Saturday, September 29, 2012

Follow-up: 2012's Vomit Inducing Summer Movies

Since 2006 I've been preparing a "pre-summer vomit list" of films that just sound so awful that there's no justification (in my mind) based off premise, casting, or crew to even release the film in theaters.

StrangeCulture's 2012 list can be found here.

Of course, over the years, I've underestimated some eventual success stories, usually there's at least one.

Here's how my 12 movie's fared in terms of box office and critics rating (I'll use for simplicity).

This year four of the 12 ended up having freshness reviews in the 70th percent (which makes them "certified fresh"). Of those films, one of them had a respectable boxoffice as well, which makes this year's underestimated film: Magic Mike.

RC's Pre-Summer Vomit List Ranked by US Domestic BoxOffice
1. Magic Mike - $113.7 million
2. That's My Boy - $36.9 million
3. The Watch - $34.2 million
4. Katy Perry: Part of Me - $25.3 million
5. Sparkle - $24.3 million
6. Premium Rush - $19.7 million
7. Chernobyl Diaries $18.1 million
8. The Oogie Loves in the BIG Balloon Adventure - $1.1 million
9. Killer Joe - $0.9 million
10. Piranha 3DD - $0.4 million
11. Bel Ami - $0.1 million
12. Grassroots - $0.006 million

RC's Pre-Summer Vomit List Ranked by Tomatometer (percent "fresh")
1. Magic Mike - 79%
2. Katy Perry: Part of Me - 77%
3. Killer Joe - 76%
4. Premium Rush - 75%
5. Sparkle - 55%
6. Grassroots - 47%
7. The Oogieloves in The BIG Balloon Adventure - 29%
8. Bel Ami - 28%
9. That's My Boy - 21%
10. Chernobyl Diaries 20%
11. The Watch - 17%
12. Piranha 3DD - 13%

Previous list Vomit Inducing Summer Movie List can be found at the following links : 2006, 2007, 2008 , 2009, 20102011, and 2012

Friday, September 28, 2012

Reel People: Daniel Day-Lewis is Abraham Lincoln

The film is Lincoln, directed by Steven Spielberg. The screenplay is written by Tony Kushner (Oscar nominee, Munich) based in part on the book Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin.

Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln was born February 12, 1809 in a one-room cabin on the Sinking Spring Farm in Kentucky. He was named after his paternal grandfather. Lincoln's father was a wealthy and respected man in their town with considerable acreage for farming, but it was all lost when Lincoln was a young boy in a court case over property titles.

His family moved to Indiana. His mother died shortly after, and his older sister Sarah Lincoln took on the maternal role in the family, until his father, Thomas Lincoln married the widow Sarah Bush Johnson. Abraham was close to his step- mother.

In 1830 after a disease outbreak along the Ohio River, the Lincoln family moved to Illinois. Shortly after the move, Lincoln moved out on his own, taking a job carrying goods by flatboat down the Mississippi. Shortly after that job he and a partner bought a general store in New Salem, Illinois. He sold his share, and entered politics, with his first campaign running for Illinois General Assembly. After not winning the race, he became New Salem's postmaster, followed by county surveyor, and eventually after personal study, became a lawyer.

In 1834 he ran a new campaign, and was elected to the state legislator for the Whig party. In 1836 he was admitted to the bar, where he practiced under John T. Stewart.

Politically he took a stance to extend voting rights to white males who did not own property, as well as opposing both slavery and abolition.

Through John T. Stewart, he met Mary Todd. Todd was Stewart's cousin.

In 1840, Abraham Lincoln became engaged to Mary Todd, from Lexington, Kentucky. They would get married (after one canceled engagement/wedding) on November 4, 1842 in Springfield, Illinois.

Robert Todd Lincoln was born to Abraham and Mary in 1843, Edward Baker Lincoln in 1846, and died in February of 1850 of tuberculosis. William Wallace Lincoln was born later that year, and died in 1862 at age 11, of what most believe to have been typhoid fever. Lincoln's fourth son Thomas "Tad" Lincoln in April of 1853, and would only live to the age of 18 dying in 1871 of heart failure.

