Monday, March 31, 2014

A Visual Review (and a link or two)


It's only fitting that the first director to ever receive one of my Visual Reviews gets the first extension.  Yes, since participating in the LAMBS Director's Chair back in October of 2012, Visual Reviews have been one of those things this blog is known for, but I have to admit that it's been a while since I've put one together (the last one was Wright, back in October of 2013).  For anyone unfamiliar with what my Visual Reviews are, they are my personal overview of a single director's entire body of work, using images from their films as the only way to review them.  

With Aronofsky's latest film hitting theaters (and causing quite the stir) I felt it only appropriate that Noah receive it's own Visual Review, to make my glance at Aronofsky's filmography complete.

So here it goes:

Noah (2014) anywhere between *** & *****/***** (in other words, I still can't decide what to grade this movie)
Steeped in fantasy...

Cluttered with ideas...

Feels like a modern-day struggle...

Explodes with controversy...

It keeps coming back...

As you can see, I'm still struggling with this one.  You can read my full review here (where I hand this an A after debate) and I have a feeling that this will be the one film I continue to internally struggle with, which is only appropriate considering that the whole film itself was about an internal struggle.

Also, here are three reviews that cover the wide spectrum of reactions to this controversial film.  They also happen to be extremely well written reviews, so they are well worth reading, regardless of your stance on the film itself:

Surrender to the Void loved this...
The Movie Scrutineer is mixed, like myself...
Keith at the Movies was not too fond of this one...

And while we're at it, check out the podcast over at The Matinee, where they debate the film as well!

Friday, March 28, 2014

It’s going to be a wet one…


Finding a place to begin a review of ‘Noah’ is difficult for me.  I have so many things to say about this and yet knowing where to start is hard to pinpoint.  I could just ramble from the get-go and eventually get to a place where it all makes sense and it all comes together and yet I’m not even sure that that would happen since at the moment I’m still processing everything and trying to formulate my actual opinion.  Maybe finding a place to start is not the problem at all, but finding the TIME to start.  I mean, is now really the best time to flesh out a review of the film you just saw, or would it be more appropriate to wait until I’ve had the needed days to process?  I’ve asked myself this question all day long, as I’ve continued to tweet various feelings about the film or post paragraphs about it on various social mediums. 

The bottom line is that I can’t stop thinking about it and so maybe now is the best time to write this all down.

I’ll be pretty up front in admitting that ‘Noah’ was one of the films I was most looking forward to this year.  In fact, ever since the project was announced with Aronofsky at the helm and Crowe in the lead I was hooked.  I’ve been waiting with wide eyed anticipation since early last year.  But then harmful speculation started to sneak into the media and the idea that Aronofsky’s Biblical epic was indeed a disaster began to take root.

Everyone’s a critic, right?

3 + 5 = fuck if I know...

In case you weren't aware, this is a vagina

There are a handful of directors who have created such buzz surrounding their distinct voices that there is talk about them, their films and their methods with every film, before, after and even long after he’s moved on to something else.  Lars von Trier is probably the king of this.  Since his start in the early 90’s, von Trier has graced audiences (small audiences, but audiences) with his perverse and often shocking depictions of sexuality, sexism and masochism.  Sometimes, he finds ways to shade his own ideas, philosophies, theories and musings with enough style and depth to make them feel warranted, making the shock of it all carry the weight it needs to sit on our palate.

And then other times he just shows us a lot of pictures of genitals and expects us to feel something other than repulsion.

Now, I’ve been a longstanding champion of von Trier and his vision.  While others have tossed many disparaging remarks his way and have taken arms against some of his more recent films, I’ve stood my ground and played devil’s advocate in his favor.  ‘Antichrist’ was a pretty disturbing film, but when all was said and done there was an underlying purpose to von Trier’s madness, and while it didn’t all translate how he would have liked (or at least how the audience would have liked) there is no denying that von Trier had a pretty bold narrative and some pretty confident points to entertain, and the core performance from Charlotte Gainsbourg was astonishingly grounded in the context of the film (such a fearless performance, through and through). 

I can’t defend this.

Wakka-Wakka-Wonderful!


I grew up with The Muppets.  I have very fond memories of being a child and watching their films and visiting Disney and seeing their show and basically all things ‘Muppet’ get me flushed with excitement.  When Jason Segel rebooted the franchise back in 2011, I was nervous but ultimately rewarded with a film that felt like a fresh and modern take on the classic Muppet direction, and while the film had its lulls, it served as a benchmark for better things to come.

That better thing was ‘Muppets Most Wanted’.

D is for 'Dumb Fucking Dog'

More like a stain...
As a young child I did often watch ‘Rocky and Bullwinkle’.  That being said, I never even heard of ‘Mr. Peabody & Sherman’ until I saw that it was being made into a children’s movie this year and heard the swell of groans from fans of the original show who were determined to hate this movie before the opening credits were through.  I thought that the concept and the trailer looked really intriguing and ripe with potential and so, despite the collective moaning, I was excited for this.

My kids were too.

While many balked at the film for doing no justice to their nostalgia, I couldn’t grade the film on that basis because I had none.  I was walking in blind, and for me that was the best way to do so.  I was wholly prepared to love this film and be its sole champion.

I hated this movie.

It’s funny.  When the film ended I looked at my wife and rolled my eyes and she asked me what was wrong and I said “you liked that?” and she said “it was cute” and I just shook my head.  Cute is fine, but this movie was just offensively bad.  From a pure storytelling narrative, the film is a messy failure, but it also fails on so many moral and parental levels that I found myself almost wanting to get up and leave, children in tow, because subjecting my children and their spongy minds to this honestly scared me.  I mean, I don’t want any of this to rub off on them.  If that were to happen, that would make my job as ‘parent’ so much harder.

