Thursday, February 26, 2009

A letter to america

Dear America,

An opening weekend of nearly fifty million dollars for a remake called Friday the 13th? I'm disturbed, confused and a little worried for the future of mankind. If unimaginative remakes of beloved cult films from the '70s and '80s is what gets you to the theatre in hordes--I feel sorry for your lack of originality, your narrow mindedness and gullibility to marketing strategies. Face it America, if this is your thing, you've got problems.

The masses flocking to this film does harm to anyone who loves film. ORIGINAL film. Sorry, but any of my fellow citizens who see this film or the myriad of sub par, cash grab remakes--you are a traitor to all that is good in cinema. You should feel the crimson blush of shame upon your cheeks as the lights dim and I congratulate you on helping to destroy original filmmaking! Well done, America.

My fellow Americans, by supporting these remakes, are you not aware that you are throwing your money to the most untalented of talentless that reside in the movie industry? These are people who can't do anything but copy something that has already been done. The ring leader of this group is the film Anti-Christ himself, Michael Bay. He's a hack director, explosion fetishist and producer of practically every whored-out horror remake that will bombard the multiplex. By seeing his films you've literally given your money to the worst, most no talent, most derivative man working in film--EVER. Thanks to you, Bay will never have to worry about paying for his Botox treatments or his cocaine and prostitute funds or whatever else he might spend his not-so-well earned paychecks on.

You will have many more opportunities to redeem yourself by avoiding films that will be coming out that you've already seen. These will be overblown, inferior versions of movies that you have already seen. Films such as The Karate Kid, Near Dark, Footloose, A Nightmare On Elm Street, The Evil Dead, Back To School, The Warriors, Last House on the Left, Poltergeist, Hellraiser, Child's Play and The Birds are all being made or about to be made. Plus, by far the most moronic, insulting remake in the history of remakes: Bonnie and Clyde with Hillary "I'm a freakin' teeny-bop singer and not an actress" Duff playing the role of Bonnie. Yes, Hillary Duff. If that doesn't send shockwaves of anger through you, nothing will.

Americans, the films I just listed have already been made! Just head down to the video store or put them in your online queue. You can watch them, guilt free, any time you want and you won't have to give idea deprived scumbags like Michael Bay and his ilk a cent.



Monday, February 23, 2009

Oscar journal

6.15: Some dude from Twilight is interviewed on E. The future of Hollywood belongs to people who look fifteen and who I've never heard of.

6.28: Mickey Rourke talks about the love of his life for the first time--Loki, his recently passed eighteen year old chihuahua. If he wins for best actor, who knows what is going to come out of his mouth.

6.42: I love Philip Seymour Hoffman but why in the world is he wearing a stocking cap? A beanie at the Oscars? That's just ridiculous.

7.12: Mickey Rourke talks about Loki again on ABC and this time gets choked up.

7.24: Marisa Tomei--I will stalk you!

7.34: Hugh Jackman's opening song--I thought this was kind of lame but it actually grew on me by the end. Schmaltzy Broadway song stylings.

7.49: Past winners discuss each nominated actress for a supporting role--different. No clips as usual. Some of these are a little more honest than others. Scripted? The actresses nominated are eating up the praise though. Got to feed that ego, ha. Penelope Cruz wins and I'm okay with that.

7.54: Tina Fey and Steve Martin are a witty pair. Why is Martin making such crap movies these days? Pink Panther 2 for a man this talented? It makes no sense other than the paychecks to fund his art collection. I love how they read the script and we see the text and the scene together. That was cool.

8.10: Number of times the director cuts to Angelina and Brad when Jennifer Aniston is presenting: two. Maybe the producers would like to see a catfight in their expensive gowns? I'd root for Jennifer in that bout.

8.31: Ben Stiller refuses to break character in his super-bearded spoof of Joaquin Phoenix as he mumbles, stares off blankly and wanders the stage. Awkward titters from the crowd.

8.47: Best short Oscar goes to Toyland? That was my least favorite of all five that were nominated. You hate to say it but its story relates to the Holocaust. Just like Ricky Gervais and Kate Winslett discussed in Extras a few years ago--Holocaust = Oscars.

9.16: Man On Wire wins for best documentary. Go rent it!

10.05: Jeez, dragging on now...Lots of awards for Slumdog Millionaire. If they are winning these best film is coming shortly.

10.32: Kate Winslet wins an Oscar finally. Even though I thought she was a lot better in Revolutionary Road (see 8.47, her role in this is connected to the Holocaust!), I'm a huge fan of hers as she's carved out a career of unique characters and brave performances.

10.40: Best actor time. Lookout if Rourke wins. It's Penn for the second time. I'm glad actually. I respect Penn immensely as he's never thrown it away for the $ of action films and dumbed down roles he could sleep walk through (Nic Cage anyone?). Plus, I agreed with everything he said in his speech except Mickey Rourke being "my brother."

