Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Door Swings Closed

I'm heavy at work on my "Best Films of 2011" list, which should hit tomorrow, with luck. Until then, in case you're like me and having a party of one this New Year's Eve, here is the moment of this year that still yields the most joy and unstoppable laughter from me! Enjoy, and I'll see you next year!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

There's Nothing Wrong With Me: Duncan's Worst Films of 2011

Who wants to wallow in negativity at a time when there's so much to celebrate. I've been so busy with the bustle of catching up with the year's end that I haven't had the time or attention to comment on the films I've seen. If I had, it's only been on twitter, and if you're not following me there then you're sorely missing out. But the truth is that I didn't want to write a "Worst Films of 2011" list because that brings me back to the idea of this as a generally disappointing year, which it was for the greater part of the first nine months, for me anyway. I don't expect you to agree with any of the conclusions I've made in this list, and I don't want you to. You are free to hate me for my opinions, and I'll welcome it, but here what I have to say about the films before you do so.

Summer was a dour exercise I'd rather forget. It's worth mentioning that simple films like "Captain America", "Thor", and even "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" yielded more interest from me than the likes of "Super 8". The more appropriate name for this list would be "Most Disappointing of 2011", as much of what makes some of these films bad is the potential placed on them. Let me say that these are of the films I've seen. I didn't see everything, especially towards the end of the year, when I was especially busy catching up on what I did want to see. Sorry to "Horrible Bosses". You just missed the cut. So without further delay...

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

My Case to Academy Voters on Behalf of Jared Harris!

Yesterday the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences placed nomination ballots in the mail to be delivered to the voting body of 5,783 members, as reported by The Hollywood Reporter. This means that the majority of Academy members will be receiving them today and the remainder will receive them throughout the end of this week. They then have until January 13 to submit their completed nomination ballots.

In the miniscule chance that any voting member of the Academy happens to follow Film Misery, I would like to invite any reader to post their own For Your Consideration ad for a particular category. Make your case in the comments for why the particular film or performance that you favor should be written down on an Academy member’s ballot and submitted.
That was taken verbatim from the offices of one Alex Carlson of Film Misery, and it definitely got me out of the funk I've been in for the past couple days, and I'm here writing again so I might as well take him up on his challenge. I'd suggest the same for you. So here's my plea, after the jump of course.

Monday, December 26, 2011

The world according to Guy

I must say, I've never been so ecstatic to find myself disagreeing with somebody who I have always taken as a sort of spiritual leader in terms of film criticism. That may sound like a high pedestal to put somebody as little as Guy Lodge of In Contention on, but for the past couple of years, I've relied on the man to hold me up by the scruff of my neckline. Two years ago, my best-of-the-year list was dumb-minded and without an inch of integrity or confidence. Last year, I felt I had reached a stronger point, at least feeling confident that I had an idea of why the films on my list were there. Now, I'm finding myself en route to placing a list that's entirely honest, for the first time in fact.

Guy Lodge has been a sort of unknowing adviser as far as that goes, unconsciously challenging me to strain my own ways of thinking as far as cinema goes. With nine years on me, I'd say he knows a thing or two about cinema, and I acquaint him rather closely with the instructors I most appreciate at college. Though I had worried that I was getting to the point of following him in each slight move of my hand. I'm glad to have been proven somewhat wrong by his Top 20 list for this year. I must say that I don't quite share his enthusiasm over "Bombay Beach", "Snowtown", or "Jane Eyre". His list reassures me not only of his constant knack for entertainment in his writing, but of the individuality I still hold to myself, and I hope that my list will stick out in its own right when it hits next week! You can take a look at Guy's list here, and I strongly insist you take a look at some of the films he advises.

How do I get on #TeamMargaret?

If things seem rather quiet this week, it's mostly because I'm taking the time to catch up with films I have and haven't seen. I'm crossing fingers that "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" and "The Artist" comes locally soon enough, and still looking for a Netflix so that I can finally see "Weekend". Worst case scenario, I end up spending money for a month's subscription, which would actually be rather pleasant for the month I'm away from the college film library where I head to school. Catching up with "A Separation" and "Young Adult" in the next couple of days. I'm definitely disregarding "War Horse", and may well end up ignoring "The Descendants" in spite of the pleas on behalf of people I know who loved it. Somehow, I'm still not sold on it.

However, if there's a single film that I will absolutely not get the chance to see ahead of posting my list, yet I still want to see, it's "Margaret". Heard of it? Probably not, as the film's gotten little attention in the months since its extremely small theatrical release in September. The trailer didn't much catch my eye at first, but it's geared in much the way you'd expect a trailer to be. But the critical uprising on behalf of the film has been absolutely insane, and has caused me to not just give pause, but pry open any opportunity to actually catch the film before my time's up with this year. I know it's not going to happen, and there's no changing that. But it's just one thing I'd like to have some sort of chance at before the year is officially up.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Whisper Tales of Gore

Obviously I have some kind of intention to enjoy this Christmas for whatever it is, but I felt this was the least I could do for you guys. Merry Christmas, and I'll see you again tomorrow!

Film Review: "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo"

"They say that I'm insane. Don't worry. You can nod. I am insane."

When you kick off your film with as beautifully disgusting a title sequence as the one in David Fincher's "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo", you are typically expected to keep up that kind of stylistic intensity. If we expected anything out of this film, it was a film of stylistic means, which it almost seemed like we were heading into. The eight minute long trailer seemed like the perfect abbreviation and promotion for a film that's a great deal more than your average serving in terms of size. But if I learned anything in the first ten minutes of the film, it was how appropriate the marketing for the film was, as this is ultimately a 2 hour and 38 minute promotion trailer, except there's nothing more to receive from it.

Ficher's film seems to follow Mikael Blomkvist, a newspaper editor who ends up soiling his reputation by falling into a libel prosecution by... someone. It's vague at best, but whatever to free him up in order for him to be sent off to investigate the disappearance of the niece of the head of a rather important corporation. How is it important? Well, that's also rather vague. And why should we really care about the death of a 16-year-old girl? To be honest, I'm not at all sure. The way you bound from subject to unrelated subject in a film trailer is very much true of how the first meeting between Blomkvist and Henrik Vanger goes. It's speedy, abrupt, and we barely get any idea of what's going on. We don't get any room to care about the mystery.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Film Review: "Shame"

"We're not bad people. We've just come from a bad place."

