Friday, November 27, 2009

Invictus: Clint's Still Got It!

The other day I talked about The Lovely Bones' quickly vanishing Oscar opportunities and felt nothing but fear that Invictus would follow the big name director downfall. I was delightfully surprised with the reviews that came online today. It looks now that while Invictus may not be the best picture of the year is will still be a great film.

Kirk Honeycutt from The Hollywood Reporter says "Nothing speaks so dramatically about Clint Eastwood's recent and remarkable burst of creativity as a director of awards-worthy films than the appearance of "Invictus," a historical drama that few if any filmmakers could have launched within the studio system. Here is a movie about Nelson Mandela, South Africa after apartheid and, of all things, the sport of rugby. None is high on any list of topics that studio suits crave, which tend more toward vampires and superheroes. Even the title -- that of a Victoria-era poem -- is obscure."

Todd McCarthy from Variety says "Directed by Eastwood with straightforward confidence, the film is marbled with innumerable instances of Mandela disarming his presumed opponents while giving pause to those among his natural constituency who might be looking for some payback rather than intelligent restraint. Freeman, a beautiful fit for the part even if he doesn't go all the way with the accent, takes a little while to shake off the man's saintlike image, and admittedly, the role of such a hallowed contemporary figure does not invite too much complexity, inner exploration or actorly elaboration. That said, Freeman is a constant delight; gradually, one comes to grasp Mandela's political calculations, certitudes and risks, the troubled personal life he keeps mostly out of sight, and his extraordinary talent for bringing people around to his point of view."

The cloud of mystery surrounding highly buzzed about Oscar films is beginning to clear with some disappointing, but some inspirational results. The last two major contenders not to be released for review by the press are Nine and Avatar. With cautious optimism I hope that they are worth our time.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Lovely Bones: The Real Film to Worry About?

For the past several weeks there have been dozens and dozens of people in fear that Avatar may in fact not be the completely awesome movie we've been expecting from James Cameron for over a decade. However people have been overlooking a few films from other world class directors, like Clint Eastwood's Invictus, or most notably Peter Jackson's The Lovely Bones. Well recently reviews have surfaced for Peter Jackson's latest work and they are middling at best. Some hail it as good but not great, and others say that Peter Jackson has made a wrong step.

Todd McCarthy from Variety says "...the massive success Jackson has enjoyed in the intervening years with his CGI-heavy 'The Lord of the Rings' saga and 'King Kong' has infected the way he approaches this far more intimate tale. Instead of having the late Susie Salmon occupy a little perch in an abstract heavenly gazebo from which she can peer down upon her family and anyone else -- all that is really necessary from a narrative point of view -- the director has indulged his whims to create constantly shifting backdrops depicting an afterlife evocative of 'The Sound of Music' or 'The Wizard of Oz' one moment, 'The Little Prince' or 'Teletubbies' the next."

Richard Corliss from Time Magazine says "The plot has a few pitfalls. Jack, who fingers dozens of men as Susie's potential abductor, takes ages to notice the strange guy across the street. And Abigail departs and reappears with little organic reason. But the movie is packed with privileged moments, like Susie's glimpse, from the in-between, of her younger sister's first kiss — an ecstasy Susie was so close to experiencing before she entered Mr. Harvey's lair."

Baz Bamigboye from Daily Mail (UK) says "There are no gentle touches in The Lovely Bones, and, believe me, a story such as this needs to be handled with care. Jackson cuts out a vital storyline involving Susie's mother (Rachel Weisz) and an affair she has with the policeman who is trying to find out what happened to her daughter.

That last review really got me frightened. One of my favorite things from the book was Mrs. Salmons affair with Lennerman. It really gave more depth to the story and to the characters. Now knowing that that part is not going to be in the film I am so much less excited, and these reviews don't cushion the blow. I'm in as much horror now as when I was reading the rape scene from the novel. True, I try not to listen to the critics on everything (They certainly were off when reviewing Speed Racer), but they are what people go by when predicting what films will get nominated for Best Picture. Example: A film like Transformers 2 wouldn't be nominated for best picture, nor would films like G.I. Joe, or The Reader. Wait a minute....

