RSS

Monthly Archives: February 2012

A decent Oscars ceremony + a self-plug

Watching the Oscars ceremony is always a special feeling for me. No, not because they’re “magical” or anything like that. Rather, it’s because they start in the middle of the night in my timezone. I went to bed around 9 PM, eventually settled down to sleep, then woke up at 1:30 AM or so to get everything ready for the viewing experience. With few hours of sleep followed by a couple more hours staring at a screen, swapping between watching, tweeting and forum discussions, my eyes get a bit exhausted, as does my brain. It’s a state I don’t often find myself in apart from this one day of the year, so I kind of associate the Academy Awards with it. So with that in mind, I apologize in advance for any weird typos or rambling thoughts in this blog post.

I thought this year’s ceremony was… okay. Not great, not terrible, but okay. There was a lack of really special moments, and not all of the humor worked. But there wasn’t much outright bad about the proceedings. The whole thing moved at a fairly brisk pace, finding a suitable balance between giving people time to thank everyone and not enough to get boring. Billy Crystal as the host did a decent job. There were stretches were his presence wasn’t felt much even when he was on the screen, and he had a few awkward “waiting for applause” pauses, but he was kind of funny, kind of charming, and certainly a step up from the past two years’ hosting duos. And now I resume my hopes for Kevin Spacey to host next year. Or maybe Fred Willard?

Some random thoughts on the show:

  • Speech of the night: The long overdue Christopher Plummer. Such a charming and funny man. “You’re only two years older than me, darling. Where have you been all my life?”
  • The Wizard of Oz focus group skit was quite funny, but more than anything, it was just a really pleasant surprise to see the Christopher Guest crew together again on my screen.
  • The Cirque du Soleil number was quite spectacular and impressive, though I question its relevance to the Oscars. The time could have been better spent elsewhere, I feel.
  • The interview montages with people talking about why they love movies were kind of a drag. No real insight or emotional impact was offered, so more than anything, this felt like padding.
  • Not everything in Crystal’s mind-reading spiel worked, but it was all worth it for the mumbling Nick Nolte bit which provided one of the few real laugh out loud moments of the broadcast for me.

I don’t have any strong personal feelings either way about what won and what didn’t, although I’m happy for all the winners. Respect and amiration from one’s peers is always great, so congratulations to everyone who went home with a statue. There were one or two real surprising announcements; sole non-BP nominee The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo picking up Best Editing was something few people had predicted, and I certainly did not see Meryl Streep‘s Best Actress win coming personally – she was always a possibility, but I still felt Viola Davis had that award fairly secured. Apart from those two, everything else fell within the realm of what could be expected. That’s not to say I did great with my predictions, ending up with 15 of the 24 categories right. An okay result, but not enough to win any pools or contests. It says something about how open many of the categories were when I can get 9 things wrong and still think there weren’t many proper shockers.

So now that the Oscars are in the books, Awards Season is officially over. Time to go back to my main interest: Movies.

—–

Oh! But before we move on, there is one more set of awards to take in: The 1st Annual Flickcharters’ Choice Awards. I talked a bit a while ago about being part of the nominating voters, and yesterday/tonight/today the winners were announced. There’s a post up about it on the Flickchart Blog where Ross Bonaime, Jandy Stone Hardesty and myself offer our thoughts on the categories. I think the internet will like our winners more than those of the Academy, so go have a look to end Awards Season on a highnote!

The 1st Annual Flickcharters’ Choice Awards Winners

What did you think of the Oscars this year?

 
3 Comments

Posted by on 27 February, 2012 in Links, Oscars

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

“Final” 2011 Oscars Predictions

I haven’t been keeping quite as close a look at the Oscars race this awards season as I have the last few years. I’m not entirely sure why this is, but the result is that I find it hard to make confident predictions in quite a few categories. And it’s not even like last year, where a lot of uncertainty basically boiled down to whether The King’s Speech or Alice in Wonderland would pick up the most arts and crafts wins, or just how strong The Social Network still was. This year, there are plenty of categories where I have trouble even boiling things down to two possible winners. Then again, I did really poorly with my guesses last year – thanks to overconfidence in The King’s Speech, stubborn and ill-conceived faith in Annette Bening, and those damn short categories – so perhaps being a bit aloof about things will turn out to be a blessing.