I had gone to Boston to see three films on Thursday, and I only ended up with two. A modest disappointment to be certain, given that I'd been so looking forward to "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy". It's been on the radar as a handsomely constructed underworld spy film, and nothing could've crushed me more than the first ten minutes of what I saw. Mostly because, I couldn't understand a thing of what they were saying. There was a 3 second lag on audio, and it was about 10 octave too low on the pitch scale. So I swapped out of that pretty quickly, and sent my attention to "Shame", which I had hoped would be my night-ending film, which it quite unexpectedly was.

I was already pretty well downtrodden in mood, having felt ripped off by the theater I had visited. And yet this was pretty much the perfect transition into Steve McQueen's second directorial effort. The weeks past have made several statements on what this film does right and what it does wrong, with many a reviewer drawing some issue with it. Fox Searchlight has been gearing this as an odd Best Picture stab, a fantasy that is unlikely to come close to reality, sad as it is to say. It's almost outcast for the NC-17 rating alone, as if the content that gives it that mark has no further relevance. What is most ironic about all this is that Steve McQueen's style, however radical, does skew oddly accessibly.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Cinema 2011

And we cap off the 2011 year-end-movie-compilation-video season with this piece from Kees van Dijkhuizen, the editor behind [the films of] series. It's a solid addition to the blitz of the year's end, as well as an inspiring tribute to this year.

Weekend Report: Into the Bright Night

This weekend is where all the cards are put on the table as far as the 2011 endgame is concerned. The box office remains the barest of battle grounds as far as the awards season is concerned, with the holiday vacation usually being when most head out to the Oscar players of the season. Either that, or they head out to whatever commercial plays are strongest in the market. Alas, this year is proving about as disappointing as the last. We know that this can be quite a successful frame, if marketed right. The only film that seems to have the advantage, presently anyway, is "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol". It's working off of the desperation for the basic need of fun entertainment, and it is proving quite fruitful. Well played Brad Bird.

So where is the disadvantage? So far, and it's painfully unlikely as well, but "The Adventures of Tintin". People just aren't going for the commercial Spielberg play, even though it has proven to be decent fun. It's got a tough time ahead of it this weekend. "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" has things better off, preying on the lovers of the book franchise, and Fincher's own marketed gatherers. "We Bought a Zoo" chose to open on Friday, so no word quite yet on how that will do, but I'd definitely imagine it would be quite the crowd-pleasing heart-warmer. Action whatever "The Darkest Hour" doesn't seem to have any market in the glut of the weekend, and is bound to lose out to "War Horse", which may or may not come sweeping people off their feet with dunder-headed tear-jerking. And that's the long and short of this weekend.

Quick Takes: "Tomboy", "Rango", "Bridesmaids"

Directed by Celine Sciamma

This wasn't too high up on my list of films to catch up on before the year was out, but it landed in my general vicinity, so I figured it couldn't hurt. I didn't expect how much "Tomboy" actually did hurt, in ways both predictable and still shattering. The story is your typical new-kid-in-a-new-place sort of story, with the major exception being that Mikael is not a boy, but a girl named Laure. And the thing is that there's nothing truly dishonest about the way she represents herself. She has no ulterior motive other than to settle in with this group without the prejudices asserted by gender basis, and the honest nature of her deceit is what makes this such a wonderful little tale.

The film elicits this tragic gut-feeling, not just through these sweet moments between Laure and the girl she starts a relationship with, Lisa, but through the inevitability of its collapse. This isn't a brilliant ruse that Laure. It's so easy for it to fall apart, and it doesn't do this in a contained moment with the group of friends. The film draws out Laure's humiliation so as to never speak ill of her or her friends. Director Celine Sciamma passes no judgment, and in fact shows only deep affection for her characters, and it's infectious, like the sporadic pop tune that plays during one of the film's sweeter moments. But it's the innocent performances from the cast, especially the pitch-perfect Zoe Heran working years ahead of her age, that cement this film so strongly in my heart. Show this one to your kids. It's that sweet.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Tis the Top Ten Season

We are in that ultimate crunch before the year is out, and I finally have the time to get around to all the films I've been too busy for until now. I got through a solid five of them over the weekend, and I continue to move forward at a rate of a film each day. But that isn't holding everyone else back from publishing their own top ten lists ahead of the year's official cap-off date. Kris Tapley of In Contention is quite often the first to put forth his ordered list of films. I can't imagine it'll be long for Guy Lodge to follow suit, and then it's just a matter of time before we get to the now much larger crew of Film Misery. It's quite a bit more than simply enjoyable to trade thoughts with them from week to week. I'll be sure to keep you posted on when they do eventually crop up.

I remain on this side of the year until I'm confident I've seen just about everything that's worth coming around to. That does include films on the higher side of the awards season ("The Artist", "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy"), the lower side ("War Horse", "The Descendants"), those that simply exist outside of it ("Shame", "Young Adult", "Girl with the Dragon Tattoo", "Weekend", "Tomboy", "Martha Marcy May Marlene", "A Separation"). That puts together a grand total of 11 films I've still to see, not to mention the ones I need to revisit. I will say that you'll get my annual list of the best male and female performances on the 30th and 31st, respectively. But it won't take as long a gasp as last year to get out my Top 15 of this year. Somehow, 10 just doesn't get too much past the surface. May end up jolting it to 20 by the time this year is officially out.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Film Review: "The Adventures of Tintin"

Let it be known, that the Spielbergian adventure flick has not gone out of style. Three years after he stained his career image permanently with "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull", Spielberg puts out two films this year. One of them is the Oscar play, as much expected and maligned by myself. But to be perfectly honest, it's always been his more commercial plays that caught my attention, which is an ironic reversal of how things usually work. It's when he's not searching for meaning, and rather searching for thrills, that he strikes his strongest films, and also his weakest, but they are anything but banal. How is he the exception to the rule? An experience in cinema that is both his gift and his bane.

