Thursday, December 24, 2009

Precious: Based on the Novel "Push" by Sapphire (2009)

It's not easy trying to keep up with great movies when you live in a small market. Only mainstream, wide-release films are truly available to me, while smaller, limited-release films require at least an hour's drive, if they are available at all. As a result, it has been increasingly difficult to see any awards-grabbing films while they are in theatres; usually I have to wait until they are on DVD before I can view them (in fact, just a few days ago I saw Revolutionary Road for the first time). So it was incredibly fortunate that I had the opportunity to see Precious here.
Of course, it is an interesting time for Precious: just one month ago, it was destined to win Best Picture from myriad groups, including the Oscars, but now the backlash has begun, and Up in the Air and The Hurt Locker have taken over the frontrunner status. But like the film's heroine, Precious should not be ignored.
Precious is built on a very, very depressive premise: an overweight Harlem teenage, pregnant with her second child (both of her children are the product of being raped by her father) deals with her education (she is illiterate) and her abusive mother. A premise like this can go two ways: its either going to be a moving experience or its going to be bogged down by its own subject matter. The screenplay, written by first-time writer Geoffrey Fletcher, provides a compelling look inside Precious' life, and director Lee Daniels does a fantastic job of providing insight into her mind, wisely balancing the harsh reality of her life with the flights of fancy of the life she wishes she could have. Both men deserve attention for their work here.
The real strength of Precious, however, is in the acting. This is an example of a film with a pitch-perfect cast, each performer unwilling to pander to treachly sentiments. In particular, enough cannot be said about the brave, brilliant performance of Gabourey "Gabby" Sidibe as Precious. Making her film debut, Sidibe layers Precious in a way that allows us to see who she really is: peel away the abuse and hardship, and underneath is a girl who just wants to be able to provide for her children. She also recognizes the tragedy of her character: as much as she aspires to be a great mother, behind her eyes the audience can see that she's having to sacrifice her own welfare for her children. Its a harrowing truth that history will repeat itself, and that Precious and her children will never rise above their situation, but Sidibe's performance makes you believe that she can overcome.

Believe the hype: Mo'Nique is a one-woman powerhouse as Mary Jones, Precious' deadbeat, abusive mother. Mo'Nique plays a truly dispicable character: a mother who hates her child (because she "stole" her man), physically and verbally abusing her, neglecting her grandchildren, refusing to work and living off welfare. When its time for a visit from a social worker, though, she makes sure that everything seems acceptable, putting on an act that both false in its sweetness and disturbing in how convincing it is. She's the kind of woman who makes you hate her one minute, such as when she carelessly tosses her infant grandson, and almost makes you feel sympathy for her the next, such as when she begs a social worker (played with stunning grace by an unrecognizable Mariah Carey) to reunite her with Precious. Despite how horrendous, perhaps even "evil," her character is, Mo'Nique never relents in her conviction to bring her to life. Her performance may very well be the best performance of the year.
Though its not only the two leads who deliever. In what could have been a standard teachers-can-change-the-world role, Paula Patton turns in a fantastic performance as Precious' teacher at Each One Teach One, being both hard-nosed and sympathizing, willing to do whatever it takes for the welfare of her students. Carey, as I previously stated, is unrecognizable as Miss Wiess, a social worker whom Precious visits for welfare checks. Her performance is almost enough to make one forgive Glitter. And Lenny Kravitz shows up briefly as a nurse who takes care of Precious after she gives birth. Through these performances, director Lee Daniels has proven himself to be an actors' director, who will hopefully turn in more ensemble films in the future.
Precious is a film that is built on a story that is harsh in its reality, making it a difficult movie to stomach. But it succeeds mostly on the strength of its steller cast.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Oscar Picks: December 2009

Before I get around to picking my Oscar choices for this month, I have to comment on the Satellite Awards, which were presented yesterday. Shohreh Aghdashloo for Best Actress - Drama? Michael Stuhlbarg for Best Actor - Comedy? The Maid and Broken Embraces for Best Foreign Film? Nine for Best Comedy over Up in the Air? And, I kid you not, 2012 took home two awards? Well, for all they've done wrong, they did get a few things right, such as Kathryn Bigelow for Best Director and, surprisingly, (500) Days of Summer for Best Original Screenplay. Still, these awards are a mess; don't expect them to be echoed the next few months. This month made picking the Oscar nominees a lot easier. Thanks to all of the precursor awards, as well as the releases of all the films in contention. So, armed with a wealth of knowledge, these are my new predictions. BEST PICTURE An Education The Hurt Locker Precious Avatar Up Up in the Air Invictus Nine Inglourious Basterds A Single Man
The critical lashings that The Lovely Bones is recieving has ultimately taken the film out of this race. All of the others are still safe, but The Last Station is likely to fall out because most of the attention is on the film's two leads (yes, Christopher Plummer is a lead. I will not be fooled.). Surprisingly, Avatar seems to be a critical darling, and thanks to its good reviews and innovative tech, it now seems like the real deal (the Golden Globe nod for Best Drama didn't hurt either). I'm torn, however, on that last spot between two men: A Serious Man and A Single Man. Though A Serious Man has recieved more accolades as a film overall, its track record has been spotty thus far. Therefore, riding on its leads and its reviews, I'm picking A Single Man to make the top 10.
BEST ACTOR Morgan Freeman, Invictus George Clooney, Up in the Air Colin Firth, A Single Man Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker
I'm finally giving in and including Bridges, since he's picking up plenty of nominations for this role. Hal Holbrook was a longshot of a choice to begin with, anyway. With Nine earning mediocre reviews, it seems unlikely that it will score too many major nominations, which means that I doubt Daniel Day-Lewis will earn another nomination this year. I'm going with Renner for the fifth nominee because his performance, though not really an "Oscary" one, will be noticed now that The Hurt Locker is picking up so many prizes. Not to mention Renner himself has recieved attention from some of the biggest groups, including the BFCA and the SAG.
BEST ACTRESS Meryl Streep, Julie & Julia Carey Mulligan, An Education Gabourey Sidibe, Precious Helen Mirren, The Last Station Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side The first four have been locks for a long time now, so that's not surprising; unfortunately, that means no Abbie Cornish. Saorise Ronan was another longshot choice, but I still hope she gets some recognition for being the best young actress of her generation (apologies, Dakota Fanning and Abigail Breslin). Of course, this means that Bullock is now going to recieve her first Oscar nomination, thanks to plenty of critics awards consideration and two Golden Globe nominations (everyone's so busy celebrating her that no one seems to remember All About Steve, which is good for her....). I'm not exactly fond of this choice, since I think there were better performances (re: Cornish and Ronan) that should be recognized, but one can't fight the inevitable. BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR Alfred Molina, An Education Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds Stanley Tucci, The Lovely Bones Christopher Plummer, The Last Station Woody Harrelson, The Messenger
Despite his near absence from the precursor awards, I'm standing by Molina as an Oscar nominee, especially with An Education moving back into the spotlight. I do realize though that this may be another fool's prediction, since Matt Damon seems to be getting a lot more attention (though Invictus has been only decently recieved). I'm dropping Damon in favor of Harrelson, who is on a roll this fall and has recieved steller reviews for his performance in The Messenger (as well as Zombieland, which is one of my personal favorite movies of the year). All of that momentum should push him to nomintation #2 (he was previously nominated for The People vs. Larry Flint).
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS Mo'Nique, Precious Anna Kendrick, Up in the Air Julianne Moore, A Single Man Vera Farmiga, Up in the Air Penelope Cruz, Nine This category is set in stone. Barring some sort of upset, this will be the Oscar category. BEST DIRECTOR Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker Lee Daniels, Precious Jason Reitman, Up in the Air James Cameron, Avatar Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds I hate to exclude Clint Eastwood from this category, especially considering how much the Oscars love him, but Invictus just hasn't been strong enough. The same goes for Rob Marshall, who was at one point a sure thing. Although Tarantino's films are usually very polarizing, there's a lot of love this year for Basterds, and I think that a second nomination in this category will be his reward for it. And with Avatar heating up, it seems impossible for James Cameron to not be nominated, though sharing the category with his ex-wife Bigelow could create some awkward tension.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Golden Globes: TV

