Tuesday, November 29, 2011

AWARDS 2011: NYFCC kicks off the season

And now we get to the critics awards, and occasionally draining and often repetitive exercise usually. This season, it seems to serve more to get some sense of proper footing amidst an uncertain slate of features. If you were following us on twitter, which I advise you do in the immediate future, it was quite an ordeal. Taking up more than three hours of our lives, the New York Film Critics Circle made clear their drawn out method of debating which films would win, rather than something easier like the ever trustworthy secret ballot. It did mean a surprise or two, but it also made things unusual throughout.

Examples? "The Tree of Life" castmates Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain managed to win for wide berth of work for this year. Pitt was obviously less deserving for "Moneyball", which was the only one of his two performances that was lead. Chastain had three films in her batch, which made it somewhat unfair for the rest. "Margin Call" inexplicably and despairingly won best first feature, which should have gone to "Martha Marcy May Marlene". "The Artist" topped the Best Picture and Director race, which wasn't at all surprising. The strongest win, without any complaint, was Albert Brooks for "Drive". I think he may be the only one who has smooth sailing ahead of him.

Best Picture: "The Artist"
Best Director: Michel Hazanavicius ("The Artist")
Best Screenplay: Steve Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin ("Moneyball")
Best Actor: Brad Pitt ("Moneyball", "The Tree of Life")
Best Supporting Actor: Albert Brooks ("Drive")

AWARDS 2011: "Drive" & "Beginners" Dominate Indie Spirit Nods

Let me quickly clarify that this was hell to speed write out all the nominations as they were announced via twitter. Give a guy a chance to breathe! All the same, it was really quite fantastic to finally be in the rush of awards season, especially when we're starting in such great fashion. The Film Independent Spirit Awards nominations are really the best way to kick off the season which ends in the bitter disappointment of the Oscars. Of course there are quite a few films that I still don't care for, primarily "The Descendants", and as time ticks by "The Artist". I am not spent on "Beginners" yet, as the film was really quite charming, and its resurgence here gives me enough pause to see it again and reevaluate it.

Still haven't seen "50/50", which doesn't seem as spectacular as it once did, and I expect to get branded by everyone I love for not falling for it. I never got the chance to see it, sadly enough. Fortunately, "Take Shelter" is coming around the bend for me to get in just under the wire for this year. And I've even more ecstatic about "Drive" making such a strong surge for the Indie Spirits. With each passing second it seems all the more like the "Black Swan" of this year. It was nice to see "Martha Marcy May Marlene" to get some love under the main line. What wasn't nice was the almost complete alienation of "Shame", which left Fassbender and Mulligan out of the races, much to my disdain. I'll survive. This is still a nice batch.

-"Take Shelter"
-"The Artist"
-"The Descendants"

-Mike Mills ("Beginners")
-Nicolas Winding Refn ("Drive")
-Jeff Nichols ("Take Shelter")
-Michel Hazanavicius ("The Artist")
-Alexandre Payne ("The Descendants")

Carpet-Bagging: Before the gates open

We are in the last seconds of the pre-awards season, with the New York Film Critics Circle just on the edge of announcing their victors. We can be ready for a handful of surprises when we see exactly where the critics actually swing in their decisions. At the same time, don't be disappointed if the cards land exactly where we expect them to. The current frontrunners are still "The Artist", "The Descendants", and now effectively "War Horse". The trailer placed it as a winning and simple crowdpleaser several months ago, and even then I knew this was a lock for a nod. If you know me well enough, that also means I despised it quite fervently.

It's not that it's not pretty, but I have a much stronger pull to see the stage play and all its unique design elements than this relatively simple and straightforward exercise in spine-chilling. In the meantime, I continued my general cynicism against "The Descendants", which it's a shame when you employ such against an Alexander Payne film and not for it. I quite liked "Sideways", but I can feel the strands that were leading Payne towards this sort of conclusion. George Clooney is the frontrunner in the Best Actor race, and I doubt that's likely to deflate. Who's going to come in and steal the spotlight?

Jean Dujardin? As interesting an idea as that might be, he's pretty much just a nominee here, in the same vein as Christoph Waltz came along in 2009. He's bound to get a lot of offers after this film, and maybe one of them will bring him back around here, but he's not going to gallop away with this one. "The Artist", in the meantime, does have a strong inclination towards Best Picture, but the closer an opportunity it becomes, the less I see in it. It's really starting to seem more disingenuous a treat than the trailer lets on. 150 seconds conveys perhaps everything that the 90 minute film does, if my cynical non-viewer take on it proves fruitful enough.

So what else has shifted? Well, in case you hadn't noticed, the entire Best Picture race has skewed to becoming almost entirely sweet and obnoxiously endearing, even beyond the three frontrunners. I've already lamented about "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close", but I have even more reason to complain now that "Hugo" has entered the conversation quite boldly in comparison. That does give me pause enough to question why I didn't see it while I had the chance over Thanksgiving, but even more over the overlap of the two films' plots. They're practically the same, with the core difference being that Scorsese's film uses breathtaking technologies in a way it's not been seen before and as a tool to give tribute to the past. Stephen Daldry's film is trying to yank those tears out of your eyes in the most manipulative and predictable of ways.

Monday, November 28, 2011

In case you're still there...

Things have been extremely silent on the site for the entirety of the weekend, partly because I didn't expect anybody to be too clamoring for news over the weekend, but more because I didn't have much to talk about. I was busy with family, getting some financial issues worked out, and just organizing how things are going to be for the next couple weeks. I am going to be keeping up with the news of the moment, even though I'm constantly steering clear of trailers, as you can figure out here. I'm sticking to that as best I can. In any case, I just wanted to let you know that there's going to be a lot more activity in coming weeks as the awards season picks up and we move on to the end of the year.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Film Review: "The Muppets" (***1/2)

"Don't you remember? We built this city. We built this city on rock and roll!"