I have a hard enough time as it is.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Let's Review Something: The Wolf of Wall Street


Exploitation is something that happens a lot in movies.  Bodies are exploited.  Heroics are exploited.  The audience is exploited.  We sit back and indulge in reckless behavior from the safety of a theater seat and allow the exploitation to envelop us, knowing that we are free from the harmful effects of said exploitation because ‘it’s only a movie’.  The question that comes up then is, when is this theatrical exploitation dangerous to the audience?  When is too far, too far?  Where is the line that has to be drawn and when is enough, enough?  Is enough ever enough?  Is there such a thing as ‘too far’?

Wouldn’t ‘too far’ constitute a breach in our freedom of speech and our ability to create ‘art’?

Personally, I’ve asked myself this question very few times.  At the end of the day, I don’t feel that there should be such a thing as ‘too far’ because it tears at the very fabric of our societies lust for art.  If we handicap our artists, what are we left with?  In all honesty, sometimes we have to wade through the things we can’t stand to be able to enjoy the gems we cherish so much.

Handicap one, handicap all.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Because God is understanding...and I'm quite busy at the moment!


If you didn't see this, here is a reminder about my blogathon inspired by the rebirth of the Biblical Epic.  My original deadline for this was March 30th, because I was going to be posting my post as well as links to everyone else's on Monday, the 31st, but due to some scheduling issues on my end and the end of some who want to participate, I'm extending the deadline.  Josh, over at The Cinematic Spectacle has already posted his entry, and I love it!  Ryan over at The Matinee has also recently reviewed Jesus of Montreal for his personal Blind Spot series and has graciously submitted it to this blogathon as well.  

But I want more!

So, the new due date for these is Thursday, April 17th.  Feel free to post your posts anytime between now and then and just send me a link to it and I will hold onto it until Friday, April 18th, when I post my post and link every one of the participants (including the two I linked here).

Please click the link above for full set of rules.  I'll be tweeting reminders to everyone as the date approaches.  I hope all can participate.  Remember, this isn't a blogathon about religion.  This is a blogathon about film, and film broaches God in many different (and subjective) ways, so I encourage all of your viewpoints and posts so as to make this a well-rounded collection of thoughts!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Yet another reason to love Frozen...


I haven't been shy at all about declaring my love for Frozen to the rooftops.  It has grown so much in my esteem since November, and it is the one film from last year that I have seen more than twice.  In fact, I've seen it ten times, and that's only counting the times where I actually sat down and paid attention to it.  If I counted the amount of times I've seen it from a distance because it was playing in the next room, then the count would probably double.  The thing that touches me so deeply about Frozen is the beautiful way that it builds such a strong spirit of sisterly love and empowerment.  It creates such a strong and warm feeling of love, a selfless love that is not typically found in children's films.  

The fact that my two young daughters have connected to this film on such a deeply personal level (to the point where they have shed literal tears while watching the film) is a bonus, for sure.

Anyways, I love when you can watch a film ten+ times and STILL find some new tidbits, some special detail that you missed the first few (or many) times you saw it.  I continue to pick  up on details each time I watch the film; whether it be conversations had between sidelined characters or, in this case, a special saying that ties two worlds together and adds such a beautiful layer to the story itself.

Poster Break: Calvary


I had a dream the other night that Brendan Gleeson became the critics darling in this year's awards race, snatching Lead Actor wins left and right until he became this dark horse Oscar contender no one saw coming.  It was such a vivid dream.  I was excited, because I've been a fan for a long time and it's about damn time that he gets a meaty role that gets him to recognition he deserves.  The reviews for this have been favorable, so it could happen.  It's very high on my MUST SEE list for the year, and this is a performance that I am really looking forward to.  I know that it was only a dream, and predicting him for an Oscar nomination could be seen as wishful thinking, but it's only March and I'm allowed to wishfully think right now.

My official Oscar nominations will be coming on April 1st.  Yes, he's on them.

Hit Me With Your Best Shot: L.A. Confidential Style


I hate the fact that I tell myself every week (that Nate does this) that I'm going to participate and then I forget about it until he's already posted that great big list of participated 'shots' and I realize I fell asleep on the job and will not be able to make up that lost time...that week.  When he posted a reminded yesterday that TODAY was the deadline for his Hit Me With Your Best Shot...L.A. Confidential, I knew that I had to knock this one out.

Sadly, I have an upper respiratory infection, my son has an ear infection, my wife has the stomach flu and I have two little monsters running around that need me to give them attention, so between wrapping up work, going to the doctor, waiting an eternity for medication and then making dinner, I was SWAMPED last night.

So you can thank my irritable son for this, because he couldn't sleep last night, which means I couldn't sleep last night, which means I might as well rock him in the living room and watch a movie.

And guess what I watched.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

James Rebhorn has died...


No details or cause of death has been confirmed, but veteran character actor James Rebhorn has passed away at the age of 65.  One of the most recognizable faces in Hollywood, and a truly dependable actor through and through, he will be missed.  This year is already sucking royally.  I'll never forget that opening scene in The Talented Mr. Ripley, and he was truly hilarious in Meet the Parents.  Maybe this calls for an odd double feature tonight.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Let's Review Something: About Time


So, the other night while snuggling up on the couch with my wife and my eight month old son watching ‘About Time’ I found myself looking down at him and wishing upon all wishes that I could have the same conversation with him that Bill Nighy gets to have with Domhnall Gleeson in this movie.  I mean, how cool would it be to be able to your son down when he is 21 and just completely blow his mind. 

“By the way son, you come from a family of time travelers and it’s about time you start getting things right.”

So, I’m staring at him staring up at me and I’m going over in my head how cool this scenario would be, were it actually possible, and then we reach some pinnacle moments in the film and I’m again staring down at him and feeling incredibly happy and relieved that we’ll never have this conversation and that the conversations we’re going to have are going to mean so much more because of that very fact.

