Monday, January 31, 2011

2010 Releases of Oscar Contender Films

One of my hopes when the change over the past couple years with the Oscars having a 10 film race is that Oscar-worthy films wouldn't all be sandwiched into release dates all in the last six weeks of the year.

Here's a look at the non-festival US release dates for this year's 10 films at an idea of what award season with a 10 film race was this year. Like last year when I compiled this list it is pretty clear that award season even in a 10 film race won't start until Summer, although it is worth looking at both the big studio films and the Indy films that come out even in the summer.

I like how this picture indicates the potential for a longer award season though, and hope that studios will consider a wider range of calendering possibilities for their award-worthy films.

Winter's Bone (June 11, 2010)
Toy Story 3 (June 18, 2010)
The Kids Are All Right (July 9, 2010)
Inception (July 16, 2010)
The Social Network (October 1, 2010)
127 Hours (November 5, 2010)
The King's Speech (November 26, 2010)
Black Swan (December 3, 2010)
The Fighter (December 10, 2010)
True Grit (December 22, 2010)

(Pictured above Jennifer Lawrence from the critically acclaimed and best picture nominated film Winter's Bone.)

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Reflecting on Father Roles in 2010 Films

2010 seems like it was a lousy year for Dad's in films. And maybe I'm missing a beautiful perforamnce of a father figure, and if so, fill me in - but Dad's seem like they really drop the ball or have no role at all.

If I were to chose one respectful film for fatherly roles it would be The King's Speech and it's very much a default choice based on the fact that the two central real life characters King George VI (Colin Firth) and Lionel Logue (Geoffery Rush) are both fathers, and really seem like they're attempt to live valuable lives in their respective careers and roles is an extension of their desire to provide and tend to their family.

But apart from King George VI turning his daughters (Elizabeth & Margeret) to the royal care of his wife and court, the onscreen time for such a story is limited and the relationship relatively unexplored.

Otherwise, where father-roles do play a bigger part they seem to represent the role of Father in less than glamourous way.

I write this thinking of Mark Ruffalo's role as the contacted sperm donor in The Kids Are All Right, who really didn't have the chance at all to be a father, and when given the opportunity really flubs it up with personal indiscretion.

Another similar example of a dad flubbing up family life with personal choices is Oliver Platt's character in Please Give, but I've already complained about that film.

I think of Winter's Bone where Ree Dolly has to place herself in personal danger in order to help save her younger siblings minimal sense of stability as a result of their father crime activity and skipping bale.

Even in the film Inception, there is a negative father relationship in the film between the ailing Maurice Fischer (Pete Postlethwaite) and his son and heir Robert Fischer Jr. (Cillian Murphy) who will inherit his father's energy empire when he dies.

But beyond that, more than these negative father roles I also just notice a general absence of stories involving fathers.

Sometimes that is a functional part of the story, such as in True Grit where the story essentially begins with the death of the father, and perhaps it could be argued that the way Mattie Ross is able to carry herself and honor her father is a testimony of the way her father has raised her.

Other father excluding films worth mentioning (and again this is often a simple function of the story) include The Social Network, 127 Hours, The Ghost Writer, The Town, Letters to Juliet, Toy Story 3, Never Let Me Go...and the list could go on.

Help me find the exception, but please don't suggest that the best representation of a father in cinema was Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson in the film The Tooth Fairy.

(pictured above King George VI and his royal family as portrayed in The King's Speech watching a film together)

GasLand

GasLand, one of the 5 films up for best documentary feature at this year's academy awards, is a fascinating film.

My awareness of the natural gas phenomenon is relatively high, and so terms like hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and natural gas shale are not uncommon words.

Typically when these things are discussed they are discussed with balanced skepticism, acknowledging the great economic opportunity presented (both to people with mineral rights, and America with easily accessible fossil fuels). Yet at the same time, there is often some skepticism when these stories are presented questioning the environmental and health risk of fracking.

And here's where Josh Fox creates his entertain and disturbing documentary perfect for those who like health mystery, on-site investigation, big business scandal and government conspiracy.

Perhaps the story of Fox's GasLand is interesting to me because of the amount of time Fox spends in places where I have lived...adding to the fear and skepticism.

I have watched the news stories of locals who are able to light their tap water on fire because of the gas and chemicals in their water system, I have heard of people selling their mineral rights for corporations to access the Barnett Shale in the Fort Worth area. And so this film is plenty disturbing.

