Sunday, February 26, 2012

POST-OSCAR ANALYSIS: MAN, I NEVER PREDICTED THIS BADLY!



As I have just now finished banging my head against the wall and mutters to myself "Why the hell didn't I pick Dujardin to win?", we have to come the end of Award season, and the Oscars are over. Time for some thoughts. First, Wow, my picks sucked! I can't remember the last time I got 3 Acting categories wrong! (Thank you Christopher Plummer, and thank you Albert Brooks for not getting nominated and henceforth making that category difficult to predict). Some I understand. I had a hard time myself picking between Dujardin and Clooney personally myself who I thought was better, much less, who I thought would win. I think a lot of people, including Meryl Streep thought Viola Davis was going win for "The Help". Maybe they should've pushed her for Supporting Actress, where her castmate Octavia Spencer won. I thought they were gonna find a way for Melissa McCarthy to win. It would've been nice for a comedic performance to win in that category, none has since Marisa Tomei for "My Cousin Vinny".

So let's count, 3 acting wrong, 1/4.
Director/Picture right, 3/6
Two writing right (Congratulations Woody!) 5/8

After that..., well Billy Crystal was great, wasn't he! From the opening, to the end, they should really get him every year, it's so much better when he's there!

Oh, the rest of my ballot, right. Alright, how the hell did Emmanuel Lubezki not win for "The Tree of Life"! That was just wrong. I love Robert Richardson, and "Hugo" is amazing (My review will be in my next review blog!), but to not give "The Tree of Life," something is just wrong, and if you weren't giving it to Malick, they really should've given it to him. The lighting is amazing.

Okay, 5/9
Animation I got right, Best Picture and Short 7/11

I think everybody got the Documentary category wrong. "Undefeated," was the one movie that I don't think anybody thought was gonna win that, of course, not to many people have seen it either. Man, the Oscars just have no love to the New German filmmakers, do they? Wenders, losing twice now. Got the short wrong too, although I almost picked "Saving Face", shouldn't that count? No! Well, I got the Live Action short.  8/14

I got both music categories right, 10/16. Doesn't look that bad.

Visual Effects, wrong! (Although that was a toss-up for me too)
Sound Mixing, Yes!
Sound Editing, wrong!
Make-up, Wrong! Although kudos to Meryl and Roy her very loyal make-up artist, that was nice. A BTW, Nothing for Harry Potter! 8 movies, 0 Oscars! They must know "Police Adademy" feels. (Oh, I gotta tweet that)
Editing, I got wrong! 2 years in a row for Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall, beating 4 Best Picture nominees! I once said that like most every year, this category will predict Best Picture, boy was I wrong, and they've now won 2 Editing Oscars, for films that didn't win. I'm not sad I got that wrong; I thought it was a tricky category this year, but for a great surprise win, kudos!
Costume Design, wrong!
and Art Direction, I got right, doing the math...

12/23. Oh, Foreigh Language film, 13/24, just barely above .500. Well, it just shows you that with all that time, obsessing and analyzing every single Award and prognastication poll and everything up until the Final Envelopes are opened, it's still amazing just how wrong you can be.

Well, my favorites moments was definitely everything Billy Crystal did, as I mentioned before. "Are you sure this is a Scorsese film, nobody's been whack yet?" and "Even God wants you to explain "The Tree of Life," Malick", for those alone, was worth it for me, and I definitely think that we have to stick with, 1 Host, a great a comedic host for all time, and if we can't get Billy next year and the year after that..., then, maybe talk Chris Rock into doing it again.

But, can I just say that, I'm tired of the special performers and performances for that they bring in to showcase the "In Memoriam" segment! I'm sure they're great performers, and very happy they could perform at the Oscars, but, I just want some somber nameless orchestra score in the background, as I look and think back on people like Peter Falk and Sidney Lumet to name a few of the great people we've lost this past year. This is not an excuse for a concert okay? Everything else from Cirque de Soleil to Will Ferrell and Zach Galifanakis should be over-the-top, and grandiose, the memoriam, should be simple, subdued and somber.

Well, now I gotta come up with something else to talk about for the 12 months until next Award season, and it's still a good 10 months, before I give out my OYL Awards, the Awards for the Best Films for One-Year Ago. I really hope the ratings were good, 'cause this show was wonderful, and for those who haven't seen all the films, (Me included) it's time for us to officially catch up ASAP, so start raiding your Netflix, Redbox, and videostores.

Congratulations to all the deserving winners, deserving nominees, and the rest of the winners and nominees as well. (Oh c'mon, you know there were a few!) Now, go start making this years's great films, all of you! Well, wait 'til the morning, if you want. You can rest of the night drinking, if you want. I know I do....

Friday, February 24, 2012

MY OFFICIAL OSCAR PREDICTIONS! (Note: These "predictions" are in now way official, and should not be considered as such; they're subject to change at any time, including after the ceremony)

It's Oscar weekend here at David Baruffi's Entertainment Views and Reviews! (We've been obsessing for months, so this shouldn't exactly be a surprise!) And now it's time to fill out my final official Oscar Predictions ballot. I want to preface that these are my predictions as to who will win, not my preferences. (Although if I have a preference I may at times note it, but even then, they're all subject to change) Afterwards. we'll be preparing for the Oscars all weekend, except for that brief moment on Saturday where I bitch about not having cable and not being able to watch the Independent Spirit Awards. Okay, we're gonna start at the top.

BEST PICTURE
"The Artist"
"The Descendants"
"Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close"
"The Help"
"Hugo"
"Midnight in Paris"
"Moneyball"
"The Tree of Life"
"War Horse"

I've seen 7 of this year's 9 nominees so far. (I haven't seen "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close", or "War Horse" yet) If there's anything that could upset "The Artist," it's either going to be "Hugo," or "The Descendants", most likely "Hugo," since that movie actually got more nominations, and has some momentum going for it. Maybe, there's an outside chance at "The Tree of Life," garnering enough first place votes, but I doubt it. The rest are essentially also-rans. I'm tempted to predict the upset, but "The Artist," just hasn't lost anything yet, and I can't imagine that it will now.
PREDICTION: "The Artist"

ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
Demian Bichir-"A Better Life"
George Clooney-"The Descendants"
Jean Dujardin-"The Artist"
Gary Oldman-"Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy"
Brad Pitt-"Moneyball"

I've seen three of the nominees in this category so far. (Will be getting to "A Better Life" very shortly, possibly before Oscar broadcast) This is also a tough category. Right now, I think it's a three-man race between Clonney, Dujardin and Pitt and it should be. Those are the three I've seen, and I've having a hard time deciding who I want to win myself. Pitt hasn't won the majority of the Awards, that goes to Clooney, but Dujardin, is on the hot streak, especially after his wins at the SAGs and BAFTAs. Bichir and Oldman, as good as they might be, they're most likely also-rans in the category.
PREDICTION: George Clooney-"The Descendants", barely.

ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
Glenn Close-"Albert Nobbs"
Viola Davis-"The Help"
Rooney Mara-"The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo"
Meryl Streep-"The Iron Lady"
Michelle Williams-"My Week with Marilyn"

I'm a little more in the dark with this category, I've only seen one of the nominees so far, Viola Davis's, and while I loved her performance, I actually hated the movie. She and Meryl Streep are the favorites though, and have split the majority of Awards, but "The Iron Lady," has actually gotten fairly bad reviews as well, and with it only getting two nominees, this and make-up. Part of me thinks that everybody's reading this category wrong and that Michelle Williams is gonna win this. She should've won for "Blue Valentine," last year, and there's a long track history of not only actresses winning for portraying real people, but recent history says they also tend to win playing famous actresses, although "My Week with Marilyn", also only recieved luke-warm reviews and also only got acting nominations. I can't rule out Glenn Close either. This is her sixth nomination, and amazingly she's never won. She's due.
PREDICTION: Viola Davis-"The Help"

ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Kenneth Branagh-"My Week with Marilyn"
Jonah Hill-"Moneyball"
Nick Nolte-"Warrior"
Christopher Plummer-"Beginners"
Max von Sydow-"Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close"

This is easily the most predictable category at this year's Oscars. The only person who was even splitting wins with Christopher Plummer was Albert Brooks for "Drive," but to many peoples' shock (me included), he wasn't nominated, and Plummer's fellow 82-year-old legend Max von Sydow earned the surprise 5th nomination. I haven't seen von Sydow's performance yet, but I've seen three of the performances, and I'd vote for Plummer too. Even though I didn't particularly love "Beginners", he was clearly the best performance and best part of the movie. Jonah Hill is good in "Moneyball," as well. Nolte's nomination completely baffles me. It's not that he's bad in "Warrior," in fact he's quite good, but if this is a nomination-worthy performance by Nick Nolte, than practically every performance he gives should earn him an Oscar nomination. Not that I wouldn't be in favor of that, but that's a strange nomination to me.
PREDICTION: Christopher Plummer-"Beginners"

SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Berenice Bejo-"The Artist"
Jessica Chastain-"The Help"
Melissa McCarthy-"Bridesmaids"
Janet McTeer-"Albert Nobbs"
Octavia Spencer-"The Help"

The only nomination here I haven't seen is Janet McTeer's for "Albert Nobbs". If there was an Award for most acting, Jessica Chastain would've won easily. She's been in six major films this year, and while she's good in "The Help," she's nominated for the wrong movie here, (should've been up for "The Tree of Life") but even still, it'll be tricky for her to win, especially since he co-star Octavia Spencer has won the majority of Awards up until now. If there's an upset, and this category is known for a few, it'll probably go to Melissa McCarthy for "Bridesmaids", which will be a rare straight comedic performance win in this category, but I think that also means she'll be getting votes, especially if they start considering role difficulty. Although, if that becomes a voting standard, than it'll be hard to rule out Berenice Bejo, but I think it's more likely that her and McTeer are also-rans.
PREDICTION: Melissa McCarthy-"Bridesmaids", I'm calling the upset here.

