Thursday, January 31, 2008

Were There Any Good, Non-Quirky, 80s Films?

I keep track of every movie I've ever seen, keeping it in a list by year.

As I've develved further back and tried to develop my movie pallet, my 1980s list are simply depressing.

You see the problem is, that once I delve past favorites like The Breakfast Club and Back To The Future, I realize that I've yet to see many films that were released in the 1980s that I think of as great timeless films.

In fact, most 80s films are so quirky they might as well be instantly considered period pieces, even if at the time they had every intention of being contemporary or non-script in their portrayl of time. From the horrible costumes, the irritating music, and the bizarre overly narrated screenplays, 80s films seem like the type of movies you are overly fond of, or simply disregard.

I recently watched The Accidental Tourist, a 1988 Lawrence Kasdan that in addition to winning Geena Davis an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress was also nominated for best picture, best adapted screenplay, and best original score (John Williams).

How did this film get nominated for best picture?

Similarly that same year Tom Hanks got nominated for best actor academy award for Big. I enjoyed Big, but best actor nominee (and also best original screenplay?) Maybe it was a creative "what if" type of movie at the time...but it just doesn't seem like "that type of film."

Maybe I shouldn't be critical like this, but when I saw The Sting (1973) for the first time this past year I thought, "Wow, what a great movie. Everyone should watch this, it's great." Similarly I had the same thought with Battle of Algiers when I saw it earlier this month.

Yet how come I would dread the thought of developing a top 10 list of my favorite non-quirky 80s films?

When I was a kid I didn't see The Goonies (1985), but later watched it as an adult. Having missed it in childhood, I found it to be one of the lamest movies ever. Yet people who saw it in the 80s loved it. I feel like that this might be part of the quirky nature of many 1980s films. (Think Trading Places, Spies Like Us, Clue, Flight of The Navigator, Three Amigos, Twins).

What movies from the 1980s are still watchable?

I'm willing to give 80s films I shot this year, but I need some help on some recommendations. I don't want to completly right off an entire decade of cinema.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

SAG Awards & Soulja Boy

A many thanks to Grete for filling in this past week and sharing her SAG experiences with us. Her husband Jon got to be Russell Crowe for the evening and talking with Cuba Gooding Jr. Grete was siting in Kevin Bacon's seat and chilling with the cast of the office, and asking to get out of the way by Debra Messing, and wandering around the midst of Casey Affleck, Javier Bardem, Ryan Gosling, Tina Fey, and Ellen Page.

I was glad to see the Ruby Dee win, I feel like the supporting actress race could leave room for some surprises come academy award time (Blanchett the frontrunner, Amy Ryan the critical award winner, and Ruby Dee the vetran picking up the awards at the end of the season...what will happen?)

While I didn't get to brush shoulders with some of the greatest actors in the business, I was able to spend time with wife's family and attend the wedding of a great friend.

Enjoy the video below of some of the groomsmen (I did not participate) as they attempt to dance to the song "Crank That (Soulja Boy)" by Soulja Boy.



If you can't get enough, here's two more clips. Groomsmen dancing to NSYNC's Bye Bye Bye Part 1 & Bye Bye Bye Part 2.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Laughed out loud.

"Never go with a hippie to a second location."
-Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin) on '30 Rock'

Sunday, January 27, 2008

SAG Awards Results

We're home! And we're tired. Though, it isn't because we had to run in and out of seats for our seatfilling stint at the Awards. We actually both had unoccupied seats from which we viewed the whole show without moving from table to table. Yay!

I was told by my friends Anthony and Allison that I was on-camera when "The Office" cast won for best ensemble in a TV Comedy... because I was sitting at their table! My husband Jon was "Russell Crowe" for the night, which he explains in the brief video he posted on his blog. And, like last year, I again made an extensive list of everyone I sat with, spoke with, and saw from a distance.

Overall, I didn't feel like there was as much excitement surrounding the show this year. Jon pointed out that it could be do to the lack of "freshness" in new television series. Because of the writers' strike that began late last Fall, several new shows haven't had enough time on-air to be nominated for awards. Hence, most of the television folks at the show were being nominated for the same categories as last year. We're fans of "Chuck" in particular - anyone else?

I'm surprised that with how few categories there are beyond the usual ones (i.e. actor/actress), they didn't go ahead and include the stunt performance winners during the show. Here is the complete list of tonight's winners:

THEATRICAL MOTION PICTURES

Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
'No Country for Old Men'

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role
Daniel Day-Lewis, 'There Will Be Blood'

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role
Julie Christie, 'Away From Her'

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role
Javier Bardem, 'No Country for Old Men'

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role
Ruby Dee, 'American Gangster'

Outstanding Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Motion Picture
'The Bourne Ultimatum'

TELEVISION

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series
James Gandolfini, 'The Sopranos'

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series
Edie Falco, 'The Sopranos'

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy Series
Alec Baldwin,'30 Rock'

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series
Tina Fey, '30 Rock'

Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series
'The Sopranos'

Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series
'The Office'

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries
Kevin Kline, 'As You Like It'

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries
Queen Latifah, 'Life Support'

Outstanding Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Television Series
'24'


How will these winners impact the decisions for the Academy Awards?

photo credit: Associated Press

Saturday, January 26, 2008

SAG Awards on Sunday

Anyone plan to watch them? If so, you might see my husband and I scurrying in and out of celebrity seats. We're seatfillers! What this entails is lining up along the walls, being directed to vacated seats during breaks (or after someone's won an award), and jumping back out of them when the seat-holder returns. Last year, this meant seeing LOTS of recognizable faces (see my blog post or "sightings" list from SAG Awards 2007).

