Wednesday, February 27, 2013
Director: Krzysztof Kieslowski
Screenplay: Krzysztof Piesiewicz and Krzysztof Kieslowski
Established in “Blue” are both the obvious motif, of color, and also a circular object motif that will be transcended through the entire trilogy. Yet, when it comes to white and circular, I don’t think anyone would’ve seen “Blue” and immediately thought the next film, would start with our protagonist vomiting into a toilet bowl. “White” is the comedy of the trilogy, and also the weakest of Kieslowski’s “Three Colors Trilogy”, but don’t take from that, it’s still a masterpiece. Each of the three films of course, named after the colors of the French flag, standing for Liberty for “Blue” first, fraternity for “Red,” third, and “White,” stands for equality. It begins in Paris courtroom where a divorce proceeding is being heard. A Polish hairdresser, Karol Karol (Zbigniew Zamachowski) is being accused by his beautiful French wife Dominique (Julie Delpy) that since their marriage began, he has yet to consummate it. She is correct, and she humilates and embarrasses him numerous times financially, emotionally and sexually, until he resorts to playing a comb for money at the train station, with nothing but a suitcase full of diplomas. He eventually befriends a fellow Polish man (Janusz Gajos) who sneaks him into Poland by plane, by having him hide in his suitcase. The suitcase, when it arrives in Poland, is then stolen from the airport. Battered and bruised he arrives in what is now a Capitalist Poland, no longer under Russian-Communist rule, and restarts his career at his family’s salon/barbershop, with his brother (Jerzy Stuhr, who played brothers with Zamachowski in“Decalogue 10”). I should mention that the name Karol in Polish, is the American equivalent of Charlie, and that is symbolic. (Think of the most famous Charlie in cinema, and you’ve got who they’re alluding to.) He also gets other work doing security work, and eventually saves enough money to buy land and expand his businesses excessively, making himself a rising entrepreneur. It’s from here that he starts a very elaborate plan to get his wife back, which starts first with getting his French wife to Poland. How he does this I will not even begin to explain; it’s way too complex, but in gaining monetary superiority in Poland, he could than take a dominant position in his relationship with Dominique, which is what she constantly had in France. Home-field advantage plays a role in this plan. She owns the salon, controls the money, and knows the language in France and it isn’t until he’s producing equal power to her in Poland, does he get the equality to win her love back. What a strange definition of equality, from both a socioeconomical, political, and most importantly, a personal level, insinuating that equality is not only rooted in the everchanging roles of dominance and submission and more importantly the needs of the characters to fulfill desires and the ability of those characters to fulfill those desires, and extract appropriate revenge. I think what’s portrayed most vividly in Kieslowski’s work are these basic human emotions which are completely universal, but the entirely complex ways in which humans actually deal with them, which Kieslowski knows are almost completely random whether they’re instantly felt or lingered over long periods where one’s thoughts are given time to analyze, understand, and plan their one’s overcoming of them, through typical or atypical means. Kieslowski was born in Poland and spent most of his life there. “White would become the final film he made in Poland, and the only time he would make a film that showed the true differences between pre and post-Communist block of the nation.
Sunday, February 24, 2013
POST-OSCAR ANALYSIS! "ARGO", DAY-LEWIS, MACFARLAND, A TIE! AND "CHICAGO"? PLUS, MORE IMPORTANTLY, DID BETTER PREDICTING THIS YEAR!
It's minutes after the Oscars have ended, and just seconds after I kicked my Mom off the computer, and I'm still psyched! The show had some hit-and-misses, but mostly hits, and Seth MacFarland was quite funny. (I'm gonna be humming "We've seen your boobs!" and giggling like Beavis and Butthead" for about a week I bet!) "Argo," as expected, becomes only the fourth film to win Best Picture, without a Directing nomination. I saw the film this morning, and I will be reviewing it next Movie Review edition, you might be a little surprised by my review, but it was really cool to see Nicholson and Michelle Obama presenting. (Gotta love anything that starts with Shatner and ends with Michelle Obama. Everything should start with Shatner and end with Obama!) It was a BIG SHOW, and everything was big tonight! The jokes, the tons of musical numbers, it's everything the Oscars should be. I would've preferred that they performed all the Best Song nominees, but it was overloaded to begin with, and after last year, when they only had two nominees and performed none of them, this was definitely an improvement.
I have two minor issues though. First of all, the salute to "Musicals of the Last Decade", why? First of all, why, there's more years in the decade then they're been musicals, and second, why "Dreamgirls"! And why only those three? I mean, I loved, that Catherine Zeta-Jones, revived her Velma Kelly and did the Chicago number, that was AWESOME! (BTW, "Chicago" a gamechanger!? Eh, no. "Chicago" was a good movie, that won in a weak year, it's not a gamechanger of anything. If there was such a yearning for more movie musical, there'd be a lot more movie musicals.) Anyway, she did that, and then they honored "Dreamgirls" for no reason, which was a mediocre movie to begin with. I know it got eight nominations and Jennifer Hudson was fine, but if we're actually gonna do, best musicals in the decade, how about doing the actual best one, "Once"! Or how about "Rent", or "Hairspray" too, those who great films! "Enchanted," that was a good film. And why just this last decade, how about calling it, "Best Musicals this Century", and throw in "Moulin Rouge!" I don't even like that film actually, but if you're gonna do it, then frigging do it! The Jennifer Hudson part, I could've done without, although the cast of "Les Mis..." was quite powerful.
Okay, as to the results, as one person has already commented, "I got a lot of them right"! I did, I got 17/24 right, and the ones I didn't get right, I didn't get anything atrociously wrong. (Although, I still think I should've done better!) I correctly called Ang Lee, winning Best Director, as he should've. The challenge of directing that film, just mind-boggling to me; I don't know how he did that. I'm proud of that one, I'm proud of getting Christoph Waltz correct, in a tough year in that category. It's amazing to think how far he's come. A few years ago, he was barely a TV actor in his own country, Tarantino finds him, and now he's got two Oscars, and on any shortlist of the best actors in the world, he's indisputably on it! I went with Emmanuelle Riva, in the close Lead Actress race; I had Jennifer Lawrence written, literally changed it at the last second, that could've gone either way. BTW, here's a great stat, she is now the 2nd Youngest Best Actress Oscar Winner! She is only a couple months older, than Marlee Matlin was, when she won the Award in '86 for "Children of a Lesser God". Got Anne Hathaway right, as everyone and Seth MacFarland said she would. (Would've been funny if Sally Field actually won and Amy Adams starting biting everyone to grab it. Poor Amy, she's been nominated four times in six years (And she should've been nominated for "Enchanted" [I rewatched that film last night, it's still in my head]) hasn't won yet. Still, Anne should've won for "Rachel Getting Married" a couple years ago, so here's to her. Daniel Day-Lewis, in the opposite of a close race, won the Award before Meryl Streep opened the envelope, and becomes the first person to win 3 Best Actor Oscars, and here's the really surprising stat, he's the first actor to win an Oscar, for a Spielberg film! That's amazing. Most unbelievable stat of the night, the most shocking of the night, is that George Clooney, became the 2nd person ever to get nominated in six different categories, win his Producing nomination, and win for "Argo". I did know that one, until someone told it to me, and the other person btw, is Walt Disney, so rarified air, indeed.
I got Animated Feature wrong, but I'm glad Mark Andrews won for "Brave", I've met him before, he's come to talk to one of my classes when I was at film school, he is an awesome and fun guy, who rocked that kilt, so I'm glad to see he won. I got makeup and hair wrong; I though "The Hobbit" would've won something, and I thought makeup look like the right place, should've known better to go with the film with the bigger other nominations in a close category.
Oh, when I said I wanted Eiko Ishioka, as my preference to win Costume Design, I didn't realize until the In Memoriam that she had passed away. I wish I knew that, 'cause she really was an amazing costume designer, and she will be sorely missed. Look at her work in "The Cell" again sometimes, it's striking and beautiful, and now I really wished she won, glad I got that category right though, with "Anna Karenina".
My biggest screwup has to be Sound Editing! First of all, this has to be a bigger story; that was only the 5th TIE, in OSCAR HISTORY! (Well 6th, best the Best Actor tie in '32, was actually a one-vote difference, which was considered a tie at the time; it's not anymore) and it's the first tie since '95. What's worse is that, with two chances to win, I still got that one wrong! Dammit, why did I talk myself into "Life of Pi", I even said "Zero Dark Thirty" was the favorite, and "Skyfall," was the traditional action film winner. Stupid! (Bangs forehead)
Oh, and they did the "In Memoriam" right! Finally! I've always hated how they've insisted on a musical performance that we didn't ask for during the "In Memoriam", and instead, gave us the picture tribute, and ended, with the musical performance! That was the correct way to do it, and they should do it, everytime like that after! I didn't even mind Barbra Streisand being the performer this time, that's how great the "In Memoriam" was. You know, of course it was really sad, but it was a great "In Memoriam," anyway.
Alright, what else did I get wrong. I had "Open Heart" winning documentary short, and instead, "Inocente" won, I think a lot of people, got that one wrong. I'm glad "Lincoln" won Production Design; I didn't think it would, but I'm glad it did. They found and used a lot of Lincoln, actual furniture and objects that he owned, and it really impressive. I'm glad they new that. Oh yeah, I got Tarantino wrong! Agh! I was glad he won, but I had "Amour", shoulda changed it. I think a part of his winning here, is a makeup for him not winning for "...Basterds", but hey, if my fourth or fifth best script is "Django Unchained", well I'd-, well I'd be Tarantino, and that's not bad. So, a lot of them, I predicted right, and many of the others, they actually got right. I'll have a better idea of how the Oscars really did, years from now, as everyone will, but it was a great show, very fun. Can't wait for Tina & Amy to host next year. Or, for Seth to come back, if he wants to.
Well, the Annual Academy Awards, the most prestigious predictor of the OYL Awards, (Which will return in December on this blog!) is over. Now, to watch all the movies, I missed from last year, and to catch up on all the films from this year. Hope you all enjoyed it!
Saturday, February 23, 2013
MY OFFICIAL 2012 OSCAR PREDICTIONS! (Note: David Baruffi reserved all rights to change/alter any all predictions, prior to, during, and after the Awards are handed out. These predictions are in no way official.)
I took at look back real quick, at my predictions last year, which was the first time in years that I did so poorly, especially in the acting categories. (I only got 1/4 right, I never do that bad.) Honestly, if I have something real quick, that there's been a lot of talk, about this year, being one of the great years for film of all time; Harvey Weinstein already went on record comparing it to 1939, which most experts consider the Golden Year in the Golden Age of Hollywood. Well, it's gonna take some time before we really, get a sense of these things of course, but I gotta say, I don't see it yet. I haven't gone through every film, but this look like a really weak year to me. When I posted my "Memo to the Academy" blog, last year, the movie clip I posted was for the film "Terri", which was an exceptional film, that should've been considered for lots of Oscar categories. Gave it 5 STARS, still think it's a great film. Of course it didn't get nominated, but at the end of the year, when I gave out my own Awards, the OYLs, it didn't get a single nomination! I considered it, for a bunch of categories, but it was such a good year, that too many categories, filled up to ten nominees, and it was 11 or 20 in some of the categories. So far, this year, I've seen, fewer feature films than I wanted to, but I've been unimpressed. Hopefully, I'm wrong, but compared to last year, I don't get people who claiming, this is a historically great year for film; I don't think it's half as good as last year yet. Anyway, the Oscars are Sunday, and just like last year, I'm going category by category. Remember: These are predictions, not preferences! If I have a preference, I may let it be known of course, but I haven't seen all the films, so for the time being, these are prediction on who I think will win. Alright, let's go, and let's start at the top!