ANIMATED FEATURE FILM
A Cat in Paris
Chico & Rita
Kung Fu Panda 2
Puss In Boots
Rango

"Chico & Rita," and "A Cat in Paris,"'s nominations surprised most casual observers, if for no other reason than they never heard of them. (Although I did predict "Chico & Rita" getting in) If there's an upset, it'll be one of those two films, and most likely of those two, "Chico & Rita". However, there's no upset here. "Rango," won most every Award it's been eligible for this season, and the few they didn't went to "The Adventures of Tintin", which was shockingly not nominated in this category. "Kung Fu Panda 2," and "Puss In Boots," are filling out the category which this year has five nominees since there was more than 15 Animated features released this year.
PREDICTION-"Rango"

DIRECTING
Michel Hazanavicius-"The Artist"
Alexander Payne-"The Descendants"
Martin Scorsese-"Hugo"
Woody Allen-"Midnight in Paris"
Terrence Malick-"The Tree of Life"

I think only six times has the Directing Oscar not gone to the winner of the Director's Guild Award, so this year's winner Michel Hazanavicius, seems like the shoe-in favorite, but there's some room for the trend to stop here. Martin Scorsese won the Golden Globe, one of the rare losses for Hazanavicius, and "Hugo," is the one movie that could upset "The Artist", and while Scorsese won a few years back for "The Departed," there's some thought that that Oscar wasn't for a truly deserving film (While I don't agree with that analysis, I do understand it), and I think most people would rank "Hugo," above "The Departed". One man who wasn't nominated by the DGA was Terrence Malick for "The Tree of Life," and he's actually got a legitimate shot at winning to.  Malick only finishes a movie about once a decade on average, and "The Tree of Life," is not only his most personal film, it's arguably his best, and almost certainly, it's the most director's film of this year's Oscars. He will also get first place votes. Payne and Allen's films are also amazing directorial works, but they're more likely to win in writing categories this year, both have in the past, so it's less likely they'll win here.
PREDICTION: Michel Hazanavicius-"The Artist"

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
Hell and Back Again
If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front
Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory
Pina
Undefeated

Of the five nominees in this year's much-maligned Documentary Feature category, I've seen two of the films, "Hell and Back Again," and "If a Tree Falls: A Story of Earth Liberation Front". I preferred "If a Tree Falls..." but they were both good. If there's a sentimental choice, for me, I'd love to see "Pina," win, for Director Wim Wenders. He was one of the New German filmmakers along with people like Fassbender and Herzog and he's one of my personal favorite filmmakers which such films as "Paris, Texas," and "Wings of Desire". He was nominated for one Oscar before, in this category in fact, for the film "Buena Vista Social Club," which he lost, and I would personally love to see him win and it very well might. His 3-D film about the ballet of the late Pina Bausch made the final 9 cut for the Foreign Language Oscar also.  Saying that though, "Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory", about wrongly convicted murderers in Arkansas, who after DNA testing and two previous films, finally got their release might be the favorite. Since most of the Award shows previously gave the film to Awards that weren't nominated in this category, it's somewhat tricky to figure out the likely winner.
PREDICTION: "Pina". This must might heart over head predicting here though.

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
Bullhead {Belgium]
Monsieur Lazhar {Canada}
A Separation {Iran}
Footnote {Israel}
In Darkness {Poland}

You can never fully be confident in this category. Even recent years where there looked to be heavy favorites, there's been some surprised in the Foreign Language category. I haven't see any of the films, but I predicted 4 out of the 5 nominees, with only "Monsieur Lazhar" surprising me. (I thought the aforemention "Pina" would've been the fifth nominee.) However, "A Separation," has won nearly every major Award, and got a nomination in the Screenplay category (Which I predicted it would), and there doesn't seem to be any push for any of the other films, although if there is an upset, I would start by looking at "Bullhead" from Belgium. It's gotten great reviews across the board, and knocked off the Dardenne Brothers's "The Kid and the Bike", which won the Palme D'Or at Cannes to be Belgium's entry, but it's still long odds.
PREDICTION: "A Separation"

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
The Descendants
Hugo
The Ides of March
Moneyball
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Alexander Payne and Nat Faxon & Jim Rash, have won nearly every Award, including a WGA and a Scriptee Award for "The Descendants", they are the favorites in the category. Saying that though, Alexander Payne has won before, for "Sideways," so there's a chance there might be a percentage who'll vote for another film. If that's the case, then I think John Logan will win for "Hugo", who's been nominated twice without a win. Despite some high profile names including George Clooney, one of three nominees for "The Ides of March", and former Oscar winners Steven Zaillion and Aaron Sorkin for "Moneyball", the rest of the category seems like filler, with "Moneyball," having a long-outside shot at it.
PREDICTION: "The Descendants"-Alexander Payne and Nat Faxon & Jim Rash, although I am very tempted to pick an upset here.

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
The Artist
Bridesmaids
Margin Call
Midnight in Paris
A Separation

There were a few surprise nominations in the category. Annie Mumolo and Kristen Wiig for "Bridesmaids," and JC Chandor for "Margin Call" were probably not on every prediction ballot, and I think even fewer has Asghar Farhadi's "A Separation," an Iranian film sneaking into this category. However, this is the category where they're gonna honor "Midnight in Paris". With two nominations this year, that makes 23 overall for Woody Allen, and this would be his 4th win, and 3rd for writing if he gets it. There's a small chance that "The Artist," might win in this category, it wasn't eligible for the WGA Award for some reason, so there's some thought there, but Hazanavicius is more likely to win in Directing and possibly Editing as well.
PREDICTION: "Midnight in Paris"-Woody Allen

CINEMATOGRAPHY
The Artist
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Hugo
The Tree of Life
War Horse

A very interesting and tough category to predict for cinema fans. In fact the Critic's Choice Award for the category actually tied between Emmanuel Lubezki for "The Tree of Life," and Janusz Kaminski for "War Horse", and the BAFTA went to Guillaume Schiffman for "The Artist," and there's nobody counting out Robert Richardson for "Hugo". (Bad timing for Cronenweth, just too many good names ahead of him this year) The ASC (Cinematographer's Guild) gave the Award to Lubezki and while this is a tough, close race, this is the best spot for "The Tree of Life," to get honored here. Even those who don't like the film, will Award it for cinematography, and it's just tough to go against a Terence Malick film in this category.
PREDICTION: "The Tree of Life"-Emmanuel Lubezki

ART DIRECTION
The Artist
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Hugo
Midnight in Paris
War Horse

There's some thought that "The Artist," might have a legitimate chance at this one, but "Hugo"'s Dante Ferretti and Francisco Lo Schiavo are considered the Best Art Directors around.They've won multiple Oscars in recent years, and won the Art Directors Guild Award for Drama, although "Harry Potter" won it in the fantasy category, and there's some sentimental vote here for Stuart Craig and Stephanie McMillan, they've been nominated several times for the "Harry Potter" films, and never winning. In fact, across the board, there's a somewhat surprising lack of Oscars, even in technical Awards for the "Harry Potter..." franchise. It looks likely that it'll be one or the other in this category.
PREDICTION: "Hugo"-(Pro.) Dante Ferretti; (Set) Francisco Lo Schiavo

COSTUME DESIGN
Anonymous
The Artist
Hugo
Jane Eyre
W.E.

Going into this Award season, I was fairly convinced that Michael O'Connor's work for "Jane Eyre," was gonna be tough to be beat, but now he seems like a longshot. Mark Bridges won the Critic's Choice and the BAFTA for "The Artist", and I understand that to a bit, the costumes actually plays a critical role in that movie. The Costume Designer's Guild however, picked Arianne Phillips for "W.E.", I think most people we're baffled that Madonna's film got nominated for anything at the Oscars, although I've though it was a serious contender in this category from the start. Lisy Christl didn't even get a CDG nomination, so "Anonymous," is a longshot at best, and it's hard to eliminate the great Sandy Powell for "Hugo", but I do see her winning this year. There wasn't a lot of pretty, extravagent dresses in "Hugo", and only occasionally does that kind of film win in this category.
PREDICTION: "W.E."-Arianne Phillips

EDITING
The Artist
The Descendants
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Hugo
Moneyball

This is always a category to keep an eye on. Even more than Best Director, the Best Editing is the greatest predictor of the eventual Best Picture winner. Only in a few distinct kinds of scenarios is that not the case, one involves action or chase movies where the editing, especially quick-cut editing that's very difficult to do. ("The Bourne Ultimatum," "Bullitt," are good example of a past winners) The other is when Thelma Schoonmaker wins. Schoonmaker, Scorsese's longtime editing partner has one three times, and only once did it correlate with Best Picture ("The Departed"), so it would be far from unprecedented if she won here, and say "The Artist" took Best Picture. Saying that though, "The Artist," with editors Anne-Sophie Bion and Michel Hazanavicius did win the Editor's Guild Award (ACE, the Eddie Awards they're called) for Editing in a comedy/musical, but "The Descendants" and editor Kevin Tent won for drama, so suddenly, that's not the greatest predictor this year either. Actually, I'm a little surprised that those films were honored for Editing, I thought that was one the weaker aspects of those films, particularly "The Descendants," which I thought director Alexander Payne, correctly so, tended to keep the camera on George Clooney for an extended period of time, even during times when it seemed like there would be a cut. Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall won last year for "The Social Network," and they're nominated here for "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," which didn't get a Best Picture nomination, but the editing is crucial in that film as well, with a very convuluded mystery and continued switching of narratives, it has some of the qualities of a film that could pull off an upset in the category. So does "Moneyball" though, with editor Christopher Tellefsen who I think kinda forced through what isn't a naturally filmable story by using many different tricks and techniques to shove a story along. Good nominees in this category, and it's a little unpredictable this year.
PREDICTION: "The Descendants"-Kevin Tent

MAKE-UP
Albert Nobbs
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
The Iron Lady

There's three interesting nominations in this category, each one being film where the make-up is inherently critical to the film, and each one clearly had some exceptional make-up in it. If it's the "Most Make-Up", it'll go to "Harry Potter...". There's some criticism that "Albert Nobbs," make-up, a film about a women who passes herself off as a man for years at turn-of-the-century England, made Glenn Close seem more like "Mrs. Doubtfire," than it probably should've, but she and Janet McTeer also got Oscar nominations, so it must not have been too bothersome. "The Iron Lady," won the BAFTA in this prize, while the Critics Choice, gave it to "Harry Potter...", so the voting is a little split here.
PREDICTION: "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2"-Martal Corneville, Lynn Johnston and Matthew W. Mungle

MUSIC (ORIGINAL SCORE)
The Adventures of Tintin
The Artist
Hugo
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
War Horse

It was a pretty big surprise when last year's winners, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, weren't nominated this year for "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo", which had been considered a favorite until then. John Williams, got nominated for both "War Horse," as expected, and also for "The Adventures of Tintin," that one seemed to have taken "...Dragon Tattoo"'s place. Howard Shore, nominated for "Hugo," has been nominated three times and has won three times, so it's hard to count him out, but, especially considering how critical the score is to the movie, Ludovic Bource, looks like the clear favorite for "The Artist," and he's won most of the Awards coming in. Alberto Iglesias's nomination for "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy," seems like the 5th nominee here.
PREDICTION: "The Artist"-Ludovic Bource