But beyond being disturbing, the debut documentary features a snappy style that has plenty of dry humor and sarcasm to make for an enjoyable feature. And anything that happens fast in the business world needs someone like Fox to add to the voice that says "let's slow down and think about this."

Saturday, January 29, 2011

One of Each

Person: Do you guys know what you're having yet?
Me: A Boy.
Person: How great, you'll have one of each
.

My wife is now one week past her due date, and so it's not surprising that the topic of our family and my wife's pregnancy is brought up regularly. You'd expect as much with our life on semi-pause waiting for our son's arrival and my wife's belly starting to look like an over-inflated beach ball (a beautiful beach ball...but...huge).

That being said, an observation from this past week is how so many conversations with casual acquaintances go like the conversation above. We have an adorable two year old girl, and when people find out we're having a boy regularly comment on how great it will be we will have "one of each."

This repeated conversation has started to be some what offensive to me. Now, I know, I personally offend people accidentally on a regular basis, so I don't speak from a lofty position as Ms. Emily Post on modern manners, but I do find it somewhat strange how often this comes up.

The comment seems to imply a number of things.

Implications:
  • The ideal situation is to have two kids
  • Once you have two kids you can rest at being "finished" with the perfect set.
  • Having two children of the same gender would be less favorable.
  • Having two children of the same gender might make a family consider "trying again" to finish the family with both male and female children.
  • That a parent wants to have a child that share their gender.

The last implication of the shared gender child, comes from the realization of when I say I'm having a son, that people seem to imply that as a father I might have a higher degree of excitement about the idea of having a son, that the absence of rearing a same-gender child might be a lost experience. This came up regularly before we knew the gender and people would often say "I bet you would really like a son." Or they would say to my wife, "I bet RC really hopes you'll have a boy."

This logic seemed to operate on a set of expectations me and my wife did not have. We were excited to have a second child, regardless of gender. We are not sure if our family will grow past two children, but the gender of our child had no bearing on that decision. And as a male, I'm excited about having a son and the special relationship that it entails, but I find a special relationship in the father-daughter relationship as well and while I expect differences in life and that relationship due to gender, I expect differences in relationships with both my children due to other factors as well such as their personal interests and personalities.

That being said, you won't catch me using the term "one of each" in a sentence, nor when I see someone that is pregnant suggest that they might be hoping for a child of a certain gender, especially if that hope is that they can even the numbers out in their family or introduce a new gender to their pack.

(Image Credits: The picture above is via Snapshot Pictures out of Plano, TX.)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Counting Up Nods: A Dozen Crowns

Usually the film with the most Oscar nominations goes on to win the best picture prize. This is important to note today since the favorite to win (The Social Network) had 4 fewer nominations than The King's Speech, so if something seems like a sure thing, let the campaigning begin.

Looking at this list by nominations alone, The Social Network doesn't seem as quiet as special. In fact, I'm shocked to see how many nominations True Grit has received, considering it's popularity among audiences but relatively unexciting award season (keep in mind it had ZERO Golden Globe Nominations).

So here's the nomination count of the 10 Best Picture nominated films ranked by number of nominations:
  • The King's Speech (12 nominations)
  • True Grit (10 nominations)
  • Inception (8 nominations)
  • The Social Network (8 nominations)
  • The Fighter (7 nominations)
  • 127 Hours (6 nominations)
  • Black Swan (5 nominations)
  • Toy Story 3 (5 nominations)
  • The Kids Are All Right (4 nominations)
  • Winter's Bone (4 nominations)

Happy Oscar Nomination Morning

Good morning Mo'Nique. Nice work with the announcements, my favorite part was that she fumbled over the word "foreign" in "foreign language film" but was able to announce all the nominees.

The instant reaction is the inclusion of Javier Bardem for best actor for Biutiful (instead of Robert Duvall for Get Low), Joel & Ethan Coen for best director for True Grit (the backlash will probably be that they got nominated instead of Christopher Nolan for Inception), the exclusion of Andrew Garfield in The Social Network (with John Hawkes' Winter's Bone performance presumably taking his place), and Michelle Williams scoring a nod for best actress for Blue Valentine (instead of Julianne Moore for The Kid's Are All Right), and then The Illusionist took the 3rd animated slot instead of Despicable Me or Tangled.

