Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Potential For The "Big 5" in 2009?

The "Big 5" is the term used for films that are nominated/win the Oscar for best film, best director, best actor, best actress and best screenplay.
Only three films in Oscar history have won the "Big 5" those films: It Happened One Night (1934), One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975), and The Silence of the Lambs (1991).

In fact, over the past twenty years only only 5 films have been up for all five categories: Million Dollar Baby (2004), American Beauty (1999), The English Patient (1996), The Remains of the Day (1993), The Silence of the Lambs (1991).

I've been wondering if there is any chance of any films breaking that barrier again. Clearly the most challenging component to the equation is to have a quality film that has a compelling male and female lead.

Honestly, is Clint Eastwood co-staring alongside Hillary Swank going to be the only male-female pairing in a "Big 5" potential for the decade?

Maybe one of the defining characteristics of film over the past decade is that film leads that get praised are one's the monopolize screen time in such a way that they hardly leave any room for anything but supporting actors?

(Examples of this would include: Russell Crowe, Gladiator; Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood, Hoffman, Capote, Jamie Fox, Ray, Adrien Brody, The Pianist; Helen Mirren, The Queen; Charlize Theron, Monster).

So when it comes to 2009 the possiblities are, ranked by possibility...

1. Nine (Daniel Day-Lewis, Marion Cotillard, Rob Marshall, Michael Tolkin/Anthony Minghella)
2. An Education (Peter Sarsgaard, Carey Mulligan, Lone Scherfig, Nick Hornby)
3. Bright Star (Ben Whishaw, Abby Cornish, Jane Campion, Jane Campion)
4. The Lovely Bones (Mark Wahlberg, Saoirse Ronan, Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh/Phillipa Boyens)

That's it, and it doesn't look promising. If Nine is a big hit, and Cotillard is pushed for lead, maybe, and based on my hopes, I'd certainly like to see An Education up for a shot at the "Big 5." But to be honest, even if one of these films eeked out all five nominations, gaining all five wins seems impossible.

I for one, am not crossing my fingers.

Related Post:

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Apple Snob

Let me be honest, I don't really like fruit. I'm not philosophically opposed to fruit, but I like white, tan, and brown flavors...cinnamon, vanilla, coffee, and hazelnut. And if it has color, I want it to be a vegetable, not fruit.

But I've slowly become an apple snob over the past couple years. An apple is an easy lunch fruit - it's not messy or sticky, and it doesn't go bad as quick as some of those softer flesh fruits like plum and peaches.

So, I've started buying different apples, sometimes based on what looks good, sometimes based on price, and as time has been passing, I've beginning to become an apple snob.

Maybe if there was enough apple snobs there could be a Starbuck's-like concept that just sells apples...I might go.

There's certainly flavors I haven't tried, and maybe one's I haven't had access to, but as it stands, my top 5 favorite when available.

1. Honeycrisp
2. Cripps Pink (Pink Lady)
3. Braeburn
4. Gala
5. Granny Smith

And when I say Honeycrisp is my favorite, I don't think any apple could rival it, but there are so many types I'm sure I haven't some of those other apples could probably get the boot if I had the chance.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Get Low Get's Distribution - But perhaps a 2010 Release Date

A couple weeks ago I talked about some of the films and actors who could potentially receive Oscar nominations, if only there films would pick up distribution.

Some of those films have picked up distribution - including Get Low (Sony Pictures Classic), The Evening Sun (Dogwood Entertainment), and Creation (New Market Films).

Of those films, the one that seems like it could potentially get the most play is Get Low, which has a great award pedigree cast (Robert Duvall, Sissy Spacek, Bill Murray), but apparently all the potential excitement for a film that seems like it could be incredible is for nothing at this point.

But according to Kristopher Tapley at InContention, this film is off the 2009 radar. Which is totally disappointing.

The Evening Sun and Creation could show up at the Oscars, but I'm not holding my breathe. Wish Get Low was there though, maybe next year.

Get Low's Oscar Pedigree
- Director Aaron Schneider - 1 Oscar Win (Best Live Short Film)
- Actor Robert Duvall - 7 Oscar nominations, 1 Oscar win
- Actor Bill Murray - 1 Oscar nomination
- Actress Sissy Spacek - 6 Oscar nominations, 1 Oscar win
- Composer Jan A.P. Karcmarek - 1 Oscar win
- Production Designer Geoffrey Kirkland - 1 Oscar nomination

Sidenote: Great tagline on the poster -- "Every secret dies somewhere." It certainly get's you wondering if this film is about more than an old man planning his funeral, doesn't it.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Netherland - The Team Behind The Movie

So I've recently been discussing the book Netherland by Joseph O'Neill. My past two post have been on my initial thoughts on the book and how this book picked up popularity with mentions by President Barack Obama.

