Friday, February 20, 2009

2009 Oscar Predictions

Best Picture - Slumdog Millionaire - RIGHT

Best Director - Danny Boyle - RIGHT

Best Cinematography - Anthony Dod Mantle: Slumdog Millionaire - RIGHT

Best Actress - Kate Winslet - RIGHT

Best Actor - Mickey Rourke - WRONG!!!! (Sean Penn)

Best Supporting Actress - Penelope Cruz - RIGHT

Best Supporting Actor - Heath Ledger - RIGHT

Best Original Screenplay - Milk - RIGHT

Best Adapted Screenplay - Slumdog Millionaire - RIGHT

Best Documentary - Man on Wire - RIGHT

Best Animated - Wall-E - RIGHT

Best Song - Slumdog Millionaire - Jai Ho - RIGHT

Best Score - Slumdog Millionaire - RIGHT

Best Make Up - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button - RIGHT

Best Foreign - Waltz With Bashir - WRONG (Departures)

Best Costume - The Dutchess - RIGHT

Best Editing - Slumdog Millionaire - RIGHT

Best Sound - The Dark Knight - RIGHT

Best Sound Mixing - The Dark Knight - WRONG (Slumdog Millionaire)

Best Visual Effects - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button - RIGHT

Best Art Direction - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button - RIGHT

Best Live Action Short - Toyland - RIGHT

Best Live Animated Short - Presto - WRONG (Spielzeugland)

Best Documentary Short - The Witness - WRONG (Smile Pinki)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

If your last name starts with the letter A you're 87% more likely to be amazing director...

Woody Allen - My lord and savior.  The first celebrity that I would actually consider Godlike and therefore worthy of goat sacrifices and 72-hour fasting.  The best part about him is that his movies can never be remade.  Not necessarily because of the style, but because Woody Allen himself is so much a part of them.  Annie Hall, Husbands and Wives, Manhattan, Hannah and Her Sisters would not nearly be as powerful were it not for his presence. I love him with all my heart and will be worshipping him this Sunday from 1 - 2:30pm.


1.  Annie Hall ('77)

2.  Manhattan ('79)

3.  Husbands and Wives ('92)

Robert Altman - I just finished A Wedding and am inspired beyond belief.  Talk about a style - the overlapping dialogue, the slow zooms, the voyeur camera and most importantly the CHARACTERS.  In A Wedding we get to know FORTY-EIGHT people in two hours.  There is nothing like a perfect balance of comedy and reality - usually movies are too serious or too slapstick, Altman is a genius.


1.  Short Cuts ('93)

2.  A Wedding ('78)

3.  California Split ('74)

Paul Thomas Anderson - Let’s review this guys biography.  Goes to Emerson for English, transfers to NYU for a day.  Decides film school is bullshit.  Makes an AMAZING feature length film when he’s only 25 years old - Hard Eight, makes one of the best movies of ALL TIME when he’s only 26 - Boogie Nights.  Follows it up with another breathtaking movie only two years later - Magnolia.  About eight years later, he makes what will be considered one of the top ten greatest films of the last quarter century - There Will Be Blood.  Directors die before even approaching his level of talent and depth.  Amen.  


1.  Boogie Nights ('97)

2.  Magnolia ('99)

3.  There Will Be Blood ('08)

Wes Anderson - I don’t like his movies, but considering a bunch of people do I figure I’ll add him.  I'll leave it to your imagination for what he is.

TOP 1 and only...

1.  Bottle Rocket ('96)

Michelangelo Antonioni - I forgot where I heard about the opening scene of The Adventure, but who cares.  It combines beauty and thrills, warmth and chills, coffee and spills.  Combined with his other two films of the trilogy and you got a worthy battle for Bergman’s trilogy, a winner against Van Sants and a knock out against Mr. Argento below.  Then there's Blow Up; finally a film incorporating French New Wave techniques without falling into obscurity and boredom. Thank  ye.  While The Adventure has an amazing opening scene, Blow Up takes the cake for one of the coolest closing scenes.  


1.  The Eclipse ('62)

2.  The NIght ('62)

3.  Blow Up ('66)

Dario Argento - I keep saying I’ll write a post on Suspiria; the horror film that changed my life, its too scary though.  It's part two of his “witch trilogy” and definitely his best.  While no one else has been able to live up to Hitchcock’s countless thrillers, only Argento has been able to develop an extremely unique take on Hitchy’s style - the Giallo.