MUSIC (ORIGINAL SONG)
"Man or Muppet"-The Muppets
"Real in Rio"-Rio

As much as I and many other have been criticizing the Academy's voting process and decision-making in this category in recent years, and especially after they only managed a pitiful two nominees this year, I do have to admit that they did actually pick two good songs. I haven't seen the films yet, but I did get to listen on youtube, so at least they didn't pick a crappy song this year. (And don't think they haven't done that in the recent past) "Man or Muppet," was probably the heavy favorite going in, it is the better song, it's also the more catchy song, and I think people finally want to see "The Muppets," who've been nominated in this category before, most notably "Rainbow Connection," actually win it for once. This looks like an easy pick
PREDICTION: "Man or Muppet"-"The Muppets"-Bret McKenzie

SOUND EDITING
Drive
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Hugo
Transformers: Dark of the Moon
War Horse

A lot of surprise when Sound Editing was the only category "Drive" got nominated in. I think it's a longshot in this category. This is also one of those weird spot where "Transformers..." could win. Action and war movies tend to do well in this category. The MPSE (Sound Editors Guild) was all over a map a bit, but "War Horse," did win, although many of the other films here, weren't nominated for MPSE Awards, so it might not be the most reliable predictor, but Richard Hymns and Gary Rydstrom are the most honored and famous in the category. Tough call here.
PREDICTION: "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo"-Ren Klyce

SOUND MIXING
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Hugo
Moneyball
Transformers: Dark of the Moon
War Horse

I think it's a longshot that "Moneyball" will win, but I think they actually had quite good sound mixing in that film. "Hugo" won the Sound Mixing Guild's Award, I think they are the favorites, I think they'll probably win. Although, if there's a sentimental vote, Greg P. Russell, one of the nominees for "Transformer..." has never won despite 15 previous nominations, if there is someplace where "Transformers..." would get honored, it would be here.
PREDICTION: "Hugo"- Tom Flieschman and John Midgely

VISUAL EFFECTS
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Hugo
Real Steel
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Transformers: Dark of the Moon

This is a popular category, and this year, there's some good nominations. "Hugo," is the only one nominated for Best Picture, and there are some amazing special effects in "Hugo", and on top of that, it's got some of the 3-D of all-time, even James Cameron said so. However, there's also a major push for "Rise of the Planet of the Apes," and that's a deserving one as well. The special effects really were the best thing about the film, and this could be a supplemental prize for not nominating Andy Serkis for Supporting Actor for his Motion-Capture performance in the film. The leader of the "Rise..." crew is Joe Letteri, who's won 4 Oscars in the last decade for "Avatar," "King Kong," and "Lord of the Rings..."  because of his motion-capture work. "Harry Potter...," "Real Steel", and "Transformers..." are really just filling out the category here, it's definitely either "Hugo" or "...Apes".
PREDICTION: "Rise of the Planet of the Apes"-Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, R. Christopher White, and Daniel Barrett

Okay, I haven't discussed the Short Film categories until now, and I haven't seen any of them, although I do plan/hope to in the future. Many future great filmmakers start in the short film medium, so it's good to be aware of these categories.

DOCUMENTARY SHORT
The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement
God is the Bigger Elvis
Incident in New Baghdad
Saving Face
The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom

The director of "The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom," Lucy Walker, was nominated last year in the feature-length category for her wonderful film "Waste Land", so she is clearly in the Documentary Branch's forefront getting a short nomination this year for her film on post-tsunami Japan. Most of the press seems to be leaning towards "Saving Face," about a Pakistani plastic-surgeon that works on saving the faces of women who've been attacked with acid strikes, in Pakistan. That film was directed by Daniel Junge; he's been nominated in the category before, never winning before; it's looking like one of these two will be winning the Award.
PREDICTION: "The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom-Dir. Lucy Walker, Pro. Kira Carstenson

SHORT FILM (ANIMATED)
Dimanche/Sunday
The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore
La Luna
A Morning Stroll
Wild Life

The animated short is always a fun category. Grant Orchard's film "A Morning Stroll," won the BAFTA earlier this month. It's not the greatest of predictor, but it's about all that we've got so far. You can never count out Pixar, and their film "La Luna," from Enrico Casarosa is their entry. Just looking at some of the clips though, "The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore" from William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg, has to be considered a favorite as well. I'm pretty sure it's between those three, although Amanda Forbes and Wendy Tilby's might be sentimental favorites for "Wild Life"; they've been nominated a couple times before, but they seem to be up against good competition this year.
PREDICTION: "The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore"-William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg

SHORT FILM (LIVE ACTION)
Pentecost
Raju
The Shore
Time Freak
Tuba Atlantic

While these categories are normally for up-and-coming filmmakers, sometimes there's well-established filmmakers in this category, and that's the case with Terry George's "The Shore". His two previous Oscar-nominations are for writing "In the Name of the Father," and "Hotel Rwanda," which he also directed. It's not always a guarantee win, but just name-recognition alone makes him a favorite. There's some push also for "Tuba Atlantic" about a dying man who's trying to make amends with his brother and "Time Freak," seems to be one of the more imaginative of the shorts. I don't know, nothing really is standing out huge, so probably best to go with the biggest name.
PREDICTION: "The Shore"-Dir. Terry George, Pro. Oorlagh George

Well, those are my "Official" predictions. (Note: the use of the word "Official" in no way indicates that are David Baruffi's official predictaions. They can be change/altered at any time up to, including and even after the Academy Awards on Sunday). I hope I get a few of them right. Everybody else, time to make your own, as the countdown, is on!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

CANON OF FILM: "MANON OF THE SPRING"

MANON OF THE SPRING {aka MANON DES SOURCES} (1987)

Director: Claude Berri
Screenplay: Claude Berri and Gerard Brach adapted by the novel by Marcel Pagnol



“Manon of the Spring, (aka ‘Manon des Sources’),” finishes the story that began with “Jean de Florette.” It’s been ten years after Jean’s death, Ugolin’s (Daniel Auteuil) flower business is going strong, with rows of carnations lined up on the land he bought from Jean’s widow after he literally worked himself to death. But, Cesar (Yves Montand) is concerned, because his nephew has yet to take a wife, and continue the Soubeyran name. Meanwhile, Jean’s daughter Manon (Emmanuelle Beart) has remained around since her father’s death, as currently lives as a shepherdess just outside of the small town, and has been educated and has become quite beautiful. A teacher who is new to the town has learned this after running into her while digging some dirt to show his class how the springs in the town bring water. Also learning this knowledge, is Ugolin, who also sees her again and falls head over heels for her, determined to win her over. (If you haven’t figured by now, not only is Ugolin fairly unflattering to the eye, but he’s a little slow on the uptake.)

We however have the knowledge that Manon knows what Ugolin and Cesar have done to her father, as we saw at the end of “Jean…”, so instead of this movie becoming a bizarre love triangle… Well, I can’t quite figure out just how to put this without giving away a major plot point that really should be discovered by the viewers as they watch, but let’s just say Manon gets her revenge, and in a more than fitting way, and not just on Cesare and Ugolin, but on the entire town. This is just the beginning, as suddenly from this epic-length, slow-moving tale of greed and power, this movie emerges and becomes a Greek tragedy, complete with a blind woman, who suddenly arrives to fill in missing details like an oracle giving the fate of another, and more importantly, knowledge that would’ve changed everything if it weren’t for factors that were completely out of everyone’s hands.

I once compared “Manon of the Spring,” to the movie that “The Godfather Part III” should have been. In hindsight, that isn’t a fair comparison. For one, “Godfather Part III,” despite its faults, isn’t that bad. There are similarities. A powerful leader of a powerful family left without an ability to continue the name, a small town that’s run on corruption, and not to mention a young girl who will effect the actions of a man who doesn’t really know better. This movie just as accurately applies to people who were working at Freddie Mac and/or Fannie Mae, Enron, or to any corrupt regime or business that fails. This film even makes a case for intelligence and education over ignorance and prayer. Water, and it’s importance is the key metaphor is both movies, but do not be completely deceived, this movie is about revenge, not only on those who do the acts, but also against those who watch and do nothing to prevent the people from performing them. The ending is not one that comes out as much surprise to a thoughtful viewer, but it does come as a correct one for the story. We can pick and choose sides and sympathies with the characters all we want, but Claude Berri tells this story about as neutral as possible, making the events come off as the eventual, unavoidable destinies of the characters, instead of unfortunate collateral damage. I said this film was a Greek tragedy, and I’m not understating it.

A couple other things, this film will not have the effect it has without seeing “Jean de Florette,” and Gerard Depardieu’s performance in that film, (most places where you’d find this film have both films together as a package,) and the second thing is that these films should be seen together. They were made together with the full intention of being shown together as an epic whole. Part one is what happens and part two is the aftereffects and the punishments thereof.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

CANON OF FILM: "JEAN DE FLORETTE"

JEAN DE FLORETTE (1987)

Director: Claude Berri
Screenplay: Claude Berri and Gerard Brach based on the novel by Marcel Pagnol