Who would be the most exciting person to sit near this year? Opinions? Personally, if the 3:10 to Yuma gang shows up for their nominated "best ensemble" award, I'd beeline my efforts to sit near Christian Bale. :)

By the way, this isn't RC... I've been asked to guest-post while he's out. Some of you readers may know me (Grete) personally, but for those who don't, feel free to glance at my blog. My husband and I have lived in L.A. for the past year and a half, and we quickly learned how to get a taste of the entertainment world for free. I'm not too weird. Really.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

On the Death of Celebrities

You know those montages they show at the Academy Awards of the people who died the previous year?

My first memory of the montage was a very removed memory. I don't know that I recognized a single person in the film footage and the majority of people were old, many "behind the scenes" people, from movies I have never seen.

As I've become more aware of film, seen more "old movies," and kept up with the media world, not only do I recognize more names, faces, and films, but I also can recall those people dying through out the year.

(Mercurie's blog does an excellent job often composes post on those who have died through out the year.)

I've often thought about how weird it'll be to see the Academy montage with Tom Hanks in it, Will Smith, or Julie Roberts if I am blessed to outlive them. Sometimes when celebrities die, even though we don't know them, we have formed a unique intimacy with them over time. Even though they wouldn't miss you if you died, you certainly miss them, are shocked that death would take them, or intrigued at how these people and the people around them are effected by death.

When I found out Heath Ledger died yesterday, I didn't believe it. I wanted to verify it with real news stories which were beginning to flood over the Internet. In a way it paralyzed me at first. Ledger was young, born in 1979! He had one of his biggest roles wrapped up in Batman: The Dark Knight. I was excited for Leger's performance as soon as it was announced, and now it's a bitter thought.

I think about when Brad Delp committed suicide last year and said "I am a lonely soul" in his short suicide note. I think of the messages of Oliver Stone's film I recently wrote on, and sometimes what we want the most is what destroys us.

I wish people would search for faith. I wish people would search for hope. I wish people would search for love. And when they search, I want them to find. That they may find faith, hope, and love.

Whether it's the montages of celebrities, or the obituaries in the paper, I wish the names and faces would bring feeling of sorrow and loss of those who died of natural causes, rather than taken out of this world prematurely. Especially those feeling that the need to remove themselves from this world.

Heath, I don't know what to say about your death, other than I hope those you left behind will find what you did not.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Academy Award Nomination Day!!

Academy Award nominees have just been announced. The big initial shockers and discussions is Laura Linney got nominated (in the spot normally thought to belong to Angelina Jolie), the Atonement DID get nominated for best picture, Jason Reitman scored his first directing nod for Juno, and Tommy Lee Jones got nominated for In the Valley of Elah. And Surf's Up sneaks in for an animation nod.

Looking closer, there will be certain thoughts to come about the Original Song catagory which saw Enchanted receiving 3 of the 5 nods.

Also little love for Sweeney Todd or Into the Wild which both received 3 nods each.

Here's how I faired on my predictions:

I had a 5/5 predictions correct in: Best Picture, Supporting Actor, Original Screenplay, Cinemotography

I had a 4/5 prediction correct in: Lead Actress, Supporting Actress, Adapted Screenplay, Art Direction, Original Score, Sound Editing

I had disappointing 3/5 for: Best Director, Lead Actor, Documentary, Film Editing, Sound Mixing, Costume Design

I horrible 2/5 for: Best Foreign Language Film, Orginal Song

Plus, 2/3 in Animated film & Visual Effects, and 1/3 in Makeup.

Official Count: As I count There Will Be Blood & No Country For Old Men lead with 8 nods, and Michael Clayton and Atonement trail just behind with 7 nods. Ratatoille has 5 nods, while Juno and The Diving Bell and The Butterfly trail behind with 4 nods.

Monday, January 21, 2008

I Wasn't Going to but I can't Resist - some Academy Awards Predictions

I was avoiding this, thinking there 10 billion people doing this, and I don't need to replicate what everyone else is doing because no one really cares what I predict. But, I just can't refrain. I'll keep it short.

Picture: No Country for Old Men, Michael Clayton, Juno, Atonement, There Will Be Blood (other real potentials: Into the Wild, Diving Bell & The Butterfly, Sweeney Todd)

Director: Coen Bros (No Country), PT Anderson (There Will Be Blood), Julian Schnabel (Diving Bell), Sean Penn (Into the Wild), Joe Wright (Atonement). (With so many potential movies the directors and pictures surely won't match 1-to-1, we could see Tim Burton, Tony Gilroy, or Ridley Scott).

Lead Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis (There Will Be Blood), George Clooney (Michael Clayton), Viggo Mortesen (Eastern Promises), Denzel Washington (American Gangster), Ryan Gosling (Lars and The Real Girls)

Lead Actress: Julie Christie (Away from Her), Marion Cotillard (La Vie En Rose), Ellen Page (Juno), Angelina Jolie (A Mighty Heart), Cate Blanchett (Elizabeth)

Supporting Actor: Casey Affleck (Assasination of Jesse James), Javier Bardem (No Country), Tom Wilkinson (Michael Clayton), Hal Holbrook (Into the Wild), Philip Seymore Hoffman (Charlie Wilson's War)

Supporting Actress: Cate Blanchet (I'm Not Here), Amy Ryan (Gone Baby Gone), Tilda Swinton (Michael Clayton), Ruby Dee (American Gangster), Catherine Keener (Into The Wild).

