER DAUGHTER GETTING HER MAN’S ATTENTION!!!  Instead of stopping the discussion, the social worker weakly allows Satan to finish.  And boy, does she finish!  Mary asks for SYMPATHY.  Specifically, she asks “Who’s going to love me?”  With all the truly reprehensible things she has done, including throwing a TV at her daughter and grandson, she gets a chance at redemption.  We all know she wasn’t going to get redeemed, but the fact that the novelist Saphire, screenwriter Geoffrey Fletcher & director Lee Daniels would have the audacity of having this monologue and that final line is a joke.  A truly unfunny, worthless, time-wasting joke.
Needless to say, PRECIOUS is not a movie I will ever love.  It has elements and the potential to be loved.  But when I discover a character that is so pathetic & worthless, I regret wasting time and bytes talking about her.  I hope never to think about Mary Jones, or any woman like her who supposedly exists in the real world, ever again.


Monday, February 25, 2013

What I Learned From This Year's Academy Awards (half-a$$ed)

  • I need to see ARGO and LIFE OF PI again, ASAP!
  • Next year, no host > (insert host's name here)
  • The Academy Awards are about the movies, not the stage performances
  • A random number of Best Picture nominees is still ridiculous; needs to be 5 or 10
  • Who is lead, who is supporting? Christoph Waltz, as I have said since mid-December, is co-lead at worst.
  • The LES MISERABLES we got is worse than we thought. F^&* you Tom Hooper!
  • The winners are not always as bad as they appear
  • The most popular non-director nomination snub: CLOUD ATLAS for Best Score
  • I am far from the only hardcore MOONRISE KINGDOM fan. Huge smile.
  • The Academy voted for Pixar, not BRAVE. 
  • To tie the previous three together: The Academy does not watch all the movies it should, even the nominees.
  • Jennifer Lawrence will be the most divisive figure in Hollywood for the next X years.  Not KStew, JLaw. 

Friday, February 22, 2013

The Almost Oscar Winners Predictions

* = will win                 # = runner-up              $ = personal choice

Best Picture
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Django Unchained
Les Misérables
Life of Pi
Silver Linings Playbook$
Zero Dark Thirty
            Until it came out, ZDT was the favorite.  Then politics kicked in.  Post-nominations, Lincoln looked to have it in the bag with the most noms.  Then every other awards organization voted.  Argo, to many, has been the favorite for weeks.  Until the WGA, I was sure of Lincoln but alas, Argo will get it, becoming the fourth film to win Best Picture without a Best Director nomination (first since Driving Miss Daisy in 1989; the other two are in the first five years of the Oscars).

Amour, Michael Haneke
Beasts of the Southern Wild, Benh Zeitlin
Life of Pi, Ang Lee
Lincoln, Steven Spielberg*$
Silver Linings Playbook, David O. Russell#
            No Affleck, no Bigelow, no Hooper (!!!), no problem?  Not so fast!  Lincoln has lost a bunch of momentum in recent weeks.  It will be way closer than it should be but Spielberg will win.  A Lee or Russell win wouldn’t shock me.

Actor in a Leading Role
Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook
Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln*$
Hugh Jackman, Les Misérables
Joaquin Phoenix, The Master#
Denzel Washington, Flight
            DDL may be the best on the planet.  He has been unstoppable since Lincoln came out in mid November.  If only The Master had a non-acting nomination, then it would be close.  Like Earth to the sun close instead of Earth to Saturn close.

Actress in a Leading Role
Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty
Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook*$
Emmanuelle Riva, Amour#
Quvenzhané Wallis, Beasts of the Southern Wild
Naomi Watts, The Impossible
            Jennifer Lawrence’s rise to stardom has been lightning fast and a breath of fresh air.  She has the looks & talent for a career that will last decades.  Can’t wait to see what she does next, which will be her acceptance speech.  Riva & Chastain have slight chances.  Very slight.

Actor in a Supporting Role
Alan Arkin, Argo
Robert De Niro, Silver Linings Playbook
Philip Seymour Hoffman, The Master
Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln*$
Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained#
            Any of these five could win.  But TLJ won SAG, which means a lot. 

