Thursday, January 30, 2014


A few years ago, on one of my earliest blogs, about streaming, called "Why Streaming Sucks! Why Everyone Who Predicts the End of DVDs is Wrong!", I said that DVDs were always gonna be more beneficial than streaming, and even proposed that they were gonna win the battle for the future of home media. (You can see the link below)

I still stand by that opinion and in some ways, we're getting closer to that reality than ever, although when I was making that prediction/declaration, I was referring to how it would be impossible to ever get the studios and others who own the rights to distribute films to come together, stream all the world's library of film, and have them permanently available on one streaming website, and settle any monetary considerations and distribution of money and earnings per download/stream of a property, which is still probably the greatest obstacle for the continued success of streaming, but a close second in the obstacle department, is what's more prevalent and in the news right now, the possible dismissal of net neutrality, in order to make streaming available to all. Some of you may know, some of you are probably aware of the latest news in the ongoing lawsuit regarding Verizon, who's challenging the recent FCC rulings regarding an open  neutral internet. Verizon's challenging the FCC's ruling, as they want to be able to, not limit the internet per se, but make it so that streaming contents are more preferable for Verizon users and on that end, on Verizon sites. It's a little complicated, but basically the way it works now is that, no matter your internet provider, they give you the complete internet; Verizon, Comcast, CenturyLink, I'm using Cox right now, etc., they're simply the providers of the internet, they can't control your internet usage in any way, like slow down the internet for certain disgruntled customers, or prevent you from going to any websites that might be, for instance, from a competing internet provider.

Verizon, and let's presume all the other aforementioned major names and others, want to eliminate net neutrality. Now, this can have a lot of dangerous, Orwellian side effects, but narrowing it down to our main concerns, what exactly does that mean, for us streamers? Well, basically, it means that if this passes, Verizon would be able to block and/or make it harder to stream on non-Verizon sites, liked Netflix. They may not, completely block it, like Time Warner Cable was doing with CBS recently in their major lawsuit regarding cable prices, but they could make it easier for streaming to occur on a competing Verizon streaming site, and make it harder to stream on Netflix, ergo making the service practically useless, unless you pay Verizon to use the service, and eventually, as fewer and fewer people would use Netflix, it would fall into bankruptcy, keeping in mind, that it wouldn't just be Verizon doing this. You see, the fact that you already have to spend extra money to subscribe to all the streaming sites, in order to see every possible thing you'd want to watch, that's the logical problem, and why streaming won't last in the long haul, but this could be a bigger concern, 'cause if the D.C. appeals court ruling holds, Verizon and all the other internet providers will be able to limit your ability to stream content on their sites. So, now, instead of, just having to pay for different streaming sites, we may have to pay to have multiple internet providers just so we can be overcharged to stream.

This does seem a little greedy but let's play devil's advocate for a second here, Verizon, is providing their internet to their customers, which is a big undertaking. You have put up the wires and pipes, in order to provide for that kind of internet; it doesn't just come out of the air, they're putting money into this, and suddenly most of their customers spend it streaming on Netflix. Well, that's a lot of money, that they could be making, going to Netflix, which is what the bulk of their internet is being used for. If the case continues and Net Neutrality is overturned, they can start charging their customers to stream on Netflix, as oppose to their customers using Netflix for free, completely lacking their own shot at making money. Think of it this way, if Verizon was a shopping mall, that somebody would walk through to get to the Starbucks on the other side of the mall, across the street, pretty soon, you'd put a Starbucks inside the mall. That's what Verizon is trying to do, and it's good business, 'cause people are using their product, but the money they pay is going to someone else. In that sense they do have a bit of a point here.

Now, as the Young Turks post above explains, there are more privacy issues at stake than this, but essentially, if this goes through, the entire internet is going to be like cable television, and we'll have to pay to use every single site, including the sites that we'll probably get for free, by using the internet provider that also runs the site. We want cable, we have to pay extra, we want HBO, we pay extra, we pay extra, you want Hulu, you may have to pay extra now, if this decision stands. That's basically what's happening; it's an attempt, by the internet providers, to legally form a power play and eventually take over the streaming options on the internet.

Seriously, it may not look like it, but DVDs, if this keeps happening, and we head towards this direction, they'll be making a comeback, or some next generation of hardware will, cause it'll really be the practical way now, and if you think getting a bunch of studios to agree with each other over money, let's try getting them in the same room with the internet providers, and see how big a clusterfuck this could become, 'cause that's where this is eventually heading. Now I wouldn't put it pass the possibility that, this happens and a suddenly disgruntled internet-savvy electorate that, before a deadline approaches that suddenly Congress and the President, may reverse any unfortunate appeals court ruling and suddenly make it law themselves, but it is, a little bit early for that still, but is just the beginning. Even if this case doesn't go in Verizon's favor, you know that they're gonna start trying to find other end around in order to get in on the streaming business, as everyone else already is, and I don't blame them; even as I say continue to sound the praises of DVDs, streaming won't go down without a fight, and will exist in some form, and if somebody can legally corner the internet market, that company is gonna make a killing on the streaming market.

Well, this is definitely worth keeping an eye on, for many reasons, and one of the minors ones is that it can forever alter the way we watch movies, but in the meantime, if you like streaming, you ought to continue to enjoy it however you can, especially now, it'll probably cost too much for the hassle in the future.

Monday, January 27, 2014

IT'S THE END OF PILOT SEASON AS WE KNOW IT... AND I FEEL FINE! FOX gets rid of PILOT SEASON!, and why that means very little until the Emmys start happening in January.

It's not like FOX has ever really cared about the traditional standards and rules regarding the basic networks primetime rules and scheduling. They've always insisted that their primetime night ends at 10, not at 11pm, which they usually let the stations air either reruns or syndicated programming instead, so they've usually had fewer hours to air programs to begin with. They put dramas on at eight and nine, they've put aside a whole night for animated programming which was long after they started putting on more adult-content animation in Primetime way before anyone took animation seriously for anybody other than kids. They've often many times, moved the schedule around to have their premiere weeks as late as November while all the other networks were broadcasting new programs and competing with each other from two+ months earlier. So it really shouldn't be all that surprising that FOX has decided to get rid of "Pilot Season", in favor of a year-long developmental season, similar to that of the cable networks, especially since they've already been half-scheduling their channel like a cable broadcast for years anyway.

For those of you, uninformed, pilot season, is that weird time of year that's predicated in summer, but really starts a few months earlier where the networks start hearing all the new or sometimes old pitches for TV shows, and then start developing them into pilots, that we often think of as the first episodes of TV shows, which determines whether or not they get picked up for the next season. The hear all these pitches, and then call for scripts for about 70 or 80 of them, many of which, you'd be surprised aren't even written yet. (Besides they usually end up getting rewritten anyway, multiple times) but then each pilot is given a budget, usually cheap, where and then a pilot is shot, which is it's own undertaking, but it's crucial that you get the right cast, shoot on the cheap, and come in under budget. Don't underestimate that last part by the way, there's a guy, (at least there used to be, I don't know if he's still there or not but...) at CBS who's worked there for 20+ years, he's produced dozens of pilots, but never gotten one on the air. Seriously, he keeps his job, because he gets them made under budget. And they're expensive, for the cheapest scripted series, it's easily a million dollars an episode; and that's probably an animated one. (No wonder why networks love reality shows) So a regular series, pick-up, better be worth it for the network, even for just 6 or 13 episodes, it's a huge commitment, and to be sorted out from all those shows, and then put on the schedule, at which point, you're series is probably over-compromised to death, and if it's lucky to get on the air, has to be good enough to stay on the air, to really develop, get good and create an identity for itself, where it can stay and keep a crucial time slot. And the network presidents who can last longer than two years, become legends for finding that one "Friends", in the stock pile of 500 "Whitney"'s.

That's the process, but from a Hollywood perspective, it's those of compromising problems in between that really take the piss out of it. It's also the big clusterfuck for actors of all skillsets and levels in Hollywood, from first-times SAG carders to Oscar winners, trying to get a pilot job or two. If you've ever noticed people who always seem to get TV shows, there's a few reasons; they're usually in high demand, and are the first phone calls for new pilots and shows. There's also something called TVQ rating, a list that's devised and sent out to all the studios and TV producers, that's a little hard to fully explain; but it's basically a star system for TV actors, based on the comfortableness of that actor, being in our living room. It's never released publicly but it's a strange list. These are things that have led to some "defensive casting" in TV shows, where they often cast people because of their demand, as oppose to whether they might be best for the role. For instance, little known fact, Jennifer Aniston was on two TV shows at once in the fall of '94, "Friends" and "Muddling Through", which lasted ten episodes, and she's was working on both at the same time. Probably the most recent incident of such a thing was Damon Wayans Jr. The talented young actor was working on "Happy Endings", the cult-hit series on ABC, which was always on the brink of cancellation. So, when the next round of pilot season came around, he started going to auditions anyway, and putting his name out for work, and he got cast in the pilot for "New Girl". After he shot the pilot however, "Happy Endings" got renewed, and his part had to then be written out of the script, in the second episode, and a new character had to be created and then cast. It's a clunky situation, and it makes sense for a network, to want to do with a pilot season, in favor of the more practical cable model where they're developing fewer shows, all year long, and this can possibly lead to a complete reinvention of the television lineup.

Except it's already been that way. What? Ten years ago, TV shows used to air reruns! Remember that? In summer, so you can catch up on shows you missed while the networks worked on developing new pilots? That doesn't exist anymore. Not the way it used to, now there's new seasons of reality shows and new scripted series and miniseries all year long. We basically develop shows now, for when they air, as much as we do, for season, and networks already did that, when the second-tier pilots, would get enough episodes made for what we used to call "Mid-season replacements". Hell, whole series now, like "Rules of Engagement" have run themselves into syndicated basically being mid-season replacements, now. And while the experiment is taking place at FOX, the other networks are still running on the same system for next year, and the foreseeable future, so not much is really gonna change. Shows will premiere in September, where I'll probably write a song-and-dance about how all the new network shows suck, and that'll be nice for a few weeks until HBO/AMC/FX/Showtime/Starz/USA/Netflix/Hulu.... and all the other cable shows premiere the new season of whatever new shows or popular Emmy-winning shows' new seasons come out.

So not much is really changing from this. Pilot season will still be a pain in the ass, and premiere week will still be disappointing. And who knows if pilot season will reveal itself to be the archaic process that FOX claims it is, or if all this means is that, development season becomes the year-long pain in the ass that leads to disappointing premiere series year-round. We'll be following it, and we'll know for sure, if the network schedule changes forever and the Emmys move to January. Really, I'm calling it now, if it's successful, that's gonna the sign. New shows will debut and air, and network will have a schedule like cable or British TV where series will air series right through, and then they'll have finales, at the same time, new series will then start airing in their time slots, until their seasons are up, and eventually, maybe ten, fifteen years down the road, it'll start being ridiculous to have the Emmy in July or August, so they'll be switch to January, which will only make Award season, that much more of over-covered clusterfuck of a big deal. (That's right, Golden Globe will start being taken seriously as Emmy predicators!- LOL! Okay, I couldn't type that with a straight face, that will never happen!) Right now, there's no chance of that happening any time soon, and frankly, I'm not sure FOX is gonna be that successful. They still have to compete with the shows on regular-scheduled networks, so they have to keep in mind not to put the really big shows against "The Big Bang Theory" "NCIS" of "Modern Family" anytime soon, so, they'll be carving out the format for awhile before it starts taking shape, and the new trend becomes the new norm.

Friday, January 24, 2014


Whew! Lots of movie reviews this week. Award season coverage pushed me back a couple blogposts so there's a little more than usual this week, and on top of that, I have a lot more to watch than usual, as I have to try and catch up on everything for award season.

Anyway, a couple things, first of all, I'm unsure of how well the google search engine tab at the top of this blog is working, so if anybody has anything of mine that they want to look at, let me know; there's a decent chance I've written something on almost any subject or reviewed a recent movie at some point, so if you have trouble finding it, tweet me, Facebook me, comment, ask, I'll find it, and send links. I'm working on the problems, I might at some point in the future ever consider switching away from Blogger perhaps, I'm exploring many options, but if you any trouble or issues with my blog, let me know.