1.  Suspiria ('77)

2.  Deep Red ('75)

3.  Inferno ('80)

Sunday, February 15, 2009


Kind of a slow week...

Movies from February 9th - 16th, 2009

1.  Mildred Pierce (1945) Dir. Michael Curtiz - 4/4
I can't remember the last time I've seen a movie with such despicably interesting characters.  Definitely up there with Casablanca.  

2.  Fast, Cheap and Out of Control (1997) Dir. Errol Morris - 4/4
A uniquely philosophical documentary revolving around four types of animals - natural, imaginary, produced and trained.  One man makes robots, another is a topiary, the other is a lion tamer, and the final is interested in mole rats.  I'm trying to think of any documentary like it, but even Morris's Vernon, Florida or Gates of Heaven cannot compare since they're still documenting a specific mode of life rather than exploring a very interesting question.  Namely, where do we fit in?

2.  W. (2008) Dir. Oliver Stone - 3.5/4
Another prime example of a film having been built down so much that it inevitably resulted in being a lot better than I thought.  Regardless, I kept thinking if this wasn't a movie about a real person would I even find it realistic?  I see George Bush and never pause to think that he's a real person with history and issues.  Even though he is horrendously stupid it nevertheless is highly impressive that he got to be the most powerful man in the world.

4.  Mr. Death (1999) Dir. Errol Morris - 3.5/4
I LOVE Errol Morris, but sadly only have two films of his left.  This documentary deals with a man who specializes in making execution devices more humane until he gets hired to investigate the truth behind the Nazi Concentration Camps.  He concludes their were never gas chambers, leading to the death of his career.  Come the end, only Errol Morris can you leave on the fence with whether Mr. Leuchter was really THAT bad of a guy.  Awesome movie.

5.  Standard Operating Procedure (2008) Dir. Errol Morris - 3/4
I was originally going to say this was a 3.5/4 but it just didn't have the lingering effect that Taxi to the Dark Side did.  First of all, its a bit too flashy in style, though Errol Morris's recreation of the events is getting to be amazingly beautiful.  Deals with the photographs/torture in Abu Graib.  Pretty good.

6. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) Dir. Don Siegel - 3/4
My new favorite horror movie is the 1978 remake of this picture and makes me further state that its one of the best remakes of all time.  The interesting thing is whether its an allegory for the threat of Communism or for the monotonous state of American suburban life.  I'll go with the former, but it's pretty awesome that a movie can fluctuate between staunch Right and Left wing agendas.

7.  The Magic Flute (1975) Dir. Ingmar Bergman - 3/4
Only Ingmar Bergman would make a movie about an opera AND have it take place in a theater setting.  I would say he basically filmed a play, buts its slightly different.  The first question to be asked, "Why wouldn't I just want to go see a real opera?"  Well, I don't like opera for one and two this movie was actually pretty fun.  Though I can confidently say I'll probably never see it again.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Wrestling With Slumdog

Why The Wrestler is Best Picture Material...

Recently, my buddy said this regarding my blogpost about Slumdog Millionaire...  

“Before you saw the Wrestler, you were all for this movie. 

Mickey Rourke was a son of a b*#$! in the Wrestler, he did steroids, screwed his daughter over by banging some skank in a bathroom, and WORST of all, he didn't go for Marissa Tomei. He deserved that heart attack. Jamal was a cool dude, and he had a heart, he fell in love.”

Here is the problem: Many people consider Slumdog Millionaire a gripping, exciting non-stop action movie, but no one wants to consider what the hell its saying/asking.  The kid who wrote the above quote made me realize Crash is an extremely overrated movie.  Well, the same thing is happening with Crash as with Slumdog - all style and no substance.  To expalin: I loved Crash the first time I saw it, and from what I recall my friend did too.  Though after I thought about it - with the help of my friend’s reasoning - I realized the movie wasn’t saying anything profound (unlike e.g. - Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?, Do the Right Thing, The Color Purple, American History X).  A lot of people love Crash for its portrayal of racial problems in modern society.  But I beg the differ, I think its because the movie is part of the growing movement of interlinked stories that connect in the end (a movement I personally love, just not in this instance).  Hence, Crash is a movie that is aesthetically good, but thematically bad.  