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Life of Pi
Silver Linings Playbook
Zero Dark Thirty
I've only seen four of the nominees so far this year, "Beasts...", "Django...", "Life of Pi", and "Lincoln", all four films I highly recommend, but every sign is pointing to "Argo". There's no denying it, except for the fact, that Academy did not nominate Ben Affleck. Every award out there, it has won, if it was eligible and nominated, without a hiccup. Guild Awards, Golden Globes, BAFTAs, you name it, it's won it. Only one film, "Driving Miss Daisy", in the last 80 years, has won Best Picture, without having a directing nomination, but every sign around, is saying that's what will happen. If the Academy, thinks a little otherwise, the only two that I really think have a shot are "Life of Pi", and "Lincoln". I wouldn't be totally shocked if "Amour" snuck in as well, that film, got the right combination of other nominations, and momentum, no foreign language film has ever won Best Picture, I don't see that changing this year. Until something, actually beats it, you gotta presume that it's going to "Argo."
Bradley Cooper-"Silver Linings Playbook"
Hugh Jackman-"Les Miserables"
Joaquin Phoenix-"The Master"
I saw "Lincoln"; it's going to Daniel Day-Lewis. There really isn't much else to talk. He'll become the first actor to win three Best Lead Actor Oscars, that's with Nicholson and Meryl Streep for Acting Oscars alive. (Katharine Hepburn has 4, she's the all-time record holder). I guess there's some talk about Jackman, getting the upset, but that's a stretch. If Denzel somehow pulled it out, he would also, have three Academy Awards. BTW, Day-Lewis, Washington, Sally Field and Robert De Niro, each have a shot at winning their third Academy Awards this year, and there's a change, three of them could do it, in one Award show. How has that, not gotten more press? About 99.9% sure, at least one of them will.
PREDICTION: Daniel Day-Lewis-"Lincoln"
Jessica Chastain-"Zero Dark Thirty"
Jennifer Lawrence-"Silver Linings Playbook"
Quvenzhane Wallis-"Beasts of the Southern Wild"
Naomi Watts-"The Impossible"
The only one of these performances I've seen is Quvenzhane Wallis's in "Beasts...", she's the youngest nominee in this category ever, at age 9, and she was six, when she was acting in the film, and it really is a special performance. She is going to be around for awhile, but she is not going to win this time. Neither will Naomi Watts, the nomination is her Award here. Emmanuelle Riva, the oldest person, ever nominated, she'll be 86 on Oscar Sunday, and there's a decent chance she can win this. She won the BAFTA Award for Best Actress. The pendulum has been swinging in this category a bit. Jessica Chastain was the favorite, for awhile, and then it switched suddenly to Jennifer Lawrence, who won the SAG Award. Chastain won the Critics Choice Award, it's definitely between those three. Sympathy vote, leans to Riva. Boy, "Zero Dark Thirty", went from heavy favorite to heavy underdog in almost every category, almost overnight, it's so weird. My mind is telling me, that somehow, Chastain is gonna pull this out, but I can't figure out the mathematical scenario where she pulls ahead, especially not that Emmanuelle Riva has momentum. (Just so you guys know, I've rewritten this prediction
PREDICTION: Emmanuelle Riva-"Amour"
BEST ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Robert De Niro-"Silver Linings Playbook"
Philip Seymour Hoffman-"The Master"
Tommy Lee Jones-"Lincoln"
Christoph Waltz-"Django Unchained"
I predict that the winner, of the Supporting Actor Oscar, will be, a previous Oscar winner! Okay, that wasn't that much of a prediction, was it? Yea-up, for the first time ever, every nominee in an acting category, is a former Oscar winner! Which only makes the category, that much harder to predict! There's nobody who can be left out completely here, and the Awards, have been all over the map. Tommy Lee Jones, won the SAG Award, Phil Hoffman won the Critics Choice, Waltz won the Golden Globe, and the BAFTA, and keep in mind, he wasn't eligible for the SAG, and didn't get a Critics Choice nod. This one is all over the map, and there's no counting out De Niro, who's won twice before, but hasn't won since "Raging Bull", and hasn't been nominated in two decades. Gut instinct tells me, that this may be the one place where "The Master" could steal the Award. The Actors, loved the movie, nominating it for 3 Acting Oscars, but nothing else however, and since Phoenix and Adams, are up against shoe-in winners, they may consider giving it to Phil Hoffman here. However, the two co-favorites, have to be Tommy Lee Jones and Christoph Waltz. 2 very different kinds of performances, but both are equally exceptional. Some are wondering if they may pass over Waltz, who won just a couple years ago for another Tarantino film, but I don't know, I think he may just have it. His performance, is basically a co-lead with Jamie Foxx, and requires lots of exposition, the toughest kind of dialogue to act, and especially so, Tarantino exposition. This is one of those times, where I wish the Oscar would reveal the vote totals.
PREDICTION: Christoph Waltz-"Django Unchained"
BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Amy Adams-"The Master"
Anne Hathaway-"Les Miserables"
Helen Hunt-"The Sessions"
Jacki Weaver-"Silver Linings Playbook"
Jacki Weaver's name showing up, might have been the biggest Oscar nomination shock, outside of the directing category this year. The only nominee of these I've seen is Sally Field's, and there's a lot of split opinion on her performance, so I doubt she's got much of an upset chance. Helen Hunt's nomination is somewhat hindered by her co-star John Hawkes, not getting a Lead Actor nods, as predicted, but it's pretty much Anne Hathaway's to win. Despite "Les Miserables", being the most polarizing of the nominated films, practically every award has been given to Hathaway, nobody else seems to have a shot. (Wouldn't be shocked if Amy Adams's name finally gets called though.) I think it's a bit of a makeup, because she should've won the Oscar a few years ago for "Rachel Getting Married," the year Sandra Bullock won, so if this is a makeup for that, than-I guess that's fine to me.
PREDICTION: Anne Hathaway-"Les Miserables"
ANIMATED FEATURE FILM
The Pirates! Band of Misfits
The only one of these I haven't seen is "Wreck-It Ralph," so I have a little bit of a true opinion here. This has to be considered a weak year in the category overall, and frankly, I don't think "Frankweenie" or "The Pirates!..." should be here. I'm especially confused by "Frankenweenie"'s popularity, but there is a certain group of Tim Burton fans, who are just going to vote for him, and he's probably the sentimental, even though I though the film was spreading a 45-minutes movie into an 85-minute film, but it's got it's moments. Personally, I would vote for "ParaNorman", which I thought was an exceptional film, one of my favorite films, animated or live action so far this year, but I think it's a longshot. You can't count out "Brave", Pixar rarely loses, and while "Brave is a subpar effort for them, it is quite a good film, overall, and has picked up a couple Awards, including the Golden Globe, but "Wreck-It Ralph", won the Annie Awards, the major Animation Award, so it's a bit of a toss-up here, between "Brave", "Frankenweenie" and "Wreck-It Ralph".
Anna Karenina-Seamus McGarvey
Django Unchained-Robert Richardson
Life of Pi-Claudio Miranda
Roger Deakins has become the Susan Lucci of cinematography; this is his tenth nomination but he's yet to win., despite multi ASC Awards (Cinematographer Guild), including winning again this year. There's a decent chance that this might be the one category where "Skyfall", would pull off the upset. Robert Richardson won last year for the third time for his work in "Hugo", so he's well liked. However, despite this, the favorite still has to be Claudio Miranda for "Life of Pi". He's been the favorite, he's won the majority of Awards so far, kinda hard to bet against him. "Anna Karenina" is probably stronger in Set Design or Costume Design than here. Kaminski, of course you can never rule him out, but I really think it's between Miranda and Deakins. Last year though, I thought Emmanuel Lubezki for "The Tree of Life" winning was a sure thing, so this is a category has a tendency to surprise, so I won't through anybody completely, but I think it's a safe bet between Miranda and Deakins. I think "Life of Pi", is too great of a technical achievement, to overlook it though. ASC Award is not that reliable. (Sigh.) Sorry, Roger, again. You'll get it next time.
PREDICTION: "Life of Pi"-Claudio Miranda
Anna Karenina-Jacqueline Durran
Les Miserables-Paco Delgado
Mirror Mirror-Eiko Ishioka
Snow White and the Huntsman-Colleen Atwood
To a lot peoples' surprise, both "Snow White..." movies snuck into the Costume Design category, most were especially surprised by "Mirror, Mirror", but I did predict that one. (I did not "Snow White and the Huntsman" getting and a few other technical nominations. In fact, "Mirror, Mirror", won the Costume Designers Guild Award for Fantasy Film, over "Snow White...". I wasn't surprised myself, that people might be overlooking it. The costumes in that film, were spectacular, which is the case in all of Tarsem Singh's films, who loves using Eiko Ishioka, who creates some amazing and startling visuals with all of her designs, helping make Tarsem one of the best visual stylist directors around. That said however, "Anna Karenina" won the Guild Award for Period Film. ("Skyfall," the winner for contemporary film, wasn't nominated, and they really should nominate more contemporary films in this category, but oh well...) I guess "Les Mis...." and "Lincoln" have outside shots here, and deserved as well, especially for "Lincoln", Joanna Johnston's been an exceptionable for decades, with films like "Who Framed Roger Rabbit", "Forrest Gump", "Saving Private Ryan", "The Sixth Sense", "War Horse", "The Polar Express", etc. Amazing work, and this is her first ever nomination for some reason. She's been really overlooked for awhile. I'd like to see either her or Ishioka, but I think it's all but written here.
PREDICTION: "Anna Karenina"-Jacqueline Durran
Ang Lee-"Life of Pi"
David O. Russell-"Silver Linings Playbook"
Benh Zeitlin-"Beasts of the Southern Wild"
I've seen some oddmakers that still have Ben Affleck, at 10-1 odds to win Director. (BTW, the Academy doesn't allow for write-in votes anymore.) So that won't, but since every Award and Guild, has given Affleck the Award, this is a bit of a crapshoot who's going to win this year. No foreign language film has ever won in this category, but it's hard to gauge just how well liked "Amour" is, but Haneke will probably win Foreign Film, and possibly screenwriting, I have a hard time picturing him winning here. Zeitlin's first film, first nomination, one of the youngest to ever get nominated, but he's not gonna win. I don't quite know how to judge David O. Russell's space yet, he has a shot an writing too, might be a better shot at winning there. I think it's between Ang Lee and Steven Spielberg. Both former winners, Ang Lee for "Brokeback Mountain", he's also won Foreign Language Film for "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" (One of his three nominations in that category), and of course, Spielberg, multiple wins for "Schindler's List" and "Saving Private Ryan", and many other nominations. Hasn't won since "...Ryan", he's got the publicity machine behind him, but Ang Lee, has the technical side for him, for that reason, I think Lee is going to win, and he should win. To not consider "Life of Pi", one of the greatest of all directing achievement, would've been a bit strange, even if Affleck was nominated, I think it's going to him. It's got nine other nominations, most of them in technical categories, it should push him over-the-top.
