Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Recent Books I Started...But Didn't Finish

Consider this blog post an "unbook review" of a sort. I started these, but didn't finish these book early these years. I never finished them. I will tell you why.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy: A Novel by John La Carre

I won't lie sometimes when I watch a British film I turn on the subtitles so I can understand what everyone is saying. And even then I get lost in the jargon. Even further, British stories seem to have more people and more talk. And while the characters are differentiable, they are quite as diverse as they seem to be in American stories.

Such seems true in this story that I'm sure is fascinating. I tried reading it. But I felt like I was reading Alias where I couldn't tell who was Sydney Bristow and who were the bad guys.

I know there's a popular British film version that has previously come out, as well a star studded film version coming out this November. I wanted to read it ahead of the curve. But frankly, they don't usually make subtitles for books (or little bubbles on the side of the page that say: "remember this guy, he's kind of bad, but not really bad").

The New Frugality: How to Consume Less, Save More, and Live Better by Chris Farrell

Blah, blah, blah. Boring. I felt let Chris Farrell had this thought..."you know some of the environmental choice we make end up being frugal choices and it all sort of works together." But making that into a book is boring. Sixty pages in I just couldn't glean any value from it.

I didn't disagree with the thoughts but it was not engaging. I didn't feel like any thought he was presenting was new. And when he built it out with "interesting support" it seemed unconnected or kind of preachy.

So here's what I haven't been reading? How about you?

Monday, June 27, 2011

Reel People: Ralph Fiennes is Gaius Marcius Coriolanus

The film is Coriolanus. The film marks Ralph Fiennes directorial debut. The movie is based on William Shakespeare's play Coriolanus. Two time Oscar nominated screenwriter, John Logan (Gladiator and The Aviator), shares writing credits with Shakespeare for the screen version.

Gaius Marcius Coriolanus

Gaius (or Caius in Shakespeare's version) Marcius Coriolanus was a Roman general from the 5th century BC. The story of Coriolanus is debatable as history and myth, and many scholars believe it is somewhere in between.

The story of Coriolanus is that as a powerful Roman general he invaded the land of the Volscians, an anchient Italic people, and common enemy of ancient Roman.

After the successful invasion, and initial praise by Rome, Coroilanus makes enemies in Rome when he speaks out against democracy, and he is banished from Rome.

In his frustration at Rome, he aligns himself with Volscians, convincing nobleman Volscian noble man Tullus Aufidius to revolt against Rome. The revolt is an initial success for Volsci until Coriolanus comes in contact with his mother (Volumina in the Shakespeare play, Venturia in many historical accounts). Pursued by his mother to save Rome he cannot continue his attack.

Backing down from his revolt against Rome, Coriolanus became an enemy to the Volsci in additon to the Roman people and government.

Coriolanus returned to the home of Tullus Aufidius who raised support to have him put on trial for disloyalty and killed.


The film follows the Shakespeare telling with Ralph Fiennes directing himself in the lead role of Coriolanus. His co-star is Gerard Buttler playing the part of Tullus Aufidius.

Other stars in the film include Venessa Redgrave as Coriolanus' powerful mother, Volumina, and Jessica Chastain as his wife, Virgilia.

Brian Cox plays Agrippa Menenius Lanatus, recorded consul of Rome in 503 BC.

Ralph Fiennes has received two Oscar nominations (Schindler's List and The English Patient). Will Fiennes receive a third Oscar nomination or perhaps even a win for his portrayal of this tragic Reel (Real) Person?

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Artist - Oscar Contender?

Jean Dujardin says "What why would you not consider me an Oscar contender?"

After Cannes film festival I wrote a short blurb regarding the film The Artist's and more specificly Dujardin's prospects of an Oscar nomination for best actor. Sure the past two years have brought foreign stars to the Academy Awards line-up (Javier Bardem, Biutiful and Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds). But those two are the exception. Before the Bardem/Waltz back-to-back year, it seems by my calculations the next Oscar nominee going back was Gérard Depardieu in Cyrano de Bergerac.