Actress in a Supporting Role
Amy Adams, The Master
Sally Field, Lincoln#
Anne Hathaway, Les Misérables*$
Helen Hunt, The Sessions
Jacki Weaver, Silver Linings Playbook
            The prophesy spoken by Julie Andrews 12 years ago comes true as Hathaway wins walking away.  But keep in mind: Sally Field has never lost when nominated.  Who cares if she has only been nominated twice.

Writing (Adapted Screenplay)
Argo, Screenplay by Chris Terrio*
Beasts of the Southern Wild, Screenplay by Lucy Alibar & Benh Zeitlin
Life of Pi, Screenplay by David Magee
Lincoln, Screenplay by Tony Kushner#
Silver Linings Playbook, Screenplay by David O. Russell$
            Like Best Picture, Lincoln had this in the bag until Argo took over.  But SLP is sitting there for the possible upset.  Will be interesting.

Writing (Original Screenplay)
Amour, Written by Michael Haneke
Django Unchained, Written by Quentin Tarantino*
Flight, Written by John Gatins
Moonrise Kingdom, Written by Wes Anderson & Roman Coppola$
Zero Dark Thirty, Written by Mark Boal#
            There is no one on the planet hoping for vote splitting and a Moonrise Kingdom upset.  But alas, it’s Boal vs. Tarantino Round 2.  Tarantino in a split decision.

Animated Feature Film
Brave, Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman#
Frankenweenie, Tim Burton
ParaNorman, Sam Fell and Chris Butler
The Pirates! Band of Misfits, Peter Lord
Wreck-It Ralph, Rich Moore*$
            Full disclosure: only saw two of these.  Brave was a dud after the big twist.  Wreck-It Ralph was formula, but formula done wonderfully.  Hope it wins. 

Anna Karenina, Seamus McGarvey
Django Unchained, Robert Richardson
Life of Pi, Claudio Miranda#
Lincoln, Janusz Kaminski
Skyfall, Roger Deakins*$
            Deakins isn’t losing again.  Not for the tenth time.  Not even to something as “beautiful” as Life of Pi. 

Costume Design
Anna Karenina, Jacqueline Durran*$
Les Misérables, Paco Delgado#
Lincoln, Joanna Johnston
Mirror Mirror, Eiko Ishioka
Snow White and the Huntsman, Colleen Atwood
            Didn’t see the movie but I have seen pictures.  Anna Karenina is beautiful.  Will deservedly win.

Film Editing
Argo, William Goldenberg#
Life of Pi, Tim Squyres
Lincoln, Michael Kahn
Silver Linings Playbook, Jay Cassidy and Crispin Struthers
Zero Dark Thirty, Dylan Tichenor and William Goldenberg*$
            Mark my words: William Goldenberg will win Best Film Editing.  For which movie, we’ll see.

Makeup and Hairstyling
Hitchcock, Howard Berger, Peter Montagna and Martin Samuel*
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Peter Swords King, Rick Findlater and Tami Lane
Les Misérables, Lisa Westcott and Julie Dartnell#
            If The Iron Lady won last year, why not Hitchcock?

Visual Effects
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton and R. Christopher White
Life of Pi, Bill Westenhofer, Guillaume Rocheron, Erik-Jan De Boer and Donald R. Elliott*
Marvel's The Avengers, Janek Sirrs, Jeff White, Guy Williams and Dan Sudick$#
Prometheus, Richard Stammers, Trevor Wood, Charley Henley and Martin Hill
Snow White and the Huntsman, Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, Philip Brennan, Neil Corbould and Michael Dawson
            Fact: A Best Picture nominee has never lost to a non-BP nominee in Best Visual Effects.  Life of Pi is a BP nominee.  Nuff said.

Music (Original Score)
Anna Karenina, Dario Marianelli
Argo, Alexandre Desplat
Life of Pi, Mychael Danna*
Lincoln, John Williams#
Skyfall, Thomas Newman
            The dumbest branch once again skips the two best scores of 2012: Cloud Atlas & Moonrise Kingdom.  Could really care less about any of them.