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Sweet and Dark Melody of "The Cat Piano"

So the other day I posted the list of Animated Shorts on the short list for the Oscar for said category. Since then I have been able to study and see clips from all the films on the list and the one that struck me the most as rising above all the rest was The Cat Piano (which is featured in the box with a time length more than 8 min. in the video section labeled The Cat Piano on the side of the page). After seeing it I truly believe it to be the film to beat in this category. I often enjoy dark animated film and the jazz sense that vibrates through this film to the way it is drawn makes it such a striking addition to the list of great Oscar films.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

"Wallace and Gromit" and Pixar both up for Best Animated Short

They've just announced the shortlist for Best Animated Short film for this years Oscars and it consists of a bunch of films we haven't heard of and like, 2 that we have.

* "The Cat Piano," Eddie White and Ari Gibson, directors (The People's Republic of Animation)
* "French Roast," Fabrice O. Joubert, director (Pumpkin Factory/Bibo Films)
* "Granny O'Grimm's Sleeping Beauty," Nicky Phelan, director, and Darragh O'Connell, producer (Brown Bag Films)
* "The Kinematograph," Tomek Baginski, director-producer (Platige Image)
* "The Lady and the Reaper (La Dama y la Muerte)," Javier Recio Gracia, director (Kandor Graphics and Green Moon)
* "Logorama," Nicolas Schmerkin, producer (Autour de Minuit)
* "A Matter of Loaf and Death," Nick Park, director (Aardman Animations Ltd.)
* "Partly Cloudy," Peter Sohn, director (Pixar Animation Studios)
* "Runaway," Cordell Barker, director (National Film Board of Canada)
* "Variete," Roelof van den Bergh, director (il Luster Productions)

Now assuming that one of these unknown films won't come and snatch away the prize, I'd have to go with Park's "Matter of Loaf and Death" because Wallace and Gromit have won many times in the past before and are bound to do it again. I love Pixar always, and Partly Cloudy is no exception, but I have a special place in my heart for stop motion animation films. I made one of them in my film production class last year. You can see it on youtube here:
Forgive the awful quality.

Monday, November 16, 2009

2012: Best Action Scene?

I seem to be the king of false promises. I'm sorry I didn't get this review up when I said I would, but this is technically not really a review. It's more of an analyzation of the Action sequences to see which is best, because most of the film is in truth, not good or engaging. They spend about 40 minutes before they get to any real action. But the action is truly amazing. Nobody directs disaster like Roland Emmerich and he tops all the disaster sequences he's done in the past with this movie, so I decided to rank the top three action sequences.

3)Washington Washes Away
The best of the mini-disaster sequences that don't last more than two minutes, this one is just so symbolic. Seeing Danny Glover finish the bible reading he wasn't able to in the broadcast as the USS John F. Kennedy rides on a wave to squash out the white house, is just one of the biggest and best contradictions in a single scene, when there seems to be no hope, one man has hope. And he's the fucking president in 2012! (Obvious Answer Alert!) Who is going to be president in 2012?

2) San Francisco Goes Down
Even people who didn't end up going to see the film opening weekend saw most of this sequence with the exception of a few frames, thanks to the broadcast of the scene. Still if there was anything that would lock an audience into going to see a movie it would be this scene. It rather gleefully despenses with 7 million people in spectacular fashion. The friend I went to see it with turned to me during this sequence and said "This is the least tense action sequence ever". It truly is, because we don't no anybody in San Francisco except the people who make it out alive, and we know that they're all going to make it out alive, because lets face it, it's a Roland Emmerich film. Even if we didn't know they'd be alright, we still would care about the characters. We only really care about the shit blowing up. That's pretty much the reason most of us went to the movie in the first place.

1)Yellowstone Eruption
This scene was truly awesome in its entirety. As soon as Jackson found Charlie at the ridge of Yellowstone we all knew that some serious shit was about to go down. Woody Harrelson's character was the only one I really cared about because he was so awesome and had it all figured out (Unlike every other character in the movie), and boy did he go out with a bang. The rest of the sequence was Jackson and his daughter trying to make their way back to the plane. It was pretty awesome but not truly thrilling until right at the end. The final rush of the sequence alone was worth the price of admission. If for nothing else, go to the movie to see this scene.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Up: Best Film of the Year, but not Best Picture?

