Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Whoa...

Check out this story from Movieline, in which apparently James Cameron and the producers of Piranha 3D are apparently feuding about the uses of 3D technology. This is the full transcript of their back-and-forth so far. And I love this zinger from producer Mark Canton: "Technology aside, I wish Avatar had been more original in its storytelling." Bazinga!
PWNED!
Your move, Mr. Cameron.

EGOT

As a close for the month of August, Cinema Blend created this nifty illustration of all of the EGOT winners so far. For the record, I find it bizarre that Liza Minelli and Barbara Streisand don't have a competitive Grammy and a Tony, respectively, considering how famous they are for those very mediums. What is this world coming to?
Another thing that's been on my mind in the wake of the Emmys: how odd is it that Mad Men has three Best Drama Emmys and is routinely called the best show on television (when Breaking Bad isn't carrying that mantle), not a single actor on the show has won yet? Jon Hamm is shooting 0-for-3, as is John Slattery, and this past year it seemed certain that one of the women on the show would finally get a win (i.e., Christina Hendricks)? I personally think a lot of that comes from the fact that the Emmys are never an accurate depiction of TV's best, and one day someone on Mad Men will win way past their prime. Plus, Bryan Cranston has to lose eventually, right?

Red Riding Trilogy (2010)

The trick with this film is that each film is actually a greater part of the whole, and so the same will be with my review: rather than have a separate post for each film, I'm combining my reviews into a single post. This is for the sake of clarity both for you and for me.
1974
For those of you who haven't heard of the Red Riding Trilogy, the films are based on the books by David Pearce, which are themselves based on the Yorkshire Ripper killings that plagued the northern English countryside during the 1970s. In the first installment, 1974, reporter Eddie Dunford (newly-minted Spider-Man Andrew Garfield) investigates the murders, even though no one wants to talk about them: the families of the victims are insulted by his desire to talk to them about what happened, and the police brutally demonstrate their contempt for his investigations. What he uncovers, though, is far more than he had expected.
Two films kept coming to mind as I watched this film: All the President's Men (content) and, more significantly, Zodiac (both in narrative and in style). Director Julian Jarrold (Kinky Boots, Brideshead Revisited) presents northern England as a gloomy, foggy world, a perfect metaphor for the film's themes of government corruption and cover-ups. There are several beautifully shot sequences, especially a scene in which Eddie arrives at the destruction of a gypsy camp hidden within the fog, and Jarrold seems to borrow from David Fincher's superb atmospherics in Zodiac (that's a compliment). And make no mistake, this is no rote genre film: the story crackles with intensity, and the various twists and turns are presented in a fresh way.
The cast is all-around terrific, with Sean Bean playing a shady developer and Rebecca Hall as a grieving mother, but this is Garfield's show, and he gives one of the most magnificent performances put to screen this year. Ever determined to find the truth, Eddie could have been just another sacrificial lamb of a character, but Garfield plays him with subtlety and grace, turning him into a worldly and all-too-believable character. And with Never Let Me Go and The Social Network coming later this year, this should be a big year for him. I can't wait to see his next film.
There's a line toward the middle of the film when Eddie follows up on a lead with a woman in a mental hospital. When he tells her he's a journalist, she asks, "You tell lies?" to which he quickly responds, "Its the job." The same could be said of the film: lying is just everyone's job, and the lies are as think as the Yorkshire fog.
1980
Six years later, the Ripper killings continue, and things don't seem to be getting much better. The second third of the trilogy picks up with Peter Hunter (Paddy Considine), a detective who's been secretly placed in charge of the killings. He puts together a team to start reviewing the victims, especially since a copycat killer has emerged and someone is attacking people involved in the investigation. All the while, the media is becoming more and more critical of the police, as after six years and multiple leads, the killer has still not been caught.
With this installment directed by James Marsh (Man on Wire), there's a notable change of focus. Its a bit more conventional than 1974, and Marsh's direction doesn't really bring anything new to the films or the genre. But that's not to say that the drama isn't high here. The themes of conspiracy and police scandal continue from the first film, only where in the former film they burned slowly, here things come to a head, climaxing in an inferno that leaves you begging for the finale. Its a slow buildup, with a couple of excess filler scenes (which hurts the film, especially since its the shortest in the series), but the payoff is incredible.
The acting in these films could not be more fantastic. Considine's Peter goes through a similar evolution (or rather devolution) as Eddie in 1974, but here he's not as fresh-eyed. Rather, you can see the fear in Peter's eyes as everything begins to unravel, and Considine makes sure we feel that fear and understand the precarious situation he's found himself in. He's the reluctant center of backstage attention, and as he falls deeper and deeper he becomes more and more desperate to get out. Its a great performance, worthy of comparison to Garfield's in the first.
Is 1980 as excellent as 1974? No, but its still great cinema. This of course is not unusual for the middle chapters of trilogies such as this one: we've already been through the set-up, and we're waiting for the conclusion. But 1980 moves us between these points in an interesting and enjoyable way.
1983
And so we reach the final chapter. This one comes from the point of view of Maurice Jobson (David Morrisey), a police officer from the other two episodes who is suffering from his conscience. There's also a plot about John Piggot (Mark Addy), a public solicitor who looks into the case against a man brought in as the Yorkshire Ripper (the mentally challenged man from 1974). A series of major twists and turns unveils some startling facts, building up to a very satisfying conclusion for the trilogy.
Each film in the trilogy has had a similar theme: disintegration. The Yorkshire Ripper claims plenty of literal victims, but what's interesting about these films is how they focus on the periphrial lives that he took: Eddie in 1974, Peter in 1980, and now not only Maurice and John but the entire West Yorkshire police force as well. And its a marvel to watch the master plot unravel. Credit Anand Tucker's (Hilary & Jackie, Shopgirl) masterful direction for the way all of the film's various ends come together. The film relies heavily on flashback to make sense of everything, and if you haven't paid attention in the previous two segments, then things won't make too much sense.
It's hard to say too much about this film without spoiling it, so I'll only recommend that you take the time to see all three films. Its a powerful series that's not so much about the Yorkshire Ripper himself, but rather the people whose lives he altered, both directly and indirectly.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Emmy Recap: Infuriating, Boring, and a Few Deserving