PREDICTION: Ang Lee-"Life of Pi"
5 Broken Cameras
How to Survive a Plague
The Invisible War
Searching for Sugar Man
The Documentary Feature category, is miles better than last year's bumbling list, which included many suspiciously absent films on both the nominations, and the shortlists. This time around though, in what's becoming a really good year for documentaries (Despite, not including "The Queen of Versailles" on shortlist), there seems to be a lot more legitimacy to the category this year. I've seen three of the nominees, "5 Broken Cameras", "The Invisible War" and "Searching for Sugar Man", which is the presumptive and has been winning the majority of Awards, so far; in fact, it's pretty much won every Award, but that doesn't mean it's a walk into the Oscar. "5 Broken Cameras" was a surprise nominee, and it's story of the filmmakers, in engrossing. One of them Emad Burnat, is a farmer who started videotaping the Palestine-Israel conflicts on his front door, and the titles refers to the different cameras he used to do over five years time, each of which got destoyed, and in some cases, shot at. (He was also just detained by LAX police, but got bailed out by Michael Moore). "The Invisible War", by the great Kirby Dick, ("This Film is Not Yet Rated," "Outrage") would be my favorite, and there's a lot of support for "How to Survive a Plague," which documents the AIDS epidemic in the '80s; that movie currently has a 100% rating on rottentomatoes.com, but "Searching for Sugar Man," a wonderful story about a man who for a quarter-century, didn't know he was a giant rock star in South Africa, still remains the favorite, at least until someone beats it. It any movie has a chance, I'd go with "...Plague", but I'm going with the patter.
PREDICTION: "Searching for Sugar Man"
Monday at Racine
I haven't discussed much of the Short categories until now, for obvious reasons, I haven't seen any of the nominees, and most of you haven't either. Not to mention, they're aren't a lot of other Awards given out to compare the nominees, so generally, these Awards are an absolute guess. Taking a look at some of the odds on goldderby.com, who does this, all year believe it or not, "Ope Heart", about Rwandan children who travel to Sudan for live-saving heart surgery, seems to be the topper. "Inocente" about a homeless teenage illegal, who dreams of being an artist, is the close second choice. "Inocente", "Mondays at Racine" and "Redemption", are all films by former nominees, and in "Mondays..." case, a former Oscar winner in Cynthia Wade, who won for "Freeheld" a few years back. This film, about a group of chemo patients, who get their head shaved, at this beauty salon, looks interesting, but I think it's a bit of a longshot, as it "Kings Point", about the residents of a nursing home. "Redemption" is about the growing group of New York City can collectors, and looks like the most unrelatable film to me, but I was thinking, before I looked at the odds that "Open Hearts", was probably the favorite, as the Academy has a tendency to go with the most thought-provoking and emotionally-important and in some cases, political story. Not always unjustifiable so, but still, and in some cases, they overlook for biographical documentaries, like "Inocente", although, in the short category, biodocs like "King Gimp," have pulled off the win occasionally.
PREDICTION: "Open Heart"
Life of Pi-Tim Squyres
Silver Linings Playbook-Jay Cassidy and Crispin Struthers
Zero Dark Thirty-Dylan Tichenor and William Goldenberg
"Silver Linings Playbook", has to be considered the most surprising entry in this group, replacing, what I thought was one of the presumed favorites "Skyfall". It's very rare for a comedy to get this Award, (The notoriously famous editing of "Annie Hall", for instance, wasn't even nominated) but this Award is one of the greatest predictors of the Best Picture winner, even more accurate than director many years. When there's an exception to that, it's often action movies, which required the most difficult of editing, especially when we're discussing chase scenes, unbelievably difficult to edit. This would leave, two films, "Argo" and "Zero Dark Thirty" as the likely winners. Oddly, both of which were films edited by William Goldenberg, so he's up against himself, a rarity in this category. Of course, you can never count out Michael Kahn, the legendary editor, who literally wrote the book on editing (Well, him and Walter Murch, but still), and he's one of the few editors who doesn't use Final Cut Pro, and still edits, the old way, with a splicer, since Spielberg, is still one of the few directors, who shoots on film, instead of digital. (He's also one of the few directors who cuts-in-camera, which in this day and age, is practically insane, but...) Ironically, my issue with Lincoln, was an editing issue, in that, I thought the movie could've ended, just a couple scenes before it actually did, but I doubt that's a Michael Kahn issue and more of a Spielberg issue. "Silver Linings..." won the Comedy Editing Eddie (The Editors Guild [ACE] Award), but "Argo", won the dramatic film award, against most of this competion, including "Zero Dark..." Oscars, rarely go against the Editing Guild anyway, I think if "Argo"'s going to win Best Picture, it's likely to win here too.
FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
Amour-Michael Haneke (Austria)
Kon-Tiki-Joachim Ronning & Espen Sandberg (Norway)
No-Pablo Larrain (Chile)
A Royal Affair-Nikolaj Arcel (Denmark)
War Witch-Kim Nguyen (Canada)
If there's one rule I'd like to change about the Oscars, it's that, the director should get an official Foreign Language Film nomination, and not just, accepting the Award, on behalf of the country, which is actually what happens here. (Others would like countries to not have just, one eligible film, but let's face it, that wouldn't be fair since France and Italy some years could sweep the category.) Anyway, "Amour" is not only a Foreign Language Film nominee, it's the first film to get this, and a Best Picture nomination since "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon", in 2000. While, because the voting committee is slightly different in this category than others, there's always a chance for an upset, I don't think it's really likely here. Oh, and congratulation to Chile, their film "No", means that country gets it's first ever nomination in this category, so that's worth celebrating.
PREDICTION: "Amour"-Michael Haneke (Austria)
MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
I don't know why Academy rules have dictated only three nominations in this category, I think that's a bit stupid, but, oh well. I think we can safely rule out "Hitchcock", which is only the one impressive makeup job of turning Anthony Hopkins into Alfred Hitchcock, so it's between "The Hobbit..." and "Les Mis..." There is a Makeup Artist Guild, but they don't give out Awards anymore. The not-even-making-it-on-the-shortlist-f***-up of the Year Award, has to go to not having "Cloud Atlas", and I guess the film's controversy, involving the makeup, and the different actors, in multiple difference races, must've left them nominee out. Well, "Les Miserable", won the BAFTA, and since the Critics Choice went to "...Atlas", that's the only Award I can really look at. The goldderby.com odds have "The Hobbit..." as the favorite however, barely. I don't think there's an immediate need to give an Award to "Les Miserables", just because it's the only Best Picture nominee in the bunch, however, "The Hobbit..." was not that well-liked, only getting a couple technical Awards. Tough call, but when I looked at the nominees in their trailers awhile ago, my though was that "The Hobbit..." was the one to beat, so I'll stick with it.
PREDICTION: "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey"
MUSIC (ORIGINAL SCORE)
Anna Karenina-Dario Marianelli
Life of Pi-Mychael Danna
Okay, I've only seen "Life of Pi", and "Lincoln", but let's face it, sometimes it can be hard to recall a score from a movie, so I've listened to a few of them online. I'm not impressed with Marianelli's work for "Anna Karenina", he's done better scores. Out of context, it's always tricky. I like the main theme from "Lincoln", and btw, John Williams, this is his 48th Oscar nomination, the guy is friggin' amazing, but sometimes it's hard to tell whether they're just nominating him out of habit or not. Anyway, I wouldn't be shocked if he gets his sixth win here, but I didn't much of the music, outside of that main score from "Lincoln", and half-the-time, they just nominate him for the hell of it. "Life of Pi", won the Golden Globe, the Critics gave it to "Lincoln", the Satellite Awards gave it to "Argo", and most of the other Awards have been split between "The Master" and "Cloud Atlas", so those aren't any help. And, my personal choice, which would've been "Moonrise Kingdom" btw, didn't get nominated either. "Skyfall"'s nominations is kinda interesting, called James Bond movie have that quintessential score in place, so went with a bit of a new direction here, but it still echoes of Bond, and actually, it's quite good, if not, 100% original, which doesn't bother me so much, but it might annoy some. If I'm leaning personally anywhere, it's probably "Life of Pi", cause that had a really cool score, with a lot of unusual music in it, and Mychael Danna's nominated for Best Song, and it's very unlikely he'll win that as well. Alexandre Desplat has never won yet either btw, so there's something to that. He's been up five times, probably should've won something by now, I go through "Argo" out of it, either. Tough call.
PREDICTION: "Life of Pi"-Mychael Danna
MUSIC (ORIGINAL SONG)
"Before My Time"-Chasing Ice-J.Ralph
"Everybody Needs a Best Friend"-Ted-Music: Walter Murphy; Lyric: Seth MacFarland
"Pi's Lullaby"-Life of Pi-Music: Mychael Danna; Lyric: Bombay Jayashri
"Skyfall"-Skyfall-Adele Adkins and Paul Upworth
"Suddenly"-Les Miserables-Music: Claude-Michel Schonberg; Lyric: Herbert Kretzmer and Alain Boublil
I'm going through the same process with the songs as I did with score, and I'm listening to as all of them before predicting, even though I think, almost everybody knows who's gonna win this one. I'm relatively happy that there's a five nominations requirement now, after the atrociousness of last year's two nominations in the category, but there's still some work to do with the nominations, the big one being, none of the five eligible songs from "Django Unchained" got nominated, it should've gotten at least two, which is the maximum; it could've filled up the category had they not inserted that rule in a few years ago. For the second time in three years, the host of the Oscars is nominated, as Seth MacFarland, lyricist, gets a nomination, from his film, "Ted", and I applaud the Oscars for that choice, 'cause not only is it a good song, good singer to perform it, but also, they used it really well in the movie, using it as a refrain that came back a few times, very well done. (BTW, MacFarland already has an Emmy for lyrics, for "Family Guy"'s song "This House is Freakin' Sweet", so there's precedent for this. He should've gotten an Emmy nod for "Bag of Weed", but that's a whole other story.) If "Before My Time" wins, it'll be the first time a song from a documentary's won since '04 when Melissa Etheridge won for "I Need to Wake Up" from "An Inconvenient Truth", (Although strange that a song got nominated, but not the documentary itself, that's a little weird.) but it's sung by Scarlet Johansson, and beautiful raspy vocal she has is always intoxicating. "Suddenly" really shouldn't be nominated. Not an important song, a tacked-on song to a musical adaptation to make it eligible, not good, not memorable; I think will see through that. Anyway, none of this is important, we all know Adele's gonna win, and Adele should win. That's suck a perfect silky song for a James Bond movie, none of which have ever won a Best Song Oscar, which is a travesty; it's the 50th Anniversary of James Bond..., yeah, if they're smart at all, they'll makeup for it here.
PREDICTION: "Skyfall"-'Skyfall'-Adele Adkins and Paul Upworth
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Life of Pi
I have a feeling that this is a decent spot for "Anna Karenina"; I've heard some critics calling it "Production Design: The movie". I haven't seen it, so I can't judge that, but it is funny. They changed the name of this category, for some reason, from Art Design, to Production Design this year, I don't know why, but whatever they want to do, it's the same thing. "Anna Karenina" and "Life of Pi", each won Guild Awards in Period Film and Fantasy Film, respectively, so they have to be considered the favorites, although the Production team on "Lincoln", getting a lot of Lincoln's actual items to use in the film, should be heavily considered here. There's always some iffy thoughts when a movie that's predominantly CGI like "The Hobbit..." get in here, so I don't think that's too likely. "Life of Pi", might suffer a bit of the same, although I think it is deserving. "Les Miserables" is also an outside shot here. A check of goldderby.com shows it neck-to-neck between those three. "Les Mis..." but "Anna Karenina's won most everything else, can't think much difference here, but I don't know, I think I'll take a shot and say "Les Mis..." here.
