Monday, January 30, 2012

Fiction to Film: 2012

This past year 4 of the 9 best picture nominees came from film adaptations of novels.

I've continued over the past year to track the future film adaptions of novels, whether it's classic literature, best sellers, or lesser known stories, with no prejudice to children or young adult literature.

With that in mind, and a general interest in faction-to-film adaptations, I've created the list of 2012 films based on novels. I'm sure this will be a significant part of my 2012 reading list.


Anyone who's enjoyed the bestseller Life of Pi by Yann Martel will translate to screen, as the story largely focuses on a boy on a boat with a tiger. Ang Lee directs.

Tom Hopper follows up the success of The King Speech with a film adaptation of the musical Les Miserables based on the classic Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. Amanda Seyfried, Helena Bonhem Carter, Hugh Jackman, Russel Crowe, and Anne Hathaway star.

Jeremy Irvine, Helena Bonhem Carter and Ralph Fiennes star in another film version of Charles Dickens' Charles Dickens' Great Expectations directed by Mike Newell.

There's already a lot of excitement for what will surely be one of the first big films of the year with the adaptation of Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games. The film stars academy award nominee Jennifer Lawrence.

Jennifer Lawrence will also be appearing in an adaptation of Matthew Quick's The Silver Linings Playbook. The film is the follow up to David O. Russell's Oscar nomination for The Fighter and stars Robert De Niro and Bradley Cooper.

Peter Jackson returns to the world of dwarfs, elves, and mysterious realms directing the first part of J.R.R. Tolkein's The Hobbit. As a two-parter, the first part released this year is titled The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, and will include reprise rolls by Elijah Woods, Cate Blanchett, Andy Serkis, Ian McKellan, Orlando Bloom and Christopher Lee with the lead roll of Bilboa played by Martin Freeman.

It just somehow seems very natural that Baz Luhrmann would direct and adapt F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, Leonardo Di Caprio and Carey Mulligan will surely give inspired performances.

Lee Daniels directs an adaptation of The Paperboy by Pete Dexter, about an investigation of a death row inmate. The film stars Nicole Kidman, Zac Efron and John Cusack.

Tom Hardy, Guy Pierce and Jessica Chastain all appear in the film Wettest County based on The Wettest County in the World: A Novel Based on a True Story.

The six related/unrelated stories of Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell create an opportunity for an ensemble cast that includes Halle Berry, Tom Hanks, Hugh Grant, Jim Broadbent, Susan Surandon, Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess, and James D'Arcy. Tom Tykwer and the Wachowski brothers direct.

David Cronenberg is to be directing an adaptation of Don DeLillo's Cosmopolis, staring Robert Pattinson in a prominent lead.

Joe Wright works with acclaimed playwright and screenwriter Tom Stoppard to adapt Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina staring Keira Knightley and Jude Law.

Oliver Stone brings a film version of Savages by Don Winslow about a Mexican cartel (led by Selma Hayek) after two successful marijuana growers with a shared girlfriend (Blake Lively).

Brad Pitt stars in a mob thriller adapted from George V. Higgins' novel Cogan's Trade.

Robert Redford directs an adaptation of The Company You Keep by Neil Gordon, a film about a Weather Underground activist on the run from a journalist. The film features Anna Kendrick, Shai LeBeouf, Stanley Tucci, Chris Cooper, Susan Surandon.

Helen Mirren stars in an adaptation of The Door by Magda Szabó.

John Madden directs The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel based on the book These Foolish Things by Deborah Moggach.

Walter Salles bring Jack Kerouac's On The Road to life.

Robert Pattinson, Christina Ricci and Uma Thurman star in the period piece Bel Ami based on the book by Guy de Maupassant.

Disney is certainly hoping that it's upcoming film John Carter will be a success, and if it is - there is plenty of material to keep the story going. This film is based on the book A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs, the first of an 11 book series.

In the same year we see a legitimate biopic of Abraham Lincoln, we also see an adaptation of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith.

We also see Marc Forster direct Brad Pitt in the film adaptation of World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks.

2012 will bring an accapella music comedy in an adaptation of Mickey Rapkin's Pitch Perfect: The Quest for Collegiate A Cappella Glory, staring Anna Kendrick and Brittany Snow.