The only other thing I had a thought on was the controversy that came after Woody Allen was given the Cecil B. DeMille Award from the Golden Globes, and of course some of the accusations laid against him. I don't many qualms about being a Woody Allen fan, but that said, I do tend to believe most of the accusations against him, and frankly I think about what Theodore Dreiser said, that "Moralists have no place in an art gallery." And frankly that's correct. If we're talking great artists who've done or have been suspected of doing despicable things, Woody Allen, barely breaks the Top Ten, and you know, at the end of the day, you don't judge the artist, you judge the art. It'd be nice to say that the world's greatest artist are also the world's greatest people, but let's face it, that's just simply not the case and it never will be. You can say or do whatever you want based on you're own morals, but as much as some may try, the art will live on, so we might as well embrace it. Good art is so rare as it is.

Anyway, onto this week's RANDOM WEEKLY MOVIE REVIEWS starting with four of this year's OSCAR NOMINATION FILMS!

IRON MAN 3 (2013) Director: Shane Black


Well, I still don't fully understand the logic of the Marvel-, (Marvel Universe, is that what it...-? Marvelverse? Mar- [Flips hand] Ah, forget it.) Anyway, it just doesn't quite pass the logic test. I had that same problem with "The Avengers", but think about, a terrorist is able to control the airwaves to deliver his messages, explodes bombs randomly across the country, attack landmarks with helicopters and infiltrate the highest levels of the governments, but don't bring the Avengers together, instead, deal with it ourselves, 'cause it's making the government look bad? I got one, how about since most of the Avengers are already Americans, why not, the next time anybody dares to attack us, how about calling on the Avengers, to go beat the living hell out of the threat, and talk about the brilliance of the American superhumans that can destroy armies, and piggyback off them? Well, the ineptitude of the U.S. Government aside, I'm lukewarm to "Iron Man 3", it's clearly the weakest of the "Iron Man" movies, and also the most cliche-filled, but, for the ways that both the Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) go through some, legitimate personal and emotional perils both together and apart. The movie takes place after "The Avengers" film, and Stark has been working on a collection of his Iron Man suits, most of which, he doesn't even need to be inside to control them, and it's causing him a lot of sleepless nights, plus, he's suffering panic attacks, and other side effects from going through that wormhole. The government's hired Colonel James (Don Cheadle) to have his War Machine painted red, white and blue, to be the Iron Patriot to work for the government, and Happy (Jon Favreau) has taken over the Security measures at Stark,- (Industries?, is that it? Yeah? Okay.) ...Stark Industries, much to the chagrin of, most everyone. Favreau has also passed over the directing and writing honors to Shane Black interestingly enough, who of course wrote the great script to "Lethal Weapon", but hasn't directed since the quirky Hollywood comedy "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang", which, is memorable, although not particularly special. A mysterious Middle Eastern figured named The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley, in a really cool performance, that I don't want to give away why) who's for some reason, impossible to find, and seems incalculably powerful and restless. He's however a figure controlled by Stark's competitor Aldrich Killian, who's resurfaced in Pepper and Tony's lives years after their first encounter, which we see in flashback, and Tony basically ignored, but now, his company, AIM is contracted by the government and he's looking for revenge, as well as winning back Pepper, who's Aldrich's ex-girlfriend. Ironically Tony's ex, Maya (Rebecca Hall) works for Aldrich as a botanist, who's become more and more morally disrupted, and tries to get ahold of Stark for help, but is interrupted by his house getting attacked by the Mandarin. There's a lot more going on, and I'm only really scratching the surface, and a strange scenario plays out where Tony's getting help from a small mechanically interested kid (Ty Simpkins) while Tony's stranded in Tennessee in the depth of a snowy winter. The action scenes I really enjoyed, I'll admit the movie has some flat parts. Guy Pearce for instance, not his fault, but this is not a villain that seems equal to Stark or that intriguing of one really, and it goes back and forth a bit too much between the similarities or symbolisms of the modern world, particularly involving the government while also trying to be it's own universe. It's a little confusing to see iron suited heroes blowing up oil refineries, mixed with "Downton Abbey" going on in background. It's a mixed review, but the character is still interesting, and the inner journey they sent him on, was interesting enough for me.

THE CROODS (2013) Director: Kirk DeMicco and Chris Sanders


I'm always amazed in modern animation, particularly in computer animation, how they manage to get the hair to flow so perfectly. Such long hair as those of Eep Crood, (Emma Stone) as we get some gorgeous over-the-shoulder shots of her looking down off the side of a land formation or a cliff. It's similar to my hair, so I notice things like that. Mine isn't perfectly straightened, so like Eep's, a cave teenager who wishes to wonder off into the ever-changing world without getting eaten or stepped on by a superanimal, it flows in the back, but not more than it's possible for someone who lacks the proper beauty regiment. (Something, I'm slowly gaining, admittedly.) Other than that, honestly, I wasn't too interested in "The Land Before Time with People", I mean, "The Croods". (That was mean, it was better "The Land Before Time"). It's following a trend in recent animated films to be, about the importance of family, and the importance also of being an individual. Frankly, the movie is a good remake of Plato's famous "Allegory of the Cave", very literally in fact. Grug Crood (Nicolas Cage) the family's father insists on making sure everyone remains in there so as, very reasonably, not to get killed. Cavepeople got killed quite often by, going outside and other such dangerous activities. The family does go out every week for a good game of breakfast, that's a nice sequence. Soon, a guy comes into the picture, literally named Guy (Ryan Reynolds), who's a survivalist who's recognizing that the world is close to ending, or shaking, or,eh,...- Wait, what exactly was he able to foresee? Now I'm confused, anyway, after some reluctance, rib-breaking and biting, he starts leading the family towards the sun and a path towards, eh, well, a new excited life in the Great Valley. Dammit, I didn't wanna use another "The Land Before Time" joke, but it's so easy here. Look, it's not a bad animated film but it's not a great one, in many ways it's very cliched. Many of the jokes don't really work, but there are a few moments that are quite amazing, animation wise, many of them involving the movement of land formations. The animation is better than the movie, I'll say that. I like Eep as a character, her hair especially, and her costume. Do animated movies have costume designers? Couldn't hurt, I guess. It is a recommendation, but obviously not a strong one. It's just that, we go to movies often to see things we don't see elsewhere, and here's a family, a hormonal teenage daughter, a strict dad, and a new boyfriend who he doesn't like. I've seen all this, and when you see something like that, in animation in particular, where there's endless possibilities,.... (Shrugs)

THE ACT OF KILLING (2013) Director: Joshua Oppenheimer


Note: Sorry if this particular review is a bit scattered. I had written it once before, a much-better written review before, but somehow I lost it, and I tried recreating it  (Ironic,considering the movie, I know) but couldn't do it exactly.

I knew that Indonesia was a stronghold for several terrorist organizations in modern times, and always wondered why. It probably would've been easy to simply do a traditional interview biodocumentary on the death squad gangsters and hoods, who killed a million so-called Communists after the '65 military overthrow of the government, but instead director Joshua Oppenheimer took one of the more intriguing routes, by having the killers make movies of themselves, depicting their vicious acts. They get all they need, they hire locals as actors, and they can shoot anyway they want in order to depict their own experiences and viewpoints of the slaughtering. "The Act of Killing" chronicles these gangsters and hoods, now 40+ years after these atrocities, most of which made them rich, and they still basically have bought the now democratic Indonesian government, the films they create are visceral, and there frank talk is odd and disturbing. They don't immediately come off as mass murderers. They even go on TV promoting the film, the gangsters are still respected enough. They often call themselves gangsters which they were/are, and promote that by saying that the word originated from the latin for "Free man".  During one shooting break, one of them tells about how he'd keep the girls, particularly the young girls alive just to rape them. How or why they feel that they can so easily brag about their acts, I don't know. I guess they don't think they can really be taken in anymore or they've got enough power and allies still in high places On of the reasons they're documenting their crimes in this way is because there isn't the footage that say, the Nazis so calculatingly took of the Holocaust, most of which, they thought would be a document of their achievements, and that their eradication of the Jews would be looked upon in history books with praise. Here, as they reenact the bloodied massacres and viscous interrogations, among other scenes, some may still think they were in the right. We know now that the crimes weren't so much anti-Communist inspired, although that's how it was promoted, but was more of a Pol Pot, reflected death of the intelligentsia and others who simply disagreed with the reforms, or were accused of such acts. Or were simply named names, on a list provided somewhere. One of them was a journalist who bragged about his names, which he gave to the death squads. The movie doesn't show old footage, in fact the motif of a modern-day Jakarta, complete with McDonald's undermines the ironies. Some were annoyed that the new regime refused to show American films in the theaters they owned after they took power, losing them a lot of money. We hear sporadically how some of the killers lost their minds and couldn't live with themselves. Some of the victims, one of them claims, haunts him for nights on in, in his sleeps. It is true that the winners write the history books usually, but a film like "The Act of Killing" proves that, that's not always true.

THE HUNT (2013) Director: Thomas Vintenberg


I'm watching over Vintenberg's "The Hunt" again, as I begin writing this, because I worried about some biases that I didn't foresee before. For instance, while a lot of people have been comparing the film to something like "The Children's Hour", but I was recalling a film called "The Green" that few people saw but remained in my mind above the troubles and struggles of a gay couple who become ostracized by their community and then with each other when one of them gets accused of having an inappropriate relationship with a high school student. That's become one of the most overlooked films in recent years. Here, the teacher is Lucas (Mads Mikkelsen). He's a divorced father, who lives alone, but is good as an kindergarten teacher. He even begins dating again as it begins to inch towards Christmas. Then, he gets accused of sexually propositioning one of his students, Klara (Annika Wedderkopp). He's suspended, and startled at the accusation. It's clear the kid is lying, but not everyone thinks so. And soon, the people surrounding him start to reject him, and few believe him. Even after the girl says she made it up, her mother Agnes (Anne Louise Hassling) thinks that she couldn't have made up the story, and talks about how she only thinks it's imaginary and block out the moment in her mind. It's possible something like that can happen, and has, so it's not unreasonable the parents position, for awhile anyway. Vintenberg is one of the Dogme '95 filmmakers who revolutionized digitial filmmaking back in the '90s, and he's a good filmmaker. His last film "Submarino" was haunting. Maybe it's because I've seen better films on the subject recently, but the film lacks to me, while it still remains effective. Mikkelsen gives a really great performance, and that carries the movie. The film earned a Foreign Language Oscar nomination earlier this week, one I wasn't surprised by, but also one that I'm not sure it entirely deserved. Thinking on back on it, and considering it again, I think his character remained a little too insular however. He's a loner, although dating at the moment, a co-worker, Nadja (Alexandra Rapaport) but most of his decline occurs when he's alone and in his empty house, driven to madness by his stigmatization. He ends up fighting with Klara's father, eventually, because of his protectiveness. And you know, in hindsight, some of the sequences I don't get. There's a scene with his son Marcus (Lasse Fogelstrom) getting kicked out of a supermarket because of his dad.- And actually that's the problem. There's a lot of scenes that are examples, and they aren't really organic to the story necessarily, it's just a lot of same thing, repeated a different way, and if didn't really come off effectively as a narrative. Still, recommending it, but it's not the masterpiece that some are making it out to be.