In 1846 Lincoln was elected to the US House of Representatives where he served one two-year term. He was the only Whig in Illinois delegation. After his term he returned to Springfield to practice law, with his most common area of practice dealing with transportation law, although he practiced all types, including criminal cases.

In the 1950's Lincoln re-entered politics with an unsuccessful bid for U.S. Senate seat, and placing second as the Republican vice presidential selection in 1856. In 1858 the Illinois state Republican party nominated Lincoln for U.S. Senate. His rise to fame occurred around this time after giving his powerful and famous House Divided Speech.

This set the grounds for the dynamic and famous Lincoln-Douglas Debates of 1858. Stephen Douglas was running for senator for the democratic party. The two men decided to have "joint appearances" in 7 cities of the state in which one candidate would speak for 60 minutes, the other for 90, and the initial speaker would then have a 30 minute response. The response was very positive to the style and press coverage was over the nation, with many people interested in transcripts of the entire debate.

Douglas would win the 1858 senate race to Douglas (despite winning the popular vote, Lincoln was not elected due to to fact that democrats picked up more seats).

In 1860 New York Republican party leaders invited Lincoln to give a speech at Cooper Union in New York City, which largely dealt with how he perceived the founding fathers would view slavery. It is this speech that many believe helped lead to Lincoln's eventual presidential nomination for the Republican party that same year.

The 1860 presidential race was a four candidate race. Abraham Lincoln or the Republican party, Stephen Douglas for the Democratic Party, John C. Breckinridge for the Southern Democrats, and John Bell for the Constitutional Union. Abraham Lincoln would win becoming the 16th President of the United States, receiving just under 40% of the popular vote.

This election was in many ways a catalyst for the civil war, and a clear picture of many of the challenges the country was addressing. The American Civil War begin in 1861, and in the war Lincoln expanded the presidential role taking immediate action as commander-in-chief.

Lincoln departed from some previous interpretations of the role of state government and slavery during the civil war and on June 19, 1862 congress passed the Emancipation Proclamation, banning slavery in all federal territory.

With the war still going on during the 1864 presidential election, Lincoln ran under a new party, the Union Party with War Democrat Andrew Johnson as his running mate (instead of Hannibal Hamlin, the former vice president). Lincoln won with an electoral landslide (212-21) against George B. McClellan of the Democratic Party, although the popular vote was split much closer than the electoral picture with popular votes split 55/45% in Lincoln's favor.

In the year following the election the civil war was coming to a close with Lincoln taking a stance that was sensitive to the changing country, with a a relaxed stance towards Union defectors. In addition to confederate states rejoining the Union in 1865, he also urged congress to pass the 13th Amendment to the constitution, which officially outlawed slavery. The amendment would pass December 6, 1865.

Lincoln did not see the 13th Amendment pass, due to a well documented assassination of Abraham Lincoln by John Wilkes Booth. Abraham Lincoln was shot at the Ford Theater on April 14, 1865 while attending the play Our American Cousin. Lincoln would die the next morning, on April 15, 1865 at Peterson House after being in a coma for nine hours.


The film Lincoln focuses on Lincoln's last months before the assassination and his efforts to end the civil war as well as the efforts associated with passing the 13th Amendment.

In addition to Daniel Day-Lewis playing Abraham Lincoln, his family is portrayed by Sally Fields (Mary Todd Lincoln), Joseph Gordon-Levitt (eldest son, and Union Army captain Robert Todd Lincoln), and Gulliver McGrather (12 year old, Tad Lincoln).

Political leaders make up the bulk of the key cast members with performances by Tommy Lee Jones (Republican Congressional leader, Thaddeus Stevens), David Strathairn (Secretary of State William Seward), Jared Harris (Union Army commander Ulysses S. Grant), Jackie Earle Haley (Vice President of the Confederate States of America, Alexander H. Stevens), Lee Pace (Mayor of New York City Fernando Wood), James Spader (democratic William N. Bilboe), John Hawkes (Colonel Robert Latham), Hal Holbrook (Francis Preston Blair), Tim Blake Nelson (Robert Schell), and George Itzin (Former Supreme Court Justice John Archibald Campbell), and many others.