As a final post (for now) on the topic of this O'Neill's novel, I wanted to mention the most recent chapter of this book's history.

There is a movie plan in recently announced. And the crew behind this film is quite the power team.

As it stands Variety has reported that Focus Features has landed the deal to make this file with Oprah Winfrey's Harpo productions and Sam Mendes' Neal Street Prodcutions.

Oprah and Mendes are both highly respected. While Harpo's film involvement is limited, Oprah consistently demonstrates power to influence her audience, although her ability to get them in the movie theater, is limited. Oscar winner Sam Mendes on the other hand has certainly crafted films that get critics talking and it would not be surprising to see him directing this film as well.

This could be a successful pairing.

Not to mention, Oscar winner Christopher Hampton (Dangerous Liaisons, Atonement) is the screenwriter behind the project.

When Christopher Hampton took on the screenwriting for Atonement, I questioned how in the world was he going to write a script to this very literary piece of fiction. As it turned out, I felt like he did an exceptional job capturing Ian McEwan's words on screen, and I think he is an excellent selection for this film because as mentioned in my initial post on Netherland, the book is powerful not as much for it's narrative, but for it's characterization, sense of place, and excellent writing.

It's unclear when all the pieces will come together for this project, but you can believe, I have my eye on it. It could be a great success, not to mention it has a chance to be the most popular cricket film ever.

(pictured above Sam Mendes, Oprah Winfrey, & Christopher Hampton)

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Joseph O'Neill's Netherland & Obama

Yesterday I discussed my thoughts on the book Netherland by Joseph O'Neill.

Upon reading Netherland by Joseph O'Neill I learned something interesting. Some people called this book Barack Obama's 1st Book Club Selection.

On April 28, 2009 The New York Times Magazine ran an interview with Obama where the article mentioned he had begun reading the book Netherland. Again, Netherland is mentioned May 16, 2009 at the end of a Newsweek interview, and apparently Obama hadn't quite finished the book, but spoke of enjoying reading O'Neill's book in the evening after reading briefings.

Apparently, Obama's facebook page shows that he enjoys reading classics like Melville, Emerson, Lincoln, but in addition to his mention of Netherland he enjoys another modern novel, the Pulitzer Prize winning novel, Gilead by Marilynne Robinson, a favorite of my own.

Now as you can imagine Netherland's publisher Harper Perennial was pleased with this endorsement. This book did have other endorsement's prior to Obama's including being listed as one of the 5 best fiction books of 2008 according to the New York Time Sunday Book review.

How Does Obama Read This Book

But the book did have a reprinted edition come out shortly after Obama's mention and I think people are still intrigued by Obama-the-man. I think fiction is illuminating and the question of "why this book?" has to come to people's mind when they hear about his interest in a particular work of modern-fiction.
Surely, it's not Obama's secret love of the game of cricket, which plays such a central role in the story (picture right in author Joseph O'Neill with a cricket bat)

Not to mention, this book not only deals with America in an intimate way, it deals with terrorism, and public and foreign attitudes on American foreign policy. This book came out pre-Obama, but it has to be interesting to read a book where the main character is a financial analysis who's effected by energy decisions and the Iraq war, and where various character's voice opinions of the Bush administration.

This may be Obama's "pleasure reading" but he also much be reading this book wondering how his name might be referenced in contemporary fiction and art of the future.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Initial Thoughts on Netherland by Joseph O'Neill

I recently read the acclaimed 2008 book Netherland by Joseph O'Neill.

I really enjoyed this book, and would recommend it to a variety of people.

Yet, if you ask me what it's about...I would be a little stumped. It's not that it's super avante-garde, complicated, or highly involved.

It has a respectable size cast of characters, but everyone plays in the background behind the main character, a Dutch energy analyst. This finacially minded dutchman, Hans van den Broek, is the central character who moved from London to New York.

When Hans moves to New York City with his wife Rachel they experience American life for the first time together, and a great deal of the story involves how their European perspective of America develops, particularly once Rachel and their young son return to London without Hans.

In addition to Rachel, the other character in the story of great significance is a man from Tridad named Chuck Ramkissoon. Chuck is an interesting character who's story develops and is exposed throughout O'Neill's story in a unique way, primarily through Chuck's friendship with Hans that takes place primarily playing the game of cricket.

That's right, Cricket. Hans, in a world of loneliness and isolation reconnects with a game from his past-time, cricket. As a white man from the Netherlands, Hans, is the only white cricket player playing at Walker Park as a member of the Staten Island Cricket Club. A true Cricket club with roots back to 1872.

I feel like in many ways, the intrigue that one finds in this book is the way that New York itself acts as a character. Because the story is told from someone experiencing New York for the first time, there at a time before, during, and after the September 11 attacks we get to see the arch of character development in New York just as much as we do in the characters in the book.