“By the way son, you only get to live your life once, so let’s embrace it for what it is; hiccups and all.”

A few months ago my wife and I were at the theater, I think it was to see ‘Enough Said’, when we first saw the trailer for this film.  It’s hard to describe the feeling you get when you just know something is going to be special.  I have that feeling every once in a while when I’m watching a film trailer.  It doesn’t always pan out (I had a similar feeling while watching the trailer for ‘The Spectacular Now’), but when it does it really is, well, special.  I remember looking over at my wife and she was smiling and she leans in and whispers “we need to see that” and I always like when she does that because she’s rarely excited about movies in general, and so it’s nice when we can both connect on that level.  Sadly, children block us from getting to the theater often and so we had to wait.

Andy Serkis to direct The Jungle Book


And my only question is, will this be the first time a director directs himself in every role of his movie?

Rambling thoughts on hunger, fire, celebrities, books, movies and tween sensations (A.K.A., my review of 'Hunger Games: Catching Fire')


I have to admit, I was VERY late to the ‘Hunger Games’ party.  When the world went crazy for the franchise in written form, I completely tuned it all out.  I was, in my mind, above all that.  This was for teens, right?  I’m sorry, but I don’t read those ‘Twilight’ books nor do I see those movies and I was not about to waste my time with some teen oriented book on kids killing kids (seriously, why is this a thing?) and so despite all my friend’s kids raving the books, I looked at them like they were crazy and went on my merry way.  When the film was made, I was also pretty much a staunch objector.  I was looked at as a villain in the fantasy lives of my friend’s teenage kids who all wore their hair in braids and started pinning every picture they could find of current ‘it girl’, Jennifer Lawrence.  I was kind of adverse to anything Lawrence related at that time.  I had seen a handful of her films, including her Oscar nominated turn in 2010’s ‘Winter’s Bone’ and I just found her incredibly wooden and uninteresting.

Then I was on a plane to Europe and my friend leans over to me and says “have you read ‘The Hunger Games’ yet?” and I looked at him in shock, like ‘WHY ON EARTH DID YOU READ THAT?’ and he proceeds to tell me that he read all three books over the course of a single weekend (he was apparently sick with the flu) because his daughter was reading them and he thought they were great.

It just did not compute, like at all.

When I got home he wound up lending me the first book and I, begrudgingly, started to read it.  I read it in a weekend and I instantly wanted more.  No, it’s not a great book.  The writing is actually pretty terrible in parts, and the concept is kind of ridiculous (and seriously, this is for kids?) but the way that the story is told is pretty engaging and I had to admit to myself; I kind of understood the draw.

So I saw the movie.

Tweet Tweet

Dear God, what have I done?
I'm not going to say that I gave into peer pressure, but I kind of did.  Last night, while drunk and bored, I decided to start a Twitter account.  I have no idea how to use this thing and I'm currently only following four people (one of them is Russell Crowe) but I plan to expand.  I refuse to put this on my phone right now, but I'm sure I'll be uploading that app before this year's awards season starts.  I had Facebook years ago and become so obsessed I had to break ties.  Hopefully, this won't happen (but I swear to God it most likely will).  Anyways, FOLLOW ME!  I have HUGE insecurity issues, so if you don't follow me and tweet me and do all those things you're supposed to do on that thing I'll think you hate me and probably cry, a lot.

Kidding...but then again, I'm not so seriously, follow me.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Fincher's bid for Oscar?

He's awesome...


I'm not going to hide that fact that I'd probably give my left nut to get David Fincher an Oscar.  I already have three kids, I don't need anymore, and it's not like I need both of them.  His Oscar loss in 2010 to that troll, Tom Hooper, is probably the most disgusting thing to happen at the Oscar ceremony ever.  Yes, it's worse than Brokeback Mountain getting the shaft for something as offensive as Crash.  Since his loss, I've been holding my breath until he came to plate for something that would put him in the spectrum of Oscar without selling him out completely.  I don't want him to win for directing some shitty melodrama simply because Oscar would bite.  I want him to win for being David fucking Fincher.  They snubbed him for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which makes sense in retrospect.  I've read the script for Gone Girl and I highly doubt he gets in for that, and while I think the concept of him directing something as epic as 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea sounds baity as fuck, is it really going to happen?

For as obsessed with Fincher as I am, I've completely let a certain project slip under my radar.  It came to light last month that Fincher was in talks to direct Sorkin's script for a Steve Jobs biopic.  Now, I don't know about you, but I outright refused to watch that Ashton Kutcher biopic because it looked like an SNL skit gone terribly wrong.  Still, the idea of a Jobs biopic written by Sorkin (honestly, anything written by Sorkin) sounded really intriguing.  Throw in Fincher, who has already captured lightning in a bottle thanks to a Sorkin script, and you have my undivided attention.

Now, it appears that Fincher wants Bale for the lead.  I'm all for this.  Bale is an excellent choice, and with the way his career is finally exploding, this could be Bale's ticket to that Lead Oscar win.

But one thing that I read, more than any other, that has me excited about this film is the way in which Sorkin penned it.  The idea of the film consisting of three thirty minute scenes, filmed in real time, centering on three important product launches sounds so fucking cool.  Typical biopics are so tired, but this already feels fresh and is ripe for some serious character development and ACTING, and we all love that (and Bale knows how to CHEW, in a good way).  I'm really interested to see how Fincher tackles this.  

This could be my most anticipated of 2015!

Let's Review Something: Mandela - Long Walk to Freedom


The story of Nelson Mandela’s life is certainly an inspiring one.  He has touched the lives of so many people and given hope and paved the way for a better tomorrow for so many that telling his story properly becomes a great responsibility.  You can’t mess this up.  Too much is at stake.  When it was announced that a film about his life was going to be released, I became skeptical. 
                                                  
This is a BIG story to tell, even at nearly two and a half hours.