I'm probably the last person you'd have predicted a response such as this from, especially given my track record over the past year. With "X-Men: First Class", "Super 8", and "Deathly Hallows: Part 2" coming and going with only gaining dissatisfaction in return, it's definitely been a cynical year for cinema, at least from where I'm sitting. There's the inappropriate expectation that what the audience wants is simple spectacle, rather than excitement. It's hard to remember the last time a mainstream feat managed to raise the hairs on my spine with general thrills, and that absence has not escaped me. It would take a great deal of digging to hit the oil that the Muppets are digging for, to use a hint of intended irony.

The first moments of the film don't really get off to a brilliant start, and it really put me back in the mood I've been in for the past several months. The old-style home video reels phasing into the present day was an early sign that this wasn't gonna be the reunion I wanted, and in a few ways it wasn't. What I wanted was a fantasy, and the further the film progressed, the more those old, authentic Muppet memories came back. The opening was just a rough settling back into this world, and though it's not a sign of the joy and wound you'd feel after the film's first act, we almost needed our hopes to be let down before they could be built back up again, brick by brick.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving Weekend Report: Life's a Happy Song

This weekend brings us quite a few endearing films in both the mainstream and independent circuits. It's much more bountiful harvest than we're accustomed to on any given weekend. The most blinding flaw is that there's so much that's gearing towards families that they're bound to cancel each other at the box office. Still, I'm certain the undeniable draw is "The Muppets", as it has been for the past several weeks. I'm tempted to say that families will go out in droves for the film, but I imagine so many people who see it will be people who grew up with the Muppets. It's the nostalgia of passing on the beloved characters to newer generations that should make this thrive over the weeks to come.

The other two are less decidedly successful, and one of which I can't even place much confidence in. "Arthur Christmas" looks simple, which isn't exactly a mark against it. Apparently critics are quite taken with Aardman's new CG feature, but I can easily say that it offers something just a little bit more than "Happy Feet Two" does. Films like this are often more than is let on in the trailers. And then there's "Hugo", which I'm even more tempted to see, despite some belittling factors in it. I don't think this is Martin Scorsese at his greatest, nor do I expect to change that feeling when I see it. But I've still heard some wonderful things about it, so it's worth a shot, right?

For Your Anticipation: Fillet of Fish

I've been very silent across the last two days, mostly because I've had so much going on. Spending Thanksgiving with family always manages to divert your attention from other things. One thing it hasn't distracted me from is "The Muppets", which is the first film for me to be truly excited for in quite some time. I'll elaborate on my thoughts later on, but suffice it to say that the film turned my cynicism into absolute joy, against all odds. It's funny, delightful, and it made me cry more than any other film I've seen this year. Take my word and see it with somebody you love!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

For Your Anticipation: No Extra Parts

Martin Scorsese has always been one for acting out of type, going from film to film as he pleases with as long a leash as you can give a director. "Shutter Island" was the bi-product of a curiosity and need to engineer with his films more. "Hugo", is considerably less so, unless you're speaking in terms of 3D. I can't say I'm entirely likely to see the film, and the simple goading of the technology doesn't do much to lure me in. What lures me in, always, is Scorsese's consistent visual integrity. But I'm not that interested in such CG-infused visual wonder as the raw visual wonder of his more compressed efforts.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Box Office Update: "Dawn" Breaks B.O. Sanity

I think that if there's anything that is embellished by this weekend, or rather the year as a tedious whole, is that where "Harry Potter" may have some kind of staying power on its side, "Twilight" is an extremely frontloaded vehicle. True, both gain most of their earnings from the opening weekends alone, and they're very similar in that respect. They're also similar in that people outside the franchise don't care too much. "Potter" is done for, and after visiting it again recently, I hate it even more. I know. I clearly have no soul. "Twilight" is also on its way out. Slowly. Very needlessly slowly at that. The first part of their "Breaking Dawn" finale collected just $3 million below the opening "New Moon" mustered. Still a success for such an abysmal franchise.

Talking of abysmal, "Happy Feet Two" managed to fail in a much more obvious manner. Sure, $22 million is somewhat honest for a film opening opposite a vehicle like "Twilight". It's weak compared the grosses the last film mustered, mostly from kids, but also from penguin obsessed girls. Obsession is the main device that fuels the box office season, no matter the demographic. All other candidates this week fell greatly due to the opposition. Still, the weekend was an advance upon last year's pre-Thanksgiving frame.

1. "Breaking Dawn: Part 1" (First Weekend; $139.5 million)
2. "Happy Feet Two" (First Weekend; $22 million)
3. "Immortals" (Second Weekend; $12.2 million)
4. "Jack and Jill" (Second Weekend; $12 million)
5. "Puss in Boots" (Fourth Weekend; $10.7 million)
6. "Tower Heist" (Third Weekend; $7 million)
7. "J. Edgar" (Second Weekend; $5.9 million)
8. "Harold and Kumar" (Third Weekend; $2.9 million)
9. "In Time" (Fourth Weekend; $1.7 million)
10. "The Descendants" (First Weekend; $1.2 million)

The Sound of "Drive"

I've been so desperate to revisit "Drive" since it came out two months back, and it's all too difficult as the film has exited the majority of theaters out there. That is a point of frustration that I simply cannot get over. I often think of how the added parts of "Drive", along with the vision of Nicolas Winding Refn, make it much more than it could have been. The sound design of the film, while not quite so meticulous, is nonetheless crucial in its choices of when it comes in and moves out. "Spot on" is the perfect phrase for this particular film, in most every aspect.