For example, one of the main settings for this film is the Chelsea Hotel (picture right), a very famous Manhattan hotel famous for housing long-term guest with artistic tendencies. (Side note, in the story Hans is the only person on his team that lives in Manhattan, the others primarily live in the Bronx and Queens).

The Chelsea Hotel creates it own unique New York situations, including one of the residents that befriends Hans who is always dressed as an angel, or an odd man who determines he wants to get to know a potential dog before committing to a long term relationship, so he goes on dates with the dog.

My first thoughts when I was reading this book was that it reminded me of the book Saturday by Ian McEwan because it presents real-time thoughtful narrative that relates to the September 11th and terrorism from a British perspective, but when you look at the book as a whole, the better comparison is that this is a modern Great Gatsby.

With it's lyrical writing and descriptive attempt to capture the American Dream how can one not think of F. Scott Fitzgerald. Here's an example from the book:

"I was seized for the first time by a nauseating sense of America, my gleaming adopted country, under the secret actuation of unjust, indifferent powers. The rinsed taxis, hissing over fresh slush, shone like grapefruits; but if you looked down into the space between the road and the undercarriage, where icy matter stuck to the pipes and water streamed down the mud flaps, you saw a foul mechanical dark."

And perhaps that is where the magic lies in this story that I cannot completly describe, because I've never read anything that truly seemed like it deserved a comparison to The Great Gatsby, and O'Neill Irishman, writing from the perspective of a Dutchman, can capture the magic of Gatsby, then this book deserves praise.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Strange Culture - Post Number 1000

I've known this day was coming soon and today is the day. This post is officially the 1000th post on StrangeCulture Blog.

It's pretty exciting to reach this post, at a steady pace this blog has been a big part of my life for over three and a half years.

I've all the things I enjoy, without a doubt, I enjoy the comments. Thank you for keeping the conversation going with your comments. I can check my stats and see myself edging towards a half million visitors (486,908), but your comments keep me going.

Thanks for reading, thanks for commenting, thanks for linking.


What have these 1000 post been about?
And for some superlatives...

Thanks again for all your readership and support! Here's to a thousand more post!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Live Action Barbie Film: The Truth About Why Barbie Left Ken For Blaine And Then Returned To Ken?

So it's not nearly as cool as say, a Lite-Brite movie, but Mattel and Universal Studios seem to think they want to enter the Hasbro/Paramount mindset with their own live-action toy based film (Hasbro/Paramount have recently worked together on GI Joe & Transformer films).

The film as reported by Variety is the first ever live-action Barbie film.

The Oscar nominated producer (As Good As It Gets, Jerry Maguire, Dreamgirls, Julie & Julia) is Laurence Mark, who will share production roles with Mattel executives.

This is an exciting biopic, just think Barbie turned 50 after she hit store shelves in March 1959. Surely film producers will want to deal with how Barbie is handling middle-age, maybe a mid-life crisis storyline.

Perhaps Barbie is passed the midlife crisis? She's ditched long time on-again off again relationship with Ken Carson, who was her boyfriend from since 1961, until of course, they broke up in 2004 and Barbie decided to go for Blaine instead (picture right). Yet, the Australia boy in Barbie's life left and Barbie reunited with Ken in 2006.
Of course, that was after Ken returned with a new look.

Barbie has also had a real hard time figuring out direction for her life from aerobics instructor to NASCAR driver, she has done it all, not to mention her career in each branch of the US Military, and a regular US presidential candidate.

And I can't wait to hear about casting. Sure, middle-aged barbie is probably out and finding some one with the right perportions might require some plastic surgery in the most literal sense. But with the thought of an onscreen pink explosion all I can think of is Reese Witherspoon's Legally Blond role.

So brace yourself - can you imagine what it will be like for the producers to read through all those scripts and story ideas. There are so many ways to go, and so many more ways to go wrong.


Note in my post about the 2007 GI Joe film Kimberly wrote "...i actually would like to see a movie based off of some popular toys that were geard towards little poney, barbie, or even wonder woman (i loved my wonder woman punching bag in 1985!)..." Nice call Kim!

Photo of 1959 Barbie is from the San Fransisco Sentinel, Blaine "photo" found here, Nascar Barbie found here.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Seven Pounds: The Psuedo-Redemption I Can't Handle

I finally got around to seeing Seven Pounds, and couldn't believe how disappointed I was in this film.

I had heard some people share how the film was touching, meaningful, and how Will Smith's character is so noble.

I can't write this post-spoiler free, and for all it's "surprises" I felt like none of of the film was surprising.

I found this film absolutely UNREDEEMING. I think people are supposed to watch this film and think "Wow, how great that x person got new cornea's, x person got a new heart, x person got new whatevers."

And perhaps were supposed to watch and think of the message that "you never know who's watching you" and from that aspect, I think that character does shine through.