But this post is not just talking French-comedic actor Dujardin here, and the correlation between Cannes actor winners and Oscar nominations.

The Artist is a passion project by Michel Hazanavicius, a French director traditionally known for his spy movie parodies (staring Duhardin). This film though is a silent black-and-white film which takes place in Hollywood from 1927 to 1931 dealing with Hollywood themes of the silent era's transition to the talkies.

If The Artist (or it's performers get nominated) it is not because of Cannes, unless it's Cannes run helped lead to The Weinstein Company purchasing distribution rights for the United States, UK, and Australia.

The Weinstein brother's (Bob and Harvey) left Miramax and formed their own company in 2005, and there choice of films, distribution style, reputation, and Oscar campaigning often leads to successful independent releases and Oscar success (The Weinstein Company was the distributor behind last year's Oscar behemoth The King's Speech).

So when The Weinstein Company announced it's release schedule for the holiday's including prime real estate for The Artist it warrants consideration The Artist will be released in the United States on November 23rd. Other Weinstein property for the holiday's include The Iron Lady (December 16, 2011), Coriolanus (December 2, 2011), and My Week with Marilyn (November 4, 2011).

So, will The Weinstein Company decide that The Artist is worth their promotion attention? If so, we might see this French silent film part of this next year's Oscar line-up, including the potential Jean Dujardin as well.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Arnold Schwarzenegger - Return to Film?

So what is Arnold known for?

Arnold Schwarzenegger's had a roller coaster life in the public world with a bizarre turns of stardom from body building (Mr. Olympia), to acting (Terminator), to politics (the Governator), and after his final day in California public office in January 2011, the drama didn't stop after a long time marriage with Maria Shriver ended due to a previous affair and the revelation of a secret son.

So, what's next. It seems that the tone of the conversation surrounding Arnold Schwarzenegger is not body building or politics, but instead, it's a return to film.

But what film? And when?

Here's a list of film rumors I've rounded up surrounding Schwarzeneger's return:
* Korean director Kim Jee-Won's The Last Stand
* Training Day Director Antoine Fuqua's The Tomb
* Braveheart screenwriter Randall Wallace's With Wings Like Eagles
* Some version of a Terminator Sequel or two (Terminator 5?)
* Remake/Sequel of Running Man
* Remake/Sequel of Predator
* Stan Lee comic book film adaptation of The Governator

Image above of Pumping Iron (25th Anniversary Special Edition)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Tree of Life and the Book of Job

The following is a guest post written by Jeremy.

Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life is the rare film that addresses God’s role in human events. Themes found in the book of Job permeate the story. Indeed, the film opens with the Lord’s question to Job, “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?” And after experiencing a personal tragedy, the central characters listen to a sermon from the book of Job, preaching that calamity falls upon the righteous, as well as the unrighteous.

In voice-over narration throughout the film, the characters talk to and question God. Like Job, the mother responds to her misfortune by asking where God is. God’s response in the film comes not through spoken words, but through a visually arresting sequence of God “la[ying] the earth’s foundation.” An operatic score accompanies images of the formation of the earth and eventually the beginning of life. God’s response is clear: Who is man to accuse the Creator?

Certainly, other films have referenced the book of Job. For instance, the Coen brothers’ A Serious Man found inspiration from Job. But where that film focused only on the questions addressed to God, Malick gives us at least a glimmer of God’s response.

Following the cosmos segment, The Tree of Life shifts focus to its human characters and explores other themes, like the influences of nature and grace. But chances are that, ten years down the road, the moments depicting the omnipotence and sovereignty of God will be the ones most well remembered.

Monday, June 20, 2011

"Happy Birthday!" Spam

I don't know if you've experienced this, but celebrating my birthday a couple days ago, I experienced like never before.

There are certain food establishments that send you a birthday greeting e-mail that includes a freebie - maybe a free ice cream or burger.

I have no complaint associated with these type of birthday related marketing devices because I'm getting something free for being "part of their club."

