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Monthly Archives: February 2013

Monthly Report: February 2013

As expected due to work, February was a drastic step back in terms of movie quantity to me. 13 new films seen, compared to January’s 42. Such is life. This month offered an even mix of the good and the bad.

Videocracy (Erik Gandini, 2009)
What happens to a country when its president owns 90% of its TV channels? Videocracy takes a look at Italy during media mogul Silvio Berlusconi’s reign as its leader, where TV is – seemingly – all lurid junk and everyone’s obsessed with celebrity. The depiction of Italian television prompts quite a few eyebrow-raising “Is this for real?” reactions in the early goings, but beyond the surface level, there really isn’t much to this documentary. Why not explain how Berlusconi could rise to power? Is there really no alternative to what he’s offering? The film grows less and less focused as it goes on, and there’s no real attempt at analyzing anything. This subject deserves a better film.
2/5

The Phantom of the Opera (Joel Schumacher, 2004)
I love musicals, but this was some pretty dull stuff. Some of the tunes are good, but there’s little emotion in the singing – or in the acting, for that matter. Gerard Butler in particular is an ill fit to play the Phantom, not managing to inject him with either danger or magnetism. The plot just goes on and on and on, and by the end of it, I had completely stopped caring. Nice sets, though.
2/5

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Bridesmaids (Paul Feig, 2011)
Sometimes I hate writing these mini-reviews for comedies, because it feels like there’s not that much to say other than “it was funny” or “it was not that funny”. Well, this one was funny. Really damn funny. There’s also the much mentioned novelty factor of having a raunchy comedy like this centering around women, so that’s cool too. What really helps to push this one up to greatness levels is the emotional resonance it has regarding friendship, envy, adulthood, relationships and more. Tremendous. Kristen Wiig rules.
5/5

2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968)
Certain movies you just keep hearing so much about that you start drawing incorrect conclusions about them. I actually expected to dislike this film. I had gotten the idea in my head that this was some dreadfully slow incomprehensible mumbo-jumbo. Which it isn’t. It’s a fascinating story, a true showcase of special effects and audio magic, and an experience quite of its own nature. I won’t pretend to entirely understand the meaning of the ending, but I believe it was Ingmar Bergman who said of his films that he didn’t care if you understood them, as long as they made you feel something. That definitely goes for this one. I wish I can see it on the big screen someday. That must be a trip.
4/5

North by Northwest (Alfred Hitchcock, 1959)
Another good Hitchcock thriller. I’ve come to expect no less from him. I enjoyed the humor in this one, as well as the overt chemistry between Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint. That finale is quite masterful, too.
4/5

Ip Man 2 (Wilson Yip, 2010)
A worthy follow-up to the first Ip Man film. The fight scenes are as cool and crisp as ever, Donnie Yen in the lead is still immensely likeable, and the story is solid indeed. The climactic fight is pretty great, thanks to a novel premise and a bad guy who you just long to see get his comeupance. This one’s an easy thumbs up.
4/5

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Lifeboat (Alfred Hitchcock, 1944)
There’s some interesting notions going on in this film about the deterioration of civilized manners when man is under duress. The humor works for the most part too, but the story is ultimately a bit thin, and the pacing is uneven. I’d say all things considered, this is a good movie, but my least favorite Hitchcock so far.
3/5

Compliance (Craig Zobel, 2012)
It would be so very easy to dismiss the actions of the characters in this film as unbelievable, if not for the fact that this really did happen. Multiple times. With the film being, from what I’ve gathered, a very faithful recreation of one case of it. Mind-blowing, and crucial for the whole film to not buckle and collapse under the weight of the whole thing. There’s little wrong with the execution, and it’s a very compelling watch.
4/5

Safety Not Guaranteed (Colin Trevorrow, 2012)
“It could have been better” sounds like a negative thing to say about a film. I don’t think it necessarily is. Some mediocre movies are just as good as they could have ever hoped to be. There’s nothing there to make you think they could have been great. Time travel movie Safety Not Guaranteed, however, could definitely have been better. This is, in a way, a good thing, because it means there are great ideas and talent present here. If it had just been tighter and more focused thematically. If the sub-plot with Jake Johnson‘s asshole character had felt more relevant to the main story. If the tone of comedy had been more consistent throughout. If all these things had been, this could have been great. As it is, it’ll have to settle for good. It did make me want to learn to play the zither, though.
3/5

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Ruby Sparks (Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris, 2012)
A clever script and some thoughtfulness go a long way. An interesting and funny take on the idea of the perfect mate. Between this one and Little Miss Sunshine, it seems like Dayton and Faris are the ones who truly know how to get the best out of Paul Dano. He was great in LMS, and he’s great here too.
4/5