Oh, and Hailee Steinfeld did get placed in the supporting category. Category fraud.

Most of the top 10 nominees seemed a lock, except there were 11 films to fit into the spots, the film that was left out was the film The Town which was nominated in favor of other fringe nominees largely considered to be Toy Story 3, 127 Hours and Winter's Bone.

More thoughts to come, but these are the knee jerk thoughts until I get to look at the rest of the nominees that don't get the telecast treatment.

Of yes, if someone is keeping track of where I have "mispoke this year" I had previously predicted (before the release of the film) that Black Swan would not show up in Oscar's top 10 best films, but clearly award season and the film's success has made it pretty clear for awhile that Black Swan would show up here.

Here's the top 10 best films:
Black Swan
The Fighter
Inception
The King's Speech
The Kids Are All Right
127 Hours
The Social Network
Toy Story 3
True Grit
Winter's Bone

Monday, January 24, 2011

This Way of Life

There is certainly different types of documentaries, and this film one of this years 15 potential Oscar documentary nominees, This Way of Life directed by Thomas Burstyn is one of those films that is a shoot and edit type of documentary that often feels like you're watching someone else's home movie. The compelling part of this story is that the family is very different than most families.

The film is the story of a father/husband who is dedicated to maintaining his personal integrity, which means not giving into modern conventions of labor and consumerism. As a result he does what he can to live off the land and earning an income is a minimal concern.

So this man, Peter Karena, and his wife, Colleen Karena have lots of children, raise horses, kill their prey, and deal with a family that is trying to make life extra difficult through kicking them out of the family home and forcing them for a season to live out in the wilderness.

But oh yes...I'm forgetting one of the most important parts of this film. It takes place in New Zealand. The result is that the scenery is often absolutely stunning and there are times when I wish for subtitles to comprehend what's being said.

Will most people see this film and think "golly, I want to go raise my kids off the land and live a wild and free existence?" Probably not, although perhaps the message of this film (if the film makers intend for there to be one) is that there is another way to do life and perhaps in that there might be freedom.

The narrative of this film is limited, but I think some people would really relate to this film whether it's the landscape, the horses, a masculine image of fatherhood, or the dream of something different for a family.

24: We're Done, Should you Watch it to?

My wife and I just finished season 8 of 24...after watching all 8 seasons and the made for TV movie we're a little sad to see the series be over, although for Jack's sake, how many of the longest days of your life can you have?

That being said the long-standing vision of a theatrical movie is still promising and so even watching the last season one of my big questions was "who's going to die and become film ineligible."

Now after watching all 196 episodes you might ask...Is it worth it? Should I watch it?

My response would be...yes...sure some seasons are a little better than others, some plot elements get repeated throughout the years, and some of the "real time" episodes mean a whole lot happens (or way too much then is realistic). But here are the reasons why I think it's enjoyable...

3 Reasons to Watch 24
1. Keifer Sutherland as Jack Bauer is pop icon that needs to be watched to be understood and appreciated.

2. The changing cast, aw-ha-excitement of a return character, and the surprise turn of good characters gone bad is pure entertainment.


3. It's an interesting history study of the first decade of the twentieth century. Keep in mind 24 began shortly before the 9/11 terrorist attack and so the tone of the shop changes over the years to mirror changes in cultural perceptions of terrorism, torture, and a war on terrorism.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Hailee Steinfeld's True Grit Performance & Category Fruad

If there was a stronger case of category fraud in this year's award season it's the sitations as Hailee Steinfeld's performance as Mattie Ross in True Grit.


In terms of story, the biggest difference between the 1969 True Grit and the 2010 version is that the Coen Brother's version puts the centrality of the story on Steinfeld's character. This is great because Steinfel'd performance is engaging and plays the role in a way that Kim Darby didn't in 1969. (Darby's role tipped to side of annoying, which made it okay to put more focus on John Wayne).

Yet, earlier this award season (mid-December 2010)Steinfeld was given the Screen Actors Guild nomination in the supporting actress category.

Not surprising in itself, since awards often carry this type of category fraud that sometimes things a young performer should be relegated to the supporting categories regardless of age. Additionally, this seems to be seen as a strategy to get the nomination that might be lost to more senior performers.