While 2009 gave us a film that focused on a small portion of Mandela’s life (a portion that this film doesn’t even mention) it felt so unimportant (to the point where I never felt the slightest desire to see it, and still don’t).  Despite this film’s horrible title (yes, it sounds like a Lifetime movie), the idea of covering so much of this man’s life (all of it) was such an intriguing premise that I felt a strong urge to root for this to succeed.  Add to that the fact that Idris Elba deserves a role meaty enough to sustain his talent and Naomie Harris is one of those actresses who should have broken out in a big way YEARS ago, and you have me eagerly anticipating the day I can get my hands on this film.

Then it came and went without any real impact outside of that brief moment where it looked like ‘Let it Go’ was going to LOSE the Original Song Oscar (really, it never looked that way, but The Globes sent shivers) and so it left me wondering just how well this film captured all it needed to capture. 

Let's Review Something: This Is the End


I don’t think there has been a film to come out in recent memory that had me so entertained and yet so disappointed as ‘This is the End’.  It’s not that my expectations were astronomical, and like I said, I was entertained immensely, but there was something about the film itself that left me feeling like it kept pulling itself back from being great.  It’s so preposterous and so outlandish and yet I couldn’t help but feel that most of the film was skirting around actually being as preposterous and as outlandish as it wanted to be.

Don’t get me wrong; this film is ridiculously off-color and offensive and yet…not?

Maybe it’s just that we’ve become so desensitized by the barrage of Judd Apatow films that throw everything in our face and dare us to get offended, but I found very few things about this film particularly inventive in the idea of outrageous comedy, and I even think other films have gone further and been more creative in their use of offence to entertain (like, ‘Tropic Thunder’ steamrolls this film in making the offensive so utterly digestible while maintaining a level of shock).  Still, while nothing feels inventive or new, the cast is hilariously on point and they sell everything.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Do the hustle...


I kind of love that this movie opens with the clever disclaimer ‘Some of this actually happened’ because it sets a tone that pays off, mostly, for this energetic and enjoyable romp from David O. Russell.  Russell is a director who has been getting a lot of flak over the past few years (and his past few films) for selling out; leaving his former eccentric formula of filmmaking for a more commercial and Oscary trajectory.  I honestly didn’t care too much either way.  The only Russell film that I really like is ‘I Heart Huckabees’, which is actually very different from any of his other films I’ve seen.  Granted, I haven’t seen ‘Flirting With Disaster’ (which I hear is a favorite among his fans) but I seem to find some kernel of something I dislike about all his films, sans ‘I Heart Huckabees’.

Still, I was kind of excited about ‘American Hustle’.  I’ll admit, when the project was first announced I wasn’t very interested.  I liked some of the cast and was disinterested in the other half.  Bale and Adams are usually reliable presences, and while I was never a fan BEFORE ‘Silver Linings Playbook’, I became a fan of Jennifer Lawrence based on that spirited performance and her tactless charm.  Still, I kind of hate Jeremy Renner and find Bradley Cooper annoying.

But then the trailer was dropped and it looked like such fun!

In other fairy tale news...


So, nothing is confirmed yet, but it looks like Sophia Coppola could be the one to take the reigns from Joe Wright and direct the live action adaptation of Andersen's The Little Mermaid.  This would be a huge departure from her more intimate work, but then again there is such an intimate tale to be told here, and if they stick to the themes presented (and the tone encompassed) by the original work, this could be so much more than what these big budget fairy tale abominations are proving to be.  The direction this hunt for director is going is giving me faith that this is intended to be more than a CGI spectacle.  Now we just have to sit back and wait for Elle Fanning to be cast in the lead.

I give you PAN!


Blind Spot Series 2014: Sergeant York


Well, it's that time of the month again (no, not THAT time) and I'm here to review my third entry in this year's Blind Spot series.  I actually did better this month with watching, and reviewing closer to time (I've been so early) but it was hard.  Ever since posting my list of films I'll be watching this year, I've been aching to just watch them all back to back to back, but that would defeat the whole purpose of taking part in this series.

You can catch my reviews of both 'The Shop Around the Corner' and 'Penny Serenade' before checking this out if you like.

But now, onto this month's selection!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Let's Review Something: The Broken Circle Breakdown


I’ve spoken a lot here (and elsewhere) about how there are few things that touch me deeper than the love of or for a child.  Being a parent, I can’t help but feel a very strong connection to stories about that love, whether those stories are told on the printed page, through song or on celluloid.  It’s a visceral reaction.  I can’t restrain myself.  I just get it.

A few years ago a certain film came out of nowhere and really took me for a loop.  That film was ‘Declaration of War’.  Equal parts artistic and stylized and gritty and earnest, that film was about as complete a tail as one could get.  Chronicling the effect that illness has on two parents as they struggle to find answers and reach a happy ending, the film literally (and figuratively) took my breath away.  Thankfully, Valerie Donzelli (who wrote, directed and starred in the film inspired by her own personal experience with her young son) knew how to cut all the realism with a honest humor that made the film not only impactful emotionally but an easy watch.  Despite the obvious sadness that permeated the core themes, the film was such an easy watch.

When I heard a friend liken ‘The Broken Circle Breakdown’ to the aforementioned masterpiece, I was heavily intrigued.

God is in the Movies Blogathon!


It seems like everyone is having a Blogathon these days, and quite frankly I was feeling left out.  If you haven’t taken part in Fandango Groovers’ Captain America Blogathon or Sati’s Spin Off Blogathon, head on over and take care of business.

Then, take get to work on this.