The thing I love about the Golden Globes is that they're a combination of the Oscars and the Emmys, with twice the alcohol and half the prestige. But compared to the Emmys, the Globes are much more willing to include new programs and honor new perfomances that would otherwise be sidelined at the Emmys in favor of old favorites. This year is more or less the same, as you can see below. BEST DRAMA
  • Big Love
  • Dexter
  • House
  • Mad Men
  • True Blood
I'm bitter that they didn't include Lost here, which is coming off it's fantastic fifth season (shameless plug: the final season begins February 2, 2010!). But this group is not in the least surprising. True Blood recieved great reviews this year and developed into a huge hit for HBO, as has the superior Dexter for Showtime. House has evolved into a fascinating network character drama, with critics and fans adoring every minute of it. However, per usual, I'm sure this night belongs to Mad Men, though the Globes don't always choose the predictable favorite. Dexter or True Blood could pull the upset.
BEST ACTRESS - DRAMA
  • Glenn Close, Damages
  • January Jones, Mad Men
  • Julianna Margulies, The Good Wife
  • Anna Paquin, True Blood
  • Kyra Sedgwick, The Closer
Who would have thought, at the beginning of the 2009-2010 TV season, that The Good Wife would be the recipient of such good will? I personally haven't seen it, but appearantly what could have been a shameless drama about political infidelity has become a rah-rah feminist drama that features a strong female character who is not a quote-unquote "bitch." So good for Margulies for earning a nod here. Otherwise, this is a fairly standard set of nominees, though it does noticably exclude Edie Falco's performance in Nurse Jackie.
BEST ACTOR - DRAMA
  • Simon Baker, The Mentalist
  • Michael C. Hall, Dexter
  • Jon Hamm, Mad Men
  • Hugh Laurie, House
  • Bill Paxton, Big Love
So Laurie has two of these things but no Emmys for this role? Scandalous. In a perfect world, Hall would have won this at the Emmys for his incredible performance as Dexter Morgan, a role that could have been one-note but has been given a multitude of layers and textures by Hall. I kind of feel like the Globes are copying the Emmys with the Baker nomination, and though Paxton could be considered an unusual choice, the Globes actually like him a lot. And Hamm is probably going to win this. It should be noted, however, that two-time Emmy winner Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad) is absent from this category.
BEST COMEDY
  • 30 Rock
  • Entourage
  • Glee
  • Modern Family
  • The Office
Glee and Modern Family are the best new shows of the season, so their inclusion here is well-earned and, with any luck, one of them will win. 30 Rock and The Office are old (and hilarious) favorites, and 30 Rock will most likely win. I don't know why Entourage has suddenly reemerged, but it seems to be popular again, at least critically. Most importantly, the Globes have righted an obnoxious Emmy wrong: no Family Guy.
BEST ACTRESS - COMEDY
  • Toni Collette, United States of Tara
  • Courteney Cox, Cougar Town
  • Edie Falco, Nurse Jackie
  • Tina Fey, 30 Rock
  • Lea Michele, Glee
So Nurse Jackie is actually a comedy? Who knew? This is actually an eclectic category this year, with nary a housewife of the usual kind (Desperate Housewives and Weeds) in sight. Instead, we see Toni Collette in her Emmy encore (she's actually quite entertaining) and Tina Fey returning for her fantastic role as Liz Lemon, a modern, thinking-girl's version of Mary Tyler Moore. Courteney Cox is appearantly quite a draw in Cougar Town, another show, like The Good Wife, that surprisingly worked. And Glee's Michele is an inspired choice; her performance as the glee club's main diva is pitch-perfect.
BEST ACTOR - COMEDY
  • Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock
  • Steve Carell, The Office
  • David Duchovny, Californication
  • Thomas Jane, Hung
  • Matthew Morrison, Glee
In the traditional category, Baldwin and Carell have returned for their routinely uproarous turns on their respective programs. The Globes really like Duchovny, whose performance on Californication is solid and, honestly, the best part of the show. I'm surprised that Jane is here, given Hung's lackluster viewership and mediocre reviews, but maybe this is a vote of confidence to bring it back. And once again, the Glee nomination is inspired and welcome: its obvious that the Globes love this show (just like the rest of us), and Morrison is the heart of the show, balancing his comedy with dark drama (just watch his reaction to his wife's fake pregnancy).
BEST MINISERIES OR MADE-FOR-TELEVISION MOVIE
  • Georgia O'Keeffe
  • Grey Gardens
  • Into the Storm
  • Little Dorrit
  • Taking Chance
HBO still has a stronghold here, with three of the nominees (Gardens, Storm, and Chance). I don't really know much about these, except that the Emmys really liked Dorrit and Gardens, so one of them will probably take this one.
BEST ACTRESS - MINISERIES OR MADE-FOR-TELEVISION MOVIE
  • Joan Allen, Georgia O'Keeffe
  • Drew Barrymore, Grey Gardens
  • Jessica Lange, Grey Gardens
  • Anna Paquin, The Courageous Heart of Irena
  • Sigourney Weaver, Prayers for Bobby
They really love Paquin, don't they? The rest are kind of expected, and its most likely that one of the Gardens girls will win.
BEST ACTOR - MINISERIES OR MADE-FOR-TELEVISION MOVIE
  • Kevin Bacon, Taking Chance
  • Kenneth Branagh, Wallander: One Step Behind
  • Chiwtel Ejiofor, Endgame
  • Brendan Gleeson, Into the Storm
  • Jeremy Irons, Georgia O'Keeffe
This pretty much looks exactly like the Emmy category, with the exceptions of Irons and Ejiofor (both of whom the Globes seem to really, really like).
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
  • Jane Adams, Hung
  • Rose Byrne, Damages
  • Jane Lynch, Glee
  • Janet McTeer, Into the Storm
  • Chloe Sevigny, Big Love
The thing I love about these nominees is how 4 out of 5 of them come from TV series, rather than miniseries and movies. The best of the bunch is easily Lynch, who deserves the win here the most.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
  • Michael Emerson, Lost
  • Neil Patrick Harris, How I Met Your Mother
  • William Hurt, Damages
  • John Lithgow, Dexter
  • Jeremy Piven, Entourage
This is probably the strongest acting category of the TV Globes, with a fantastic set of actors who either define or revitalize their respective shows. Piven gets the most attention from Entourage, and Hurt brought a strong male voice to the strongly-female based Damages. However, the trophy breaks down to a three-way race: Emerson, who's finally been recognized by the Emmys for his intensely creepy and intricate work on Lost; Harris, who is the catchphrase-generating womanizer who proivdes some of Mother's funniest moments; and Lithgow, who on this past season of Dexter proved to be Dexter's biggest challenge yet as the Trinity Killer. With any luck, one of these three will win.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The SAGs!

Another day, another Oscar precursor announcement. The Screen Actors' Guild has announced their nominees, and the result is...the same old thing that everyone else has been talking about. And since the SAGs are pretty good indicators of the Oscars, then it's possible that what we see here is what we'll see on February 2. BEST CAST
  • An Education
  • The Hurt Locker
  • Inglourious Basterds
  • Nine
  • Precious
The Hurt Locker, Precious, and Inglourious Basterds were already sure things for the Oscars, and that is affirmed here (in general, 4 out of the 5 nominees in this category usually go on to become Best Picture nominations). I must admit though that the Basterds nomination is unexpected to me, but fantastic. An Education and Nine have gained some ground here, though Nine really shouldn't be that big of a surprise. In fact, the most striking thing about this set is that Up in the Air is missing: perhaps the individual nominations were enough for the SAG?
BEST ACTOR
  • Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart
  • George Clooney, Up in the Air
  • Colin Firth, A Single Man
  • Morgan Freeman, Invictus
  • Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker
I think this is probably going to be the Oscar line-up; the only doubt I have is Renner, who will probably have to fight Nine's Daniel Day-Lewis all the way up to February for that final spot. It's not often that such naturalistic performances get nominations, so I'm glad that Renner is getting the recognition he deserves.
BEST ACTRESS
  • Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side
  • Helen Mirren, The Last Station
  • Carey Mulligan, An Education
  • Gabourey Sidibe, Precious
  • Meryl Streep, Julie & Julia
Barring the end of the world, ladies and gentlemen, your Oscar line-up.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
  • Matt Damon, Invictus
  • Woody Harrelson, The Messenger
  • Christopher Plummer, The Last Station
  • Stanley Tucci, The Lovely Bones
  • Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds
Remember Alfred Molina? I wonder whatever happened to him. Since the critics awards started, he's virtually disappeared from the a race that he was at one point considered a frontrunner. It seems that Harrelson has since replaced him; I didn't think Harrelson was the real deal, but it seems like he may be on his way back to the Oscars. Who would have thought?
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
  • Penelope Cruz, Nine
  • Vera Farmiga, Up in the Air
  • Anna Kendrick, Up in the Air
  • Diane Kruger, Inglourious Basterds
  • Mo'Nique, Precious
Once again, same old, same old, until you get down to that 4th nominee. Diane Kruger? As in, Bridget von Hammersmark, that Diane Kruger? Though the lady she snubbed out, Julianne Moore, will be laughing all the way to the Oscar ceremony, Kruger's nomination is a wonderful surprise, if for nothing more than the fact that someone other than Christoph Waltz is getting credit for his/her performance in Basterds. On that note, however, I would have preferred Melaine Laurent be noticed, but you take what you get, I suppose.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Golden Globes '09!