Already a two-time Oscar winner, will Daniel Day-Lewis be nominated, or perhaps even win the unprecedented third Lead Actor Oscar for his role as this Real (Reel) Person.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Why Not? Oscar Best Picture Predictions

Will there be five nominees? Will there be 10? Or more likely, something in between based on the rule we saw go into effect with last year's ceremony (5-10 nominees, nominees above 6 occur if the film receives more than 5% first-place votes on academy ballots). most cases, sight unseen - with buzz and momentum in flux every week - here's some early predictions, because...predictions are fun and some people are into that.
Argo; John Goodman, Alan Arkin, Ben Affleck
Here's my ranked predicted nominees (I'm guessing 6):

1. Argo
2. Lincoln
3. Silver Linings Playbook
4. The Master
5. Promised Land
6. Life of Pi

But if other's jump in here's the next group of nominees (7-10):

7. Les Miserables
8. Flight
9. Beasts of the Southern Wild
10. Django Unchained

And here's how I see the rest of the field stacking up with spots to steal (11-25):

11. Anna Karenina
12. Zero Dark Thirty
13. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
14. Amour
15. Trouble With the Curve
16. Killing Them Softly
17. Hitchcock
18. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
19. Cloud Atlas
21. Hyde Park on Hudson
22. The Impossible
23. The Sessions
24. Moonrise Kingdom
25. The Dark Knight Rises

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Words of Danny Strong

Danny Strong as Doyle McMaster, Editor of the Yale Daily News on Gilmore Girls
Danny Strong winner of two primetime Emmy Awards in 2012 for  HBO's movie Game Change.
Danny Strong took home two Emmy awards on Sunday night.

I instantly recognized Danny Strong for his role on Gilmore Girls, but I think most people recognize Strong for his role as Jonathan Levinson in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

It wasn't too long ago when I did the same double take when Danny Strong played a reoccurring role in Mad Men as Danny Siegel, a young ad man who's portfolio ends up influencing one of Don's taglines, and ultimately becomes a short term employee for the firm.

But despite these memorable reoccurring guest roles in TV shows, it's as a writer that seems to have caught people's eyes. More specifically, a writer of political films.

This wasn't Strong's first trip to Emmy - he was nominated in 2008 for the well awarded TV movie Recount (which won best directing and TV movie, Strong did not win).

This has my eyes on Danny Strong's future large screen projects - particularly the high profile cast explosion of The Butler, about a white house butler who serves over the span of many presidential terms (Kennedy, Eisenhower, Nixon, Regean, Johnson). The film is directed Oscar nominee Lee Daniels (Precious).

I imagine after the award success of Game Change, a lot of people's eyes will be on Strong and his writing - particularly those who get to direct and perform in his work.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Emmys Reflection- an Era of Viral TV?

Maggie Smith as Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham - Downton Abbey
I was a little sad last night that Maggie Smith was not on hand to accept her Emmy for her Emmy for supporting actress in a drama series for her role in Downton Abbey.

But what I noticed last night more than anything (even more than the yellow tennis ball colored dresses that apparently are in style) was that some of the most exciting shows and performances are films that straddle the line of mini-series. Sure Downton Abbey, was in the drama category, and has entered it's 3rd season, but the seasons are short (season 2 was eight episodes and a high-drama Christmas special).

Another BBC show I was cheering for (that didn't win for any of it's 13 nominations), was Sherlock. Sherlock with it's 3-episode seasons found itself in the mini-series/movie category (for the episode "A Scandal in Belgravia").

And obviously, there's much to be said about how this year the mini-series/movie category got the last run during the Emmys (before the "headline winners") and that none of the drama nominees were from major networks.

But, I think what I wonder is if there's a little more room for artistic (and surprising, almost "viral") efforts in a short mini-season than in a twenty-four episodes of year-and-year network fair.

I enjoy the baker's dozen episodes of Mad Men, but I'm also okay when a season ends. I enjoy the quality over quantity.

The other great thing about these short seasons is they're fun to recommend. These non-network shows aren't overly advertised in mainstream media, and so when you recommend them you feel like you're culturally in the know, whether it's recommending to friends the History Channel's Hatfields & McCoys, Showtime's Homeland, or HBO's Veep. And even a lead actor isn't on screen enough to make you tired of their character, their less pressure for a stretched out character arc.