Original Screenplay: Juno, Michael Clayton, Lars and the Real Girls, Ratatouille, The Savages

Adapated Screenplay: Atonement, Diving Bell and The Butterfly, No Country For Old Men, There Will Be Blood, Into The Wild

Animated: Ratatoille, Simpsons, Persopolis

Documentary: Sicko, No End in Sight, Taxi to the Dark Side, Please Vote For Me, The Rape of Europa

Foreign Film: Austria (The Counter), Russia (12), Brazil (The Year My Parents Went On Vacation), Serbia (The Trap), Italy (The Unknown)

Cinemotography: Roger Deakins (Assassination of Jesse James), Deakins (No Country), Elswit (There Will Be Blood), Kaminsky (Diving Bell), McGarvey (Atonement)

Editing: No Country, Michael Clayton, There Will Be Blood, Atonement, Diving Bell

Art Direction: Sweeney Todd, Atonement, There Will Be Blood, His Dark Materials, Pirates of The Caribbean

Original Score: Marianelli (Atonement), Iglesias (Kite Runner), Giacchino (Ratatouille), Beltrami (3:10 to Yuma), Despalt (Lust, Caution)

Original Song: That's How You Know (Enchanted), Grace is Gone (Grace is Gone), Come So Far (Got So Far to Go) (Hairspray), Guaranteed (Into The Wild), Falling Slowly (Once)

Sound Mixing: Transformers, No Country For Old Men, Into the Wild, Bourne Ultimatum, Sweeney Todd

Sound Editing: Transformers, Bourne Ultimatum, 300, No Country For Old Men, Ratatouille

Visual Effects: 300, Transformers, His Dark Materials: The Golden Compass

Costume Design: Atonement, Sweeney Todd, Elizabeth: The Golden Age, Hairspray, Assassination of Jesse James

Make-up: Sweeney Todd, 300, La Vie En Rose

Documentary/Animated/Live Actions Shorts: I don't care

Other Oscar Predictions Floating Around: Barry, Stale Popcorn, 2 Reels, Film Chair, Nick's Flick Picks, Scott Freeman, Toby Hostility, Filmatelist, Stereo Sanctity, Film Experience, Oscar Igloo, Sijmen's Oscar Experiment, Cinematically Correct, and if you have predictions posted, let me know!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

First Thoughts on The Diving Bell and The Butterfly

Critical raves and awards, 2 Golden Globe wins, many guild nominations, and various top 10 lists, and all I can think is how do you make a two hour motion picture about a man who can't move any bone or muscle in his body except for one eye lid.

Ever since I first wrote about Jean-Dominique Bauby and the movie The Diving Bell and The Butterfly, I've been curious...how will they make this movie? What will it be like? How can this be good?

I got a chance to finally see the Diving Bell and the Butterfly this weekend, and I did think it was excellent. Julian Schnabel (Before Night Falls) does an excellent job directing this very unique project, and I fully anticipate a best director Oscar nod later this week.

The project is certainly on the artistic side, so the best picture nod seems less likely to me, although I've seen plenty of people predict it's nomination.

The story is fantastic and has the unique magic that only a real story can have...yet screenwriter Ronald Harwood (Oscar winner, The Pianist) writes this in such a stimulating and artful way. It has you asking "What does it mean to live?" On top of all the profoundness of It's A Wonderful Life, except instead of George Bailey seeing his life dead, you see Bauby seeing the people in his life respond to his paralysis, and yet with no practical way to respond and interact with them.

Also Janusz Kaminski's cinematography is incredible, I'm sure this project is a dream project for him to add to impressive filming of Saving Private Ryan & Schindler's List.

I imagine this film will be far more engaging on a big screen than a little one, so if you're interested and not to scared of artful foreign cinema with flashbacks and dream sequences, I highly encourage seeking out a viewing when and where it's available.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Must See Film: The Battle of Algiers

It's not too often that I assign I required viewing, but this film is worthy of making it an assignment for StrangeCulture readers.

The Battle of Algiers (Battaglia di Algeri, La) is a movie that came out over 40-years ago, first showing in the US in 1967, directed by Italian film maker Gillo Pontecorvo.

This film deals with the Algerian war against the French Colonist (1854-1962). The war was fought between the French colonial power and the National Liberation Front (FLN).

The majority of the story takes place in the Casbah of Algiers and focuses on the Arab Nationalist trying to be freed from the French colonial power. Yet, while the film focuses on these Arab extremist, the film does not necessarily suggest that they are in the right, and the French are in the wrong. In fact, there's no clear good guy/bad guy relationship in the film, namely because you see crimes and justice compromised on both sides.

There is some harrowing scenes where you see the French using torture tactics, and the FLN extremist starting terrorist cells that bring about civilian causalities all in the name of freedom and liberation.

I strongly recommend this film for three reasons.

(1) Entertainment Value: You will enjoy this film. It's plot is not so far off from what makes up the system of story-telling that you'd find in Alias, 24, or Jason Bourne film. The opening sequence begins with a man being tortured and giving up valuable information. Shortly afterwards the story flashes back to years earlier as the story is neatly and suspensefully unpacked, with action and special effects gallore.