"The Adventures of Tintin" isn't an explosive return to greatness for Steven Spielberg, but it is a rollicking ride of a film. Based on the Herge comic series, the first film in Spielberg and Peter Jackson's co-operative film trilogy spends no immense amount of time establishing the Tintin character. From the first minute after the uppity animated opening, he's shown as eager, ambitious, and pretty much your zero qualms protagonist. Does he need to be a lot more? No, but we would damn sure like him to be. If Herge never gave him ample dimension, writers Steve Moffat, Edgar Wright, and Joe Cornish could have taken a bit of license with this one. But it's never really distracting, so there's that.

Film Review: "Tyrannosaur"

There's a really sad story that's been built around "Tyrannosaur", and it's one that's been largely brushed over by just about everyone. The fact that it's been out for a month means next to nothing, as it's gotten absolutely no traction domestically. Within a few seconds of the film, it was abundant why. "Tyrannosaur" is exactly the sort of film the trudges along to a small distributor, because at least then it's getting distribution. The problem is that Strand Releasing has absolutely no idea what to do with it. The film is resting in the same situation that "Margaret" has been quite for some time, and somehow critics haven't been doing much for it.

Not that you could blame them, for a film this moored in bleakness and anti-popular opinion. Of course you don't quite get that inclination from the trailers, which strike a rather more eloquent note to lure viewers in on. They smooth over the fact that Peter Mullan's Joseph kills his dog in the opening of the film. What's his reason behind it? General rage that he takes out on the poor beast. It's not long after that that we gravitate Joseph's story towards Hannah, played by Olivia Colman, a thrift shop worker dealing with an abusive husband of her own. And, of course, the two find a bond with each other through their troubles. Typical right?

Monday, December 19, 2011

Carpet-Bagging: 39 Original Songs on Oscar Longlist

And now the most immediately vague race in the Oscar catalog becomes a great deal clearer. There were obviously a great deal of songs that were bound to make it on the list, like the main three from "The Muppets". I imagine two of those are going to make it in, but "Man or Muppet" is sadly probably going to be the odd one out. Other than that, I have no bets to make on this. I enjoyed the song from "Take Shelter" a great deal in context with the film it followed, but only time will tell if it makes it. You can see the full list after the jump.

"The World I Knew" from "African Cats"

"Lay Your Head Down" from "Albert Nobbs"

"Star Spangled Man" from "Captain America: The First Avenger"

"Collision of Worlds" from "Cars 2"

Indiewire's Survey Rises Above Precursors

In case you haven't noticed, I've all but abandoned the precursor season, at last for the time being. Why? Because I'm just sick of it. I'm tired and bored, not because it's so repetitive, but because it's so repetitive for films I just don't care about. I'm in a weird place regarding "The Artist", because it looks nice, but I'm not sure it looks good anymore. Nice does not constitute good. So I am glad that Indiewire has at least been able to partially return me to sanity with their survey. Do I agree with their top-tier assertion of "The Tree of Life"? Absolutely not! I get more and more ornery about it every second of my life that goes on. But what's great about it is that it raises interest towards the films that still don't have distribution. Somebody fix that already!

Best Film:

  1. The Tree of Life
  2. Melancholia
  3. A Separation
  4. Drive
  5. Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives

"The Dark Knight Rises" Trailer

It's rather difficult to post up something on a trailer that you haven't seen, and luckily I broke my self-embargo on film trailers for this particular one. I wish I hadn't, as it makes me all the more excited to see what Nolan has going on here. Notes of confusion from "The Dark Knight" continue irritatingly here, with many who keep asking annoying questions about what they think is going on. It gets old very quickly, but in short, I think Nolan is trying something rather special with this one. He's attempting to tie together the previous two movies in one final go, and though I have as much suspicion as I do anticipation, that's much of what makes this an appropriate tease. I'm done viewing trailers from this, and any other film next year. From here on, the floor is yours.

For Your Anticipation: Why Do You Ask?

It's a touch of irony that Spielberg's strongest film this year is the commercial play, but also well in keeping with the times. "The Adventures of Tintin" is a far cry from Spielberg's opposing film "War Horse", as well as an hour shorter. It's big. It's adventurous. And it's using the emotion diluting efforts of motion capture, which still don't quite work. All the same, I don't think I ever said that this was going to be anything other than fun, which it still seems to be.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Quick Takes: "Sherlock Holmes" & "Hugo"

It's been a downplayed week of cinema for me, with nothing of note until I finally hit the weekend. While most films are getting the full review treatment, there are some that I just don't have much to say on. And for now, I thought I'd hold off on the pre-2011 films I saw and focus on the matter at hand.

"Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows"
Directed by Guy Richie

As hinted at in my box office report, I am of a conflicted nature on Guy Richie's second outing in his "Sherlock Holmes" vein. Yes, the story has expanded to a more relevant, believable, and fascinating nature, which is all the more fitting for the introduction of Holmes' nemesis Moriarty. The problem it faces is the expansion of its own technique, which was fine to begin with in the first film. The relatively low-budget aesthetic worked for what was required. The $35 million more that was spent on it makes it feel all the more like a blockbuster effort, and as such loses a degree of the soul it had. It's that separating factor that was evident in "X-Men" and "Harry Potter" earlier this year, and continues on here.

But again, there is a strong story being put to the test by Richie's group, and Moriarty is depicted as perfectly as he possibly could have been. He's not as intentionally evil as he seemed in the previous film. Jared Harris goes to the limited extremes with his performance, going just far enough to not be a cartoon villain, but not banal either. Harris thrives more than anyone else on the payroll. In fact, since he's not a comedic player, he avoids both the film's advantage and its bane, that being its wit. It's not that it's not funny, but it's thrown in at every possible avenue that it's overkill. It drags the film down with it and becomes repetitive very quickly. However, the scenes with Harris are done to perfection, and one particular action sequence of the film is amongst the more fascinating of this year.