I'll come out and say it: the Golden Globes are one of the most frustrating awards ceremonies in the season. The dramatic categories are usually accurate indicators of how the Oscars will go, while the comedic categories are usually just fun nominees who don't really stand a chance at getting an Oscar. This year's Globes, however, actually carry a little more weight, in my opinion, since Best Picture at the Oscars has been expanded to include 10 nominees, but that does not necessarly mean that all the nominees really stand a chance. Anyway, here's my analysis of this year's contenders. For this post, however, I am only going to comment on the film awards; the television awards will come at a later date. BEST PICTURE - DRAMA
  • Avatar
  • The Hurt Locker
  • Inglourious Basterds
  • Precious
  • Up in the Air
It's interesting to me that Up in the Air is being campaigned as a drama rather than a comedy, which will only benefit it. The Hurt Locker continues to build its frontrunner status, as has Precious, and they're practically locks for the Oscars now. Avatar and Inglourious Basterds probably won't win here or at the Oscars, but there's a good chance of them both making the shortlist for the latter. I am now convinced that I have underrated Avatar, and I've made it a point to go see it soon. The notable snub here is Invictus. Though it will still make it to the Oscars, its highly doubtful that it will win.
BEST ACTRESS - DRAMA
  • Emily Blunt, The Young Victoria
  • Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side
  • Helen Mirren, The Last Station
  • Carey Mulligan, An Education
  • Gabourey Sidibe, Precious
Emily Blunt is a major latecomer here. Her film has so far recieved only mixed reviews, and its slow release schedule is doing it no favors. Though Blunt's performance may be great, its just too little, too late. Mulligan is now a virtual lock for an Oscar nomination now, and is THE frontrunner to win. Its good to see Sidibe pick up a nomination here, considering how lately shes been partly absent from the critics awards. Mirren will probably make the Oscar shortlist, but most of that will probably be driven by her legacy than anything else. And Bullock is unfortunately moving foward with her role in The Blind Side (there will be a seperate post about that later). And with no recognition for Abbie Cornish or Saorise Ronan, its likely now that their respective campaigns have come to a close here.
BEST ACTOR - DRAMA
  • Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart
  • George Clooney, Up in the Air
  • Colin Firth, A Single Man
  • Morgan Freeman, Invictus
  • Tobey Maguire, Brothers
The first four are nothing new; everyone's been talking about them from the very beginning. However, I'm impressed by the selection of Maguire for Brothers. He had some early buzz, but a lot of that faded over time; not necessarily because of poor reviews, but from stronger competition. I doubt he'll make the Oscar shortlist, but this certainly helps his chances.
BEST PICTURE - MUSICAL OR COMEDY
  • (500) Days of Summer
  • The Hangover
  • It's Complicated
  • Julie & Julia
  • Nine
The only one of these that's likely to end up in the Best Picture category at the Oscars is Nine, with Summer having the best chance of sneaking in. The other three are really just filler, though the screenplay chances for all three could have recieved a boost. Its notable that this is The Hangover's only nomination, which makes its inclusion seem like a consolation prize for being so popular this year. However, notable snubs include The Proposal (not a bad thing) and Zombieland (which would have been a fantastic inclusion).
BEST ACTRESS - MUSICAL OR COMEDY
  • Sandra Bullock, The Proposal
  • Marion Cotillard, Nine
  • Julia Roberts, Duplicity
  • Meryl Streep, It's Complicated
  • Meryl Streep, Julie & Julia
So appearent HPFA really, really loves Streep; so much so that they're going to let her compete against herself! She'll earn yet another Oscar nomination this year, but it will be Julie & Julia, not It's Complicated. However, she and Bullock have a similar situation: double Globe nominations, which usually turns into an Oscar nomination for one of the roles. The Globes fell for Cotillard's campaign fraud, but don't expect Oscar to. And HPFA hearts Roberts way too much. Where's the love for (500) Days of Summer's Zooey Deschanel?
BEST ACTOR - MUSICAL OR COMEDY
  • Matt Damon, The Informant!
  • Daniel Day-Lewis, Nine
  • Robert Downey, Jr., Sherlock Holmes
  • Joseph Gordon-Levitt, (500) Days of Summer
  • Michael Stuhlbarg, A Serious Man
Its hard to say that any of these will move past these. Stuhlbarg had good early buzz, but like the movie he's starring in, his momentum seems to rise and fall violently every week. So who knows? Matt Damon, if he is nominated, will be in the supporting category for Invictus, not for this film. Day-Lewis seems like the safest bet, but even he is on shaky ground this year. As much as I would love to see Downey Jr. score his third career nod, I highly doubt Sherlock Holmes will be the film to do it. And it seems like no one can honor both stars of Summer, but have to choose one or the other: the Globes have rightfully chosen Gordon-Levitt, but Deschanel is just as deserving! It's interesting that Sandra Bullock's Proposal costar Ryan Reynolds isn't in this category, especially considering how big of a year he has had as well, nor is any of the stars of The Hangover.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
  • Penelope Cruz, Nine
  • Vera Farmiga, Up in the Air
  • Anna Kendrick, Up in the Air
  • Mo'Nique, Precious
  • Julianne Moore, A Single Man
This is exactly what I imagine the Oscar category will look like.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
  • Matt Damon, Invictus
  • Woody Harrelson, The Messenger
  • Christopher Plummer, The Last Station
  • Stanley Tucci, The Lovely Bones
  • Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds
Honestly, I'd forgotten all about Plummer, since he has been absent from most of the critics awards. But that's probably because with the exception of one or two for Harrelson, Waltz has been taking all of them home. I don't see Damon's campaign being strong enough to get him into the Oscars, but he could be a pleasant surprise. I also wonder if Harrelson's sudden momentum is another case of too little, too late, or if he could actually make it all the way. Otherwise, Waltz is a lock, and it looks like Tucci will make it too and be The Lovely Bones' only major representative.
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
  • Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
  • Coraline
  • Fantastic Mr. Fox
  • The Princess and the Frog
  • Up
Again, this is exactly how I expect the Oscars to go. Though honestly, I'm surprised more recognition hasn't been given to Miyazaki's Ponyo. Since when has a Miyazaki not been universally praised?
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
  • Baaria (Italy)
  • Broken Embraces (Spain)
  • The Maid (Chile)
  • Un Prophete (France)
  • Das Weisse Band (Germany)
The problem with this category is that it has different eligibility rules than the Oscars do. Whereas the Oscars require it to be financed, produced, and submitted by a foreign country, the Globes only require it to be in a foreign language. Still, Broken Embraces, a probable winner here, wasn't submitted to the Oscar comittee, so its hard to tell. Though momentum for The Maid seems to be fantastic right now.
BEST DIRECTOR
  • Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker
  • James Cameron, Avatar
  • Clint Eastwood, Invictus
  • Jason Reitman, Up in the Air
  • Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds
I have a feeling that this may be how the Oscars go too. Though I have to ask: where is Precious' Lee Daniels? He certainly deserves one for his exquisite work. But I'm glad Bigelow's holding her own with the usual suspects.
BEST SCREENPLAY
  • Neill Blomkamp & Terri Tatchell, District 9
  • Mark Boal, The Hurt Locker
  • Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds
  • Nancy Meyers, It's Complicated
  • Jason Reitman & Sheldon Turner, Up in the Air
The thing I hate about this category at the Globes is that its a conglomerate rather than seperated like at the Oscars. Therefore, a lot of major screenplays such as Precious, A Single Man, A Serious Man, Up, (500) Days of Summer, An Education, etc. get ignored. However, the choice of District 9 is exceptionally inspired, and the inclusion of It's Complicated is confusing. That over Summer? I don't think so.
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
  • Michael Giacchino, Up
  • Marvin Hamlisch, The Informant!
  • James Horner, Avatar
  • Abel Korzeniowski, A Single Man
  • Karen O and Carter Burwell, Where the Wild Things Are
I really wish Where the Wild Things Are would recieve nominations in other categories too, but I guess I'll settle for this. I don't really know much about these, but bright side: no Amelia!
BEST ORIGINAL SONG
  • "Cinema Italiano," Nine
  • "I See You," Avatar
  • "I Want to Come Home," Everybody's Fine
  • "The Weary Kind (Theme from Crazy Heart)," Crazy Heart
  • "Winter," Brothers
This is a horrible Oscar predictor, namely because the HFPA chooses the most random selections for its nominees. As you can see here, Everybody's Fine and Brothers appearantly have better musical selections than The Princess and the Frog, which the Oscars are much more likely to go with.
More to come. Thoughts and comments are welcome.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Grammys Go Young

This year's Grammys are marked by something that may be a recognition of great artists or a ploy to gain more viewers (your choice): there are a lot of mainstream, "cool" nominees. Personally, I think its great to honor those who are making popular music right now, not just the legends who continue to make good records. Because my Grammy ballot, which only consists of a fraction of the full nominees, is still 11 pages long, I'm going to break up my nomination analysis into six entries: the first, this one, will consist of the night's general prizes, while the remaining five will be pop/dance, rock, R&B, rap, and country. RECORD OF THE YEAR
  • "Halo," Beyonce "I Gotta Feeling," Black Eyed Peas
  • "Use Somebody," Kings of Leon
  • "Poker Face," Lady Gaga
  • "You Belong With Me," Taylor Swift
There's not a single song in this group that wasn't a Top 40 hit in the past year, which hasn't happened at the Grammys in a while. The most surprising thing here is that they went with "Halo" over "Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)," which was a much bigger hit for Beyonce. It's genuinely hard to predict who will take this category, but most likely it will either be Beyonce, Swift, or Gaga. I like all of them, but my vote goes to "You Belong With Me," which stands as a true testament to Swift's fantastic skills as a performer (and at only 20 years old).
ALBUM OF THE YEAR
  • I Am...Sacha Fierce, Beyonce
  • The E.N.D., Black Eyed Peas
  • The Fame, Lady Gaga
  • Big Whiskey and the Groogrux King, Dave Matthews Band
  • Fearless, Taylor Swift
Again, all of these are reasonably popular acts with hit records, and this hasn't happened in this category since 2003 when the lineup featured Outkast, Missy Elliott, Evanescence, Justin Timberlake and The White Stripes. I haven't heard all of these albums in their entirety yet, but based on history, any of these albums could easily win. However, the most likely choice is Beyonce, since the Grammys have been very kind to her throughout her career.
SONG OF THE YEAR
  • "Poker Face," Lady Gaga (Lady Gaga and RedOne, songwriters)
  • "Pretty Wings," Maxwell (Hod David and Muzse, songwriters)
  • "Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)," Beyonce (Thaddis Harrell, Beyonce Knowles, Terius Nash & Christopher Stewert, songwriters)
  • "Use Somebody," Kings of Leon (Caleb Followill, Jared Followill, Matthew Followill & Nathan Followill, songwriters)
  • "You Belong With Me," Taylor Swift (Taylor Swift and Liz Rose, songwriters)
I think the Grammys got Beyonce confused, since this is the category where a nomination for "Halo" makes sense. "Single Ladies" is a great, catchy song, but it is not really a songwriting feat. Neither is "Poker Face" really, but Lady Gaga is a good songwriter, so it works. Expect Taylor Swift to walk away with this one though, since her talents in this category are undeniable.
BEST NEW ARTIST
  • Zac Brown Band
  • Keri Hilson
  • MGMT
  • Silversun Pickups
  • The Ting Tings
What a great year to be an indie artist, since MGMT, Silversun Pickups and Ting Tings were counterculture, indie-culture superstars this past year. I don't know who to say will win this one, but I'm going to say Keri Hilson is the most likely choice.
BEST COMPILATION SOUNDTRACK
  • Cadillac Records
  • Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds
  • Slumdog Millionaire
  • True Blood
  • Twilight
This is a pretty standard set of the most musically talked-about films and TV shows of the past year. Expect Slumdog to win, though Basterds totally deserves it the most.
BEST SHORT-FORM MUSIC VIDEO
  • "Mr. Hurricane," Beast
  • "Boom Boom Pow," Black Eyed Peas
  • "Life in Technicolor ii," Coldplay
  • "Wrong," Depeche Mode
  • "Her Morning Elegance," Oren Lavie
There was no shortage of great videos this past year, but somehow the Black Eyed Peas' decent but not extraordinary "Boom Boom Pow" video managed to leapfrog Major Lazer's "Hold the Line," Matt & Kim's "Lessons Learned," and, most notably, Beyonce's notorious "Single Ladies." Still, the other 4 are fantastic, the most exciting of all being Coldplay's and Lavie's entries. But the award will probably go to Depeche Mode.