In franchise land, Twillight Saga's fourth book is released in cinemas as we will see part two of Stephanie Meyer's Breaking Dawn.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Fiction to Film: Oscar Nominees his Years Oscar Nominees vs the Past 10 Years

This year has the unique distinction of having 9 Best Picture nominees under the new rules.

Of those nine nominees, five are based on novels (The Descendants, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, The Help, Hugo, and War Horse)

Of the other four, three are original stories (The Artist, Midnight in Paris, The Tree of Life) and one is based on a non-fiction book (Moneyball)

This years stat with 55% of Academy Award best picture nominees coming from novels is significantly higher then the stats for the previous 10 year.

Nominees for Best Picture from Novel from the Previous 10 Year (2001-2010 films)

2010 films - best picture nominees: 2 of 10 adapted from a novel (Charles Portis' True Grit; Daniel Woodrell's Winter's Bone)

2009 films best picture nominees: 2 of 10 adapted from a novel (Saphire's Push [source material for Precious]; Walter Kirn's Up in the Air)

2008 films best picture nominees: 2 of 5 adapted from a novel (Vikas Swarup's Q & A [source material for Slumdog Millionaire]*; Bernard Schlink's The Reader)

2007 film best picture nominees: 3 of 5 adapated from a novel (Cormac McCarthy's No Country for Old Men*; Ian McEwan's Atonement; Upton Sinclaire's Oil! [source material for There Will Be Blood])

• 2006 films best picture nominees: 0 of 5 adapted from a novel

• 2005 films best picture nominees: 0 of 5 adapted from a novel

• 2004 films best picture nominees: 1 of 5 adapted from a novel (Rex Pickett's Sideways)

• 2003 films best picture nominees: 3 of 5 adapted from novels (J.R.R. Tolkein's The Return of the King*, Patrick O'Brian's Master and Commander, Dennis Lehane's Mystic River)

• 2002 films best picture nominees: 2 of 5 adapted from novels (J.R.R. Tolkein's The Two Towers, Michael Cunningham's The Hours)

• 2001 films best picture nominees: 1 of 5 adapted from novels (J.R.R. Tolkein's The Fellowship of the Ring)

This years percent of Oscar nominees from Novels - 5 of 9 nominees : 55.5%

The percent of Oscar nominees coming from Novels over the previous 10 years - 16 of 60 nominees: 26.6%

*won the Oscar for best picture

Friday, January 27, 2012

Follow Up: 2011 Not an R Year

Earlier this month, I was projecting a very non-R rated Oscar nominee field predicting the only R rated film would be The Descendants. I feared I could be wrong and we'd see Ides of March, Drive, J.Edgar or even Bridesmaids or The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.

But 9 films were nominated, and the only R rated film was...The Descendants. Joining the ranks of 7 PG-13 films (The Artist, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, The Help, Midnight in Paris, Moneyball, The Tree of Life, and War Horse) and one PG film (Hugo).

Which, I can appreciate, and think is an interesting occurrence, that I'm curious will mark the coming years. Perhaps it relates to film studios making more "box office safe," films that wouldn't limit the audience size by the rating, that resulted in this.

I also have to wonder about the impact of last year's film The King Speech, which was a tame movie with one foul mouth scene that sky-rocketed the rating and became somewhat of a discussion over the past year.

Even at the box office, the top 20 films only have 2 rated R movies which were summer comedies (The Hang Over Part II and Bridesmaids).

Will the not R best picture nomination trend continue? 2012 will show.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Meryl Streep - Standout Perforamances in Less-Than-Standout Films

After Meryl Streep's 16th Oscar nomination (playing Julia Child in Julie & Julia) I did a post commenting on despite Meryl Streep's many nominations, it's her performances that are strong, not the films themselves.

Now, receiving her 17th nomination portraying Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady, I feel the need to reiterate that point again.

Now, of Meryl Streep's 17 Oscar nomination - only three of those films she was nominated for where nominated for best picture, and incidentally each time her film was nominated for best picture it won (The Deer Hunter, 1979; Kramer vs. Kramer, 1980; Out of Africa, 1986).

And even this year in the Best Actress race, I would venture to say that if awards were the marker of a strong film (which I realize they aren't) Meryl Streep's competition is each in a debatably stronger film.