Directed by Martin Scorsese

Scorsese has always been leading the charge as far as the topic of film preservation has been concerned, so it figures that it's only a matter of time before he makes a film about it. "Hugo" is the achievement of that endeavor, but isn't an achievement of much more than that. The story seems to have been selected merely for the relevance of Georges Melies within it. Could he have picked a more in tune story? Sure, but this seems particularly suited to send the message to children generations. What does that come sewed together with? Horrendous child performances from Asa Butterfield and Chloe Moretz, and a typical story that is never really motivating. If it is, that's from simple juxtaposition with "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close". In short, we don't feel his devotion, even if we do see it. I just felt cold and unmoved throughout the entirety of it ridiculous length. Rarely is two hours too long, but a story like this doesn't work for that long.

Box Office Update: "Impossible" overshadows "Sherlock"'s game

The latest "Holmes" flick is a tricky contraption of sort, wavering between bigger & better and louder & crasser than the first flick. Keep in mind, that first one had a great many detractors for me, but it came almost out of nowhere and created a dark atmosphere very in tune with director Guy Richie's other films, but it finally works here. In "A Game of Shadows", not so much. Mind you, I'll get slightly more in depth with my thoughts on the film later on, but for now it's simply worth representing how the box office dip between the first and the second films is indicative of the time there is to be had on each. They spent 30% more, and ended up with 30% less.

Not to say that it was a total failure. $40 million is still $40 million, even if there's a strong degree of work left to go. That's why we have the Christmas break to burgeon these opportunities. And even outside "Holmes", we saw strong signs for the box office. "Alvin & the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked", in spite of horrid reviews, picked up its child audience skillfully without a hitch. Sure, it's not quite as much as they wanted, but they get what they payed for. They're rather good at that. But the big success story of the weekend was "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol", which picked up a hefty sum from its IMAX screens this weekend. That allied with the advanced buzz that is bound to boost its overall income means that it could very well be the massive hit of the holiday season, as well it should be. Check the charts after the jump.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Film Review: "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol"

When you hit the fourth film in a feature franchise, there are a number of ways you can go. You can establish a strong footing for the rest of your series ("Harry Potter"), you can abandon everything that made the previous trilogy great ("Star Wars", "Indiana Jones", "Pirates of the Caribbean", the list goes on), or you can do what "Mission: Impossible" did, and just go out and make the best film you possibly can. This a series that had nothing to do in the first two installments, so no real purpose, and then they tried something interesting with the third and deepened the characters, gave it a jolt of humor, and several needed splashes of style. They did well to hold onto that.

So do I see this as the fourth film in the franchise? No. I actually consider it the second in the series that Abrams kicked off in 2006. Now it has become the jumping off point for Brad Bird's first time as a live action director. I think I had some trepidation when the first trailer came around, but we should have never expected an emotional hard-hitter. That's not what this series is, but it does have an emotional undercurrent that works as a steady heartbeat to hold everything together. What Brad Bird has established in his past of animated films is a lively energy and constantly upheld excitement. That translates perfectly for this piece.

Weekend Report: Under the Radar

If that title makes it kind of clear-cut where I want the attention to go this weekend, it's because I'd rather people seek out "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol" aggressively in IMAX. Never mind Christopher Nolan's little prologue that is playing in front of SOME screening. In any case, you'll get the chance to see the new trailer for "The Dark Knight Rises", which within five seconds made me forget about my self-embargo on all trailers. Now, I'm satisfied to wait the next seven months dry. But that is merely an afterthought (or forethought) when it comes to the film that follows. It's an experience you must appreciate in IMAX, or not at all.

Of course, let's not let that overshadow the other films out this weekend, which aren't films you can dismiss either. "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows" would've much benefited from the subtitle of "Ghost Protocol", but it still looks like Guy Richie is playing with the same toys that have done him well in the past, be it with a more controlled focus. I am much more excited, on the other hand, to catch "Young Adult". It's less the film that's drawing me in as it is Charlize Theron. She's one of those actresses who's coming back into the fold without making a fuss about it. Leave that for the film. Oh, and "Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked" is out too. Kind of.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

AWARDS 2011: The "Bad" in the Golden Globe nods!

I'm not often praising the Golden Globe nominations at all, as most year's they're just the afterthought of the season. Nobody should care, and yet we do. Why? Because the split of the Drama and Musical/Comedy branches makes room for the films and actors that would have been left behind otherwise. For the most part anyway, as there are things I still don't quite get. The Globe nods made it clear that it was a light field this year, as most of the "Drama" films nominated weren't really dramas. Doesn't it make sense that "The Descendants", "Hugo", and "The Help" would fall more kindly under Comedy?

It makes it all the more odd that "The Artist" IS nominated for Best Comedy/Musical, a category it is destined to win of course. But while we're talking about things that don't belong, somebody explain to me how "My Week with Marilyn" is a comedy. If that qualifies as a comedy, then throw "W.E." up there by all means! The lead drama acting nods were typical enough of what you'll see on Oscar nominations morning, with the only exceptions being Ryan Gosling in "Ides of March" and Rooney Mara in "Girl with the Dragon Tattoo". The lead comedy acting nods were so much more interesting, as they offer space for Brendan Gleeson ("The Guard"), Ryan Gosling again ("Crazy, Stupid, Love."), and Kristen Wiig in the underrated performance of the year for "Bridesmaids".

The supporting performance branches seem just as lost as usual, aside from Albert Brooks and Christopher Plummer of course. And that's more or less it aside from noting how depressing the Original Song category is. Nary a worthy song in sight. As for the television branch, there nothing I really can say. Well, aside from the bogus omissions of "Cougar Town", "Community", and most shockingly of all, "Breaking Bad"! Color me red! So yeah, this is why nobody SHOULD care about the Golden Globes.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

For Your Anticipation: Stag Party

Early this morning, while discussing odd ideas of who should direct the next Bond film after Sam Mendes, my friend brought up Guy Richie as a strong candidate. As interesting as that would no doubt end up being, I maintain that Guy Richie is best where he currently is. "Sherlock Holmes" offered him to most prosperous catalyst for his brand of creativity, and his continuance in that vein is something to be celebrated. He's got a solid field that isn't prone to heavy casting decisions. Case in point, villainous character Moriarty is played by "Fringe" and "Mad Men" star Jared Harris. The biggest name? God no! The best name? Hell yes!