For Your Anticipation: We Have a Waker?

It's that time of year again, when Christmas comes to those who aren't ready or willing for it. Then again, I suppose they put these films out now so that they have time to build up to the big celebration. But I wasn't interested in seeing "Arthur Christmas" when they released the first trailer nearly a year ago. I'm still not interested now, just because it seems like simple and narrow kids entertainment, just slightly more inviting a prospect than "Happy Feet Two". The main difference is, where this will open weaker against the plethora of family entertainment in this frame, it will have the bonus of families looking for a Christmas movie next month. But please Aardman, can you just get back to claymation? We miss it!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Oscar Park: "The Descendants"

I've fallen a great deal behind on Oscar Park, mostly because after "The Ides of March" came and went without me having the chance to see it, I didn't know much the point in predicting without seeing. But then again, I can guess pretty straightly accurate when it comes to "The Descendants" without even seeing it. The normative academy mindset is playing right into Alexander Payne's hands with this one, and I'm not about to launch an all out knock against the film, but it's a pretty simple joy to be sure. I know where this is going without even seeing it, which makes the predicting game short work.

In the Academy eye, "The Descendants" is a lock most categories out there. Best Picture and Adapted Screenplay fall right in line with expectations, but Director may be somewhat off. I don't think anyone's going to call this a director's show in the slightest, and I'm just waiting to accost it on nominations day when Payne inevitably gets a nod anyway. George Clooney is all the buzz for this film, and he's really seeming like the frontrunner at this moment, but that's what we all said two years ago about "Up in the Air". Things can change ever so quickly in this game, and Clooney might end up falling into his own trap again. Below the line, there's absolutely nothing to be had. I'd count that as solid an indication as any of this film's true merits. It's no more or less than five nods, and that's not up for debate.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

I'm breaking the habit tonight!

This might end up as an unfulfilled promise, and I truly hope that isn't the case. But I much prefer the feeling of absolute virginity when entering into a cinematic experience, and that unfortunately doesn't exist anymore. We're so filled to the brim with trailers and TV spots that there's no feeling of true experience going into a film. By "true experience", I mean not knowing what we're in for. I mean not having the slightest of clues. I want to get that feeling back, so from this moment on, hopefully, I'm resolving not to indulge in trailers before seeing a film. It's a promise with consequences, like the fact that I have less of a clue going into potentially bad films, but I'd rather have that pleasure of going into a film and having an even more heightened experience of joy from it.

I'd say for you guys to try it, but I'd actually kind of like you guys to tell me what you think of these trailers I post up here from week to week. I won't see them, but I'll still post them up for you guys, sight unseen. I'll also try to refrain from reading full reviews, which just allow you to adjust expectations. If I stumble upon trailers in theaters, I'll either forgive it our shut my eyes and ears. TV spots, I'll absolutely forgive. Other than that, I am remaining open without augmentation until the screening from here on out. And because I absolutely loved the trailer, here's a second dosing of "Shame".

Carpet-Bagging: Doc race shuts out top tier

How does it not surprise me that the most stunning documentaries of this year are being left on the drying rack? I was utterly astounded by "Senna" a few weeks ago, but I suppose it was predictable of them to give the shovel to something comprised primarily of found footage. It's as if the attention to detail and effort alone mean nothing at all, which, in the Academy scheme of things, they don't really. Case in point, look at the winners of last year's awards, not just in this race. Similarly, "Into the Abyss" and "Bombay Beach", which I'll be finally catching via Netflix later today, were left out of the races. You can see the entire list below after the jump.

"Battle for Brooklyn" (RUMER Inc.)
"Bill Cunningham New York" (First Thought Films)
"Buck" (Cedar Creek Productions)
"Hell and Back Again" (Roast Beef Productions Limited)

"Fringe" Review: "Wallflower" (***1/2)

God damn, I miss loving "Fringe" this much! I'm having trouble remembering the last time I was this invested and this into an episode of the show. It was probably "Marionette" from last year, which conveniently arrived around this time of year. However, maybe what I loved more was the palpable sense of mystery and unknowing. This show has done a fine job of keeping us in the dark lately. I didn't know how last week was going to unfurl at the start, and was just somewhat satisfied with how they worked that reveal. However, last week felt doused in the semi-hokeyness that this season has been laced with.

Yet in spite of my worries last week that we'd simply be getting a middling and somewhat anticlimactic treatment for the last "Fringe" episode of this year, it quickly established that it was a lot more than that. The episode starts out with Olivia experiencing migraines, which may sound like it has some greater purpose, but kicking things off, it just felt like good storytelling. Such small moments like her going out for medicine give us such subtle indications about her character, and it shows that maybe the writers are picking up on what I've been putting out there. And then her chance encounter with Lincoln was such a sweet discourse between characters. Lincoln started out as something of a shell, but now he's seeming like such a glyph of emotion, with somebody struggling to find a connection in a drastically changed world.

Friday, November 18, 2011

"Rampart" Trailer

The new trailer for "Rampart" puts me in a position to believe that I made the right choice to place it at #1 of my November anticipation list. Then again, the film won't be around long, as it's going for a one week qualifying run before its actual release in January of 2012. At least that's what I've heard, which is disappointing. Sure, "Rampart" is walking on similar territory as "The Lincoln Lawyer", which I hated. However, I love Woody Harrelson and something about the feeling of the film. Not everything, but something.