The Iron Lady receives two Oscar nominations (Streep's nomination and a nomination for the less-prestigious Make-up category). Three of her contenders are in films which carry more nominations. Rooney Mara's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is nominated for 5 awards (primarily technical), Viola Davis' The Help has four nominations (best picture, and three female acting nominations), Glen Closes's Albert Nobbs has three nominations (two acting and make-up).

The fifth nominee, Michelle Williams in My Week With Marilyn also comes from a two nominee film, but those two nominations are both acting, which I would suggest Kenneth Branagh's nomination brings more weight then the make-up nomination The Iron Lady brings to the table.

But of course, nominations aren't the only judge of film. But I still thing Meryl Streep is consistent, but her choice of films leads to stand out performances in less-than-standout films.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Oscar Nomination Morning - Freeform Thoughts

Melissa McCarthy bust in for Bridesmaids.

The Supporting actor field is a little different than I would have expected - especially Max Von Syndow.

And then Damien Bachier and Gary Oldman.

Some actual surprises.

Terrance Malick for director - I thought we were past Tree of Life, maybe it will break into the questionable number of best picture nominees.

Time to brush up on my foreign films this year.

Animated films are a little higher brow then normal.

And how many best picture nominees will there be. The screen is looking big...1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9.

And Extremely Loud gets in with a final scream during the nominations.

Here's the 9 best picture nominees:
Extremely Loud and Incredbly Close
Midnight in Paris
The Artist
The Descendants
The Help
Tree of Life
War Horse

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Artist - Potentially Putting Astericks In Oscar History

The last silent film to win best picture was Wings in 1927, the first year the Oscar ceremony was held.

The next year, four of the five best picture nominees were "talkies." This non-talkie and the last best picture nominee to be a silent film is 1928's The Patriot.

As for black and white films, since the 1970s to present, only six black-and-white films have been nominate for best picture. Those films: The Last Picture Show (1971); Lenny (1974); The Elephant Man (1980); Raging Bull (1980); Schindler's List (1993); and Good Night and Good Luck (2005). Even Raging Bull and Schindler's list could find them self with an asterisk for their minimal use of color within the films.

With The Artist taking home the Producer's Guild top prize and Oscar nominees around the corner, it's undeniable that The Artist is a contender and should certainly be at a minimum receiving a nomination.

So from this point forward, will we no longer consider The Patriot the last silent film, or does the minimal scenes with sound effects and talking warrant exclusion, or inclusion with an asterisk.

I don't think that there needs to be any asterisks for the black and white category, but should The Artist win it will dethrone Schindler's List from the spot of "the last black-and-white best picture nominee."

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Two Best Leads And The Lack of "Big 5" Films

It hasn't been since Million Dollar Baby, a 2004 film, that a film has been nominated for the big 5. The "Big 5" is the idea of films that get nominated in Oscar's big 5 categories - Picture, Director, Lead Actor, Lead Actress and the appropriate writing category (original screenplay or adapted screenplay).

In the history of film 40 films hold this honor, and three films the honor of winning all five the nominations. Those three films are: It Happened One Night (1934), One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975), and The Silence of the Lambs (1991).

When I think about these films, and the lack of films falling into this category it seems to me the biggest limitation is that more than ever it seems like critically acclaimed films have two lead performances by a male and a female. And even when they do, one performance is classified as supporting.

And I guess that's where sometimes, the lower classification of the lesser-lead seems to shift these results. In the The Artist, I would consider that there is a female lead in the film in the role of Peppy Miller played by Bérénice Bejo. Yet instead, this role is widely considered supporting, whether by virtue of the award bodies, or the awards campaign.

So instead in the lead category for females we see females that aren't co-lead to another male, but instead lead the show, and and any male performance is supporting. This is especially true of performances by Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady, Glen Close in Albert Nobbs, or Michelle Williams in My Week With Marilyn.

The same is true for the male lead performances. George Clooney's role is clearly the lead in The Descendents, but in many ways Shailene Woodley has a lead female performance as well, and yet she's considered supporting.

Forget the idea of "Big 5," if we just talk lead actor and lead actress nominations, the last time this happened was for the 2005 film Walk The Line, when Reese Witherspoon was nominated (and won) alongside the nominated Joaquin Phoenix.