But then this past week, the British Academy of Film and Television gave Steinfeld a nomination in the lead category where her role belongs if it will be nominated.

It seems that the BAFTAs have a lower tolerance for category fraud, I recall drawing some intention to some category fraud issues in 2008 award season when they corrected areas of fraud by putting Dev Patel's role in Slumdog Millionaire in the lead category, as well as Kate Winslet's role in The Reader in the lead as opposed to supporting where both those performances had previously been nominated (of course, the Academy would also put Winslet's Reader role in the lead category, which was the role she would win the Oscar for).

So, come Oscar nomination morning, I'm curious to see if by chance Academy voters might correct this fraud, or accept it with Steinfeld in a supporting role. Or she might not be included in either category with either not enough votes, or the votes syphoning off into the two separate categories.

But, if it were up to me (which it is not) Steinfeld would be at least considered in the lead category, and be receiving a nomination there...but I have a hard time imagining that happening.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Exit Through the Gift Shop

Exit Through the Gift Shop...this is the type of rare documentary magic that makes you want to share this story with others. And it's not a story that's easy to sum up, without...well telling the story.

The most concise premise I think I could write would basically be that this film is about a documentary by a famous graffiti artist named Bansky who initially allows a crazy french shop owner video tape him doing his work, and instead of being the subject of a documentary ends up using the footage to make a documentary about the shop keeper instead.

That being said getting from point A to point B is documented and told in an intriguing way with an interesting cast of characters that includes people named Space Invader, Borf, Neck Face, and the less secretive Shepard Fairy.

There has been some speculation about this film being a complete hoax, but I found that hard to believe, and instead simply found the film fascinating on many levels, and could only imagine how different people might watch it with different interpretations of the people as either heroes, misfits, genius, or insane. And I suppose the lens also only fuels the opportunity for interesting conversations about this documentary.

Rhys Ifans does a great job narrating, the footage and story telling elements are fantastic, and the entire progress and reveal of the story is just plain entertainment.

It's my recommendation you get your hands on this documentary, and then we can discuss it some more. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments if you have seen it.

It'll be interesting to see what happens with this film and the Academy Awards. Exit Through the Gift Shop is one of the 15 films that could be nominated, and it is generally assumed Exit Through the Gift Shop will be one of the films, and a contender for the prize. It may be a little early to make such predictions, but I will say, this is a rare documentary that is certainly different from all the other contenders, and if it wins I think there is definitely some curiosity at who would accept the award, especially under Bansky's mask of identity secrecy.

That alone might be worth some votes. But of what I've seen this year, this film would get my vote as well. Thank you Bansky for making this film and Mr. Brainwash (Thierry Guetta) for your obsessive video-taping (and for not forcing us to watch your own documentary Life Remote Control).

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe

Documentaries are story telling, the stories just happen to be true. And so when it comes to many stories, they can be told many different ways with different conclusions, video and sound clips, and facts.

This point of view shapes the story and so when you watch William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe you will find that this film's narrators, Emily & Sarah Kunstler, two of the subjects daughters has a unique and engaging influence on the film.

William Kunstler is a liberal activists defense attorney who was famous for taking on many unique cases, beginning in the late 1950s and 1960s during the civil rights era.

His rise to prominence as a liberal lawyer is told in this film, but also told with Emily and Sarah trying to come up with a thesis for their father's life.

There is some significant legal victories and famous cases (his defence of the Chicago Seven, defense of the American Indian Movement in the Wounded Knee incident, and prisoners charged with killing a guard at Attica State Prison in New York).

As a defense attorney up for any challenge and press coverage, Kunstler who initially won over liberal fans also is shown in this documentary to loose any sort of a fan support system with his choice of defending accused rapist, terrorist, and and cop killers.

In addition to the collection of clips and audio that the Kunstler sisters have put together, what is interesting is also their personal struggle with who their father was, and it's understandable how his fifty years of activism creates a story of a man obsessed with the press and interested in controversy.

Emily and Sarah Kunstler also tell a story throughout the film of their father's view of prejudice and racism, in which he suggests that everyone is racists and that deeply impacts the court system, and ultimately a society that accepts legality for acceptable behavior.

The story of a defense attorney defending unpopular accused criminals is interesting in itself, but to see someone succeed at getting "not guilty" verdicts in cases the media has already decided is also interesting, regardless of your agreement with the methods or the tactics.