The House of the Devil (Ti West, 2009)
Cool little slow-burn horror film that emulates the look and feel of the genre of the 70s and 80s. The atmosphere and scares are mostly effective, but the climax can only be described as a letdown.
3/5

Morgan Pålsson – World Reporter (Fredrik Boklund, 2008)
A film about an incompetent reporter (Anders Jansson) who finds himself in the thick of a revolution in a north African country. This movie is a prime example of everything that’s wrong with Swedish comedy. Predictable jokes, one-dimensional characters, moronic plot, and not the tiniest hint of energy or an edge anywhere. Terrible.
1/5

Argo (Ben Affleck, 2012)
Not my pick for Best Picture of the year, but a fine movie it was nonetheless. It’s a fascinating story, and the tension is ramped up very effectively as it builds to its climax. While I prefer Gone Baby Gone and The Town, this is yet another impressive directorial effort by Ben Affleck, who seemingly can do no wrong these days.
4/5

Total # of new films seen: 13
Average score: 3.3 / 5
Best film of the month: Bridesmaids
Worst film of the month: Morgan Pålsson – World Reporter

 
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Posted by on 28 February, 2013 in Monthly Report

 

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Blogs I Enjoy: Cinematic Corner, and Lime Reviews and Strawberry Confessions

It’s time for another edition of Blogs I Enjoy, a feature in which I spotlight a couple of great movie blogs I follow.

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Cinematic Corner is hands down the best-looking movie blog I subscribe to. It’s run by Sati, and she keeps her blog filled with gorgeous graphics, coherent design, and animated GIFs that support her writing rather than distract from it. She goes far beyond just throwing a bunch of screenshots into her posts; rather, every image fully looks as though it belongs alongside everything else. A rare quality. Fortunately, Cinematic Corner is not all flash no substance, as the writing is certainly solid. Sati singles out performances and scenes she loves, writes reviews, and has a slew of other recurring features running. A blog well worth taking a look at. And another.

Skärmavbild 2013-02-15 kl. 11.25.33

If there’s a movie blog out there with a more intriguing name than Lime Reviews and Strawberry Confessions, it’s certainly not on my radar. This is the home of Mette, self-described “part Dane part German”, who’s a firm devotee of Hindi cinema. As such, you’re likely to hear about films you might not have heard about otherwise if you follow her writing. That’s not all she talks about though; there’s just as much discussion about Hollywood movies, classics, and films from lots of different places in time and space. She has an ongoing project where she’s making her way through the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die list, and recently started a blogathon on Oscar snubs with the awesome name The SONSOFBITCHES Snubathon. Mette writes with her own unique voice, and it’s a pleasure to read what she has to say.

 
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Posted by on 15 February, 2013 in Blogs I Enjoy, Links

 

How I filled out an awards ballot

Flickchart: The Blog is right in the middle of the 2nd Annual Flickcharters’ Choice Awards. I took part last year for the inaugural installment and wrote a post about my experience as a nominator. This year, things were done a bit differently: the nomination voting was open to the public and not just to the contributors to the Flickchart blog.

The nominees were announced last night, and with that, the voting for the eventual winners has begun (go here to cast your votes). I won’t say too much about the nominations; a lot of it is for things I haven’t seen yet, so while I am disappointed that so many of my nomination votes didn’t go through, I can’t rightfully say with certainty that they deserve to be in over stuff that did make it.

Instead of talking about what did get nominated, I thought I’d share my ballot for the nomination phase. Voting was done with a point distribution system that allowed you to give extra push to certain nominees, but I’m keeping it simple here and just sharing my five picks for each category in alphabetical order.

Entries in blue are ones that ended up making the cut for nominations.

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5 Broken Cameras

Best Documentary Film
5 Broken Cameras
How to Survive a Plague
Indie Game: The Movie
The Invisible War
The Queen of Versailles

I didn’t see a whole lot of 2012 documentaries, to be perfectly honest. The only ones I saw and didn’t nominate were Mansome and Jiro Dreams of Sushi. That said, these five films are all interesting in their own rights. Three of them are Oscar nominees, one should have been, and the last is one of those narrow interest pieces that just happens to be within my field of interests.

Kon-Tiki

Kon-Tiki

Best Foreign Language Film
5 Broken Cameras
Eat Sleep Die
Kon-Tiki
Oslo, August 31st
A Royal Affair

Four of these films are from Scandinavia, so maybe I’m biased here. I knew that Eat Sleep Die would have a hard time gaining traction with anyone else, considering how very Sweden-centric it is and its limited international distribution, but it’s a great film that deserved a spot here on my ballot. This isn’t the last category it shows up in.