I can tell you now in advance of the Oscar nominations, that 2011 had no "Big 5" film. Who knows when we'll see the next "Big 5" film.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

My 3 Year Olds First Chapter Book

This past week, I decided to pull Fantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl off my book shelf to read to my 3 year old.

Fantastic Mr. Fox is one of my favorite Roald Dahl books (#2 favorite by Dahl in fact).

And didn't know how it my three-year old daughter would handle the book, in terms of it being a chapter book and us working through it - but she absolutely loved it.

I'm not sure how appropriate it is for a three year old, but I just made some modifications to the text as I read (some times I changed the word "kill" to "hurt" for example, or "Shut up, Badger" to "Please be quiet, Badger").

But the book translated to bed time/nap reading perfectly with it's 19 very short chapters we would read two or three at a time (although she always begged for more), and every page had a picture of some sort to help the story translate for her and keep her engaged.

And her favorite part was talking about the "Smelly Farmers." My favorite part was when she would told me tonight we finished it she wanted to read it again and more books like it.

Now I just need to figure out what other chapter books we would enjoy reading together (ideally short chapters, good story, and pictures).

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Will This Oscar Nomination Streak Be Broken?

Usually someone works in the industry awhile before getting an Oscar nomination.

But occassionally someone gets the buzz behind them and gets a nomination on their first shot for a work or performance that really catches the Academy's eye.

But Stephen Daldry was nominated for his first piece of work, and then his second. And then his third. His streaks could end come Oscar nomination morning this year, but anything's possible.

Stephen Daldry

Oscar Nomination Streak: Daldry received best director nomination for his first three feature length films.
Films Nominated: Billy Elliot (2000); The Hours (2002); The Reader (2008)
Potential 2011 Streak Maker/Breaker: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2011)
Nomination Expectations: Expectations here are extremely low and incredbily far away. Only the Broadcast Film Critics Association has given him any attention with a nomination for the critics choice award.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Cinemark Movie Theater Death

There's a lot of ways to go - but this has to be one of the worst.

A man died in the bathroom of the Cinemark 16 in Fort Collins Colorado and was not found until 5 days when the movie theater smelled a stench on Saturday that led them to discover the deceased man.

There's a lot to be said here, and while this certainly seems to have enough comedy for a late night TV sketch. But not only is that unnecessary for the seriousness of the situation and the family.

I think the secondary story is that Cinemark really dropped the ball. 5 days is a long time for a bathroom (even a personal family bathroom) not to be checked and cleaned.

This story is shocking - last movie theater death I wrote about was a suicide during Watchmen in Oregon in 2009. I don't know what it is, but a movie theater seems like an awful place to day under any circumstances. I don't know if it's because it's a place of entertainment, it's a "last expected place to die," or because it seems like an unimportant place.

The the family of George DeGrazio, my heart goes out to you. To the management of Cinemark in Fort Collins, how disappointing.

StrangeCulture's 6th Blogaversary

These blogaversaries keep on coming and I keep having to find a new birthday cake.

Previously blogaversary post & cakes: 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, & 5th.

I have to admit, it's pretty crazy even for me that I've been doing this for the past 6 years.

More and more I enjoy the history of StrangeCulture and the ebb and flow of repeated successful series (such as Real People Win Oscars) and annual post (Annual Vomit Inducing Movies list).

But there's also other gems that are either fun to write or reflective. And often I enjoy the way StrangeCulture pushes me to digest culture, re-discover past films, and keep my toes in the water of what's going on in the world.

Whether you've read the past six years or found this blog on a whim - thanks for reading, and with hundreds of posts - stay awhile and click around!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Hoffman's Luck & The Chances for 3rd Lead Oscars for the 5 Living Double Winners

I don't know if it's the economy, the fall of film (unless it's got a super-hero or has franchise potential), or the rise of the TV drama, but it seems like more and more, you see big name stars heading to TV.

This flock to TV might be assisted by the success of non-network television dramas (as mentioned briefly in my recent post about the Golden Globes).

And I think a strong example of this is HBO's new series "Luck" which stars two time Oscar winner Dustin Hoffman (7 Oscar nominations, wins were for Kramer vs. Kramer and Rain Man).

In addition to Hoffman, Nick Nolte also stars (2 Oscar nominations himself, no wins).