(2) Relevancy To History and Current Events: I've discussed to some degree previously about the ideas of extraordinary rendition and torture as it relates to entertainment and politics. This film opens up ideas on torture for sure. It also deals strongly with the concepts of terrorism and elevation of terrorist acts, specifically as they relate to the Muslim world. As we live in a world that is currently fighting a "War on Terror" I can think of know single film I've seen that open up and unpacks these ideas better the Battle of Algiers. While the film deals directly in a documentary-like presentation of the real events of Algieria's liberation it also deals so poignantly about these other topics that are still relevant today. Also, this film paints such an interesting picture of what was going on in Africa post-WWII. This film speaks far more volumes than simply telling the story of terrorist/liberator/criminal/hero Ali La Pointe.

(3) Fantastic Film Making: Everything in this film is first rate. The special effects of the bombings look so real, the way the camera grabs the faces and expressions of the actors makes the characters seem so real, the music by always talented Ennio Morricone is perfect, and pacing and feel are great. But more than that, it all just seems so real. You would think you were watching real footage of the actual events when you're watching this film. There is nothing that seems staged, it just all fits together so perfectly.

If you haven't seen this movie, it's a must watch film. I wish there were more films like this.

Friday, January 18, 2008

StrangeCultureBlog.com Is Alive

I previously mentioned that with the money I would get from google adsense, one of my thoughts was to park my blog at a domain that was not a blogspot address. I also mentioned the unavailability (and non-use) of StrangeCulture.com (very sad).
But Adam said it wouldn't be that hard...and that's all I needed to hear.

But I decided to be American and spend some of that adsense money before I actually received it (I'm thinking the check is in the mail, right?). And I bought up the website StrangeCultureBlog.com

(Anthony I couldn't really go with a .edu but thanks for the compliment, and Mercurie I waffled on whether or not to go with the info extension, but I didn't know if people would remember it).

You can continue to link to and visit it's current home on blogspot, or it's new address...they both direct to the same place. (In fact, look above at your address bar...it should have directed you to the knew site without even knowing it, assuming you're not using a reader...in which case, nevermind)

ALSO... if you're one of the people who complain because they can't check the blog at work because blogspots are blocked...then hopefully I've also helped fix that problem for you as well!

If you have questions about how to do this yourself, feel free to e-mail me, it really wasn't that hard (just like Adam said), nor very expensive ($1.99 the first year).

Also thanks to those who occasionally notice a adsense link that appeals to them and clicks! But more importantly, thanks for visiting, reading, and linking to StrangeCulture!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

2nd Blogaversary

Today marks StrangeCulture's 2 year blogaversary!

It all started Jan 17, 2006.

Since then I've written over 600 post of various length, content and popularity. (Last years blogaversary post can be found here)

Some of My Favorite from year 2:

Some Special First Time Series From This Past Year:

My Ultimate Favorite Experience on Strange Culture this past year:

This next year I want to see StrangeCulture develop even further...expect to see changes in the next couple days, including a new web address coming soon!

Thanks for reading, commenting, linking and coming back for more!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Oliver Stone & the message of Gaining the World

"Be careful what you wish for, cause you just might get it all." - Home by Chris Daughtry (the real winner of American Idol Season 5, not Taylor Hicks)

I've had my own personal little film festival this past month watching Oliver Stone films, namely, Platoon, Wall Street, Born on the Forth of July, JFK, Nixon and Scarface (for which he wrote the screenplay too, but was directed by Brian De Palma).

If there was one thing I noticed, besides Oliver Stone's attention to history, especially relating to the sixties and early 70s, was he attention to the rise and fall of powerful men.

The stories of Scarface & Wall Street are practical identical stories, except the story of Wall Street dealing with business ethics and insider trading, ends were Scarface really takes off. Wall Street's Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen) and Scarface's Tony Montana (Al Pacino) both have their own levels of familial defiance, unique rules of morality, and an unyielding desire to be at the top. And when given the opportunity to brought into the fold of their respective industries (finance, drugs), through their industries leaders (in one, played by Michael Douglas and in the other by Robert Loggia). Through this leader they meet beautiful women (Daryl Hannah, Michelle Pfieffer) whom they steal away as they try to take over their respective industries by taking out the one the brought in. Bud Fox's story line ends about here with a reality check and a jail sentence, while Tony Montana's downward spiral has yet to begin.

I realized that this message that getting what you want, might not in reality be what you want at all, is a large message of many of Oliver Stone's films. In the best picture winning film Platoon, Charlie Sheen (as long as other Vietnam soldiers) experiences a unique discontentment about where they are, what they're doing, and how it's being accomplished. In the end Sheen ends up killing another soldier, an event that the young private certainly never imagined he'd do. He went to be a hero and be a champion for justice, but in the end, justice had to be administered by killing someone on his own side.

This story of a frustrated Vietnam Vet is not too far off from the story of Ron Kovic (Tom Cruise) in Born on the Forth of July. In this film, the one thing that Cruise's character wants is to be a hero, like the WWII paraders he saw as a child, and in the end going off to war and being injured ruins all of Kovic's initial hopes and dreams. What he wanted more than anything ended up being his downfall.

This message cares over in it's unique ways in other Stone pictures as well.

But the surprisingly favorite film of all these that I wanted was Oliver Stone's presidential picture Nixon. I expected that this film would be boring, and overly bio-pictical (if bio-pictical were a word), but in reality, I found it very interesting, especially from a psychological angle. Obviously some liberties were surely taken with the story telling, but after seeing this film, I wish Oliver Stone would do more political story telling, even if the directors cut has to be over three hours to be 'complete.' Anthony Hopkins, of course, is also amazing.

In the end of the film Nixon film displays the verse from the bible (Matthew 16:26/Mark 8:36), "What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?"