"Fringe" Preview: Like A Human Being

"Fringe" has been more than just a little bit weird this season, which is something I'm kind of glad about, but can understand why many are taken aback by it. Last week's case would've fallen to chaos if they didn't have as skilled a man as Brad Anderson at the helm. And yet every single week features a case that somehow ties into what's going on with our characters. Yes, it's rather coincidental, but it's also kind of great storytelling. This week, we get a man who seems to be fading from the corporeal, right next to our Peter attempting to find a way back into his reality, after being erased from it. Once again, no idea where this is all going. That's kind of exciting.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

"Shame" Trailer 2

Damn it! I'm crying again! "Shame" is still my most anticipated unseen film of what remains of this year. There's plenty I've still to see, all of which are listed here, though I no longer even have the slightest interest to see "J. Edgar". McQueen tops the slate quite easily, and this trailer just makes me even more interested to see the film. That delicious green band may say NC-17, but the film still looks like a film made for the mainstream audiences. I'm really unsure why the MPAA doesn't want <17-year-olds to see this. It's sex. It happens to any sensible human being. I think this trailer really tugs the viewer towards it by the chest. It figures I'll have to find my way to New York to see it.


For Your Anticipation: All the ____ Happening

I know that I'm probably the only one who's going to be down on "The Descendants" these days, but what the hell is Alexandre Payne doing? The moment this trailer hit, I thought to myself "This looks boring." Family in pain with humor being used as antidote rather than augmentation of tragedy. This looks too damn cheerful. I don't care if somebody ends up dying. I doubt I'll feel anything. There just doesn't look to be enough going on here.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

"Brave" Trailer

I'm not going to start placing bets on the latest film in Pixar's canon of releases, going now into the realms of mythic Scotland. Is this trailer somewhat disappointing? Yes, and I had been looking forward to "Brave" after that initial teaser. However, the trailer also doesn't give us a single hint of what the film is actually about. It's in Scotland. There's a princess. She's a ginger. There's a bear. That's it. And we're not likely to get a trailer that reveals anything important until next year, by which time I won't be watching trailers at all. So I can say my expectations have been slightly aired out, but I'm still generally interested.


For Your Anticipation: Dramatic Back Turn

What could I possibly say against "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn: Part 1" at this point, beyond that unnecessarily extended title? Quite a lot actually, but I'm not about to repeat my anger at it for nonsensical reasons, like the fact that it's stupid. More of my anger is at how horrible it is, most specifically its message. It's easily disillusioned thousands of teen girls into believing that all they need to be happy is to find a handsome man, which is the worst role model I could imagine for the new generation. This is what we're breeding currently, and it's not great.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

"The Iron Lady" Trailer

Fine! I'll add to the pot of people talking about the new trailer for "The Iron Lady". I didn't want to, but people won't shut up about it already. Personally, I don't think I'll ever get around to seeing the film. The film seems to be hand-in-hand with the recently released and maligned "J. Edgar". Two generally disliked political figures shown with a heavy and obvious hand at work. I don't even know who's behind "The Iron Lady", but I can't find too much interest to look into it. Meryl Streep? She looks to be just as gawdy and self-imposed as she was in "Julie and Julia".

For Your Anticipation: Just Be Quiet!

I'm hearing some rather expected things about "Happy Feet Two", and it's nothing you couldn't have guessed from the trailers. It seems to be following in the same mold as "Cars 2" of disappointing followups to 2006 Best Animated Feature nominees. "Happy Feet" won about five years ago, and I highly doubt that will happen again for this one. It looks like another predictable cash grab, without anything that made the first one slightly touching. Now it's just penguins singing for the heck of it.


Monday, November 14, 2011

"Toy Story" Returns with "Muppets"

I keep hearing about slight rumblings regarding "Toy Story 4", and they honestly make me kind of sick. Can we please just be happy with small portions dispensed sparingly such as this? Set to air before "The Muppets", the new "Toy Story" short seems to have a little more going on than the last one. I'm honestly fine with these slight excuses to revisit these characters. Their story if finished, but they aren't.


"The Hunger Games" Trailer

I really don't think we need another trailer for "The Hunger Games". I know it's only been this one, but the way it closes up fits just perfectly for a final trailer. I know it isn't, as they're bound to show another sometime in the four months to follow before the film. I think that they can put concrete plans in order to make the other two films in the trilogy, because this film is going to make a ton of money. It's going to be Lionsgate's equivalent to "Twilight", but significantly better than "Twilight". I'm not raving about this film. I think there's enough about it that looks silly. Hell, it looks like it's been ripped from the 1990s era of sci-fi film. Not that that's a bad thing. Maybe I'm looking for a ridiculous time like this.


Sunday, November 13, 2011

Box Office Update: "Immortals" Conquers Dispersed Weekend

NOTE - Currently, my computer is completely incapacitated, so my ability to upload pictures is nixed. Sorry!

This weekend proved to set 2011 on the right track towards finishing up, with a series of prosperous debuts and holdovers holding excitement up to a generally positive level. I am not the least bit excited about any of the films in the top ten, but I don't expect it possible for them to satisfy me at such a time as this season. "Immortals" led the weekend box office, mostly from profits generated by 3D screenings. I'd also consider the generally masculine atmosphere about it as an important factor. Plenty are calling this film stunning, but I have no idea where they're drawing that conclusion. In any case, I expected this to do well with male demographics, and it did.

So where did everyone else go? Apparently the women went to see "Jack and Jill", since I can find no other demographic who might be interested in it. Hell, I can't find a single demographic aside from idiot children and their gullible parents, but they were more interested in "Puss in Boots" this weekend. That is, unless the kids flocked to "Jack and Jill" and older demographics went to "Puss in Boots" from positive word of mouth. I'll go with any estimates in this game. And no matter the reason for it, "Puss in Boots" still shot above $100 million this weekend, just a hair faster than "Paranormal Activity 3", which also passed the benchmark. Together, they're the first of the fall season.

