Saturday, October 31, 2009
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Monday, October 26, 2009
Sunday, October 25, 2009
(pictured, Mo'Nique in Precious, Vera Farmiga in Up in The Air, and Marion Cotillard in Public Enemies)
A Single Man: Fashion designer Tom Ford directorial debut is a book adaptation about a gay British college professor (Colin Firth) who after the death of his partner tries to go through a typical day in Los Angeles. The films technical staff involves many of the artist between the sets and props of AMC's Mad Men.
A Serious Man: The Coen Brothers is the black comedy set in 1967 Minnesota about a Jewish family, primarily Larry Gopnik (Michael Stuhlbarg) a physics professor who's life is falling part and who is having a spiritual crisis of belief.
Common Theme: Both films take place in a similar era, both focusing on professors who feel isolated as they experience loss. Both will likely receive critical praise and awards attention, and both have relatively boring and generic titles.
Not the same: LA vs. Minnesota and gay vs. straight. Not to mention both films will undoubtably have a very strong style judging from reviews and previews, but those styles and artistry have their own flavors.
Saturday, October 24, 2009
One of the actresses who I think has done an incredible job at sticking in the Hollywood game after a childhood success story is Anna Paquin.
Anna Paquin became the second youngest person to win an Oscar at the age of 11 for her role in the Piano.
Now, Paquin has not yet returned to the Oscar stage as a nominee or winner since then, but her career is certainly alive and well.
She has done a variety of films, television and feature, that would be considered prestige films, such as Almost Famous, The Squid and the Whale and Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.
Yet, while these films, among others certainly are respectable, I think part of the reason that Anna Paquin is continually considered for a variety of parts like these, is because she has taken moves and opportunities to secure some star power with teen oriented roles like the film She's All That and the X-Men franchise.
By playing teen roles, I think she took herself from the world of "young Oscar winner" to "teen star" paving the way for her to edge her way into non-teen roles that are still age appropriate, including her most recent turn in the popular role of Sookie Stackhouse in True Blood, for which she has won the Golden Globe and Satellite Award.
I hardly think Anna Paquin's film success ends with her HBO series, rather I think her acting ability, along with ability to redefine her filmography at each step of her own age suggest to me that she is a very talented and adaptable actress.
Now if only, Haley Joel Osment could land himself a role on 90210 or a teen oriented film he might be able to bring some luster back to his career that really kicked off in full swing with his Oscar nominated role in The Sixth Sense.
Friday, October 23, 2009
I remind her it's coming out in December and she asks/tells "We're going to see that, right?"
My wife has been very interested in The Princess and The Frog, largely because she is very excited about a new Disney princess movie with the look of traditional animation that lines up with her favorite Disney films (Aladdin, Snow White, Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, Sleeping Beauty).
Her interest in this film is undeniable.
At the same time, when I am read post by people discussing their thoughts on this films success, it seems like the consensus is that this film will be a failing, in a world where 3D and computer animated graphics are a significant figure in the studio and theater grosses.
Yet, I think this pessimism towards this film might be somewhat unfounded. Sure, it might not grab the same crowd that has Ice Age 3 and Monsters vs. Aliens in the top 10 for 2009 box-office grosses.
It seems to me that this film might capture a similar crowd, that fell in love with Enchanted. My wife typically does not show an interest in any animated films, but the "classic-Disney-style" and princess narrative is creating interest.
The last Disney film that had this animation style was the 2004 flop Home on the Range. When here people compare Home on the Range, the farm film that grossed just barely $50 million domestically, I think they are missing the difference.
So to my wife, and the other girls like her who want to see Disney re-embrace this drama, show Disney you love them. See the movie, bring your book club, your nanny circle, and your church choir. Stop at McDonald's on the way and get the happy meal toy, and maybe even buy some Princess Tiana toys too for the neighbor kids, otherwise...it might be the end of the Disney Princess Films.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
But before I do that, I thought I would mention how watching TV is almost no fun when you are stuck on an airplane.
Maybe it's just me because I don't watch tons of live-TV anyways, but when I'm stuck on the airplane, the option to watch direct TV certainly makes the time fly faster, but, what is there to watch? Another episode of watching people buy a house of HGTV?
But the most painful was watching Kathy Lee Gifford and Hoda after the today show.
In response to Michelle Obama hula hoop video, they hula hooped. They talked about Jude Law in Hamlet (Hoda didn't get Hamlet). Then they talked to Willem Dafoe, but most of the interview was about how is creepy (in reference to his body of work including his most recent film Antichrist). It was all pretty painful, even the price is right is painful on an airplane...sorry Drew Carey.