But this year I got a lot of birthday greetings from businesses with no-freebie attached. Instead, they were using my birthday as a reminder that they were there.

These birthday greetings included an e-mail from our mortgage broker we used a few years back.

Another birthday greeting was a personal card from a financial advisor who helped my wife with an account years ago. The hand written card "sincerely wished the best for me in the coming year."

I got a "happy birthday" text message from the dentists.

These reminders from these service providers seemed to cheapen the birthday experience. The financial advisers card looked like anyone else's birthday card sent through the mail, and I didn't want to be reminded of the dentist when I'm getting ready to eat my birthday cake.

So, creative as they think they are by being on top of their database and mining the information for marketing opportunities - a birthday greeting is not what I want.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Fatherhood Identity

There are a number of things that make up my identity. These parts of my identity come through in a number of ways, and a number of places.

But the "Who I Am" that is most consistently characterized in all parts of my life is a relatively newer part of my identity. It's my identity as a father.

There can be a number of parts of your life that people don't see or know, but it's hard to hide children. Even in the work environment, my "father status" would be a hard to hide.

Tomorrow, my oldest turns three. It's pretty exciting to see her grow-up and begin to see who she is. My second is at four months. And despite only having 3 years in this role of dad, it's incredible role.

There's something strange an age of quick change where jobs, socio-economic status, and towns we live in can change so fast. Yet no matter what happens these little people will always be my children, I will always be there dad, and there is absolutely nothing that can change that.

It's incredible to live in such a meaningful and permanent relationship. And a relationship that changes the way I spend my time, my money, and my energy.

Thumbprint scanner image from mobile9.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Adaptation: Accepting the Abnormal as Normal

Have you ever seen one of these banks before. They're called Fifth Third Bank but their logo looks like a fraction, and 5 thirds is 1.6666667.

This isn't a local bank where I live, but it is where I'm traveling to. It's weird because people who live about it talk like it's nothing weird. But pole a random stranger and I have to believe most will see the 5/3 logo slapped up on a bank and not even know what they're supposed to call the bank.

I think that's common. Sometimes there are things around that are so weird that they seem normal.

I think there are things in our life that seem "normal" that are probably super bizarre. Things in our own lives, good and bad. I think about the movie Precious from a couple years back and you have a one of those common situations portrayed where someone is in an awful, messed up situation, and yet to them, caught up in the middle of it see it as normal. This is obviously can be a characteristic of abuse, normalization of something so abnormal.

It can be good things to. Sometimes, I think I forget what a wonderful wife and family I have that some how I get caught up in the trees and don't step back far enough to realize how wonderful my wife, mother, father, and kids are to me. It's incredible how quickly we normalize.

Psychologist George M. Stratton did experiments in the 1890s about the brains ability to take inverted images and over time flip them right-side-up when these types of goggles were worn days on end. The brain is an incredible thing the way it can normalize so much.
Normalization is an incredible thing. Although that's not an excuse to not be grateful for a great family, or to accept abuse, or to think that a bank called fifth third even begins to make any sense.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Trophy Kids

At the Breckenridge Film Festival this past weekend, I had the chance to catch the film Trophy Kids, directed by Josh Sugarman.

I must admit, when you walk into an independent film with limited information there is sometimes concern. And in this case, I was watching the film with a group of friends with varied taste.

So in our group of 10, I can certainly say the general consensus was that people liked the film, and honestly I think some were surprised at how they either connected to the film dealing with 20-somethings who were trying to figure out their future that didn't come to them like they hoped. But it's something different then just a coming of age 20's angst film.

It's stars (Ryan Eggold, Tahnya Tozzi, and David Gallagher) do a great job playing their roles in characters that have more depth that they would appear to have on the surface when the film begins.

Those in the group who didn't have glowing reviews for the film, suddenly found themselves in conversation about the film, which isn't that what most film makers probably want anyways? And Sugarman with Brandon Yankowitz have created a script that warrants discussion. The film seems like it's missing a little something in the beginning in the set up (and when I say the beginning, I'm not talking about the exciting 5 minute opening tease). And when it gets to the end it delays the wrap up, but still manages to tie it up with a couple of laughs.