The last debut of the weekend was "J. Edgar", which managed Clint Eastwood's strongest debut since "Space Cowboys", but still weak in comparison to "Hereafter" when it widened to further theaters last year. Holdovers were modest, but it's clear that "Tower Heist" and "Harold and Kumar" are beginning to evaporate from relevance. Overall, the weekend surged above the same weekend last year, when "Megamind" held modestly well against "Unstoppable", "Skyline", and "Morning Glory". But who's to say what % the films this weekend will fall next weekend, when "Happy Feet Two" and "Twilight: Breaking Dawn" launch onto the scene.

1. "Immortals" (First Weekend; $32 million)
2. "Jack and Jill" (First Weekend; $26 million)
3. "Puss in Boots" (Third Weekend; $25.5 million)
4. "Tower Heist" (Second Weekend; $13.2 million)
5. "J. Edgar" (First Weekend; $11.5 million)
6. "Harold and Kumar" (Second Weekend; $5.9 million)
7. "In Time" (Third Weekend; $4.2 million)
8. "Paranormal Activity 3" (Fourth Weekend; $3.6 million)
9. "Footloose" (Fifth Weekend; $2.7 million)
10. "Real Steel" (Sixth Weekend; $2 million)

Saturday, November 12, 2011

"Fringe" Review: "And Those We Left Behind" (***)

Peter's had quite a rotten run of luck, but then who hasn't in this show? He pretty much survived cancer as a child, only to get abducted by a man from an alternate universe, who eventually masqueraded as his father, to the point where he believed it. He then found out the truth, went back home, but then realized it wasn't worth it. He started dating a nice girl, but she lied to him and got preggers afterwords. Then he dealt with fallout from his real girlfriend, before finally getting back together with her. Then he destroyed his ex's universe, and his wife was shot in the head by his biological father. And now he's been erased from existence. I might be overshooting here, but that's the most awesome television storyline I've ever heard.

This season, on the other hand, has been something less, and this week continued on that strand. It's a weird advert they're currently going on, with Peter in this new timeline, away from the characters we've grown to love. And yet, there's been something innately charming about it. If this is merely a seasonal detour, it may be worth it depending on how it ends up. This week brought up a number of interesting theories on exactly what's going on. For the first time, we really don't know what's up. We don't know the goal of the observers, though we never have, but we've had some kind of reliance on them. We don't know the purpose of the new shapeshifters, or their eventually revealed leader. It's kind of interesting where we are now.

Friday, November 11, 2011

"Fringe" Preview: Won't Even Look

When am I going to stop attempting to shove "Fringe" down your throat? Not any time soon, I'm afraid. This week puts the show in a position to get better, where it has been mildly disappointing for the past few weeks. Obviously, we only get two more episodes this year before they go on hiatus until January, thanks to the meddling of that nefarious world series. I haven't a clue what tonight's episode will reveal, or how it will move forward the relationships between our characters, or else halt them entirely. I'm sure I'll come up with a few theories once the episode starts, but for now, I've got nothing.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Oscar 2011: Sorry Kermit! It's Billy Crystal!

Well, there were certainly a lot less satisfying ways this could've proceeded. After Brett Ratner had royally soiled the air of the prestigious Academy Awards telecast, he packed Eddie Murphy back up in his little suitcase, and went on his merry way. Thus began the theorizing and hopeful chances. I heard a lot of things that I didn't want to hear. Melissa McCarthy, while entertaining, does not have nearly enough points on her side to gather the proper amount of love. And when Brian Grazer came on board, many continued punching out those gut-wrong feelings. People were talking about bringing Eddie Murphy back, or worst, getting Ben Stiller at the head. God knows I didn't want that.

So in a week that's been hell to begin with, especially for us of the film awards circuit, I don't think you could've been any more soothed by the announcement of Billy Crystal as the host of the 84th Annual Academy Awards. Yes, it is an incredibly safe and predictable choice, but a welcome one nonetheless. The man is a skilled entertainer, as his tenure as most successful host will attest to. The last good host was Jon Stewart, so it could've been a hack job of who they chose. So just thank god it's Billy and not somebody terrible. Yes, I had my hopes set on Kermit and the Muppet gang, but who's to say that still won't happen someday? And even more, they'll still have a presence at some point in this year's show. At least, they will if the producers have any sense in them.

If I Had Asked...

Darren Aronofsky has been getting things in order for his epic film "Noah", which may or may not be starring Christian Bale, though I kind of hope Bale is just a rumor. In the meantime, he has been up to other things. The HBO pilot "Hobgoblin" has been one, and I'm still uncertain about that one. But for some immediate thrills, look no further than these drug PSA's he's put together.

The Meth Project "Deep End" (Dir. Darren Aronofsky) from :: Fred Abercrombie on Vimeo.

For Your Anticipation: I Don't Believe in Marriage

"Melancholia" really is quite something, which unfortunately has been belittled by the iTunes treatment it's gotten. True, I don't expect this to be an Oscar contender in any capacity, but the film is not one you want to see on the small screen. Like any other brilliant drama, it is meant for the theatrical setting. I don't know a great film that is better left to home viewing. Sure, you could wait for DVD for most of these limited release films, but they just don't deserve it. "Melancholia" can be a bit long winded at times, but every ounce of its majesty is meant to be appreciated in full.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Carpet-Bagging: Murphy Out! Muppets In?