Regarding Slumdog, I understand Jamal followed his heart and fell in love, but if people are only going to observe the film from an outside perspective rather than looking into the message then I am nervous for any and all philosophical insight expressed within future cinema.  This in fact allows me to bring up my new favorite quote from Mike Leigh’s Naked (emphasizing the italicized) is a perfect description of how people seem to regard all aspects of cultural activity.

“Was I bored? No, I wasn't fuckin' bored. I'm never bored. That's the trouble with everybody - you're all so bored. You've had nature explained to you and you're bored with it, you've had the living body explained to you and you're bored with it, you've had the universe explained to you and you're bored with it, so now you want cheap thrills and plenty of them, and it doesn't matter how tawdry or vacuous they are as long as it's new, as long as it flashes and fuckin' bleeps in forty fuckin' different colors. So whatever else you can say about me, I'm not fuckin' bored.”

That description sums of my attitude of Slumdog Millionaire, forty fucking different bleeping colors, nothing more, nothing less.

Alright, on with The Wrestler, the best movie of the year. From the opening credits I knew that I was viewing cinematic perfection.  From the very beginning Aronovsky plays with our emotions - the 80’s metal playing over cheesy credits established a positive view that is quickly destroyed within the first ten minutes.  The Ram has a dead end job with a shitty boss, has become estranged from his daughter, is in love with a stripper-mother and has a body that is moments away from complete break down.  

So what does he do after his heart attack?  Does he try and repair the relationship with his daughter?  Does he try to find a job with a better future?  Does he choose Marisa Tomei in the end?  No, because his love is with wrestling.  The time for rebuilding broken bridges or establishing new ones has come and gone.   

Even if he were to try and repair them it would have been out of selfish motives.  His daughter is not five or ten years old, she is twenty.  The pain of dealing with the absence of her father has clearly been something she’s come to terms with. If you pay close enough attention, she doesn’t even ask what happened when he didn’t show up, she just assumed he ditched her.  Correctly yes, but it distinguishes the extremely delicate nature of her capability for forgiveness.  From the little about we learn about The Ram its understood that he has not had the best of luck with women (he's alone and seems to have been for awhile).  As for work, he has yet to find a job that gives him fulfillment and satisfaction.  When he is “enjoying” himself at the super market its obviously in bad faith rather than genuine contentment.  The Ram quickly understands that he is good at one thing and one thing only, that he loves to do one thing and one thing only and that is wrestle. 

Not many people are willing to live in a trailer, below the poverty line, barely making ends reach.  Most would try and find security through a nice pension and quality benefits after their golden age of youth (or in the Ram’s case golden age of wrestling).  The Ram does not sacrifice his dreams and even goes so far as to die for them.  It is NOT about the fame, it is NOT about the fortune, it is about genuine love and dedication.  The absurdity is that its wrestling, but such an absurdity is also the beauty.  It is not even closely considered an honorable profession, and yet Aronovsky can somehow portray all of the wrestlers within the film with immense amount of depth and substance.  To strive for becoming a professional musician, director, painter, actor or whatever is something that provides the possibility of being one day blessed with reward and honor.  But The Ram, who ignores the stares and confusion of the masses, goes beyond the typical and embraces his absurd passion without humility or reservation.

So in the end, are you really going to tell me that Jamal is a better person for falling in love with a beautiful girl?  Does that make him stronger?  I think the stronger man is the one who can disregard such trivialities and rather be willing to sacrifice his life for doing what he loves.  I will even declare that The Ram is one of the most heroic characters of cinema.  After all, what takes more courage - to pursue a gorgeous Marissa Tomei/your deeply damaged daughter, understanding the massively negative consequences let alone the obscenely selfish agenda? Or to turn away from those potential modes of happiness and into a life of solitude which is rather dedicated wholeheartedly towards passion?

Monday, February 9, 2009


So I forgot to do last Monday's update (surprise surprise) and so am combining the two.

January 26th - February 9th, 2009

1.  Scarlett Street (1946) - 4/4
Edward G. Robinson embodies a feminine persona, the movie makes me want to paint regardless of how terrible I am, Fritz Lang somehow takes us from hilarious comedy to high tension drama to terrifying horror.  This movie was one of the best classics I've seen in a long time.