First, I want to clear up something.  This is not intended to spark religious debate.  I don’t want to get into a whole barrage of arguments on whether or not religion is necessary or whether or not the Bible is a truthful account or a storybook or whether or not God exists.  This was merely my way of making my blogathon about Russell Crowe without having to directly make it about Russell Crowe and finding some way to make it all relevant. 

And then again, feel free to debate ALL YOU WANT on your personal post (and I kind of hope you do, because it is in those details that we'll see why you prefer what you prefer)!

The basic idea behind this blogathon came from the recent swell of biblical inspired films.  I mean, at first we heard of Noah, and then Exodus…but then out of nowhere came Man of God and it became clear that 2014 was the year to bring back the biblical epic.  Biblical films were at one time pretty popular, but they’ve all but faded from mainstream cinema, and while faith based films come and go, unless you’re an avid fan of Kirk Cameron’s style of BEAT ME OVER THE HEAD WITH YOUR BELIEFS cinema, you probably don’t watch many of those kinds of films anymore.

So my question is this; how do you like God in your movies?

The concept is simple.  I want you to rack your brains for the film that, to you, defines how the bible (and all of its facets) should be presented in film.  Do you like your scripture presented in a grand, sweeping epic like 1956’s The Ten Commandments?  Do you like your scriptures tampered with, as in Scorsese’s polarizing The Last Temptation of Christ?  Do you want to see an artistic approach to God’s book, like with Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat?  Or, do you prefer your faith handled in a more provocative and less direct way, as in the many works by Ingmar Bergman?

·         Pick a movie (or style) 
·         Write a post explaining WHY it is your preferred dip into the Bible 
·         Link this post (and use my heavenly header) 
·         Leave your link in the comment section 
·         DEADLINE is March 30th


I will be posting my write up on March 31st and will link all of your posts then.

Spin Off Blogathon!


Sati, the most opinionated (and shamelessly so) blogger out there, and possibly my favorite BECAUSE of that (like, for real girl, we don’t agree on practically anything and yet your opinion matters so much to me because it is so honest) is hosting her FIRST BLOGATHON!  I absolutely love the idea of this blogathon too.  The concept is simple; find a character from a film or TV show that was only there for a fleeting moment and yet made such a lasting impression on you that you are DYING to see them get their own feature length film.

I improvised that a tad, for dramatic effect, but you get the point.

When I read this I instantly knew who I was going to choose.  The fact that the second I read ‘characters that were on screen for a few short scenes’ (that is verbatim) this person’s face came to mind made it obvious that there is no other choice, for me at least.  I tried for the better part of last week to think of someone else to choose, but I kept coming back to this one face, this one film, this one character, this ONE PERFORMANCE.

Friday, March 14, 2014

OMG thank you Jesus!


Can we take a few moments to talk about how Marion Cotillard may possibly have the best career in Hollywood right now.  Well, maybe that is misleading, since one of the things that makes her career so wonderful is that it doesn't rest on Hollywood's shoulders.  She's one of those rare cases where an actress has actually carved out a BETTER career for herself post Oscar-win.  I know that that statement sounds odd, since winning an Oscar is supposed to be this great career achievement, but look what it did for Halle Berry, Reese Witherspoon, Charlize Theron and a slew of others who seemed to disappear or become relegated to shitty roles in shitty movies.  Theron has had a resurgence as of late, but her immediate post-Oscar career was messy.

Cotillard took that Oscar and went on to pick great projects, great roles, great directors and only continues to add to that resume.  Since winning in 2007 for her role in La Vie en Rose, she has gone on to work with directors like Michael Mann, Christopher Nolan, Woody Allen, Steven Soderbergh, Rob Marshall and Jacques Audiard.  She has films set to release this year with James Gray and Guillaume Canet and she has films in the works with Justin Kurzel and THE DARDENNE BROTHERS!!!

And that is what we're here to talk about.

Trailer Break: Get on Up


This is going to be a fucking mess, but I smell a Supporting Actress nomination for Viola Davis.  Seriously though, this looks pretty fucking awful.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Let's Review Something: Inside Llewyn Davis


The Coen Brothers are one of the most beloved directing duos (possibly THE most beloved) in all the world, and it’s easy to see why.  Both Joel and Ethan Coen have done their best to cultivate and maintain a pretty impressive resume of films that span genres, themes and circumstance and yet all rest comfortably in the flare of their stylistic dead-pan writing.  They understand humor and how it incorporates itself comfortably into drama, and they know how to spin tales so bizarre they feel authentically human.  Yes, they fail from time to time (and when they do it’s usually pretty awful) but they’ve earned to right to fail.

Their best is better than most.

Since their Oscar win back in 2007, the Coen’s have been dwelling comfortably in Oscar’s good graces, racking up nominations for their writing and their films and their actors and their directing and have pretty much become an Oscar staple, so it was easy to see why so many presumed ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’ was going to be another big hit for them.  It received unanimous praise at the festival circuit as well as upon its theatrical release, and it looked primed for Oscar acceptance.

And then it received a Sound Mixing nomination and NOTHING else.

What makes this all the more depressing is that this is possibly their finest film since ‘Fargo’!

While the rest of the world was devouring their every output, I was reluctantly holding off until they delivered something that felt tighter, stronger and more in the vein of what I expect from them.  I really like ‘No Country for Old Men’, but to me that wasn’t a true Coen Brothers film.  ‘True Grit’ had a stronger sense of their whit about it, but it still felt muffled under the guess of two beloved directors trying to test out their range.  ‘A Serious Man’ felt like a return to their roots, their true form, and yet it was messy and incoherent and really needed some elaboration in parts.

Fandango Groovers' Captain American Blogathon: or shit I'd tell some frozen dude to watch once he thawed out...