10.53: Slumdog Millionaire wins best picture. It was their night that's for sure. I'll be curious if Hollywood starts to raid Bollywood the way they have with Japan and Asia for film ideas since they have less good ideas with each passing year?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Who I'm rooting for on sunday

This is Oscar weekend so Sunday night I'll be watching the annual back slap fest that is the Academy Awards. I'll probably be bored a lot, unhappy with most of the awards but I'll keep watching--just like I do every year. Sunday night I'll post my Oscar journal with jotted down thoughts and opinions from the night, from red carpet all the way to best film (check out the February 2008 archives for last year's recap). These are the films I'm rooting for, not who I think will win.

Best picture: Only two of the five nominated films made my top ten for the year: Milk and Slumdog Millionaire. The other three films just did not grab me emotionally (The Reader) or were too self serious (Frost/Nixon) or were too reliant on high tech gadgetry (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button). I'll root for Slumdog Millionaire probably because it is one of those "little" films that sort of take over the cultural buzz for the year. It doesn't mean it's a better film than Milk; it just hit the right mark for 2008.

Best actor: This is probably a two man race between the always great Sean Penn and the back from the road of ruin Mickey Rourke. I won't be rooting for either of those two despite remarkable performances by both of them. I will be pulling for the longshot--character actor Richard Jenkins from The Visitor. I loved this film but I've long been a fan of the versatile Jenkins, here's hoping he wins a stunner. I'll be happy if Penn wins but wouldn't mind seeing Rourke's speech as that could be a wild ride. If Brad Pitt wins I will be livid as he was okay but that performance owes as much to CGI and technology as it does acting, sorry Brad.

Best Actress: I didn't see two of the nominated films--Frozen River and Changeling. I'm kicking myself for not seeing Frozen River as I've always enjoyed Melissa Leo from way back in her Homicide TV days. I'll be rooting for Kate Winslett (even though I thought she was better in Revolutionary Road than The Reader) to break her long winless streak or for Leo, just to see an older actress rise up out of obscurity. If Angelina Jolie wins, I will not be happy, talk about irritating, it's Jolie.

Best supporting actor: No brainer. Heath Ledger is winning this award. I'm not rooting for him though (call me a mean spirited bastard, I don't care). I'm a huge Philip Seymour Hoffman fan so I'd love to see him win again. Robert Downey's comic take on method acting was hilarious, bitter and wonderful so I wouldn't mind him winning. I absolutely loved Michael Shannon in Revolutionary Road as a man damaged by electro shock therapy. That performance came out of nowhere as I didn't really know him but he stole every scene he was in. But these all have no chance against Ledger. I'm already dreading the standing ovation that will come when he wins. Not that it won't be a nice moment--it will just reek of Hollywood phoniness. Dang, I'm cynical of those people, aren't I?

Best supporting actress: I'll be hoping Marisa Tomei wins her second Oscar in this category (she won for My Cousin Vinny). I am still ticked Tomei didn't win a few years ago for In the Bedroom. I'm afraid her performance might have been lost in the raw storm that was Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler but without her soulful performance, there is no shot at redemption for Rourke's character. This one is Tomei for me all the way.

Best director: Danny Boyle, a director that has both frustrated me and excited me over the years, should win this. He made a dazzling, kinetic, electric film (Slumdog Millionaire) in a foreign country with a huge cast (including lots of kid actors) and made one of the best films of the year and the best film of his career. I won't be happy if any of the others win this one, it's Boyle or bust for me and best director.

Monday, February 16, 2009

More films from Denmark

I need to get to Copenhagen/Denmark and quick! The more films I see from there, the more it seems like an interesting and beautiful city/country. In the past couple of months since my Anders Thomas Jensen post (November 2008 archives) I've watched three more films from Denmark--Kick 'N Rush, Old Men In New Cars and After the Wedding. Here are my thoughts on those three films.

Kick 'N Rush is a bruised look into teenage life among a small group of friends. Their interests are soccer, girls, getting drunk, hanging out and girls. Teenagers. Life is simple, yet brutal, when you are seventeen. It doesn't matter if you are in Copenhagen or Duluth--teenage angst is universal. Kick 'N Rush has the right tone all the way through it and unleashes the painful and the joyous that is the turmoil of youth. The title's not so good, the film is.

Old Men In New Cars was written by Anders Thomas Jensen (as was the upcoming After the Wedding), has the fetching Iben Hjejle in it and is chock full of Jenson's favorite things. He likes goofy criminals and this has bumbling misfits who come by money in illegal ways and go on the lam. There are a couple of laugh out loud scenes and lots of smaller pleasant ones. Not Jensen's best but still fun.