AT ANY PRICE (2013) Director: Ramin Bahrani


I expect certain observations about the modern world and those who live within it from Ramin Bahrani, the great young director of "Chop Shop", "Man Push Cart" and "Goodbye, Solo", all great indy films he shot with little-known, or in some cases non-professional actors that earned him great acclaim. He is one of the most natural directors around, and in that sense, "At Any Price", his most professional film to date, is a bit of a disappointment. He's got well-known actors giving life to his usually eccentric and determined characters, but somehow they come off cliched here, even at their most realistic. The film revolves around a seed salesman in Iowa, Henry Whipple (Dennis Quaid) the best salesman in eight counties for Liberty Seeds. Describing his job would take a bit of an agricultural economics lesson, but in modern times, farmers use cryogenic seeds instead of natural seeds, which are produced and sold by competing manufacturers. They're a little different than regular seeds, and the usage of all seeds is heavily regulated, and a farmer can only grow using one kind of seeds per season. Competition is fierce. In order to by land for his son Grant (Patrick W. Stevens) who's off seeing the world, and climbing Mt. Aconcagua in order to stay away from home. Instead, he tries focusing on his younger kid, Dean (Zac Efron) but he's quickly building a reputation as a local legend on the figure eight racecar circuit, and seems determined to grow up become a NASCAR driver, leave with his girlfriend Cadence (Maika Monroe) if she's willing and then never come home again. The father's annoying, and definitely a salesman first above feelings and emotions. The opening scene is him going to a funeral to try and quickly buy the departed's land. He also may have been involved in reseeding, which is illegal with the cryogenic seeds, but as his competition continues to make end roads into his territory he becomes desperate. His wife Irene (Kim Dickens) is patient, and more emotionally appealing to her kids, but not really strong enough to hold back on Henry's more headstrong nature that seems to alienate everybody. Except Cadence, who's grown up without a family and enjoys be taken under his wing going on salestrip through Iowa. There's also a role played by Heather Graham, and I'm gonna not reveal exactly the way she's used, other than to say that, she is one of the most criminally underused actresses around, and even here, she isn't exactly what I would think of as a character but rather she's more of a marker on other characters path, and that, that kinda bothered me, but a lot of this film bothered me. It's well-made, well-acted by Quaid, although I think, he borders on the cheesy at times, but the real problem is that, you never quite buy why his sons and family are such antagonistic to him. Efron, has a tendency to go to a blank expression, as oppose to a more visceral and emotional way to represent his emotions. In some cases that's okay, but there's a clear disconnect between him and Quaid, they seem to be on such different acting wavelengths that they just don't really connect the way they should. Plus, parts of the story itself are really traditional and predictable. Not all of it, but I typical expect Bahrani to be more creative in his plot structure than to pick a more obvious choice of what paths the movie takes. Plus, he's really good at realism, and this movie feels a little too pretty and pristine, to really come off as realistic. It looks like "Days of Heaven" when it would probably be better if it looked like "Winter's Bone". I think he struggled with this film, but it's still interesting enough anyway, to watch the struggle, plus there are glimpses of greatness here. He'll come back from this, thankfully it isn't the worst thing to came back from either.

LOVE IS ALL YOU NEED (2013) Director: Susanne Bier


Susanne Bier's follow up to her great Oscar-winning film "In a Better World", "Love is All You Need", is a light, light, light little romantic comedy, done reasonably well, but not exactly memorable or exciting. Especially from someone who can give us such emotionally intimate films like "Brothers" and "Things We Lost in the Fire", and here,- basically it's a nice, simple, rom-com (After a long pause, he finally decided to end that sentence with a period). Yeah, that's about it. The title, is of course from The Beatles song, but the main song you'll hear is Dean Martin's version of "That's Amore". Not sure why, being Italian I've heard it many times in my life, but it doesn't have too much to do with the movie about a couple getting married in Greece, and they two parents of the bride and groom, who start with a meet cute, and then slowly begin to fall in love over the course of the sorta chaotic wedding reception, which pales to other movies, but is rather ornate and asinine compared to other. I'm not gonna lie, with Pierce Brosnan as the main guy, and a child's wedding in Greece being the event that brings the characters together, well, I spent a decent part of the movie thinking about "Mamma Mia". Well, the movie is better than that film, although that's a pretty low mark to aim for, but still.... Ida (Trine Dyrholm) is coming off a divorce, and cancer treatments. She's bald and wears a wig as she meet Philip (Pierce Brosnan) an international food distributor, who's son is marrying her daughter. That's really all there is to it. There's naturally a correlating and predictable subplot about their kids, worried about whether they should get marries, all this while the wedding is being planned,-

You know what, you're all five or six steps ahead of me already, and that's the way the movie essentially felt. It's not the worse of it's kind it's not the best, it's a disappointing blah from a normally good director. And it plays "That's Amore" a lot, despite the title, and it didn't have much believe amore or love. I wish I had to more to discuss about it, but frankly that's it.

(2013) Director: Joseph Kosinski


"Oblivion" starts out a little bit like "Wall-E" but with humans who've had their memories erased instead of a lonely robot who's out to package the destructed remains of Earth, the parts that are somewhere recyclable before their mission ends and they return to the last human colony left, on Titan, the famous moon of Saturn. The two humans are Victoria and Jack (Andrea Riseborough and Tom Cruise), Victoria relays to Mission Control, represented by what I suspect is not necessarily a human character, Sally (Melissa Leo) and to Jack, who spends his days going around what's left of America and collect and fixing crashed drones, and trying to salvage other remnants of the past. Their memories have been erased, but somehow, Jack still dreams of electric sheep, or more importantly, has scattered remnant images of New York City, particularly a woman he sees in a crowd. The images haunt him, while Victoria, who likes the candlelight dinners and skinnydipping they have in their amniotic glass pool, she mostly just wants to soon get back to Titan. Then, on one of those famous last or next-to-last missions, a drone falls into an area close to a forbidden zone, which, despite no possible people or surrounding able to exist, a beacon call was being made from there. The ship turns out to have cryogenically frozen people there, and despite the drones, who were sent to destroy whatever might've been able to survive, he saves the human and unfreezes her, and the girl, Julia (Olga Kurylenko) who's been frozen for 60 years. Then the movie loses it's way as Morgan Freeman's character as a leader of a Mad Max-style band of renegades who've someone are still living on the planet, kidnap and basically, recruit them to their cause, whatever that was. The third act of this movie, which, maybe lasts about an hour or two, or it seemed like, there's a lot of special effects, and some vague notion of a greater meaning and symbolism about rebirth but, if you can get to that, through the plot loopholes, through the CGI, through the downtrodden tone, through of mess of clones, drones, and actual humans, all seemingly still fighting a war that supposedly ended decades ago, and in the uninhabitability of the planet that they're all doing all of this on, well, congratulations to you. "Oblivion" is the first film I've seen from "Tron: Legacy" director Joseph Kosinski, and it's based on a graphic novel that he created the story to, but this thing out well, and turns into a mess. One interesting credit here is that the script was co-written by Oscar-winning screenwriter Michael Arndt, but under the name Michael DeBruyn, which is the name he's also credited under for "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire". Not sure why he's switched last names, although if I had written part of "Oblivion", I might be changing my last name too.

A HIJACKING (2013) Director: Thomas Lindholm


"A Hijacking" is the second Danish film I've reviewing this week, after "The Hunt", which was also co-written by this film's writer/director, Thomas Lindholm, and the movie is surprisingly simple in scope and basic in it's execution. The movie begins with the crew of a ship, that is soon boarded by Somali pirates. I know, that sounds a little like "Captain Phillips", but this wasn't a military vessel, it was a ship run by a Danish corporation. When we find the CEO, Peter (Soren Malling), he's brokering a deal with Japanese investors, when word of the hijacking begins. The rest of the movie, for all-intensive purposes, is about the slow pace of the negotiations. K&R, which stands for Kidnapping & Ransom in the lingo of the insurance world. The process is slow; Peter is advised not to be the one doing the negotiation himself, but he insists, knowing full well that if all goes wrong, there's blood on his hands. Ironically, that's something the pirates actually did, they hired out Omar (Abdihakin Asgar) to negotiate on their behalf during these intense and stressful phone calls, and the even more intense and stressful games of waiting and chicken in between. And btw, when I say that, that there's a long time between, I'm not kidding. They take months, and the Somalis have more experience with this kind of negotiation. It's a tricky and intense slope. If it was up to Peter, he'd give whatever they'd ask for and more just to get them home. They shot this movie interestingly. The actual phone negotiations are improvised, and the scenes on the boat, were actually on a boat in the Indian Ocean, and the conversations were improvised between both sides simultaneously. Many of the cast members, including the professional hostage negotiator are actually non-actors playing themselves, this is easier for them to play, but it also in orders us to get the step by step, play-by-play aspect of the movie, which is really the crux of it. In fact, when the movie does stray from that, it's almost more than we can handle. The CEO has to keep the story private in order to save their lives, but also can't afford to give them anywhere nearing their $15million asking price, because if he does, then everybody knows that's what you'll get the next time. It's hard to believe it, but the longer they last, the more likely everyone will get out alive, (Simultaneously, they're also more likely to end up dead.) The film has similarities to "The Hunt" in how it's a film about how an ever-continuing situations cause increased frustrations while a situation is unable to be solved. The movie still has some issues where it's slow a bit, I think the attempts to make more cliched and traditional characters of some of the crew members, which I think, at certain moments, it would be better not to focus as much on them so intimately, but still, overall, a very solid and detailed film. It's a good playbook to what a dogme-styled, natural-feeling look film should kinda be.

JACK THE GIANT SLAYER (2013) Director: Bryan Singer


Trying to take "Jack the Giant Slayer" seriously is a chore, even when the movie does have occasional fluttering moments of inspiration. I mean, it's "Jack and the Fucking Beanstalk", even done well, this had about a snowflake chance in Vegas of landing and sticking. Well, it doesn't really stick. I guess, the-eh, well, of several additions to the original story includes a Princess, Isabel (Eleanor Tomlinson) who being courted by older male royals, but somehow is attractive to an easily-distracted commoner named Jack (Nicholas Hoult) who's family's poor and the farm is struggling. When we get to, the big scene with him selling a horse, they come up with an effective story about why the beans when wet, will eventually do what it does. The seller is a Monk, who's looking for a runaway horse, claiming the beans are religious relics of an earlier time, and instructs Jack to take them the church to receive his proper compensation, but the house gets engulfed, and then lifted, and soon, the King arrives at the sudden large growth on his kingdom. Oh, the reason that they, the king's men join Jack, as he climbs the beanstalk is that the Princess was in the house at that time, for reasons that aren't particularly imaginary, the Princess was in the house, and now they have to try and save her. The climbing is itself full of death and adventure, but also, the part of that ancient relic and time thing, leads them to the mythical land of the giants, is where the Princess was captured, and they then must save her. There's some other good actors in the film, most of which are playing the normal kind of royal politicking and scheming and trying to take over the throne type behavior. None of which is really interesting. It moves the plot forward, somewhat, but you know, we knew how the story was eventually gonna end and could only end. The giants were sorta creepy to me visuals, kinda reminded me of marionettes with Easter Island heads. Actually, no, you know who they reminded me of, Richard Moll. Remember, Bull from "Night Court"? Yeah, kinda like that. Anyway, I don't really know what else to tell about "Jack the Giant Slayer". It was entertaining enough to keep on I guess, that's about the best I got out of it. It's an honorable attempt, but basically this is the result of some very unimaginative studio exec probably. I can see those conversations in my head, the exec telling Bryan Singer the idea. That "Jack and the Beanstalk" is fair game or in the public domain, everybody knows it, loves it, and we don't have to pay for the rights, and easy it'll be to write. Like a scene out of "Barton Fink" practically. That's the problem, the fly on the wall of the conception of the idea of the movie, is more interesting that the film.

THE EAST (2013) Director: Zal Batmanglij


The latest collaboration between Zal batmangli and Brit Marling, "The East" almost plays like the reverse of their previous film "Sound of My Voice". That film had Marling as a cult leader, claiming to be from the future and had been organizing an army and group of protectors for/from her crimes. Now Marling, who's becoming as well-known for her writing as much as her acting, plays Sarah, the operative hired to infiltrate the cult. However in this case, the group isn't a cult as it is an environmental terrorist organization who threatens and executes their attacks often by terrorizing companies and their employees, including the highest-ranked CEOs and their families, by using the same chemicals and techniques with which they destroy the world onto them. She works as undercover operative, not for a government, but for a private firm that specializes in protecting the multinational corporations by using counter-terrorism measures against these anarchistic groups. This group is led by Benji (Alexander Skarsgard) a quietly charismatic yet thoughtfully determined young manipulator, who works out his attacks with a careful precision, only a few in the inner circle even realizing the entirety of the operation. The first one we see him execute, involves the normally living in the woods gang, dressing up, attending an executive black tie soiree, and then poisoning the champagne with the same arsenic chemicals that the company poisons other with. "If it truly is safe, then nothing will happen," he informs her. When Sarah tries to inform her boss, Sharon (Patricia Clarkson) she informs her to do nothing, because that company wasn't one that paid for her services. There's capitalism at its darkest from both ends, and this time, it's not-so-much, whether Stockholm Syndrome should take in, but when and how. Another member of the group who's extremely devoted is Izzy (Ellen Page) who's a daughter of a head of a major pollutant that continually gets high marks from all the environmental government organizations they've bought off, hellbent specifically on making her parents feel what they've done. It's one of Page's best roles and performances for awhile, she's perfectly casted for this. The movie, does become predictable and a certian point, and the movie take a turn that probably could've been stronger if they didn't. It became a bit of a message movie, and there is romance to some extent. It's another solid film Marling, who's getting more work in Hollywood roles now, but she's really niched out a writing spot for herself with these roles she creates, with this, the aforementioned "Sound of My Voice" and her first feature "Another Earth". This is probably the weakest of the three, maybe cause it's a little more traditional and straightforward a tale; I've seen versions of this character and this story before, while the other two films seemed more original and fresh. Still, she's become a really powerful actress and writer and I'm beginning to know her hand in something from anywhere.