Music (Original Song)
“Before My Time” from Chasing Ice Music and Lyric by J. Ralph
“Everybody Needs A Best Friend” from Ted Music by Walter Murphy; Lyric by Seth MacFarlane
“Pi's Lullaby” from Life of Pi Music by Mychael Danna; Lyric by Bombay Jayashri
“Skyfall” from Skyfall Music and Lyric by Adele Adkins and Paul Epworth*#$
“Suddenly” from Les Misérables Music by Claude-Michel Schönberg; Lyric by Herbert Kretzmer and Alain Boublil
            Yeah, that’s right.  The alternate to “Skyfall” is “Skyfall”.  If it loses, watch out!  The End Is Nigh!!!

Production Design
Anna Karenina, Production Design: Sarah Greenwood; Set Decoration: Katie Spencer*
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Production Design: Dan Hennah; Set Decoration: Ra Vincent and Simon Bright
Les Misérables, Production Design: Eve Stewart; Set Decoration: Anna Lynch-Robinson
Life of Pi, Production Design: David Gropman; Set Decoration: Anna Pinnock
Lincoln, Production Design: Rick Carter; Set Decoration: Jim Erickson#$

Sound Editing
Argo, Erik Aadahl and Ethan Van der Ryn#
Django Unchained, Wylie Stateman
Life of Pi, Eugene Gearty and Philip Stockton
Skyfall, Per Hallberg and Karen Baker Landers
Zero Dark Thirty, Paul N.J. Ottosson*$

Sound Mixing
Argo, John Reitz, Gregg Rudloff and Jose Antonio Garcia#
Les Misérables, Andy Nelson, Mark Paterson and Simon Hayes*
Life of Pi, Ron Bartlett, D.M. Hemphill and Drew Kunin
Lincoln, Andy Nelson, Gary Rydstrom and Ronald Judkins
Skyfall, Scott Millan, Greg P. Russell and Stuart Wilson$
            Action movies win Sound Editing, musicals win Sound Mixing.  End of story.
Documentary Feature
5 Broken Cameras, Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi
The Gatekeepers, Dror Moreh, Philippa Kowarsky and Estelle Fialon
How to Survive a Plague, David France and Howard Gertler#
The Invisible War, Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering
Searching for Sugar Man, Malik Bendjelloul and Simon Chinn*
            SfSM has won just about every major documentary award.  Why not Oscar?

I have no idea about the last few, just throwing stuff at the wall to see what sticks.
Foreign Language Film
Amour, Austria*
Kon-Tiki, Norway
No, Chile#
A Royal Affair, Denmark
War Witch, Canada

Short Film (Animated)
Adam and Dog, Minkyu Lee#
Fresh Guacamole, PES
Head over Heels, Timothy Reckart and Fodhla Cronin O'Reilly
Maggie Simpson in The Longest Daycare, David Silverman
Paperman, John Kahrs*$

Short Film (Live Action)
Asad, Bryan Buckley and Mino Jarjoura
Buzkashi Boys, Sam French and Ariel Nasr*
Curfew, Shawn Christensen#
Death of a Shadow (Dood van een Schaduw), Tom Van Avermaet and Ellen De Waele
Henry, Yan England

Documentary Short Subject
Inocente, Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine*
Kings Point, Sari Gilman and Jedd Wider
Mondays at Racine, Cynthia Wade and Robin Honan
Open Heart, Kief Davidson and Cori Shepherd Stern#
Redemption, Jon Alpert and Matthew O'Neill