Fandango Groovers is hosting another blogathon, and since it was so much fun to compile my thoughts on his ‘Mixtape Movies’, I had to bite at this one too.  This was really, really hard.  He’s saddled us with the task of finding ten films we’d recommend to someone who has been ‘out of pocket’ between the years of 1943 and 2011.  This was inspired by a snippet from the upcoming ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’, where Steve Rogers makes some notes on things he’s been told to catch up on, now that he isn’t frozen any longer.  On that list was two movies, ‘Rocky’ and ‘Rocky II’.  Why anyone would wish those film blunders on anyone else is beyond me, but that isn’t the point.  We are now asked to compile a list of ten films we’d recommend from someone who has missed out on 68 years of awesome cinema.

How do you narrow this down?

Part of me thought of compiling my list of my ten favorite films.  If I did that, it would look like this (alpha-order):

E.T.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Jules et Jim
La Dolce Vita
Laurence Anyways
My Man Godfrey
Pierrot le Fou
Rocco and His Brothers
The Smiling Lieutenant
Some Like it Hot

But, I’d have to remove three of these films because two of them are from the 30’s (and he would have been warm blooded at that point) and one of them is from last year, which is passed the 2011 cut-off.  So you’d have to take out ‘Laurence Anyways’, ‘The Smiling Lieutenant' and ‘My Man Godfrey’ and replace them the next three in line; ‘In the Bedroom’, ‘The Red Shoes’ and ‘The Last Picture Show’.  But this got me thinking; are these really the ten films I’d recommend to someone who has missed out on everything, or would I want to show them a comprehensive look at the progressive nature of film over the past 68 years?  I mean, this top ten could work for that, in that it shows a wide range of genres, themes and directors, but is THIS the list I think best describes all that cinema has offered over the years?

No.

Let's Review Something: 12 Years a Slave


I have to admit, I’m honestly torn here.  Figuring out how to honestly address the concerns that I have with a film that many have lauded as one of the most important films of our time is difficult, but being honest is the most important thing that anyone can be when compiling their thoughts on a film.  What’s the point in writing a review if you’re merely going to cower to what everyone else is saying in an attempt to be liked?  But, in the same way that I am torn at the idea of writing this review, I’m also torn with regards to the film itself, a film that had all the right intentions and the right storyline and yet failed in so many areas due to the mishandling of key attributes by the film’s director, Steve McQueen.

That actually really hurt me to say.

I’ve been intrigued by McQueen’s career since his first feature film in 2008, ‘Hunger’.  He had such a harsh and dominating style, one that drew you in to each solitary moment and held you there, sometimes for extended moments, to make you feel each and every fiber of the film.  ‘Shame’ was a brilliant depiction of suffering, addiction and anguish and was filmed with such precision, necessary detachment and obvious passion.  When it was announced that McQueen’s next film was going to be ’12 Years a Slave’ it was instantly one of my most anticipated of 2013.  Often, the complaint thrown at films of this nature is that they are too sentimental and because of that they lack the harsh realism needed to make these stories truth telling.  McQueen seemed like the perfect voice, because his sentimental values have always been subtle; instead offering us a coldness that felt more honest.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

I expected something grander...


I still remember rather vividly my first impression of Kar Wai Wong.  It was late, my wife and daughter were in bed, and I decided to take ‘Chungking Express’ out of the Nexflix package and pop it in for some ‘me time’.  I’d been excited to wrap my head around the beloved hype that surrounded Wong as a director, but especially the film itself, which is often raved as his finest.  I sat there for the entirety of the film with wide eyes, basking in the beauty of it all, and then as it ended I found myself shaking off the veneer of visual splendor to declare the film a mediocre shame.

THAT WAS IT?

I know that my opinion of that particular film is a rare one (but I am not alone, I know that for sure) but it is my opinion and remains that way.  Sadly, my first experience with Wong was not the one I wanted it to be.  My second was much better, for the next film I saw was ‘My Blueberry Nights’, and once again it was visually stunning and yet confused, messy and somewhat vapid.

They say third time is a charm for a reason; and ‘In the Mood for Love’ is that reason.

Since devouring that film, I’ve quickly consumed all things Kar Wai Wong, and I continue to look forward to his works despite the rare hiccups.  His trilogy (‘Days of Being Wild’, ‘In the Mood for Love’ & ‘2046’) remains my favorite trilogy of all time and his stunning ability to portray the hostilities, frailties and honesties of love in the most languid and richly beautiful ways has made films like ‘Happy Together’ so utterly refreshing.  Having recently seen ‘Ashes of Time’, I felt good and ready for Wong’s take on the Kung-Fu genre (yes, I’m fully aware that ‘Ashes of Time’ is NOT a Kung-Fu movie, but you can ascertain the similarities).  The fact that this received relatively strong reviews and even racked up a few Oscar nominations (and came close to a nomination for Foreign Film) had me even more excited for this to be a needed comeback for the director.

Honestly, he hasn’t made ANYTHING since ‘My Blueberry Nights’!

Mara may be flying to Neverland...


Ok, so we talked about this last year, when it was announced that Joe Wright was going to be filming a version of 'Peter Pan', but now casting news is breaking and it looks like Rooney Mara is thinking of joining Jackman and Hedlund on the film, and she's reportedly eyeing the role of Tiger Lily!  I like this idea, since she's one of those stars I'm really anxious to see soar, but I have to say that I was really hoping this would go to someone like Q'orianka Kilcher, especially since they aren't shooting for someone younger.  I mean, it's hard enough for various nationalities to find work, and someone like Kilcher, who was PERFECTION in 'The New World' would have been tailor made for this role.  Still, I'm excited enough because I think Mara would make an interesting choice and bring someone special to the role.

What are your thoughts?