In essence, this epitaph could be one that falls after the majority of Stone's pictures, and I think is a remarkable and interesting film theme that Stone develops.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Producers Guild & The 9

The Producers Guild have announced their 5 Top Films of The Year...

The Diving Bell and Butterfly
Juno
Michael Clayton
No Country For Old Men
There Will Be Blood

The notable exclusions...
The Academy Award nominees are a week away and nothing is certain...

The PGA nominees over the past 18 years end up being 75.6% in line with the eventual academy nominees. Statistical one of the PGA films above won't get nominated and one of the other 4 contenders will.

I can't wait until January 22nd to see how these nominations pan out. It's great to have a mysterious best picture line up. There is certainly some heavy competition amongst these great films.

Imagining Joe Wright is Holding a Golden Globe Statue

So, imagine with me for a moment that director Joe Wright is holding the Golden Globe statue.

I don't really know if he would have been the one to give the speech upon a winning the Golden Globe for best picture, drama, but let's pretend for a moment that he did. (Liza Chasin, Richard Eyre, Robert Fox, Debra Hayward, and novelist Ian McEwan were all executive producers, so they might have been the speech givers too).

So, I'm imagining the speech would be a nice list of thanks, especially to the studios, Ian McEwan, and the great actors, costume designers, etc.

But here's the question...is what would be going through the mind of academy voters if they heard this speech...is Atonement a contender for a best picture...where will it end up on Academy voters ballots??

Last Friday I pointed out that the guilds had not been too favorable to Atonement or Sweeney Todd. No Screen Actors Guild Nominations. No Writers Guild Nominations. No Directors Guild Nominations.

YET...despite the lack of guild love by the SAG, the WGA, & the DGA...Atonement won the best picture drama globe, and Sweeney Todd won the best picture comedy/musical globe.
Similarly, No Country For Old Men, the current front-runner had minimal award attention for the globes.

This best picture race still has room for surprises.

Is Atonement going to be a major player in this years Academy Awards? Will it get nominated for Best Picture? Does Sweeney Todd have hopes for anything other nominations besides costumes? Is No Country For Old Men a shoe-in to win the Oscar?

The horse race is still interesting. Let's see what happens with the Producers Guild (PGA) nominations are announced today.

Any predictions?

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Watching the "Golden Globes Award Special"

There's nothing special about the Golden Globes Award special. Nancy O'Dell and Billy Bush are annoying.

This is lame.

I'd rather gouge out my eyes.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Blindness - Most Anticipated in 2008.

I haven't read José Saramago's novel Blindness, but in look at 2008's upcoming films, Blindness might be one of my most anticipated films of this upcoming year.

Blindness is about a city where everyone is struck with an epidemic of blindness...that is everyone, EXCEPT the doctor's wife (played by Julianne Moore).

It sounds like an M. Night Shyamalan film set up, but it's not directed by Shymalan, which at this point, seems like a good thing (Shymalan needs some new inspiration). But the film is directer by Fernando Meirelles who's directed two absolute favorite films of mine, City of God, and The Constant Gardner. I also love screenwriters Don McKeller's unique and successful screenplay of The Red Violin.

I ready for Julianne Moore to have another recognized performance (and I don't want it to be for Savage Grace). I want Mark Ruffalo and Gabriel Gael Garcia Bernal to score their first academy award nominations. I'm excited that Danny Glover is narrating and not Morgan Freeman (Freeman's great, but his fantastic narration is overplayed).

The initial stills (example, the one posted above) from the set look intriguing and I'm ready to be intrigued. There's still a few 2007 releases I want to see, but as I look to 2008, Blindness is topping my list for most anticipated.

What are you anticipating in 2008?

Friday, January 11, 2008

Baby Bombardment

No, I'm not talking about Angelina Jolie's ten thousand children, Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban's recent baby announcement, the always changing rumors of the real father of Suri Cruise, Avril Lavigne, Jack Black or any other celebrity baby.

No, no, no.

I'm talking about my first trip to Babies 'R' Us.

It's stills a way off before my wife births our child (June 24th due date), but tonight we decided that it was time we venture into a Babies 'R' Us, superstore and see what these stores are all about.

I was sort of excited to see what this store was like, but upon going inside I was instantly struck with paralysis. Um, they have the pacifiers and bottles separated by brands! There's three different stages of strollers and car seats, some are three stages in one, while others focus on specific stages!?

I mean some of these strollers are giant! And then they have fixtures and attachments and hanging mobiles that come with all sorts of spinning things.

And do kids really like mobiles so much that everything needs to have one?

Anyways, the intention is not for this blog to turn into a daddy blog, but man, we're talking about a whole different world here, and it's hard to know what stuff is crazy ridiculousness and what stuff is going to future life essentials. All I know is that it's expensive, takes up a lot of space, and some of it's straight up scary.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Major Precursors - the guilds!

A few weeks ago the Screen Actors Guild announced there nominees for the SAG.

That list can be seen here with some thoughts.

This list gave the first indication that past nominees Denzel Washington and Johnny Depp may not be as secure as previously thought, nor James McAvoy. Perhaps the exclusion of these three year long hopefuls opens the way for Emile Hirsh, Viggo Mortensen and Ryan Gosling. Among other exclusions was the entire cast of Atonement & Sweeney Todd...that's right not a single nod.

Since then, the Directors Guild (DGA) Announced their nominees:
Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be Blood
Joel and Ethan Coen, No Country for Old Men
Tony Gilroy, Michael Clayton
Sean Penn, Into the Wild
Julian Schnabel, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

This could be the final list, again, Atonement (Joe Wright) and Sweeney Todd (Tim Burton) are excluded.