PREDICTION: "Les Miserables"
SHORT FILM (ANIMATED)
Adam and Dog
Head Over Heels
Maggie Simpson in "The Longest Daycare"
The Academy has warned the nominees in the short film category to take their films off of youtube, until after the ceremony, somewhat foolhardily I may say, but I understand, but they better figure out soon too, that the internet is going to be the home of short films for awhile. This all started after Disney themselves, posted "Paperman" on youtube, as a promotional tool a few weeks ago. They've been out of this category and they want back win, and the good thing for them is that "Paperman", is quite a great animated short. I was able to see "Paperman", "Adam and Dog", and "Maggie Simpson..." online, and I can't wait to wait "Fresh Guacamole" after seeing it's trailer. I'm so obtuse and bizarre, what little of it I saw, but boy was it fascinating. I don't know who PES is, the credited nominee for the short, but they have a lot of short films on youtube, I'm gonna see more of them some time. "Maggie Simpson..." was funny as hell too, and I like that "The Simpsons" did get a nomination here; they should've been nominated for their feature film a few years ago and weren't, but this short a fun little homage to the great classics of old. "Head Over Heels" looks touching and intriguing, with a couple trying to survive, despite one being on the ceiling, while the other on the floor. I liked "Adam and Dog", the hand-drawn animation is cool, but not a great cartoon. Not much fun in this reimagining of Adam and Eve, I was more luke-warm to it. I'm looking at the odds, and just as I suspected, "Paperman" is the heavy favorite, and it should be; that is a special cartoon. Black & white, computer-animated, tale of love, that's like a six-minute version of "Brief Encounter", I think it's really good. BTW, one curiosity none of the nominees have any dialogue? I don't know why that is, I like dialogue myself, but I guess it helps appreciate the animation, but I would've appreciated some quick wit or banter. Maybe Bugs Bunny will come back with something soon.
SHORT FILM (LIVE ACTION)
Death of a Shadow (aka Dood Van Een Schaduw)
Haven't seen any of these so far. Watched all the trailers though. I was actually to find, four minutes of "Buzkashi Boys" on youtube, but that's it. Checking goldderby.com, they have "Curfew" as the odds on favorite, the heavy favorite, which is pretty much where I was leaning. The only American film nominated, looks like a more fun film that some of the other nominees, but that doesn't always mean victory here. "Asad" has a decent chance, it's directed by Bryan Buckley, the famous commercial director; he's starting to move towards films the last couple years, and is an intriguing subject, dealing with the struggles with Somali kids, as more of them look into the pirate trade as they grow up. Also, "Henry" which is directed by TV actor Yan England, could also be a sign; there is a tendency for famous people to win Awards in this categories for some of their more artistic side projects. Steven Wright, Christine Lahti and Dyan Cannon, names come-to-mind for instance; last also with "Hotel Rwanda" director, Terry George, winning in this category. Henry's a German film, about an elderly musician, looking for missing wife, while others experiment on him, I don't much belief in that. "Curfew", by an another actor/director, Shawn Christensen, looks more promising to me. A story about a suicide uncle who suddenly has to babysit his niece. I've heard good things about that film, over all the others, although "Death of a Shadow" looks special as well. That's one about a guy, who's on a mission to steal and collect shadows, it has a Jean-Pierre Jeunet-like quality to it, definitely looks interesting. Total speculation here, I think it's between "Curfew" and "Death of a Shadow", but the rest do seem overly dreary, and I can easily see going with "Curfew" which looks like the most entertaining and fun of the shorts.
Life of Pi
Zero Dark Thirty
It's a little technical explaining the differences between Sound Editing and Sound Mixing, but it's a slight difference. Sound Editing, is when new sounds are created for the movie, it's actual recording of sounds. For instance, I about how rats were used to ironically makes the sound of snakes in "Raiders of the Lost Ark", that's Sound Editing. Sound Mixing, is the way sounds are put together in the film, which doesn't always mean, creating new sounds (Gunshots and screams for instance are used repeatedly, for decades in many cases.) In this, the Sound Guild (MPSE) Awards are all over the map. "Life of Pi", won two of the Awards, while "Skyfall" also won something, as actions movies often do in this category, which are known for relying heavily on sound. "Zero Dark Thirty", and "Argo", have to be considered strong possibilities too. I don't know about "Django...", it's the one nomination here that didn't also get Sound Mixing, so it'd be a little unusual if it won here. Although "Zero Dark Thirty", didn't get a Sound Mixing either and it's the odds on favorite, but "Life of Pi", probably had to deal with a more challenges, in post, so I'm actually leaning towards either "Life of Pi" or "Skyfall". Yeah, I'm going towards the upset here.
PREDICTION: "Life of Pi"
Life of Pi
Sound Mixing is the combination of sounds, which is essentially why "Les Miserables" has to be considered a favorite here, as music, in of itself, is a combination of sounds, and the fact that this movie, specifically recording the music on set, makes the sound mixing a real challenge. It's already won both a Sound Editing and the Sound Mixing Guild Award, and the BAFTA, so it's gotta be considered the big favorite. "Lincoln"'s nomination here is somewhat curious, the sound is, not what you'd recall as memorable from "Lincoln", although that's partly the idea of Sound, so I guess it makes sense. I'm not gonna blindly count out "Skyfall", since action movies have to be considered favorites as well, but this award's leaning pretty clearly towards "Les Mis..."
PREDICTION: "Les Miserables"
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Life of Pi
Marvel's The Avengers
Snow White and the Huntsman
The only one of these I haven't seen is "The Hobbit...". I'm a little bit surprised that "The Avengers" snuck in here, (And "Snow White..." as well, but I do get that one.) but I'm glad "Prometheus" got in here. I gave it one of my most lukewarmest of positive reviews, but the special effects in that film, were quite special. Not as special as "Life of Pi", which is gonna win, and easily so, but still, glad to see that snuck in. "The Hobbit..." might have a shot, but it's long. Nobody liked the 48 fps (frames per second) appraoch Peter Jackson took, and despite popularity, I can't imagine the film, getting special effects, especially since "The Lord of the Rings" got all those awards before, that seems really unlikely. I guess I understand why "The Avengers" got nominated, but still, longshot. This is the nomination in recognition that the movie was popular.
PREDICTION: "Life of Pi"
WRITING (ADAPTED SCREENPLAY)
Beasts of the Southern Wild-Lucy Alibar and Benh Zeitlin
Life of Pi-David Magee
Silver Linings Playbook-David O. Russell
In a bit of a shock, and another sign that "Argo" is the Best Picture favorite, "Argo" won the WGA Award, over the favorite "Lincoln". I have to call into question "Lincoln" as a favorite. Tony Kushner's screenplay was over 400 pages long, and Spielberg only shot about, maybe a 1/4 of the film. Now, that's not to say that it isn't good, or even Oscar-worthy, (Screenplays are different that the films oftentimes.) but I think a part of how good a screenplay is, is how easily filmable it is. So, I'm wondering why that script is getting, so much attention. "Life of Pi"'s script for instance, a script for a movie that many considered, and for awhile, seemed unfilmmable, might be just as impressive. Anyway, I think it's between "Argo" and "Lincoln", and this might be a precursor of how the show goes, however, don't rule out "Silver Linings..." here. David O. Russell, made a very personal film, that's beloved, but might not be as strong in other categories, I wouldn't be shocked by him getting a win here.
PREDICTION: "Argo"-Chris Terrio
WRITING (ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY)
Django Unchained-Quentin Tarantino
Moonrise Kingdom-Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola
Zero Dark Thirty-Mark Boal
Well, "Moonrise Kingdom" should've gotten more nominations, but I'm glad it came up here, but probably doesn't have much chance at winning unfortunately. "Zero Dark Thirty" won the WGA Award, but he won the Oscar just a couple years ago for "The Hurt Locker", and also, a couple of the favorites in this category, "Amour" and "Django Unchained", weren't eligible for that Award. ("Amour" being a foreign film wasn't eligible, and for some reason, QT has never joined the Guild, and that made him ineligible. Goldderby.com, ranks "Django..." and "Zero Dark..." at a dead hear, and I'm actually thinking, "Amour" might have a great shot at an upset here. It's got the momentum behind it, and it's not unusual for a foreign language script to pull of a win. (Last year's "A Separation" got a surprise nomination in the category, and I think "Amour" seems more popular.) I'm not quite sure where Tarantino stands, but he did win the BAFTA and Golden Globe win, so there's some groundswell for him, and possibly some makeup for him not winning for "...Basterds", but there's just as many people who think he's been making the same film over and over. I don't know, I think this award is closer than people think.
PREDICTION: "Amour"-Michael Haneke
Well, those are my predictions. I've suddenly starting having some computer trouble this week, so if for some reason, I can't post my Post-Oscar Analysis as quickly as I'd prefer, just know that it'll be posted ASAIC, but it, and possibly some future blogs may be a little late for the time being. I'll be trying to avoid that, but.... Anyway, time to get fitted for my suit, and watch the Oscars.
Thursday, February 21, 2013
REX REED IS AN UNTALENTED A**HOLE WHO KNOWS NOTHING ABOUT MOVIES! A polite rant about Rex Reed, in light of the Melissa McCarthy situation.
I've been wanting an excuse to go after Rex Reed for some time now. That's not the way I typically go into an article or a commentary. Usually I just scour the entertainment wires and FB film groups, for something interesting to talk about and discuss, and there are days when nothing of any real inspirational substance jumps at me, and I have to make something up to write about, but not this time. Once this hit the wire, whoosh! That's it, I've finally got my rope, now to tighten the noose. For those who don't know who Rex Reed is, good for you. For the rest of you, he's a "legendary" in quotes, "film critic," for the New York Observer. He is to film criticism, what Snooki is to film criticism. How the hell he's been doing this for 40+ odd years, is beyond me. This little piece of controversy, comes from his obnoxious review of "Identity Thief", which isn't so much a review as it is, three paragraphs of different ways to call Melissa McCarthy fat. I've posted a link to his review below.
In this single review, he calls her, and I quote, "cacophonous", "tractor-sized", "humongous," "female hippo", "grotesque", and "obese", on top of which, he calls her screechy, and obnoxious, and the really insulting and most wrong part of his review, is that he calls her a "gimmick comedian". (Actually to be fair, he didn't call her, grosteque; he called the sex scene that she's in, grosteque, so, there, one point for him.) First of all, it's comedienne, second, to say that kind of thing, proves that he has no idea what it means to be talented, or a comedian, or what a gimmick is, or has any understanding of just how talented Melissa McCarthy is. She basically carries her show "Mike & Molly", which wouldn't work with any other actress. Her work in "Bridesmaids", (Which according to rottentomatoes.com, he didn't review, even after it got two major Oscar nominations) is one of the greatest comic performances in film, I've ever seen, easily one of the best I've seen in a decade, by a man, or a woman. (To be frank, she should've won the Oscar last year, sorry Octavia Spencer) She's also a great sketch comedy actress, as to her guest-host work on "Saturday Night Live", plus she was a member of the famed Improv troupe, the Groundlings. The keyword being, actress. Some of you forget that she spent seven years on "Gilmore Girls" of all things, in a role that has little similarity to the more crass and comically extroverted parts she's getting known for now, on top of numerous other movie roles she's had in films like "Go", "Drowning Mona", and "Pumpkin", as well as the critically-acclaimed TV show, "Samantha Who?". Understanding how she can be this talented, and not an overnight sensation, known for being fat, is the job of a critic, and to not simply write a review based on one's own prejudices. Now, I haven't seen "Identity Thief", so I can't judge the film personally. Based on others reviews I've read, Reed is not alone in giving it a negative review, most known critics have panned the movie. However this is not new for him. He criticized John Belushi for being fat a few times as well, and I'm willing to presume, he's probably criticized others. (I'd go through every one of his movie reviews I could find, but, dear lord, why would I put myself through that?!) He's also responsible for the glaringly untrue rumor about Jack Palance saying the wrong name at the Oscars when Marisa Tomei won for "My Cousin Vinny". (Another one of the greatest of comedic performance) According to wikipedia.com, in his review of "Oldboy," he took the time to basically, insult all of South Korea, and the food they eat. (A review that I couldn't find on the New York Observer's web page.) He's also a publicity hog. He's cursed about John Wayne on "The Dick Cavett Show", and his numerous appearance on "Tomorrow Coast to Coast", Tom Snyder's old talk show, and he's even acted, both as himself, and acting as characters in occasional movies. He's one of those movie critics, who's infamous for being particularly vicious, usually because he can, not that I occasionally haven't, but there's a difference. I become vicious and mean-spirited, when there's absolutely no other way I can describe something; he does it, frankly, because he can, and he isn't talented enough, either as a critic or a writer to say anything else.