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Let's Review Something: A Hijacking


Sadly, most people haven’t heard of ‘A Hijacking’, and many who have read the synopsis and said “this is just ‘Captain Phillips’ with subtitles” and decided to skip it altogether.  I have to admit, as much as I’m an avid foreign film advocate, I almost skipped it for the very same reason.  ‘Captain Phillips’ was still fresh in my mind and the idea of watching a film that appeared to be a very similar narrative had me uninterested. 

I’ve learned many times over to never judge a book by its cover, and here is yet another reason why that is just poor judgment.

The start of something great…


I had a really strange feeling while I was watching ‘I Killed My Mother’ this morning.  I have a strong feeling that, had I seen this back in 2009, I would have raved it to high heavens.  Unfortunately, the film was not released stateside until last year and so I was not able to see it until now.  So, instead of seeing this when it was made (and raved) I had to wait until after I had seen Dolan’s second and third films.  Looking at a filmmaker’s roots can be a really informative activity.  It helps you to see where that director came from and see the growth they have made over the course of their career.  It’s strange to talk about Xavier Dolan’s career as if it were miles long, since he’s only made four films (‘Tom at the Farm’ has not been released stateside yet), but watching ‘I Killed My Mother’ within the same year as I saw ‘Laurence Anyways’ shows SO MUCH growth it is almost as if he has been making films for years.

Dolan has a direct style and signature way of presenting his material.  This can be distracting when he doesn’t know when to rein it in.  ‘Laurence Anyways’ was such a beautiful example of using your visual style as a key plot devise, but allowing yourself to pull back in order to progress your story properly.  It was effortlessly restrained. 

‘I Killed My Mother’ has no restraint.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Now for some Variety: Alfonso Cuaron 3x's




Cuaron's post-Oscar interview is up on Variety's website, and it's worth the read.  It's also worth just staring at the pictures.  I love this man.  Not only is he extremely talented, but he's so humble and charming and good looking; the complete package!  I'm really aching to see what he does next.  You have no idea how happy I am that he didn't get Fincher'd.  I was so scared that David O. Russell was going to come out of nowhere and steal Alfonso's Oscar, but NO!  Honestly, my favorite Oscar win in the history of forever (exaggeration extremely slight) and I'm so stoked that I think I may just dedicate this blog to the awesomeness that is this particular Oscar win.

I think this calls for a new banner!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Five for the Fifth: or my answers to Ruth's five questions this month...


Another month and another 5th has brought us to Ruth's monthly five finger punch of questions poised to get the blogosphere talking.  I try each month to dedicate a post to her questions (although I do fail often) and so when I saw that she posted her questions this morning I jumped on the chance to dedicate my morning to answering them!

These ones are extra fun too, so that helps!

From TV to the Civil War (not the musical group) to Superheros to authors and Will fucking Smith, these cover a wide range of subjects and are well worth diving into, so take a  gander and jump on over to Ruth's page to post your own answers!

Let's get into it!

One final look at Oscar Night (link time, bitches)...


I apologize for the banner being really fucking small.  I wanted it to fit but I also didn't want to condense the moments I chose to highlight.  You can always enlarge it, if you so choose.

Anyways, if you haven't seen my personal recap of Oscar night, here it is (yes, that is called shameless self-promotion), but this post really isn't about me (or is it?).  Instead of blabbering about Oscar highlights I forgot to mention (some of which are showcased in my banner) I decided to hand the reigns over to some fellow bloggers who made me smile, laugh and cheer with their hilarious post-Oscar reaction posts.

So, let the linkage commence!

  • Brittani mourns The Hunt's Oscar loss and debates changing her Oscar banner to Brad Pitt stuffing his face.
  • A lot has been said about Adele Dazeem, but my favorite dedication post comes from The Awards Nazi.
  • There is so much greatness (and Spike Jonze love) to be seen in Nikhat's post; bullet-point by bullet-point!
  • Elina gifs up her post with some great speeches and moments and pizza and poor, poor Leo...
  • As per always, Ruth gives a pretty awesome rundown of the whole shebang, and offers us her faves and least faves of the night.
  • I love that MrJeffrey chose to highlight the wonderful graphic designs from Sunday's show.
  • Possibly the most entertaining blogger in the entire blogosphere, Sati, has compiled a hodgepodge of gifs, bullet-points, snarky observations and personal feelings to pretty much ensure that her post-Oscar post is the best one out there!
  • Well, it would be the best one out there if Nate over at The Film Experience hadn't done this.


And that is that!  Until next year, bitches!!!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Let's Review Something: The Square


Last year I decided that I was going to make an active effort to see more documentaries.  They are the one medium of film that I usually avoid, but because I don’t like them but because there are so many other films I feel the need to cram into a year that I never have or make the time for them.  This year, because of all the hype and buzz surrounding so many of the Oscar hopefuls, I really wanted to see as many as I could.

There were a lot of experimental documentaries out this year, covering a wide range of subjects.  From reenactments to go-pro madness, from real life mysteries to gay rights and untimely deaths.

2013 was no shortage on real life being presented as art.

‘The Square’ was one of those docs that was touted as a real gem.  While the year’s awards seemed to be shelled out to two primary candidates (‘The Act of Killing’ and ‘Stories We Tell’) Oscar seemed to center on a few surprising candidates, including this one.  I actually crammed this viewing in a few days before the Oscar ceremony and was astounded with how powerful it was, and how moved I was by the presentation of material that I was, until that moment, unfamiliar with.

A Disney Top Ten...or TWENTY!


In celebration of Disney’s big night this past Sunday, I wanted to dedicate the first ever Fisti DOUBLE Top Ten to the wonderful world of Disney music.  Yes, each and every year (that gives us a new Disney cartoon) we pine over which songs will be included and what potential they’ll have to be considered instant classics (and what Oscar potential they will carry) and since Disney’s latest Oscar grab included a MUCH deserved win for Best Original Song, this is only appropriate.  When one thinks about Oscar’s Original Song category, one almost immediately links it to Disney cartoons, but when compiling this double list I found that there are so many Disney films that were completely snubbed in this category.  In fact, only 24 Original Song nominations come from Disney movies, and of those 24 songs, only 17 actual films were represented here.  I was kind of shocked to see some of the omissions, even from films that are beloved by so many, including AMPAS. 

