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Wishful thinking and surprise predictions for the Oscar noms

I haven’t done any real blogging on this current awards season we’re in, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been keeping an eye on the race. This year’s is more interesting than most, since a lot of the major categories lack a clear front-runner. Sure, everyone knows Anne Hathaway is taking Best Supporitng Actress for Les Misérables, and Best Actor is Lincoln‘s Daniel Day-Lewis‘ to lose, but everything else is still refreshingly open. There are at least four films I could see win Best Picture at this point that wouldn’t cause me to bat an eyelid.

As I’ve said before, awards season to me is an event for the brain and not for the heart. By that I mean that it’s fun to think about and predict the Oscars, but to invest hopes and emotions in the process is a fool’s game. The Oscars are determined by a large number of voters, who all fill out their ballots according to their own opinions – at least in theory. They are as entitled to like what they like as I am, so you won’t hear any cries of “so-and-so should have been/didn’t deserve to be nominated!” when the nominations are announced this Thursday.

That said, if I had a ballot, there are some things I would put on there that the Academy members may or may not be likely to spring for. Here are a few of them.

Wishful thinking

Skärmavbild 2013-01-07 kl. 13.52.34Best Supporting Actor: Tom Cruise – Rock of Ages & Garrett Hedlund – On the Road
Tom Cruise for showing that an old dog can still learn new “sex drugs & rock n roll”-fuelled tricks. Garrett Hedlund for announcing the emphatic arrival of a new young powerhouse actor. Both for giving some of the year’s best performances.

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Posted by on 7 January, 2013 in Oscars

 

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Rewatch Ruminations: 8 thoughts on Batman Begins

I went back and revisited Batman Begins a few days ago. This was my first time stepping into Christopher Nolan‘s Batman-verse since seeing The Dark Knight Rises in theater this summer. I’ve been of the opinion since then that TDKR, while very good, was the weakest of the series. A close call with Batman Begins though, so a rewatch of this first entry seemed in order. Overall, I think this was my third or fourth time seeing Batman Begins. I’ve always enjoyed it. Not even getting into the new ground it broke for superhero movies or the box office impact the trilogy would go on to have, it’s also an entertaining movie in its own right.

Here are a few thoughts that sprung to mind for me during this rewatch. Warning: There will be spoilers ahead.

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Posted by on 19 November, 2012 in Lists, Rewatch Ruminations

 

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Monthly Report: August 2012

August has been an eventful month to say the least. Not so much movie-wise, but my apartment move is largely complete, so hopefully things will return to normal here at the blog soon-ish. In the midst of all the moving mayhem, I still found time to watch a couple of films, most of which were solid experiences. One of those middle-of-the-road months, with no films earning scores of 1/5 or 5/5. Sometimes, that’s all you can ask for.

The Promotion (Steve Conrad, 2008)
A comedy starring Seann William Scott and John C. Reilly as supermarket employees competing for a promotion. This set-up easily leads to certain ideas of what kind of movie to expect. However, rather than a crude laugh-out-loud kind of film, this one tries for a somewhat more down-to-earth and relatable approach to its material. Perhaps the fact that writer-director Steve Conrad had previously written both The Weather Man and The Pursuit of Happyness should have clued me in. The Promotion might not have much of a real point to it, but it moves around its plot with a certain surprising ease and presents some genuinely funny moments. Plus, you can always count on Reilly to deliver a strong performance.
3/5

This Is Not a Film (Mojtaba Mirtahmasb & Jafar Panahi, 2011)
If this is not a film, is it fair to judge it as one? Because as a film, I didn’t like it much. The parts where Panahi, forbidden from working as a director and stuck in house arrest, talks about his planned next movie are good, showing the passion and creativity within that he has been forced to put a lid on. For the most part, however, this is just a semi-dull documentation of a man stuck in his home. It doesn’t make for a compelling watch. That said, this is an important document for many reasons, and the more one knows about Panahi and his situation, the more one will get out of this one. I’m very glad This Is Not a Film exists, and the low rating should not make you think different.
2/5

Eddie: The Sleepwalking Cannibal (Boris Rodriguez, 2012)
Why is it that whenever a film has a really intriguing title, the film itself tends to end up below par? Eddie: The Sleepwalking Cannibal is a slasher-ish movie with some sporadic attempts at comedy, but it’s never really scary, funny, or interesting. The question of whether human lives can be sacrificed for the sake of art is a good one, but it was handled far more compellingly in Stranger Than Fiction. Eddie isn’t a terrible movie, but I can’t think of any solid reason to reccomend it to anyone.
2/5