The HBO series is probably a good move for Hoffman, it keeps him in the game, so to speak, when his recent credits have been less news worthy. Besides some positive thoughts on smaller films, such as Last Chance Harvey, his biggest public presents has been in Little Fockers and doing voice work in the Kung-Fu Panda series.

Which leads me to ask - 9 men have received 2 Oscar wins in the lead acting category. None will receive nominations (as expected) for awards the 2011 performances, with nominations to be announced later this month.

Of the 5 living actors who have received two lead acting nominations - do any of these 5 men have a chance of a third Oscar trophy for work in 2012 films?

Dustin Hoffman. As previously mentioned at this time looks to be busy with his new series Luck with no other 2012 projects scheduled at this time.

Tom Hanks. Even Hanks is working on TV movie producting K Blow Top about Nikkita Khrushchev's, staring the recent frequent TV movie star Paul Giamatti. Hanks only anticipated 2012 credit is Cloud Atlas, a sci-fi ensamble drama of interconnecting stories, which I wouldn't expect to translate to anything close to Oscar nomination or win, especially in the lead category.

Jack Nicholson. Nicholson who's hardly done anything since 2007 Bucketlist, doesn't have any rolls on deck for 2012.

Daniel Day-Lewis. And here is where the ton changes, Daniel Day-Lewis has a knack for picking projects, will be in the Steven Spielberg film event, Lincoln. Yet, if Daniel Day-Lewis were to win the Oscar he would be the first actor to win an Oscar for a role in a Steven Speilberg film.

Sean Penn. Here's another possibility in the 2012 landscape. Penn has a role in a period/biographical film playing the LA gangster, and member of the Jewish mafia, Mickey Cohen in the film The Gangster Squad. That being said, The Gangster Squad film is in the hands of a relatively untested director, Ruben Flescher, who's most-popular-work-to-date is 2009's Zombieland, so needless to say, I'm not holding my breathe for Penn's return to Oscar glory.

In summary, maybe Daniel Day-Lewis. The other four -- don't look like if they break the two lead actor barrier, it certainly doesn't look like it's happening with them this year.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

69th Annual Golden Globe Award Thoughts

I feel like I should pen some thoughts on the 69th Golden Globe ceremony held tonight but while it satisfied the bill for the award show, I don't have any single big overwhelming thoughts to share. So here's some quick thoughts - more gold dusted thoughts, than golden nuggets.

  • The love is spread - The Artist takes home comedy/musical; The Descendants take home the drama award. Scorsese takes home the director prize for Hugo. I don't think it's clear yet which one of these films will eventually take home the Oscar.

  • Ryan Gosling - they nominate you for two awards and you don't show - curious.

  • Tilda Swinton - I wonder if she really thinks her style is style at all?

  • Julianne Moore, George Clooney and Elton John seemed to be the camera team's favorite celebs - I saw those green earrings, grey hair, and strange glasses more than anything over the course of the night.

  • Props to The Artist team bringing the Uggie the dog to the awards and the Golden Globe stage. Uggie's been missing out on awards attention [The Screen Actors guild should have included Uggie in the motion picture cast, a pity].

  • Speaking of The Artist, I love the movie, but would feel better about it's front runner status if it would be released wider in the theaters - come on, what are they afraid of?

  • Favorite speech was probably Octavia Spencer's for the supporting win for her role in The Help. Spencer just seemed so happy to win.

  • There are so many awards for the mini-series and TV movies - these films seem to bring a lot of star power, but how many people are actually watching these shows? It appears the only network TV win of the night was for ABC's Modern Family. Not sure how that should be interpreted.

  • In fact, not a single TV show in the drama category is network television - the winner Homeland for best TV drama is on Showtime. Other films in this category are on HBO, FX, and Starz.

  • Further the drama category has all shows with only a single season or less under it's belt (such as Boss with only 8 episodes), with the exception of Boardwalk Empire with 2 seasons. This is kind of lame as well.

  • The film clip for The Help made it look like Mary Steenburgen's bit part as the publishing exec Elaine Stein was one of the main characters in the film.

  • I thought Madonna's back story on originally not wanting to write a song for W.E. was interesting trivia as she accepted the award for best song for "Masterpiece." To me this speaks to where Madonna wants her career path to go.