PARADISE (2013) Director: Diablo Cody


(CONFLICT OF INTEREST Warning: It's possible that I may know people or know or know some people or... who in some ways worked on the film.)

"How did she get this so right?"  was a question I kept asking myself as I watched Diablo Cody's directorial debut. She couldn't have just simply looked up some things like on wikipedia, you'd have to know what you were looking for, and you'd have to know somebody, who really did live in Vegas to get this sense of the town, yet you also have to be a visitor, one from someplace that's the complete opposite of Vegas (You don't have to look far for that) to fully experience it as well, while still not completely being swallowed up by the Vegas night. Actually, it's not Vegas; it's "Paradise", something that most people don't know. The person who tells poor Lamb (Julianne Hough) that is Loray (Octavia Spencer) a singing bar-waitress at the Riviera, where the thonged backsides of the "Crazy Girls" have been arm-on-hip-on-arm-on-hip have been welcoming people for decades, and she studies film at UNLV when she can afford the tuition (You may be asking if people like that exist? I knew four, and I can think of a couple could've been the inspiration for her character). Yeah, people like that exist. Lamb came from a cult religious sect in Montana who used to be bathed in the light of the lord until a plane crash melted most of her body. She's recovered, but remains in skin graphs and bodystockings, as she painfully sits down to take her showers in the morning. She's also lost all sense of a belief in God, and figured that it's time to start sinning, and after collecting millions on a lawsuit for the faulty plane, she's chosen to live it out in Vegas with the sodomites, as she calls us. In some ways, it's exactly what she expected, uncomfortable elevator rides with drunk rich yuppies, Muslim cab drivers complaining about the Trop light being too slow (Which is nothing compared to the bus stop which should be on Trop on Boulder, but is actually closer to Nellis for some reason) and while she's barely able to down a shot of Peach Schapps, her first drink, the eccentric British bartender, William (Russell Brand) is constantly refilling penises with vodka for the bachelorette party on the other side of the bar. "Can you refill my dick?" Anyway, when Loray and William see the poor thing is truthful about what she is, they decide to help her, by showing her the real Vegas. What real Vegas? It's somewhere from Fremont Street up 'til you get downtown towards North Las Vegas. The Strip, is actually is technically in what's called "census-designated area" called "Paradise", there's actually quite a few of those here like Spring Valley, The Lakes and Enterprise to name a few,  and more growing as the town, is still growing and being shaped (It is only about 100 years old remember, the boundaries keep changing a bit every so often.) They take her through the experience, where she wants to be able to fly on the zip line again, possibly to help erase her memory of that other flight. First, they find a SIN bar, which stands for service-industry night, and Loray and calmly introduces her to the locals. Lamb keeps checking off sin after sin, flirting, rhythmically moving to music, smoking, porn even, but she isn't having the fun release that she thinks she was supposed to have.Ye-ah, that's not atypical at all. The voiceover is probably unnecessary, but much of the rest of the film, feels right, despite some of the weaknesses Julianne Hough has as an actress here, but it's still the best I've seen from her. I shouldn't doubt Diablo Cody anymore, but I am still somewhat perplexed and surprised that she got such a realistic look at Vegas, especially from an outsider. Maybe she worked at the Deja Vu in Vegas a few times, and hung around and observed, who knows?

YOU AIN'T SEEN NOTHING YET (2013) Director: Alain Resnais


At 92 years old, Alain Resnais is one of the last of the French New Wave filmmakers, still working. Actually he predates French New Wave quite by quite a bit, and he's still making interesting films. His latest, aptly titled "You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet", almost seems to be a declaration about his continue work, as evergrowing, and yet the film itself, seems to be about the past, and whether his work can continue to be relevant, long after he does pass. The title, is also the famous improvised quip from Al Jolson in "The Jazz Singer", a line that simultaneously foreshadowed film to come, while also declaring the end of an old era. This film begins with a death, and then ends with a rebirth. The death, comes when a famed playwright, Antoine (Denis Podylades) suddenly passes. His butler informs numerous people of his death, and have them all gather at his estate for what already seems like a strange reading of his will. As the actors are brought together, many of whom are basically playing themselves, from a pre-recorded message, he informs them that he has last task for them to help them out with, and that's to look at a production of a local theater company, who's looking for the rights to perform his play "Eurydice", which all the actors performed at one time or another, and then we see the production, which is when the movie takes off. Soon, the actors start recalling and saying the lines, almost exactly as the actors in the film. Then, they start performing the play themselves, or it seems that way. It keep going back and forth, as they get caught up in the classic tale of Orpheus and Eurydice. Yeah, folks, that not technically a new story, but we let that slide. In fact, the movie's based on a play by Jean Anhoulih, who did write "Eurydice", and some of the movie's stars were in that play at varying points. The movie has that same kinda feel and Louis Malle's last film the great "Vanya on 42nd Street", as we switch from the viewing of the performance, to the performance of the actors which may or may not be live, but emotionally it's connecting, which is the point. He asks them to judge whether the work was still relevant, as all artists generally hope for, that their contribute to the arts would outlive them, which is probably the question that the ever-spirited Resnais is also asking. It certainly is, with films like "Hiroshima Mon Amour", "Night and Fog", "Mon Oncle Americain", "Last Year at Marienbad", and even quality modern films like "Private Feats in Public Places", Resnais will certainly be remembered long after he's gone, and still be relevant and his work watched and analyzed. As to the film, probably not one of his best, but still, quite a strong film, and memorable. Certainly an interesting storytelling technique above anything else.

BIG STAR: NOTHING CAN HURT ME (2013) Director: Drew DeNicola and Olivia Mori


In some ways, I'm already a little behind the eight ball on "Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me". Yeah, while music is not my immediate forte, I usually consider myself fairly knowledgeable in the history of rock'n'roll, particularly what we would probably call classic rock, but, while I've certainly seen Big Star's name on more than a few greatest albums list (All three of the bands work are considered by Rolling Stone to be among the 500 greatest ever made) I'll have to admit that I'm not particularly familiar with them. I certainly want to know more about them, they're influence has long survived the band, which is considered the epitome of Memphis rock, starting with Alex Chitlon, the former lead singer of the Box Tops who had one of the biggest hits of all-time with "The Letter". I'm actually writing this review while listening to their first album "#1 Record", and the song I recognize most, is "In the Street", but I don't recognize their original version; I'm much more familiar with Cheap Trick's version of the song, which doubles as opening theme song from "That '70s Show". They didn't last long as a bad. After two albums, they broke up, although they confess that they had really broken up after one, and somehow cobbled together enough for their second. They received critical acclaim, but had a bad distribution deal, and lacking radio airplay, they soon split and formed other bands. Alex Chilton, eventually reformed the band in the nineties and they toured until he passed away. Songwriter Chris Bell died in '78, and the music would go on to influence the alt-rock scenes like R.E.M., The Flaming Lips, and The Replacements, who make appearances in the film. Rockumentaries are always a little tricky, you usually want to see them on people you're at least somewhat familiar with, so that you can have an appreciation of them, but other times you want to discover their work, and Big Star for me at least, is somewhat in between, so it's hard to connect to the film on either level in particular, but I'm definitely recommending it, 'cause it is good, it's on a group that more people should, and it made me want to go listen to their music, which btw, I recommend to everyone while we're at it, 'cause after hearing their work, I think I can see where Rolling Stone and other great artists have been coming from for years.

AS I LAY DYING (2013) Director: James Franco


Not that I ever really gave that much thought to any kind of Faulkner adaptations, or possible adaptations, in fact the only reason I actively acquire copies of Faulkner's work is that it looks good on a shelf, but a constant use split screen however, is not the editing and/or filmmaking technique I thought anybody would use to tell, any of his stories. "As I Lay Dying" is the first attempt to adapt the 1930 novel which like most Faulkner was thought unfilmable given it's stream-of-consciousness nature, and they were probably right. The story is simple enough, Anse (Tim Blake-Nelson) is determined to respect his late wife Addie's (Beth Grant) wishes and bury her a few towns over and travel there by mule care, with her in a casket, as the run into numerous interesting characters along the way. The film was co-written and directed by James Franco, and got released around the same time as his other directorial effort "Interior: Leather Bar", a movie about a gay bar that I will presume has absolutely nothing in common with this film, other that both film weren't seen by many and most of those who did relatively panned them both. The problem wi-, (clears thought, tsks, scoffs, tsks again.) One of, the problems, with Faulkner is that this book in particular isn't about  the travails themselves, which frankly aren't particularly interesting and the more gruesome they get at times, the more feeble-minded a fool's errand the story becomes, but instead, it's the random and symbolic, thoughts on life and nature that one observes and thinks about during this journey. There's no real, to replicate that, and I guess that's why Franco resorted to every trick in the editor's playbook. When I talk about the split screen, it's used poorly not here, not just in terms of it being a bad subject matter choice, it was sorta done instead of editing. Where it's the same scene, presumably shot with two different cameras at the time, (Well, I'm about 99% sure they were) and instead of cutting back and forth, we just see both sides at once, while they're happening. That's something that kinda worked for a film like Mike Figgis's "Timecode", partly because that was part of the gimmick/experiment in that case. When something like that is used correctly like in "Woodstock", or De Palma's best films like "Carrie" for instance, or in both of Tarantino's "Kill Bill" movies, they add something to the viewing experience, and they're used for very specific scenes and purposes, here they're none of that. It's used about half of the movie, and there's no rhyme or reason to when it's used, probably other than to keep the film somewhat interesting, and keep you looking at the screen, while for much of the time, we're really just traveling with a casket on a mule-pulled carriage. It's a misfire on a lot of levels "As I Lay Dying". I understand the reasoning in wanting to adapt Faulkner, and Franco seems determine to explore him; he's currently filming a version of "The Sound and the Fury"; that might be more interesting, and possibly more conducive to those split screens, although I hope he doesn't use them there either.

RISE OF THE GUARDIANS (2012) Director: Peter Ramsay


The fact that "Rise of the Guardians" was from Dreamworks is disappointing, 'cause it has all of the earmarks that are usually association with the worst kind of animation. You know the kind, the cynical kind that's supposedly made "for kids", supposedly. "Hey, kids like Santa Clause, kids like the Easter Bunny, kids like the  Tooth Fairy, let's put them all together in the same movie?" someone probably said. When movies are made with that kind of cynicism and disrespect to the audience, it's always bad, but when it's done with the hard work involved in animation, it really stings. Even when it's computer animation. "Rise of the Guardians" takes place in a world where the supposed fictitious characters of our youth who children believe in are in fact guardians of the children like patron saint or fairy godmother or something like that, gods possibly who protect and look out over the human race over the more evil guardians like Pitch (Jude Law) who's the Boogeyman, who's making a play to take over the land of the world, by making children stop believing in the guardians. The first one he manages to erase is Jack Frost (Chris Pine), who barely understand that he is even a guardian as a side effect of being forgotten by kids is that he's also forgotten all of his own memories. (Guardians were all once people to begin with). I thing the obvious underlying parables are religious in tone, and there's nothing wrong with that per se, but the whole movie is fairly dark to begin with, again nothing wrong with that, and it's interesting to see these more typically angelic characters that we normally think about in more idol-istic ways, behaving in more stringent, rebellious and at times militant manners, bringing a new side or two to these characters, but are they sides we really wanted to see? There's nothing particularly funny in the film, it's overly dark, and frankly, it makes me want to disbelieve is Santa (Alec Baldwin) and the Easter Bunny (Hugh Jackman) less that ever before, although it does get right that no kid ever really believed in Jack Frost although he really seems to do is make snow fun. Overall, is depressing and forgettable, for kids and adults, nothing more than a curiosity that'll only entertain the maybe the youngest of kids. The movie's ideal probably for dental office waiting rooms, and not much more.