Surely the writers guild would honor the much praised and anticipated Atonement though...

Today, the Writers Guild (WGA) announced their guild's nominees.

WGA Best Original Screenplay Nominees:
Diablo Cody, Juno
Tony Gilroy, Michael Clayton
Tamara Jenkins, The Savages
Judd Apatow, Knocked Up
Nancy Oliver, Lars and the Real Girl

WGA Best Adapted Screenplay Nominees:
Ethan and Joel Coen, No Country for Old Men
Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be Blood
Ronald Harwood, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Sean Penn, Into the Wild
James Vanderbilt, Zodiac

No Ratatouille, but I'm not sure, but it may not have been eligible, but on that, I'm not sure.

ALSO again no Atonement and no Sweeney Todd. The Academy Award best picture is look slimmer for these two film. And if we assume (which we all know we shouldn't) that Atonement and Sweeney Todd are out of the race then...

it looks like this years Academy Award nominees for best picture will be...

No Country for Old Men
There Will Be Blood
Into The Wild
Michael Clayton
& ????

What film is "& ????"? Is it Juno? The Diving Bell and The Butterfly? American Gangster (which I would exclude from the potential list, except it did score the SGA best cast nominee)?

Or some how will the backlash reverse and/or will the British contingent of the Academy push Atonement into the top 5?

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Repairing the Past: Case Studies of Amir & Briony

A central plot theme of the recent books/films The Kite Runner and Atonement deal with the concepts of the past, and whether we can make right what we have done in the past.

The story of The Kite Runner opens up with Rahim Khan telling Amir "There is a way to be good again." Is this true? Can we repair the past?

If you have experienced both of these stories (either in their novel of film forms) you will know that both works offer unique looks, as well as different conclusions.

Khaled Hosseini's novel, The Kite Runner, tells a well crafted story about a young boys past and errors in Kabul before it fell into the hands of the communist and the Taliban. As the early lines would allude, this story seems to suggest, that yes, there is a way to be a good again.

In Atonement, author Ian McEwan offers a more challenging, and probably, less popular perspective. It would seem to be that the message in Atonement, is a little more complicated. McEwan seems to suggest, that life is just a string a moments, and the moments of the past can not be undone, while their influence over the future is unstoppable. In reality, Atonement, does not encourage us to seek out ways to atone for our past, rather encourages caution in how we allow our present to play out, because our efforts to Atone for the past (as Briony attempts to do by becoming a nurse, searching for her sister, revisiting her childhood testimony, and finally through writing a mostly true story about Cecilia and Robbie) can not fully erase the past.

The complexity of Atonement's message, does not trivialize the counter-thesis of The Kite Runner's message.

But first some similarities is story construction...where The Kite Runner has excuses for Amir's childhood actions, so does Atonement. Also, both stories paint a picture that larger things are happening around their central characters, namely war (Post WWII conflict in Afghanistan, and World War II respectively). There is a sense in both films that we cannot ever understand exactly how our present decisions will effect the future because the future is filled with unimaginable futures.

In The Kite Runner, Amir's weakness as a child might be justifiable in the confines of his culture, but he has the opportunity to simply accept his former cowardice as a child to be brave and principled as an adult. Does that undo his former sin, that is debatable, but it also doesn't counteract the importance of his beneficent decision. I think there is value in this message that we can learn from the past, we can understand our past failings and learn. Perhaps we can not repair the past, but we can give of ourselves in a challenging ways.

I believe that Amir has learned that his selfish decision actually lowered his self-value, where his selfless decisions increased his self-value.

I think it is fair to suggest that Briony Tallis learns this same lesson, but is never offered an opportunity to put into practice in the same way it is laid before Amir.

I believe that as shown in Atonement, the past is fixed and will forever effect the future. Our actions cannot be undone, whether to benefit or to harm. But I also believe there is hope as seen in The Kite Runner. Our past decisions do not have to be indicative of our future decisions, rather we have the capacity to learn how to make better decisions, decisions to give of ourselves, and do what is right.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

10 Initial Thoughts on "The Kite Runner" (movie)

1. I liked the movie, and felt like it was a faithful adaptation of the book. David Benioff did an excellent job at transitioning the popular novel from page to screen...his diverse pre and post projects had me a little worried.

2. The story of The Kite Runner is far more plot driven, then say a challenging film adaptation like Atonement, making the film more accessible and certainly easier to adapt.

3. The real challenge of making a movie like The Kite Runner, seems to provide authenticity in terms of place, tone, and pacing. Bringing the various time periods of Kabul to life. Producing stunning performances out of children, first time and international actors. Certainly some great behind the scenes people made that happen.

4. The film version is moving (as the book was), you shouldn't be embarrassed to cry.

5. If you're not going to read the book, see the movie.

6. If you've read the book, I'm sure you'll want to see the movie. See the movie also.

7. Khalid Abdalla did a faithful and appropriate performance in the lead role, while most of the praises I have heard have been directed at one of the younger stars (Ahmad Khan Mahmidzada) while, I was most impressed myself with Homayoun Ershadi, who played the part of Baba.

8. Spanish composer Alberto Iglesias certainly deserves a second academy award nomination for his scoring for this film.

9. I think this is a great addition to Marc Forster's diverse resume. I hope he pleases with the next edition of James Bond, and that he continues to make unique films.