AWARDS 2011: Broadcast Film Critics nominations hit

If I'm pretty damn far behind the beat, it's because more important things in real life have taken up the place of my attention span, however cramped it may be. So now I get along to the BFCA nominations, which remain a mere glyph for what the Oscars might be. The nods are mostly predictable in the vein of what you'd expect. The only thing really worth raising a glass to is Nick Nolte being nominated for supporting actor for "Warrior". Still need to see that one, but I've heard solid things going for the man.

The Artist
The Descendants
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
The Help
Midnight in Paris
The Tree of Life
War Horse

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

For Your Anticipation: I'm Thrilled to Hear it

I have a generally cynical attitude regarding "Carnage", as it just doesn't look like so outstanding a film outside of Christoph Waltz's presence. Perhaps Kate Winslet, but she looks like she's dialing too much vehement aggression and not enough grace within it. The play is at best a showcase for actors, and if they aren't there, the film won't work. I have an unease about it.

Filmography 2011

It's another 2011 tribute in the stronger vein of editing. That being said, the "Filmography" series established last year that it wasn't storytelling or an accurate depiction of the year in cinema. It's a surface level remix of the year, though still dazzling. It gives off the same general feeling as "The Cinescape" did yesterday, but without the same skill. Still worth watching, and some strong musical choices towards the end. But still, you remember how stale most of the films in this montage are.

Monday, December 12, 2011

2011: The Cinescape

Now we're to the stuff that's worth it. After last week's unqualified failure of a tribute to this ambiguous year for cinema, we now get something that's not only comprised of a wider berth of this year's cinema, but exceeds simply competent editing. From the first second, editor Matt Shapiro displays an outstanding ambition to do more than please casual viewers. It's a layered tribute to this year in cinema, finding diegesis within chaos in a wonderful way. And there are still more to come.

Film Review: "Take Shelter"

This was one of those films that spent so much time on the back burner with me barely considering seeing it while I had the chance, much like "The Ides of March". From the very first moment, this didn't seem like the heavy-hitter that many were pushing it to be. I've seen many a film take on the psychological thriller plot that this one takes on, and it has gotten to the point of becoming a depressing cliche. Too many films have used it as a gimmick with no idea exactly what purpose it serves, if any at all. Their intent behind it is to attain that sought-after title of "mind-fuck" that has been twisted out of any strong meaning it had. It's a term that loud college kids use to explain films that are too smart for them.

And there is a problem to be found in "Take Shelter" in that for the first solid hour, it unfolds in a manner that's so utterly predictable that it nearly turns you off from it. I was writing out the tweet review in my head well before the film was over, somewhere along the lines of "typical rundown of requisite psychological thriller scenes". What held me back from it then was the skill being put on screen. Yes, the cinematography was rather simply, and music merely eerie. All the same, director Jeff Nichols keeps things earth-bound in its depiction of a family teetering not just on, but towards the edge of economic collapse.

AWARDS 2011: San Francisco votes up "Tree of Life"

Is anybody else getting severely tired of these critics awards? I need a long break to regain my sanity after being numbed by repressive output. If nothing else, San Francisco made a great deal of more than just solid choices for their branch of critics. Sure, "The Tree of Life" reminded us once again of how blindly supportive its followers are, but in the film's defense there is heart to it. It's just buried under a heap of misguided non-narrative detour. Other than that, specifically in the performance branches, they get a lot of things right. It's nice to see Gary Oldman finally pick up an award, and it's even nicer to see Tilda Swinton continue on her march to the Oscars.

BEST PICTURE: “The Tree of Life”
BEST DIRECTOR: Terrence Malick, “The Tree of Life”
BEST ACTOR: Gary Oldman, “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy”  
BEST ACTRESS: Tilda Swinton, “We Need to Talk About Kevin”

AWARDS 2011: Detroit Critics Nod for "Take Shelter"

It's hard to give much thought to the critics awards that take the time to dole out nominations. At this point, why not just get to the awards? The Detroit critics seemed to be in line perfectly with everyone else, with one notable difference. "Take Shelter" got a significant heap of awards many didn't expect it would. Seems like Detroit really loves the economic apocalyptic feature from Jeff Nichols.

"The Artist"
"The Descendants"
"Take Shelter"
"The Tree of Life"

Michel Hazanavicius, "The Artist"
Terrence Malick, "The Tree of Life"
Jeff Nichols, "Take Shelter"
Nicolas Winding Refn, "Drive"
Martin Scorsese, "Hugo"

"Men in Black 3" Teaser Trailer

I have a considerable feeling that this trailer for "Men in Black 3" is horrible. I have no real idea, because I'm off watching film trailers before their release. If I see a couple of TV spot indications that this is horrible, I'll count that as considerable reason to avoid it. As it is, I really enjoyed the first "Men in Black" for the comedic sci-fi romp it was, channeling into Will Smith's "Fresh Prince" attitude at its most potent. If they can bring that back, I'll be happy to consider. But just give me some sort of indication on your own takes of this trailer.


Sunday, December 11, 2011

AWARDS 2011: LA Critics skew towards Malick

And finally ending the day of hasty awards recognizance, the Los Angeles critics managed to differ in a few slight ways from the rest of the general pot. Examples? "The Artist" isn't even in sight. In its place isn't so much as the rising "Hugo", but the still present "Tree of Life". Malick's film caught quite a few wins this time around. Other notable surprises. The Chemical Brothers won best original score for "Hanna", which is a no-brainer now that it's been brought back to our attention thanks to the wonderful LA critics. Also surprising? Yun Jung-hee won Best Actress for "Poetry". Certainly an obscure won, but who isn't happy about that? Take a look at the full list of winners and runners up after the jump!