But I felt like the way that Will Smith's character ("Ben Thomas") handles a true tragedy in his life is weak and unrespectable. Sure, he tries to make his life have meaning by finding the perfect donor matches, giving bone marrow, livers, lungs, and kidneys. But to determine that his own life is so meaningless that he can't productively work through the actual pain is actually somewhat sickening.

In Rachel Getting Married, Kym (Anne Hathaway) has a very traumatic experience herself that might be on the same level as that of Will Smith's Seven Pound character.

And while Kym handles some of these issues poorly, leading to addiction and increased pain and behavior that is stressful on the relations around her, she still chooses to deal with these issues and sure perhaps she doesn't get to the point where she's redeeming herself through excessive community activity or organ donations or anything of that nature.

I found Rachel Getting Married to be a true story of redemption.

Yet, suicide because of a brief period in time when you were checking e-mail on your Blackberry and tragically kill your spouse and others. Smith's act is false martyrdom.

I think director Gabriele Muccino is aware of some of these issues and tries to make it artistic in the way that there is a unique death method (trying to distract viewers from the fact it's suicide) and the demented bathtub scene with Rosario Dawson where she is listening to her heart in the tub at the end.

In retrospect, I was disappointed with the message of Gabriele Muccino's film The Pursuit of Happyness, and I think I'm done with Muccino because his films are semi-intriguing but always not-quite amazing, and he's two for two with disappointing me with his film messages.

Muccino stop trying to give us these weird warm fuzzies. Let's think about doing something real. Take a lesson from Jonathan Demme's Rachel Getting Married or any other film that has a real message instead of this artificial messes.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Mad Men & The Beauty of Babies

Tonight instead of watching Mad Men win the best drama Emmy, I watched what has probably been the best episode of Mad Men yet this third season, the episode title "Guy Walks into an Advertising Agency."

In the previous episode (Episode 3.5, "The Fog") Betty Draper has her third child, who they name Eugene after her recently deceased Father.

In between the airing of episode 3.5 and 3.6 ("The Fog" and "Guy Walks into an Advertising Agency") my sister had her own baby boy, her first.

As the Draper household adjust to a new child, I think about my sister and her household adjusting to a new child, home tonight for the first night in their home.

Don Draper (Jon Hamm), in his AMC Mad Men wisdom ended this episode telling his daughter Sally Draper (Kiernan Shipka) something very special as he holds baby Gene in the nursery... "We don't know who he is yet or who he's going to be. And that is a wonderful thing."

I thought that was a beautiful quote about the true promise and joy of children.

So while at this point, he's cute, cuddly, and sleeps a lot, I am excited to get to meet my new baby nephew, and get to know him more in the future. Largely because...

"We don't know who he is yet or who he's going to be. And that is a wonderful thing."

Saturday, September 19, 2009

September Best Actress Predictions

In the past couple years it seems like the Best Actress race "settles" first and the long list of names gets short far quicker than some of the other list.

Part of this is due to limited stand out lead roles for women, the other part is perhaps those lead roles really stand out.

The best actor race seems completely up in the air, and while there is room for surprises in this category as well, once we get an idea of how certain films and roles are perceived, I have a feeling this year will also have a pretty consistent group of women who make the award circuit in a few a months.

In the meantime - let's make guesses.

Tier One - My Current Predicted 5

Tier Two - In My Mind Easy Contenders

Tier Three - Probably Not, But Who Knows

(pictured top to bottom: Gabourey Sidibe in Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire, Carey Mulligan in An Education, Shohreh Aghdashloo in The Stoning of Soraya M, and Penélope Cruz in Broken Embraces)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

September Best Actor Predictions

As discussed previously, there are certainly some actors who could surprise us in the best actor race if there if there films found distributors in time.

For those films with distribution - here are my predictions for the best actor race at this point.

Of course, a lot could change since...well, it's only September, and the action hasn't even begun.

Here's my predictions presented in tiers.

Tier One - My Current Predicted 5

Tier Two - In My Mind Easy Contenders

Tier Three - Probably Not, But Who Knows

(pictured top to bottom: Matt Damon in The Informant, Peter Sargaard in An Eduction, Jeremy Renner in The Hurt Locker, and Clive Owen in The Boys Are Back)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Oscar: Acting Race & The Men in The Can But Not On The Screen

It's just over three months until the end of the year, and one of the most challenging part of this year's Oscar predictions is establishing what films are coming out this year.

This seems most challenging in the category of Best Actor. The list of actors on the edge seems to grow.

It wasn't until Toronto that I had even heard of the film Get Low staring Robert Duvall, with a strong supporting performance by Billy Murray. And yet, after Toronto, these performances becomes ones that are viable contenders IF they get distribution.

In Get Low Robert Duvall plays a Tennessee man that is planning on throwing his own funeral before he dies.