And there are plenty of laughs, usually surprising. For some reason, the film seems to idolize Little Miss Sunshine, and the 1-to-1 comparison is certainly not there, except for the producers hope to perhaps mirror it's success. And while I don't expect that, I do hope this film does get some distribution that puts it before people, so I'm not just talking about it myself.

And if there is one complaint for this film, it's the fact that it's a film that falls into that similar trap of films about films, that unfortunately seems to be leave a little something to be desired. But the story would be hard pressed to re-write itself with this detail change.

Pictured above is David Gallagher in a dramatic scene from Trophy Kids - most will remember Gallagher from playing Simon Camden on 7th Heaven.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

New Thomas Film & What I Expect in a good Thomas The Tank Engine Story

Read early this morning on Indie Wire's Blog, The Playlist, that Shane Acker, director of 9 (the feature length animated film and the Oscar nominated short) will be directing a feature length Thomas The Train film.

Now, while the Playlist presents a negative slant on what this film says about Shane Acker's film, my thought is a little different. And maybe that's because I've watched a lot of Thomas the tank engine and his friends over the past three or four months.

When my 2 year old daughter attended a Thomas-themed birthday party in February, she suddenly decided SHE wanted a Thomas party, although she had never seen Thomas. We hadn't either.

So after much Thomas talk, we picked up a video. We started with Thomas & Friends: Splish Splash Sploosh. Frankly I found it pretty enjoyable and my daughter LOVED it. And frankly, I felt very comfortable with her watching it because unlike other cartoons (whether that be the Saturday morning variety, or beloved Disney classics) these cartoons were incredibly tame, without a villian or other dark elements.

Later, we would watch other Thomas videos, and I quickly learned the more recent the better, because the older versions (and when I say older, I'm talking 2005), aren't nearly as engaging. Their stop-motion style photography (versus the modern version with CGI) and the tempo drags far more. So beware!

But frankly, I enjoy these videos, and am perfectly fine my daughter does to. And as far as a feature length film directed by Shane Acker - from my perspective, I'm worried he will direct a story with out these crucial elements that I see in the modern Thomas and Friends stories.

These crucial elements of a good Thomas The Tank Engine Story are:

1. Thomas must be presented with a task from Sir Topham Hatt
2. The task must be relatively simple but of great importance.
3. Thomas must express a desire to be a "very useful engine."
4. Thomas must have an emotional response (pride, a desire to have fun, embarrassment, wanting to be extra brave, etc. the response itself doesn't really matter).
5. The emotional response causes him to fail at completing the task to it's fullest.
6. Sir Tomham Hatt must tell Thomas he's disappointed causing "confusion and delay."
7. Thomas must correct his errors.
8. Any new characters must have a obnoxiously British name (example of current characters: Gordon, Percy, Arthur, Claribel, and Edward)

Good luck, Shane. I've laid out my expectations.

Image from Indiewire Blog.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Hailee Steinfeld, I Would Have Put Your Name On The Box

I can understand why on the original movie poster Hailee Steinfeld - THE LEAD - of Joel & Ethan Coen's True Grit might not have received billing credits on the original movie poster. But now that the DVD has come out, the exclusion of Steinfeld's name on the DVD headline text is awkward considering that while there are 4 people on the cover, only 3 names are listed.

Hailee Steinfeld is cheated. With well over a dozen award nominations or wins for her role including an Oscar nomination, you'd think she'd get her name included on the movie box.

**I have edited the box cover image above as an info graphic to demonstrate my dissatisfaction.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

The Beakfast Song Set (A Saturday Morning top 10)

Here's our breakfast music set for today -- happy, fun, and very Saturday!

