Monday, January 30, 2012
Hello the internet!
I know you've all waited on bended knee to hear what I have to say about this year's Oscar noms, so I'll get right to it. Bold will indicate what I want to win, and italics will indicate what I think is going to win. I'll write some stuff about films I think either did or did not deserve to be in the category too. It's important to note that I haven't even seen "The Artist", but regardless, I expect it to destroy urrybody.
Thursday, January 26, 2012
A prominent executive producer publicly stated that financing and distributing the WWII-fighter pilot movie “Red Tails” was hindered primarily by movie studios’ racism. Or, to be more specific, the major movie studios feared that the rest of the world was too racist to go see a big-budget war movie starring a predominately black cast. Following through on the pessimism, 20th Century Fox dumped the movie in late January, when ticket numbers reach annual lows rivaled only by the month of September. This is a conversation worth having.
With the film starring Terrence Howard and Cuba Gooding, Jr, are we going to get some Oscar-caliber acting?
Nope. But Howard will chew on some scenery and Gooding will chew on his pipe in a distracting caricature of Black Douglas MacArthur. Also, both are given a smaller font than one George Lucas.
Wait. George Lucas? The Star Wars guy?
Lucas has an executive producer credit. Which is the same credit he had in “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” However, it’s also the same credit he had in “Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” and “Howard the Duck.” In short, “Red Tails” can not be chalked up as yet another Lucas tragedy but his finger prints are there.
Tuesday, January 24, 2012
2011 is one of the best, and oddest film years in recent memory. On one hand, while there were numerous great films year round, none of them particularly sticks out the way something like Slumdog Millionaire, Avatar, Inglourious Basterds, Inception, Toy Story 3, all did in the last few years. In terms of big movies it was actually a very poor year; there was a record number of sequels, threequels, fourthquels, fifthquels and prequels; 27 in total, not including remakes. There was even an octoquel. But besides that said eighth Harry Potter Film that we waited a decade for none were memorable, and at least two were essentially a remake of the previous installment (Hangover 2 and Transformers 3).
And yet at the same time there was a major breakthrough in independent filmmaking. For the past few years online movie watching, particularly Netflix, has brought the realization that the market for such films is huge; it is just not as big as the market for Avatar. Nevertheless Indie films can use a limited release as a form of promotion, and earn their money back, off theaters. Either on iTunes, Redbox, Netflix, DVD sales, whatever. And thus the public’s legal accessibility to such films has greatly increased.
It has been an interesting year; and to top it off it might be the first time that a silent movie takes Best Picture, since the first Academy Awards were held. Anyways, here is our Top Ten and a half for 2011, presented in no particular order besides alphabetical:
Monday, January 23, 2012
The Troll Hunter (aka Trolljegeren) is, for lack of a better expression, one interesting monster. On one hand it is just another B-level mockumentary ala Blair Witch Project, or Cloverfield that is allegedly edited from found footage rolled by a group of teenagers tracking a troll hunter. But it is also a damn good monster movie, and a decent drama about survival in the Norwegian backwoods. This can be mostly attributed to the fact that, unlike most horror-muckumentaires, The Troll Hunter has a decent in-story cameraman. So, even though the genre still requires tremendous amounts of queasy-cam, we actually get to see quite a good amount of troll shots. I for one greatly appreciated this.
I couldn’t care less about the battle between vampires and werewolves in popular culture; to be honest I don’t quite understand why they would ever be at such odds against each other. Luckily, I guess, the Underworld franchise doesn’t care too much to explain either. In the first movie, the Lycans (as the werewolves are known in this universe) created a hybrid were-zombie-wolf-fang-boy who we are told fell in love with the vampiress Serena (Kate Beckinsale). Three movies later, the humans have gained the upper hand in this battle and capture Serena and the hybrid. All this happens in a “previously on…” style recap. And the rest of the movie, involving Serena’s escape from the humans and the werewolves, feels like a very bad TV episode on the SyFy Channel or a prolonged cut scene in a video game.
Sunday, January 22, 2012
Perhaps “The Artist” was doomed by the high hopes handed down to me. Perhaps it was the hope that a non-traditional film would walk off with the grand prize on Oscar Night. Could this be the first, again mostly, silent film to be nominated for Best Picture in the last 80 years? The foreign-language “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” was a note-worthy nomination. As was “Beauty and Beast.” Perhaps now we’ve reached a time to nominate a truly extraordinary film this year. A film unique not just in genre but in content and context, scope and intimacy. I want to argue the best film of 2011 was not the remake of “Footloose” (close one, I know) but was actually the documentary “Life in a Day.”
Friday, January 20, 2012
It is almost a week past since the Golden Globes, and that means the Oscar nominations will be announced this weekend. And the final countdown towards the end of award season will begin. It also means, good movies will start getting re-released and whole bunch of blog (including us) will begin posting predictions, commenting, and arguing about the likely winners. And comment, complain, and accuse the Academy of bias afterwards. With so much fuss around them it is almost relaxing to watch the Golden Globes, a shorter, more relaxing, and somewhat more entertaining ceremony.
The winners at the Globes will also end up being favorites at the Oscars, despite the fact that there will likely also be (as there is every year) a much-heated debate over which award show is fairer. All the members of the Academy decide the Oscars through a vote; this might be more democratic but it is also highly political. Meanwhile the Hollywood Foreign Press, a committee of 93 bribable journalists, decides who shall receive the Golden Globes. Nevertheless, they are also hosted by Ricky Gervais so they are quite a bit more entertaining, and shocking. Even after being toned down this year.