On my flight out there I watched a film I never have seen before, the box-office success Lethal Weapon 4.
I would like to criticize this film, but it was alright, it was entertaining and even though TBS had ten thousand commercial breaks about George Lopez' new show, it was alright because...I was stuck on an airplane. And little did I know how much better this was then Kathy Lee Gifford and Hoda.
Lethal Weapon 4 has the "buddy" element that is still popular and present in comedy, and Mel Gibson & Danny Glover are able to match the tone and flair of this police-comedy genre.
Plus, Lethal Weapon 4 has a respectable role François Chau, aka the Dharma Initiative guy from the videos on TV's Lost.
Sunday, October 18, 2009
Emma's Teen Movie's blog-a-thon has got me thinking...
I think sometimes we don't take the young actors and actresses in teen films seriously enough.
As for 10 Things, we know that some of these actors, particularly the males all have established their own film identities and are respected in their roles and career, the most obvious being the late-Ledger but even Krumholtz headlines his own television (Numbers). Oleynik never really busted out and Stiles while gaining teen momentum hasn't seemed to break from that yet, and it's hard to imagine what her career has in store.
As for the American Beauty teens, I think in my heart I am waiting for all three of them to establish themselves as common and identifiable actors who don't need to be tied to their 1999 success. I truly believe the talent is there and they are more than one-trick ponies. But despite some various credits none of them have had that stand out role to make them household names.
I think to be honest you have to say that more consistent stars probably came out of 10 Things I Hate About You then American Beauty. Talent might be debatable, but stardom and bankability does not.
The Need For Teen Actors To Reinvent Themselves
It seems like the secret to post-teen stardom is using the platform of your previous roles to land you a role in other films, but not to limit yourself to your previous success.
Most teen stars get more roles, but what they do with those follow-up roles makes all the difference.
Teen stars have to move out of the teen scene and reinvent themselves.
In recent years, in addition to someone like Ledger, Keira Knighley (Bend it Like Beckham) or Anne Hathaway (Princess Diaries) have tried different things that have established them as post-teen actresses.
I think many times we fail to notice the teen acclaimed performances and anchor on those as the potential stars of tomorrow, but the reality is that some of these more popular less-acclaimed performances could be the true stars of tomorrow. Just as Michael J. Fox, Christian Bale, Reese Witherspoon, and Sean Penn (that guy from Fast Times at Ridgemont High).
And I think we all know it never hurts to be on the Mickey Mouse Club. So maybe we should be more proactive and open to thinking about the High School Musical kids as potential stars, or any other new face that enters the Hollywood teen romance or comedy scene. These truly could be tomorrow's next stars.
Saturday, October 17, 2009
So, I was thinking about the 2008 film scene, and as 2008's films have come out, some people that may have watched the Oscars saying "what are these films" have now had the chance to invite these films in their home with the convenience of however they view post-released films.
So, I was looking at IMDb's top 250 films and curious what currently (today) is on the #250 from 2008 and where it ranks. Of course, this list is imperfect in many many ways and often captures niche audiences, but for fun here's what 2008 films make IMDb's list, post-DVD release.
1. The Dark Knight (IMDb rank: #9 of all time)
2. Wall-E (#43)
3. Slumdog Millionaire (#76)
4. Gran Torino (#84)
5. The Wrestler (#122)
6. In Bruges (#200)
7. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (#215)
8. Let the Right One In [Låt den rätte komma in] (#220)
9. Changeling (#233)
I think time will kick some of these off the list as more people see these films, some will probably stay on the list.
This list is interesting because I think it lines up closer with some of the films that might have made the cut if the Oscar's had a 10 film best picture race like that do this year. Notice of the 9 only 2 best picture nominations are present.
Have you seen by now what audiences have ranked the best of 2008? How do you think this will adjust over time?
(I know my votes are different).
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Even more noticeable then sweeps is the Christmas episode.
What makes the Christmas episode(or in some cases episodes) different is not just the decorations and holiday related banter. No, it's also the tone of these episodes. They tend to me more relaxed, less stressful, and in the end they give you a feeling of peace, that all is well.
For no show is this different more clear then in Fox's hit medical series House.
Dr. Gregory House is known in this show to be harsh, impersonal, offensive and callous in his approach towards his staff and his patients. He operates on the theory that all people lie, and that medical diagnosis is a mystery detached from the person who the disease is effecting.