So for what it’s worth, here are my picks in the various categories. They’re final, unless I change my mind. My predicted winners are in BOLD CAPS.

BEST PICTURE

THE ARTIST
The Descendants
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
The Help
Hugo
Midnight in Paris
Moneyball
The Tree of Life
War Horse

Back in September when the race was still wide open, I made a baseless guess that the unseen War Horse would turn out to be the eventual Best Picture winner. At the end of 2011, The Artist had established itself as the front-runner, yet I had a hunch that it would run out of steam and not end up the victor. Well, here we are a few days away from the ceremony, and I have to concede that I was wrong on both of those occasions. It’s hard to see The Artist losing at this point.

BEST DIRECTOR

Woody Allen – Midnight in Paris
MICHEL HAZANAVICIUS – THE ARTIST
Terrence Malick – The Tree of Life
Alexander Payne – The Descendants
Martin Scorsese – Hugo

Most of the time, Best Picture and Best Director go hand in hand. Yet year after year, there’s always people predicting a split between the two. This is rarely wise, as when a split does happen, it’s always a major surprise – think Crash / Brokeback Mountain. So I’m playing it safe and going with Hazanavicius.

Read the rest of this entry »

 
7 Comments

Posted by on 22 February, 2012 in Oscars

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Vote in the Flickchart film awards + My thoughts on being a nominator

I’m a (very infrequent) contributor to the Flickchart blog, and a while ago, we contributors came up with the idea to have our own awards for the films of 2011. Something similar to the Oscars, but with some different categories. As this was a spur-of-the-moment idea and the first time we ever did a thing like this, it was decided that the 17 blog contributors would vote to come up with the nominees, to keep things quick and easy. And quick and easy it was.

The second phase of the voting, in which the eventual winners will be crowned, is now open for everyone to participate in.

To vote in the 1st annual Flickcharters’ Choice Awards, click this link and follow the instructions. It’s open for everyone.

Full list of nominees as well my thoughts on being part of the nomination process after the jump.

Read the rest of this entry »

 
4 Comments

Posted by on 17 February, 2012 in Links

 

Tags: , ,

Review – Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011)

I often think about genre biases. While I freely admit that they play a large part in my numerical ratings – which are highly subjective to begin with – I wonder how much of it is in play for people in general. It’s no secret that dramas tend to be held in higher regard than most types of film by many. Comedy, action, horror, and other genres can be well-liked too, of course, but it seems rarer for these types of films to reach the same levels of accolade as dramas often do. This of course begs the question: Shouldn’t all films be judged for what they are? Or are there some genres that are inherently “better” than others? If not, why haven’t there been any torture porn movies that have received rave critical reviews? Shouldn’t those too be “judged for what they are”? I don’t have any answers to these questions.

But let’s talk action, as well as the fascinating subject of review scores. How many action films have I given 5/5 to over the years? 10 or so, give or take a few depending on how generous you are with genre classifications. This is a far lower number than the corresponding one for dramas or comedies – though most comedies I love tend to be of the comedy-drama subset. So it’s rare-ish for an action film to well and truly win me over. Does this mean I’m biased against them?

Whether I am or not, I love it when a film like Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol comes along. It’s a helpful reminder that I can love a film even if it doesn’t have anything special to say, as long as it’s just really entertaining. And Ghost Protocol is nothing if not entertaining. Truly great action films may be rare in my book, but when they do come along, they become all the more remarkable.

So, the movie. For the fourth time, Tom Cruise steps into the role of IMF agent Ethan Hunt. He’s in a Russian prison as the film starts (for concealed reasons), but is soon broken out of there by co-workers Carter (Paula Patton) and Benji (Simon Pegg). Soon enough they’re presented with a mission to infiltrate Kremlin and get their hands on some data files. This is the start of a chain of events that will pit the team – along with analyst and newcomer Brandt (Jeremy Renner) – against a radical nuclear strategist (Michael Nyqvist of Millenium trilogy fame). The villain’s goal: to start a nuclear war that will force humanity to grow stronger. The crux is that Ethan and the others, after some plot developments, find themselves without support from the rest of their agency. The fate of the world rests solely on their shoulders.