"First and foremost I want to say that I completely understand and support each party's decision with regard to a change of producers for this year's Academy Awards ceremony. I was truly looking forward to being a part of the show that our production team and writers were just starting to develop, but I'm sure that the new production team and host will do an equally great job."

So said Eddie Murphy as he followed Brett Ratner out the door of the 84th Annual Academy Awards telecast. I could tell yesterday that this was probably going to end up happening, and it would've been a mistake if it had not. Yes, this has been a P.R. nightmare for the Academy, and a blow to the show beyond what most of us really expected. But can we really say that a Brett Ratner produced show would've been the best way to go? I was against it from the start, but I had a sense of optimism about the positive rumblings of "Tower Heist". People liked it, and say it was funny, so that was a glimmer of hope for this telecast. And then it came crashing down soon after.

And I've admittedly come around somewhat to Eddie Murphy. The man is truly funny, and I imagine he would've brought the right sort of hosting energy to the show. But this news means not only is he unlikely to ever host the show, but he's liable to pretty much fade from relevance entirely, which is sad. The man isn't horrible, but he's had horrible luck all the same. So this changes a lot of things, for example, who the hell is gonna produce and who will host? I'm immediately hearing great names across the board, from Tina Fey, to Kevin Spacey, to Albert Brooks. And then I came around to this beloved little tidbit.

THE MUPPETS! Of course! That is the most perfect suggestion and decision that could possibly be made to really turn all of this around. The show hasn't gotten this much buzz, negative though it may be, going in a long time. Bringing on Jim Henson's beloved comedy gang is the best way to turn it all bright and fuzzy. You can't tell me a smile doesn't come to year face thinking about it. The only possible snag? The new co-producer has been announced as Brian Grazer, so who's he likely to choose? I don't know, but I maintain that the fuzzy pack is the best way to go. I have some sad doubts, but can something beautiful happen for once in our lifetime? PLEASE!!!!

Cecil B. DeMille goes to Morgan Freeman

With so much Oscar news to report, It's kind of hard to take the time to comment on this little tidbit. But what the hell! If the Golden Globes are a mess outside of Ricky Gervais' repeated hosting gig, we can usually trust them to make good, if predictable, choices for who they hand out their honorary lifetime achievement award. This year, the Cecil B. DeMille award is heading out to Morgan Freeman, who is quite a good choice. The man is a unique actor, surely, though he has a reputation for getting his hands into some so-so projects across the years. Nevertheless, it took way too long for them to hand him an Oscar, and for the wrong project no less. The man is still wonderful, so how can you not be happy about this?

For Your Anticipation: The Ladies Appreciate It

If anybody was hoping that "J. Edgar" was going to be a return to form for Clint Eastwood, they were sorely mistaken. I should stick more firmly to my guns when a trailer comes out and it rubs me wrong. I'd rather dismiss a film early on that have to go through the extended period of disappointment. After going wrong with "Invictus", "Hereafter", and "Gran Torino", he isn't showing signs of positive change. The Eastwood of that past 12+ years is not the Eastwood we'd rather remember. The problem with "J. Edgar" looks to be the problem with most Eastwood films. It looks plain.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Carpet-Bagging: Ratner Leaves the Oscars!

If you've been locked in your room for the past two days, you're probably unaware of the massive quakes that have shaken the progress of the Academy Awards, which is all but doomed now. Just a few days back, Oscar telecast producer Brett Ratner made some illicit remarks while promoting his well-received and enjoyed new film, "Tower Heist". When asked about how he doesn't rehearse before shooting his films, he is quoted saying "Rehearsing is for fags". Cue the media crowd, and things are heated up quite immensely in such a short time. I'm still appalled he wasn't sacked the next moment, but the circus went on.

Many got talking, the top men of the Academy simply groaned, Ratner gave his less-than-half-hearted apology, and we were all complaining about it on twitter. It seemed like it had come and passed with a bad taste in our mouths that would stain the eventual awards. So now the news comes that Brett Ratner is officially out as co-producer of the once-prestigious awards. It's the only thing that would've sufficed, as this has all been an impossible battle to win. In the world we live, there's no excuse for it. Still no word on how this will effect the rest of the telecast, if Eddie Murphy will stay on, or if they'll begin seeking a new producer. For now, we can rest in satisfaction that the show will be slightly less horrible than it was going to be.

"Fringe": The Problem with Peter

If you saw the title of this post and thought that my confidence in "Fringe" was beginning to wear off, you're sorely mistaken. True, this season has been a tough one for devoted viewers. They want things to move forward and faster, and I trust that they will in time. But there's always a trade-off, and in this case it means setting a radical reset button that slows down the pace of the show. The first four episodes of this season were somewhat hit and miss, not in terms of episode to episode, but sometimes moment to moment. Things have become too corny at times, a sentimentality problem that predates this season, but is most obvious now.

But with Peter's return, there's an opportunity to move forward in the storytelling, and an at first bizarre and somewhat half-baked detour in the show is showing signs of life. Peter has been something of a problem to this show in the past, and there's been a question of exactly what we're supposed to do with him. No offense, but he's just been all too normal at times, and at the season's end, he was almost an infallible hero. But if there's anything last Friday's episode embellished, it's that Peter is still very much in need of improvement, and the trials of this season may indeed lead to that.

Monday, November 7, 2011

For Your Anticipation: Come Closer

I was contemplating which of this week's wide releases I was least excited about, but I ultimately fell upon the obvious choice of "Immortals". This film has looked like absolute shit from the first trailer, all stacked with horrifically bad visual effects, obvious performances, and a dumb story beyond mere convolution. And it occurs to me now that it stars Henry Cavill, who is the next Superman apparently. Still don't care.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Box Office Update: Kitty's Got Claws (sorry.)