Anyways, there wasn’t much surprise in the winners this year. The highest one being that Al Pacino, was not even nominated for “Best Performance by an Actor in a Mini-Series, or Motion Picture Made for TV” for his work in You Don’t Know Jack. However there were a few “firsts” in the Best Movie Categories. The Artist has become the first black & white, as well as the first silent movie to earn the Motion Picture Comedy Award, and The Adventures of Tintin became the first non-Pixar film to earn Animated Film. The Artist in particular has been placed in the fast track to win Best Picture at the Oscars. If it does, it will be the first silent film since the first awards, when Wings won, to receive the award.
You can check our reviews for The Artist, and The Adventures Tintin as well as Wilder's review for The Descendants (winner of Motion Picture Drama).
Thursday, January 19, 2012
We Bought A Zoo claims to have been based on a true story; I double-checked the facts on Wikipedia (now that it is back online) and it seems to be true. Now that I think about it, it has to be true. Had this film not been “based on a true story”, it would have remained in development hell. The premise is so preposterously naïve that no Hollywood screenwriter could have come up with it, and no Hollywood producer would have backed it had it been an original idea. After all what type of character would ever buy a zoo on a whim?
Tarsem might have produced history’s most boring film with the Immortals, but it stands that visually; he is one of the boldest directors out there. Best remembered by his trippy visuals in The Cell, or the gorgeous use of geography in The Fall, Tarsem uses a much more whimsical aesthetic in this commercial than what is generally seen on his films. Perhaps this is what we can expect from his upcoming Snow White adaptation Mirror, Mirror.
Not surpassingly this campaign raised plenty of eyebrows, when it was first aired during the season finale of Mad Men. Criticisms went as far as critiquing that the ad promoted the mistreatment of animals; baby animals that is. But like any good piece of fiction, and advertising, getting people talking is exactly what it intended. For me the ad works. And it is a great example of Tarsem’s visual extravaganza. I hope you agree; here it is:
Friday, January 13, 2012
The next James Bond movie is in the works and movie audiences will likely be treated to the more familiar beats of the franchise than the last two films offered. Gritty reboots have run their course and the movie industry has begun to reestablish escapism proper. Fortunately, as in the 1990s, enough films will pride themselves on political intrigue and power acting—ala "The Stockholm Affair"—as to keep audiences moderately involved while gushing up and slurping down gummy worms. One such newly released mood-heavy movie is, the playfully titled, “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.”
Tuesday, January 10, 2012
We started posting these “ad classics” under the philosophy that a commercial is a movie told in thirty seconds (sometimes up to two minutes). And because today many movies, like Transformers or New Year’s, are so overwhelmed by product placement that they have essentially become two-hour ads. We have chosen to revive the ‘ad classics’ positing to collect a few more samples of good storytelling, even if they are for commercial ends.
Ridley Scott is perhaps one of the greatest filmmakers working today. Right after working on Blade Runner, Scott was commissioned by Apple Computers to create the Super Bowl Spot for the release of the first Macintosh. At the time computers were regarded as objects from an Orwellian dystopia by most people. This was because the personal computer had not yet come into existence; the Macintosh was going to change that.
Apple has always been known for great advertising. They gave us The Misfits Poem and Justin Long with their campaign “I Am A Mac”. This is the ad that started it all. The ad cost nearly 1 million dollars, an amount previously unheard of in advertising. Not only was it a marketing success (the ad was re-broadcasted in every subsequent talk show, generating millions in free advertising) but it also shows why we are all so excited for Ridley Scott return to Sci Fi with Prometheus. Enjoy:
The top image is from a "remastered" version where an iPod was added to the runner. George Lucas is not the only person who goes back to re-tweak masterpieces.
Sunday, January 8, 2012
I knew what was coming. I saw the Swedish film when it first came out. And read the book afterwards. Yet nothing could have prepared me for the visceral intensity that David Fincher’s take on the story of Lisbeth Salander (Ronney Mara) holds. Stieg Larsson’s story is already a gripping thriller that needs no further advertising. This is the story of a girl with a terrible past, who is proudly isolated and dangerously angry; the first installment doesn’t dwell too deep into the back-story, but it lays out a twisted series of murders where the broken heroine begins to heal.
Tuesday, January 3, 2012
The first installment of these Victorian-super-secret-agent Sherlock Holmes re-imaging had a plot impossible to understand. This second installment fixes that problem by having a plot you don’t really need to understand; there is a clear villain whom Sherlock needs to confront. Everything else is frivolous set dressing, and action sequences done in slow motion. It is fun, but it isn’t the inquisitive thriller you would expect from a movie based of the adventures of an inquisitive detective. Like its predecessor this is simply a modern action movie, not very different from Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol, done in costume; in MI: 4 we saw Tom Cruise dangling off the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building today; in Holmes 2 we get to see Robert Downey Jr, dangling off a train over what is an impossibly tall bridge.
Sunday, January 1, 2012
So once again it is January and usually we end up writing a top-ten column like every other movie blog out there. However, this year I’ve been writing a top-five column for every season of the year (you can check the spring and summer column here and here). So I guess it is time to review this years Fall/Winter season. I am grouping the fall/winter into a single column for a few reasons: firstly, because the Spring and Summer seasons were each four months long, so the third season should also be four months, and secondly because the Holiday/winter/Award season is usually only attributed to the month between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and it would be insane to cram a whole season of movie watching into one month. Thus we have the fall/winter season of 2011 here.