BEST PICTURE: "The Descendants"
-Runner-up: "The Tree of Life"
BEST DIRECTOR: Terrence Malick ("The Tree of Life")
-Runner-up: Martin Scorsese ("Hugo")

AWARDS 2011: NY critics land on "Artist" & "Bridesmaids"

The New York Film Critics Online, the last film awards of the day to start was the shortest to conclude. A lot of the same going on, with another win for Albert Brooks in "Drive", further wins for "The Artist", a push for Michael Shannon in "Take Shelter", another "Tree of Life" cinematography win, and a surprising second award of the day for Melissa McCarthy for "Bridesmaids". Color us surprised, but I'm still guessing she won't make it into the Oscar shortlist. Just simple bias.

BEST PICTURE: "The Artist"
BEST DIRECTOR: Michel Hazanavicius ("The Artist")
BEST SCREENPLAY: "The Descendants"
BEST ACTOR: Michael Shannon ("Take Shelter")
BEST ACTRESS: Meryl Streep ("The Iron Lady")
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Albert Brooks ("Drive")
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Melissa McCarthy ("Bridesmaids")
BEST ENSEMBLE: "Bridesmaids"
BREAKTHROUGH PERFORMER: Jessica Chastain ("The Tree of Life", "The Help", "Take Shelter")
BEST ANIMATED FILM: "The Adventures of Tintin"
BEST DOCUMENTARY: "Cave of Forgotten Dreams"
BEST DEBUT DIRECTOR: Joe Cornish ("Attack the Block")

AWARDS 2011: "Artist" & "Moneyball" take Boston critics

Boston may have been the first of today's critics awards to start voting, but they certainly have taken the longest of the three. The winners have been predictable to say the least, but it is worth mentioning that they were the first to get it right as far as Best New Filmmaker is concerned. Take a look at the whole list of winners below.

BEST PICTURE: "The Artist"
BEST DIRECTOR: Martin Scorsese ("Hugo")
BEST ACTRESS: Michele Williams ("My Week with Marilyn")
BEST ACTOR: Brad Pitt ("Moneyball")
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Melissa McCarthy ("Bridesmaids")
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Albert Brooks ("Drive")
BEST NEW FILMMAKER: Sean Durkin ("Martha Marcy May Marlene")
BEST USE OF MUSIC: "The Artist"/"Drive"

Box Office Update: Validation of a Fact

If the box office charts are a scale of the population's state of mind, then this year has been as singularly depressing as I've repeatedly said it is. This weekend seemed to be in the bag for "New Year's Eve" and "The Sitter", but the fact of the matter is that at this time of the year, people are more interested in seeing something that's actually good. The obvious brand of pandering comedies have done poorly in this month for the past several years. At this point, people are genuinely interested in seeing the films that are going to be Academy players in a couple of weeks.

Case in point? There's more interest to be found in the independent releases of this week. "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" took in $300,000 this weekend out of four theaters. "Young Adult" brought in $320,000 from eight theaters, which isn't as strong a per theater average as its competitor, but the buzz has been decidedly laid back on this one. This isn't another Oscar play from Jason Reitman, and he's opted out of the circus altogether. And in the meantime, "A Dangerous Method", "The Artist", "My Week with Marilyn", and especially "Shame" have been surging strong in the wings. This weekend proved to be the lowest box office weekend for the entire year, but we're headed towards a more fruitful slate for the endgame of this year.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

"Melancholia" Redux: They don't understand our love


Last night finally gave me the opportunity to come back around to "Melancholia" after reviewing it two months back. Yes, I was amongst those who saw it via laptop, so it was a diluted experience to say the least, but still one I embraced. However, it's nothing compared to viewing the film in its theatrical glory. A friend of mine who saw the film said he expected it to be a blend of "The Tree of Life", "Armageddon", and Lars von Trier's own "Antichrist", which is a pretty accurate depiction of it to another person. But in discussing it with the group I saw it with after the fact, I think they kind of missed the point of it.

Not any fault of them, as none of them are film majors and none of them really know what to think of films such as this. Even my fellow film majors had trouble grasping it, and when I told them it was a love story, they all just managed to laugh and joke about it. True, there's some fun to be found in poking fun at that fact, but I was 100% dead serious. The mistake I made a few months back was diagnosing it as a love triangle between two girls and a planet. Claire, in many ways, plays the honest minded foil of the main romance of "Melancholia".

Carpet-Bagging: Visual Effects Race Down to 15

The Oscar races are cracking down towards their endgame, with the longlist for the visual effects race finally announced. I'm not sure there are many notable absences from this list, but though it's no surprise that "Melancholia" isn't here, I personally have deeper appreciation for the visual effects in that film than sure-to-be-nominated "The Tree of Life". Yes, Lars' visuals are less "real", but that's most of what clinches them for me. But I didn't expect them to make the cut anyway, so lets move on to what is most definitely not going to end up nominated. I think we can rule out "Captain America", "Cowboys & Aliens", "Pirates", "Real Steel", "Sucker Punch", "Super 8", and "Thor".
From there I can narrow it down by axing "Sherlock Holmes", "Mission: Impossible", and "X-Men: First Class". The automatic response is "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2", "Hugo", "Rise of the Planet of the Apes", "The Tree of Life", and "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen". But again, this could all change ever so quickly. Check after the jump for the full list of potential candidates.
  • Captain America: The First Avenger
  • Cowboys & Aliens
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
  • Hugo
  • Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
  • Real Steel
  • Rise of the Planet of the Apes
  • Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
  • Sucker Punch
  • Super 8
  • Thor
  • Transformers: Dark of the Moon
  • The Tree of Life
  • X-Men: First Class

Friday, December 9, 2011

Film Review: "The Ides of March"

"I'm not going away."

It took far too long for me to finally get to seeing George Clooney's fourth directorial effort. It's difficult to believe that he's already had that many films under his belt as a director. And the fact of the matter is that he still has no real identity as a director. Between this, "Good Night and Good Luck", "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind", and the odd move of "Leatherheads", we can't really say what his style is. Even two films in, Ben Affleck has a known stylistic mind about him, as well as an integrity that keeps getting stronger. We've yet to see that from Clooney, but he seems to be getting there. It's a testimony to how much he knows the industry he's in that "The Ides of March" doesn't fall apart.