THE ODD LIFE OF TIMOTHY GREEN (2012) Director: Peter Hedges


There was an episode of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" once, where, this alien being wanted to learn and experience what it was like to be a humanoid creature, so he snuck aboard the Enterprise late at night and then he impregnated himself in Counselor Deanna Troi. That's definitely an idea I've thought about myself once or twice, but that's not relevant, anyway (Oh, and btw, Marina Sirtis does stand-up occasionally, she's pretty damn funny if you ever find some of it.) the whole episode involves Troi giving birth to the species, and then spending his entire lifespan through the whole episode, before eventually leaving as a grown up, having completely his study of humanoids. It was a terrible episode in hindsight; I think it was the first one without Gates McFadden and Diana Muldaur was the ship's doctor for a season. She could never stay on a show for long could she? Anyway, that's kind of essentially what happens in "The Odd Life of Timothy Green". Cindy and Jim (Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton) have been trying to have a kid for years, and they have one last night of, daydreaming and hypothesizing about what they would've done if they had a kid before officially putting to bed that thought as it's medically impossible finally. They write what there kid would be/do, like scoring the winning goal and being sensitive, honest, bunch of other stuff, which they write down, and bury in the backyard one Truman Show-esque, suspiciously rainy night, when later that night, Timothy (CJ Adams) appears  at their door covering in rain, dirt, and leaves in his shins. They're apart of his body, and there's no real way to explain it, and it isn't. (Annoyed breath) And, there isn't too many ways to explain the movie either. Why we needed it, what the point of it's existence was, why making pencils out of leaves would save the pencil industry, none of it is really works. I mean, we're trying to buy into this fantasy, and the movie begins, by telling us, this is a story that's hard to believe, and it's told in flashback as the couple is working on adopting a kid, so, we already kinda know the ending, which is a sad ending, and what's worst than that really, is that we know exactly what the characters are gonna learn and how they've changed at the end. There are ways to do a flashback, (Not that this story should've had one, it shouldn't have) that curb our, the audiences' ability to know the entire impact of the story that's being told. This movie, almost seemed to know that the core story is so ridiculous and so unbelievable, that they're just gonna give it away, and let us know that it's gonna get to this point eventually, and now we're just waiting for it. I think this was a very costly decision script-wise, cost, we've basically been given the blueprint for the movie, before we see the movie. Basically, they made the first act of the movie, the cliff notes of the movie, bad enough it's not a good movie even though Garner is trying, and there's some cliche, although interesting supporting work from Dianne Wiest and Robert Morse, and Rosemarie DeWitt, and-eh, Ron Livingston among other. Shohreh Agdashloo shows up, but really, if any movie, needed the element of surprise, it was this one. There's ways this film could've worked, in the Capra-esque or "Harvey"-type sense, but it just sabotages itself from even being in that conversation.

THE DILEMMA (2011) Director: Ron Howard


"The Dilemma" could be an alternate title to literally 99.99999....% of all movies, ever made. You'd think they'd come up with something a little more creative. The movie itself is a bit of a strange combination. On it's surface, it looks like it belongs in the milieu as the Judd Apatow works, as well as his imitators. It stars some people who you'd find in that world like Vince Vaughn and Kevin James, but then the film's choice of director seems way outta leftfield with Ron Howard, who, while he certainly knows a thing or two about comedy and more importantly cars, that the main characters are designing an engine that they hope to sell to Chrysler that would imitate the engine of their classic muscle cars in terms of feel and noise, but would also be environmentally safe and fuel-efficient, he hasn't really focus on light comedic films in a long time, maybe since "Cocoon" or "Splash" even, or the underrated "Night Shift". (In case you're wondering where cars belongs in Ron Howard's motifs, "Rush" his latest, is actually his second film about auto competitions after his directorial debut "Grand Theft Auto"  and let's not forget "American Graffiti" and even "Happy Days" too. And "Apollo 13", big engines that take us to distant places, it's in there.) Ronny (Vaughn) is the business side, the public persona of their company, while Nick (James) is the engineer and designer who works long hours getting ulcers on his inventions and designs. However, the two do occasionally take breaks and have double-date nights with their wives. Ronny's girlfriend Beth (Jennifer Connelly) is a world-renowned chef with a major Chicago restaurant while Nick's wife, Geneva (Winona Ryder) went to college with Ronny and Nick, and is trying to convince Ronny, a longtime bachelor who's still recovering from a severe gambling addiction from a couple years ago, to finally propose to Beth, which he secretly starts trying to do as the meeting with Chrysler soon approaches. Then, "The Dilemma" comes in, when Ronny sees Beth, cheating on Nick with a young tattooed guy named Zip (Channing Tatum, who's really becoming one of my favorite actors with each performance, especially comic performance). Of course, he wants to tell Nick, but he's busy and killing himself over the presentation and design and this could crumble their efforts and ruin their one-shot to make an impression with Chrysler, represented by Susan Warner (Queen Latifah) an excited executive who's improvising most of her cameo presumably. Hence, the dilemma that Ronny faces, and while how he deals with it, I will not go into, I will say that much of the movie was fairly hit-and-miss for me, but ultimately, while the film isn't particularly funny, the story actually holds up. It is a dilemma one that he knows he has to handle carefully, or it can blow up in his face, and possibly risk the livelihoods of many fragile people. Winona Ryder's performance by the way, is very key to this film and a very good performance that reminds us just, how powerful an actress she can be. She has to play, many different facets of a woman that are both, very likable at certain times and incredibly unlikable at others. It's not a perfect movie, and it's a very minor entry in Ron Howard's canon, this is almost a throwaway piece that maybe a Susanne Bier would've made more interestingly, but the mismatch is rather intriguing. I'm recommending it.

(2010) Director: Philip Ridley


Philip Ridley is a cult British filmmaker who's gothic horror mixed with Lynchian absurdism violence has definitely garnered a reputation for himself. Despite that, "Heartless is his first directorial effort in fourteen years, and the first film of his I've ever seen, and the movie felt much to me, like a combination of "Don't Look Now", mixed with "Blow-Up". The protagonist is Jamie Morgan (Jim Sturgess) a photographer who was born with an ugly facial disfigurement, that covers half his face with a heart. It's a modern-day East London, filled with shadows and grit, and a bizarre string of murders involving some hooded characters that no one seems to be able to identify. Jamie thinks he's photograpphed one of them, and is convinced that the hooded people in masks, aren't in masks at all, and he begins scours his photos, and the streets for the demonic characters. I think explaining what happens next is pointless, because the film really is about the effects of the scenes on us. The violence, the characters inflicting it on us, the sense of fear, of dread, the search for an unknown, etc. The images that we encounters. This seems to be more relevant than whether or not even if Jamie's search is a legitimate investigative pursuit, or that he's just going crazy. I mentioned "Don't Look Now", and the genius of that movie was that it was about the tunnel-visioned search for the creature, and not so much about the creature itself, which is where "Heartless" sorta goes wrong. The title by the way, comes from a song that's used in the film.  The movie was also noted for having a theatrical release date, DVD release date, and a download date within days of each other, as a way to get the film out to more people at once. Steven Soderbergh's "Bubble" was the first film to experiment with that kind of multiple release strategy, to mild success, and now it's more common. "Paradise", which I reviewed earlier, started On Demand for instance. I'm not used to Philip Ridley's work, so I'm a bit reluctant to completely analyze, as I'm not sure I'm the best critic of his material at this point in time. It does create mood and have an effect, although I don't think it's one that was as long-lasting as you'd expect for someone who didn't make a film for a decade and a half. I'll recommend 'cause I think it should be seen, I just wish it went somewhere.

SIDEWALKS OF NEW YORK (2002) Director: Edward Burns


I don't have any particular reason, for why I've been reviewing so many Edward Burns movies recently. Luck of the draw believe it or not, although I've had a growing affection for his work, although it can be erratic at times. "Sidewalks of New York", is one of his better films. It's story revolves around seven New Yorkers who aren't inherently connected but through the conceit of inter-connected storyline structure all are a few steps away from each other. The strange thing is that, the movie is so well acted that they actually don't have to be to be interesting, but it gives an excuse for the unseen documentary filmmaker to observe and then interview them about sex and love, and what they have to say about it, and their own beliefs and actions and how they often coincide and conflict. I'll try to shorthand the best I can. Tommy (Burns) is currently divorced, and looking for a new place, and to start dating again. He currently lives with Carpo (Dennis Farina) a lifelong bachelor with all the angles and so-called fatherly advice on women and how to nail them. He met Maria (Rosario Dawson) at a video store, and they begin to slowly date. She's also just out of a relationship, a divorce from her husband Ben (David Krumholtz) who's still trying to get back with her, despite having cheating on, but the main discourse was a disagreement over children. Ben however has become attracted to a waitress at a coffee shop, Ashley (Brittany Murphy) a barely-out-of-high school troubled young girl, who's starting college, and is dating Griffin (Stanley Tucci), who's on his second marriage to Ann (Heather Graham) a real estate agent, who's currently showing around Ben to lofts and apartments, and is somewhat blind to her husband's affairs, despite his affinity for bragging about his inability to believe in marriage and romance with only one person. Tucci gives the best and most memorable performance, and once again reminds us of how he can be one of the greatest of bad guys whenever he gets a chance. They're not uncommon themes for Burns, who's often done the subpar Woody Allen thing in looking at relationships and the personal struggles in trying to determine whether you're in love or falling in love, or in love with the wrong person, or with the wrong person, all of these decisions seem to happen, if not too late, at least at intersections of misappropriate times, and responses. It also shows something that I think we like to think can be controlled, but rarely if ever actually is. That while we tend to think and hypothesize and play out the numerous life scenarios in our own head, and identity exactly how we would react if they ever came up, the simple truth is that, we really don't know how we will react and what the future may hold. I'm not sure what the future holds for any of these characters, anything more than immediately after the film, and then we only suspect or hope we'll know. "Sidewalks of New York" at it's core is great actors acting with each other, and that's why it ultimately succeeds, even with or despite the Altmanesque gimmick.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014


TOM & JERRY-MGM YEARS (1940-1958)

Directors: William Hanna and Joseph Barbera
Producer: *Fred Quimby (*occasionally may vary) 

Quick, name the animated characters that have won the most Oscars for Best Animated Short? Yes, true, Disney has the most, Walt won the Award the first seven years in existence in fact, but they often won for their Silly Symphonies like “The Three Little Pigs,” and only occasionally won for Mickey and Donald characters. Yeah, my guess probably could’ve gone to a Looney Tunes character, but you’d be surprised how little they got. Bugs Bunny only won once and it wasn’t even for any of the ones you’d think. Daffy, ironically enough, has never been nominated. Sylvester & Tweety won two, Speedy Gonzales won one, (and that one had Sylvester in it, so he has three actually) and Pepe Le Pew of all the characters won once. But far and away the most wins and most nominations, goes to Tom and Jerry. They won seven in the forties and fifties, including winning four in a row between ’43-’46, and had about a dozen or so other nominations until the golden age of cartoons era ended in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s. Animation actually predates film if you count comic strips, and even in film’s infancy, animated shorts were some of the first experiments with the new medium, and were expected to be viewed when you went to the movies in the studio block theater days, along with a double-features and along with the newsreels, and probably a small documentary. When the Supreme Court finally ruled that the studios couldn’t own the theatres anymore, along with the increased popularity in television, cartoons were the first to fall from theatres, and mostly became relegated to television. Also in the fifties, renegade animators like Chuck Jones would begin breaking from the studios and help form UPA, the precursor of the independent animation movement which began reimagining cartoons from style to timing, to even whether or not there’s a plot half the time. Disney certainly remains the most important, with the most innovation in the format even today, but Fleischer studio with Popeye and Superman are compatible to Disney in scope in it’s era, all the Looney Tunes have a far more enduring relevance even today, and there’s a place for the cartoons of Paramount and Columbia who all had competing studios with their own major cartoonist directors like Hugh Harman and Rudolf Ising, Max and Dave Fleischer, Fritz Freleng at Warner Brothers, and the aforementioned Chuck Jones, and Tex Avery who worked for what seems like everybody except Disney, belongs in a categories all his own, including being incredibly influential on Hanna and Barbara’s creation of “Tom and Jerry.” With Disney spending more time working on feature-length animation, and having exclusive rights contracts on things like Technicolor running out, the studios spent more money and time on animation in later years. MGM, led by Producer Fred Quimby who had a similar exclusive rights deal as Leon Schleschinger at Warners’ fell out with former Disney co-horts Ising and Harman, and teamed Hanna and Barbera up from the animation pits, who would work on their little cat and mouse creation for MGM for two decades.