This weekend was always on pace to be 25.9% lower than the same weekend last year, when "Megamind" opened to the top spot of $46 million. I still find quite a degree of guilty pleasure out of that one, but it's such a fun little charmer, despite those corny musical cues. "Puss in Boots" didn't exactly draw me out in the same fashion, and I doubt I'll see it at all. All the same, you've gotta hand it to the film for making the best out of an at first regrettable situation. The film opened to $34 million last weekend, which nobody was really that ecstatic about. However, the film turned it around this weekend with an astonishing drop of just 3%, and just $1 million less than last weekend.

So that certainly gave this weekend an extra boost. It didn't change the fact that "Puss" was $13 million below "Megamind", "Tower Heist" $7.5 million down from "Due Date", and "Harold and Kumar" $6 million away from "For Colored Girls". Though I will say that that last comparison is in no way appropriate the way the other two comparisons are. Suffice it to say that "Paranormal Activity 3" is holding much better than its predecessor, though still going by intermittent 50% drops here and there. It'll certainly be the first $100 million hit of the fall season, though "Puss in Boots" will so follow, not to mention the windfall of holiday blockbusters on the rise. So consider this weekend to be a mild, but not outstanding, success of sorts. Be thankful for what you have.

Endgame 2011: My Hit List

The year is set and staged with just two months left before it officially clocks out. For a cinema reviewer, this is a dreaded time of year. Sure, it is a time when the strongest films of the year crop up, and I've already taken in quite a few of them. But films slip by between the cracks, and there are bound to be some that I wait impatiently for them to show up in the local indie theaters. Regrettably, the only films playing locally at present are "Attack the Block" and "Love Crime", only one of which I know anything about, and neither of which I care about. So, I figured that the best way for me to hit all the proper destinations before my year is out was to put them in list form, and I present that here. Also, if there's a film not on this list that you think I haven't seen and should, post it in the comments.
  • "The Skin I Live In"
  • "Bombay Beach"
  • "Martha Marcy May Marlene"

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Directorial Highlights: Joel and Kees

Kees van Dijkhuizen and Joel Walden are far from the most renowned editors out there, at least at the time being. And yet both of them have eked out a really fantastic little budding of success off the beaten path. I'm not about to speak of authenticity and nuance in relation to YouTube, though it's often worth a solid laugh on a rainy day. Still, I've been closely following the videos of these two channels, especially this year as they both thrive within their respective series of directorial tributes. Sure, tributes are done to death, but Kees and Joel have an understanding of it that's damn near unrivaled outside their circle. Of Kees' [the films of] series, I'm a particular fan of his David Fincher video, and in Joel's The Works series, it's no secret that I adored his Stanley Kubrick tribute. Anyway, I have the full playlist of both series embedded below. They're worth it, if for nothing else, just as an excuse to explore further films of the many directors within it.

Film Review: "Senna" (***1/2)

It's been a long month since the last time I went to the theater to really see anything, and sitting alone in a large auditorium is never the way you want it to be. You want there to be several people there, and you want to share an experience with them. Then again, I suppose that's what I get for heading out on a Sunday evening at an indie theater. But in so many ways, I feel it was appropriate for me to experience it on my own, with no outlying elements really distracting me. It was me and "Senna", and it was such a welcome break from the expected greatness I've received from films like "Drive" and "Meek's Cutoff". It was, in its own way, pure.

"Senna" is not a documentary about formula 1 racing, and in so many ways, it's not a documentary. The film takes on a rare forward approach to its subject, not jumping about like some frantic child anxious to know how it ends. Nor does it set things out into these neat piles of information, feeding each sequentially and on cue. It breaks the norm, but what makes it fly is its refusal to draw attention to the fact. If nothing else, the film is pleasantly organic, unfolding at a more than reasonable pace, neither feeling rushed or packed, despite the years compacted in the constraints of the film. And funny enough, that doesn't drive out the all-important seeds of emotion, conflict, personality, and resonance.

Friday, November 4, 2011

"Fringe" Review: "Novation" (***)

I am in such deep turmoil, you cannot possibly understand. I really love "Fringe", and I've enjoyed it a great deal for the past three seasons. I don't know what they're up to right now. It feels like they're going off on a random tangent. Remember the last time they referenced the fact that the two universes are still dying? It was at the end of last season. Has that suddenly stopped. Is the progression of the important stories halted to deal with this apparently terrifying new breed of shape-shifters? I'm sorry, but so much of this season has felt really stingy, and it's honestly left me kind of cold. What does it remind me of? It reminds me of the emotionless running about of "X-Men: First Class" and the last "Harry Potter".

If that doesn't seem so harsh, please go back to my reviews of those films. I remember taking the mickey out of both of them, especially the former. This week has brought back one of the more important elements of the show, that being Peter. He's back, but we don't know why. We're not sure why he's been erased from history, how he escaped his fate, or where any of this is going. I'm not even entirely sure if the writers have a plan for this, though I certainly hope they do. In any case, this episode should have felt a great deal more interesting than it was. But the moments when it felt most in tune with itself were naturally the silent moments.

Peter arriving at Fringe Headquarters and silently arriving at a holding cell. Him silently hacking into their mainframe to keep in the loop of things. The constant undercurrent between him and Broyles. That's what was so interesting. The problem is the dialogue, which has felt unnaturally ham-fisted this season. None of these characters are as close as we remember them, so they don't have that same way of communicating. There's hostility from all corners, but even that doesn't excuse the dialogue being as bad as it is. There aren't the same smooth nuances the show has perfected in its history. Yes, it feels foreign, but not in the right way.