When I started writing reviews, I started reading as many reviewers as I could. Well, I always did do that anyway, but I thought it would be beneficial to find out what people who actually get paid to do this kind of work write, and how well they write, and the different styles of writing and such. Basically, I was scouting my competition. I had of course, heard of Rex Reed, and even recalled him guest-hosting "At the Movies," during an episode where he and Roger Ebert disagreed over the Spike Lee film "Summer of Sam", where Roger Ebert gave a positive review noting the numerous parallels the film has to Lee's "Do the Right Thing", and which Reed, vehemently denied the movie having, and gave a strong negative review of the film. After seeing the movie, he was entirely wrong then too. (Just watch them, back-to-back one day, they're practically two sides of the same coin.) However, it was his review of David Fincher's version of "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo", which to my surprise, was actually a positive review of the film, that really started showing me that this guy, shouldn't be reviewing films. I read the review, in a local alternative magazine, called the Vegas Seven. Here's the link to their webpage.
There's three major local alternative mags that deal with entertainment, local politics and the such, the Seven is the newest of these of these rags, and the most commercially-produced; it's actually apart of a series of local rags, put out by the Observer Media Group, who owns numerous newspaper and periodicals across the country. Now, unlike the two rags that I read most of the time, the Las Vegas Weekly, and my favorite, the Las Vegas CityLife, they don't have an in-house film critic, and instead, they republish the work of other, more nationally-known film critics that work at other Observer Media Group periodicals write, and originally, the headline film review with almost every issue, was Rex Reed's. They've since changed that to have Michael Phillips, of the Chicago Tribune, have the lead film reviews, and while he's a bit of a wiseass himself, to the point of mild annoyance, he's a far-better film critic and writer than Rex Reed ever will pretend to be, and he actually knows about film and filmaking. But, back to my criticism, his review of David Fincher's "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," and again, here's the link to that post below.
In this review, where he trashes the original Swedish movie and the book as well, his main complaint about the murder-mystery is that it's incomprehensible. From his review, "If I had found it half as incomprehensible as it is, I might have liked it twice as much" "Here, the brain-twisting plot begins to get delusional". "Steven Zaillian's convuluted script, so muddled that even after it's over, you still don't know what it's all about-- is a drawback...". He also, gives away the ending of the movie btw, as well as some other key plotpoints that a more educated critic, would've only hinted at. Now, to the untrained eye, to read those quotes, you might have thought that, while he's being obnoxious about it, basically he's just saying that the movie's plot is a bit of a confusing mess, incomprehensible, was his word. Fair enough. I won't go into how I disagree with him on that, and how I understood the plot perfectly fine, which I did, but I saw something else in this review, between the lines of those sentences, and that is that, he has absolutely know clue, of the basic simple concept of what a mystery story, is about. Reed thinks that mysteries are about, who committed the crime? Anybody who's studied film, and who's written, anything on film noir or Agatha Christie, or Sherlock Holmes, or any detective story, knows that, who committed a crime, has absolutely nothing to do with mysteries; mysteries are about the journey and the process of solving the crime. I'll give you an example, who commits the crime in "In the Heat of the Night," and why do they do it? I know the answer, but I'll bet you half the people who've seen the movie, this Best Picture Oscar-winning, great, classic film, couldn't give you the answer. Why? Cause the movie's not about the crime, it's about the two detectives, the Southern bullheaded racist white cop, Rod Steiger, and the Black, big city detective Sidney Poitier, trying to solve the crime, and about racism, and race relations in Sparta County, Mississippi, where the film takes place. How about the best example of this, "The Big Sleep," of course, based on the novel by Raymond Chandler, the modern architect of crime fiction and detective stories. If you follow everything that happens logically, one character, killed two people, after he jumped off a bridge. A plothole that big, shouldn't be a masterpiece, right? But it's about Bogart playing Philip Marlowe, and the great dialogue like "She tried to sit in my lap while I was standing up," and the scenes with him and Lauren Bacall.... His constant complaining in this one review I've read, (And I've gone back to read a few others, like his recent negative reviews of "Lincoln" and "Moonrise Kingdom," two films I picked randomly believe it or not, because they were reviews of films I've seen, and went backwards after looking him up on rottentomatoes.com) is a sign that he is incapable to be a film critic, 'cause he doesn't understand, literally the first thing, about one of film's most important and longest-lasting genres. Now, that was the review, that made me stop reading Rex Reed, and for a longtime, made me stop reading the Las Vegas Seven, until they changed their, movie review section. I'd like to pretend that they did it in part, to some of my pointed tweets to them, regarding Rex Reed inclusion in the periodical, but I can't confirm that.
He is a bad writer himself I might add. I'm not gonna pretend I'm Shakespeare or Roger Ebert, but I am better than him. He seems unsatisfied with a review, unless he can use as many two-to-three-word adjectives in a sentence as humanly possible, and the way he continues berates about films that are self-important, ironic considering his own twisted view of his importance,- well, it's obnoxious. It's the word I keep coming to, because it's the go-to emotion for people who don't understand what they're doing, and are in over there heads, like people who disrupt a classroom and get in trouble to hide the fact that they can't read. (Not trying to make fun or light of anybody with actual learning disabilities, just making a point about his behavior, while recognizing that unlike Mr. Reed, I know when I may have offended someone, and am polite enough to apologize and explain, without sounding like an out-of-touch asshole.) I'd bash his writing abilities more, but, why bother, that can't be helped.
Rex Reed gives legitimate, intellectual, and educated critics like myself, a bad name. He's one of those critics who people talk about, when they say that they don't read or trust critics, and say things like "They don't know what they're talking about". Yes, Melissa McCarthy is not a supermodel, and yes, in a perfect world, I think it'd be better if she lost weight. In a perfect world, it'd be better if I could lose weight too, but that's not her gimmick. She's a talented actress/comedienne, who is overweight, and just happens to be talented enough and aware enough of her own body and perception, to use it for great comedic and occasionally, dramatic effect. If she's in a bad movie, well that happens to the best of actors, and Rex Reed should know that more than anybody. Yet, he doesn't know that, and he doesn't know a lot of things. He's been in this business long enough that he should. too.
So, I say to you, Rex Reed, from me, and intelligent and knowledgeable film critics everywhere, you don't know what you're talking about!
Monday, February 18, 2013
MOVIE REVIEWS #56: "SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN", "THE PIRATES! BAND OF MISFITS", "LOOPER", "THE KID WITH A BIKE", "COMPLIANCE", "SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED", "UNFORGIVABLE", "SOUND OF NOISE", "THE FORGIVENESS OF BLOOD", "NOSTALGIA FOR THE LIGHT", "PASSION PLAY" and MORE!
Happy,- what-the-hell holiday is it-, oh President's- Happy Presidents' Day Everyone! Some of you may have noticed my twitter statement earlier, but I was officially accepted recently into the Large Association of Movie Blogs, better knows as, the LAMBS. As per their agreement, there's now a link to the LAMBS on the top right of this blog, and if you want to look me up there, I am LAMB #1523. I don't know why it says that this blog specializes in "Looking at children's movies from an adult film geek perspective," and yes, I've already made a complaint about that (If you want to know what my blog is about, below the title is my mission statement), and while I have, and probably still will, criticize this group, and I want to say that I am glad to have finally been accepted by them.
Also, I had a few responses about my blog earlier in the week, regarding the TV show "Up All Night", and the many recent, behind-the-scenes ridiculousness that the show's been going through, but one reader, has left me completely befuddled. She mentioned that she enjoy the show, and tried to keep watching it, because it was funny (and last season, for awhile, it was), but she said that the show had gotten "Too Political" for her. Now, I'm very politically active and conscious. I've worked for groups, campaigns, once-upon-a-time, Poli-Sci was going to be my major in college, I subscribe to numerous political websites and Facebook pages, etc., but I watched almost every episode of "Up All Night", especially the first season, but I have absolutely no clue what she was talking about. Seriously, of all the Network TV shows, that I would say, has a political agenda of any kind, "Up All Night," just might have been the last one I'd select. I mean, you make up some allegories for practically every piece of art if you want to, some are easier than other, but I was befuddled by that statement, and I requested that she explain to me, what exactly was political about "Up All Night". She responded by saying that, if I couldn't see anything political in it, then we have nothing left to talk about. Confused even more, I requested again, and she refused to respond. I've been wrangling my brain, and going over, nearly every episode of that show I can remember, and I am stumped. If anybody can explain to me, how "Up All Night," was at all political, please tell me! Honestly, I have no clue what-the-hell she's talking about, so any help with this, would be greatly appreciated.
One other new thing, in regards to my readership. In the last 30 days, the blogpost that I've had the most internet hits on, is one I wrote back in June, where I compared TMZ with the other Entertainment News shows, and really went after some of the news shows actually. Here's the link to that blog.
I appreciate people reading it; it's actually quite a good analysis/rant about how bad the entertainment news shows are, but for a blog that I wrote, 8-9 months ago to suddenly get, 75/hits a week, and 150 hits in the 30 days, it's intriguing to me. If anybody knows, why this particular blog has grown in my readership, let me know that too.
That's all for the announcements this week, time for this week's RANDOM WEEKLY MOVIE REVIEWS!
SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN (2012) Director: Malik Bendjelloul
The favorite in the Best Documentary Oscar race, has to be considered "Searching for Sugar Man", an inspiring feel-good film about a mysterious rock star named Rodriguez. If you've never heard of him, I don't blame you, I never heard of him either. His two albums, "Cold Facts," and "Coming from Reality" were major flops in the early seventies, despite critical acclaim. However, a strange thing happened in South Africa, where somebody from America, brought over a copy of "Cold Facts", that was copied and bootlegged throughout the country. 25 years later, he was considered a mysterious legend, who's music was greatly inspirational to South African music, and his anti-establishment folk rock, and also became major anthems of the anti-apartheid movement. As one person put it, "No one here had heard the word "Anti-establishment" until Rodriguez. Despite attempts to have his songs banned, they became nationally-reknowned, and the mystery of Rodriguez grew, with kids growing up, hearing numerous stories about his supposed death, the most outlandish of which involved him burning himself to death in front of the audience at one of his shows. Led by a record shop owner Stephen "Sugar" Segermann, who was nicknamed after Rodriguez's song "Sugar Man", began a search for the mysterious singer. An internet search found nothing. A webpage was launched, but that garnered little notice. They poured through the lyrics of Rodriguez's songs to find some clue as to his identity or his whereabouts. They finally tracked down A&M records, where the royalties of his South African sales, appeared to be going to. When they interviewed Clarence Avant, the former chairman of Motown about the royalties, he seemed confrontational and guilty to me. The story about Rodriguez doesn't end there, and they eventually find out his entire story; I will not give away the result, but it is unbelievable. For me, personally, while I certainly liked "Searching for Sugar Man", I was more inspired by Rodriguez's music than I was the movie itself. His music plays throughout the film, and it's a unique style of folk rock that is haunting, and moving. I can see why, once people got a hold of his work, his music spread like wildfire. "Searching for Sugar Man" is quite a good film, and an intriguing investigative story about the search for the man, who never knew he was a rock'n'roll superstar.