Originally named “Jasper and Jinx,” in their first short, “Puss Gets the Boot” Tom and Jerry, might not hold up as well compared to the Looney Tunes character, but Hanna and Barbera were just as creative, and technically, with the legendary animation team of Kenneth Muse, Ray Patterson, Irven Spence and Ed Barge, created dozens of “Tom and Jerry,” cartoons, almost all of them with incredible care to details in the backgrounds, objects, design, color and especially in the shadows, combined with irreverent comedic timing, that would be continuously getting quicker over the years. Along with Tex Avery and the Looney Toons mostly, “Tom and Jerry,” elaborated on the zaniness and free form possibilities of animation that have truly defined what a cartoon is today. “Tom and Jerry,” are specifically fascinating, because these six-minute shorts remain some of the most violent pieces of film ever created. Looking back on it, Hanna and Barbera were really sick fucks. Some of their more fascinating films, especially their early films like “Mouse Trouble,” seem to be nothing but Tom and Jerry literally trying to kill each other in most disgusting and despicable ways possible, often gleefully and pointlessly, and very often in ways that’d make Spanish Inquisitionist’s hurl in disgust, and then laugh. Even though seven of their 114 Tom & Jerry shorts won Oscars, for Hanna and Barbera, the awards all went to their producer Fred Quimby, since at the time, directors of animated shorts didn’t receive the Oscars. After MGM closed their animation studio, Hanna-Barbera became even more famous for television, most notably “The Flintstones,” along with dozens other creations, but for about twenty years, they about created the most honored cartoons in the golden age of cartoons, and have a lasting influence that can be seen everywhere from Warner creations like Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote, to comic strip irreverence like Gary Larson’s “The Far Side,” to the tame in comparison “Itchy and Scratchy,” cartoons in Simpson’s episodes and Seth McFarland probably owes half his “Family Guy,” career to Hanna and Barbera. In time, names like them, and Jones, Avery, Harman-Ising, Fritz Freleng, will be recognized among the great filmmakers, without the “animation,” marker next to them.  

Sunday, January 19, 2014


With award season coverage having to put a delay on my movie reviews, I decided that instead of posting another new Canon of Film entry right away, I thought a change of pace would be to revisit and repost one of my older blogposts that maybe many or most of you haven't read yet. This was my first ever "Canon of Film" entry, and it was for Jacques Tati's film "Playtime". I don't remember exactly why I chose that one to post first, as many of you know these posts are often prewritten, as was this one, although I think it coincided with my review of Sylvain Chomet's "The Illusionist" which was based on an unfilmed Tati script, and besides it certainly an exceptional film and a more-than-reasonable enough entry to begin the series. So, enjoy this look back.


"PLAYTIME" (1967)

Director: Jacques Tati
Screenplay: Jacques Lagrange and Jacques Tati; with addition English dialogue by Art Buchwald

Jacques Tati's "Playtime" is clearly a masterpiece, but I think almost nobody can actually master it. According to film scholar Noel Berch, "Playtime", doesn't have to just be seen multiple times, but has to be seen from several different points in the theater. The movie is all action. Not, the way we normally think of action, but "action", in terms of filling up the screen. To watch one thing, usually in the foreground, means you're missing many things happening in the background and vice-versa. The most expensive French film made at the time, the film's box office failure would eventually bankrupt Tati.

Tati is known as much as a performer as he is a director. His comedy is sly, that seems inspired by classic slapstick, but is actually more intrigued by sound effects and quiet observation. He's often regarded as the Charlie Chaplin of France, yet he came around much later. His most famous character is Monsieur Hulot, an exaggerated character that is on par or equal to such silent staples as Chaplin's Tramp or Fatty Arbuckle's Strong Man. More recently, you can see M. Hulot as a predecessor to Rowan Atkinson's "Mr. Bean" character His movies have sound, and often dialogue, but they basically act more like silents with sound effects.

I saw the Hulot films out of order originally, this was the second one I saw after "M. Hulot's Holiday", his first directing project. Maybe the best Hulot film is "Mon Oncle" which earned him an Oscar for Foreign Language Film. It's easy to disregard him, because his films rarely if ever produce the physical laughs one would've expected. (I personally didn't care much for "M. Hulot's Holiday" at all, which is generally considered a classic.) But, he doesn't go for big laughs. He goes for the small chuckles that makeup the human experience and not say, the over-embellishment of such moments as say, the Tramp getting sucked into the machine in Chaplin's great film "Modern Times", a film that's one of the few that "Playtime" could possibly be compared to. It's anti-technology stance is a common thread in Hulot's work, reminiscent of the great French comedy "A Nous la Liberte", but it's also anti-establishment in tone. Much of the movie is a long restaurant sequence where everything goes wrong and the worse, the better, reminiscent of one of Bunuel's notorious dinners or dinner attempts. If "Playtime wasn't shot on the largest stage ever built, it was probably damn close to it. It takes place in a modern Paris made of blue steel and glass. So much glass, during one famous scene, a guy asks for a cigarette light not realizing he was on the other side of a large glass building. In another scene, at the restaurant, a glass door is broken by M. Hulot (Tati, most of the time.) and a doorman improvises by holding the door handle to an invisible door and continues opening and closing it as though it was there. There are tours to see pictures of the famous building in reflections of the other buildings like the Eiffel Tower, but nobody can ever find where exactly the reflections are from anymore.

M. Hulot is probably the closest we get to a main character, although unlike his other Hulot films, his oversized pipe and coat and undersized pants, argyle socks and hunched walk, is basically used as a somewhat recognizable figure to keep track of and observe, and even he isn't entirely reliable, occasionally running into Hulot lookalikes. If I were to compare his character in "Playtime" to any other literary character, he seems to serve the same service as Waldo from "Where's Waldo." He's there, you're looking for him, but there's more action if you look around cloesly. There's no plot, there's too many characters to make note of any of them, but there's seemingly endless odd little thoughts bouncing around the screen, some more in focus than others, some funnier than others, others are just throwaway vignettes. Tati almost seems to be playing around, giving us a visual representation of how his mind might work. "Playtime" may have bankrupted him, but the film is one of those rare movies that has to be watched and placed in it's own category out the regular notions of genre. It's rare to make a seminal movie such as "2001..." or "Citizen Kane" or "Groundhog Day". "Playtime" isn't just seminal, it's a work that hasn't even been repeated, or replicated in any way, probably never will. Thank goodness, 'cause we'll be mulling over this one for years anyway.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

2013 OSCAR NOMINATONS ANALYSIS! EVERY CATEGORY ANALYZED and the conspiracy to make sure my CORRECT PREDICTIONS were changed to never reveal my PREDICTING POWERS!

The sleepily-announced nominations for the Academy Awards this morning,- (Good lord, Chris Hemsworth and Cheryl Boone, just get the host to do this next year like last time; I fell asleep in the middle, and didn't realize Oprah's name hadn't been called for two and a half minutes, Jesus! At least Ellen would've danced or something! Fuck! It's 5:30am, you both better be awake!) and I got them all right, except the grand conspiracy to make me look like an idiot, which I'm convinced is being perpetrated by CHAOS agents who have infiltrated the inner sanctums of the Academy, have conspired against me to nominate films to make sure that my predicting genius remains undiscovered to the outside world. Yeah, that's it. They don't want me knowing I can predict the future, which me reminds, please ignore all twenty years of accurately predicted futures bet, in every major sporting event and championship game that's behind that's that beaded curtain over there.

Alright, I think I did better last year, some cases I know where I went wrong, other times, I think was as confused as everybody else, a few other times, who knows. Well, as always, we don't simply do the top sheet analysis here though. We predicted every single category, and now, we're analyzing, EVERY SINGLE CATEGORY, as we take a closer look at all the Academy Award nominations, in incredible detail. Because apparently I am a glutton for punishment, and I just simply can't stop myself. that is the kind of in-depth analysis that we provide that no one else does.

We're gonna start with the big categories first of course, and yes, while we're at it, I'm keeping score of how I predicted, and see where we went wrong. Stars are correct predictions.

*American Hustle-Pro.: Charles Roven, Richard Suckle, Megan Ellison and Jonathan Gordon
*Captain Phillips-Pro.: Scott Rudin, Dana Brunetti and Michael De Luca
1/2*Dallas Buyers Club-Pro.: Robbie Brenner and Rachel Winter
*Gravity-Pro.: Alfonso Cuaron and David Heyman
*Her-Pro.: Megan Ellison, Spike Jonze and Vincent Landay
*Nebraska-Pro.: Albert Berger and Ron Yerxa
Philomena-Pro.: Gabrielle, Steve Coogan and Tracey Seaward
*12 Years a Slave-Pro.: Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Steve McQueen and Anthony Katagas
*The Wolf of Wall Street-TBA

(Hitting myself in head) I forgot to count the British vote, didn't I? Dammit! 3% correlation between BAFTA and the A.M.P.A.S., and it's completely reasonable that "Philomena" would've shown up on about 2% of other ballot, and that knocked out, both "Saving Mr. Banks", which apparently got almost nothing, so, so much for the John Lee Hancock vote (This might be a correction for nominating his previous film "The Blind Side") but it also knocked down the vote that "Inside Llewyn Davis" would've gotten. I should've put up "Dallas Buyers Club", but I had that one as the last film out; I should've just thought for an extra second on that one. Outside of that though, no real surprises; everything else went as expected. Happy that "Her" got in, after previous Spike Jonze snubs in the category, and despite not getting a director nod, Jonze has three nominations total this year, so glad he's finally getting the Award respect he deserves. And "American Hustle" actually tied with "Gravity" for most nominations, and "12 Years a Slave" only got nine overall, so I think it's now safe to say that it's a 3-film race, and that "...Hustle" is a legitimate contender for Best Picture, and no just the top also-ran. 

*Alfonso Cuaron-“Gravity”
*Steve McQueen-“12 Years a Slave”
Alexander Payne-“Nebraska”
*David O. Russell-“American Hustle”
*Martin Scorsese-“The Wolf of Wall Street”

I correctly predicted that Paul Greengrass was gonna get snubbed for Director, but chose Spike Jonze instead, and while I did foresee his upswell, Alexander Payne instead got in for the third straight film for him. I had him, as the 6th one out, I thought he would "get lost in the shuffle" which was my words, apparently he didn't and good for him. (David O. Russell's been nominated for his last three films too.) No real shock here, congrats to Steve McQueen, the third Black person ever nominated in the category, the first one who isn't African-American interestingly enough. And Cuaron, I believe is the 2nd Mexican to ever get nominated after Inarritu for "Babel", somebody look that one up though. It's most likely between McQueen and Cuaron to win, with Russell, possibly playing spoiler, although that's more likely in Picture. 

Christian Bale-“American Hustle”
*Bruce Dern-“Nebraska”
Leonardo DiCaprio-“The Wolf of Wall Street”
*Chiwetel Ejiofor-“12 Years a Slave”
*Matthew McConaughey-“Dallas Buyers Club”

I foresaw two logical scenarios which was gonna be dependent solely on just how much the Academy, and in particular, the actors branch like "American Hustle", and sure enough, scenario two, involving a break with the SAG nomination, and one of the strangest of all Oscar anomalies has just occurred. For the second consecutive year, one film got Oscar nominations in all four acting categories, something that hadn't happened previously in my lifetime, since "Reds" in 1980. "American Hustle" just achieved that same accomplishment, and here's the real piece of amazement, both film, David O. Russell movies! (Boom) Mind blown! That will not get the press it deserves, that in two years Russell's directed eight Oscar nominees. I'll look it up, but I think that's a record. Anyway, that's how I got Christian Bale wrong, predicted that unlikely scenario wouldn't happen, especially in such a loaded field. I correctly predicted Robert Redford would get snubbed, but DiCaprio's nomination is a bit of a shock to me, because he has a tendency to get snubbed. It's his first nomination since "Blood Diamond" in fact, so a minor surprise there, especially since he didn't get a SAG nominations, he probably took the spot that most thought Tom Hanks would've gotten. "Captain Phillips" really got sorta disrespected with a surprise lack of nominations in certain categories. Good to see Bruce Dern get in though. Still have to believe that Ejiofor is the man to beat though at the moment. 