Awards Season: A Brief Summary

Oh man. Its awards season now, and I am ridiculously behind on my observations and reactions to the various awards and nominations going out. I haven't made my December Oscar picks yet because I am waiting for the Golden Globe nominations to be announced tomorrow, since these will (somewhat) clear the air around the contenders and pretenders. But for now, here's a short summary of reactions to various awards thus far. INDIE SPIRITS - A Serious Man gets best ensemble but no best feature nomination? This film is getting to be very unpredictable. - I'm pleased to see Paranormal Activity get a Best First Feature nomination. It's an encouragement of more indie horror. SATELLITE AWARDS - I just want to say up front that I don't consider the Satellites to be accurate predictors of the awards season. The hefty amount of nominations for 2012 only confirms this. - However, this is not the first group to recognize Woody Harrelson for The Messenger. Maybe he's got some real heat now... - The District 9 nominations in director and screenplay are excellent, but probably the biggest nominations the film will be recognized for. NATIONAL BOARD OF REVIEW - Star Trek as a top film? And Where the Wild Things Are? I loved them both, but this seems a little odd. Will this be their only recognition or is more to come? -The tie for Best Actor between Morgan Freeman and George Clooney: cop-out. -Up in the Air seems to be moving past Precious as the film to beat. DC FILM CRITICS ASSOCIATION - This just looks like a list of front-runners and buzzed-about performances. - Kathryn Bigelow's direction win certainly looks promising for her future. - The only real surprise here is the Original Screenplay category: The Hurt Locker, (500) Days of Summer and A Serious Man all lost out to....Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds script. Which is fantastic, since it was the most inventive screenplay of the year (my apologies to Summer and District 9). BOSTON SOCIETY OF FILM CRITICS - The Hurt Locker takes Best Picture, Director and Actor. The film's Oscar chances really are on the rise. - Meryl Streep finally registers her first big win. But is she still too far behind Carey Mulligan to be considered a frontrunner? - There's Star Trek again, in the Best Ensemble category. If it continues to be picked for things like this and makes it to the Oscars, set phasers to stun. LOS ANGELES FILM CRITICS ASSOCIATION -The Hurt Locker again for Best Picture and Director. Could this really be the year of the first female directing Oscar winner? NEW YORK FILM CRITICS ONLINE - Avatar as Best Picture? Maybe I'm underestimating this film after all.... - The Top 11 films are a hoot. I guess when Oscar expands to 10 films, you can't have a top 10 list anymore... - Chalk up another screenplay win for Tarantino. It looks like he'll (finally) be making his long-awaited return to the Oscars. That's all I've got for now. Hopefully, by the the end of the day I'll have reactions to the BFCA Critic's Choice nominations, as well as my response to the Grammy nominations.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

November Oscar Predictions

Dear God, its already December! Its been way too long since my last post, and I apologize for taking so long; exams are coming up soon and I have been overwhelmed with work. I wanted to have explanations for my nominee choices, but that may have to wait until December's; I will, however, post a few thoughts in this one. And soon I will also post my reactions to the Gothams, the Satellites, the Spirits, the Grammys, and the NBRs (whew!). Best Picture An Education The Hurt Locker Precious The Lovely Bones Up Up in the Air Invictus Nine Inglourious Basterds The Last Station - I don't think that A Serious Man really stands a chance anymore, so I'm betting on The Last Station instead. Invictus and The Lovely Bones are also iffy right now for me. Best Actor Morgan Freeman, Invictus Daniel Day-Lewis, Nine George Clooney, Up in the Air Colin Firth, A Single Man Hal Holbrook, That Evening Sun - Morgan Freeman's frontrunner status is dropping precipitously, but he'll still be nominated. Now with Jeff Bridges gaining heat, I'm doubting the Holbrook nomination, though I'd rather have him in the running too. Day-Lewis is iffy, since most of what I've seen of him in Nine is just him smiling. Best Actress Meryl Streep, Julie & Julia Carey Mulligan, An Education Gabourey Sidibe, Precious Abbie Cornish, Bright Star Saoirse Ronan, The Lovely Bones - With Amelia bombing, Hilary Swank is down (but not necesserily out; see Cate Blanchett's Elizabeth: The Golden Age nomination in 2007). However, I think Ronan's nomination might just be wishful thinking on my part, and Helen Mirren might actually have a better shot for The Last Station. Best Supporting Actor Alfred Molina, An Education Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds Stanley Tucci, The Lovely Bones Christopher Plummer, The Last Station Matt Damon, Invictus - I'm doubting Matt Damon will squeeze into this category now, given Invictus' lackluster preview response. Here's hoping Anthony Mackie takes his place for his performance in The Hurt Locker. Best Supporting Actress Mo'Nique, Precious Anna Kendrick, Up in the Air Vera Farmiga, Up in the Air Julianne Moore, A Single Man Penelope Cruz, Nine - Thanks to Marion Cotillard's move to the leading category, I think Cruz will have to carry the torch for all of the Nine women. However, I still think this category will be Mo'Nique and the four women that lose to her. Best Director Clint Eastwood, Invictus Lee Daniels, Precious Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker Jason Reitman, Up in the Air Rob Marshall, Nine - There's no doubt that the last four will make it, but I have doubts now about Eastwood: the Academy loves him, but they're not above excluding him (see his "sure-thing" nomination last year). If he falls, either Quentin Tarantino or Michael Hoffman will probably replace him, with a chance of Lone Scherfig or Peter Jackson.

Monday, November 9, 2009

V, or: The Resurrection of Reagan

In 1984, a miniseries known as V premiered on NBC. It followed the arrival of aliens, known as Visitors, to our planet who at first seemed very peaceful, but in reality were out to destroy all human life (just as any alien race worth its salt would). It was very successful, and spawned a short-lived prime time series. V is now back, this time with better special effects but the same basic premise: the Visitors extend a peaceful outreach to us, promising to "save" mankind, but of course want to kill us all. The Vs, as they're known, appear human on the outside, but peel away their skin and the reptilian skin of their true selves is revealed. V is actually a surprisingly good show. The cast features a host of sci-fi vets (Lost's Elizabeth Mitchell, aka Juliet; Firefly's Morena Baccarin and Alan Tudyk, aka Inara and Wash, respectively), and is well-paced and intriguing. But its hard to miss the conservative politics that form the show's main theme: things are not always what they seem. The pilot of the show included several not-so-subtle (and in one case explicit) references to the Obama administration. The leader of the Visitors, Anne, is charismatic, likable, and portrayed as a messianic figure promising hope and change. She communicates openly through news interviews and videos, informing the people of Earth what her intentions are and what plans she wants to initiate. She is a celebrity around the world, and people everywhere become devoted to the Vs, placing complete trust in them. She wants to share V technology and medicine with the human race; in fact, as Scott Wolf's Chad Decker, who is a reporter for a Fox News type program (thud), she intends to offer us "universal health care" (bigger thud). And when we find out that the V's are sinister, it becomes imperative for the human race to stand up to these no-good socialist Democrats and bring conservatism back to the heart of American politics. Ok, so maybe that last part is my (liberally biased) opinion. But the metaphor is hard to ignore. And I'm not the only one who's noticed (http://popwatch.ew.com/2009/11/06/is-abcs-v-anti-obama-let-the-debate-begin/). It seems when ABC dusted of the V franchise, they left all the hallmarks in place, including the Reagan "moral majority" politics. And its possible that V could be the first conservative-skewed prime time drama to appear in a long time, making it truly unique considering how liberal Hollywood tends to be. Despite the conservatism, its good to see that V at least has a clear theme. To me, great sci-fi always offers some sort of commentary about the current state of humanity, and even if V becomes endorsed by the likes of Bill O'Reilly, it will still have that quality to it. And there's my dilemma with V: I want to like it because of its quality, but I want to dislike it because of its politics. But at least it has something to say.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Hosts Galore, Michael Jackson, and Animation

What an exciting last few weeks for the Oscars (note: with the awards season coming up soon, expect most of my posts to be about the plethora of awards: Oscars especially, but also Golden Globes, SAG Awards, Independent Spirits, Grammys, etc.)! However I feel like the roller coaster may just be starting. Hold on tight. - The choice of Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin, in my opinion, is fantastic. Both have proven to have very dry wits (always a plus), and both can skew younger, despite their age, which is what the producers and ABC wanted. There is some talk about it being an unofficial advertisement and Oscar campaign for It's Complicated, but that's nothing to worry about: like Nancy Meyers' other films, I doubt it will gather any nominations.
- There's talk about This Is It, otherwise known as The Michael Jackson Movie, being a Best Picture contender. That's not going to happen, though. There's a lot of Jacko sentiment going around the entertainment industry, but that won't change the fact that no documentary has ever been nominated in that category, especially not a concert film.