All the same, every time I watch a season of House on DVD there is always an incredibly disappointing Christmas episode, an episode smack dab in the middle of the season where House is nicer, and if he's not a lot nicer, everyone around his is so sugary sweet. Not only that, House usually learns a lesson, or has a heart-warming moment. Ultimately these stories usually end with providing a sense of peace.
Sure in October and January everything can be awful and the show can explore harsh realities and trauma, but not for it's December episode. No, this is the episode where Wilson helps House feel just a little bit of the Spirit of Christmas.
Yet the only way I can understand that is in terms of how the theme of peace distracts from the nature of good narrative, which is explored and developed conflict.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
When I was in college I had many journalism-major friends. One of the challenges of writing a news story is that all stories must have conflict. If you are writing about a town hall meeting, an exceptional athlete, a new medical discovery, or anything else, a good news article should have conflict. Or...as we usually hear it, the article should "show both sides of an issue."
- Man vs. Man
- Man vs. Society
- Man vs. Nature
- Man vs. Machine
- Man vs. Self
So if all stories - real or fictional must have conflict, how can you make a film about peace?
Even if you were to do a peace film about Mother Teresa, a person, who has never had her own big-screen biopic, you couldn't just have a two hour film about her helping people, there would have to be plot. You'd have to see issues like people stopping her from helping them, there would have to be the struggle with death, faith, and government forces. There would have to be personal struggle, frustrations, and questioning.
These elements would not eliminate the film being about peace, but when you walk away from a film about a high-level concept like "peace" you'd have to also wonder and ask questions like "was it worth it?" or "did it make a difference?" and if the film doesn't make you ask questions of that nature, you will probably feel manipulated or as if you had watched a piece of common propaganda.
So to present a concept like peace in film means you have to open the film up to also be about conflict. Practically an opposite.
This to me, makes peace a challenging concept and theme for any sort of narrative art, because even when the end result is peace, it did not come without struggle and conflict.
Monday, October 12, 2009
Saturday, October 10, 2009
One of the ways my wife and I put this thought into action was through contributing to a small micro loan for a man in Togo, Africa who needed a micro loan for construction. I donated through the organization Kiva.org and wanted to provide a status update, that at this time 75% of the loan has been paid back and on schedule.
My wife and I have recently been looking for opportunities to bless others that we know and don't know in various ways, and we thought of our construction friend Kokouda Baba and decided we would like to give another microloan.
Tonight we have decided to give to a woman, married with three young kids who sells beans, and is currently struggling because her supply does not meet her customer's needs. She also lives in Togo (Agbélouvé) and her name is Adjo Akpan.
At the time of writing this Adjo's $900 loan is 78% funded. I hope she get's funded soon, you can help.
Micro Loans, Giving & Peace
In our discussion on peace, I think security and opportunity are a big part of peace, especially when it comes to global peace.
I think the Nobel Prize committee was wise in recognizing this idea when they awarded Mohammed Yunus the peace prize in 2006. Yunnus founded Grameen Banks of Bangladesh which provides micro loans fighting poverty and creating opportunity in Bangladesh.
I think there is a strong case for Kiva founders Matt Flannery and Jessica Jackley to someday win the Nobel Peace prize, what they are doing could bring peace in a strong way.
Perhaps the active form of creating peace is often giving. Giving of ourselves, time, and resources to ensure a better well being for others. Not mandated giving, but true generosity.
I know I could do better at creating peace, especially to think about how I can be an instrument for peace in the lives of those I will never know or meet.
I think there is a strong case for Kiva founders Matt Flannery and Jessica Jackley to someday win the Nobel Peace prize, what they are doing could bring peace in a strong way.
I think it was about the time when Clint Eastwood made Flags of Our Fathers and Letters From Iwo Jima that it finally clicked. I saw war film differently. I realized that almost all war films are anti-war films.
I remember this being discussed with Eastwood on multiple occasions when these two films were released.
How can some of Hollywood's most violent films (no doubt, Letters from Iwo Jima along with many of the films below are quite violent) be the one's that are against violence the most?
Yet, these films seem to present perspectives that show war is unnecessary pain, where people often sacrifice so much for so little, or that in the midst of war lose essential perspective to live like humans. No quite patriotism in the normal perspective.
In a way, anti-war is about peace because it's fighting against what takes away peace. But for a world that still can remember a cold war, or sees the challenge of nuclear weapons on the global stage, no war is not peace enough.