THE PIRATES! BAND OF MISFITS (2012) Directors: Peter Lord and Jeff Hewitt
Let me just say first, that I never thought I'd ever see a pirate movie that has The Clash's "London Calling", in it. "The Pirates! Band of Misfits", the latest feature film from the legendary Aardman Studios that brought us Wallace & Gromit, they keep their claymation aesthetic, but like "Flushed Away," they're sticking to computer animation for this one, and I think it's safe to say that it's the strangest pirate movie ever made, that Johnny Depp wasn't apart of. On the swashbuckling seas, The Pirate Captain (Hugh Grant), is hoping that he will finally win the Pirate of the Year Award after a twenty years of not winning previously, but his attempts to board and plunder other ships, have been somewhat misguided compared to his biggest rivals, Black Bellamy (Jeremy Piven), Cutlass Liz (Salma Hayak) or Peg-Leg Hastings (Lenny Henry). His crew still loves and adores him, even after he's begun having second thoughts about the life of a pirate, his trusty number two, The Pirate with a Scarf (Martin Freeman) can talk him back into pirating. After finally accidentally plundering a science ship, led by the lonesome Charles Darwin (David Tennant) and in the Gromit role, his human-like chimp Bobo (Himself), he concocts a scheme to become rich, after it turns out, the crew's beloved parrot, is actually a dodo bird, possibly the last one left, and it's sure to win Darwin the Scientist of the Year prize, which is reportedly, untold fortunes. However, the event is in London, home of Queen Victoria (Imelda Staunton), who's royal crest reads "I HATE PIRATES", and she does, hanging dead pirates over the harbor as visitors arrive. (And an occasional live one) "The Pirates!..." earned a surprise Oscar nomination this year, in the Animated Feature category, it certainly has to be considered the longshot; it didn't even get a BAFTA nomination this year; they usually find a spot for Aardman films. There's nothing particularly wrong with "The Pirates!..." in fact it's quite fun for awhile, you gotta like the kind of movie, where a fight breaks out over whether looting or ham night, is the best part about being a pirate. It's quirky, absurd, and really for much of the film, it's rather fun. It's only 88 minutes, including credits; I know that shouldn't be listed as something to be too cheerful about, but it's just the right amount of time. Long enough to keep you entertained, but not so long that you get too sick of it, unless your toddler insists on playing it over and over again. I'd rather see more weighty and ambitious stuff from Aardman in the future, but it's still enough fun to recommend.
LOOPER (2012) Director: Rian Johnson
3 1/2 STARS
I was impressed with Writer/Director Rian Johnson's first feature, "Brick" many years ago, which was a film noir that took place in a high school. I didn't see his second film "The Brothers Bloom", but I was looking forward to watching "Looper", one of those films that most internet bloggers and critics seem to think should've gotten an Original Screenplay nomination, because of it's inventive script. But, is the script really that inventive? I ask, because I'm not sure doing a twist on a genre is, in of itself, different enough to merit acclaim, just for having the idea. That was the feeling I was getting as I watched "Looper". Now, don't get me wrong, I'm recommending the film, but I don't think it's as original as people think. Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who was also in "Brick") is a looper. He is essentially a hitman, hired by people, living thirty years into the future. After time travel is invented, it becomes illegal, but organize crime uses it when they need to get rid of people. They send the guy into a time machine, where in the present, the looper waits for his arrival at the exact spot, and blows his head off. They pay him in hundreds of bars of silver. However, in thirty years, if a looper is still alive and unneeded, they send the looper himself, thirty years into the future, to be killed by himself, which doesn't always work out, as in his friend Seth's (Paul Dano) case, who let's his looper go, and is track down by Abe (Jeff Daniels) his boss from the future. After word gets out that a new boss in the future called "The Rainmaker" is closing up all the loops, Old Joe (Bruce Willis), arrives, and gets away from Joe. He's out on a mission to kill the Rainmaker as a child, in order to change the future. He's a much different Joe, who's been hurt by the Rainmaker, and wants revenge to help change the future, and wants to be captured by both Joe and Abe, so that nothing changes, but things start changing for Joe, when he finds himself, recovering from withdrawal (Joe's a drug addict) at Sara's (Emily Blunt) farm, a single mother with a surprisingly smart and hard-to-control kid, Cid (Pierce Gagnon). There's also a hooker friend of Joe's played by Piper Perabo, which is another reminder of how she needs to get better acting parts at some point. (For those who remember her in "Lost and Delirious", this thankless role is a bit of a disappointment) I also point out that in the future, telekinesis is common enough that it's actually given the acronym TK, and is a very attractive quality in both men and women. (I can't wait until the TK "Bewitched" remake.) "Looper" is impressive. There's good performance all around, especially by Blunt, and I particularly enjoyed the chemistry and Gordon-Levitt, it reminded me of their work in Scott Frank's "The Lookout", which I think is a stronger movie than this one. I am being tough on "Looper" because I'm a bit disappointed with it unfortunately, but it's still strong and worth watching, but it's not an impressive or creative as others have said it is. I think he added a little too much, really. The great thing about "Brick", was that, it really was just a strong high school movie, that was a believable film noir, and he didn't have to create too many things that weren't as least improbable, while with "Looper", I think Johnson's being a little too cute for his own good. (You know you're in a bit of trouble, when you have to add telekenesis, just saying) He's is a skilled filmmaker though, so a mixed review, but it's definitely a recommendation.
THE KID WITH A BIKE (2012) Directors: Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne
4 1/2 STARS
The Dardenne Brothers are ruthlessly ground in neorealism, and their best films reflect that. "The Kid and the Bike", won the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes, but was surprisingly not chosen at Belgium's entry for the Foreign Language Oscar surprisingly. (Granted Belgium's entry "Bullhead", did get nominated) The Kid is Cyril (Thomas Doret), who comes to see his father one day, to find that he's moved out. His father, Guy (Guy Catoul) loves him, but can't take care of him. He already lives at state-run youth farm, but a kind hairdresser, Samantha (Cecil de France) takes him in, first on weekends, but then permanently. I've reluctant to be too descriptive with the film. The plots of Dardenne Brothers's film are really complex or deep, but they are emotional. Similar to the neorealism films of Di Sica or Visconti, they're low-budget, usually use amateur or untrained actors, they shoot in real places, and they tell amazing stories. Their best films include "L'Enfant", about a young stupid couple, and the guy who sells their newborn without telling his girlfriend, and "Le Fils (The Son), about a carpenter, who's recently hired, unbeknownst to the other guy, "The Kid and the Bike", is about as good as those films, and it's simply about what happens to this boy. This boy, at this influential age, and the things that happen to him. He is grateful to Samantha, but still devoted to his Dad, even after he says that he doesn't want to see him again. How he gets caught up by the wrong friend, Wes (Egon de Mateo) who teaches him to assault and rob people, and what happens to him, after. The details are what's fascinating, and impressionable. When he confronts and fights with Samantha, it's a survival instinct, and it's amazing that Samantha understands that, and is tolerable. We never exactly learn her motives for just taking him in, but it's clear that there's something motherly about her. All there films, are about simple people, often children and young people, with emotions boiling at the surface, unable to realize how to tackle or control them. By the end of this movie, the Kid is contempt, maybe too contempt. It ends open-endedly after one person he wronged in the past, comes back to go after him. "The Kid and the Bike" is another powerful film by the Dardennes. Better, worse, there other, with them, it doesn't matter with them. The emotional impact is always strong, and that's what important to them.
COMPLIANCE (2012) Director: Craig Zobel
4 1/2 STARS
After reading Roger Ebert's review of "Compliance", I learned that apparently, although not surprisingly, screenings of "Compliance" included many walkouts from the theater, early in the film. I say, not surprisingly, because it will definitely be, one of the toughest films to watch from 2012. This is turning into one of the toughest reviews I've had to write as well. For instance, should I give away the entire story, or just hint at the plot? Do I make mention, of what will soon become, the obvious twist to the story, which is obvious to almost everyone in the audience pretty quickly, but doesn't become clear to the people involved? Or, should I just tell all of you to "Go watch 'Compliance', I can't tell you why, but come back and we'll talk?" If I'm that vague however, and I don't prepare you, I may encourage more walk-outs and complaints? There aren't too many film critic conundrums, but this is one of them, so let's just go with it. "Compliance" takes place on a busy Friday night as a fast food restaurant. The owner is out sick, and because somebody didn't lock the fridge right away, they're short on pickles and bacon. Then, a phone call comes in. The manager, Sandra, (Ann Dowd) picks it up, thinking it's her boss, wondering about the extra delivery that hasn't been reported yet, but instead, it's a guy who identifies himself as Officer Daniels. (Pat Healy) One of the employees, Becky (Dreama Walker) has been accused of stealing money from a customer's purse. Becky, along with Marti (Ashlie Atkinson) we're running the cash register, and small talking about boyfriends. Both of them are young, and Becky is probably still a teenager. The police are too busy at the moment to go and investigate the claim themselves, because they're searching Becky's house, because her brother is suspected of growing and selling marijuana, and this robbery charge, is apart of a larger investigation. Becky claims that she didn't steal any money. Officer Daniels, than asks that they stripsearch Becky. Sandra, reluctantly obliges, and Becky is brought to the back, and removes her clothes. Others are brought in, told by Officer Daniels to search for the money, everywhere they can. Sandra can't stay back there forever, they're understaffed as it is, and Friday night is too busy to have employees remaining in the back, not working. They takes turns watching, and searching. Some oblige to Officer Daniels, other don't. Sandra's boyfriend Van (Bill Camp) is called in to watch her, and listen to Officer Daniels instructions. If you haven't figured this out by now, I feel oblige to tell you, that obviously, this "Officer Daniels," isn't a real cop. He's some guy, at his home, who's pulling a vicious prank on this restaurant, and it's employees. He's not getting off on it per se. It barely seems like he's even enjoying it, much less being aroused. The only stressful moment he has, is when his prepaid card runs out, and he has to scratch off new numbers, extra quickly to stay on the line. This starts out as a prank, and eventually becomes a rape, and it doesn't stop there, even. This is based on a true account of an incident that happened at a McDonald's in Kentucky, but that's not the only place it's happened. There's about 70 prank calls of this nature every year, and most of the time, the criminal is never caught. You remember that Dave Chappelle joke about women dressing like whores, and how confusing is to men? "'Cause you see, if I was dressed as a police officer, and you come running at me for help and I say, 'Ma'am, I am not a police officer, just because I'm dressed like a cop, doesn't make me a cop?'" There's something to that in this film, which is an example of those infamous Milgram experiments. Ann Dowd received numerous Award nominations for her performance, including a SAG nomination in the Supporting Actress category, although I think you can make a case that she's a lead in the film. In fact, any description of this movie I can write, will begin with her, and like the movie, it ends with her. Dreama Walker, who plays June on the now-cancelled "Don't Trust the B---- in Apt. 23" (Bad move ABC) has a thankless and humiliating role, where she is literally naked through the majority of the film, and that's the beginning of her troubles. This is the second feature film by Craig Zobel, who made the dark comedy "Great World of Sound", which was also about a fraud, in that case, a fake recording company, and two employees who were trying to convince wannabe music superstars to pay money to get their music recorded. That film was good and relatively watchable. "Compliance" is damn-near great and almost unwatchable. Would we have done what Sandra and the others, including Becky, (Who is willingly letting this stuff happen to her) did, if we were in they're shoes? Of course not, right? We'd like to think so, wouldn't we?
SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED (2012) Director: Colin Trevorrow
Aubrey Plaza is one of the most interesting people in Hollywood. She has that strange way of delivering a line, where you can't tell whether she's being serious or not. I've seen her do that on "Parks and Recreation" more times than I can count, and in a few supporting roles in films, but she's even got that nailed down in her normal life, from the few times I've seen her on TMZ or one of the talk shows. You can always tell, she's thinking, and figuring out what she's actually thinking is just as challenging and interesting as what she says and how she says it. She is the perfect casting as Darius, the misanthropic loner intern in "Safety Not Guaranteed", one of the absolute most charming films I've seen all year. The movie begins with a bizarre advertisement that reads as follows:
WANTED: Someone to go back in time with me. This is not a joke. You'll get paid after we get back. Must bring your own weapons. I have only done this once before. SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED.
Jeff, (Jake Johnson), a reporter for the Seattle newspaper that Darius is interning at, notices that the ad is in Willow Park, WA, and a perfect excuse for him to go look up some old high school girlfriend, Liz (Jeneca Bergere). He takes Darius and the nerdy Indian intern Arnau (Karan Soni), to investigate, what he thinks is a nutjob, who posted the ad. When he catches up with him, a check-out guy at a grocery store, Kenneth (Mark Duplass) his arrogant schmaltz doesn't work on him, but when he sends in Darius, they strike a cord, and soon, they begin training, and getting to know each other. Here, is where I will stop describing the story. You're probably wondering what happens next and whether this guy really can time travel or not, but I want to leave this to the viewers, 'cause the way this plays out is special. Kenneth is paranoid and neurotic, and seems to be willing to break an occasional federal law, but he's so self-assured and passionate. Both Darius and Kenneth have emotionally valid reasons, for wanting to go back in time and change something. There's no actual time travel in the film, but it is the subject of the film, and the ending is more than satisfactory, and open-ended. Credit the amazing writing by Derek Connelly, it's his first feature film script, and the directing by Colin Trevorrow is unusually smart. The subplot about the other two characters, feels a little tacked on for me, so I'm reluctant to give this film 5 STARS straight up, however saying that, this is a very strong film, and actually, despite the subplot, it ranks as one of my favorite films from 2012, so far. This film is smart. Smart writing, smart directing, smart acting, and smart characters. It's hard to get one of those things in a film sometimes. They always tell us in film school, don't write a time travel script, everything already been done, but this was a new and again, smart approach. It's also quite funny too btw.
UNFORGIVABLE (2012) Director: Andre Techine
2 1/2 STARS
Even among the French New Wavers, Andre Techine can be a particular taste. Sometimes, it can be intriguing, but other times, this Chabrol-like dabbling around the issues, can be frustrating. Saying that however, I might have been somewhat biased towards "Unforgivable from the start. I made numerous complaints to Netflix, about the streaming of the film, for having no subtitles. I finally ended up watching it on hulu.com, which led to Hulu, taking $7.99 off my card that I couldn't afford, and am not happy with at the moment. (I've filed a complaint to hulu, and my credit card now, but that's neither here nor there). I saw Techine's previous film "The Girl on the Train", which was about a girl who lies about being attacked to orchestrate a far greated misdirection. That movie was intriguing, because of the way, it uses one incident, to lead to another. "Unforgivable", has a plot that so convuluded however, that I had trouble just keeping up, and felt I was being toyed with, like a plush mouse on a string, dangling in front of an angry cat. The movie begins with a mystery writer, Francois (Andre Dussolier). He's looking for a quiet place to write his next novel, and he's thinking Venice. He buys a place, but while doing so, he falls in love, and marries his real estate agent, Judith (Carole Bouquet). A year later, his daughter Alice (Melanie Thierry) arrives, along with her daughter Vicky. Soon, Alice goes missing, leaving Vicky with them. Francois hires a private detective, Anna Maria (Adriana Asti), who happens to be his new wife's former lover. While still scouring for his missing daughter, Francois, begins spying on a local gardener, who is apparently very close to his wife. He then hires Anna Maria's son Jeremie (Mauro Conte) to spy on his wife. This is all becoming far too complex. There's enough plot and intrigue for three movie here, and I think would've prefered three decent movie, instead of one complex and convuluded film, of a man, going evermore suspicious and crazed as the movie goes on. None of this can end well, and naturally it doesn't. "Unforgivable" might have been technically impressive, but it got on my nerves. At a certain point, I just want a story to be told, or at least completed after it's begun. "Unforgivable" has moments of brilliance in flashes, but overall, it just didn't work on me, as well as Techine's others films like "Changing Times", and "The Girl on the Train". I'm reluctant, 'cause there's something there, but I can't qute give it a recommendation.
SOUND OF NOISE (2012) Directors: Ola Simonsson and Johannes Stjarne Nilsson
4 1/2 STARS
I have some friends who are musicians, and really good ones at that, and I always feel inadequate around them. My mother was tone-deaf, so I always learned to consider the lyrics first, and then the music, which is the opposite of how musicians really work. I'm not tone-deaf, but I do consider an entirely different language than the one I speak. There are times when I love, understand, and I can certainly appreciate it, but it's still somewhat elusive to me. In "Sound of Noise" Amadeus (Bengt Nilsson) belongs to a family of world-renowned classical musicians. He's become a cop, who's tone deaf, and absolutely can't stand music. He prefers silence to music. His younger brother, Oscar (Sven Ahlstrom) is the latest musical prodigy in the family, working on a major performance of Hyden. Soon, some intriguing musical crimes start being committed. A motorcycle cop is run of the road because a van started throwing a drumset at him. Then, the abandoned van is founding ticking, and bomb squad is called in, only for Amadeus to realize rather quickly that it was a metronome, left in the van. The group of musical terrorist is led by Sanna Persson (Herself, interestingly enough) a renegade who was kicked out of a the premiere music school for flooding the place during a performance where she played water, as an instrument. Along with her partner-in-crime Magnus (Magnus Borjeson, also presumably himself), they send out an ad, looking for six drummers for an experimental piece of music, where they play the city, as instrument. The first place they strike, is at a hospital, where they kidnap a patient, gas him, and bring him in for surgery, where the perform music using the surgical tools, and the patient for their instruments. When Amadeus goes to investigate the patient, a local TV personality bragging about his upcoming hemorrhoid removal, he suddenly realizes that he can't hear him. He also can't hear anything that the musicians played, as he continuously hears nothing when he bangs a bedpan against the wall. This is where the movie-, well, it was alright unrealistic, but it jumped right into fantasy when it did that, and the detective, who strives for silence, can now, only hear silence after the musicians play the instruments. He also appears to be somewhat attractive to Sanna, after they bump into each other, at a music store of all places. "Sound of Noise" is one strange, quirky, unique little film, and I had a lot of fun with it. It's the first feature-length film by the directing team of Simonsson and Nilsson, and they seem to have very interesting ideas, and a unique style. "Sound of Noise", is quite an enjoyable, and certainly different. Lotta fun with this one.
THE FORGIVENESS OF BLOOD (2012) Director: Joshua Marston
Director Joshua Marston's first film, was the exceptional "Maria Full of Grace," which starred Catalina Sandino Moreno, in an Oscar-nominated role, as a drug mule, who flies from Columbia into the U.S., carrying dozens of pellets of cocaine. A journalist by trade, he's spent much of the last few years directing television since, while I anxiously awaited his follow-up feature to that marvelous debut. He's finally made "The Forgiveness of Blood", and I'm sure that he'll recover from this. Not that it's a bad film, it's quite an intriguing one, but it's a bit shortsighted. This time, Marston, who is American by the way, shoots this film in Albania, a country where rituals and traditions such as bloodfeuds still seem relevant. The Brazilian film "Behind the Sun", which is also about a long-standing bloodfeud between two families, was based on an Award-winning Albanian novel. I haven't too many films that originated from the area, in some way, but two films about bloodfeuds, can't be a coincidence. The feud involves a man who delivers and sells bread, Mark (Refet Abazi). On this route, he takes a shortcut across a strip of land that was once owned by their family, but now owned by Sokol (Veton Osmani). There's an incident, and Mark and his brother Zef (Luau Jaha) stab Sokol to death. Zef is eventually taken in and charged with he crime. However, the old rule of law in Albania called the Kanun, which I'm learning about by reading Michael O'Sullivan's review of this film, is still in effect even today, and requires that the family of the killed, can get retribution by murdering a male of the family, either mark, or his oldest son, Nik (Tristan halilaj) if they ever go outside of their home. Because of this, Mark's daughter Rudina (Sindi Lacej) must take over the route, which is tough enough for a regular person, and also involves, numerous trading with grocers, who are more-than-willing to take advantage of a young girl unaccostomed to the route. "The Forgiveness of Blood" is seen mostly through the eyes of the two kids, who in a modern society are puzzled by this old ritual. They try to convince the father to simply turn himself in, to make things easier for the family, but he steadfastly refuses. The women are allowed safe passage according to this ancient ritual, and the scenes of the daughter, trying to buy cartons of cigarettes for the parents and to sell, seems perfectly out-of-place. I'm giving this film 3 STARS, can't I recommend any reason to not see it, but personally, the movie wore on me. Maybe if I hadn't seen "Behind the Sun" earlier, which I think is a stronger more poetic film, this more documentary-style film might be more intriguing to me. As it is, it holds up, but I feel it's a minor early in a great young filmmaker's canon.
NOSTALGIA FOR THE LIGHT (2011) Director: Patricio Guzman
The Atacama Desert, is a bizarre geographic anomaly. Some of you know, that my fascination with geography dates back to even before Carmen San Diego made it cool, and the Atacama is renowned for being the driest desert on Earth, which is particularly weird considering it's location. To the east of it, the Andes mountains, to the west, what little west there is, is the coast of Chile, which except for the mountains, is practically all coast, but it happens to be on a plateau, and tucked in a small corner or northern part of the country, so that, in the middle of an often ragged pacific Ocean, here lies, nothing, but sand for miles. Two groups of people, work in this area of the world. One are astrophysicists, where the lack of increment and overcast whether, makes the desert a perfect viewing area, and they've place constructed, on the Mars-like surface of the desert, a giant telescope, which they search the stars for to infinity and beyond. The others, are outside, crawling every inch of the desert, to find it's past. They're widows, looking for burials grounds where detractors of Pinochet's government are found buried in the sand, and occasionally the surprisingly well-preserved dead (Cause there isn't much that can live out there to mangle on the bodies), peek out, and mass graves are found more often that you'd hope. "Nostalgia for the Light", an Award-winning and WGA nominated documentary, takes a look at these two distinctly different people, who work alongside each other, in about the last place in the world you'd think they would. Much of the haunting of Pinochet's reign can still be felt in Chile, but the astrophysicist stuff, is only intriguing for as much as you're interested in it to me, and I can get tired of it after awhile, but the film is intriguing account of this time and place, and the strange desert, which is amazing and startling to look at throughout the film, these people come together, or not-so-much together, but how they've managed to find their lives devoted to this most desolate and strangest of places. The images of the desert alone, are almost enough for me to recommend it, and everything else, is just interesting enough for me. It's hardly the most entertaining of documentaries to me. I always say never do two, always do three, unless you're Stanley Kubrick, but it's such an unusual thing, that it's worth the exception for the experience.