- Ricky Gervais is hosting the Golden Globes! Its the first host that the ceremony has had in 15 years, and since the Globes are famous for their free-flowing booze, this could get fun....
- Animation's officially going to have 5 nominees at this year. This is big, considering that in the category's short 8 year history that's only happened once. The Academy's rule is that if 15 or fewer films are submitted, then the category will have 3 nominees, but if 16 or more are submitted than it will have 5 nominees, and thanks to Spain's El Lince Perdido, there are 16 official submissions this year. Competition-wise, this only means that 4 films instead of 2 will lose to Up, but it gives more films a chance to be recognized. My personal dream shortlist: Up, Coraline, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Ponyo, Princess and the Frog.

Friday, October 30, 2009

"Chaos Reigns": Antichrist (2009)

I'm not usually afraid to watch a movie, even if it's deemed "scary." I shrug off most horror films, since few of them are really all that scary. And as a general rule, I abstain from watching any entry into the appalling "torture porn" genre, such as the Saw films or the Hostel films or any of their even-cheaper knockoffs. The idea of finding entertainment in watching the mutilation and dismemberment of a human being is sickening, and in most cases I refrain from participating.
But last night, I was afraid. I chose a movie that is well-known for its misogyny and its human destructiveness. And I watched it, at some points through my fingers. My stomach churned, my muscles ached; I kept asking myself, why did I choose to sit through this? How did I manage to convince myself to watch it?
I watched Antichrist, the new film by Lars von Trier.

The deer with the dead fetus hanging out of it. The mutilated fox that exclaims "Chaos reigns." The hawk eating the dead bird. The tick-covered hand. The sexually graphic scene under the tree laden with dead bodies. The graphic mutilation of He (an excellent Willem Dafoe) at the hands of She (a terrifically terrifying Charlotte Gainsbourg) in ways in which it pains me just to think about. Antichrist was by no means an easy movie. In fact, it may be the most gruelling, exhausting movie I've ever sat through. Von Trier has made a movie that subjects you to the same kind of emotional pain that the characters experience, twisting the psychology of this couple who have fled to a remote cabin to come to terms with the loss of their child into a demented fever dream of extreme behavior and, yes, physical torture. This movie is only for those who can stomach it, and I can somewhat proudly say that I (barely) survived.
The problem with my description is that it sounds like I hated Antichrist. But I didn't. It was artfully rendered, and masterfully directed. The film doesn't work in spite of the gratuitous misogyny, it works because of it. Without those disturbingly graphic images, the film would fall flat as a rote melodrama. The images are important as they provide the most raw interpretation of the feelings of loss, guilt, and the concept of evil. Which is the main question of Antichrist: does evil actually exist, or is it just an idea attached to extreme behaviors and emotions? Is it possible that we are all capable of evil, and that those who are deemed "good" just have more emotional control?

And then there's the problem with that description: it makes it sound like I liked the film. At this point I don't know what to make of it. It was beautiful, and yet it was ugly. I want to love it and I want to hate it. Which is probably exactly what Von Trier wanted when he made it. Its still haunting me to the moment; the images of She walking through the forest, in a fluid slow-motion that makes it look as if she were floating, remain in my mind as I look out of my window at the overcast sky.
I'm impressed by von Trier's dedication to the extreme darkness of the film, and for turning his depression into art rather than self-destruction. Antichrist may just be one of the most incredible films I have ever seen. Its left me in a state of malaise, which of course meant it did its job. I don't think I'll ever get over this one.

Monday, October 26, 2009

"Let the Wild Rumpus Begin": Where the Wild Things Are (2009)


This weekend I had the pleasure of seeing Where the Wild Things Are in my favorite (i.e.:closest) local theatre, Palace Pointe in Roxboro. Needless to say there were plenty of small children present; I guess that's the consequence of buying a ticket for a so-called "kid's movie." Where the Wild Things Are was a fantastic movie, one of the year's best so far (I'd put it above District 9, but below Inglourious Basterds and Up) and Spike Jonze is now 3-for-3 in crafting superbly whimsical movies. However, this was definately not a "kid's movie;" in fact, it was one of the most mature movies I have seen all year.
I hate calling it mature. It makes it sound dirty, as if there's inappropriate content in it that children should avoid. With the exception of one (bloodless) on-screen dismemberment, there was nothing in this movie that could be found inappropriate. I say its mature in that the themes of this film are decidedly adult and are aimed at adults, rather than having potty humor and messages like most "family" movies these days (I keep using quotations for a reason, but that's a completely different discussion for another day). And judging by the reactions of the children in the audience, these themes were definately aimed at the parents.
In interviews, Spike Jonze has said that this is not a movie for kids, but rather a movie about being a kid. And he succeeded in that. The film wonderfully captures the magic and wonder that comes with the innocence of childhood, and indeed had me reflecting nostalgically on my days in Moultrie, Georgia, digging a six-foot hole in the ground for no reason other than to find out what was underneath. And there's also the obvious theme of getting along in a dysfunctional family, as the Wild Things bicker and fight with each other over any small offence.
However, I noticed two other themes hiding underneath the surface. Where the Wild Things Are serves as a metaphor for our current state of the world. In one scene, Max's teacher tells the class that one day the sun will blow up, and everyone on Earth will die. Not a day goes by that we don't wake up in the morning with the news telling us how we're going to die today: H1N1, terrorist attacks, military quagmires in the Middle East and so on. In our post-9/11 world, there's always a sense of dread hanging over everyday life, a feeling of paranoia towards outsiders. The film shows Max running away to the land of the Wild Things, and by doing so embodying our own personal want to escape from the calamity of the world. The film provides an escape from that atmosphere into one where fear is resolved, where disasters don't strike: its a simpler world, the world of...a child. It's easy to understand why this is meant for adults: most of the film's (re: Warner Brothers') intended audience probably hadn't even been born when 9/11 happened, and in no way could comprehend this desire.
Then, in the land of the Wild Things, an even sneakier metaphor comes in. When Max meets the Wild Things, they make him their king, since he promised to make sure nothing bad ever happened, to reunite KW with the rest of them, and to make all the sadness go away. At first everything is fantastic, as everyone at least pretends to be enthusiastic about the new king. But as time goes on, some of the Wild Things grow unhappy with Max's rule, especially since he hasn't done all he promised. As Max becomes less superhuman and more falliable to them, they lose their faith in him, which leads to his departure from their island.
Sound familiar?
When put that way, its easy to substitute Max with the Obama administration. Obama arrived on the political scene in his campaign promising to fix the nation's woes, and the people enthusiastically voted him into office (I was among them). For his first few months he remained our White Knight, but as time moved on, more and more people have become dissatisfied with his policies, and griped about how the "change" and "hope" he promised has yet to arrive (I could rant in his defense, but again, another time). Where the Wild Things Are provides a cautionary tale on the future of his presidency: even though he tries his hardest to make changes for the better, the dissatisfaction of the public could force him to leave.
Never thought a movie based on a children's book could be so dense, did you?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Ridiculously Early Oscar Predictions!: October 2009

Its that time of the year again. Personally, of all the seasons, my favorite is award season (fall-winter). And of the awards, the Oscars reign supreme. And so, its time for my early Oscar predictions. I haven't seen many of the contending films, mostly because no one has. These are built on buzz alone; soon, though, I'll be checking them out, and next month I'll have a revised list of nominees, leading up to the big announcement in February (side note: why, Academy, must you punish me by making me wait 2 extra weeks for the nomination announcements? My heart is breaking...). Best Picture An Education The Hurt Locker Precious The Lovely Bones Up Up in the Air Invictus Nine A Serious Man Inglourious Basterds Best Director Clint Eastwood, Invictus Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker Lee Daniels, Precious Jason Reitman, Up in the Air Peter Jackson, The Lovely Bones Best Actor George Clooney, Up in the Air Morgan Freeman, Invictus Daniel Day-Lewis, Nine Viggo Mortenson, The Road Michael Stuhlberg, A Serious Man Best Actress Meryl Streep, Julie & Julia Carey Mulligan, An Education Gabourey Sidibe, Precious Abbie Cornish, Bright Star Hilary Swank, Amelia Best Supporting Actor Alfred Molina, An Education Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds Stanley Tucci, The Lovely Bones Richard Gere, Amelia Richard Kind, A Serious Man Best Supporting Actress Mo'Nique, Precious Anna Kendrick, Up in the Air Marion Cotillard, Nine Julianne Moore, A Single Man Susan Sarandon, The Lovely Bones

Monday, October 5, 2009

Tarantino, Michael Bluth, and Other Joys

It's been an exciting weekend for me, as far as movies go. Friday night I got to see Zombieland and Jennifer's Body in a horror-comedy double feature with Kimi. Like any good horror film, both had interesting ideas and hidden meanings, though I feel like I may be overthinking some of them.
Zombieland had a pretty simple concept to it: a goofy-awkward guy pairs up with a gung-ho, Twinkie-obsessed modern cowboy to survive in a post-zombie-apocalypse landscape, and are eventually joined by two sisters. Trust amongst these survivors is thin: they use there destinations as their names and are constantly watching each other's moves (for good reason). However, they make a hilarious dysfunctional group, particularly Woody Harrelson's Tallahassee and Jesse Eisenberg's neurotic Columbus (honestly, he feels like a Woody Allen character dropped into Dawn of the Dead; perhaps Allen and Eisenberg should team up sometime....), whose zombie survival tips appear in print on screen throughout the movie. The interesting thing is the presence of Abigail Breslin: she is maturing into a truly talented actress, and in this, she's young enough to enjoy a roller coaster but old enough to help with driving. Zombieland is a clever and hilarious movie that both satirizes and reveres the zombie genre. And by the way, the cameo appearance halfway through is to die for.
Jennifer's Body, on the other hand, was something completely different; it was more like a cautionary tale against falling for the hot mean girl in high school because she is, you know, truly evil. Coming from the mind of Diablo Cody, it should be no surprise that all of the characters talk with the same hip, indie-cool lingo that was so prominent in Juno. This time, however, it doesn't seem so natural; only Needy, played by Amanda Seyfried, really pulls it off, and even then, she is no Ellen Page. Megan Fox, as Jennifer, feels like she's just being herself, which kind of helps the movie in its own way. In fact, she plays a literal man-eating demon girl a little too well. The movie reveres and pokes fun at traditional bump-in-the-night horror films, with Cody's well-structured script (but don't expect Oscar nominations) and Karyn Kusama's serviceable direction. It's notable the film has so many major female players when the horror genre itself is supported mostly by female audiences. Jennifer's Body's biggest fault, however, is it's clunky set-up: would a girl like Needy and a girl like Jennifer really be best friends? And, although Low Shoulder, an indie rock band planning to sacrifice a virgin to Satan to gain fame, is hilariously dimwitted, are we really expected to believe that they would believe someone who looks like Megan Fox is a virgin when innocent, nerdy-looking Needy is standing right next to her? Come on!