Some "Anti-War" Movies that come to mind:
- All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
- Grand Illusion (1937)
- Dr. Strangelove (1964)
- The Battle of Algiers (1967)
- Apocalypse Now (1979)
- Sophie's Choice (1982)
- Grave of the Fireflies (1988)
- Born on the Fourth of July (1989)
- Schindler's List (1993)
- The Thin Red Line (1998)
- No Man's Land (2001)
- The Pianist (2002)
- Hotel Rwanda (2004)
- Jarhead (2005)
- Flags of our Fathers (2006)
- Letters from Iwo Jima (2006)
- In the Valley of Elah (2007)
Friday, October 09, 2009
Peace is not a popular topic.
Not because of lack of importance, or even lack of caring.
But it's so big. It's unmeasurable, and some how the line between peace and war is surprisingly thin.
And so when it comes to awarding one person or organization for "peace" well...what in the world does that even mean?
Obama has been president of the United States for less than a year, so how can you determine his overall peace contribution? Of course this is the debate. And I think most people will clearly argue this premature.
But what do you expect in less than a year as president? I kind of like to picture Obama waking up one day, dressing in a white robe with olive branches and started spreading fairy dust over the globe and said "peace to you" before spinning around in circles.
No, Obama has increased military presence in Afghanistan, been involved in increased civilian death counts in Pakistan. And just in one year.
But the award is more for his aspiration of peace, rather than his implication. It's for his dedication to reducing nuclear weapons and restoring strained diplomatic relationships.
And suddenly when peace is just a word that some people associate with hippies, Christmas carols, and sleeping babies, we begin discussing it again.
So, I kind of wonder - where is there peace in our pop-culture? Do our films represent peace? How about music? TV?
And if you can think of an example of contemporary Peace presented in art, is it effective, engaging, or something people are drawn towards?
Thursday, October 08, 2009
The Lovely Bones
Susan Sarandon vs. Rachel Weisz
Face-off Prediction: Susan Sarandon
Monday, October 05, 2009
Perhaps you've seen me mention this film on StrangeCulture in the following post:
- Book Adaptations & Best Picture Nominations: Trend Revisited (January 26, 2009)
- 2009 Oscar Best Picture Predictions -- Now With 10 (June 28, 2009)
- August Best Director Predictions (August 4, 2009)
- September Best Actress Predictions (Sept 19, 2009)
Yes, that Mo'Nique. Nikki Parker of The Parker's Mo'Nique...or the potential Oscar nominee Mo'Nique. (Mo'Nique pictured above in this acclaimed role)
This film with it's heavy content seems like it might mix up the Academy Award nominee's from being limited to skinny white girls with British accents.
Nominations Precious seems to have a chance at...
- Best Picture (Executive Producers Tyler Perry & Oprah Winfrey)
- Best Director, Lee Daniels
- Best Actress, Gabourey Sidibe
- Best Supporting Actress, Mo’Nique
- Best Supporting Actress, Mariah Carey
- Best Adapted Screenplay, Geoffery Fletcher
- Best Film Editing, Joe Klotz
- Best Original Song, “I See in Color,” Mary J. Blige
Pretty impressive potential for a film of this size and theme.
Check out the preview here for a better idea of what this film is all about. No doubt, it has a heavy story line and probably not a huge box office take, but it's hard to tell what Tyler Perry, Oprah Winfrey, and critical acclaim can do.
In doing some apple research, I began to wonder what type of apple Dorothy Gail was reaching for in the land of Oz.
In this 1939 film, I can tell you that the apples in the wizard of Oz weren't my favorite, Honey Crisp (an apple that wasn't "developed" until 1974).
It's weird to think of apples of having days they were created/developed/introduced. Apparently there are over 7000 types of apples, and while no apple has an origin or creation in Oz, I've decided that Dorothy was not attempting to eat one of my favorites.
Sure Gala and Granny Smith were both introduced prior to the films release, there colors are not quite the same color as the bright shiny color we see in the film.
Origins of my current favorite apples...
Saturday, October 03, 2009
Thursday, October 01, 2009
- My Man Godfry (1936)
- Mrs. Miniver (1942)
- For Whom The Bell Tolls (1943)
- Johnny Belinda (1948)
- Sunset Boulevard (1950)
- A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)
- From Here to Eternity (1953)
- Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966)
- Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
- Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967)
- Network (1976)
- Coming Home (1978)
- Reds (1981)
- An Education (Carey Mulligan, Peter Sargaard, Emma Thompson, Alfred Molina)
- The Lovely Bones (Saoirse Ronan, Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz/Susan Sarandon, Stanley Tucci)