Nobody sticks around in the director’s chair in the Mission: Impossible franchise; the previous three films were directed by Brian De Palma, John Woo, and J. J. Abrams respectively. For Ghost Protocol, Brad Bird has taken the helm, thereby making his live action debut after many years’ work with animation. His efforts as a director in that artform include The Incredibles and Ratatouille. Watching Ghost Protocol, the fact that the man has never made a live action movie before is hard to believe. There is an assuredness present throughout this film. The action is clear and thrilling, the scenery beautifully captured, and the camera work fresh and inspired.

Everything in this movie just works so seamlessly. The pacing is excellent throughout, moving swiftly from scene to scene with enough exposition to make the plot meaningful but not so much that the film runs the risk of losing steam. The set pieces are all spectacular, with the stand-out being the much-talked about sequence where Ethan has to scale the exterior of Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the tallest building in the world. This part lives up to all the hype you may have heard, with plentiful gasps and jaw-dropping moments. I get the feeling that Bird’s past in animation worked to his favor when shooting this, as it’s something that could be taken straight from The Incredibles or some other Pixar film. Seeing it unfold in live action is all the more thrilling, though. Don’t hold off on this one for the DVD release; the Dubai part alone makes the film well worth seeing on the big screen.

Everyone on the acting-side deliver satisfactory performances. Cruise thrives in roles like these, as he has enough charm to make them fun even when the script doesn’t necessarily call for it. Nyqvist as the main antagonist feels intriguing, following in the footsteps of Philip Seymour Hoffman in Mission: Impossible III as a villain who might not look all that imposing physically but who through his actions comes off as a formidable threat regardless. Patton and Renner are rookies to the franchise and manage to slide right in. The former’s character perhaps feels a bit underdeveloped and is at a point or two reduced to eye-candy, but the actress makes the most of what she’s given and more than holds her own with some fiery scenes. Renner seems to be groomed to eventually take over as leading man for the franchise. If Ghost Protocol is any indication, this will be a fine choice. But a special gold star goes out to Simon Pegg, whose role from the third movies has been expanded upon as Benji is now a full-fledged field agent. He serves as the comic relief for the most part and reminds us that this is no easy task, as rarely has this type of character worked so well before. There’s plenty of screen time for him here, and every time he’s shown there’s laughter to be had. Truly one of the most gifted comedians the world of film has to offer today.

Ghost Protocol is, simply put, a damn fine action film. There’s enough hi-tech gadgets and wise-cracking to evoke thoughts of James Bond at times, and the action scenes are as exciting as they come. Slick, stylish, and a little silly every now and then. It is perhaps not the most ground-breaking film out there – although that Dubai scene is one-of-a-kind – but every aspect of it is polished and honed to… not perfection, but something approximating it. I have nothing major to complain about. Hopefully, you won’t either. Go see this film now. You deserve it.

Score: 5/5

 
12 Comments

Posted by on 14 February, 2012 in Reviews

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

New page: Scorecard 2012

I’ve added a new page to the blog: Scorecard 2012. This will be a continuously updated list of all the films I see for the first time in 2012, along with numerical ratings given. So if you ever find yourself wondering what Emil has watched recently, just click that link up there and be enlightened.

Scorecard 2012

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on 13 February, 2012 in Misc.

 

My Top 10 Favorite Movies of 2000

The 10 movies on this list might not average out as the best movie year of all time or anything, but it is extremely top-heavy. The top three films here are ones I really truly adore for different reasons, and would all have a good shot at making the grade were I to compilea Top 10 Favorite Movies of All Time list. They’re that good, and they’re all from the same year.

As this list series of mine now gets set to leave the aughts and head into the 90s, we’re entering years where more films I saw for the first time back in the day will show up more. As I talked about in my post on how I became a movie lover, the 2000s were largely a dead zone for me in terms of film-watching, and the majority had to be caught up with in the last few years. I watched more movies in the 90s, many of which still hold up to this day. This presents interesting dilemmas with determining how much of my appreciation for these films is due to nostalgia. In some cases, just remembering the films can be tricky. For instance, #8 on this list is a film I think I saw in theater at the time and later bought on VHS (remember those?), but I haven’t seen it in over 10 years. Can I be certain that #8 is the right spot for it on this list? Sure I can. My memories of the film places it above #9 and below #7 at this moment in time. Opinions and likings always change, sometime from day to day. But this list reflects what I feel today. And today, I look back on #8 very fondly indeed.