Duvall isn't the only actor hanging out in limbo, nor is he the only limbo actor playing an old man.

In fact, not the only actor,in limbo, playing an old man in Tennessee. Hal Holbrook plays an old man who deals with his family's betrayal in the film The Evening Sun. The Evening Sun won the audience award at SXSW film festival, (as well as awards at other smaller festivals), but distributor.

You also have the Leo Tolstoy biopic, The Last Station, staring Christopher Plummer (along side Helen Mirren)...

...And the biopic about Charles Darwin, Creation, staring Paul Bettany and Jennifer Connelly.

You can throw around some other names if you want, like Martin Landua in Lovely, Still, or Joe Pesci in Love Ranch (along side Helen Mirren), Javier Bardem in Biutiful, or even Edward Norton in Leaves of Grass, and maybe Colin Farrell in Niel Jordan's Ondine.

All no distribution, but all viable Academy Award contenders if they start showing in theaters in New York and LA by the end of the year.

Thier films are done, but will any of them have a chance?

(Pictured top to bottom: Robert Duvall, Get Low; Paul Bettany, Creation; Christopher Plummer, The Last Station; Hal Holbrook, The Evening Sun; Joe Pesci, Love Ranch)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Goodnight Blockbuster

Goodnight favorites. Goodnight new releases. Goodnight soda pop and Reese's Pieces.

Goodnight late fines. Goodnight reward perks. Goodnight gift cards and goofy store clerks.

Goodnight people. Goodnight lights. Goodnight to making it Blockbuster nights.

Blockbuster isn't turning out the lights for good, or saying good buy to their staff yet, but with increasingly decreasing sales and interest, Blockbuster has accelerated it's closing plans, and instead of closing over 400 stores by the end of the next year, they're anticipating closing a target of 810 to 960, with another 300 or so stores being converted to used DVD outlets.

Blockbuster is cutting loses, but still taking minimal action to be proactive. They seem to be trying to continue to push into pre-existing business models, by continuing to push their mail-order DVD rentals (competing with Netflix) and by adding Kiosk-style machines (competing with Redbox, Movie Cube, and other comparable companies).

In less than four months ago I made 8 recommendation to Blockbuster - and even sent them some e-mails with my recommendations. Did they respond? No. Do they appear to be moving in the direction of any of my recommendations? No.

This seems like snowballing, and I expect Blockbuster to be no more soon.

Does this bother you? Is there any redemptive reason why we should care about Blockbuster's survival?

Monday, September 14, 2009

On The Death of Patrick Swayze

It's hard to believe that Patrick Swayze has passed away at the age of 57 to cancer.

It's been a weird year of celebrity deaths because there seems like so many, with such a variety of names, surprises, and reasons for why those who have gone have passed.

Swayze's death is particularly odd because it was caused by pancreatic cancer that was diagnosed in January 2008.

My wife have been catching up on Season 5 of House, and on medical TV the majority of time people are cured. Yet certain diseases are not about amazing cures, but their fights that sometimes can't be won.

Swayze had admitted that part of his cancer may have come from smoking, but his condition is hardly connected to the Hollywood lifestyle, and he certainly had modern medicine at his exposure.

His death should remind us of our own humanity.

In the film Ghost, one of the major themes is Swayze's character's inability to say "I love you," rather responding in a non-emotional "ditto" to his girlfriend (played be Demi Moore). When Swayze's character (Sam Wheat) dies suddenly, it is in part this failure to communicate his love clearly that leaves him with unfinished business, leaving him as a ghost.

Yet, the reality is, not only are we human, we also won't get the chance to make sensual clay pots to the tune of "Unchained Memory" when we die.

There be many ways to die, but there are also many ways to live. Live well.

May Patrick's family and friends find peace in this time.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

When Will We See De Palma' Capone Rising?

For a good portion of this decade there has been talk about a film called Capone Rising. It is to be a prequel to The Untouchables.

I think this film would do incredibly well, especially in made with the right type of Hollywood finesse. The popularity of "origin" stories has really been generally successful, granted primarily in the superhero genre, but the gangster drama certainly isn't a forgotten genre, even in recent years - especially true crime stories like American Gangster about Frank Lucas or Public Enemies about John Dillinger.

Capone Rising is supposed to tell the story of Jimmy Malone (who last word had Gerard Butler) playing the part of this famous cop in the early day of Al Capone in Chicago.

Originally Antoine Fuqua was supposed to direct, but it didn't take long for the reigns to be returned into the hands of Brian De Palma. Generally, I tend to think of this as a good thing to make Capone Rising a true prequel - otherwise, I think under the eye and hand of a new direct, the connection to the two films might be weak, and hardly related.