What a night last night was! Admittedly, I only saw the last 15-20 minutes of the ceremony, thanks to the obnoxious amount of schoolwork I had to get done (most of it some really interesting German philosophy, but that's another discussion). So, having not actually seen what happened, here's last night's big winners.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A MINISERIES/TV MOVIE
Julia Ormond, Temple Grandin
Pretty much what you would have expected, except that I picked Susan Sarandon to win. Oh well. I'm sure she's fine in the film, which I may have to check out someday.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A MINISERIES/TV MOVIE
David Strathairn, Temple Grandin
To the best of my knowledge, this is Strathairn's first EGOT award, so good for him. I think he's a terrific actor when he's given great material, and its nice to finally see him do just that again.
BEST ACTRESS IN A MINISERIES/TV MOVIE
Claire Danes, Temple Grandin
First off, I think I'm in the majority when I say that Danes should already have an Emmy for My So-Called Life. Yay retribution! But seriously, I need to see this movie now, since its won three of the four acting categories for miniseries/TV movie.
Isn't she just cute as a button?
BEST ACTOR IN A MINISERIES/TV MOVIE
Al Pacino, You Don't Know Jack
So far, all of these have been very predictable. Of course Pacino won this, he looks like he is fantastic in the film. I'm a pretty big fan of Pacino: I think he is consistently good in just about everything he does, often elevating what could have been mediocre into something worth watching. I hope he keeps finding interesting things to do.
BEST TV MOVIE
Temple Grandin
Seeing how the film so easily dominated the acting categories (as well as technicals), we all should have seen this one coming. So still nothing surprising.
BEST MINISERIES
The Pacific
Not the dominating force everyone thought it would be, considering it had the most nominations of any program, but like I said before, fellow nominee Return to Cranford didn't stand a chance against it.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A COMEDY SERIES
Jane Lynch, Glee
This one was sealed last year, when Lynch's tour-de-force performance captured everyone's attention. She was consistently one of the best parts of Glee, making even the lesser episodes worth watching. Good for her for picking up the prize. She deserved it.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES
Eric Stonestreet, Modern Family
As my friend Nathaniel R pointed out, the straight man playing the gay man won the gayest category ever. But I'm glad he won. There was not a single episode of Modern Family where Cam didn't make me laugh, and the episode he won for, "Fizbo", was probably one of the greatest comedy achievements of the year. And honestly, I liked most of the nominated performances here, so, with the exception of Jon Cryer, I would have been pleased with any of them.
BEST ACTRESS IN A COMEDY SERIES
Edie Falco, Nurse Jackie
When she won, she declared, "I'm not funny!" That, of course, is the resounding cry of her critics, saying that she and her show should be considered in the drama category. But you can't change it now. Falco is now one of only a few performers to win Emmys for comedy and drama, and you can't really argue with the power of her performance. This was a pretty tough category, and she earned the win.
BEST ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES
Jim Parsons, The Big Bang Theory
Ok, I'm sure there are people out there who saw this one coming. But I was completely convinced that they would give the Emmy to Tony Shalhoub (it would've been his fourth) for the final season of Monk. I've only seen one episode of The Big Bang Theory, and I think its more or less just Two and a Half Men with geeks, but Parsons is a delight, and I don't have any qualms with his win.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A DRAMA SERIES
Archie Panjabi, The Good Wife
When they were voting for the drama categories, there must have been some really weird stuff going on, because some of these just don't make sense. Take Panjabi, for example. Most people were surprised she was even nominated, and discounted her for the win because there was no way she could do it. But here she is, an Emmy winner. I've never seen the show, so I won't pass judgement, but I may have to now to try to understand how she won. Good for her, though.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES
Aaron Paul, Breaking Bad
I've seen Breaking Bad. I like Paul's character, and I think its a stellar performance. Its nice to see him win. But he did not deserve it this year. Terry O'Quinn's performance on Lost was the best one in the category, and arguably the best by anyone this year. He masterfully handled two distinct characters, only slightly letting them overlap to make them even more disturbing than before. How he lost this category is beyond me: maybe it was because of the sci-fi nature of the performance, but you have to recognize brilliance, and that's what O'Quinn was.