Best Animated Film
This is the one category I had to abstain in. I’ve seen zero animated films from last year, and I don’t have much desire to either apart from Wreck-It Ralph and Frankenweenie.

Mansome

Mansome

Biggest Disappointment of 2012
John Dies at the End
Mansome
Moonrise Kingdom
Silent Hill: Revelation 3D
Take This Waltz

A hard category for me to fill out. I even had to put Moonrise Kingdom in here, a film that I for all intents and purposes liked. Most of what I’ve seen from 2012 has lived up to most of the expectations I had for it.

21 Jump Street

21 Jump Street

Biggest Surprise Film of 2012
21 Jump Street
Chronicle
Dark Shadows
Goon
The Grey

The counterpoint to  the previous category, these were all films that ended up being better than I expected. Granted, a few here were ones that the hidden good word had gotten around about by the time I saw them, like 21 Jump Street and Chronicle. Even so, judging by the expectations I initially had, they still fit in nicely here.

The Queen of Versailles

The Queen of Versailles

Best Underranked Film
Eat Sleep Die
The Invisible War
Killer Joe
Oslo, August 31st
The Queen of Versailles

This is a Flickchart specific category that ties into the site’s core mechanic of comparing and ranking films. You can think of it as Best Film Not Seen By Many. So here we have a motley crew of documentaries, foreign language films, and one “totally twisted deep-fried Texas redneck trailer park murder story”. If you’re looking for some hidden gems of last year, you’d do well to check out these five.

Before Midnight

Before Midnight

Most Anticipated Film of 2013
Before Midnight
Oldboy
Only God Forgives
The Place Beyond the Pines
Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

Make no mistake: this category is all about Before Midnight for me. The rest is filler.

Rock of Ages

Rock of Ages

Most Underrated Film
The Grey
Kon-Tiki
On the Road
The Queen of Versailles
Rock of Ages

The words “underrated” and “overrated” are ones I rarely use. Just who is it that’s rating it higher or lower than me? Here, I latched onto the further guideline supplied by awards supervisor Ross Bonaime: “film you thought didn’t get the audience it deserved”. Loosely interpreted, this can go for all five of these films.

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Moonrise Kingdom

Most Overrated Film
American Reunion
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Lockout
Moonrise Kingdom
Take This Waltz

Or “film you thought received more attention than it deserved”. Like Biggest Disappointment, I had to nominate a number of films here that I actually liked: American Reunion, The Hobbit, and Moonrise Kingdom. These all got more attention than what I felt their quality warranted. Then we have the terrible Lockout, which, bafflingly, some people thought was okay, and Take This Waltz, which of the five is probably the closest to the usual interpretation of “overrated.”

Silent Hill: Revelation 3D

Silent Hill: Revelation 3D

Worst Film of 2012
Bad Ass
Get the Gringo
Killing Them Softly
Lockout
Silent Hill: Revelation 3D

I didn’t like any of these films, but the first three mentions on the list are at least not terrible. I suppose I should be quite happy with the movie year of 2012 based on that.

Life of Pi

Life of Pi

Best Scene in a 2012 Film
The chicken scene – Killer Joe
“I Dreamed a Dream” – Les Misérables
“Valjean’s Soliloquy” – Les Misérables
Pi wanting to show God to the tiger – Life of Pi
“Wanted Dead or Alive” – Rock of Ages

This is a new category for this year, and a fun one it is. There was a lot of scenes I regretfully had to leave off, and some that I just forgot outright – the surgery scene in Prometheus should probably have gotten a mention from me, for instance. Still, this is a cool list. I could have put more Les Mis on it, perhaps.

Looper

Looper

Best Writing in a 2012 Film
Rian Johnson – Looper
Amy Jump and Ben Wheatley – Kill List
Tracy Letts – Killer Joe
David Magee – Life of Pi
Gabriela Pichler – Eat Sleep Die

Ever since watching the great screenwriting documentary Tales from the Script, I’ve been reluctant to praise or complain about screenwriters, because you never know if that great line of dialogue was theirs or an ad-lib, or whether that weird story turn was something they wanted or if it was due to executive meddling. I also don’t really know anything about screenplays, so what this category really reflect for me is well-crafted dialogue and/or interesting stories. Looper, Kill List and Killer Joe are ones I admire for their sheer ambition and out-there-ness. Life of Pi is a unique tale that must have been a real challenge to adapt. Eat Sleep Die is a marvel in Swedish film in that it actually reflects how people talk in real life, rather than the “theater on film” way of speech so common in movies in this country.