This film is one of the fifteen documentaries that could be nominated for an Oscar in this year's academy awards ceremony, and I am glad that this story has been told as it has in this film. It's delicate work to tell a story of this time and instead of over focus on balance or even making a powerful point, it's focus on telling an honest and personal story.

Monday, January 17, 2011

StrangeCulture 5th Blogaversary!!!

I don't know who Johan is, but his birthday cake was pretty sweet, so I'm using it as my blogaversary cake for my 5th blogaversary (thanks Kats Cakes).

I've enjoy the past 5 years of blogging, pondering, linking and sharing.

Previously blogaversary post & cakes: 1st, 2nd, 3rd & 4th.

Nicole Kidman & Keith Urban's 2nd Daughter

My wife, 39 weeks pregnancy, will surely be jealous when she hears this story.

It was just recently announced that Nicole Kidman and husband Keith Urban have welcomed their second daughter Faith Margaret Kidman Urban into the world. And this news of the baby is a shock, particularly since it was actually born a couple of weeks ago (December 28, 2010).

Unlike Kidman's first child (Sunday Rose, born July 2008), this time pictures of Kidman's pregnant baby bump were no where to be captured by camera film. In fact Kidman's been busy promoting her film Rabbit Hole with a limited release beginning just shortly before Faith Margaret was born.

And the explanation is that there was a carrier. mother involved who carried this child that biologically is both Kidman and husband Keith Urban.

I'm not really know what I think about this scientifically assisted situation, and I'm certain that there will be plenty in the media and blogospophere who weigh in on this decision. Of course, people will be weighing in with perhaps less-that-complete information.

So, unpregnant, Kidman's second daughter entered the world, and I can only imagine the experience of the surrogate mother who carried this child and surely had to keep a very big secret.

So...I can only imagine what my wife will think of this story who is not only eagerly waiting meeting our son, but is also eager to experience the after-effects of labor...that is...no longer being pregnant.

(via)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

When Globes Collide - Un-Thoughts on the 68th Golden Globe Awards

The Golden Globes for the year are over. I unregretably had to miss a portion of the ceremony, but all the same, feel the compulsory need to write a post on tonight 68th Golden Globes ceremony.

I previously wrote about some discontent with this year's award lineup in conjunction with the nominations, so I won't repeat my self.

But the awards are over, and I don't really feel like any of the wins said anything remarkably new about this year's award season or who to be watching...if anything, it would seem that the TV show winners (particularly a show like Boardwalk Empire that won best TV series drama, and acting award for Steve Buscemi) might get a bump in viewers and prestige.

Otherwise, it is what it is.

With that in mind, I've still interested in what Oscar nomination morning might hold as I think there is still perhaps some room for surprises in the nomination fields...but if you're one who reveals in award coverage and looks forward to that coverage here...this compulsory post is here to tell you, the general enthusiasm for this past years film is lacking. I enjoyed these "top" films like The Social Network & The King's Speech but the dynamics of the awards line-up isn't there for me.

If the enthusiasm is there for you this year, I'd love to hear what's grabbed you in this year's award season or in tonight's Golden Globe telecast.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Shepherd

When my wife and I had our first daughter a couple years ago, we went with a non-standard name choice in naming our daughter Linden.

We were pretty excited, and there was one unexpected consequence...that when child number two came along we felt pressure in the name-game, because while we wanted something that suited our upcoming child, we also felt it appropriate that it "coordinate" with our daughter's name.

Now, we did not "build" our child's name around our first, but we did consider how the child's name would sound like it context of our family and our last name.

As we found out we were having a son, it was important to us that when we introduced our two children that it would be clear which child was the male and which was the female, and since Linden as a unique name, but also with a male counterpart (Lyndon) the masculine strength of the child's name was a key consideration.

Through hours of discussion, research, and practicing using the name in the context of children's sporting events, professional work, and routine scolding we excitedly determined his name would be Shepherd.

In addition to being an occupation (like other names like Butler, Mason, Miller, or Sawyer), and although Shepherd's are not a "common occupation" of modern era, the spiritual significance of this occupation in the time of Christ brings added meaning to my wife and I. We love the way in which God is compared to a Shepherd who cares for his flock, feeds them, and protects them from harm. This Shepherd-image is found in the parable of the Good Shepherd (John 10:1-21) and is also used in the common psalm, Psalm 23 that says "The Lord is my Shepherd..."