BEST ACTRESS IN A DRAMA SERIES
Kyra Sedgwick, The Closer
Was it "her time?" I didn't realize that, and I don't think anyone else did, since everyone else had either Julianna Margulies or Glenn Close for the win. Its good to see the talent Sedgwick finally win an Emmy, but I don't necessarily think she deserves it for this show: she's good, but her material isn't always interesting. Que sera, sera.
BEST ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES
Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad
Now they're just being lazy. Anyone who bothered to watch the submitted episodes would know that Hugh Laurie, Matthew Fox, and especially Michael C. Hall gave better performances this year. Don't get me wrong, Cranston's great in Breaking Bad, but he's already got two awards for it and he just didn't deserve a third this year. Wake up, Emmys! There are other great actors out there!
Smug bastard.
BEST COMEDY SERIES
Modern Family
And so 30 Rock's three-year reign comes to a close. I love the show, but this past season was uneven, and it just wasn't the best comedy on TV this season. That honor deservingly goes to Modern Family, which was funny, heartwarming, and honestly observant of today's world. And let's face it: Glee, though the most popular, just wasn't as consistent as Modern Family was. Maybe that show can be the comeback kids next year, just like New Directions.
BEST DRAMA SERIES
Mad Men
A deserving winner....oh who am I kidding? I like Mad Men, don't get me wrong; I think its probably the best show on television now. But kids, its time for a rant. So get your Jason's-gone-crazy ears on.
How is that after six miraculous seasons, including its phenomenal last season, Lost only won one Emmy this year? What did it win, you ask? Best Picture Editing. That's right: Best. Friggin'. Picture. Editing. Not Best Drama Series, which it most easily was. Not Best Supporting Actor, for whom I've already made the case for Terry O'Quinn, but Michael Emerson would have been deserving as well. Not Original Music Score, which is perhaps the biggest oversight of all, considering the outstanding, moving, and completely gorgeous score Michael Giacchino created for the show and particularly the finale. Not Best Director for a Drama, for Jack Bender's steady work as the show's strongest director. Not Best Writing for a Drama, for the magnificent screenplay Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse wrote for the finale. Not Best Actor for a Drama Series, where Matthew Fox maybe wasn't the most deserving to win (that honor goes to the similarly-ripped-off Michael C. Hall, of course), but his performance over this past season was the best he's ever given, as his character showed considerable growth. In fact, go ahead and look back at the pilot of the show and see how far these characters have come. And this season they all underwent huge moments of growth and development, as they reached redemption in both worlds. I know I'm in a minority here, and what I'm about to say may actually be considered heresy or even treason, but Lost, not Mad Men, was the best show on television this year. And it has been for the last six years, from its stellar pilot to its emotionally and narratively satisfying finale. Lost changed the way we watch television, the way we think about what television can be. And sure, we can all be upset that the show didn't provide "the Big Answers," but when in life do we get that? Lost was bold enough to ask the Big Questions and let us figure it out ourselves. Maybe there are no answers to some questions. Maybe the answers are outside of our grasp. Its philosophy as television. But despite its intellect, it was always a character drama, driven by these castaways that we cared about as people. None of them were perfect, and that was the point: the island was a purgatory of sorts; though they were still alive, they were brought there to sort out their lives and their identities. And we got to watch them undergo these thrilling and involving moments of revelation. Lost was not a show for casual viewers; it involved time and effort and a willingness to submerge yourself into its world. It required thought, something that most shows nowadays discourage. If all of this doesn't make it Emmy-worthy, then I don't know what will. It did win one Best Drama Emmy for its first season, but it should have so many more.
This concludes the rant. You may now return to normal activities.
So did you watch the Emmys last night? What did you think of it all?