PASSION PLAY (2011) Director: Mitch Glazer
"Passion Play" is startling unique, and fascinatingly bad. Very bad. This is one of those movies you can watch, and afterwards go, "What the hell was that?", and anybody who saw it with you, would understand that reaction. Nothing in the movie seems real, or remotely believable, except as symbolism and metaphor, and nearly everything in the movie is done bad. So bad, it's actually kinda interesting. Let's start with a trumpeter, Nate Poole (Mickey Rourke), who somehow survives an attempted assassination in the middle of the desert. His car's dead, so he walks, eventually finding a freakshow-style circus, where he finds Lily Luster (Megan Fox), who has wings. Actual angel wings, like connected to her, not placed on or anything. She's on display and he sees her in her trailer in the back. Soon, very soon, they run away from the circus together. Nate, decides to protect her, but he also needs money, and he's in trouble with the mob, for still not being dead, as well as because he slept Happy Shannon's (Bill Murray) wife. Happy is hardly ever smiling, as it particularly brutal and vicious, but he's quiet, and in some ways, world-weary for a life of a mobster, so when Happy sees that Nate's claims of an angel are actually true, he's intrigued. Not enough to really want to keep Nate alive, but intrigued enough to want Lily all for himself, like everyone seems to. Megan Fox, is basically seen in boxes of some kind, for all of the film. If you're wondering, she can only really fly when the wind is in the strong enough, and usually not for long. She's too big for her wings. Now, I think it's simplistic and cliche to attack Megan Fox's acting abilities; she is a little bit limited as an actress, but she can be strong when given even a half-way decent part, like in "Jennifer's Body", for instance, but she, and nobody else has really anything to do here. This movie has about as strange a cast you can imaging to begin with, and as strange a story. It look like a bad stageplay half the time, and by the end, I don't know what to make of "Passion Play". I don't even know, really what to make of the title even, come to think about it. It's strange, cheesy and metaphorical, you have to think, that at some point, this movie, must've started with, at least a germ of an idea. As it is, it's a bunch of random parts, without much whole. That the parts are so bizarre and random, makes the movie, at least somewhat interesting. I didn't even mention Kelly McGillis as Nate's tattooed-covered wife Harriet, who has a strange, naked dream sequence in the movie, that, maybe was pivotal, I couldn't really tell. "Passion Play", is a strange film, I think. I don't know what the hell it was actually, but it wasn't good, but it was kinda interesting.
KAGEMUSHA (1980) Director: Akira Kurosawa
4 1/2 STARS
Akira Kurosawa's "Kagemusha", is utterly fascinating to watch. It's beautiful to look at, and completely absorbing, as a story. What it lacks is any real succinct answers about it's message. Is there a message to the film? It's a grand epic, with spectacular battle scenes, by the one of the master filmmakers, so it's natural to think so. I was actually shocked to learn that it's based on an actual event, when looking it up. Shingen is the warlord leader of the Takeda Clan. In the beginning of the movie, he's interrogating a thief, Kagemusha, who happens to look exactly like him. (Tatsuyi Nakadai) Shingen is vicious, known for murdering hundreds, including his own family, and he's at war with the Nobunaga, one of many wars he's fought, and he is on his way to conquering. In battle however, Shingen is killed, but this fact is kept secret. If they say he's dead, nobody will fight, since their bloodthirsty leader is gone, and his opponents will attack without fear, and they'll be conquer. They then begin an elaborate ruse to delay the report of Shingen's death, for three years, and have Kagemusha pose as him, until the end of the war. Kagemusha, means "Shadow Warrior", and the thief, was indeed in the shadows, posing as the actual Shingen, even able to fool family members, including his wife, and grandkid, and his mistress. The movie has some of the most amazing battle sequences ever shot. One opening scene sticks in my mind, which follows a messenger running through armies of troops to deliver a message, and he's followed all the way through. Kurosawa was heavily influenced by Western literature, and I have to imagine the idea of the commoner becoming the king, must have appealed to him. It took forever to fund and make "Kagemusha", which he finally did after Francis Ford Coppola and George Lucas helped put up the funding. He wasn't popular in Japan anymore, and had to get outside backing. Kagemusha feels a little long to me, more like a historical educational piece, than rather his more philosophical pieces like "Rashomon" or "Ikiru", or his best western-lit influence films, like his King Lear re-imagining "Ran". (Which was the film Kurosawa really wanted to make before making "Kagemusha", but he had to make it later.) Perhaps he was just putting a period to the straight samurai genre that he helped bring to America with films like "Yojimbo" and "Seven Samurai", marking he was done, killing the genre, but still pretending it's alive, with the shadow warrior. I don't get the sense that "Kagemusha" was as personal a film for Kurosawa and his other works, but the technical craft is incredible. Yet, under the surface, the movie makes us think and consider. About what, I'm not sure, but a lot.
PATTON (1970) Director: Franklin J. Schaffner
When going one-by-one through all the important and essential old films, some movies are absolute delights to go through, while others, tend to be chores. "Patton" is a chore. It's not a bad chore by any means, but a chore nonetheless, and you know you're in trouble when the best scene in the movie, is the first. Still, "Patton" is impressive, especially George C. Scott's Oscar-winning performance and the mad general, who's an expert on military history and strategy. He reads his Bible from cover to cover, is hated by every one of his soldiers, yet, he gets results. He holds back the Germans in North Africa, and then begins a march towards Berlin, if wasn't for his own foulmouthed ruthlessness getting in the way. He's suspended for hitting a soldier, and has no tolerance for cowardice. In America, the film was portrayed as the story of a heroic soldier, but overseas, the movie was often read to show a man so obsessed with winning and war, that it borders on the insanity of a crazed dictator. The full title in Britain of "Patton" for instance, was "Patton: Lust for Glory", and he is. He's one-of-a-kind. He seems to be believe that in past lives, he was in battles all throughout history, feeling the memories of such conflicts as though they happened to him yesterday. He's honored as a hero wherever he goes, always pushing the troops towards the front, never backing down, and convinced that after Berlin, their should still continute to march on towards Moscow and take out the Russians. His friend General Bradlee (Karl Malden), knows how smart and needed Patton is, but is also reluctant to use him, knowing you can't only take the good with Patton, you have to take the whole thing. "Patton" won seven Oscars, including Best Picture, a thought that seems unbelievable nowadays, considering it was up against both "M*A*S*H" and "Five Easy Pieces", and earned Francis Ford Coppola, his first Oscar for the screenplay. "Patton" is long epic, that's hardly ever boring, but it's certainly weighty. Like Patton himself, the movie is a relic of an earlier time, when such movies about the glory of war and battle, have long outlived it's usefulness. The Nazis seem to mourn Patton's uneniable, post-war life, than they do their own demies at his hand, as Rommel (Karl Michael Vogler). The movie has a few unlikely scenes like that, mixed in with some exemplar battle scenes and images, like Patton, following his soldier through Berlin in a tank, waving and answering back with his troops, and the locals. There's a lot to admire about "Patton", not a lot to like however. It's a must-watch though, an important film, and exceptional performance, but, it's a chore.
THE JAZZ SINGER (1927) Director: Alan Crosland
I don't think I have to go over the importance of "The Jazz Singer" in cinematic history, as the talking picture, but it has to be mentioned that it was, and it represents a critical change in cinematic history. It's historic importance will always trump the actual film, but to watch actual film is surprising. For one thing, the film is only about, half in sound, and mainly, only for Al Jolsen's musical numbers. Most of the film is actually traditionally silent with title cards for occasional dialogue and exposition. It must have been shocking to see this film at the time, when you compare it, like you can here, the way it was before, and the way it is now, and forever. Also, somewhat surprising, is that the film actually holds up pretty well. Based on Jolsen's true story, he plays Jakie Rabinowitz, a young Jewish man, who wants to sing jazz, but is taught and brought up from the earliest ages to sing in the synagogue for his father, (Warner Ohland) a Jewish Cantor. Afterwords, when he sun refuses the position, he goes out and begins making a name for himself on stage, eventually appearing in a Broadway revue. There's one memorable scene when he visits his mother and plays the piano for her, talking about all the nice things he'll buy for them, but his father, has still long disowned him. There's a particularly intriguing scene, after he's met May (Mary Dale) and he's distraught over his father, being on his deathbed, while he's in his dressing room, putting on blackface. He's considering going back, and singing for the church, replacing his father for a few years, and the thought is killing him. As he finishes putting on the blackface, he screams allowed how he just wants him to let him be me, and that he's not defined by his race. The commentary seems startling now, with Jolsen in blackface, complaining about how his Jewishness is what's keeping him down. I wonder if the irony was intentional? Probably not, but it plays well now, and the music is quite good. Old-fashioned, and yes,in regards to the blackface, we have to understand and accept the time, but overall, I was actually surprised at how well "The Jazz Singer" holds up nowadays. It's a landmark film to be sure, but don't let that overshadow the fact that it also happens to be a good film.
FORBIDDEN LIE$ (2009) Director: Anna Broinski
4 1/2 STARS
Norma Khouri grew up living in Jordan, on the outskirts of Amman, where her and her friend Dalia, ran a rare unisex hairdresser shop that was frequented by both Christians and Muslims. Dalia, was killed by her father and brothers, in an honor killing, which runs rampant in Jordan, and is practically legal. Dalia's crime, was falling in love with a Christian guy. Norma escaped Jordan to Greece, and began writing about the incident in a book called "Forbidden Love"; it's American title was "Honor Lost", and became an International Bestseller and Khouri, became a worldwide advocate for the end of Honor killings. The story was pretty good, except it was just that, a story. In "Forbidden Lie$", Director Anna Broinski dives into Norma Khouri, the real Norma Khouri, who's true novel, was revealed to have dozens of inaccuracies in it. For instance, there aren't unisex hairdresser shops in Jordan, and the few that are, never does a woman cut a man's hair, as she claimed. She used locations that she's never even been to. "Yeah, I changed some things, so as not to tip off who the real Dalia is?" Ah, yes the real Dalia, they get to that to. How about, miscounting the amount of honor killings in Jordan? She claimed 1000s, it's more like, 15/yr. I thought it was strange picking Jordan, when Pakistan would've been a better candidate. She claims that you can send money through her e-mail to donate to the organization to prevent honor killings, but the leader of the group who studies honor killings in Jordan, has never seen her, or money. Her organization is right in the middle of where the book took place, and people come to her, if women are worried about being murdered in such a manner, they, or they're friends, go to her. And for somebody who's lived in Jordan all her life, her English, and writing style, is distinctly Western. There's so many errors-, she doesn't even get the countries that Jordan borders correct! Seriously, couldn't she have just looked at a map? It turns out, she's lived half her life in America, and has a husband and two kids in Chicago, is being investigated by the FBI, as a con artist. Her husband is a piece of work as well, who supposedly has ties to the Greek Mafia underworld. The Australian journalist who cracked her fraud, won Awards for investigative journalism, and the book was pulled from the non-fiction shelves, and what about Dalia? Who was she, where was the crime, and when exactly was she killed? Norma has only one picture of her, and nobody knows who she is, although a few people seem to think its Norma's sister, who lives down the street from Norman in Chicago. When she finally goes to Amman, along with the filmmaker, which she claims is a possibly deadly-visit considering what and who she's written about, to prove that Dalia exists, it turns into a wild goose chase, revealing some of her lies, and creating new ones, or new truths. There's numerous shots of Norma getting a lie detector test, which at first she passes, but then, when some of her past comes out, not so much. This is a fascinating documentary, that's not only about investigative journalism, is itself, a great investigative journalist piece, and also a intriguing rare, personal glimpse profile, of a fake. It's also kinetically entertaining. This movie feels faster than it is, and it's amazing how nothing comes expected. I think this story has even more layers to it, and that we're still just peeling it away. Part of it, is that we're still trying to get down to the real Norma Khouri, (Who's real birthname is Norma Bagain) as her lies become more elaborate, complicated, and disturbing more believable at times. It's impossible to know the true Norma, at least from Norma herself, but she's more than willing to discuss it. Maybe most disturbing is the timing of the book, and some of it's most loyal fans, like Liz Chaney, who was advocating for the book back in '02 & '03, before America invaded Iraq. Seriously, she couldn't have even looked at a map to see what countries border Jordan?