The first time I was introduced to Claude Berri's "Jean de Florette", and "Manon of the Spring," I was too young to appreciate what I was watching, and too distracted to try and fully grasp it. It was in my 10th Grade French class. My second year of French, but since I spent my freshman year at a different high school that I mistakenly went to intrigued by it’s Magnet program (which I found out later was disastrously run compared to similar programs in other states), I was basically still in recovery from an education meltdown. With a new French teacher and class, I focused all my energy on getting out of the class with a B. Well, that, and controlling my willpower and not put my hands all over the hot redhead who was a year older and way out of mine, and most college graduates’ league, who sat next to me. (Think Fiona Apple with flaming red hair) Anyway, we saw five films in that French class. “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective,” but in French, “The Emperor’s New Groove,” again in French, “Passport to Paris,” which was in English, but starred the Olsen Twins, so that was unbearable, and the aforementioned two films “Jean de Florette,” and “Manon of the Spring”. (Okay, we might have also seen "The Goonies," but thankfully, if we did, I have completely erased it from my memory banks.) Back then, they were long, drawn out, and boring. Now, well they are slow, but deliberately so, to fully grasp the entire effect of the two films. (They go together. “Jean de Florette,” is part one of this epic story while “Manon of the Spring,” is part two. “Manon…” is better, but you need to see “Jean…” to fully appreciate it.)  “Jean de Florette,” takes place in a small Southern French town after WWI, and Cesar Soubeyran (Yves Montand) is welcoming his nephew Ugolin (Daniel Auteuil) home from the war. Cesar is a farmer, like most of the townspeople, but he is the wealthiest farmer from the most important family of the region, a family that’s now him and Ugolin. Ugolin, wants to plant flowers and sell to town. Together, they eye a land next to there’s where the owner has just died. The land however is inherited by a tax collector from town named Jean, who has decided to move his family down and become a farmer. He is also a hunchback, which on top of being an out-of-towner, also will make him, “unliked,” by the townspeople. (Note: At one point in history it was thought that to be born a hunchback was often considered not only a sign of an unwanted child, but a child of a failed abortion.) Jean, as played by Gerard Depardieu is one of greatest performances in modern cinema. He’s a character so determined to succeed against unimaginable odds, and so joyously happy about the attempt. His performance will set up the rest of the story. It wouldn’t have been so hard on him, if he was able to find the spring on his land so he can get water, but we know early on that the Soubeyran’s have clogged that spring, and we wait and wait for Jean’s eventual demise. Released the same year as “Wall Street,” both movies are about the power of greed, but unlike the high collar stock market world of Gordon Gekko, this greed is slow. (The movie was made in '86, but wasn't released in America 'til '87, which is the year I always try to note) It takes years, to get the property, and buy it cheap, but they wait and deceive and yes, get rewarded. Director Claude Berri refuses to take a side, which then forces us to simply observe everyone’s actions, or lack of actions. The story is simple to just give the details, but a larger story is being told in subtext, that I’ll let you figure out. And, don’t worry if you can’t believe the actions of the Soubeyrans, like I said, “Manon…” is better. 

Monday, February 20, 2012

MOVIE REVIEWS: EDITION #23: "*THE ARTIST," "THE HELP," "RED STATE", "TABLOID", "THOR," "TINY FURNITURE", "MACHETE MAIDENS UNLEASHED!" and MORE!

A few notes for all those who wish to leave comments on any/all or my blogposts. First off, I gladly appreciated any/all comments, positive/negative, agree/disagree, love me/hate me, or anything else that anybody my want to contribute to my blog, however, I will not accept any spam. Last week, there were four separate comments posted on four different blogs, each of which praised me, and then had a link to some other blog that basically sold computer hardware or something along those lines. Now, since I think I only have 7 comments up 'til now, (Like I said, I do want more), this caught offguard at first, but I have deleted those comments, and any future spam comments will be deleted as well. I'd rather hear the most vicious, unknowning, hate-filled incentive disagreements of my work, than even the slightest praise of artificial praise that's simply there to sell me something. Not that I'm asking for those kind of comments either, but I will allow those to be posted, as well as good comments you might have.

Also, while I got a review that comes from a rare trip to the movie theatre this week, in my review of "The Artist," since my review of "The Help," is about twice as long at least, it seemed stupid to call this an extended review, so from here on out, all movie reviews that I give from films I've seen at the theatre will be called "SPECIAL REVIEWS"! They'll be noted with a small asterisk symbol next to the movie title in the future.

Okay, that's enough jibber-jabbering on miniscule, unnoticed details, time for this week's movie reviews!

*THE ARTIST (2011) Director: Michel Hazanavicius

5 STARS



The more one knows about film, the more one will appreciate “The Artist”. I’m not just referring to silent film aficionados either, (although if you’re not on board with that, get on it now!!!) but cinema in general. Director Michel Hazanavicius’s film is shot with a celebration of all the history of cinema. The way the breakfast scenes that George Valentine (Jean Dujardin) has with his wife are clearly borrowed from “Citizen Kane,” how his self-portrait invokes the photo of Calvero in Chaplin’s “Limelight”, (One of many Chaplin references) even the position of tables at a restaurant, is a blatant borrow from “The Shop Around the Corner”. Part of the score is from “Vertigo” even. You can even claim part of the story is from “Singin’ in the Rain”. (and maybe even some of the dancing) The movie is about a popular but aging film star (Dujardin), who unluckily peaks his career, right as sound is introduced into film. During one press junket, a plucky young actress named Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo) steals the spotlight. The two end up working together on Valentine’s next film, briefly, but memorably. As sound comes in though, Miller’s career skyrockets while Valentine’s flutters. His studio stops making silent films, and his attempt to make and finance his own, leaves him broke. His wife Doris, (Penelope Ann Miller) leaves him. The downward spiral continues. There’s some pathos here, as there were in so many of those old silent films. “The Artist,” invokes the era magically. He doesn’t even shoot the movie in widescreen. The film isn’t completely silent, however. There are two critical scenes where it isn’t. One involves a nightmarish dream sequence that, not only compares with some of Bergman’s greatest dreams, but is also a masterful use of sound editing. (It also has the jagged camera angles of “The Third Man,” film history is everywhere in this movie!) The other, I’m not even gonna begin to describe. “The Artist,” is currently the favorite, and likely winner of the Best Picture Oscar, as well as many other Awards, it just cleaned at the BAFTAs earlier this week. Michel Hazanavicius is clearly a lover of cinema to even attempt such a project, and the fact that he got it made in America, is even more amazing. I can understand the appeal, especially for cinephiles and filmmakers. Hazanavicius up until now isn’t particularly well-known in the U.S.. He previously directed the two movies in the “OSS 117” series that also starred Dujardin, which are French comedic versions of James Bond (It’s kinda their version of Austin Powers), but he is a lover of film, and this is one of the year’s best. It must’ve been a lot of fun to make too. Dujardin and Bejo both earned their Oscar nominations, but there’s some wonderful supporting work here by James Cromwell and John Goodman especially, doing kind of a Mack Sennett/Louis B. Mayer type as the studio head. The film is little dark at times, and the story isn’t particularly unfamiliar, and at some points it’s downright predictable, but Hazanavicius achieves what he’s going for, and it’s sjust enjoyable and fun to watch even if you don’t catch every single homage. I worry about those for whom this will be their first silent film. It’d be unfortunate, but hopefully there’ll be a run on Chaplin and Keaton on Netflix afterwards though.

THE HELP (2011) Director: Tate Taylor

1 1/2 STARS

I wonder who had final cut on "The Help"? I think it was probably director Tate Taylor, who is a lifelong friend of Kathryn Stockett, the author of the novel the film is based on, and he must've been determined to make a film as accurately to the book as possible. There's definitely some heartfelt filmmaking in "The Help,"  and at times, the movie even has moments where it shines, but too much of this is unwatchable. Not "hard to watch", as in, it's hard to see what's on the screen, because of what's happening, no. "Unwatchable", means, unable to be viewed in any serious matter, and/or in the matter in which it's intended to be viewed. There are two scenes in the beginning of this film, that alone had they been cut or reedited, I would've at least given the movie an extra half-a-star at least. The film begins with Skeeter (Emma Stone), coming home from college, and the family maid Constantine (Cicely Tyson, dangerously close to a Moms Mabley impersonation) is no longer working with her family. Once it becomes clear that her mother (Allison Janney) fired her, there's a flashback scene--, well, no it's not really a flashback, it's a scene in Skeeter's mind, imagining Constantine talking to her to calm her times of trouble. This scene is just wrong. First of all, it's not necessary for us to see what's in Skeeter's mind; she already has all the motivation she needs, why do we now have to see what's inspiring her? And come to think of it, why is "The Help," from her perspective? Do we need another white person point of view to introduce us to racism? (Not that that necessarily means it couldn't have been a good movie, but it would've been a better film if it was from one of the maid's point of view) The other editing choice completely ruins what should be one of the movie's highest points. After Minny (Octavia Spencer) gets fired after using the indoor toilet during a tornado at Hilly Holbrook's (Bryce Dallas Howard) house, she calls Aibileen (Viola Davis) frantic at home, fearing her abusive husband LeRoy (Never seen, but did they have to name him LeRoy?) claiming that she had gone back to Hilly's house, and done something terribly awful. Right there, is everything that is needed to know about that scene. Instead however, we have a cutaway to Minny arriving about Hilly's house, carrying... let's just say 'something'. I paused the DVD right here, and made a mental list of everything that she could've done based on that scene. Later, when Minny tells Skeeter, who's begun secretly writing a book about the stories and perspectives of the maids in Jackson, Mississippi, she reveals exactly what she had done and wouldn't you know it, what she did was the #1 thing on my list that I thought of. Why did they hint at this scene? Could they not think that the audience might get ahead of them? The film's editor is Hughes Winborne, who's really a good editor; he won an Oscar a few years ago for editing "Crash", he's also edited films like "Seven Pounds," "Sling Blade," "The Great Debaters" to name a few. I wonder if this is his fault, 'cause even bad films he's edited like "The Pursuit of Happyness," I've never found myself questioning an editing choice of his that's so clearly obvious. Although a good portion of the scenes that are here are just bad and downright manipulative. Sissy Spacek plays a character who has movie senility. In one scene, she can't remember what city she's in, or that there's a pool and not a beach outside, and in the very same scene, directly after, she's able to fight with her daughter about the use of a bathroom. Minny ends up working half-an-hour out of town for Celia Foote (Jessica Chastain), who the rest of the town has shunned completely, which here means that, she's not invited to the local wives' bridge games and benefits for starving African children. I wondered a lot of things during "The Help". Some of them were actually profound thoughts, like what's so appealing about being in the social upper crust of such a small pond as Jackson, Mississippi, if not to bully those below you, and different from you? (Not just racially different either) I thought about Hattie McDaniel saying she's rather get paid $600 to play a maid than be a maid. Most of the time though, I wondered things like, why is Mary Steenburgen making a cameo in this film, when there's no need to even see this character? Or why does the movie keep having all these extra endings? Or what happens to Aibileen at the end? If ever there was a movie that needed credits at the end explaining what happened to some of it's characters afterwards, this was it, even if it just said, "She continued working for so-and-so..." or something. It's telling that "The Help" has three of it four Oscar nominations in acting categories, and nothing else other than Best Picture (and I doubt it would've gotten that had their been only 5 nominees in that category). Spencer and Chastain are both up for Supporting Actress. Chastain is very good here, and this probably is the widest range role she had this year, although she still should've been nominated for "The Tree of Life," instead. Spencer is more deserving though, and the only problem I have with Viola Davis's nomination is that I'm not sure it's a lead performance, although to the Academy's credit, it damn well should've been. Davis is amazing at everything she does, and she's easily the best thing in this movie. There are some good intentions in "The Help", kinda like Skeeter's character, wanting to add a new document to the story of the American experience. Well... you know what they say about "good intentions" though....