  • I am really not sure why Helen Mirren was one of the presenters for Morgan Freeman, but the Sidney Poitier presentation was touching (although stiff) and the montage was enjoyable - especially the Electric Company scene of Freeman's “I Love to Take a Bath in a Casket.”

  • I felt sorry for Rainey Qualley (daughter of Andie MacDowell and Paul Qualley) who was the golden globe girl for the night, for whatever reason the stage seemed to be set up in a way that made all the winners go the wrong way when they exited the stage. There were many moments this seemed very akward, one that sticks out is her redirect of Peter Dinkladge.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Golden Globe Pudding

"Hollywood is not known for its displays of modesty, and the world certainly does not look to film stars for lessons in financial restraint. But the opulent, gold-garnished menu concocted for guests at the Golden Globes awards ceremony in Beverly Hills has already prompted some observers to choke.

Joel Berg, of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger, has spoken of the irony of giving rich people such extravagant food for free while those in need have to jump through hoops to get help, adding: "I resent that a wealthy society allows its
neighbours to face hunger."

Against a backdrop of intensifying food poverty across America, it may prove unwise to serve such principled acting nominees as George Clooney, Meryl Streep and Michael Fassbender a dessert that is literally as difficult to acquire as gold dust.

The pudding, decorated with real gold, is described as "a chocolate delice, almond crunch terrine, garnished with acacia honey, caramel and fresh berries" and sprinkled with edible gold flakes at $135 a gram. The dish was devised over six months by pastry chef Thomas Henzi at the Beverly Hilton hotel and is being prepared by 40 chefs and 110 kitchen staff.

--from article: "Golden Globe celebrities enjoy meal of real gold as poverty tightens grip on US" by Vanessa Thorpe for The Guardian.

This article kind of cracks me up, it's a typical type of article that you read and I agree with the initial value that says people are starving and we should take care of them. But if the Hollywood Foreign Press decided to serve a less opulent desert, it's not like the savings would go to Americans struggling with feeding their families.

Plus, I know I have a hard time getting to excited about any desert made with pudding - so maybe they thought gold dusted tiramus was too much, so the dust the pudding.

Actually, I think the discussion wouldn't happen if the Hollywood Foreign Press chose another exotic ingredient for their meal or desert, but the word "gold" creates a stir. But of course, there a reason why they would chose gold as an ingredient for the Golden Globe awards.

Other expensive ingredients could be Japanese Wagyu beef, Iranian saffron or serving Kopi Luwak coffee. I feel like these ingredients used in a recipe would receive less stir

And I bet that Tiramisu with lady fingers infused with Kopi Luwak coffee and a La Madeline au Truffle by Knipshildt Chocolatier on top (at $250 a truffle) would be more expensive. In fact, that sound delicious. Much better than gold dusted pudding!

Actually, I'm sure it taste fine, and I'm glad there putting honey and berries on the pudding, not caviar and gold dust - now that would be excessive.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Resolution - One Movie With Intermission in 2012

You know the movie type. Doctor Zhivago. Gone With The Wind. Ben-Hur.

Those long epic movies with a prologue, and a musical break in the middle (that you're not sure what to do with if you're watching at home - should I fast forward, or enjoy the music?)

Watching too many of these movies will make a person crazy, but one of the "Epics" I haven't watched all the way through before is Lawrence of Arabia.

So one of my new years resolutions is to watch a movie with an intermission I've never watched. This year I'm choosing Lawrence of Arabia. Expect a post of Lawrence by year end!

Any suggestion on what epic movie (with intermission) is a much watch or will be on your list this year?

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Not Rated R - 2011's Top Films

One of things I've been pondering, and trying to "quantify" is the lack of "top films" this year that are rated R. And when I say top films, I mean the award winning, critical favorite, Oscar-caliber films.

Typically, the top of the box office films hang out in the PG-13 range, whether it's action, sci-fi, or sequels.

But when it comes to the Oscar films, some years are very R-rated.

Take the Oscar nominees for 2005-2008 films (the four most recent years with only five nominations for Best Picture) where consistently 80% R Rated. The Oscar nominations consistently had four of the 5 vacancies filled with R-rated films, with one non-R film for each of the four years (those four non-R films were: Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Juno, The Queen, and Good Night, and Good Luck).

The wider 10 field Oscar race increased the field, and over the past couple years we've seen less than 80% R-ratings in the Academy Award best picture nominees.