*Amy Adams-“American Hustle”
*Cate Blanchett-“Blue Jasmine”
*Sandra Bullock-“Gravity”
*Judi Dench-“Philomena”
Meryl Streep-“August: Osage County”

Even though I didn't project "American Hustle"'s domination in the acting categories, I did know that they wouldn't be able to ignore Amy Adams. I however, also predicted that they'd somehow ignore Meryl Streep. That was, probably more wishful thinking than anything else. If you've loss track as well, this is her 18th nomination! Remember, the old record was like 12 or 13, so, she keeps getting in. Some years, I think she's just the default nominee, but they didn't ignore her. They love Amy Adams, they love Meryl Streep, they love Judi Dench, this is her seventh, so they all got in. And now, the battle between Blanchett and Bullock, is officially underway. (And don't rule out Amy Adams either; you know they want to give it to her.) (Oh, and btw, do you hear the boos when Meryl Streep's name got called? Oooh, that was interesting. Bad idea, by whoever did it, but interesting.)

*Barkhad Abdi-“Captain Phillips”
Bradley Cooper-“American Hustle”
*Michael Fassbender-“12 Years a Slave”
Jonah Hill-“The Wolf of Wall Street”
*Jared Leto-“Dallas Buyers Club”

If "Captain Phillips" was the post-SAGs loser, than "The Wolf of Wall Street" has to be the film that won. Not a single SAG nominee for the film, but once Jonah Hill's named was announced, DiCaprio's nomination became academic. Daniel Bruhl was the biggest loser, getting a SAG, Globe, BAFTA and a Critics Choice nomination, yet snubbed here as Bradley Cooper continues "...Hustle"'s runaway with acting nods. Jared Leto, the presumptive favorite btw, this is his first film in six years after taking a hiatus from acting to pursue his music career, that's pretty impressive when you think about it. I had James Gandolfini getting in, so no posthumous nomination for him. In fact, now that I'm looking at it, I had to look this up, this is the first time since 1981, that every single film that got an Acting Nomination, also got at least one more Oscar nomination! Every year since, at least one film has a lone acting nominee, so, don't misunderstand, taking a Daniel Bruhl or Gandolfini or Exarchopoulus to get in, was playing the odds. This is an incredible rarity. 

Sally Hawkins-“Blue Jasmine”
*Jennifer Lawrence-“American Hustle”
*Lupita Nyong’o-“12 Years a Slave”
Julia Roberts-“August: Osage County”
*June Squibb-“Nebraska

It took a minute, but perhaps the biggest snub, would have to be a lack of a nomination for Oprah Winfrey, which I think nearly every prognosticator had as a lock going in, even despite lukewarm thought on "Lee Daniels' The Butler", and now, the film, got completely shutout despite three SAG nominations. Now we know, that was the "Hairspray" anomaly repeating itself. I had Julia Roberts getting the post-SAG snub instead, and I guess, I misjudged "August: Osage County" entirely, and while I was looking around for an extra nomination, I'm glad Sally Hawkins finally got recognition for her work. She's been overlooked more than a few times until now, I kinda thought that "Blue Jasmine" wasn't as well-regarded as others thought, I saw a few people ranking it for Best Picture, and a few technical categories too, I tended to think it was regarded as second tier, in a way I was right, but glad to see the extra nod for it here. Roberts's nominations, this hasn't been talked about much, she could pull off an upset here, because essentially her role is a co-lead. In fact, when the play was on Broadway, her role was the lead role, and Streep's the feature (Tony Award talk for Supporting) role, so somehow those got switched in the midst of the Weinstein marketing machine. BTW though, Weinstein, did not do great this year nomination-wise. "Philomena" pushed through barely, but still, don't know quite what to make of that, I tend to think the Academy just thought other films were better than his this year than anything else. I mean, let's face it, a lot of time, he does make good movies, so I hardly think a lack of a nomination is simply a product of only a half-well regarded film. BTW, I don't remember the last time a person won Lead performer one year, and the Supporting the next; Jennifer Lawrence, she's got a decent shot at doing it this year, and that's just scary. She's younger than me, and so friggin' talented. Unbelievable!

*Before Midnight-Richard Linklater, Julie Delphy and Ethan Hawke
*Captain Phillips-Billy Ray
*Philomena-Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope
*12 Years a Slave-John Ridley
*The Wolf of Wall Street-Terence Winter

THIRD YEAR IN A ROW I've correctly predicted the nominees in the Adapted Screenplay category! Sometimes I think it's getting easier every year. I think the only real shock to some, was probably "August: Osage County" not getting in for Tracy Letts's script, but nothing too unusual here. I would've like to have seen "Before Midnight" do better than it's predecessor "Before Sunset" than just getting a Writing nomination, but at least they remembered it at all. "12 Years a Slave" has to be the early favorite, not sure if anything else can or will sneak in to win. 

*American Hustle-Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell
Blue Jasmine-Woody Allen
*Dallas Buyers Club-Craig Borten & Melisa Wallack
*Her-Spike Jonze
*Nebraska-Bob Nelson

Well, they went paint with the WGA nods here, that's a rarity, and you know what, I'm gonna make a complaint here, why exactly isn't "Gravity" nominated for Writing? It's happened before, last time was "Titanic" won without a Writing nomination, but that script didn't deserve one. "Gravity" is quite a well-written film, yeah, it's a technological marvel, but that shouldn't exclude it from a writing nomination. Imagine just how hard it is, to write some of the action in that movie, to very specific details, and then to believably write a movie with just (SPOILER ALERT) one character for much of the film. I'll be honest, I think this was a more inventive vision than the writers are giving it credit for, I thought they'd have corrected themselves from the WGAs. Somebody had to write that script to be compelling enough to get Clooney and Bullock on board; I think it should've been nominated, and I hated kicking out Woody Allen for it, but I am glad as always that he got in, but Cuaron should've gotten one more nomination than he did.

*The Croods-Dir.: Chris Sanders and Kirk DeMicco; Pro.: Kristine Belson
Despicable Me 2-Dir.: Chris Renaud and Pierre Coffin; Pro.: Chris Meledandri
Ernest & Celestine-Benjamin Renner and Didier Brunner
*Frozen-Dir.: Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee; Pro.: Peter Del Vecho
*The Wind Rises-Dir.: Hayao Miyazaki; Pro.: Toshio Suzuki

I guess I'll watch it soon enough, but when did "Depsicable Me" suddenly become a beloved recent animated film? I mean, I liked the first one, thought it was forgettable, actually preferred it's competitor "Megamind" that year, the original did not get an Oscar nomination in the category, (First time a sequel got nominated in category when the original did not, [not counting "Toy Story 3", for which there was no category at the time.]) and I didn't think it deserved one then, or now. but somehow, now there's minions all over my Facebook wall. It snuck into this category by what's becoming a much more complacent and incestuous Animation branch the last couple years. They did nominated "Ernest & Celestine" which is a bit outside the norm, and they can't ignore Miyazaki's latest, but there were much more ambitious and intriguing projects out there that were eligible, and this being a weak animation year, they could've been much more inventive with these nominations than they were, and frankly I find it disappointing. The category really shouldn't be just Best Children's Animated Film, it should be Best Animated, so I'm pretty disappointed by the lack of inventiveness here. There always used to be one "WTF" nominee, now, I wonder if the Branch is even trying. 

*The Act of Killing-Dir.: Joshua Oppenheimer; Pro.: Signe Byrge Sorenson
Cutie and the Boxer-Dir./Pro.: Zachary Heinzerling; Pro.: Lydia Dean Pilcher
Dirty Wars-Dir.:Richard Rowley; Pro.: Jeremy Scahill
*The Square-Dir.: Jehane Noujaim; Pro.: Karim Amer
*20 Feet from Stardom-TBA

First of all, kudos on the Academy, for actually announcing the nominees for Best Documentary at the Press conference, and not simply, leaving that one in the press packet of nominees, it's about time! I'm not sure why they've insisted on doing that for Song for the last two years, (Well, I do know why they are, but it's not important) but glad they're recognizing just how big and how apart of the common cinematic experience documentaries are and have been becoming over the recent years. That said, no nomination for "Stories We Tell" is a shock and an upset, I thought it was between that and "The Act of Killing" and once again, the Documentary Branch; they're not predictable, do not think you know where they're going, they don't have a history of trying to please the people. And the other snub is "Blackfish", although I predicted that one would get snubbed, surprising most people. I did suspect "Cutie and the Boxer" could get in, but actually I saw "Dirty Wars" a few weeks a back, I'm not overly surprised, but that's not a deserving nominee. It's a good film, but it wasn't a compelling narrative, the film could've been done a lot better than is actually was. I think they nominated subject matter over content with that one. Not surprised, but disappointed that one got in, especially considering what didn't. 

*The Broken Circle Breakdown (Belgium)
*The Great Beauty (Italy)
*The Hunt (Denmark)
The Missing Picture (Cambodia)
*Omar (Palestine)

Man, I knew "The Missing Picture" was a wild card in that mix, but I tended to think "The Grandmaster" would've gotten in, that film did get some technical awards, so interesting choice to not put it here. I did see "The Hunt" recently and I will be reviewing it soon, I personally was underwhelmed by it. Not surprised it's here; I think some see it as a favorite, but I'm not 100% sold on that. The academy does like Paolo Sorrentino "The Great Beauty" director's films, I think that's more likely. I think I read the category right though, getting four out of five in, "Omar" from the same directors that won for "Paradise Now" a few years back, that could be an upset too. "The Broken Circle Breakdown" won a lot of European Awards, boy Belgium's film community lately, really impressive. Lot of good movies coming out of there, and not just the Dardennes either. Of course, "Blue is the Warmest Color" was not eligible, that's unfortunate. Kind of a weird year in this category, we'll see. 

*The Grandmaster-Philippe Le Sourd
*Gravity-Emmanuel Lubezki
Inside Llewyn Davis-Bruno Delbonnel
Nebraska-Phedon Papamichael
*Prisoners-Roger A. Deakins

Wow, no "Captain Phillips" or "12 Years a Slave" here, that's shocking, especially the latter. No surprised by the other two getting in, instead, but if I wanted to be wrong on one thing this year, I really wish "Prisoners" wasn't nominated. At this point, why are you nominating Roger Deakins when we know he doesn't have a chance in hell of winning. It's just wrong at this point. The guy's one of the great cinematographers of all-time, this is eleventh nomination, he's never won, and Lubezki's winning for "Gravity" this year, that's maybe the biggest lock there is. If it was up-in-the-air a bit, I'd say, okay, but this, this is wrong, he shouldn't be nominated here. I don't want to see him show up again unless they're guaranteed giving it to him, it's ridiculous at this, he's one of the all-time Oscar losers at this point, and he doesn't deserve this, to have to get a suit every year, get yelled at on the carpet by people who only want to see stars, and then you know it's one of the first categories, he loses, now he stays for the evening; he's the only nominee for the film....- I'm starting a petition to not put Roger Deaking through this anymore, until we already know he's gonna win. Nobody I feel more sorry for, for getting a nomination than him. 

*American Hustle-Jay Cassida, Cripin Struther and Alan Baumgarten
*Captain Phillips-Christopher Rouse
Dallas Buyers Club-John Mac McMurphy and Martin Pensa
*Gravity-Alfonso Cuaron and Mark Sanger
*12 Years a Slave-Joe Walker

Well, here it is, one of the first real big shocks, so big, that I didn't include it on my Oscar shortlist, and that's "Dallas Buyers Club" as an editing nominee. That didn't even show up as Editing nomination in the Spirit Awards, much less from the usually accurate and reliable Eddie Awards, so that came out of absolute nowhere and it took Thelma Schoonmaker's spot too, Scorsese's amazing and great editor, a legendary editor's spot, at least in my predictions it did. That is the first, really big off-the-board nomination, everything else was normal. And, I have no explanation for how "Dallas Buyers Club" got in. Not well-known editors, the movie doesn't have a directing nod, so it's not overly likely it's a Top 5 film, it's not an action-filled movie per se. This award will most likely go elsewhere, probably "Gravity", although I wouldn't rule out anything else, but if anybody else guessed "Dallas Buyers Club" in editing, go play the blackjack tables today, you just hit a shot in a dark. 