RED STATE (2011) Director: Kevin Smith

3 STARS

It's clear to me that with "Red State," Kevin Smith's latest and most controversial film to date that he's trying to do two things. One is expand his range as a director. Unbelievably it's his tenth film since he first came out with "Clerks" back in '94, and this is his first film that's not a comedy. Interestingly, and probably correctly he chose horror for his next genre, which more than most genres, is a director's medium. The other thing he wanted to do was say something with this film. Just the title alone is somewhat imflammatory, and the end credit separate the actors into three sections, Sex, Religion, and Politics. The sex part begins, probably where inevitably all horror films seem to have to begin, with stupid teenagers. (It has to. Smart teenagers would know never to do the stuff stupid teenagers do to end up in these situations.) These stupid teenagers, Travis (Michael Angarano), Billy-Ray (Nicholas Braun) and Randy (Ronnie Connell) answer a posting on a website from a woman who wants a gang-bang, (Is gang-bang hyphenated, or is it one-word? Or two words? I think it's hyphenated, two words, one thought, right? Oh well...) with an older woman who lives at Cooper's Mill (I think it's Cooper's 'Mill' I scoured five pages of reviews on imdb.com to find the name of the town, but couldn't find it.), which is a religious cult outside of town known for picketing and protesting funeral of homosexuals who they probably gay-bashed to death. "Even the Neo-Nazi's think they're crazy!" says their teacher. But, they're enticed by the older woman, Sara's (Melissa Leo) posting on a sex website, and off to Cooper's Mill (I swear that doesn't sound right. Cooper's Hull, maybe...ugh!) where they're drugged and caged before being brought to Five Points Church to hear Akin Cooper (Micharl Parks, really good here) give his fire and brimstone sermon at his Five Points Church, before the kids are executed. After things go a little wrong however, the town's sheriff (Stephen Root), who's outnumbered and afraid of retribution upon himself, calls in the Feds, and pretty soon, it's Waco all over again, or close to it anyway. Led by Joseph Keenan (John Goodman, very good here, and 2nd film of his I've reviewed this week), they're caught outnumbered in a gun battle, with a maniac and his followers. There's some attempt to get the children outside, but try as he can, there's more confusion then there is gaining or losing ground. I like a lot about "Red State". It's got everything a horror film needs, great performance by key characters, especially Parks, Leo and Goodman, and I want to note a small but good performance by Kerry Bishe, playing Sara daughter Cheyenne as the one member who's more concerned with the welfare of the kids upstairs than the survival of the church. The movie is also exciting, filled with blood and violence, and it's well-directed. Actually, I think it's one of Smith's most mature directing jobs, as he enjoys the challenge of changing the tone of the movie at will. However, while I recognize Smith has something to say in this film, I found myself wondering, what exactly was it, other than maybe, religious cults are crazy? Religion is crazy? Don't go scouring the internet for sex? Maybe he was trying to say too much, and the message kinda got lost. Smith has an unseen cameo in the film where he screams the line "Shut the fuck up!" to a character that really should. I don't know. I found myself reflecting on Woody Allen's character in "Stardust Memories," and how everybody keeps telling him how much they love his movies, especially the early funny ones. I don't want to say that to Kevin Smith; I would like to see him expand and challenge himself more, but... well... I prefer the early funny ones.

TABLOID (2011) Director: Errol Morris

4 STARS

Errol Morris is probably the world's greatest documentarian. With landmark films like "Gates of Heaven," "The Thin Blue Line," and the Oscar-winning "The Fog of War," and his own invention of the interrotron, a camera that allows him to interviews his subjects while they simultaneously still look into the camera, he creates some of the most fascination documentaries of our time. He seems to be fascinated with two kinds of subjects. One involves investigatory subjects, trying to dissect and understand a crime, while the other seems to be profiles of people who are in some ways in control or are trying to control and manipulate the world to them. "Tabloid," has both of these in it's main subject Joyce McKinney. She's a former Miss Wyoming who became world famous in England after reportedly kidnapping a young Mormon Missionary in England, chaining him up to a bed and making him her sex slave. She tells a different interpretation of that story. The story was a tabloid sensation in England and the World. McKinney claims that the Mormon Church sent her boyfriend away to get him away from her, and she was just getting him back, and claims that he went willingly with her. I don't know how much of her version I actually believe, although I think everything she said is certainly what she believes happened. Reportedly, McKinney went around the country to screenings of "Tabloid" heckling the film for how it portrays. Actually it portrays her in a rather positive light I think. She had worked as a nude "masseuse" in L.A. for a few years, with multiple ads and picture to prove it, many of those facts got revealed at trial. After she left England, she swore to write a book, and ended up living with her dogs, one of which severely attacked her, the other ended up saving her, and has since gone off to Japan to have that dog cloned she loved him so much for how obedient and loving he was. Whether or not she chained a Mormon and forced herself on him, I don't know, but she clearly has a dominant personality, and yes, dominant as in sexual appetite as well. She hasn't been in a relationship since, she claims. I believe her there. I think she was in love with someone who might not have loved her back as much as she loved him. I don't rank this one as one of Errol Morris's absolute essential bests, but it's still unbelievably entertaining and worth watching.

THOR (2011) Director: Kenneth Branagh

4 1/2 STARS

I wrote an old blogpost a while back explaining my experience, or specifically, my lack of experience and expertise with comic books. Apparently "Thor," exists in the same universe as "Iron Man". This apparently is a Marvel Comics Universe, and is one of many of these superhero original films to set-up "The Avengers," which should be released later this year. One of the benefits of my lack of specific familiarity with some of these characters is that I actually have very little knowledge of what's going to happen in the film. With "Thor," other than the fact that he's a mythological God of- something? Thunder, I think. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and his brother Loki (Tom Huddleston) are the sons of Odin (Anthony Hopkins) who is the ruler Asgard, and next in line for the throne, if he just wasn't so battle-hungry. After an attempt be the frozen giants of, some, other realm, (Okay, I'm not gonna pretend I understood it all yet.) anyway, he picks a fight with his father's enemies, and because of it, he's sent down to Earth and stripped of his powers. On modern day Earth, his descent is being investigated by a crew of astronomists led by Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and Erik Selvis (Stellan Skarsgaard), which they think is some kind of bizarre astronomical phenomenon. While in the times of the Greeks, they the Asgards were looked upon as Gods, now he's sent to a hospital for observant. Being that he's Thor, he escapes and begins searching for his fallen hammer, which now has a Excaliber-like place in the middle of the New Mexico desert where S.H.I.E.L.D., the secret defense group is guarding and studying it, led by Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg). Back in Asgard, Loki, as Angel of Deaths tend to do, begins plans of his own to take his father's crown, and possibly turn the land over to the frozen giants. "Thor," was directed by, maybe the last guy I ever wold've thought of for directing a comic book story, the great Shakespearean Actor/Director Kenneth Branagh. He's currently an Oscar-nominee for Supporting Actor for portraying Lawrence Olivier in "My Week with Marilyn", and he's directed and starred in the infamous five-hour, no scene left out version of "Hamlet," and he earned an Acting Oscar-nomination for directing himself famously in one of the best of all Shakespearean adaptations, "Henry V", many years ago. Shakespeare certainly had his fare share of intrigue in mythology, and there's certainly some Shakespearean themes in "Thor," particularly in the world of Asgard. I don't know how big a fan of the comic Branagh is, but either way, he's directing is stellar here. He treats both worlds and situations with utter sincerity and it works. It works rather well I might add, and he also has a surprising amoung of power with special effects. The world of Asgard that is created is stunning. I'm not particularly familiar with the work of Australian actor Chris Hemsworth, the only thing I've seen of him until now was in the latest "Star Trek," film where he played Capt. Kirk. That film, I didn't much care for, but his work here is striking as both the thunderous but self-involved son of the Gods and as a troubled and lovestruck stranger in a strange land. This is a big surprise to me, but I rather enjoyed "Thor," very much. Of the Marvel Films in this series I've seen so far, which is the first two "Iron Man"'s and this one, while I liked all three "Thor," is my favorite so far. Very entertaining, on quite a few different levels I must say.

TINY FURNITURE (2010) Director: Lena Dunham

4 1/2 STARS

Aura (Writer/Director Lena Dunham) is a recent College graduate. She's come home, and she has absolutely no idea what to do with the rest of her life. (She should join our club, we're gonna have jackets soon!) Dunham won the Spirit Award last year for Best First Screenplay for this film and it's just gotten a Criterion Collection release. Aura moves back in with her mother and sister (Laurie Simmons and Grace Dunham, who in real life are her actual mother and sister) in their Tribeca loft (They're actual Tribeca loft). Her mother makes money taking pictures of dollhouse furniture. Apparently these kind of jobs exist outside of Nicole Holofcener films. She doesn't want to be home, but outside of her college diploma, all she has is a youtube video of her in a bikini in a fountain that her ex-boyfriend took and posted without her consent. She goes out to parties at night and takes a job as a daytime hostess for a nighttime restaurant, which makes barely above nothing, but the chef, Keith (David Call) is attractive and reads Cormac McCarthy. He is also married, but at some point, she asks him on a date anyway. She runs into an old school friend of hers, Charlotte (Jemima Kirk) at one of those parties she goes out to at night out of boredom, and through her, meets Jed (Alex Karpovsky) who's famous on youtube films, where he's riding a toy horse in his underwear and reciting Nietzsche. Apparently, it got him an agent, and he's in New York for a week taking meetings at HBO and Comedy Central, and ends up staying at Aura's while her mother and sister are out of town. She's with both of these men at some point; neither of these men are good fits for Aura. Nothing in this movie is a good fit for Aura. There's not even a plot in this movie, and that's the point. It's a film about a smart young girl who isn't sure what to do with her life. By the end of the movie, she's less sure of what to do than ever before. There are no great epiphanies or revelations. She occasionally reads from her mom's old journals where she finds, not much. A few old flameout boyfriend types she's has long forgotten. There's a sex scene late in the film that's as depressing as any I've ever seen and not just because of the location (You will never be able to guess where, so don't bother trying.) She's all-too aware of how depressing it is while she's in the middle of it, but instead of stopping, and leaving, she tells him to pull her hair. Believe it or not, this film is a comedy. A dark one, a comedy of detachment, but a comedy nonetheless. We hope that Aura's sake, that she has hit rock bottom and will eventually recover and turn into a legitimate filmmaker, while her bigger fear is that she hasn't hit rock bottom yet. If that doesn't work, maybe she can start a movie review blog.