I've recieved a great amount of disagreement on my choice to nominate Up for Best Picture, and when I say great I mean one person. However seeing as there are probably only 3 people who come to my site I feel as if I need to address it.

I know that it's hard to grasp that an animated childrens film could possibly be nominated for Best Picture, but if you think about it it's not all that out of the ordinary. Last year WALL-E was close to getting nominated and that was when amount of nominees was 5. Now that there are 10 nominees Up is almost certain to get in. Why? For one thing it deals with some dark themes like death, and depression and it deals with them in a realistic manner that is truly sad and can be related to real life. And even if that isn't taken into account Up is still the best film of the year. Even watching it on the tiny screen of my portable DVD player I was filled with all the intense emotions I got in the theatre, and more. Up is the type of movie you can watch again and again and get more out of it. For instance, during my third time seeing it I realized a rather tucked away but still huge character development of Russell. During the final battle when Russell is dangling from hose on Carl's house he musters the strength to pull himself all the way to the porch, having been inspired by Mr. Fredrickson. Rather unremarkable, but only if you forget that he could drag himself up to the porch when he and Carl first reached Paradise Falls. It was truly much more inspiring knowing that knowledge.

The thing about Up that seperates it from other Pixar masterpieces is that it carries you on the emotional journey of all the characters throughout the entire film. One of my big problems with WALL-E is that during the first half of the movie you aren't thinking about WALL-E and EVE, but about where the hell the human race went, and during the second half when the destiny of the human race rests in the balance you don't care. You only care about WALL-E and EVE being together again. Up brings you in to every emotional state that all the characters are in. You can feel Carl Fredrickson's sadness when Ellie dies, and his emptiness when he finally gets his house to Paradise Falls. You feel Russell's sadness at his father practically adandoning him, and his anger when Mr. Fredrickson fails him. Even in the case of Dug, you can feel the simple emotions he feels and care about him considerably.

With ten nominations this year, the floodgate is certainly open for films like Up to make it in. I dare anybody to find a film from this year that is more emotionally poignant than Up.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Best Picture: My First Ten

This is my first prediction post on this blog, so I'm going to try to keep it simple by just giving my choices and as the weeks go on I'll give profiles of each of the films that are in my top ten, so here are my predictions for Best Picture at this year's Oscars:

-An Education
-The Hurt Locker
-Inglourious Basterds
-The Lovely Bones
-A Single Man
-Up in the Air

Review Mashup

I haven't been able to make any headway on the reviews I've had for the past few weeks. I tried making video reviews but ultimately realized I don't have a good screen presence. Here are my mini reviews from the past few weeks.

Avatar Trailer: I know it's just a trailer, but this was a turning point in the marketing of the new Avatar film. Since it there have been many extended tv spots, and advertising campaigns, most of which have been mostly successful. The look of this trailer is significantly better than the teaser trailer and gives more of the actual plot. Great acting, interesting visual effects, and the added 3D factor could earn this film quite an audience. I was somewhat worried that the dialogue would be a decade old and somewhat corny, which it kind of is but with the right delivery and execution it could still be a passably alright movie. Just don't expect too much from it. My Grade: 3.5 out of 4 stars

Michael Jackson's This is it: It's still out. There is still time for you to see it. Is it the definitive concert film of a lifetime? No. Is it a huge go-out-with-a-bang final tribute to Jackson? No, and Director Kenny Ortega should be commended for that. He didn't try to make the concert something it wasn't meant to be. It was meant to be an enjoyable 2 hour performance that ties in a moral wake up call that we all need to hear. I'm not going to spoil it for anybody, but everybody needs to see this film, or at least the last half hour of it. It has a message that could change the world. The rest of the film is still a worthy look into the friendships MJ made during the practices, and the meaning of the music to him. My Grade: 3.5 out of 4 stars.

The Men Who Stare at Goats: Of all the films that came out the first weekend of November, the only one I wanted to see was the new George Clooney film. It looked like a genuinely fun and funny film and it ultimately was. It's certainly not a best picture calibur film or even an Airplane calibur parody. The worst thing about this film was the director. That can usually kill a film but thanks to a laugh filled script, and well contained, nutty performances from Jeff Bridges and especially George Clooney, this film was able to achieve that status of Worth Seeing. My Grade: 3 out of 4 stars.

Check back around noon tomorrow for my review of 2012.