Carpet-Bagging: Animated Feature Submissions to 18

The Oscars continue their slow gallop to relevance within conversation, though we're still widely confused about what could and will happen in the races this year. But at least we can start making finite guesses about one particular race, that being the Best Animated Feature category. The list of submitted titles has been announced, and the two pics whose mere presence is worth talking about are "The Adventures of Tintin" and "Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked". Having not seen anything from the latter, and still assuming they're doing what they've always done, I'm kind of surprised, but I won't get too much into it. No way in hell it makes the shortlist. And I'm also curious about "The Smurfs", but that's under the same area as "Alvin".

"Tintin", on the other hand, almost has a guaranteed spot in the nominations. There's been a great deal of positive word after the film's UK opening this past weekend. I'd consider it amongst the frontrunners of this year, as there's even severe doubt that "Cars 2" will even be nominated. If I were to lay my guesses on the nominations here, assuming there's five, I'd say the other four slots would be filled by "Chico and Rita", "A Cat in Paris", "Kung Fu Panda 2", and "Rango" tied for the lead. But that's just a far off guess. Happy to hear any other theories. Comment away!

"The Adventures of Tintin"
"Alois Nebel"
"Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked"
"Arthur Christmas"
"Cars 2"
"A Cat in Paris"

Weekend Update: Pre-emptive Responses

This weekend seems to be a great deal quieter than most, of no fault to the high buzz comedies infecting the market today. There's just so little to talk about now comparative to last week or next week. With any luck, I'll actually be able to see "J. Edgar" next weekend, though given recent news out of AFI Fest, I wouldn't necessarily go ahead and call that good luck. DiCaprio is getting the most out of the film, as expected after the trailer that debuted weeks ago. I'll maintain my personal tentative feelings until next weekend, but for a more than fine dissection of the performance and the film itself, I hand off to Kris Tapley of In Contention.

Other news of note is that "Shame" finally got slapped with the NC-17 rating, which gave me a moment of rejoice on twitter (#NC17FUCKYEAH). "Young Adult" got a surprise screening to an amazingly positive response, which makes me optimistic at it being more than just a guilty pleasure. Hans Zimmer removed his name from the original score race, which is only a disappointment in regards to "Rango". And 2008 Oscar telecast producer Gil Cates passed away, which is a shame, as we're currently stuck in a sad rut of telecast producers and hosts. Let us never have duel hosts ever again.

And regarding the films releasing this weekend, my money's on "Tower Heist" to be the film to see. I've even had slight intrigue that may win out on me before the weekend is out. You can only spend so much time away from the theaters before it luring you back in. There's a solid cast, and it looks funny enough. For normal people, it would more than suffice. It's got a damn sight better of a chance than "A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas" does, indulging in the same obvious and honestly not even funny approach that so many inexplicably are drawn to. But it'll do great this weekend anyway. So what are you seeing this weekend, if anything? Comment below!

"Fringe" Preview: For Real This Time

It took an extra week longer than we hoped, but Joshua Jackson is finally back on "Fringe" tonight, and as much of a fan of John Noble and Anna Torv as I am, the show isn't right without Jackson. Without him, the show has felt somewhat stingy and inorganic. Stilted and cold might be the best way to explain these past four episodes. While not without strong moments, Peter's absence has been felt. I still haven't a clue what the purpose of any of this has been, but it's becoming clear enough that the Observers don't just erase people when their purpose has been fulfilled. Peter is, or at least was, important. Now, what is his purpose in this story? I'll trust the writers for now, and cross my fingers that the show gets better from here.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

For Your Anticipation: That Handsome Man

Can't say I have much interest in "A Very Harold and Kumer 3D Christmas", which sounds just as gaudy as it probably is. It looks to be playing on very generic raunch comedy strings, along the lines of weed, masculinity, and overt heterosexuality. And who better to preach the straight line than Neil Patrick Harris. His involvement in this film is somewhat confusing to me, as it seems he had some sort of purpose, however small, in the last two films. Here, they just seem to be playing him up as much as they can. And I don't even care about Kal Penn or John Cho.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

For Your Anticipation: Gimme Yo' Wallets

It's all too easy to express hatred towards Brett Ratner, as the man is bound to get a high degree of flak for his work on "Tower Heist" and the upcoming Oscar telecast. But, given some of the footage I've seen from his latest film, I can somewhat give him the benefit of the doubt. There's something naturally funny about a bunch of average people trying to rob the man who ruined their lives, and failing thusly. But there's also the entitlement that most of the comedies imagine themselves to have, and that works quite detrimentally more often than not. I'm half tempted to see "Tower Heist", but it's not something worthy of the theater experience. It looks like fun, but not for $10.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Carpet-Bagging: Supp. Actress is dead on arrival

Yesterday I talked a great deal about the supporting actor race, which was far from concrete and boasted plenty of weak performances in roles of the Academy mold as well as strong performances that are far outside that mold. For men in cinema, it often relies on that key factor of going for the gut. The key job of a supporting actor is often to be that antagonistic presence, and that's what's payed off most in the past. The supporting actress branch is often seen as something quite different, but history has shown that inclination to believe female winners aren't as vicious performances as men to be false.

Mo'Nique in "Precious" is the prime example of that, but also Melissa Leo ("The Fighter") and Penelope Cruz ("Vicky Christina Barcelona") in a certain way. They're not hardcore villains, as they have redeeming factors, but they've got those unstable problems in them. I'd like to think the trend will continue, but I can't say anything for certain. After all, the most assured nomination in this category for this year thus far, is Octavia Spencer for "The Help". God willing, she's not going to ever be the frontrunner this year. Not that I don't like her performance, but there as absolutely nothing spectacular about it.