Note: This list goes by the release years listed on IMDB.

10 – BEST IN SHOW (Christopher Guest)

“Now tell me, which one of these dogs would you want to have as your wide receiver on your football team?”

All of Christopher Guest‘s mockumentaries are worth seeing, but Best in Show is the sharpest one in my book. This film revolves around a dog show, and we are introduced to a number of the off-beat characters who compete in it. It’s a laugh riot, and since most of it is improvised, the whole movie is imbued with a fairly naturalistic feel. Cast stand-out: Fred Willard as a spectacularly incompetent commentator.

9 – CAST AWAY (Robert Zemeckis)

“Hello! Anybody?”

The opening part does drag a bit, and while I personally love the ending, some have decried it as being overly melodramatic. What most everyone agree on is that the middle part, the real meat of the movie, is superb. It’s just Tom Hanks being forced to survive on a desert island by himself. It takes skillful hands both behind and in front of the camera to keep things interesting despite only having one character on screen, and Robert Zemeckis and Hanks pull it off masterfully. Cast Away also accomplishes the significant feat of making audiences care deeply about… a volleyball.

Read the rest of this entry »

 
12 Comments

Posted by on 8 February, 2012 in Lists, Top 10 of a year

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The actors I see but don’t know: A tribute to “That Guy”

In some corners of the web, people speak of That Guy actors. These are the thespians you never think about and perhaps don’t know by name, but every time they pop up, you recognize them and go “Hey, it’s that guy!” This doesn’t necessarily mean they’re actors you love or even like, but you definitely recognize their faces. Odds are they tend to stick to supporting parts rather than being allowed to take center stage.

(Do note that That Guy-ness is not gender-specific. Female actors can be That Guy too, which leads me to think a new nomenclature might be required at some point.)

This post is about these actors, but others too. The ones I may not know the name of, nor do I even recognize their faces when I see them on screen. And yet I have seen them plenty of times. The main tool I use to keep track of films I’ve seen is Swedish site Filmtipset. One of the features on there is the ability to get statistics on which actors I’ve seen in the most films. As I look through this list, I spot names I don’t recognize despite having seen them in ten different films or so. For some of them, even looking up a picture of them fails to ring a bell. They’re technically not That Guy, but the principle remains: actors I keep seeing but never think about.

So since I keep watching these people yet never give them any attention, I’d like to take this post to celebrate the workhorse actors who rarely get enough attention. What follows is a list of these kinds of actors who I have seen a minimum of 9 movies with (number arbitrarily chosen). These are all males, but not by design. It just so happens that I’m more aware of who the actresses I’ve seen a lot of movies with are.

Elias Koteas – This one is actually somewhat of a borderline case. Having seen and reviewed Crash (1996) not too long ago, I definitely know and regognize the name. Koteas earns his spot here due to the high number of films (12) I’ve seen him in without ever having bothered to find out his name and file it away in the old memory bank. This Canadian actor was a staple in Atom Egoyan‘s earlier movies and now splits his time between film and television. Odds are I’ll always think of him as that creepy car crash fetishist in Crash. Or as that guy who looks like a cross between Stanley Tucci and David Paymer – the latter himself surely a That Guy to many film fans.
Films you might have seen him in: Zodiac, Shutter Island, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Christopher McDonald – Or Shooter McGavin to most people. Happy Gilmore might be the film he’s most closely associated with, but he has been working since the early 80s, appearing in a wide variety of movies, often as an antagonist. Like Koteas, I’ve seen this guy in 12 films without ever paying him much attention. Also one of the unfortunate individuals to have appeared in multiple post-Wedding American Pie films.
Films you might have seen him in: Happy Gilmore, Requiem for a Dream, Thelma & Louise

Read the rest of this entry »

 
15 Comments

Posted by on 6 February, 2012 in Lists

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,