MACHETE MAIDENS UNLEASHED! (2010) Director: Mark Hartley

4 STARS

There are many famous movies, especially war movies that were shot in The Philippines. "Apocalypse Now," "Full Metal Jacket," for instance. "Machete Maidens Unleashed!" is not about those movies, instead it's about films made by exploitation directors and producers to make small-scale el cheapo B-movies with people like Pam Grier, and other mostly naked women who aren't that famous. During the Marcos regime, The Philippines had one of the biggest movie industries in the world, and no safety laws or minimum wage laws, so many ultra-low budget movies, if they could be set, say, in the jungle, and many that weren't, were made in "The Philippines". Marcos's army, when not bombing villages, was constantly on-hand in case they were needed with helicopters and weapons, and local people made up many extras. These exploitation films are filled with monsters and scantilly-clad women martial-artist/resistance fighters, and even occasionally a midget secret agent. There's interviews with many of the actors and filmmakers of that time. Roger Corman, John Landis, Sid Haig, Jonathan Demme, many of the lesser-known stars and figures as well. The movie is an interesting little time portal into a forgotten era of cinema outside of the Tarantino's of the world who go out of their way for such wonderful schlock. No the movies were really if ever good, but they were getting made, and that's half the battle,  especially in the Philippino jungles, that's really half the battle. This documentary about those movies is a lot better than most of the films it showcases. Although, it might good to watch a Weng-Weng film at least once.

RUSHMORE (1998) Director: Wes Anderson

4 STARS

Wes Anderson is one of the most distinctive of directors. It's hard to describe all of his techniques unless you're doing a frame-by-frame analysis of his films, but he's mixes such strange elements as irony-ladened pop songs, with almost Ozu-esque camera angles that seem to let the films happen, and yet, he's uses some insucient editing montages to their comedic and creative zeniths. His best film is "The Royal Tenenbaums," although strangely I'm the only one I know with that opinion. They always seem to pick either "Bottle Rocket," his first film, or "Rushmore," his second. Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman, in his first film) is the kind of student who thoroughly enjoys extra-curricular activites. He doesn't much care for school itself, and his grades slip so severely at Rushmore Academy that he's been warned that if they don't improve, despite his enormous campus presence, he'll be kicked out. He doesn't seem to do much about his grades, but he continually writes and puts on plays, and then joins and/or creates numerous other groups or projects. One involves blocking a school proposal to get rid of teaching Latin. Even though, he spent five years requesting to get rid of it, when he meets Rosemary Cross (Olivia Williams) the new 1st Grade teacher, he makes it his goal to keep it. Also, he wants to build an aquarium. That one's more subtle, and an early clue that the background and art design are always key in Anderson's films. To build the aquarium, he gets startup money from his friend Herman Blume (Bill Murray), who's kids go to the school, although he has no particular affection for them. (As he shouldn't, they're annoying.) Herman's kids also go to Rushmore Academy, and he seems to be the one adult who recognizes that Max's go-getter streak is what's gonna make him successful, and not so much grades. Max Fischer seems to change and alter his personality depending on where he is and who he talks to, or at least he tries to. I think he's somewhat modeled after Woody Allen's "Zelig," character. About the one thing he isn't is what he is, a teenager. His friends and romantic-interests are older, he feels uncomfortable talking about his father (Seymour Cassel), insisting he's a brain surgeon when he's really a barber, although he'll argue that they're basically the same thing. "Rushmore," has more than enough funny and strange Anderson-esque moments to appeal to his fans (Me being one of them). Some, I felt were more believable than others, although if anybody could come pretty close to reenacting an "Apocalypse Now,"-like Vietnam on a High School theatre stage, is probably would've been Max Fischer.

GOYA'S GHOST (2007) Director: Milos Forman

3 STARS

A stand-up philosopher once raved about how great a show the inquizition was. I think he oversold it a bit. (And that is my completely irrelevant-to-everything-else Mel Brooks reference for the day) "Goya's Ghost," is the first film Milos Forman directed since the Andy Kaufman biopic, "Man on the Moon", and his amazing career includes two directing Oscars for "One Flew Over a Cuckoo's Nest," and "Amadeus," which are two favorites of mine, as well such work as "The Fireman's Ball," which was banned in his native Czechoslovakia, "Hair," "Ragtime," and "The People vs. Larry Flynt". "Goya's Ghost," is one of his most minor of works however. The movie takes place original during the Inquizition where one of the leading Catholic priests, Lorenzo (Javier Bardem), is convinced that the tools of the inquizition is the best way to snuff out undesireables, such as Jews. One such victim, Ines (Natalie Portman, her second film this week) is tortured for years after she doesn't eat pork during a dinner. She claims that she doesn't like it. A few take to her aid, including Francisco Goya (Stellan Skarsgard, also his second film this week, huh, both were in "Thor") the famous painter. She had painted her and got informed by her family to try and help out. During a dinner, they discuss the logic of torture with Lorenzo, and they end up getting him to sign a document to claiming that he is a monkey, which eventually ends up in the hands of the Catholic Church. 15 years later, Goya, now deaf, gets visited by a barely recognizable Ines who's finally released as France have taken Spain, and has the entire Catholic Church leadership beheaded there. Ines claims that she had a daughter while imprisoned, as asks Goya's help in finding her. The movie includes many of Goya's sketches at the beginning and ends of the film, and oddly, it's among the brightest things in the film. The film is dark and murky, and while there's enough story to hold the audience, it drags a lot. The acting by Bardem, Skargards and Portman, who also plays a second role are intriguing, but it almost feels like they're not given a lot to do, or to be more precise, they seem to just be letting the movie occur go on, rather than grabbing at something, anything and making it interesting. That's strange consideration Forman's previous work, where he gave free range to people like Jack Nicholson and Jim Carrey. Still, an interesting, but ultimately minor and forgettable entry in Forman's canon.

WATER LILIES (2008) Director: Celine Sciamma

4 STARS

Synchronized swimming has always seemed like a strange sport to me. In "Water Lilies," there seem to be only two things for teenage girls to do, either synchronize swimming, or stare up at the ceiling. Well,... okay three things. The three main girls are Marie (Pauline Acquart), Anne (Louise Blachere), and Floriane (Adele Haenel). By the end of the movie, and it goes without saying, that they would've gone through their first sexual encounters. The how, why and who are somewhat up in the air. Marie is attracted to Floriane, the swimming team's captain, and the most popular among boys. They strike of a strange friendship based on favors in the beginning. I think Floriane is aware of Marie's feelings towards her. Floriane is more developed, and like most boys, Marie is just some other person who's grabbed Floriane's attention, at least at first. Anne is Marie's best friend. She's somewhat chubbier than the rest, but like the everybody else, she also always seems to be at the pool (Only Floriane is of the three girls actually a member of the team). She's attracted to an older boy, Francois (Warren Jacquin) but she's constantly worried about whether she'll ever be loved because of her body. Probably why she's in such a hurry. There's nothing particularly new or revelatory in "Water Lilies," but for the most of the movie, the story is told well. It takes place in a wealthy Parisian suburb where everybody is constantly bored and lonely, and throwing puberty into that combination hardly ever works out well. There are better films about adolescents exploring their burdening sexuality, but "Water Lilies," which is an odd translation of the films original French title "La Naissance des Pieuvres", which literally translates to "The Birth of the Octupuses", (I'm sure there's metaphor I'm supposed to understand there, but it's lost on me.) is still a fairly good one, which is entertaining for most of the movie, although I thought the last twenty minutes or so kinda lost me. Still, strong film.

LIE WITH ME (2005) Director: Clement Virgo

2 1/2 STARS

When we meet Leila (Lauren Lee Smith), she's lying on the couch in the middle of the day, masturbating to some porno video. When she finishes, she gets up, puts on something that barely qualifies as a tube top, and goes out dancing and partying, although the dancing and partying part is just the foreplay to sex. During the night, she gets caught in the bathroom with David (Eric Balfour). They don't speak, but they have a long glance with each other. The next time they see each other, David's in a car with his girlfriend, and Leila is outside the club with some shy guy who can believe or understand why she's going down on him, but he's not gonna stop. This inspires the girlfriend in the car. All this time, Leila and David are eyeing each other. Not released theatrically in the U.S., the Canadian film "Lie With Me," is based on a novel by the Director, Clement Virgo's wife, and it's a well-made movie about a woman who craves sex. Their isn't much else to her other than that. She apparently has a friend who's getting married. That's essentially all we know about her. We don't how they're friends, how long, or why, and we never see them hanging out, except for when she's trying on her wedding dress and talking about some one-night stand she had the day before. At the photohut which she apparently works at, she gets told by David's girlfriend, warning about him getting too involved, and that she should stay away. Leila wouldn't even know what this means. When she says that she's never been on a date, we honestly believe her, and when she finally does bed him, she's amazed that she has any emotional feeling towards him that isn't carnal, much less ones of care and devotion. I can't quite recommend "Lie with Me", but I must admit a fascination with it. The movie has two very raw and powerful performances in it by Smith and Balfour. Lauren Lee Smith, some of you might recognize from "The L Word," which she worked on for a couple years, as did Virgo who directed many episodes himself. This is great performance, of a completely limited and shallow character, and a very shallow world around her. I don't know why or how she ended up like this to begin with, but she has. She has parents, and even lives with them from time to time, but they're only now getting divorced. I can't tell if she's just rebellious or just a nymphomaniac. I'm not sure the movie does either. It's fascinating to watch, fascinating to talk about, but I don't know exactly where this movie wanted to go to, or if it able to go somewhere at all. She does change somewhat, at the end, but there's so little of her to begin with that it barely registers.