Now, apart from my personal movie viewing, the weekend provided exciting production news. First, Quentin Tarantino has announced that he will be making Kill Bill Vol. 3, as you can read here: http://www.hitfix.com/articles/2009-10-5-quentin-tarantino-confirms-kill-bill-vol-3-but-who-s-left-to-kill. I like the idea of using Copperhead's daughter, Nikki, but please, for the love of all that is holy, DO NOT MAKE HER THE PROTAGONIST!!! Keep the focus on Beatrix, maybe using Nikki as a way of exploring the consequences and loose ends of exacting her revenge. Hopefully Tarantino will keep the kung-fu-movie aesthetic that made the first two films (in my opinion, his best) so good. And, in what would be a fanboy's (re: me) dream, how great would it be to have Nikki and Bebe face off in a vengeful fight to the death?
My other source of joy and joyness is the announcement that the Arrested Development movie is FINALLY getting made. Being a devoted fan of the series, I'm very glad that everyone is coming back to do the movie, especially since some of them (Jason Bateman, Michael Cera, Will Arnett) have found film success. Seeing the Bluths on screen again would absolutely make my life, and according to Total Film (http://www.totalfilm.com/news/arrested-development-film-closer-to-reality?cid=OTC-RSS&attr=news), Mitchell Hurwitz, the series' creator, his hoping to start production in spring 2010. After five years away from the Bluths, its good to know they're finally coming back. And, as a personal note, they had better keep Ron Howard's narration.
And, just for kicks, here's a link to the greatest films never made, many of which I would have loved to see: http://entertainment.uk.msn.com/movies/galleries/gallery.aspx?cp-documentid=13969863.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Shameless Musical Promotion

This summer, music sucked. Dave Matthews Band released a great, joyful album in Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King, and Eminem had a respectable release in Relapse (though his attempts at humor grew a little stale a little too fast); the Black-Eyed Peas, on the other hand, reached radio ubiquity with a disappointing The E.N.D.: though "Boom Boom Pow" was inventive (but obnoxiously overplayed) and "I Gotta Feeling" was the album highlight, too many songs sounded exactly like the song before it. Overall, the summer releases just didn't have the requisite heat, and my music listening reverted back to old favorites rather than new tracks. Thankfully, fall is here to save the day. With September coming to a close, this month saw the release of three wonderful new albums, which I am here to encourage you to listen to. They're not necessarily obscure artists; most were much-anticipated releases. But I hope you all give them a chance to be heard, as good music is finally back. The Resistance, Muse: This is the album I have not been able to stop listening to since I downloaded it. To be honest, I wasn't a huge fan of Muse before; their music was good, but there was never really anything too distinct about them to me other than they had a much more symphonic production than most of their fellow alt-rockers. On The Resistance, though, Muse released an album thats not so much a collection of songs so much as it is a alternative symphony, casting Muse as a modern-day Queen in a concept album with a story that resembles George Orwell's 1984. My personal favorite tracks are "Resistance" and "United States of Eurasia," which is equal parts piano concerto and fist-pumping rocker with some Oriental melodics thrown in for good measure; it's essentially Muse's "Bohemian Rhapsody". Don't let the band's Twilight affiliation deter you; The Resistance is much better than anything associate with Bella and her sparkly bloodsuckers. Check out "United States of Eurasia" here:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Ok0expLH1o The Blueprint 3, Jay-Z: Pretty much just what you'd expect from the best rapper alive (sorry Wayne). After the fantastic American Gangster album, Jay-Z follows up with the second sequel to The Blueprint, and it doesn't fail to prove that he's still at the top of his game. My favorite tracks are, apart from first singles "Run This Town" and "D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune)", "Empire State of Mind", in which he and Alicia Keys wax rhapsodic about his native NYC, and "Young Forever", which samples Alphaville's "Forever Young" (a song I never thought I'd care about now) and offers Jigga's most introspective rhymes yet. Jay-Z has reinvented himself with this one by staying consistantly himself, which is all one can ask for. "Young Forever:"http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VTdFqNrwgEU Man on the Moon: The End of Day, Kid Cudi: Simply the best rap debut since Kanye West's The College Dropout. Cudi introduces himself as a stoner rap pioneer, with his singles "Day 'n' Night" and "Make Her Say" already hits, but the rest of the disc is equally incredible. His beats are inventive and original, and if it does sound familiar, its because he helped produce West's 808s and Heartbreak last year. But Cudi establishes his own distinctive identity, and is never better than on "Up, Up, and Away (The Wake & Bake Song)", a joyful ode to not caring about what anyone says. A wonderful mix of rap, ambient, and punk, Kid Cudi has carved a niche for himself as one of the best rappers in the game today. "Up, Up and Away:"http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qRPpLGxGNZY Comment and let me know what you think.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Emmy Reflections 2009

This is a little late, I know, but with school work taking up most of my free time (along with my decision not to live-blog the event), I just haven't yet been able to get around to this. Personally, the delay has given me extra time to think about what happened that night, and decide what I really thought. Emmy's smartest move of the night: separating the show into separate genres, saving best comedy and best drama for last. Keep that idea! It should be noted, however, due to my limited resources, I will only comment on comedy and drama separately, giving notes on the other categories together. Host: Poor Neil Patrick Harris. He was obviously trying his hardest up there, but they obviously didn't give him much to work with. He was saved however by that classic NPH charm, and I personally was hoping he'd show off some of the magic tricks he knows. Anyway, its safe to say he was much better than the reality-host-nominees-as-Emmy-hosts disaster from last year. Variety/Music/Reality/Miniseries/Movie - Little Dorrit was a shocker to me, namely because I always assumed HBO was invincible in the miniseries category. But good for PBS for winning. - Of course Grey Gardens won made for TV movie. Who thought it wouldn't? - I'm glad The Daily Show with Jon Stewart won for the umpteenth time, but The Amazing Race too? Really? - Robot Chicken deserves an Animated Program Emmy. Give it one. Comedy - I'm really glad that Kristen Chenowith won Best Supporting Actress for playing Olive Snook in Pushing Daisies. Let that be a reminder to you, ABC, that you cancelled a truly brilliant show. The category as a whole was very strong this year; the only one I wouldn't really like to have won would be Vanessa Williams (decent performance in an overrated show). - Congratulations on winning Best Supporting Actor, Jon Cryer. He truly is the heart of Two and a Half Men, and its great to see his performance recognized. However, who really deserved to win? Jack McBrayer: how could you not love his ultra-naive Kenneth the Page (complete with Muppetvision)? - Saturday Night Live was on spot this year, with both Justin Timberlake and Tina Fey winning Guest Actor and Guest Actress, respectively, for their incredibly funny performances on the show, particularly Fey as Sarah Palin. - I thought for sure that Tina Fey or Mary-Louise Parker would win Best Actress, but Toni Collette? A part of me thinks I need to investigate United States of Tara to see why she pulled this one off. The most surprising thing here is the lack of the Desperate Housewives cast: there's not a single one to be seen. - Alec Baldwin's win was what I thought would happen originally, but as the awards drew closer, I began to think that Jim Parsons would pull an upset for The Big Bang Theory. I am glad Alec Baldwin won, though, not only because he's truly brilliant in 30 Rock but also because he's not Tony Shaloub. - 30 Rock accounted for 4 of the 5 writing nominees; of course it won (sorry Flight of the Concords, but you never stood a chance). - 30 Rock won Best Comedy for the third year in a row, which is perfectly fine by me. What makes me happiest is that the unfunny, incoherent mess of an excuse for a comedy that is Family Guy did not win. Honestly, it didn't even deserve the nomination. Here's hoping its never nominated here again. Drama - Cherry Jones' win for Best Supporting Actress in 24 is notable in that it was 24's only major nomination in the drama categories this year. Also, as a slight side note, they missed the best supporting performance of the year in not nominated the glorious Allison Pill for In Treatment. She was heartbreaking. She deserves to win. - Thank God Michael Emerson was finally recognized! His Ben Linus on Lost is consistently one of the best performances on the show, and he is easily one of the creepiest villians of all time in any medium. I was convinced they would reward William Shatner for hamming it up on the mediocre-to-abysmal Boston Legal; maybe there is justice in the world. - The guest spots this year were interesting but not revolutionary: Ellen Burstyn won Guest Actress for Law & Order: SVU, and Michael J. Fox won Guest Actor for Rescue Me (which is absolutely fantastic, but he pretty much had the Emmy locked up the moment he rolled on screen). It is curious, however, that Fox's win is the first Emmy to be earned by Rescue Me, which has been consistently good over the last five seasons. It needs more recognition than that.... - Glenn Close won Best Actress for the second year in a row for her role in Damages. This was a great year for actresses on television, but this category was full of familiar faces with multiple nominations. I think its time for this category to let in some fresh faces, such as Friday Night Light's Connie Britton or Dollhouse's Eliza Dushku. - In a stunning upset, Best Actor went to Bryan Cranston for Breaking Bad instead of Jon Hamm for Mad Men! Sound familiar? Its the exact same thing that happened last year. I haven't seen Breaking Bad (yet), and I'm sure Cranston's phenomenal, but what's it going to take to get Hugh Laurie an Emmy for playing House, easily the most interesting character in a medical show ever? Or Michael C. Hall for his creepily sympathetic turn in Dexter, for that matter? And surely they didn't intentionally overlook Gabriel Byrne's graceful performance in In Treatment? It was certainly a crowded year, with every nominee (except Simon Baker) deserving a win. - Just like in comedy, the Dramatic Writing category was consisted of only two shows: one nomination for Lost, and the remaining four for Mad Men. Mad Men won, of course, but the winner should have been Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse for the fantastic episode of Lost entitled "The Incident." It's one of Lost's finest episodes, and deserved to be honored as such. - If you haven't gotten it by now, I am a Lost fanatic. And so it's understandable why I was disappointed when Lost, just like last year, didn't take home it's second Best Drama Emmy (here's hoping it happens next year for the final season). Mad Men won again, making it two-for-two all time in this category, despite never having an acting winner. To be honest, I didn't think it would win this year. If not Lost, I was hoping House or Dexter would take the prize, but I predicted AMC would still win this category with Breaking Bad. Lesson learned: never bet against advertisement agents who enjoy drinking and sexually harassing their female coworkers in the 1960s.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Fall '09 Movies: Cheers, Fears, and Unclears Part Two