10. The theater I saw the film in was packed, but the majority of the audience was people past retirement age, I wonder if this is a unique experience, or if others experienced this as well. I felt like most of the elderly crowd in the theater has also read the book based on the post film discussions.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Poor Nikki Blonsky: The Cancellation of The Golden Globes Ceremony

It's official, the Golden Globes ceremony as we know it has been canceled.

All though the golden globes aren't nearly as prestigious as the Academy Awards, the show is a fun one. The star heavy event usually yields some funny moments, unique winners and a fun celebrity time.

But this year, the actors have decided not to cross the Writers Guild picket lines in order to attend this event. And with no actors, theirs no show.

With out the actors there to give out awards and accept their trophies, the Golden Globes simply aren't very much fun.

I don't feel sympathy for the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) who choose the winners, or for NBC, or the actors...except one.

Of all the 72 nominees, I feel very sorry for Nikki Blonsky. Nikki is among other first time nominees (Amy Ryan, Saoirse Ronan, Casey Affleck or Ellen Page), but plucked out obscurity while working at an Ice Cream shop, this is surely Blonsky's one chance to attend an award show of this nature.

I'm sure she was excited to be able to show off in front of her high school friends. She probably had a dress all picked out. She probably knew who she was going to have as her date. She probably was heart broken that a writer's strike is ruining her dream.

Nikki, my heart goes out to you.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Allison Janney: Crazy Mom-ness in 2007

Sure Katherine Heigl, Ellen Page, Keri Russel, and Tammy Blanchard all played people who were inconveniently pregnant in 2007. But not enough praises have been sung for Allison Janney for playing the strong loose-lipped (step) mothers in Juno and Hairspray.

In Juno, Allison Janney is perfectly cast as Juno's (Ellen Page) dog loving step-mom Brenda "Bren" Macgruff. Bren is kind of homely, who's takes the pregnancy and decisions of Juno in stride, and has some great scenes along side Ellen Page, and film-husband J. K. Simmons.

Bren Macgruff's best line: "Doctors are sadists who like to think of themselves of God and laugh at the lesser people."

In Hairspray, Allison Janney is simply a crazy mom as Prudy Pingleton, mother of Penny Pingleton (Amanda Bynes). In this film, Prudy is doing everything possible to make sure that Penny does not get pregnant, or end up in any other troubles.

Janney is perfectly cast as this ultra-conservative Catholic 1960s single-mom. In her biggest scene Prudy ties Penny up with the jump rope, splashes holy water on Penny and threatens her to a life-long sentence of being tied up in her room with nothing to eat or drink but saltines and tang.

Prudy Pingeton's best line: "You see? You see! If I let you leave the house right now, you'd be in prison, fighting whores for cigarettes. That Tracy Turnblad always was a bad influence! Well, you are never, ever gonna see that beehived harlot again. "

Janney has found such a great niche at playing this hillarious character roles, roles like these are too small and too cartoonish to garner significant award attention. Yet, Janney is so consistent as an actress that even if the role is smaller, you know she will be a silver-lining in the cast.

For her consistency and exceptional use of screen time, I wanted her to be included in the 2007 Supporting Actress Blog-a-thon hosted by StinkyLulu. Check out the other supporting actress mentioned in the class of 2007.

(my supporting actress post last year can be found
here applauding Adriana Barazza)
Juno and Hairspray are movies that will be loved for years to come. If you're looking for a list of movies with more great films to love, check out our list of comedy movies. If horror films are more your thing, we've got a list of scary movies too.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Ranking the "No Country For Old Men" Performances

When it comes to award buzz for the film No Country for Old Men, most of the buzz lands on directors/writers/editors Joel and Ethan Coen. Close behind the Coen Brothers is Javier Bardem. Yet when it comes to this Screen Actors Guild nominated cast, Bardem's character, while well played, is far more "flashy" than many of the other characters. So in reflection...

My Ranking of the Cast of No Country for Old Men


1. Kelly Macdonald - her role of Carla Jean Moss, is written in a way that makes her kind of a "hard to believe" character. Perhaps in the book, her relationship with husband Llewelyn Moss makes more sense, but the way Macdonald plays Carla Jean, you role with it, because it just seems natural. Even though she born on the other side of the pond, she does a great job playing the naive and trusting Texas woman.

2. Tommy Lee Jones - As a supporting character, he really is the "lead" as a narrator and focus of the film. Focusing the film on Bardem & Brolin's character only makes the conclusion more frustrating. But if seen from the perspective of Sheriff Ed Tom Bell, the film is more enjoyable. I can't imagine this role performed any better than what we see in Jones' acting. His pacing, and line delivery is pitch perfect.

3. Javiar Bardem - It's not just delivery of lines that makes him impressive, it's his on screen presence when he's saying nothing at all that makes Anton Chigurh, the psycho that he is really give you the creeps. Bardem's gas station scene is an instant classic scene that reminded me of Scream's opening scene with Drew Berrymore.

4. Josh Brolin - Brolin has certainly appeared on my radar after this performance. I'll be interested to see where his career goes from his many performances of 2007. Brolin's Llewelyn Moss is certainly a brave, but stupid man. Brolin's performance though doesn't make you see Llewelyn as a complete idiot, instead he portrays a unique internal drive.

5. Garret Dillahunt - As Deputy Wendell, he does a good job of being someone for Sheriff Ed Tom Bell to talk too. Nothing too impressive, but it's not a flashy part.

6. Tess Harper - Nothing too flashy in Loretta Bell's role...but since she was included alongside the others as part of the SAG nominated cast, I thought I'd include her too.