THE MIKADO (1939) Director: Victor Scherzinger

3 STARS

What must Gilbert & Sullivan have seemed like when there plays first were performed. I got some hint of that in watching the great Mike Leigh film "Topsy-Turvy," which chronicles their strained friendship and the making of "The Mikado", which might be the strangest musical ever conceived. There version of Japan seems like it came out of a Marx Brothers movie. No scratch that, "The Mikado," is stranger and more bizarre than anything the Brothers Marx could've come up with. They were too logical to come up with this. It doesn't particularly work as a film. I don't think anything created by Gilbert & Sullivan could ever really work as a film. Film is a document of reality, and once it's documented, it's there, and in that image, forever, but not everybody can get to a theatre, and we got to document this somehow. I'll try to attempt to explain, part of the story, which begins with a tailor named Ko-Ko (Martyn Green) who as Lord High Executioner, must execute someone before the Mikado (John Barclay) arrives to town. The Mikado, is the ruler of Japan, this crazy-ass Japan W.S. Gilbert has created. Anyway, he wants to execute Nanki-Poo (Kenny Baker) who's the 2nd Trombone for some minstrel show, and has fallen in love with a schoolmaid named Yum-Yum (Jean Colin). Nanki-Poo is actually the runaway son of the Mikado, who's run to avoid an arranged marriage with Katisha (Constance Willis) a grotesque former brothelgirl, who's now the daughter-in-law-elect (A highly-prestiguous honor), and with this, he's already been ordered to be executed by the Mikado. Obviously, there's some kind of hidden protests of the British Parliamentary all through "The Mikado," but I'm nowhere near versed enough in G&S's work to understand it all, and I doubt most anyone else is either. "The Mikado," is a bright, crazy, loopy opera that is just simply bizarre and non-sensical enough to be fun, and that's the main reason it's survived this, and their best work has survived this long. This is their most topsy-turvy tale of all, and it should be experienced by everyone somehow. If you can't find a performance, this classic filmed version will do.

FOUR SHEETS TO THE WIND (2007) Director: Sterling Harjo

2 STARS

"Four Sheets to the Wind," is the name of Cufe's (Cody Lightning) father, who's just killed himself. He takes his father to the nearby to be buried in the water as per his wishes. This is as Cufe is a Seminole Indian, although he's on an Oklahoma reservation, where he arrives back to find relatives coming for the funeral. It takes some ingenuity, but there is a funeral (Closed-casket, obviously), but he decides after to move out to Tulsa and stay with his erratic sister Miri (Tamara Podemski). Miri has been estranged for years. She's an alcoholic who's rarely home and constantly parties and sleeps around. She also hasn't spoken to her mother Cora (Jeri Arrondondo) in years. While waiting for her to show up, Cufe ends up befriend Miri's neighbor Francie (Laura Bailey). Miri and Francie don't particularly get along either, but they begins dating each other anyway, at least shyly at first. Tamara Podemski earned a Spirit Award nomination for her supporting work in this film, and she won a Special Jury Prize at Sundance for "Dramatic Fully Realized Physical and Emotional Turn"? I don't know what to make of that either, but she is the good in her performance. The film, however was overall forgettable. It has some good moments, especially at the beginning, and I'm always interested in a good Native-American film, there's so few of them, I'm always hopeful. This one just wasn't really that good. Some of the acting by some of the lesser supporting players, wasn't as strong as it probably could've been (I'm not sure he used professionals or not, but my bet is he didn't, and in some cases it showed). I also think there was a disconnect between the more slice-of-life moments on the reservation and the more romantic-drama moments in Tulsa, which seemed more like a regular movie. Maybe that was the point, but either way I struggled for this film to keep me at attention, and that's troubling. Some scattered of this movie are interesting, including a very creative opening shot, but there isn't enough of them, and the rest of the time, "Four Sheets to the Wind," is just a little too scatterred.

Friday, February 17, 2012

MUSIC MAKES THE PEOPLE COME TOGETHER! Hmm... STRANGE, NOW THAT I THINK ABOUT IT, THAT'S TRUE ISN'T IT?



The Oscars are a week away, mostly crap in theatres, TV is either in full swing, or already done with mid-season replacements. Frankly, not much is happening that I can really comment on at the moment.(Or, at least comment on with more anything more substantial than a tweet.) The biggest story going on in the entertainment world, is the same one that's been going on for a week, the sudden death of Whitney Houston. The state of New Jersey is in mourning, and Costner and Aretha are gonna be there for the funeral, and yada, yada, yada... I've already written my Whitney post, and I certainly don't have much left to say on a new one. I also had and earlier post on Amy Winehouse's death to explain the basic role that music has played in my life. Sadly, music has been lacking in my life. I am realizing that now, for whatever reason. Within the last few weeks, I've been ecstatic over the Madonna Halftime show, which lead to a long debate over the most controversial of questions, "Is Madonna Hot?", on Facebook. (An argument I still can't even fathom even has to be fought, but for the record, yeah, she's still fucking hot as hell!) I've been addicted to the premiere of "The Voice," since last year, (I've already written one blog, where I compare "The Voice," favorably to it's competing reality shows) and now I can't get Maroon 5's "Moves Like Jagger," out of my head. Then the Grammys and Whitney's death coincided, which led to ratings grab for them. I didn't watch. I never watch the Grammys, but they are the Music industry's biggest night, and Adele, who I do like, did really well from what I've heard. It's strange actually, suddenly after about a ten-year self-induced hiatus, I'm basically more enveloped in the pop music scene that I have in years. It took a very long time for me to trust the music industry again. It still takes too long for me to scour through the CDs at Wal-Mart, Best Buy, or any of those stores, and... I don't know how or where to go online for music anymore, but I imagine it's not tripley hard to search and scour and navigate to explore the newest and latest of music, but for the first time in a long time, I actually feel like looking.

That's not to say that music has been absent from my life, but it became to much of a crapshoot to look for some new up-and-comer star of the moment, and find out whether it was worth listening to him/her, or at least whether it was worth 12.99 to buy the Cd of them or not, or whether it was better and/or more practical to spend the money on that, or buy a cheaper older Springsteen album that I know I'll listen to more than once, than spend money on one or two songs on an album that I kinda like. Oh, I forgot to mention, that I was then, and still am to some extent, and albums over singles person. I know that's not the typical opinion of the day. Ipods have made it more easily to download particular songs, and that's fine. I like particular songs, but usually if I want to remember a song or two separately, I'm able to in my mind. Other than that, I'd just listen to the radio. Well, I used to listen to the radio. I'm doing that a little more now. I'm glad to be doing that again.

They say that all art strives to be music. All art, whether it be a book, painting, film, that want them to have the ability to stick in one's mind the way music does. Instantly abled to recalled by the mere recollection of a memory or a whiff of a sensory recall. With a mere note, we can identify a song. Not from our inate ability to determine songs, but it's because from the deepest recesses of our minds, we can instantly recall the most obscure of songs, simply because they're powerful enough in some way to us that they've stuck with us. The way we can remember every lyric to a song that we might bot have heard in years. Try remembering every line of "Hamlet," or every line of dialogue in a movie, without having seen/read it for decades? It's not possible, is it? The more personal the song, the stronger the recall isn't it?

A few months back, I wrote a series of blogs about my participation in Facebook's 30 Day Movie Challenge, where I challenged myself and my readers to post a clip on the FB site for 60 days (There was 2 parts to the movie challenge) of a movie, under different parameters each time. Favorite, least favorite, favorite of a genre for, etc. etc. Well, on Facebook, they also have a song challenge, for 30 days. They have a few challenges like these. I've decided to participate in this, starting today. 30 days, 30 different parameters. I would like to say that this is for you readers, an attempt to allow you into my own personal musical mindset and tastes, but really, this is something I feel I must do, to remind myself just what music is inside me. I've abandoned this art form for so long, that until recently, you could've described it as practically dead to me. Now, I have to chosen to search and find it again. I don't have a musicians ear, nor do I have the widest range of knowledge as I wish I did, and I'm especially lackluster in modern music, but, I think now is an appropriate time to begin learning and relearning this part of me. I invite all of you to do the same.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

WHEN CAN WE MAKE FUN OF WHITNEY HOUSTON AGAIN? THE MERITS OF A DEBATE AMONG FUNNY PEOPLE.



I heard about the news of Whitney Houston's death Saturday, about an hour after the news had broken. My thoughts were, conflicted, to say the least. I can't make any claim to being the biggest Whitney Houston fan, but she was somebody who for a good majority of my life was a huge and continuous presence in the media, music and entertaining world. Although I had opinions of her, I had no particular ill feelings of her one way or another. I like some songs of her, some I don't. She was however, great fodder. For people who write comedy on a somewhat regular basis (If not always here, often in my screenplays), and as the kind of person who enjoys devouring pop culture so he can twist and turn it into parlor-room wit, Whitney Houston was somebody who I could occasionally count on as a punchline or as least someone interesting to comment on. I was far the only one, and franky I had fairly enough ready-made material, and wit, that when the news of her death came around, I had a bunch of jokes lined up. No, the question became however, should I be telling them?

I thought briefly about some of these one-liners, but, while some of them, (Maybe 33% on the high end) were pretty funny, I didn't feel like telling any of them. The news of her death saddened me just enough that I felt that, I didn't particularly see a need to tell any of these jokes. Not that death has stopped me in the past, but I didn't want to tell them at that moment. I tweeted that "I had about 20 jokes on hand for this moment, but I'm not telling any of them. One more gone from my era. RIP Whitney Houston, sad day. :(."  The only part of that statement that wasn't true was the number of jokes. It turns out I only had about 13 or 14 at the time. I found this out, because one of my friends on FB, who were just gonna "LP", for the purposes of this blog post (Not that it'd be terribly hard for anybody with mild internet research capabilities to find out who it is, but, I prefer to not name Lillian Pancakes name if I can. Ah, damn it! Oh well, just forget I said that) called me out on this. I don't want to get any of her words incorrect, so the next part of this blog will be part of an elaborate FB posting discussion we had, that was posted under the aforementioned twitter post.

LP:  ‎...really from our era? She was big before we were born. And humor is the greatest form of flattery...or something that makes you feel good about telling a joke about recently dead people. Look man, I want no longer than 10 minutes to g...o by before people start making fun of me after I die. They already do. So many people made fun of her before, now they can't because she's dead? It doesn't make sense. If it is wrong now, shouldn't it have been wrong before? Tell us a joke David, it's okay. I laughed before, I laugh now.

ME:  Okay, first of all, Whitney Houston was just a singer with a few forgettable pop/R&B hits before "The Bodyguard" in 1992! I was seven years old! (You forget I'm a little older than you sometimes), but it was then that she became a superstar, and a legend, and I couldn't turn on the a damn pop radio station with hearing popular, although far more insufficient version of "I Will Always Love You," which was #1 on the radio for 14 straight weeks, not topped until two years later when Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men did "One Sweet Day", and I know that, because those were the two of the most incessantly stomach-churning overplayed songs of my youth, with the third being Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On". Unfortunately, Whitney also had about 4 other hits off that album, and since then, everything she's done has been a major hit, whether it should've been or not. (Okay, now that I'm thinking about it, I'm being mean about "One Sweet Day," I actually do love that song, but not 17 weeks of nothing but it on the radio love it, but you get the idea) So yes, I consider Whitney Houston a product of our era. And, since you're insistant, joke #1: "Does this mean that we can stop pretending that screaming for a long period is singing?"