Of those 24 songs, only 8 of them have won.

Seriously, this is blowing my mind.

So, my two fold Top Ten (or Top Twenty, if you so desire to label it) contains my Top Ten NOMINATED Disney songs and my Top Ten SNUBBED Disney songs.

I only included films that were part of Disney’s MAIN studio (not the branches they also distribute for) and obviously ONLY their theatrical releases, and I did NOT include their collaborations with Pixar.  I wanted to distance this from other studios and feature those beloved classic contributions to film that are sole children of Disney.


So, let’s get this thing started!

A mini ScarJo is on the way!


Unlike that attention whore, Oscar nabbing Natalie Portman, Scarlett Johansson decided to wait until AFTER the Oscar ceremony to announce that she was with child, even though statistically she may have been able to swing an Oscar nom for her lauded work in Her had she just dropped the bomb a few months sooner (reportedly she's five months along).

I kid, I kid...she probably wouldn't have been nominated regardless.

Oh, and I don't hate Natalie Portman or her Oscar win that much.

But YAY for ScarJo.  She's going to be one hot mamma!  Seriously, I happen to find pregnancy to be one of the most beautiful stages in a woman's life, and Scarlett is already the most beautiful woman in the world, so now she's only going to be THAT MUCH more beautiful!  Congratulations Scarlett.  I'd congratulate your man, but in my head you are still single and waiting for me to leave my wife and find you.

One day my love; one day.

Monday, March 3, 2014

And the Oscar goes to...


I debated live blogging this...and then I opted to just lay on the couch and watch it with my daughter.  It is the first year since I've been actively watching the Oscars (since 2001) that I had someone to watch with me BECAUSE they were actively rooting for a film to win.  We were Team Gravity and Team Frozen and we both ended the night very happy with our team performances.  There are so many things I had to say last night that I've completely forgotten about this morning.  Cate Blanchett was, once again, the best dressed of the night.  She also gave the best speech.  Matthew McConaughey gave his best speech, but it was way too rehearsed and kind of annoying.  The fact that he has an Oscar is also very annoying, but bad actors win Oscar all the time.  Lupita Nyong'o is easily one of the most BEAUTIFUL women on the planet.  She's just fucking stunning!  

Cuaron's Oscar win may be my favorite win in the history of Oscar.  

I'm not joking.  

SO FUCKING DESERVED.

Oh, and HE HAS TWO!!!


John Travolta butchering Idina Menzel's name was atrocious, embarrassing and ridiculous.  I hate that guy.  I mean, you have ONE thing to do on Oscar night and you can't do that right?  Were you surprised that she was singing that song?  Why didn't you practice her name at home?  I mean, you are an idiot.  I blame him for her butchering that last note.  She was nervous.  She just found out that someone else was supposed to be singing that song and she lost her concentration.  John Travolta ruins everything.

Also, the fact that I literally cried when Frozen won just reaffirmed why I love it so much (UGH, when 'Let it Go' won and they dedicated it to their daughters I wept uncontrollably) and further cemented the film in my top five of the year.

I also did decent but not wonderful with my predictions.  I'm thoroughly shocked that American Hustle won NOTHING last night.  I got 17 correct, with 6 alternates and one complete bomb.  The first year that I actually watch the Live Actions Shorts and that's the only category I got completely wrong! 

Oh, and Ellen DeGeneres was brilliant last night.  She should honestly host every year.  That was how the ceremony should go.  She was brisk, to the point and hilarious.  There weren't elongated numbers that took away from the show, but instead she kept us in the moment, and her interaction with the nominees was the greatest thing I've ever seen at the Oscars.  Her selfie, the pizza (my GOD, Brad Pitt passing out paper plates was the funniest thing EVER!) and her pitch perfect timing all made for one of the best Oscar ceremonies ever.

I love her.


So last night was fun.  Next year could be awesome too!  

Oh, yeah...you probably want a list of winners (like you don't already know):

Best Picture:  12 Years a Slave
Director:  Gravity (Alfonso Cuaron)
Adapted Screenplay:  12 Years a Slave
Original Screenplay:  Her
Lead Actor:  Dallas Buyers Club (Matthew McConaughey)
Lead Actress:  Blue Jasmine (Cate Blanchett)
Supporting Actress:  12 Years a Slave (Lupita Nyong'o)
Supporting Actor:  Dallas Buyers Club (Jared Leto)
Film Editing:  Gravity
Costume Design:  The Great Gatsby
Cinematography:  Gravity
Art Direction:  The Great Gatsby
Visual Effects:  Gravity
Makeup:  Dallas Buyers Club
Sound Editing:  Gravity
Sound Mixing:  Gravity
Score:  Gravity
Song:  Frozen (Let it Go)
Documentary:  20 Feet from Stardom
Foreign Film:  The Great Beauty
Animated Film:  Frozen
Live Action Short:  Helium
Documentary Short:  The Lady in Number 6
Animated Short:  Mr. Hublot

Quick recap gives Gravity 7 Oscar wins, the biggest haul of the night (by a VERY large margin).  Both Dallas Buyers Club and 12 Years a Slave took home 3 a piece.  Frozen and The Great Gatsby each have 2 Oscars to their names.  The rest of the wealth was spread thin.  

Now...why did Gravity lose Best Picture if it was the best directed, editing, visual and aural film of the year?

Oh yeah...

"Possibility number one: '12 Years a Slavewins best picture. Possibility number twoYou're all racists."