The film opens unassumingly, with Ryan Gosling heading up to a microphone and speaking things that would seemingly condemn him in a debate. It's not just that there's no context to it, but there's no real passion in it, because these words don't belong to him. They may have been written by him, but they belong to his employer, democratic presidential candidate Mike Morris, played with a practice sense of entitlement by Clooney. Gosling's Stephen Meyers is working on Morris' campaign under senior manager Paul Zara, played very much like Phillip Seymour Hoffman by Phillip Seymour Hoffman. This isn't so much about political goings-on as it is about tentative politics. Everything's up in the air, and anybody is expendable without a second thought.

The [Obnoxious Trash] of 2011

This is the time of year when we're hit with a surplus of top ten lists, Oscar predictions, and videos a lot like this one. The primary problem with this video is that it is not edited by any of the strong editors I've discovered over the past year. Those are still waiting in the wings, and in their absence we are reminded that not everybody should have license to do this. Leave it to those who know what they're doing. In "The MOTION PICTURES of 2011", which I assume embosses the "Motion Pictures" part as an attempt at class, we see most of the mainstream films of this year, and if memory serves, they weren't very good. As it is, this is a gross misunderstanding of this year in cinema, celebrating the noise.

Weekend Report: Bring on the Noise

This weekend's suffocating surplus of new releases is diluted by the fact that the two wide releases aren't appealing in the slightest of manners. Remember how "Valentine's Day" was completely idiotic, but you enjoyed the parts with Taylor Swift? "New Year's Eve" has a depressing lack of Taylor Swift, and in its place are a bunch of barely B-list actors. Gary Marshall's previous flick had Jennifer Garner, Anne Hathaway, and even Kathy Bates. What does "New Year's Eve" have? Seth Meyers, Jessica Biel, and Lea Michele. Color me not just uninterested, but stagnantly against this garbage. Need I remind you of the C-Section?

And then there's "The Sitter", but I'm not interested in that one at all either? It's the typical story, but as per usual, delivered in the most tried and unfunny of ways. So no, I am not amused with the main stream of this weekend. If I didn't have "Melancholia" and "Take Shelter" playing independently in town this weekend, I'd be resting my head under one of the imposing legs of my bed. The saving grace of this weekend is that there are some really great films out this weekend, just not nationwide yet.

For Your Anticipation: An Acquired Taste

I haven't been much in the loop of things this week, hence the four clip posts in a row with no other news published. It's not that nothing's going on. It's that I've been painfully busy with other things this week, and will get back into the loop of things next week. I did want to give a second to raise interest for one of the greatest films of this year, which I caught during Telluride by the Sea in September, and shortly later gave one hell of a plug for. Chances are unlikely that you'll catch "We Need to Talk About Kevin" this weekend, for whatever reasons. The brutal subject matter or the lack of availability. In any case, the film is gaining speed with the awards circuits, particularly for Tilda Swinton.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

For You Anticipation: I Know What I Am

Quite easily the most intriguing film on the late 2011 slate of this year, Tomas Alfredson's "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" has always put itself forth as a good old fashioned potboiler. True, it's a mystery with a definite answer that may ruin the film on further viewings. But Alfredson knows how to layer a world beyond simple trickery, as shown in his Swedish adaptation of "Let the Right One In". He brings his interest to England slate, turning it into a bleak landscape of bleak individuals. It helps that most of these characters are played by esteemed Brits, and it helps even more to give Gary Oldman top billing on your feature.

For Your Anticipation: Expecting Company?

Just to clarify, I was never expecting outstanding quality out of the Diablo Cody-Jason Reitman reunion project of "Young Adult". I've always been expecting a good fun time, and it looks like I probably will get that. But it also seems like Reitman is packing the extra punch in there, as he usually does. Do his films grate on me ever so slightly for their "spry" dialogue and execution? Yes, they very much do. But there's still an attempted honesty below the surface that's desperate to eke itself out. Reitman's films are brutal honesty for those unwilling to conform to more aggressively indie residences.


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

For Your Anticipation: My Friend Carl

Best case scenario for the wide stream audiences this weekend? They steer away from "New Year's Eve" and towards "The Sitter". That's somewhat cruel to be honest, as we're so close to getting to the entertaining blockbusters and quality cinematic dramas. But all the same, we're so close to the end that this shouldn't be our strongest option. Sure, it looks fun in that Judd Apatow enterprise sort of way, but nothing that'll really transcend simple laughs. Am I asking too much? Maybe so, but films like "In Bruges" have managed strong laughs with compelling character work. How can American cinema not learn from that?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Film Review: "Sleeping Beauty" (***1/2)

"We were just talking about which one of us is going to fuck you."

It's interesting what can count as joyful and light when put into a certain context. I have yet to find a film to make the subject of rape seem light in comparison to further suffering, but my patience will keep me on that a bit longer. "Sleeping Beauty" starts off with a group of short vignettes, between a doctor slipping a long string down our protagonist's throat, a routine day of work, and then cocaine and prostitution at a bar. In this process, the film sets its own stage quite exactly, with a rightly offset mix of intense discomfort and odd enjoyment. It's just a bit of 6 minutes, but it works in its contained form to strike a tone without forwarding story just yet.

The coke snorting, table waiting, part-time prostitute is Lucy, played by Emily Browning who you might remember from "Sucker Punch", but it's better if not. Consider this her breakthrough, which it really is in comparison. And while you may imagine those 6 minutes are more than enough to fulfill a satisfying character, she has much more responsibilities than just that, without getting too far into it. She is a bold personification of just about every person at that stage in their life. Between the contemplative and self-constructive years of youth and the solid inextinguishable stage of adulthood. Not with purpose. Not asking for purpose. Half-baked, though the film is anything but.