Predictions Summary
Picture: Argo*
Director: Lincoln, Steven Spielberg*$
Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln*$
Actress: Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook*$
Supp. Actor: Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln*$
Supp. Actress: Anne Hathaway, Les Misérables*$
A. Screenplay: Argo, Screenplay by Chris Terrio*
O. Screenplay: Django Unchained, Written by Quentin Tarantino*
Animated: Wreck-It Ralph, Rich Moore*$
Cinematography: Skyfall, Roger Deakins*$
Costume Design: Anna Karenina, Jacqueline Durran*$
Editing: Zero Dark Thirty, Dylan Tichenor and William Goldenberg*$
Makeup: Hitchcock, Howard Berger, Peter Montagna and Martin Samuel*
Visual Effects: Life of Pi, Bill Westenhofer, Guillaume Rocheron, Erik-Jan De Boer and Donald R. Elliott*
Score: Life of Pi, Mychael Danna*
Song: “Skyfall” from Skyfall Music and Lyric by Adele Adkins and Paul Epworth*#$
Production Design: Anna Karenina, Production Design: Sarah Greenwood; Set Decoration: Katie Spencer*
Sound Editing: Zero Dark Thirty, Paul N.J. Ottosson*$
Sound Mixing: Les Misérables, Andy Nelson, Mark Paterson and Simon Hayes*
Documentary Feature: Searching for Sugar Man, Malik Bendjelloul and Simon Chinn*
Foreign Language: Amour, Austria*
Animated Short: Paperman, John Kahrs*$
Short Film: Buzkashi Boys, Sam French and Ariel Nasr*
Documentary Short: Inocente, Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine*

Lincoln leads with three wins.  Six movies win two a piece.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Best Picture Backwards: The Artist

I do not own the above image.  For entertainment purposes only.  Copyright The Weinstein Company.  All rights reserved

                The idea: To watch every Best Picture Oscar winner, mainly to say that I have.  Also, I want to compare them to its fellow nominees (if I have seen them) and to compare them to each other.  And, in a little twist, I will be watching them starting with the most recent, THE ARTIST and finishing sometime next year with WINGS.  I will also keep a running tally of how the movies rank against each other on the bottom of each article.

                For the first few months, I will be re-watching movies (the most recent Best Picture I haven’t seen is 1992’s UNFORGIVEN) some for the second time, some for the tenth plus time.  THE ARTIST falls into the former category.
                THE ARTIST opens with a movie within a movie.  A silent movie starring George Valentin (Jean Dujardin), the biggest star in the world.  But not only is the movie within the movie silent, THE ARTIST is a modern silent movie.  While the movie is silent (almost) the whole way through, the movie industry isn’t.  “Talkies” are taking over, much to the disbelief of Valentin.  What’s worse: Valentin’s popularity is being taken over by Peppy Miller (Bernice Bejo), who Valentin “discovered”.  Can Valentin transition?  Or will he stay behind & tough it out?
                THE ARTIST is ambitious to say the least.  All credit goes to writer/director Michel Hazanavicius for having the audacity for trying something different and not having it blow up in his face.  Jean Dujardin is pitch perfect as the overconfident then defeated Valentin.  Valentin could have gone down the depressing or the self-sorry road but Dujardin never allows that to occur.  Bejo, Hazanavicius’ wife, is solid as the rising star who never forgets where she came from.  And all the supporting players, from John Goodman’s studio executive to Uggie the Dog, are wonderful.
                That said, THE ARTIST ultimately fails at what it wants to accomplish: paying tribute to silent film.  The movie within the movie looks like a silent film, faded & fuzzy with the right amount of titles cards.  The rest?  Not so much.  The movie is silent for sure, but the story gets lost in the lack of title cards.  And the picture?  Just looks like color was turned off.  Note to young filmmakers: If you want to pay homage to something, GO ALL THE WAY!  Don’t half-ass it.  THE ARTIST is silent but not really a homage to the silent era.  And with that…

Did it deserve to win?

No.  For the first time I can remember, my top three movies of a year were each nominated for Best Picture: HUGO, TREE OF LIFE, and THE DESCENDANTS.  MIDNIGHT IN PARIS was the best written movie of the year, even if it was too short.  MONEYBALL was also wonderful.  So, at best, THE ARTIST was the 6th best Best Picture nominee, despite being around my number ten of the year.

THE ARTIST is far from terrible, but what it fails to do in homage makes it just OK.  

**** (out of 5)