So yesterday I posted the movies coming out this fall that I am most excited. However, due to my obnoxious homework and time restraints, I never had time to complete that post, hence why it is now in two parts. This one will cover my fears (the movies I'm dreading the release of) and the unclears (movies that I'm on the fence about). Fears -All About Steve, expected 9/4: Ok, I get it. Romantic comedies appeal to a specific audience that just happens to love them. I have nothing against the genre. But this just seems sad. A movie about a crossword editor that falls in love with a reporter and then stalks him accross the country? No thanks. I would like to point out that I have never been a fan of Sandra Bullock. Her performances are way too heavy-handed, and she usually plays the same character over and over, in my opinion. This one is different for her, I admit; but where the character is supposed to come off as eccentric, Bullock seems way too creepy, like the crazy girl who needs to be institutionalized immediately. I fail to see the romance or the comedy in this one. And honestly, this poster alone ruined it for me.

-Any one of the myriad horror movies: There's plenty of slasher/torture porn this year. From Sorority Row (9/11) to Pandorum (9/18) to The Stepfather (10/16) to Saw VI (10/23) to The Fourth Kind (11/6, this one has the nerve to call itself a true story too), its just another year of crappy horror films meant to scare teenagers and offer little else. Of the movies I listed, only two are originals; the others are remakes (with the exception of Saw VI; as a personal note, the Saw franchise needs to go away, ASAP). There's no real reason to be excited about any of these.
-Capitalism: A Love Story, due 9/23: I'm one of the few liberals, I think, who despises Michael Moore. His causes are usually noble ones; namely, exposing different government agencies and industries that are corrupt and in need of fixing. However, this doesn't excuse the fact that his "documentaries" can hardly count as fair, much less worth watching. In this one, as he takes on Wall Street, I expect audiences will see him mugging for the camera, interviewing people with the intent to make them look like idiots, all while using his usual "aw gee, I'm just a normal guy" schtick to make us feel like we're being shafted. I don't mind exposing the truth, but when you're a rich documentarian who can go anywhere and do just about anything he pleases, don't tell me you're a champion of the people. Knowing just how much money he's going to make from this one is reason enough to miss this one.
-2012, due 11/6: It's bad enough that people actually think the world is going to end on December 21, 2012. Since when have the Mayans been in charge of the fate of the world? Isn't it possible that they just stopped their calendar? And, least we forget, their entire civilization was wiped out by the Spanish centuries ago. Not exactly earning them credibility points. What makes this movie worse is that it's all about special effects and the destruction of as many global landmarks as hack director Roland Emmerich (he of Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow fame) can possibly fit between snipits of "plot." There seems to be some kind of ark, and there's a Bentley driving out of an airplane, according to the trailer. Personally, it seems very been-there, blown-that-up. In fact, this spoof trailer looks better than the movie actually does: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZW2qxFkcLM0
-The Twilight Saga: New Moon, due 11/20: Honestly, I could write a book about how much I despise Twilight and all of its spawn. But there's just not enough time for that, and I don't feel like wasting any time on this.
-Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel, due 12/25: 'Nuff said.
Unclears
-Jennifer's Body, due 9/18: It does have some good things going for it: Megan Fox in what feels like a parody of herself, the wonderful Amanda Seyfried, a gloriously campy trailer and a script from Diablo Cody. Against it, though, is the fact that it is indeed a horror movie, and I fear that it will fall into the usual horror tropes. Plus, I'm sad that Cody is doing the typical female-Oscar-winner-does-horror-as-follow-up thing. It's supposed to be a gory metaphor for high school sexuality; if it maintains a certain camp factor, then it could be a great B-movie.
-Amelia, due 10/23: It's exciting to see Mira Nair doing an epic biopic like this, but it feels a little too much like a female version of The Aviator. Its certainly glorifying Amelia Earhart, an undoubtedly interesting character; but I'm not a big fan of Hilary Swank. I feel like her performances are a little too forced, like she's refusing to let the character come to a complete life. And, this is a personal opinion, I think she robbed Annette Bening and Kate Winslet of an Oscar in 1999 and 2004, respectively. I may go see this one, but unless I see some more impressive footage, I may not.
-Antichrist, due 10/23: I've never seen a Lars von Trier movie, and from what I understand he is a very hit-or-miss director. However, this one got a lot of buzz at Cannes, and the trailer that I've seen for it looks creepy. If it has a deep psychological element to it, this could be a great modern horror film. If that creepiness gets too bizarre, though, I doubt I'll find it exhilerating.
-A Christmas Carol, due 11/6: I saw the last two films Robert Zemekis made with his motion-capture technology (The Polar Express and Beowulf), and I found them likable enough (though I must add that this being his third movie like this, with a fourth, a remake of Yellow Submarine, on the way, he's getting a little obsessed with this). He's supposedly fixed the whole "dead eyes" problem, and Jim Carrey as Ebeneezer Scrooge and all three ghosts should be a blast to watch. Still, I've just got a strange feeling about this one. The trailer hasn't entirely convinced me yet, as you can see here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YV7SwUmSuvc
-The Princess and the Frog, due 11/25: Disney returns to the 2D animated musical with this retelling of the classic fairy tale, setting it in New Orleans. It looks like a well-made movie, and will hopefully serve as a reminder that in our increasingly 3D world, 2D can still tell a great story (assuming, of course, this has a great story). The casting of Anika Noni Rose is inspired (she was dreadfully overlooked in Dreamgirls), and the music sounds as vibrant as the Ninth Ward at Mardi Gras. My only fear is that it will play way too flat, and end up being a stinker. And might I go ahead and wonder why its taken this long for Disney's "Princess Club" to finally get an African-American member?
-Avatar, due 12/18: Yeah, yeah, I know. It's James Cameron's sci-fi masterpiece. It's revolutionary in its effects process. It's going to change the way movies are made forever. It's the best movie ever made in the history of time. It's going to be the biggest movie in the history of the world. But after watching the first trailer, and shifting through the ridiculous amount of hype surrounding it, I can honestly say that I still have no idea what's going on. It looks like a great effects movie, and I don't deny this process is revolutionary. But at the end of the day, does it have any semblence of a story? And is the acting any good at all, or does that even matter? I can't say I'm going to be first in line for this one; if I do see it, I'm approaching with caution.
So there you have it. See you at the movies. Expect a pretty steady stream of reviews as I get around to seeing this films.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Fall '09 Movies: Cheers, Fears, and Unclears, Part One