Yet this change of hands all went down somewhere around 2004 and 2005. And now what? Filming was to begin in 2007...and without any formal casting announcements beside Butler the film doesn't appear to be in any sort of full-swing.

For a time Nicolas Cage, a Brian De Palma vetran (Snake Eyes) was to play young Capone, but he left due to scheduling difficulties - and oh, how I hope those scheduling difficulties remain (please make Ghost Rider 2 take up the next three years of Cage's career).

Perhaps some how De Palma will get filming together for this winter, as he has stated his intentions to recreate on film the Saint Valentine's Day Massacre of 1929 where rival gangs Al Capone and Irish-Chicago gangster Bugs Moran.

But we need to see a script, casting, and key players come to the fold. De Palma I hope this project is taking time because you're working on getting it right, as a grand opus, but please at least tell us you're working on it. This project is too intriguing to fall into the background and never come together.

As for the casting of young Al Capone...I'm trying to think out of the box a little bit, and I'm about Aaron Eckhart (worked with De Palma on The Black Dahlia) Josh Brolin?

This post is part of the Brian De Palma Blog-a-thon going on Cinema Viewfinder. Check out the other De Palma post there.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Real Adventures: Hitchhiking & Circumnavigation


I recently watched The Hitchhiking Movie which was sent to me by director Phillip Hullquist, who along with Ryan Jeanes who make a film about their attempt to travel across the country in a week going from New York City to Los Angeles, only relying on others to get them where they needed to go.

While this film lacks some of the shimmer and finesse of some documentaries, it's fun and unpredictable, partially because when Ryan Jeanes and Phillip Hullquist set out on their journey, how can they know where they're going to go, or how they're going to get there.

In fact, they could recreate the experiment and it would have totally new characters, outcomes and situations.

Sailing Solo Around The Globe

Of all the recent news stories out there, one of the most interesting stories I've enjoyed tracking is the stories of these kids who are making and attempting to break the world record for youngest person to sail solo around the globe.

On July 16, 2009 Zac Sunderland who became the first person under the age of 18 to circumnavigate the globe, beginning in California and after spending over 13 months at sea, breaking the previous record established by David Dicks in 1996.

And while Zac became the record holder in July, his record was swept away from him by Michael Perham who also 17 completed the voyage at a younger age, having left from England.

(You want to talk about an interesting movie, how about when Sunderland, Perham, and Minoru Saito, the oldest person to circumvent the world met unplanned in Cape Town, South Africa this past February).

And now, there's the 13 year-old Dutch girl, Laura Dekker, who's goal was to leave on her journey to beat the world record earlier this month but was stopped by the Dutch courts who have retained custody of her while they investigate whether she is psychologically mature enough to take on such an adventure at a young age.

Real Adventures

It's interesting, 30 years ago I think the challenge of circumnavigating the world would have been much harder than it is today. No doubts, there is skill and determination in such a challenge. But technology has certainly made this a more attainable goal.

On the other hand, I think about The Hitchhiking Movie and how this challenge was far less dangerous, taxing, and dangerous. Yet, in someways, this quest would have been much easier 30 years ago when we might assume people might have been more willing to let a couple guys jump in their car or their eighteen-wheeler for a trip down the road. The reliance on people is so unpredictable.

It's incredible what types of challenges and adventures are out there to be conquered, these are great stories, and I think the modern quest for adventure in a world that seeks security, comfort, and ease is an exciting thing to experience and think about.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Paramount & 2009 Best Picture Chances

One of the big schedule changes for this year's films was the move of Martin Scorcese's Shutter Island out of the typical awards calender, and into February, where it could easily be forgotten by next years award season.

There are many theory's why this move was made, but Paramount executives claimed it all had to do with money, and that a February release would be more profitable.

Last year around this time I was writing about Fox Searchlight and their 2008 calender, which ended up including Slumdog Millionaire which went on to win Best Picture.

Well looking at Paramount's calender for this year, it's clear that 2009 is not only a good year for Paramount with great success stories (Transformers 2, Star Trek, Monsters vs. Aliens) but they also have some buzz-worthy award contenders still yet to be released.

Those buzz worthy films include Jason Reitman's Up In The Air and Peter Jackson's The Lovely Bones.

To see Paramount move Shutter Island tells me that the studio thinks these films have the goods and are worth their award campaign dollars.

How has Paramount done with Oscar best pic nods over this past decade? Just 2 Best picture nominees...The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2009, co-produced with Warner Brothers) and The Hours (2002, co-produced with Miramax).

Honestly, I'm shocked. They've picked up nods along the way, but seem to live in the world of that "second tier" come awards season, with some fan favorites (Iron Man and Zodiac)and far too many Nicholas Cage films.

Paramount I'm sure is excited about the 10 Best Picture change because it gives their studio a shot they seem like they've missed out on.