After the Wedding is the most somber and contemplative of all the Danish films I've recently seen. It's also one of the finest. Highly acclaimed (it was the 2006 nomination for best foreign film), the story is set around a Dane who returns home to try and get money for a school in India where he teaches. When he gets home, events occur that turns his world upside down. This is a sad, poignant film and is much more serious than the other Jensen stuff I've mentioned in this post (and the one back in November). Despite some of the "heavy" subject matter, the film flies by--largely because it is such a high quality film thanks to director Susanne Bier. Good movies feel faster no matter the genre or length.

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Wrestler

Darren Aronofsky's 2006 film The Fountain made my top ten for that year due to its audacity, over the top pretentiousness and its bursting at the seams historical/romance/philosophy epic qualities wrapped into a 90 minute package. The Wrestler is so far away from The Fountain it's shocking it was made by the same director. The fact that it was says something about Aronofsky's talent and the possibilities for his future films.

The Wrestler is getting all kinds of buzz for the performance of Mickey Rourke (Oscar nominated for best actor). The attention is deserved. Rourke is absolutely heartbreaking as the broken down wrestler Randy "The Ram" Robinson, who is hanging onto his former glory as a wrestling star in the 1980s. The Ram is barely surviving the lower level wrestling circuit, abusing his body for little pay and small crowds, who lives in a trailer or his beat up van. It's painful to watch.

I was worried that Rourke's performance would just be a freak show wrapped up in his own haunted past. It's not. While it's impossible to not think of Rourke's destructive slide downward in his personal life, there are ringing similarities between Rourke and The Ram--Rourke delivers an aching, sad, brutally honest performance as a man who has lost it all. His daughter is estranged, his beloved wrestling world seems to be slipping away and he has fading hopes on forging a relationship with anyone around him. All he has is his lost and last chances and if loses that--he's got nothing left.

There's lots of wrestling in the film. It took me back to the early 1980s when I was heavily into the regional professional circuit. My Saturdays were completely dedicated to wrestling when they came on local TV. The stuff in the ring and the behind the scenes action was accurate and riveting. When The Ram has to take on this guy in one of these extreme matches (these weren't around in my youth thank goodness)--think staple gun, barbed wire and glass in the ring--it is a ghastly display of bloodletting that makes The Ram's old school styled, choreographed matches seem quaint.

One of my long time favorites, the very lovely and talented Marisa Tomei plays a sweet stripper who forms a bond with Randy over dances and bar stool banter. She's also nominated for an Oscar in the best supporting actress category. Evan Rachel Wood plays the daughter he barely knows. Both women provide plenty of nice moments with Randy that show him trying to repair the damage that might be impossible to fix or to change.

The real surprise in The Wrestler is seeing how restrained Aronofsky is as a director. Aronofsky and restraint aren't too things that I'd put together as he's usually aiming for kinetic overkill but that kind of filmmaking would have destroyed the power of this simple story. Restraint works for The Wrestler. It's raw, honest, straight for the heart, no frills, gut wrenching, features a stunning performance from Mickey Rourke and was nearly my favorite film from 2008, finishing at number two behind Let the Right One In.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

#5 to #1 in 2008

5. Tell No One. French thriller that is already in discussion to be remade by Hollywood (ugh!). The film has a simple hook: man's wife, presumed dead, contacts husband. Or does she? Is she alive? It's a roller coaster that had my heart pumping with adrenaline as the tension increased. Humdinger!

4. Man On Wire. Only documentary to make my top ten is this film about Philippe Petit's 1974 wire walk between the World Trade Center. I just can't fathom the idea of doing something like this--and Petit uses NO safety cables! He falls--he dies. When Petit steps out onto that wire my eyes were filled with tears for the sheer audacity and power of being a dreamer. Exhilarating. Full review in August 2008 archives.

3. 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days. Gripping, bleak and powerful are words to describe this Romanian film about two women attempting to procure an illegal abortion in 1987 Bucharest. Intense, haunting and unforgettable are some more words for it. If you want upbeat--look elsewhere. But if you want brave, unflinching honesty that will hurt your heart as you watch it--this film is for you. Full review in October 2008 archives.

2. The Wrestler. Much like the previous film--this is an honest, straight ahead tale that some may call depressing. I call it an incredible foray into despair, loneliness and lost (and last) chances. The buzz is about Mickey Rourke's performance and it is a raw piece of work. The rest of the film is just as good with terrific behind the scenes wrestling action and a great supporting turn from one of my all-time favorites Marisa Tomei. By far, and I mean way ahead, Darren Aronofsky's best film. Longer review will be posted soon.