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Emmy 2010 Preview: Series

If you've been following the Emmys so far, you know that its rather maddeningly strange this year. But you can read more about that tomorrow. Here's how I think the series will go.
BEST COMEDY SERIES
Curb Your Enthusiasm
Glee
Modern Family
30 Rock
Nurse Jackie
The Office
This is really a race between the two newcomers and the reigning champ. Nurse Jackie was the surprise nominee, and will need some serious love to win (it made it here mostly on Edie Falco's performance). Curb and The Office don't really stand much of a chance either, since they either aren't as flashy (Curb) or had an off season (Office). 30 Rock had an uneven season, but great selection episodes, so I wouldn't be surprised to see a fourth straight win. And even though Glee was much more buzzy, its inconsistent writing will hurt it. So expect Modern Family, a sophisticated take on the traditional family sitcom, to prevail here tonight.
BEST DRAMA SERIES
Breaking Bad
The Good Wife
Lost
Mad Men
Dexter
True Blood
I want to believe that this category will change, but it most likely won't. True Blood was barely recognized anywhere else, so its very, VERY unlikely that it will claim a win here. The Good Wife, Dexter, and Breaking Bad could find themselves victorious, but will probably miss out due to the high quality of all of this year's nominees. Lost could (I'm hoping) cash in on nostalgia and earn a win for its final season, but only one drama in the history of the awards has done such a thing: The Sopranos. I'm betting that Mad Men will continue its perfect winning streak here.
BEST MINISERIES
The Pacific
Return to Cranford
It'd be nice to pretend Cranford has a chance here. But it doesn't. This belongs to The Pacific.
BEST MADE-FOR-TELEVISION MOVIE
Endgame
Georgia O'Keeffe
Moonshot
The Special Relationship
Temple Grandin
You Don't Know Jack
Take a look at the acting nominations for this category: they're dominated by Temple Grandin and You Don't Know Jack. Not to say that the other movies are necessarily bad, but these two have controlled the Emmy conversation and one of them will emerge victorious. I'm betting on Grandin, which seems to have all the momentum right now.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Its a slow day, so....

Here's one of the directors who could have directed the final two Harry Potter films:
Yay! It's our good friend Guillermo del Toro! If he had said yes, he would have joined Alfonso Cuaron as the series' only directors who don't speak English as their first language.
And look! Here's another choice of directors before David Yates returned for the job:
Wow, we really dodged a bullet there, didn't we?
Anyways, what's on you mind today? Seen/going to see any movies this weekend?