Art School Confidential (Terry Zwigoff, 2006)
Remember the scenes in Zwigoff’s Ghost World where Enid has to attend summer art class and battle with a teacher who sees hidden meaning in everything and students with no hidden motives to share? This film feels like a spin-off of those scenes. As a tale of one young man making his way through art school, this movie works quite well. Max Minghella is effective in the lead, and the blend between comedy, satire and coming-of-age works. The subplot about a serial killer is an unwelcome distraction, however, and the movie is peppered with great actors who aren’t being used to their fullest potential. Still, while it’s not as good as Zwigoff’s previous efforts, Art School Confidential remains an enjoyable watch.
3/5

Open Water (Chris Kentis, 2003)
If the idea of watching two persons float in the sea for over an hour tickles your fancy, this is the movie for you. Open Water doesn’t manage to create much tension, and the characters are not interesting enough to care about. As such, this while film feels quite flat. Things pick up a bit towards the end, but it’s too little too late.
2/5

OSS 117: Lost in Rio (Michel Hazanavicius, 2009)
Quite a step away from The Artist, that’s for sure. This Bond parody certainly has its charm, and a lot of it can be attributed to Jean Dujardin‘s effective performance. The gags are more hits than misses, it plays off the genre tropes in fun and clever ways, and great effort has been made to make the film look and feel like a Bond film from the 60s – 70s. It’s not a laugh riot like Austin Powers, but it’s still worth a look.
3/5

The Killer Inside Me (Michael Winterbottom, 2010)
I had a hard time following along with the details of this movie. The general premise was clear enough, but how the film moved from scene to scene threw me off a bit. Maybe the fact that I didn’t find the characters interesting or worth caring about had something to do with it. I could also have done with less soundtrack dissonance. At least the acting was decent.
2/5

Certified Copy (Abbas Kiarostami, 2010)
Like Before Sunrise and Before Sunset in many ways, but much denser and more complex – for better or for worse. I was fascinated by the subjects discussed and covered, and enthralled by the way the film was shot. There’s a lot of impressive cinematography here for a movie that’s largely just two people talking to each other. Certified Copy is probably too much to be taken in entirely in just one viewing – at least for me – but I’m looking forward to revisiting it at some point. There is more to be had from this film, of this I’m sure.
4/5

The Dark Knight Rises (Christopher Nolan, 2012)
It’s the same kind of kinetic, impressive and grandiose action film that we’ve come to expect from Nolan in this franchise. Most of what was good in the past two films is good here too. It’s a fitting conclusion to the series, and it’s among the better films I’ve seen this summer. Still, with a movie like this it seems more important to explain why it’s not a 5/5 than why it’s a 4/5. It is the weakest film of the trilogy. It’s overcrowded, with screen time being spread to thin between the various characters. Some decisions with regards to the story feel unnecessary, and while there’s nothing wrong with the action scenes and set pieces, they don’t quite pack the oompf that feels required for the follow-up to The Dark Knight. These are relatively small complaints, though. It’s still a really good movie, as expected. Now I’m eager to see Nolan try something new.
4/5

Sin Nombre (Cary Fukunaga, 2009)
Which film is more admirable: the one that does something new and intriguing, or the one that sticks to something familiar but does it so well that it still stands out from the pack? Sin Nombre belongs to the latter category. It’s a thriller about people from Honduras and Mexico trying to make it to the US. It’s also about street gangs: the threat they pose, and the allure with which they sway people to their ranks. The story may not present many surprises, but the movie is still a treat to behold thanks to Fukunaga’s more than capable directing, the tight pacing, and the fine performances, of which Edgar Flores‘ shines brightest.
4/5

Total # of new films seen: 10
Average score: 2.9 / 5
Best film of the month: The Dark Knight Rises
Worst film of the month: Eddie – The Sleepwalking Cannibal

 
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Posted by on 1 September, 2012 in Monthly Report

 

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My Top 10 Favorite Movies of 1998

You know the drill by now. These are my 10 favorite movies of 1998, going by release year listed on IMDB.