Oslo, August 31st

Oslo, August 31st

Best Directing in a 2012 Film
Joe Carnahan – The Grey
Tom Hooper – Les Misérables
Ang Lee – Life of Pi
Ridley Scott – Prometheus
Joachim Trier – Oslo, August 31st

Like writing, directing is hard to judge, and easy to confuse with cinematography, editing and so much more. What these five films have in common is that they’re presented with a clear vision of what they want accomplished. A unified view, if you will. They’re all films I admire, too.

Kristen Stewart - On the Road

Kristen Stewart – On the Road

Best Supporting Actress in a 2012 Film
Samantha Barks – Les Misérables
Emily Blunt – Looper
Anne Hathaway – Les Misérables
Alison Pill – Goon
Kristen Stewart – On the Road

A relatively weak slate of nominees from me, admittedly. The performances are all good, but apart from the amazing Hathaway and the novelty factor of Barks – who inside word says was very close to getting nominated – none of these are likely to be ones I remember five years from now. I should probably have put Gina Gershon and/or Juno Temple from Killer Joe in here in retrospect. Sometimes I forget things.

Matthew McConaughey - Killer Joe

Matthew McConaughey – Killer Joe

Best Supporting Actor in a 2012 Film
Tom Cruise – Rock of Ages
Michael Fassbender – Prometheus
Garrett Hedlund – On the Road
Matthew McConaughey – Killer Joe
Andy Serkis – The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

I wasn’t sure whether McConaughey should be here or in Best Actor for the title part of Killer Joe, but ultimately, I figured that a case could be made for either, and it was easier to slot him in here. I’m a bit surprised that my fellow Flickcharters didn’t spring for Fassbender here, but hey, I guess Django Unchained needed its three spots.

Noomi Rapace - Prometheus

Noomi Rapace – Prometheus

Best Actress in a 2012 Film
Kara Hayward – Moonrise Kingdom
Nermina Lukac – Eat Sleep Die
Noomi Rapace – Prometheus
Alicia Vikander – A Royal Affair
Michelle Williams – Take This Waltz

I did not notice this until I submitted my ballot, but there are three Swedes represented here: Lukac, Rapace, and Vikander. Cool stuff. Still, this category is proof that I really need to see more female-centric stuff from 2012. I very reluctantly put Williams here: it’s a fine enough performance, but I had serious trouble buying into the character – something I ultimately attribute more to the writing.

Hugh Jackman - Les Misérables

Hugh Jackman – Les Misérables

Best Actor in a 2012 Film
Anders Danielsen Lie – Oslo, August 31st
Hugh Jackman – Les Misérables
Liam Neeson – The Grey
Seann William Scott – Goon
Suraj Sharma – Life of Pi

If you had told me just a year ago that I would put Stiffler on a ballot for Best Actor, I might have laughed at you. Still, he knocked it out of the park in Goon, so good for him.

A Royal Affair

A Royal Affair

Best Overall Cast in a 2012 Film
Jeff, Who Lives at Home
Killer Joe
Les Misérables
On the Road
A Royal Affair

A Royal Affair earned Vikander a mention in Best Actress, but I had her two co-stars Mads Mikkelsen and Mikkel Følsgaard in Actor and Supporting Actor in my initial draft of the ballot. Les Mis got in in spite of Russell Crowe. If there’s one shining example here though, it’s Killer Joe. Everyone in that film was at the top of their game.

Gabriela Pichler

Gabriela Pichler

2012 Outstanding Achievement in Film
Joe Carnahan
Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Matthew McConaughey
Gabriela Pichler
Channing Tatum

This is a very loosely defined category. Generally, nominees tend to be actors who have been in multiple films, or writer/directors. I had three of the former, two of the latter. I did make one big omission here: Anne Hathaway. She did strong work in The Dark Knight Rises and breaks my heart over and over in Les Mis. She should definitely have been here instead of one of the male actors. Oh well.

The Grey

The Grey

Best Picture of 2012
The Dark Knight Rises
The Grey
Les Misérables
Life of Pi
The Queen of Versailles

Here’s another thing I didn’t realize until just now: this is the only category I nominated The Dark Knight Rises for. It sounds weird, but I’m fine with that. That film just worked as a whole, and was a fitting end to the trilogy. It, and the rest of the films here, represent the best of what I’ve seen from 2012 so far.

 
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Posted by on 6 February, 2013 in Lists, Misc.

 

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