In this imagry, are characteristics of our hope for our son that he is caring of others, a protector, and one who will help others in their personal and spiritual development.

As a given name, Shepherd is not common, with few "famous" Shepherds. Examples include Shepherd Leffler, one of the origianal US representatives from Iowa when it was admitted into the Union in 1846.

As a surname Shepherd is quite common, and also has various derivitve forms including Shephard, Sheppard, Shephard, Shepard, and Shepperd.

Hardly common, after the occupational spelling of Shepherd, the alternate spelling we considered was Shepard, which still not quite as common (based on the research we could find) was the spelling of some individuals like Shepard Smith (Fox News Anchor) and Shepard Fairey (Modern Artist most famous for the Barack Obama's Hope artwork from his 2008 Presidential campaign).

Yet, for us, this spelling wasn't the one for us.

Another child name Shepherd we ran into during our search was that this is the name of Jerry Seinfeld and Jessica's third son (their daughter is Sascha, and their sons are Julian Kal and Shepherd Kellen).

So, while we wait for the arrival of Shepherd (potentially any day now) we look forward to finally meeting him in person, learning all about his personality, and welcoming him to our family.

Pictured above: The Good Shepherd mosaic by at the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia in Ravenna, Italy, created in the 4th century.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Disappointment in Please Give

In a way, I would expect to have liked a film like Please Give, the original story written and directed by Nicole Holofcener.

I typically am a big fan of these types of small films with small moments and intersections of characters in community. Yet this film left me very dissatisfied.

I felt like whatever Nicole Holofcener was attempting was hurt my disjointed story lines and characters. And read my sentiments correctly, the problem was the disjointed-nature of the characters. The creation of her characters was intriguing, but since every character was so unique in their own way the film failed in it's own originality.

Amanda Peet as a vein and awful person, Rebecca Hall as a sentimental homebody, Catherine Keener as a introspective woman searching for a chance to redeem herself of personal guilt, Oliver Platt as a man with no shame, Sarah Steele as a self-conscious teen, and Ann Guilbert as a cankerous woman on the edge of death.

I think what makes matters worse is the films title (Please Give) and it's central character (Catherine Keener) seeking out opportunities to give back. There are a couple of scenes that are tossed in, particularly at a nursing home and a non-profit for disabled students that simply seem out of place and while I can imagine a few ideas behind what Holofcener was attempting to do in this film, I believe she has failed because those ideas you see developed seemed lost in a shuffle.

I watch this film and ask...why did Rebecca Hall's character have the boy friend story line? Why was the affair with the Amanda Peet character neccesary?

The other thing about this film is that there were a few choices that were made that quickly pushed this film into R-rated territory, when I would have loved to have seen this film re-written and created as a strong PG-13 film, but instead these decisions that were made (Hall's job as a mamographer technician and unneccesary F-bombs) that I feel weakened what could have been a sentimental or moving quality to this film.

These are the types of films that make me want to write my own screenplays because I watch it, and see the ideas there, but see the failure for some peer review that could have really taken this film to another level.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Supporting Actress Blog-A-Thon: Dale Dickey as Mereb in Winter's Bone

In reflecting on the supporting female performances of 2010 a under-praised performance that has stuck with me is the harsh performance by Dale Dickey in the critically acclaimed indie-film Winter's Bone.

Dickey, who at 49 has relatively limited feature length credentials, does a bang up job as Merab in Debra Granik's adaption of the Daniel Woodrell's book with the same name.

Merab is a harsh gatekeeper of her home and family, who's husband (Trump Milton, played by Ronnie Hall) is in essence a small time crime lord in the Ozarks. While Dickey not only protects her husband in minor ways by screening people who might come to her house, as the action intensifies Dickey's performance is utterly chilling whenever she steps on screen.

Jennifer Lawrence as Ree Dolly and John Hawks as Teardrop Dolly have received a respectable amount of praise, including Screen Actor Guild nominations, and while I don't expect similar praise for Dickey's smaller role, I have to think that this performance will no go unnoticed.

Dale Dickey certainly as a supporting actress can fulfill a unique niche as an actress, and I would hope to see her in more roles, because if she can knock out other roles like she did here in Winter's Bone, I think she could really become a Hollywood actress, because in my assessment her role in this film is flawless.