Friday, August 27, 2010

These Poor Guys

I was thinking about this today while deciding what movies, if any, I would see this weekend (FYI: I'm thinking Get Low). I almost feel sorry for Aaron Seltzer and Jason Friedberg, the directors/writers of such "films" as Epic Movie, Meet the Spartans, and the new Vampires Suck. Its really got to be tough to be these two; sure, their movies earn enough money for them to continue working but consider the following.
Sure, they smile now...
First off, every film they've directed has been nominated for at least one Razzie and nothing else. If Uwe Boll is the Spielberg of crappy movies, then these two are the Coen Brothers: comedic directors who think they have something to say about the movies they're spoofing, but are honestly just applying fart jokes to them. And they've reaped the "rewards" for their hard work: together they personally share three Razzie nominations, and they'll most likely earn more this year as Vampires Suck has emerged as a Razzie frontrunner. They must be so proud.
This is perhaps the saddest truth of all about them, though: time will not help their case. Some crappy films live long enough to see themselves become cult classics; Piranha, for example. And with their chosen genre being the spoof, one could say: well, Airplane!'s managed to become a classic. Here's the thing though: Airplane! has lasted because the comedy is broad and unspecific, or perhaps timeless, as the jokes are funny to every generation. That's the mark of a great spoof film, and its why Scream and even the first Scary Movie (which Seltzer and Friedberg co-wrote), though not on the same level of greatness as Airplane!, will probably stand the test of time: the jokes are not necessarily specific to the time of the film.
Their filmography as directors/writers. Can you spot the differences?
This is not the case with Seltzer/Friedberg productions. Rather than ape the conventions and cliches of the genres they target, they prefer to go for very specific films and often irrelevant pop-culture institutions (Disaster Movie was certainly the most egregious offender in this case, since it had almost nothing to do with disaster movies; the title was really a prophecy). By doing so, the films instantly date themselves. This results in the impossibility of these films to last. Sure, the jokes are often very broad, but its the same general set of jokes in every one of their films; there's nothing distinguishing about them except for the targets. And because the humor is so specific, the "humor" won't last. These already unfunny films will only become more unfunny with the passing of time. And it won't even take much time: go ahead and rewatch Date Movie, their first solo outing from 2006, and see how much of it holds up. And think about Vampires Suck: there's a throwaway gag (in the trailer) about the cast of Jersey Shore, and sure, they're famous now and everyone knows who they are, but what about 10 years from now? 20 years from now? When future generations watch these films, unless they have acute knowledge of the years in which they're filmed, the jokes will be lost on them.
Its mostly for this reason that I feel sorry for these guys: this moment, when their average Metacritic score is 20 (out of 100), is the moment that their films are at their best. That's got to hurt somewhat.

Emmy 2010 Preview: Leads in Miniseries/TV Movie

Here we go: the last two preview posts before the ceremony Sunday night. I've decided against live-blogging the event this year, opting instead for a recap and analysis on Monday.
BEST ACTOR IN A MINISERIES/TV MOVIE
Jeff Bridges, A Dog Year
Sir Ian McKellen, The Prisoner
Michael Sheen, The Special Relationship
Dennis Quaid, The Special Relationship
Al Pacino, You Don't Know Jack
This should be interesting. Sheen and Quaid will probably vote split. McKellen isn't really likely either, since his miniseries wasn't exactly a critical smash. And the only way I can see Bridges triumphing here is if he's still riding the wave of support from his Oscar win (and I highly doubt he is). Pacino's the easy favorite, I believe: its a meaty role (Jack Kevorkian), and they've honored him in this category before (for Angels in America).
BEST ACTRESS IN A MINISERIES/TV MOVIE
Maggie Smith, Capturing Mary
Joan Allen, Georgia O'Keeffe
Judi Dench, Return to Cranford
Hope Davis, The Special Relationship
Claire Danes, Temple Grandin
Allen was a Globe nominee, so there may be a little bit of support for her still. As much as I love Smith and Davis, I think they'll both be also-rans this year. Danes stunned everyone with her performance in Temple Grandin, and she's the odds-on favorite to win (which would somewhat make up for the My So-Called Life snub in the '90s). But don't count out Dench: she could easily be the spoiler here.