For Your Anticipation: I'm Scared

Okay, so I came across this clip for "New Years Eve", as it was the only one directly available to me. And this is enough reason to secure that anybody will or won't see this movie. Personally, I will never in my life see this movie, based on this clip alone. In it, Jessica Biel and Seth Meyers ask somebody to do a C-section of their baby on New Year's Eve as part of some competition apparently. I'm frightened that there might actually be people out there who would do this. This clip has made me question my faith in humanity. So... bravo Gary Marshall. I will never sleep again.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Films to See in 2011: December

Apologies that this edition is late, as is pretty much everything else having to do with this site. You can expect that trend to continue at least for the next week, after which things will get back to normal. More than that, with the critics awards popping up everywhere and the year's end looming as a deadline to be met, you'll see a grand flood of news coming pretty soon. Concerning this month, two of my most anticipated films are already out, be it in very limited releases. "Sleeping Beauty", which I'll get more into later on, is just a small piece of this month which seems ever so promising. I've already effused about my excitement surrounding "Shame". It still looks fantastic, despite a share of reviewers thinking differently.

We get a considerable chunk of new releases this week, with Warner Bros. bound to pull in hefty audiences with "New Years Eve". A cast that star-studded isn't assembled for accolades. Meanwhile the Jonah Hill vehicle "The Sitter" looks to grab its more "mature" comedic audiences, especially given the more than amusing trailer that hit a few weeks back. Personally, I'm much more excited that "We Need to Talk About Kevin" is finally hitting for audiences this week. Out of mild curiosity, "W.E." is also heading out this weekend. So that's... something.

And then the rest of the month finds itself with too many blockbusters than it knows what to do with. "Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked"... yeah, I've got nothing. Don't do that to your children. "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows" looks to nail the same crowd as the first film, and if it doesn't look at all fantastic, it should be a generally interesting ride. "Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol" is still very much up in the air, but I'd like to think that Cruise and Brad Bird have something good here. And of course there's "The Adventures of Tintin", "War Horse", "The Darkest Hour", and "We Bought a Zoo", but who really cares? My interest strains for three particular films this month, and you can find them after the jump.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Box Office Update: "Dawn" & "Muppets" rules dull weekend

The box office saw its first down weekend in a while, which is honestly surprising given the strength of the films in play. I'm not about to call "Twilight" anything special, but it keeps the box office on a steady level. "Breaking Dawn" is irrevocably failing to keep interest even in its own market. "The Muppets" too is having some down times. That debut may have been a bit too frontloaded, with a nearly 60% dip not painting a fortunate future. All the same, the film has the opportunity for a wide berth of repeat viewings in the coming weeks towards the holiday season. And in its defense, this weekend is a busy time for most people, hence why no films came in wide release. It's a bad frame for it. The rest aren't quite worth mentioning.

1. "Breaking Dawn" (Third Weekend; $16.9 million)
2. "The Muppets" (Second Weekend; $11.2 million)
3. "Hugo" (Second Weekend; $7.6 million)
4. "Arthur Christmas" (Second Weekend; $7.4 million)
5. "Happy Feet Two" (Third Weekend; $6 million)
6. "Jack and Jill" (Fourth Weekend; $5.5 million)
7. "The Descendants" (Third Weekend; $5.2 million)
8. "Immortals" (Fourth Weekend; $4.4 million)
9. "Tower Heist" (Fifth Weekend; $4.1 million)
10. "Puss in Boots" (Sixth Weekend; $3 million)

AWARDS 2011: Chris O'Dowd and "Tyrannosaur" Rule BIFA Awards!

Last year's British circuit was just dire, with "The King's Speech" blinding the market from the choices of logical thinking. This year brought us back to the class and quality we expect of the British cinema industry. But if there's anything that the British Independent Film Awards are commendable for, it's for putting Chris O'Dowd in the glorious hosting seat. Getting consistently more drunk with every second going by, the man was able to keep things at such a hilarious clip so as to not get sidetracked. He really stole the focus from the wonderful films being represented, which isn't at all a bad thing. He did what a good host should do. He took focus away from whatever disappointments there might have been.

But to be perfectly honest, there was nary a single disappointment in the pot this year. It was absolutely fantastic to see those deserving get appreciated, between "Tyrannosaur", "Shame", "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy", "Senna", and more. If nothing else, I'm beating myself up even more now for not having the chance to see "Weekend" yet. Along with "Tyrannosaur", it's placed towards the top of my hit list for the rest of the year. I was getting worried that "We Need to Talk About Kevin" would go on unnoticed for the evening, until Lynne Ramsay thankfully took Best Director. With all the focus on Tilda Swinton, it's easy to overlook Ramsay's absolutely brilliant work. Ultimately, the big winner ended up being "Tyrannosaur", with three wins before the evening was out, including the top prize. You can see the full list of winners after the jump!

AWARDS 2011: DC Critics go for the odd nods

With the awards season in full swing, it's expected for things to start to form in unexpected manners. The DC critics have continued that trend which started at NBR, and we're really starting to consider which films are genuinely the main players of the season. Until "War Horse" garners a genuine win, I think it's becoming more and more plain that maybe it's not the frontrunner we all thought it would be. Perhaps it's just a lower tier player, as it wasn't able to even scratch past "Win Win" or "Drive" in the DC circuit. It's odd enough that Nicolas Refn's film was in there, and that alone sparks another fire in this awards season that's in much need of some personality.

"Win Win", on the other hand, I wouldn't give too much attention based on this nomination alone. If AWARDSit's a trend that continues on to other awards, we'll definitely take it into consideration. After all, if "The Help" is getting buzz, then we can more than expect to see more light indie flicks like this to rise up. You could categorize "Win Win" right along with "50/50" in that respect. A few more pleasant notes are that Fassbender made it into his first Best Actor field for his performance in "Shame", Elizabeth Olsen and Tilda Swinton continue to be of strong presence in Best Actress, and Andy Serkis and Melissa McCarthy are genuinely getting buzz for the supporting categories. In review, we need more critics awards to tell if DC is not completely off their rocker.

- "The Artist"
- "The Descendants"
- "Drive"
- "Hugo"
- "Win Win"