Honorable mentions: Dark City, The Interview, Rushmore, Run Lola Run, There’s Something About Mary

10 – FOLLOWING (Christopher Nolan)

“You take it away to show them what they had.”

Before there were the multi-million dollar blockbusters like The Dark Knight and Inception, there was Following. Nolan’s first film was made on a budget of $6000, shot in black & white and with no bells and whistles. The story thus becomes the focal point, and it’s a good one indeed. Telling the non-chronological tale of a writer (Jeremy Theobald) who after following people on the streets eventually finds himself led into a world of crime, this neo-noir is filled with twists, turns and intrigue. Not quite a masterpiece or anything, but definitely well worth checking out to see where the seeds for Memento were planted.

9 – THE CELEBRATION (FESTEN, Thomas Vinterberg)

“Here’s to the man who killed my sister. To a murderer.”

The Celebration is perhaps most significant for being the first (and, alongside Lars Von Trier‘s The Idiots, arguably the most well-known) movie of the Dogme 95 movement, a philosophy that emphasises realism throughout the whole film production and was started in reaction to big costly Hollywood fare. However, it’s also a captivating film in its own right, showing the dark secrets hidden away beneath the facades of a wealthy family. It’s a fitting subject matter for the style, which all leads to some chillingly stark scenes and moments. A powerful film.

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Posted by on 29 March, 2012 in Lists, Top 10 of a year

 

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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.

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

 

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Which films of the 2000s will be remembered?

Which films of the last eleven years or so are the ones people will still talk about 20-30 years from now? I don’t just mean hardcore film buffs, because hardcore film buffs will take any excuse to talk about any movie. No, I mean the public at large. Which movies will be remembered and pop up in conversations even in the 2030s? Which films will be referenced? Which films will be the ones people know of even when they haven’t seen them?

This question is trickier than what it might seem at first glance. Any of us can rattle of a bunch of great films that have received critical approval and made good money at the box office. But consider movies of the 70s and 80s. How many are still talked about or remembered today? Not just by you and your circle of friends and acquintances, but the films that you could mention the title of to any random person on the street and they’d be able to tell you something about them. It’s probably not that many. I can think of a few. Jaws. Star Wars. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Karate Kid. Carrie. The Godfather. Back to the Future. The Terminator. The Exorcist. Nightmare on Elm Street. Rocky, though more the sequels than the original, probably. These are movies that have in one way or another entered the public consciousness.

Everyone knows what this is.

This question occurred to me during the last awards season, when I was looking up nominees for the acting Oscars through the years. What struck me was that while the name of the actors and actresses were familiar, the films they were nominated for didn’t ring any bells. And this wasn’t movies from ancient times or anything; just looking through the Best Actress nominations of the 1990s was enough to leave me confused. The End of the Affair? One True Thing? Afterglow? Marvin’s Room? Lorenzo’s Oil? What were all these films I’ve never heard of? In their respective years, there must have been lots of talk about and critical acclaim for them. But they haven’t stuck in people’s minds to any real degree. This caused me to realize that a similar fate would befall lots of the movies everyone was buzzing about at the time. As great as they are, who’s going to remember Winter’s Bone, 127 Hours or The Fighter 20 years from now?

So the question I ask is this: What films from 2000 to today do you think people at large will still mention or know of 25 years from now?

To me, the most obvious pick would be The Lord of the Rings. A massive undertaking that gave use three epic movies that will live on for a long time in people’s memories. Being based on well-known novels doesn’t hurt either as the films are far removed from them and doesn’t fall under their shadow. Compare this to Harry Potter. The films will live on, yes, but they arrived so close to the books that they won’t be standing on their own. The fact that the films haven’t had universal acclaim hurts their chances too.

But scoring big at the box office always helps. If the film made tons of money, it means lots of people went to see it. Avatar won’t be soon forgotten. It bested Titanic‘s money record (even if that’s likely to be toppled again as inflation continues) and also brought on the latest trend of 3D movies. We’re still feeling the effect that movie has had on the cinematic landscape. The Dark Knight is another big success story, though I think the love for it will morph into more of general adoration for Christopher Nolan‘s Batman trilogy as a whole once The Dark Knight Rises arrives. And probably Pirates of the Caribbean too, largely thanks to Johnny Depp‘s memorable Captain Jack Sparrow. Characters like that don’t come around too often.