ME: Joke #2: If they start playing "The Preacher's Wife," every Christmas now, it'll triple the suicide rate.

ME: Joke #3: Man, 1995, imagine the odds you would've got by betting that Bobby Brown would outlive Whitney? $5 bet, I would've been rich! Damn!

ME: Joke #4: Whitney has no "just shut up, just shut up..." for good! Okay that one was mean.

[Note: I just now realized I wrote "no," instead of "now"]

ME: Joke #5: How Did Dionne Warwick not see this coming? (Okay that joke might be too old)

[Note: LP 'liked' that comment on Facebook]

ME: Joke #6: Does this mean no more "hell to the no", God I hope so.

ME: Joke #7: Whitney's acting career.

ME: Joke #8: Seriously, can we NOW stop pretending her version of "I Will Always Love You," is better than Dolly Pardon's?! Cause we really put up with that lie anymore.

ME: Joke #9: If she's every woman, that casket's gotta be fucking huge! (Little Steven Wright-ish that one)

ME: Joke #10: You think this is sad for us, Kathy Griffin just lot 1/10 of her material today, we should be mourning her!

ME: Damn, I forgot the word "can't" on joke #8!

ME:  Joke #11: I'll be damn, the crack that killed her, she really did have a receipt for it.

ME: Joke #12: Whatdoya think did it, the crack in her lungs or the crack in her voice?

ME: Joke #13: Admit it, in our mind's we've rewritten history to think that Whitney screwed up Bobby's career by introducing him to crack? Admit it!

ME:  Alright, I'm too tired now, but not bad for no prep time at 3:30am, oh and, eh, no, it's not that can't make fun of people immediately after their death, but it does depends on who and how, and when! You can't just do it willy nilly, and wh...ile I'm glad that I can please you with some jokes, some time should pass, and frankly, it's still pretty early for Whitney. We don't know how she died, we don't know what caused it, she does have kids and a family, and she did have enough good songs to merit mourning. Some celebrities death would be ripe enough to make fun of them after their death. Donald Trump, yes! George W. Bush, yes! Paula Deen, Oh definitely! I'm already writing hers! Ann Coulter, yeah! Few others. Whitney's is the almost category. Brief mourning first, but jokes right after, no extended time gap.

LP:  Well, first, I am A YEAR YOUNGER THAN YOU. She had songs from the 80s, before our time that haunted their way into the 90s and had a rather large song in an already established singing career. We did not see her rise to fame so she is not... of our era. And we don't know yet (big eye roll) how she died, and she does have a family. But while she was alive, she had a wicked drug addiction that ruined her career and a family, and she was fair game. All I am saying is when people refrain from joking about someone who they would normally have laughed and contributed jokes when they were alive, it's pretty fake. It shouldn't suddenly start being wrong BECAUSE they are dead. It was either wrong from the start, and insensitive from the start, or it continues to be humorous. Don't be fake David. And who and how and when? That sounds rather subjective. That's not right that some people would get a grace period and others would not. Who decides that? Who has the right to? It really shouldn't be a grey area thing. It is all or nothing ya know. Either it is always wrong to make fun of someone's life or it's not, it's just a joke. Death shouldn't be the deciding factor in that. Joke #11 made me laugh for a while.

ME:  Whoa, whoa, whoa Holden Caulfield! I am NOT being fake! If anything, I was brutally honest and REAL!!!! I was honest in that, yes when she died, a bunch of smart alec jokes came into my head, and I was also was honest, in that it seemed like now didn't seem like the time or the place to tell them. However, when you bitched about it to me, going all Biff and calling me chicken, like that, then it became appropriate. Yes, it's all subjective, everything depends on context, and timing. You know that about comedy as well as I do, and it wasn't time for comedy. I have made fun of many people's death when it was appropriate? My first response after Gary Coleman died was, "Oh, good for him." Some are fair game right after, some aren't. If somebody beats Naomi Campbell to death with a cell phone tomorrow, I'm joking about it, and so are you. I also cried for a month when George Carlin died. And somedays, I still have a hard time watching "Newsradio," 'cause all I can think of is the pit in my stomach when Phil Hartman was killed. All these are real emotions, and just because Whitney's an easy target, does not mean I'm playing the fake card by choosing not to joke about it at that time! It's not all or nothing, it's all based on circumstances, and yes, it's subjective, but you know, but my subjective view was, not the time to tell jokes.

LP:  Hey, Whitney Houston was someone's Phil Hartman. Just as Phil Hartman was someone's Pauly Shore. It shouldn't be subjective who you make fun of in death, there shouldn't be a right or wrong time for that. It's all the time or no time, man. Why was it okay fo you to first respond with a joke for Gary Coleman but a poor Whitney for Whitney? And you are right, context and timing are key to comedy. So, in that case, if you tell a joke following someone's death (regardless who that person is or how you feel about them) then it has to be hilarious! Maybe that's it. Maybe most people use "don't joke about that, it just happened" not as respect (cause if it were an issue of respect you wouldn't make fun of said person in the first place before or after death) but because they don't have something funny enough to say.

ME:  Whitney Houston was nobody's Phil Hartman (Nor is he anybody's Pauly Shore). Whitney was an erratic drug-addict, who's career peak was long past her, and whose death was shocking but surprised absolutely no one. Phil Hartman, out of the blue, was shot by his wife, right as his career and talents was at his highest. Until then, there was no report or warning, or anything that would've indicated to anybody outside of their circle of friends, and by some reports not even them, that somelike like that was about to happen. And that is why it is subjective! Everybody's death are different, just like everybody's lives are different, and why certain people we get to make fun of in life all the time, but not all the time after death. Why is it okay for Gary Coleman? Cause much of what happened in his life was out of his control. His heights, his illness, his parents for instance, and the quick-wit on his death was actually brutally honest. I heard he was dead and thought that might have been the best thing that's happened to him in a while. Whitney's life is a fall from a grace, that was really a little too high to begin with and instead over recovering, she flaunted her downward spiral even more to the point of out-of-touch delusionalment. I understand that you want to just make death an absolute, with standard set rulles that apply to all situations, vis-a-vis, death is funny means that one can still joke about those who died, even if they died immediately after. Unfortunately, that's just not the case. Death is subjective, as is everything else. It's like the Mel Brooks joke about the difference between comedy and tragedy? Tragedy is when I get a paper cut; comedy is when you fall down a manhole into the sewer and die! It's subjective!!!!!!!!!

[Note: The "Pauly Shore," references here refers back to an earlier conversation not related to this one]

LP:  You are really good at arguing...doesn't mean you're right. There is waay to much circular reasoning in what you are saying. I think you are having a disagreement with yourself, dude. Do what Whitney can't anymore, wake up and smell the ...crack. Funny all the time or not at all. Someone will always be offended no matter what. Be honest and embrace the dark side of comedy man, no grace period, no apologies. You think I'm going to apologize this year when I show up Vegas Zombie walk in Whitney Houston gear...okay maybe I'll apologize for the semi black face but other than that, I'll be struttin' my crakced out zombie diva shit! Why? 'Cause I made jokes before and I'll make em again! NO APOLOGIES!

[Note: The "Vegas Zombie Walk," is an event that's exactly what it sounds like, and it's sometime that LP has made a habit of appearing at]

Now, I would like to say after my friend LP conceeded that I was very good at arguing, that later conceeded that I was right. She didn't though, and she later took back that praise, and the argument eventually devolved into a bizarre discussion that involved such things as whether or not Jonbenet Ramsey as a zombie would be funnier that Heather O'Rourke as a zombie. (For those with short memories, Heather O'Rourke was the little girl in "Poltergeist". If you don't know what happened to her, I suggest looking it up on imdb.com, but it's pretty sad.) That was the most offensive part of the discussion which also included everything from discussion on the deaths of other famous celebrities and whether or not they were funny, and a even a quick debate on the ever-popular Steven Wright vs. Mitch Hedburg debate between stand-up comedy fans. 

The main point being, that this is essentially the two sides of the argument that a lot of people are really debating within themselves. She got that part right, I was arguing with myself on this issue. That's no different than I typical reaction to Whitney Houston when she was alive however. I've always had conflicted feeling about Whitney Houston. Part of me likes song of hers like "Heartbreak Hotel (It's Not Right)," and "Your Love is My Love," while I can't stand some songs of hers like "The Greatest Love of All," and yes, I believe her version of "I Will Always Love You," is heavily overrated, and doesn't hold a candle to Dolly Pardon's original. I also think she was a fairly talented singer, on the other hand, I don't think she's the greatest voice of my generation, and she rarely if ever wrote any of her songs, so to me, she's somewhat, figuratively a one-note artist, musically anyway. She did act, and I never had anything particularly against her acting, but I haven't seen to many of her films. I haven't even seen "Waiting to Exhale," even though it was announced today that a sequel to that film, despite Houston's death, is currently in the works. It's also been clear for awhile that she hasn't been all there for awhile. For much of that time, it didn't seem to disrupt her career or talent though. Lately it has however. She was married to Bobby Brown for many years. From what I observed in their public lives, including the one or two episodes of their short-lived Bravo reality show, I don't think either one of them was particularly good for each other, but on the hand, I think they did love each other. I worry about their kids now, especially the one that really freaked out and had to be hospitalized after hearing of her mother's death. I highly doubt they were the winning any parents-of-the-year Awards before or after they broke up. 

There's no issue in my mind of whether or not someone's death, or for that matter, any subject matter should be off-limits to comedy, even temporarily. I think every subject, when done well, can be funny. It's all a matter of how one chooses to approach the subject, not what the subject is. It has nothing to do with the fear of offending people. Hell, I write a blog about an industry that I hope to be more involved with in the future. That's scary enough. Every time I write a bad review of a movie could cost me a job if somebody read it and took it personally. I worry about that nightmare scenario every time I make a flippant Michael Bay joke. Sure I don't like his films, but if he offered me a job on one of his projects, I'd happily take it. Just because I make a joke and have an opinion, doesn't mean any offense, and I expect none. Yeah, those jokes came to me quickly, as well as a couple others actually. Some right when I heard of her death, others that came a little later, but so did all those other thoughts as well, and I don't think being conflicted about your emotions and thoughts is fake; even and especially when it involves somebody's death, it makes us all the more human.