1. Let the Right One In. I saw this Swedish film months ago and I can not stop thinking about it. Set in the heart of a Swedish winter, the film is about a 12 year old outcast named Oskar who meets Eli, a new neighbor. Oskar's life will never be the same. Did I mention that Eli is a vampire? Let the Right One In is not just a "vampire" film as it is so much more than that. It's a coming of age film and a wonderful romance and it's flawlessly conceived and executed and it's my favorite film I saw in 2008. Full review in January 2009 archives.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

10-6 favorites in 2008

10. Milk. I had low expectations for Gus Van Sant's biopic of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected public official in America. The film surprised me. It's not only about Milk--in a stellar performance from Sean Penn--but is a riveting telling of the gay rights movement from the epicenter--the Castro neighborhood in San Francisico in the 1970s. Van Sant has made his best film in years and years.

9. Vicky Christina Barcelona. If Van Sant has made his best film in a long time--so has Woody Allen. I was not a big fan of the recent English set dramas but Vicky Christina Barcelona is a witty return to Allen's strengths with characters who are smart, neurotic, confused and complicated. Sounds like a Woody Allen story right? The Barcelona setting, with my recent trip in June still fresh in my memory, doesn't hurt it either.

8. Happy-Go-Lucky. English director Mike Leigh's latest is the kind of film you like a lot or not at all. I polled nine people who saw it--five were for it, four against it. I'm obviously in the "for it" category. There's a lot happening here. Sally Hawkins plays a sort of innocent, live life in the moment art teacher who starts to realize the life around her isn't as sunny as she'd hoped. Quirky, funny and with darkness lurking in the corners.

7. Slumdog Millionaire. Danny Boyle's ecstatic drama/romance/coming of age thriller--yeah, those are lots of genres piled into that sentence--is an electric, inventive joyride set in India. Edge of your seat time as a poor kid goes on the Indian version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire and knows the answers--which might be harmful to his health. Via flashbacks we see how he knows. Absolutely wonderful and Boyle's best, most complete film (not counting Trainspotting as I've never seen it).

6. Reprise. Norwegian film that is an honest jewel set amongst a group of male friends in Oslo. Reprise is direct, sly, romantic and bursting at the seams with ideas and intelligence. The film is energetic when it wants but is not afraid to slow down and dwell in deeper thought. Check the July 2008 archives for a full review.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Snorin' and Poopin'

Recently I went to see Revolutionary Road at a local multiplex. After running into my friend David in the lobby I decided to theatre hop for a second, free film. We settled on a late night screening of Deviance.

It was the 9.30 screening. We sat in the middle with only a few others in the theatre. Early on the sound of snoring and brief snorts started coming from the row in front of us. They'd stop and start, stop and start. Every time I looked over the chair backs to see what was going on the guy would be quiet with no snoring/snorting.

At around the forty minutes left in Defiance mark, the guy gets up and sort of weaves his way from the theatre. David and I kind of look at each other and grin as the guy was struggling to make it out. Little did I know his exit might have been because he had more issues than finding a place to get some sleep.

I was in the midst of a cold and couldn't smell anything. This was a lucky break for me it turns out. When the film ended I said to David--

"Thank goodness Mr. Snorey left to go sleep somewhere else."
"That wasn't the only thing he left for."
"What do you mean?"
"You didn't smell anything?"
"Right before he left I think he shat himself."
"Yeah, a few minutes before he left it started to smell pretty awful up here."
"I've got this cold! We should have moved. If there's ever reason to move seats--that's got to be one."

So there you have it. A story of theatre hopping, snoring and some guy pooping his pants in a Tulsa multiplex.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

January movies

I saw lots of films in a theatre this month--trying to stay caught up on all the possible best of films and performances. I'll post my top ten for 2008 soon, along with thoughts on the Oscar nominations. The Wrestler will no doubt be making the top ten but Rachel Getting Married will not, completely over hyped that film is.

Slumdog Millianaire---2008---england ****
The Caribou Trail---1950---usa ***
Doubt---2008---usa ***1/2
Milk---2008---usa ****
Chungking Express---1994---hong kong ****
The Good German---2006---usa ***1/2
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button---2008---usa ****
Timecrimes---2008---spain ***1/2
Gran Torino---2008---usa ***1/2
Western Union---1941---usa **1/2
Frost/Nixon---2008---usa ***1/2
Smart People---2008---usa **1/2
Dutch Girls---1985---england **
The Reader---2008---england ***1/2
Revolutionary Road---2008---usa ****
Defiance---2008---usa ***
Harvard Beats Yale 29-29---2008---usa ***
The Wrestler---2008---usa ****1/2
Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins---2008---usa **1/2
Louder Than Bombs---2002---poland **
Surfwise---2007---usa ***1/2
Storm---2005---sweden ***1/2
Rachel Getting Married---2008---usa **1/2