Pixar’s animated films will of course all be remembered. The kids who see them today will keep them with them and probably show them to their own kids in the future. Which ones will be the stand-outs? Hard to say, but I think Finding Nemo and Toy Story 3 will be the big ones. Will any animated films from other studios stick with us? I can’t see any that really will. Maybe How to Train Your Dragon or Kung Fu Panda, but even those seem iffy. How many non-Disney animated films from the 70s and 80s do people talk about today?

Comedies can have an easier time then other genres. As long as they manage one or two gags that become really memetic, they can be set for eternity. More than any other from this past decade, Borat will probably live on for a long time. Everyone was quoting it for a long time, it’s an unforgettable character and the film’s semi-documentary approach also helps to make it stand out. The films Judd Apatow has been involved in have dominated mainstream comedy during the brunt of the past years, and of these, I see Superbad being the one to stand the test of time. If mostly for McLovin.

Love it or hate it, the Saw franchise will live on too. A high concentration of movies (seven in as many years) that kicked off the whole “torture porn” genre, and yet they still have managed to remain uneclipsed and even unequalled by any of its followers in terms of mass appeal. And just because there wasn’t a new movie this year doesn’t mean there won’t be any attempted revivals somewhere down the line. Teens of the 00s will hold on to Saw the way teens of years past did to Friday the 13th and other slasher films.

What about Best Picture winners at the Oscars? They all enter the history books, but there’s no guarantee that they’ll be remembered for anything other than their victories. Mention some of the 80s winners like Ordinary People or Out of Africa to someone today and you might well be met with a blank stare. Of the winners during the aughts, it’s slim pickings. Gladiator seems the most likely one since it was such a big box office hit and spawned a short-lived resurgence of historical epics (Alexander, Troy et all). Apart from that and the aforementioned Return of the King, none of the others seem like they will really stick. Maybe The Departed? One non-winning nominee definitely will, though: Brokeback Mountain. People will always remember “that gay cowboy movie”.

Now it’s your turn. Which films from the 2000s (so far) do you think will be remembered?

 
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Posted by on 28 November, 2011 in Discussions

 

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My Top 10 Favorite Movies of 2008

2008 saw The Dark Knight crush everything at the box office, with Iron Man picking up what super hero crumbs were left over. WALL-E charmed the pants off of everyone, becoming both a critical darling and a major crowd-pleaser. Standard procedure for Pixar, of course. Teenage girls packed theaters for the first Twilight film, while their mothers came out in droves for Sex and the City and Mamma Mia. Slumdog Millionaire hit the film festivals and began one of the least-threatened journeys to the Best Picture Oscar in recent memory. Mickey Rourke had his career resurrected through The Wrestler, Titanic co-stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet reunited in Revolutionary Road and Harrison Ford donned the iconic hat once more in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. More saddening, 2008 also had the deaths of Heath Ledger, Sydney Pollack, Bernie Mac, Paul Newman, Charlton Heston, trailer voice-over guy Don LaFontaine and others.

This was an important year for me as a movie-watcher, since it was in 2008 that I went from very casually interested to becoming the movie-nut I am today. And what a good year it was for cinema, with plenty of wonderful films arriving from all corners of the world. Culling these films into a mere 10 was not the easiest task.

As usual, this is 2008 strictly as listed on IMDB. And do note it’s a list of my favorite films, and nothing else.

10 – IN BRUGES (Martin McDonagh)

“Of course you can’t see! I just a shot a blank in your fucking eye!”

Who’d have though a film about two assassins on vacation in a quiet Belgian town could be so great? Director/writer Martin McDonagh crafts a tale filled with black humor, sadness, guilt and violence, helmed by two great performances by Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson. One of the funniest films of the year, only strangely enhanced by the thick melancholic atmosphere.

9 – LAKEVIEW TERRACE (Neil LaBute)

“I am the police! You have to do what I say!”

This choice is sure to raise a few eyebrows, but I really dug this film. It might not have anything revelatory to say about racism (“Did you know that black people can be racist too?”), but it walks the fine line between mumbling and top-of-the-lungs screaming regardless. It also works really well as pure entertainment. There’s lots of fun to be had watching Samuel L. Jackson‘s bigot LAPD cop character troll his new neighbors, an interracial couple played by Patrick Wilson and Kerry Washington. Many disagree with me and say this movie is nothing special. I found it surprisingly great.

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Posted by on 12 October, 2011 in Lists, Top 10 of a year

 

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