Still, I'm surprised Up In The Air is with Paramount instead of Fox Searchlight. But...Paramount seems to still have tremendous marketing capital even if they miss the awards boat.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

I Won't Give Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs A Chance

When Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs comes to the big screen this month, I know I won't be rushing to buy my ticket.

Okay, so I haven't been first in line to see a kid's movies in awhile, so the comparison isn't fair.

I am unashamed to admit as a child, I loved this book.

Yet, as I've revisited the story, I question how well Judi Barrett's 1978 will transition to the big screen.

This book's intrigue in this story comes from two places.

First, it's the creativity of the conceptualization of food falling from the sky and feeding people. There is the delightful foods that fall from the sky, toast and eggs sunny side up, with orange juice for breakfast. Or Jell-O sunsets glowing in the sky.

On the other hand, there's the less delightful, like pea soup fog, and stinky Gorgonzola cheese storms.

(Not to mention the disastrous elements like ketchup tornadoes, giant pancakes and ceaseless days of bread.)

Like I said, this is the very delightful thing, the second thing about this book that makes it memorable amongst all the many children's books that are out there is the unique illustrations.

For some reason, many artist seem to think it's the bright, glossy, cuddly, and cartoon pictures that kids are drawn to, but Ron Barrett's artwork in this book is not only unique, but it's enticing. With fun ink-pen drawings, illustrated with concentration on texture before color, these drawings are creative, and cause the eye to at times miss the detail of t-bone steak clouds, macaroni noodle storms.

When I've seen the preview for the upcoming film adaptation, I am some what disgusted because where they may attempt to capture the creativity of the story in feature length, that creativity is diminished and lost without maintaining the artistic comic-book style art work.

Without the pale yellows, reds, and oranges of the artwork, the film will never stand as an acceptable adaptation in my mind. There can be no reasonable comparison to generic caricatures in Sony's film adaptation to the artistic drawings that played off realism and ad art in the classic children's book.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

J.J. Abrams - The Next Hitchcock or The Father of Armageddon

I was watching Alfred Hitchcock's Oscar-winning film Rebecca.

It was something about the way the Criterion collection's DVD title screen for the film looked that reminded me of something that was identical to the the title screen on the DVD's for the TV series lost.

They were still images, with eerie music, with just the slightest changes in the image.

And it got me thinking of how J.J. Abrams interest in mystery, intrigue, unique characters, and fantastic story telling in some ways mirrors that of Alfred Hitchcock.

And I'm not willing to do a full out comparison, because I think it's too early. Abrams has a far way to go, but his fantastic work of recent years makes one forget about the film that started it all.

The ridiculous, yet popular Armageddon. When you think Abrams, this film is surely one of the last you think of - although this 1998 success story (over $200 million domestic gross), also has one of the worst scripts and premises ever (saving the earth from an asteroid by drilling a hole in it). J.J. Abrams even was nominated for a Golden Raspberry, the Razzies (an award for the worst) for his writing.

So just think at how far J.J. Abrams has come in just a little over 10 years - mostly in television, Felicity, Lost, Alias, and Fringe.

And at 43 years old, I think J.J. Abrams is at a cross road and I feel he must chose...

(1) Reinventing Sci-fi for new audiences
(2) Disaster and high voltage special effects
(3) Compelling and engrossing TV
(4) Something Even More Wonderful

I hope he chooses option 4 (and who wouldn't, but how?), and becomes someone who can be compared to Hitchcock for more than just title credits on a DVD screen.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Pulitzer Prize & Best Picture Oscar

My friend AK is attempting to read the Pulizer Prize winning novels for fiction, history, and autobiography, and as she's been progressing in her reading, I realized that I hadn't noticed that Gone With The Wind won the Pulitzer a few years before the film version came out and then went on to win the Oscar for best picture.

I was curious what other Pulitzer Prize winners have gone on to win and be nominated for Best Picture.

I discovered 4 Winners (two novels, two plays), and 12 nominees (eight novels, four plays).

This years one pulitzer winner could join the list, Cormac McCarthy's The Roadwhich I definitly enjoyed reading and wish I watching a Telluride this weekend.

Pulitzer Prize Winnner & Academy Award Best Picture Winner

* You Can't Take It With You- 1937 Pulitzer Prize Drama, 1939 Best Picture Winner
* Gone with the Wind- 1937 Pulitzer Prize Novel, 1940 Best Picture Winner
* All the King's Men- 1947 Pulitzer Prize Novel, 1950 Best Picture Winner
* Driving Miss Daisy- Pulitzer Prize Drama 1988, 1990 Best Picture Winner