It's not just that Dickey nails the role, but without her consistent performance, I don't think Jennifer Lawrence's star-turning performance would be nearly as powerful.

Thanks Dickey for being the creepiest female performance of 2010, it was great!

This post is my contribution to the 2010 5th annual Stinky Lulu Supporting Actress Blog-A-Thon.



Previous StrangeCulture entries include: Adriana Barazza (2006), Allison Janney (2007), Frances McDormand (2008), Rosamund Pike (2009).

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Precious Life


I recently had the privilege of watching Precious Life, one of the fifteen documentaries short listed for an Oscar nomination this year.

Deservedly so, the recent documentary Precious Life, will largely be praised for it's moving story of human decency and dependence in the hardest of times. The set up for the documentary is that a Palestinian woman from Gaza who's child is in desperate need of a bone marrow transplant in order to survive. With the help of an Isreaeli doctor, funds from an anonymous donor, and media publicity the story unfolds.

Shlomi Eldar, the Israeli journalist who constructed this film, and places himself as a central character in the story telling has done a remarkable job capturing this story and revealing unique things about the long struggles between people in the middle east.

The magic and intrigue though in the film really doesn't come into play until half way though the documentary in a dialogue between the Palestinian mother and Eldar, who suddenly transitions from journalist to person in his question asking, as he struggles with the way the mother, from a clearly different faith tradition, answers his questions.

Now there is definitely plenty of room to suggests that the mother's answers to his questions are doctored from reality due to her own fear of retribution for answers that might be unacceptable in her community, a community that is already critical and skeptical of her for obtaining medical intervention from "the enemy."

Yet, it is these questions about this telling interaction where a Palestinian mother of a sick infant tries to convince a journalist that her child's life is not precious that the rest of the film really blossoms.

From here, the film warrants discussions. Whether that discussion is the blatant discussion of whether life is precious, or the role of "the camera" in story telling, that depends on how you watch this film. But there are moving and troubling dialogue that really makes this film an important film.

Photo: "Precious Life." Credit: Shlomi Eldar

Say That 10 Time's Fast: Our New Tongue Twister from The King's Speech

“I have a sieve full of sifted thistles and a sieve full of unsifted thistles, because I am a thistle sifter.”

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Midlife Blog Crisis or What Will 2011 Look Like

I must admit, I'm having a little bit of a "midlife blog crisis" or something and it's been peculating over the past year, and the new year seems like an appropriate point to voice the "stress" or perhaps even turn a corner.

StrangeCultureBlog has long covered a series of topics, with the freedom for me to write what I want to write without a super boxed in subject. That being said, it wouldn't take long to see that StrangeCultureBlog covers news and discussions based around films, and even more specifically current or upcoming films.

Yet, for various reasons, the films in 2010 seemed less than entertaining, the discussion seemed less than engaging, and while I certainly found plenty I wanted to discuss, I've often considered turning a corner in my blog coverage.

Perhaps part of my thoughts on the "crisis" is that while hits have remained steady and blog subscriptions seem to have grown, the minimal comments and feedback sometimes seem to make me feel like I'm talking into space.

So when I consider convergent topics (whether of a personal nature regarding my alma mater's football team, thoughts on parents, contemporary religious subjects, etc.) I question whether that's in line with my readers interests...not that I'm writing for other's satisfaction, but if I'm talking into the wind.

So what will 2011 bring? I'm not sure. I usually try to talk about things that come naturally that I want to talk about, yet keep a rhythm of conversation with posts that reach back to other posts and trying to contact culture and contemporary arts.

Will this be reflective of 2011? I suppose we'll see.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Favorite Films from Years that End in '1'


Happy 2011!
I thought I would kick off the year with my favorite films from the years that end in the number One (as I did last year with films that end in zero)

We'll start at 1941.

And then, we'll see what movie tops my personal list for 2011 come year end.

1941: Sullivan's Travels (Preston Sturges)
1951: The African Queen (John Huston)
1961: Judgment at Nuremberg (Stanley Kramer)
1971: Fiddler on the Roof (Norman Jewison)
1981: On Golden Pond (Mark Rydell)
1991: Beauty and the Beast (Gary Trousdale & Kirk Wise)
2001: Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings (Peter Jackson)
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