2.  Vera Drake (2003) - 4/4
My third indulgence of Mike Leigh and expectedly another amazing film.  Regardless of me being anything but in the mood for a period piece Leigh triumphs with sucking me in through his beautiful style.

3.  For the Bible Tells Me So (2007) - 4/4
As if my attitude towards Conservative Christians couldn't get any worse this movie reveals the anti-gay sentiments being preached in the church on false pretense.  It has a very interesting structure involving families who condoned homosexuals until their own children came out to them.  Ah...hypocrisy. 

4.  On the Waterfront (1954) - 4/4
This is the second time I've seen the movie; we watched it for my History of American Society on Film.  First, read the story of Elia Kazan selling out his friends during the HUAC trials, how many of the Hollywood elite protested his honorary Oscar in 1999 because of this and then see how Brando embodies this whole story. Amazing movie.

3.  RocknRolla (2008) - 3.5/4
Maybe it was because of Tom Wilkison, but I haven't seen a movie this badass since There Will Be Blood.  Since the credits rolled I have been playing Bankrobber by The Clash before every shower.

4.  The Visitor (2008)  3.5/4
For some reason every time I saw the cover of this movie I envisioned a terrible attempt by Greg Kinnear to recapture the wholesomeness of Little Miss Sunshine - yes, I know its not him.   Well, its definitely not that at all.  Yet although it starts out really strong, near the last third it falls in and out of dramatic cliche.

5.  Waltz With Bashir (2008) 3.5/4
Israel's nomination for the Best Foreign Film Oscar is an extremely original take on documenting the horrors of the 1983 Palestinian/Israel war. It could have been a documentary, but come the end you understand why it wasn't.

6.  The Class (2008) 3.5/4
The Palm d'Or Winner at Cannes Film Festival is about a teacher and his inner city class, played by a real teacher, based upon his book about teaching the inner city class.  The kids all play themselves, yet have admitted they created their own characters.  Explores a lot of interesting questions of the relationship between kids and teachers.

7.  Gates of Heaven (1978) - 3.5/4
This is one of Roger Ebert's top 10 films of ALL TIME, and perhaps that's why I didn't really think it was THAT good - too built up.  But I can agree with the man, it takes a genius to make an amazing documentary about Pet Cemetery owners.  

8.  In the Mood for Love (2001) - 3.5/4
I've had this movie in my Netflix Queue for about three or four years.  I was hoping it'd be one of those amazing gems like Naked turned out to be.  It was good, but not great.  

9.  Vernon Florida (1981) - 3.5/4
I read a lot of posts by people saying that this movie exploited the people of the South in a horrible manner.  I disagree.  I think these people say some of the most profound things I've ever heard in a documentary, namely, the old man on the boat regarding the Atheist.  

10.  Gran Torino (2008) - 3/4
First off, Clint Eastwood is badass, but it came dangerously close to pulling a Crash (the movie) with the not-so-subtle themes/cliches:  Walter being an obscene racist, he hates everyone, everyone hates him, the obnoxiously rude grandchildren and for that matter all kids in general and naturally the ethnic boy who challenges his attitude. Wait, more cliches: Walter being a Jesus character, he's a good man in the end, everyone likes him.  Eh...

11.  Sands of Iwo Jima (1949) - 3/4
John Wayne is becoming the new Chuck Norris to me, but at least this movie had better special effects than Mr. Eastwood's Flags of Our Fathers - i.e. no CGI

12.  I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry (2008) - 2.5/4
Jessica Biel.
13.  Home Movie (2001) - 2.5/4
With Chris Smith just coming back from American Movie I will cut him some slack, but overall this movie SUCKs.  He's trying to capture the Mark Borchardt persona, but none of these characters come even remotely close to him (who would?).  It seems like Smith is trying to pull an Errol Morris, but where Errol Morris can show the beautiful, enlightening moments of people's lives, Smith is too caught up in the quirky and weird rather than the story.

Double Indemnity (1944) - 4/4
Considering how many times I've seen this movie I figure I shouldn't be ranking it.  Its one of my favorite film noirs, but its becoming like a song I've heard too many times.