2009 Oscar nominees were 60% R-Rated (non R-rated films were Avatar, The Blind Side, An Education, and Up)

In 2010 Oscar nominees were 70% R-Rated (non R-rated films were Inception, The Social Network, and Toy Story 3).

Now, it's hard to tell what the final nominees will be for this year's Oscar ceremony, and more specifically exactly how many films will get in with updated nomination rules, but I can anticipate it will be one of the lowest percentages of R-rated films we've seen in a long time.

Of all the top films of 2011 expected to have a shot at a nomination, only one top contender was rated R, The Descendants. There's a couple other potential nominees who could slip in that are rated R (such as J. Edgar, Bridesmaids, or Ides of March) but these films do not represent the top of the field.

The 7 Most Likely Oscar Nominees and Film Rating:

  • The Artist (Rated PG-13)

  • The Descendants (Rated R)

  • The Help (Rated PG-13)

  • Hugo (Rated PG)

  • Midnight in Paris (Rated PG-13)

  • Moneyball (Rated PG-13)

  • War Horse (Rated PG-13)

7 Other Less-Likely Oscar Nominees and Film Ratings:

  • Bridesmaids (Rated R)

  • Drive (Rated R)

  • Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (Rated PG-13)

  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Rated R)

  • The Ides of March (Rated R)

  • J. Edgar (Rated R)

  • The Tree of Life (Rated PG-13)

I'm not sure why we see this year, but I will be interested to see what the final percentage is and if this year is an anomaly or a shift to "top Oscar films" being more likely to be a member of the PG-13 crowd?

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Highlighting 2011 Character Actors: Sacha Baron Cohen, Hugo

"Character Actors" are those talented people who typically play unusual one-of-a-kind characters and in some cases these high caliber performances become "par for the course" or over looked by more serious or larger endeavors. This week on we take some time to highlight some personal favorite character performances from 2011.

When I read the book, The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick, The Station Inspector was hardly my favorite character in the story.

That being said, The Station Inspector is certainly one of the most enjoyable characters in the film Hugo, thanks to Sacha Baron Cohen. I was nervous about his role in the film. Would he turn The Station Inspector into Borat (for the purposes of Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan).

Yet, while Cohen most definitely brings his unique brand of comedy to the character, he is simply hilarious.

My favorite scene by far in the film is when Cohen is attempting to smile in an attempt to win over Lisette (Emily Mortimer). The physical comedy of the awkward smiles (remember, he says he's master three smiles), is comical pleasure in a film that certainly is not marketed (or presented) as a comedy.

Cohen does an incredible role in supporting the main action carried by child actor Asa Butterfield, and a part of a wide and diverse ensemble cast. I expect no accolades for Cohen's performance, but I have to think that many people will walk away thinking that he's one of the true joy's of this film.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Highlighting 2011 Character Actors: Corey Stoll, Midnight in Paris

"Character Actors" are those talented people who typically play unusual one-of-a-kind characters and in some cases these high caliber performances become "par for the course" or over looked by more serious or larger endeavors. This week on we take some time to highlight some personal favorite character performances from 2011.

Corey Stoll's not a name I knew or someone who I was paying attention to, until his stand out performance in Midnight in Paris caught my eye. Midnight in Paris is filled with character performances that allow for a chance for actors to bring out a unique one-of-a-kind role. And with limited screen time and a Woody Allen tone, these roles have the chance to be something special in this film, and while bigger name performers do a great job (Kathy Bates, Adrian Brody, Marrion Cotillard), Stoll took the role of the philosophical adventurer to special place in the film.

Stoll made me say "is he for real" and at the same time convinced me that he was Hemmingway. His performance makes me want to read some real Hemmingway imaging the Stoll caricature as the narrator. Something along the lines of the short story "Hills Like White Elephants."