Pulitzer Prize Winner & Best Picture Nominee
* The Magnificent Ambersons- 1919 Pulitzer Prize Novel, 1943 Best Picture Nominee
* The Good Earth- 1932 Pulitzer Prize Novel, 1938 Best Picture Nominee
* Our Town- 1938 Pulizer Prize Drama, 1940 Best Picture Nominee
* The Yearling- 1939 Pulitzer Prize Novel, 1947 Best Picture Nominee
* The Grapes of Wrath- 1940 Pulitizer Prize Novel, 1941 Best Picture Nominee
* A Streetcar Named Desire- 1948 Pulitzer Prize Drama, 1942 Best Picture Nominee
* The Caine Mutiny- 1952 Pulizer Prize Fiction, 1955 Best Picture Nominee
* Picnic- 1953 Pulizaer Prize Drama, 1956 Best Picture Nominee
* The Diary of Anne Frank- 1956 Pulitzer Prize Drama, 1960 Best Picture Nominee
* To Kill a Mockingbird- 1961 Pulitizer Prize Fiction, 1963 Best Picture Nominee
* The Color Purple- 1983 Pulitizer Prize Fiction, 1986 Best Picture Nominee
* The Hours- 1999 Pulitzer Prize Fiction, 2003 Best Picture Nominee

It's interesting how films and plays transfer from the page and stage to the big screen. There's certainly a divergence at times with great books often not being the material for great film.

Yet, great stories are often just that, great stories that we love being told. I'm glad thee films above were brought to the screen.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Early Word From 36th Telluride Film Festival

There are a lot great films that have showed up on the Telluride Film Festival roster, and this festival, along with Venice are going to give us some good ideas for what films we might be hearing increased buzz about from this point on for year end awards and entertaining cinema.

Below a list of the films that have popped on the 36th Telluride Film Festival schedule for this weekend, and there's a lot of good things going on in Colorado this weekend.

Of all the films being talked about now, it sounds like Up In the Air has a lot of energy and excitement behind it, which is fantastic news. It sounds like tons of people were turned away at the first showing, with a second showing with Q&A with Jason Reitman today. This is great news.

In addition, it sounds like An Education is wonderfully crafted as well, which has helped push this film to my "films I'm most excited about" list (maybe you'll see that list this week).

It sounds like Bright Star might not be quite the film that some people expected, and I imagine it will fall off some radars.

The German film, The White Ribbon (the Cannes Palme d'Or winner) continues to get attention as an important film, and while it certainly won't square off against Transformers 2 for box-office spectacular, it certainly has a chance of being a significant part of this award season, especially in a year of 10 best picture nominees. If a foreign film sneaks in, this seems to be the contender at this point.

I'm still interested to hear about how response is to The Road and Viggo Mortensen performance. I hope this film is intriguing, powerful, and a unique force in this upcoming film season.

Also still waiting to hear verdicts on Christopher Plummer's role in The Last Station and Audrey Tautou in Coco Before Chanel.

Films part of Telluride's "Show:"

• A PROPHET (d. Jacques Audiard, Germany/Austria/France, 2009)
• AN EDUCATION (d. Lone Sherfig, U.K., 2009)
• BRIGHT STAR (d. Jane Campion, U.K./Australia/France, 2009)
• COCO BEFORE CHANEL (d. Anne Fontaine, France, 2009)
• FAREWELL (d. Christian Carion, France, 2009)
• FISH TANK (d. Andrea Arnold, U.K., 2009)
• GIGANTE (d. Adrián Biniez, Uruguay, 2009)
• HENRI-GEORGES CLOUZOUT’S INFERNO (d. Serge Bromberg and Ruxandra Medrea, France, 2009)
• LIFE DURING WARTIME (d. Todd Solondz, U.S., 2009)
• LONDON RIVER (d. Rachid Bouchareb, U.K./France/Algeria, 2009)
• RED RIDING – three-part series: 1974 (d. Julian Jarrold, U.K., 2009); 1980 (d. James Marsh, U.K., 2009); 1983 (d. Anand Tucker, U.K., 2009)
• ROOM AND A HALF (d. Andrey Khrzhanovsky, Russia, 2009)
• SAMSON & DELILAH (d. Warwick Thornton, Australia, 2009)
• SLEEP FURIOUSLY (d. Gideon Koppel, U.K., 2007)
• TERRA MADRE (d. Ermanno Olmi, Italy, 2009)
• THE JAZZ BARONESS (d. Hannah Rothschild, U.K. 2009)
• THE LAST STATION (d. Michael Hoffman, Russian/German, 2009)
• THE MISCREANTS OF TALIWOOD (d. George Gittoes, Australia/Pakistan, 2009)
• THE ROAD (d. John Hillcoat, U.S., 2009)• THE WHITE RIBBON (d. Michael Haneke, Germany/Australia/France, 2009)
• VINCERE (d. Marco Bellocchio, Italy, 2009)
• VISION (d. Margarethe von Trotta, Germany, 2009)
• WINDOW (d. Buddhadeb Dasgupta, India, 2009)