7. Woody Harrelson - What Dillahunt's character lacked in flashiness, Harrelson's character (Carson Wells) had. Where Macdonald, Brolin & Bardem take ridiculous characters and make them believable, Harrelson simply doesn't quiet find his place in the texture of the film.

Is No Country For Old Men on your list of top 100 movies? Think it could be one of the next great classic movies of our time? If you haven't seen it yet maybe you should go rent some dvd movies to catch up.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

State of 2008's Original Song Nominations & My Predictions

"For those of you keeping score: Martin Scorsese Zero Oscars;Three 6 Mafia, One Oscar." -- Jon Stewart, 2006 Academy Award Show.

2006 sticks out to me as a year when the original song category was odd & boring. Winning song, "It's Hard Out There for A Pimp," by Three 6 Mafia (from the film Hustle & Flow), probably was the best song, lined up next to Travelin' Thru by Dolly Parton from the movie Transamerica, and "In the Deep" from Crash.

2007 saw 3 of the 5 nominations in the original song category snatched up by the movie Dreamgirls. Yet, when all was said and done Melissa Ethridge won for "I Need To Wake Up" from An Inconvenient Truth. It's really too bad, Dreamgirls really deserved a win in this category.

Yet this year seems rich with original music, and it it'll be interesting to see which of the 59 eligible songs ends up scoring a nomination, it seems likely that in this stronger year that there will be five unique films nominated here. And many of the potential song nods come from songs people are more apt to embrace and actually care about.

Although I have received some criticism for my assessment of the movie Once, I think many film watchers will passionately hope that “Falling Slowly” will get nominated and go on to win the award. (Even though the Golden Globe song nominees excluded this song).

My wife will certainly be hopeful that any or all of the eligible songs get nominated from the movie Enchanted (“Happy Working Song”, “That’s How You Know”, “So Close”). Globe chose "That's How You Know", but each of these songs score high on my list, so no complaints if any of them receive nominations.

As far as eligible music from Screen Musicals goes, Hairspray has one potential in “Come So Far (Got So Far to Go)." While Tim Burton's Sweeney Todd did not add any original song scores and so has no eligible songs in this category.

Once, Enchanted, Hairspray, & Sweeney Todd were not the only films in 2007 to tie in music directly into their plots. Other potential nominees could be from the movies August Rush, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, Music and Lyrics. "Walk Hard" got some Golden Globe love, but I'm not sure that same love will carry over to the Academy music branch.

Eddie Veder (Pearl Jam front man) has an excellent shot at a nod with a well respected song score for Into The Wild. The Hollywood Foreign Press already gave a nomination for the song "Guaranteed," while two other songs "Rise" and "Society" are also eligible from Into The Wild.

Another well received song with an excellent nomination chance is the song "Grace is Gone" from the Sundance Film Festival hit with the same name. The music to "Grace is Gone" is written by Academy favorite Clint Eastwood (lyrics by 6 time nominee Carole Bayer Sager, and performance by the talented Jamie Cullum).

Another song worth mentioning is a song Golden Globe also chose to nominate Shakira for "Despedida" which appeared in Love in The Time of Cholera.

All in all, there are 59 eligible songs, and according to the press release on January 15 voting members of the music branch will screen clips featuring each song in random order. Honestly, I'd love to be there, and watch all those clips...you gotta admit, seeing those in random order has got to be a little strange.

Who will end up with the academy nominations? Awards like this can be very unpredictable. I could easily see Aimee Mann mentioned for “At the Edge of the World” from Arctic Tale. If there's a strong American Gangster push "Do You Feel Me" could get in (from 6-time nominee Diane Warren). And I certainly wouldn't even mind seeing Michael Giacchino get nominated for the song "La Festin'" for Ratatouille.

My Current Prediction for the 80th Academy Award nominations for best Original Song this year would be...

That's How You Know - Enchanted
Grace is Gone - Grace is Gone
Come So Far (Got So Far to Go) - Hairspray
Guaranteed - Into The Wild
Falling Slowly - Once

(Also since Jon Stewart's comment in 2006, the score is now tied: "Three 6 Mafia, One Oscar; Martin Scorsese, One Oscar.")
With musicals back on the rise it will be interesting to see where film and song go from here. Popular rock music has influenced countless movie soundtracks and the songs have had an impact on the rock music charts with no signs of stopping. Check out the history of rock music and see if you can predict what's to come next.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

My Personal Favorites of 2007

I'm not yet ready to release a top 10 movies of 2007 list, but I am prepared to list some favorites of other things I've seen and experienced in 2007.

Favorite 2007-released movie, so far: Ratatoille

Favorite non-2007 movies seen for the first time this past year: The Lives of Others (2006), Cinema Paradiso (1989), The Sting (1973), Judgment at Nuremberg (1961), Wages of Fear (1955), & Forbidden Games (1952)

Favorite Books I've read this year: Atonement by Ian McEwan, The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, & Disgrace by E. M. Cotzee.

Favorite Magazine to read: Fast Company

Favorite TV Shows to Watch on DVD: House, Alias, Heroes

Favorite Song: "Deathbed" by Relient K, "There's Hope" by India.Arie, "Window in the Skies" by U2.

Favorite New CD: We Shine by Fee

Favorite Sermon: Follow by Andy Stanley of North Point Church (9/30/07)

Favorite Contributions in Film+Faith Blog-a-thon: from Film Experience Blog, Cheaper Than Therapy, Lazy Eye Theater.

Favorite News of 2007: Me and my wife will be having a baby in 2008!
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