Stoll takes long wordy dialogue and makes it magical. Woody Allen is lucky to have found someone to deliver lines like these:

"All men fear death. It's a natural fear that consumes us all. We fear death because we feel that we haven't loved well enough or loved at all, which ultimately are one and the same. However, when you make love with a truly great woman, one that deserves the utmost respect in this world and one that makes you feel truly powerful, that fear of death completely disappears. Because when you are sharing your body and heart with a great woman the world fades away. You two are the only ones in the entire universe. You conquer what most lesser men have never conquered before, you have conquered a great woman's heart, the most vulnerable thing she can offer to another. Death no longer lingers in the mind. Fear no longer clouds your heart. Only passion for living, and for loving, become your sole reality. This is no easy task for it takes insurmountable courage. But remember this, for that moment when you are making love with a woman of true greatness you will feel immortal."
-- Corey Stoll as Ernest Hemmingway in Midnight in Paris

Monday, January 02, 2012

Highlighting 2011 Character Actors: Allison Janney, The Help

"Character Actors" are those talented people who typically play unusual one-of-a-kind characters and in some cases these high caliber performances become "par for the course" or over looked by more serious or larger endeavors. This week on we take some time to highlight some personal favorite character performances from 2011.

Allison Janney consistently performs at a high level in character roles, and one of my favorite character actor performances of 2011 was her performance as Charlotte Phelan, the mother of the film's leads, Emma Stone's Skeeter Phalen.

For me, Allison Janney's best roles tend to be supporting a young female lead. I dedicated a blog-post in Allison Janney four years ago after similarly stellar roles as a crazy mom. In 2007 Allison Janney knocked it out of the park in two films. In Hairspray as the ultra-conservative Baltimore mom of Amanda Bynes in Hairspray. That same year, she played step-mom to Juno MacGruff (Ellen Page) in Juno.

Janney's knack her runs deep, and is even found in some of her first film roles in 1999 where she plays the reserved mother of Wes Bentley in American Beauty, or the the guidance counsel writing erotic fiction in 10 Things I Hate About You, as as the Kristen Dunst and Ellen Burstyn's neighbor in Drop Dead Gorgeous.

What makes Janney's role in The Help laudable is that her character in the film has a complicated moral character, and very few scenes to demonstrate this. As Charlotte Phellan her primary initial role in the film is to act as a foil to Skeeter's (Emma Stone's) uncharacteristic values, and as she demonstrates her own disapproval with her professional and social desires she also demonstrates a unique view of civil rights that falls in the middle of the film's spectrum of portrayals. Ultimately, Janney is given one of top scenes in the film, when Hilly Holbrook (Bryce Dallas Howard) drives up to the Phelan house in a steamy and wild fashion. Here Janney shines among her young co-stars.

Sunday, January 01, 2012


You know the type - the movie you get with all the best intentions, whether you buy it, request it from Netflix, the library, or TiVo, and then you let it sit on the shelf not really fully remembering why you wanted it in the first place.

I see Buck as that type of movie - it's about Bill Brennaman, who's as close to the real-deal of a horse whisperer if there ever was one. In fact he worked with Robert Redford on the film The Horse Whisperer, lending his skills and story to shape characters and get horses to corporate.

The film, although lacking that hook to get you to stick it in your DVD player, does have a great story and a pleasant pace. This pleasantness is probably more than anything an attribute to Buck himself, who seems like someone who isn't just interesting, but someone who most people would enjoy spending an hour and a half with.

The story follows Buck in a slice of time when he's giving clinics on starting colts, in a way more humane then the traditional break-em-in-a-circle-pen-style. His style is incredible to watch, and as a person who never has (never will) own a horse, watching this was still very interesting.

Buck's own personal story really grabed me, especially a life filled with abuse and foster parenting, and while little is said in the film to formally address how his treatment of horses is radically different then the way he was treated as a child, the film largely tells this story without saying it straight out.

This film is a pleasure to watch, and while I won't say it will change your life, I get the sense that Buck Brennaman is the type of man who changes quite a few.

Buck is one of the 15 films shortlisted for a potential Oscar nomination this year.

Favorite Films from Years that end in "2"

In celebration of the new year, and in spirit of similar posts I did in 2010 & 2011, below are my favorite films from each year of the decade that ends in "2".

We'll begin with a classic from 1942. It's any one's guess what my favorite film of 2012 will be.

1942: Casablanca (Michael Curtiz)
1952: Forbidden Games [Jeux interdits] (René Clément)
1962: To Kill A Mockingbird (Robert Mulligan)
1972: The Godfather (Francis Ford Coppola)
1982: Gandhi (Richard Attenborough)
1992: Lorenzo's Oil (George Miller)
2002: Road to Perdition (Sam Mendes)