The summer's over, which means its that time of the year again: fall, when all of the studios roll out their Oscar fare in hopes of big box office and major awards. This season is no exception, though it has had a few surprises already (most notable: Shutter Island's move to February 2010. Maybe Paramount's hoping for a Silence of the Lambs-esque run at the 2010 Oscars? Or maybe there's just little faith that it will be completely ready for October? Who knows...). However, for me, the beginning of September is way too early to start predicting the Oscars- I'll do that towards December- but it is just the right time to give my preview of the movies I'm most looking foward to, the ones I wish would not get made, and the films that I'm really uncertain about. Let the previewing begin!
CHEERS
- 9, expected 9/9: I have to admit, when I first saw the trailer for this one, I wasn't completely sure about it. The Tim Burton-producing credit excited me (the Timur Bekmambetov-producing credit, not so much), and the cast seemed respectable, but it seemed just a tad too...strange. A bunch of ragdoll-like creatures running around an apocalyptic landscape with mechanical rodent-things chasing them? Really? But after watching Shane Acker's short film of the same name, I was won over. It appears that 9 is set to be an incredibly original film, and with a PG-13 rating, its certainly not aimed at the family crowd. I'm hoping this lives up to my creative expectations, and becomes another great entry in what has so far been a fantastic year for animated movies.
-The Informant!, expected 9/18: Matt Damon. Steven Soderbergh. Comedy. It feels like a lost Coen Brothers movie, and the trailer alone had me laughing out loud. And in this tough economy, a film where the average man has both the government and the company in his control ought to play well. And how can you say no to a film with a poster like this?
-Surrogates, expected 9/25: I'll admit it right now: I'm a sci-fi nerd. Well, sort-of. When it looks well-made and has a certain level of creativity to it, I'll get excited about it. And if there's something metaphorical or allegorical to it, even better. Surrogates, to me at least, carries a certain relevance in it's idea of people living their lives through robots rather than doing so themselves; we as a culture are constantly finding "lazier" ways of accomplishing simple, everyday tasks, and if the possibility of surrogate living ever were to emerge, I wouldn't be surprised to see people jump on board quickly. Hopefully, the film itself will live up to its big ideas, but it looks intense, and the effects are high quality, so I'm not too worried about it.
-A Serious Man, expected 10/2: Honestly, I get excited anytime the Coen Brothers do a movie. They especially excel at dark comedy, which this one definately is. The trailer doesn't reveal too much, just traditional Coen humor. Which, to me, is reason enough to look foward to this one.
-Zombieland, expected 10/9: This looks like the madcap, gonzo zombie comedy we've all been looking foward to. Turning zombie-killing into a sport as well as a way of survival, this looks like an entertaining, bloody film. Hopefully some creative zombie deaths are in store, and with a wonderful cast featuring Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg and Abigail Breslin (!), there will be big laughs too.
-New York, I Love You, expected 10/16: Back in 2007, I fell in love with Paris, Je T'aime, a collection of short films from various directors shot around (and about) Paris. The film captured many different people in different situations, and alternated between humorous, heartbreaking, and fantastic. It was a celebration of life, of humanity, of filmmaking, and, of course, of Paris. NY, ILY is the "sequel," and with a cast the features Bradley Cooper, Natalie Portman, Shia Labouf, Julie Christie, Anton Yelchin, Chris Cooper, Andy Garcia, and Ethan Hawke, and directors such as Mira Nair, Shekar Kapur, Brett Ratner, Joshua Marston, and Natalie Portman (her directing debut), I'm hopeful that this one will match the joy of its predecessor.
-The Road, expected 10/16: Please, for the love of God, let this be good! The Cormac McCarthy novel on which its based is wonderful, possibly the best book I've ever read. The casting of Viggo Mortensen as the man is very exciting, and John Hillcoat is an inspired choice for a director. This image from the film gives me hope that this will be the devestatingly personal post-apocolyptic thriller it should be:
This, however, worries me: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EHYZ7xDyBEw
-Where the Wild Things Are, expected 10/16: Finally! Spike Jonze's troubled production seems to have resulted in what is shaping up to be a hip, indie family movie that will tickle the imagination, warm the heart, and make us all feel like children again. Jonze's shown that he can work fantastical comedy before (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation), and he seems right at home here. Bonus points for using The Arcade Fire's "Wake Up" in the trailers. -Precious, expected 11/6: I'm ready to feel like crap after seeing this one. The story centers on an illiterate, overweight Harlem teenager who's dealing with a second unwanted pregnancy and a home life that could literally kill her. Mo'nique has gotten raves for her performance as the girl's abusive mother, and Mariah Carey shows up in a role that is surprisingly subdued. It looks like powerful stuff, though maybe not feel-good stuff. -Fantastic Mr. Fox, expected 11/9: I love Wes Anderson. Despite what many people said, I loved The Darjeeling Limited. I found it to be a humorous story of spiritual discovery and family bonding. And Fantastic Mr. Fox, based on a Roand Dahl book, should include subtlely funny performances from its wonderful cast (George Clooney, Meryl Steep, Owen Wilson, Bill Murray) through '70s-style stop-motion animation. This looks like another Anderson classic.
-Broken Embraces, expected 11/20: There are certain directors out there who have one actor who really gets him, and they end up collaborating in one fantastic movie after another. Martin Scorsese had Robert De Niro (and later Leonardo DiCaprio), Woody Allen had Diane Keaton, and Pedro Almodovar has Penelope Cruz. This is their fourth film together, and perhaps their most personal: Cruz plays an actress who grows close to the filmmaker she idolizes. I'm looking foward to this one to be another great entry into the Almodovar-Cruz anthology.
-Nine, expected 11/25: There are plenty of reasons to be excited about this one. It's a musical based on Federico Fellini's 8 1/2. It centers around a film director and his relationships with the women around him. Those women are Marion Cotillard (so great in Public Enemies earlier this year), Penelope Cruz, Nicole Kidman, Judi Dench, Sophia Loren, Kate Hudson, and Fergie. It's directed by Rob Marshall (Chicago). And perhaps most intriguing of all: the director is played by none other than Daniel Day-Lewis, who, according to early reports, is actually a really good singer. We'll see about that.
-Brothers, expected 12/4: This one seems like a much smaller film compared to most on this list, despite the fact that it features Jake Gyllanhaal, Tobey Maguire and Natalie Portman. It centers on two brothers, one of whom supposedly dies in Afghanistan. The other brother then moves in with his brother's widow, only to see him return. This looks like the makings of a good drama that seems grounded in a reality of war: when you're presumed dead, how do you handle your world moving on? The fact that it's directed by Jim Sheridan (In America) helps.
-Invictus, expected 12/11: This is the story of Nelson Mandela in the early years of his presidency in South Africa, as the nation was still struggling with its aparteid past and centers on the nation's upset rugby victory in 1995. Morgan Freeman and Clint Eastwood reunite for this one, though this time Eastwood is strictly behind the camera. I'm excited about this one because I'm a big fan of Eastwood, especially as a director.
-The Lovely Bones, expected 12/11: Or, Peter Jackson's return to his pre-LOTR roots. The story of a girl who is raped and murdered, then watches the lives of those around her from heaven, seems like the kind of dark territory Jackson treaded with Heavenly Creatures. And the fact that he has the WETA effects team behind him means there will be some wonderful heaven scenes. I'm hoping this one will be as good as his LOTR films and King Kong.
-Sherlock Holmes, expected 12/25: This reboot of the famous detective isn't your average Holmes: he's now a martial-arts expert on top of brilliant deducer. Guy Ritchie (Snatch) directs, and Jude Law and Rachel McAdams show up in supporting roles. But the real draw here is the charismatic Robert Downey Jr. as Holmes. Honestly, I can't say that I'd really be that interested in this one if he wasn't involved.
-The Tree of Life, expected 12/25: I'm not entirely sure of what the plot of this one is, nor am I sure that it will actually be any good. I do know that it's a fantasy epic starring Brad Pitt and Sean Pitt. And the fact that its only been three years since Terrence Malick's last film (The New World) rather than a decade or two is always welcome.
Part Two will feature the fears, or the films that I'm dreading the release of, and the unclears, the films that I'm kinda hyped about but not really sure if I want to see....yet.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Praising Michael C. Hall

Recently, I have been watching a DVD set of Six Feet Under (I know, I know, I'm way behind on my quality TV watching...but a lot of such shows were unavailable to me until recently. Before now, I was only left with network TV, with my beloved Lost, House, and now-cancelled Pushing Daisies. Forgive me.). I'm only on season one so far, but I'm loving the fantastic blend of reality and surreality, dark humor and drama. This is coming straight off of watching the first two seasons of Dexter, which, by the way, is perhaps one of the greatest shows currently on TV, I have become amazed and enraptured by the wonderful Michael C. Hall. I first became aware of Hall through Dexter. I had always wanted to check out the show, but without a Showtime subscription, I was never able to watch it. However, in discovering the joys of watch instantly on Netflix, I decided to give the show a try. I finished the first two seasons within two weeks. The show, though incredibly well-written with a fantastic supporting cast, at it's heart is all about Dexter and, more specifically, Hall's masterfully charismatic performance. Hall nails exactly what you expect from a serial killer of Dexter's level: he's unbelievably likable, carrying an aura of innocence underscored by a sinister wickedness (or is it the other way around?). He's a CSI- more specifically, a blood spatter analyst- and a family man- his girlfriend's kids love him- and a gentleman, but when he kills he unleashes a viciousness that is surprisingly....relatable. In Dexter, the audience can feel the release of all the stresses and bottled emotions that we hide, and through his kills we get to live our own dark (metaphorical, I hope) fantasies. And Hall becomes that Everyman for us, and gives a performance that has the hallmark of all great performance: the line between character and actor disappears to the point that they are indistinguishable; the actor becomes the character. After watching Dexter, I decided to pick up Six Feet Under, where, I later discovered, Hall made his screen debut (this same research also resulted in my discovering that he is a Raleigh, North Carolina native and that he is a Ravenscroft graduate, a school that I have several friends at). His character in SFU, David Fischer, shares several characteristics with Dexter: he is tightly wound, with a lot of pint-up feelings in need of a release. He is also very business-oriented, this with a funeral home rather than killing (though the death theme seems to follow him), and he isn't exactly an expert at handling relationships. The major differences here, though, is that Dave is much more open about some of his feelings, and his big secret that he tries to hide from his loved ones is not that he's a serial killer, but that he is gay. And Hall takes that role on full-force. His portrayal of an older closeted gay man is brilliant, never relying on gay sterotypes. He's not a gay man; he's a man who happens to be gay. Though the show makes a big deal out of the fact that Dave is gay, Hall never plays it as if its too major of an issue; Dave is uncomfortable with certain people knowing, but he is comfortable with himself (to an extent) and with his boyfriends. It takes a true gift to bring such a layered gay character to such vibrant life, and Hall truly has that gift. For my last remark, I would like to say that I'm going to return to my Six Feet Under, pray that season 3 of Dexter will start streaming soon, and wonder why Hall's movie career has to start with a movie like Gamer, in which I'm sure he will be the only thing worth watching.