*American Hustle-Michael Wilkinson
The Grandmaster-William Chank Suk Ping
*The Great Gatsby-Catherine Martin
The Invisible Woman-Michael O’Connor
*12 Years a Slave-Patricia Norris

"The Grandmaster" is probably the biggest shock here, as it wasn't nominated for a CDG Award, neither was "The Invisible Woman", but Michael O'Connor is quite a popular name, so just recognition he got in. Very rare though, that, consider a three-category, 13-nomination Guild Awards, that for some reason, two films made the Oscar cut. The rest are unsurprising. I had "Saving Mr. Banks" and "The Hunger Games..." in instead. Catherine Martin is also nominated for Production Design, she's one of the best in the business. In case you're wondering by the way, "The Invisible Woman" is a film about Charles Dickens and his mistress Nelly Terman, and it was considered an outside possibility for a few technical awards. If you hadn't heard of it beforehand, I don't blame you; it barely registered on my radar at all, but I did know about it, and it's not a remake/spinoff of "The Invisible Man". 

*American Hustle-Pro.: Judy Becker; Set: Heather Loeffler
*Gravity-Pro.: Andy Nicholson; Set: Rosie Goodwin and Joanne Woollard
*The Great Gatsby-Pro.: Catherine Martin; Set: Gene Serdena
Her-Pro.: K.K. Barrett; Set: Gene Serdena
*12 Years a Slave-Pro.: Adam Stockhausen; Set: Alice Baker 

Little bit surprised "Her" got in over something more fantastical like "The Hobbit...", but not overly so, this about how the category looked like it would play out. Little tricky picking a winner yet, I wanna see what the ADG Guild chooses to win first."Gravity" looks like the favorite, partly 'cause Martin has a better shot at Costume Design, and "...Gatsby" would be big competition, but "American Hustle" is probably in the race though. It's probably "Gravity"'s to lose though, this category looked a lot more interesting last night for some reason, now...?

Dallas Buyers Club-Adruitha Lee and Robin Mathew
Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa-Stephen Prouty
The Lone Ranger-Joel Harlow and Gloria Pasqua-Casny

I can't remember the last time I completely missed a category, but I'm not surprised it was those unpredictable makeup people. They don't give Guild Awards anymore but I think most people reasonably thought "American Hustle" and "The Great Gatsby", especially the former considering the importance of hair and makeup in both of those films, and I took what I thought was an educated guess in "Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters" being the third nominee (And no, I have no idea why this category has only three nominees every year. They should change that rule, I don't get why they narrow it to three.) The other eligible one was "The Hunger Games...", "Dallas Buyers Club", I thought about picking, 'cause they had to replicate the looks for AIDS patients in the '80s, and that is a tricky skill, not the absolute hardest, but I'm quite surprised that "The Lone Ranger" got in, 'cause what few clips I studied beforehand I wasn't particularly impressed. Yeah, it was a lot of makeup, especially on Johnny Depp with the white warpaint, but I thought it looked chalk-like and frankly I wasn't impressed. (Sighs!) Yeah, I can't believe something "Jackass" produced is getting an Oscar nomination, and you know what, I don't think they really should've either. Well, A., now I have to see the film, thanks a lot Makeup and Hairstylists (Middle finger!) and B. there might be more elaborate makeup in certain parts of the film, but basically it's a nomination for one prosthetic job. Especially since a lot of this was improvised, and used unsuspecting people (or at least they claimed that it was at least, I'm sure some wasn't.) so, this is essentially a nominee for one big  makeup work; I'm a little surprised it got in here; I didn't think it was as deserving as others, so, just based on, logic, I guess Dallas Buyers Club is the favorite here, but who knows. Throw a dart folks.

*The Book Thief-John Williams
*Gravity-Steven Price
*Her-William Butler and Owen Pallett
Philomena-Alexandre Desplat
Saving Mr. Banks-Thomas Newman

Um, well I definitely had Desplat and Newman as possibilities, as they're always possibilities when they're eligible, I'm more surprised that I got one of these right. "Her" I wondered if they were gonna nominate Arcade Fire for that, the Oscars usually likes to keep this Award, within the community, sometimes very much in the community at times. So, nice to see that, no real outside-the-norm nominees here. John Williams, again nominated, this is his 49th nomination folks, the next highest person alive nomination-wise has only 24, and that's Woody Allen, and in case you're wondering, Walt Disney has 59 nominations, a lot more wins, but if John Williams can keep going. There was a few snubs, I had taken a shot that "All is Lost" the Globe winner would sneak in, because of how critical the music is to that film, but not overly surprised. "12 Years a Slave" though, Hans Zimmer, definitely people go either way on him, I think most thought he would get in somewhere. Still thinking the Award is going to Steven Price, might go to Arcade Fire, but I doubt it. "Gravity," that score is perfectly subtle enough that you know it's there, but you don't think or feel overpowered by it, and that's a good score. 

“Alone Yet Not Alone”-Alone Yet Not Alone-Music: Bruce Broughton; Lyric: Dennis Spiegel
*“Happy”-Despicable Me 2-Pharrell Williams
*“Let It Go”-Frozen-Kristen Anderson-Lopez & Robert Lopez
“The Moon Song”-Her-Music/Lyric: Karen O; Lyric: Spike Jonze
*“Ordinary Love”-Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom-Music/Lyric: Bono; Music: Dave Evans, Adam Clayton, and Larry Mullen

I think most are surprised Lana Del Ray's "Young and Beautiful got snubbed, I wasn't, I thought that song was overrated, although I thought "...Gatsby" would get something here, it had 5 eligible songs. (And btw, make note, the more eligible songs in recent years, the less likely you're getting nominated. Last year "Django Unchained" this year, eh, "The Great Gatsby". There were 75 eligible songs, I listened to as many as I could, but I didn't write them all down on my predictions next to possibles, and one that I'm really surprised got in, is "Alone Yet Not Alone"'s title track, (I never heard of the movie either) and this might be the single worst nomination at the Oscars this year. Here's what I think happened. It was second from the top next to "Amen" from "All is Lost", the branch, nominated there three or four favorites, like U2, like Pharrel Williams, like "Let It Go", and then got lazy, and picked one at random, near the top of the ballot. I really do think that's what happened, 'cause that was a terrible song. That is pure laziness. I took a shot with eh, "So You Know What It's Like" from "Short Term 12", I'm not terribly shocked that didn't get in, or the lack of a nod for the Fergie song from "Gatsby", although I wasn't as big on "The Moon Song"; not surprised it snuck it, not one I thought was Oscar worthy, especially with some better songs that were getting completely ignored, but it was certainly than "Alone Yet Not Alone" which is just atrocious. 

*All is Lost-Steve Boeddeker and Richard Hymns
*Captain Phillips-Oliver Tarney
*Gravity-Glenn Freemantle
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug-Brent Burge
Lone Survivor-Wylie Stateman

"Iron Man 3" and "Rush", were the two I missed here, although glad, while it missed for Score and Lead Actor that "All is Lost" got in a Sound category. Remember this is the creating of sounds, getting nominated. "Lone Survivor" little surprised that had enough momentum to knock out, something like an "Iron Man 3" or "Rush", or "Pacific Rim" one of the bigger action blockbusters that this category is known for. Late-comer to the party, but it's-eh, it's come. So those are the only two surprising ones, probably a race between "Gravity" and "Captain Phillips" for the win, "All is Lost" with an outside shot. 

*Captain Phillips-Chris Burdon, Mark Taylor, Mike Prestwood Smith and Chris Munro
*Gravity-Skip Lievsay, Niv Adiri, Christopher Benstead and Chris Munro
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug-Christopher Boyes, Michael Hedges, Michael Sermanick and Tony Johnson
*Inside Llewyn Davis-Skip Lievsay, Greg Orloff and Peter F. Kurland
Lone Survivor-Andy Koyama, Beau Borders and David Brownlow

The mixing, is the combining of sounds, and physical placing them effectively in the finished film product, which is why "Inside Llewyn Davis", being a musical-based film is a partial favorite here, yet not nominated in editing, taking, I guess presumptuously now, "All is Lost"'s spot. I guess I shouldn't completely count out "Lone Survivor" in either of these categories, because while musical can do good in Mixing, ones that always do well in both are war movies, and that's a war film, probably not as strong as "Captain Phillips" here, but still. Congrats to Skip Lievsay and Chris Munro btw, getting multiple nominations in this category. Good for them, very intriguing, especially since they're both nominated for "Gravity". 

*Gravity-Tim Webber, Chris Lawrence, David Shirk and Neil Corbould
*The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug-Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton and Eric Reynolds
*Iron Man 3-Christopher Townsend, Guy Williams, Erik Nash and Dan Sudick
The Lone Ranger-Tim Alexander, Gary Brozenich, Edson Williams and John Frazier
*Star Trek Into Darkness-Roger Guyett, Patrick Tubach, Ben Grossman and Burt Dalton

Wow! "Pacific Rim" missing out Visual Effects, that is a shocker. That's usually a category that the Guillermo Del Toro film, just naturally have gotten into generally. Instead they went with "The Lone Ranger", um, which, not sure what to make of that especially since that was considered a film with only, Supporting special effects by the VES Awards for Special Effects, while "Pacific Rim" was considered an "Effects-Driven Picture" ; it doesn't really matter much because the award's going to "Gravity" although I thought "Pacific Rim" was the one that could've upset it, so that's slim going out the window. 

*Feral-Dir.: Daniel Sousa; Pro.: Dan Golden
*Get a Horse!-Dir./Pro.: Lauen MacMullan; Pro.: Dorothy McKim
*Mr. Hublot-Laurent Witz and Alexandre Espigares
Possessions-Shuhei Morita
Room on the Broom-Max Lang & Jan Lachauer

Uh, very surprised, "Subconscious Password" did not get in; I toted that one a bit; I thought that was an obvious nominee. "Room on the Broom" I actually saw last night, is a telling of a-eh, popular children's book, but animation-wise, likes and feels like a children's book, but not particularly complicated, little surprised that got. Didn't know much on "Possessions", still think "Get a Horse!" is the clear favorite, Disney, Walt and Company literally, also, "Mr. Hublot", wouldn't be shocked. 

*Aquel No Era Yo (That Wasn’t Me)-Esteban Crespo
Avant Que De Tout Perdre (Just Before Losing Everything)-Dir.: Xavier Legrand; Pro.: Alexandre Gavras
*Helium-Dir.: Anders Walter; Pro.: Kim Magnusson
Pitaako Mun Kaikki Hoitaa? (Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?)-Dir.: Selma Vihunen; Pro.: Kirsikka Saari
*The Voorman Problem-Dir.: Mark Gill; Pro.: Baldwin Li

I'm glad "Helium" got in, that one, I saw the trailer for, and looked amazing, but was surprised to find people like, not projecting it, glad I got that right. "The Voorman Problem" has a BAFTA nomination, stars Martin Freeman and other big names from the BBC, that one is a favorite, but I wouldn't rule out "Aquel No Era You" at all. Watch the trailer for it, it doesn't look like it a short, it looks like a feature and an expensive one at that. "Avant Que De Tout Perdre", probably the one I'm most surprised got in, that one looked good, not as impressive as some of the others, and "Pitakko Mun Kaikki Hoitaa", is the arbitrary comedy short nomination. 

*CaveDigger-Jeffrey Karoff
*Facing Fear-Jason Cohen
*Karama Has No Walls-Sara Ishaq
*The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life-Dir./Pro.: Malcolm Clarke; Pro.: Nicholas Reed
Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall-Edgar Barens

Very surprised that "Jujitsuing Reality" didn't get in, 'cause that a short about a screenwriter who suffers from ALS and about the process of getting his big Hollywood film written and made, reminded me of "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly", the guy has a similar disease to him and is trying to accomplish as much. "Prison Terminal..." got that slot I guess, nothing else was too shocking. "The Lady in Number 6..." is the favorite, about the world's oldest pianist who's also the oldest Holocaust survivor. "Karama Has No Walls" has a shot too though. 

83 1/2 out of 122, let's do the math.... 68%, ugh. One of my worst years for predictions, time to make it up at the Academy. In the meantime, the only award that actually matters the Critics Choice Awards, are in less than an hour or so, in fact they already started on the East Coast, don't tell me! Sorry for the lateness of this analysis. Happy Oscar Nominations Day Everyone!