10. "That's Not Really Funny" by The Eels
9. "If There's Love" by Citizen Cope
8. "Maple Leaves" by Jens Lekman
7. "Simple X" by Andrew Bird
6. "This City" by Until June
5. "Rescue Me" by Gun
4. "If You'll Be Mine" by Baby Bird
3. "Pot Kettle Black" by Wilco
2. "Mighty Fine Blues" By The Eels (from soundtrack to Holes)
1. "She Can Do What She Wants" by Field Music
**pictured above, Field Music - looks like they might be eating breakfast too.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Summer Reading

Personally - I'm more of a spring reader. Something about March makes me read.

Recent on my reading list has been We Bought a Zoo by Benjamin Mee and Organic Leadership by Neil Cole. Future blog posts, will likely follow on these book.

But now it's summer, and somehow it seems like I need some Summer Reading.

What's on your summer reading list? I might have to put it on mine.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

50 Contenders: Predicting 2011's Best Pictures

The year is young, and we all know that the best picture contenders of this upcoming year probably haven't come out yet. But with a 10 nominee field there's some room for a variety of guesses. So here's my ranking of the 50 films that could snag a spot in Oscar's top 10.

We'll find out when the 84th Oscar nominations are announced, but even before then when some of these films rise, while other's fall.

If I had to Predict 10 Nominees...
1. War Horse (dir. Steven Spielberg)
2. The Tree of Life (dir. dir. Terrence Malick)
3. The Descendants (dir. Alexander Payne)
4. We Bought A Zoo (dir. dir. Cameron Crowe)
5. A Dangerous Method (dir. David Cronenberg)
6. J. Edgar (dir. Clint Eastwood)
7. Hugo Cabaret (dir. dir. Martin Scorsese)
8. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (dir. David Fincher)
9. Moneyball (dir. Bennett Miller)
10. Young Adult (dir. Jason Reitman)

The Rest...
11. The Adventures of Tin-Tin: The Secret of the Unicorn (dir. Steven Spielberg)
12.Super 8 (dir. J.J. Abrams)
13. Ides of March (dir. George Clooney)
14. On The Road (dir. Walter Salles)
15. Contagion (dir. dir. Steven Soderbergh)
16. The Iron Lady (dir. Phyllida Lloyd)
17. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (dir. Tomas Alfredson)
18. Rampart (dir. Oren Moverman)
19. My Week With Marilyn (dir. Simon Curtis)
20. Take Shelter (dir. Jeff Nichols)
21. Anonymous (dir. Roland Emmerich)
22. The Artist (dir. Michael Hazanavicius)
23. Carnage (dir. Roman Polanski)
24. The Skin I Live In (dir. Pedro Almodóvar)
25. The Help (dir. Tate Taylor)
26. Albert Nobbs (dir. Rodrigo García)
27. Larry Crowne (dir. Tom Hanks)
28. The Rum Diary (dir. Bruce Robinson)
29. Eye of the Storm (dir. Mike Capozzi)
30. Cars 2 (dir. John Lasseter, Brad Lewis)
31. Midnight in Paris (dir. Woody Allen)
32. Take This Waltz (dir. Sarah Polley)
33. Drive (dir. Nicolas Winding Refn)
34. Winnie the Pooh (dir. Stephen J. Anderson, Don Hall)
35. One Day (dir. Lone Scherfig)
36. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (dir. Stephen Daldry)
37. We Need to Talk About Kevin (dir. Lynne Ramsay)
38. Rango (dir. Gore Verbinski)
39. Twixt Now and Sunrise (dir. Francis Ford Coppola)
40. Meek's Cutoff (dir. Kelly Reichardt)
41. Harry Potter and The Deathly Hollows, Part 2 (dir. David Yates)
42. The Whistleblower (dir. Larysa Kondracki)
43. Melancholia (dir. Lars Von Trier)
44. Martha Marcy May Marlene (dir. Sean Durkin)
45. Jane Eyre (dir. Cary Fukunaga)
46. Coriolanus (dir. Ralph Fiennes)
47. Tyrannosaur (dir. Paddy Considine)
48. Shame (dir. Steve McQueen)
49. This Must Be The Place (dir. Paolo Sorrentino)
50. Like Crazy (dir. Drake Doremus)