Which makes me wonder if the networks could learn from this, and instead of filling season long time slots, but instead find some shorter season shows with a little bit less...predictability. Although, even as I type it, I know it won't work. The risk of a show like Downton Abbey, just doesn't seem like a network would ever go for, which is too bad, so instead the networks pick up their nominations in the reality TV category, leaving smaller networks and specialty stations pick up that space, and lead the way.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Lawrence of Arabia - Quick Thoughts

In January, I presented a resolution for 2012 which was to watch Lawrence of Arabia.

I admittedly knew little about this movie, and so everything (except the length of the film) was more or less a surprise.

Here's some quick thoughts I had on the film.

  • I always thought Peter O'Toole's character's given-name was Lawrence, and was surprised that he was Thomas Edward Lawrence (T.E. Lawrence).
  • I thought that the movie started off slower than slow, and then about a quarter through the film (about an hour in) the film becomes everything I expected with a powerful and inspirational portrayal of leadership and determination.
  • About half way through the film, the film takes that turn (you watchers of the film know what I'm talking about) and I was totally surprised at Lawrence's character arc. This was not at all what I expected. 
  • The 1963 academy awards pitted Peter O'Toole up against a fantastic field of actors, and despite Lawrence of Arabia's 7 awards, O'Toole did not win - instead he lost to Gregory Peck, To Kill A Mockingbird. Talk about tough competition. The Peck win is appropriate.
  • There is sweeping beauty in the technical virtues of this film (the sand, so much sand), yet it would be interesting to see what this film would be like edited to a more standard feature length (two hours, twenty minutes...tops). I think it could be done, and still be powerful. I watched this film in multiple sittings - I can't imagine watching it in the theater in a single sitting.
  • I realized watching the film how limited my understanding of Arabian history is, I didn't really know about the Arab front in WWI or anything about the Kingdom of Hejaz. The film inspired some minor research to better understand the world at that time.
  • David Lean connects to me sometimes better than others (I really enjoy his Great Expectations and The Bridge on the River Kwai) but other times I find him less engaging (such as Summertime or A Passage to India). At almost four hours long, the first hour or so was less engaging, but by the last half I was all in.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Lincoln Trailer - Twitter's First Thoughts

I've been blogging about the Lincoln movie off and on for over 6 years. My first post on the movie was in June of 2006 when Liam Neeson was cast to play Lincoln in a Steven Spielberg adaptation. But Lincoln didn't come out in 2007 like I originally posted and Liam was not the actor, instead it ended up being a 2012 release with Daniel Day-Lewis in the title role.

And three days ago the first trailer for the film has finally come out, in preparation for the November release. Well primed for holiday movie goers and award speculation.

The trailer can be found here:

It's interesting because I feel like the film's received some interesting, shall we say "mixed" responses based off the trailer. Here's some comments from Twitter that have surfaced since the trailer release. Two minutes of footage can certainly impact expectations.

○ The trailer for Lincoln looks like a throwaway gag from Tropic Thunder minus the jokes @Dave_Horwitz

○ I've watched the trailer for the new "Lincoln" movie like 16 times, it's the best 2 minute rush of historical excitement I've ever felt! @GrantMickelson

○ The new trailer for "Lincoln" is cool but Daniel Day-Lewis made a strange choice for Lincoln's voice. @jimmyfallon

○ The voice of the president in "Lincoln" is high-pitched and historically accurate. #smartnews @SmithsonianMag

○ Favourite bit of Lincoln trailer: offscreen voice shouting, "Leave the Constitution ALONE", like he's about to get jam on it or something. @FilmFan1971

○ Production value sure looks amazing. I love the taxi car horn score. #lincoln @kristapley

○ Really hope #Lincoln isn't #WarHorse2. That I could do without. Hopes remain high despite that less than stellar trailer. @NextProjection

○ I said EXACTLY the same thing to Mrs. DecentFilms. MT @NextProjection Really hope #Lincoln isn't #WarHorse2 @DecentFilms

○ @DecentFilms @nextprojection Au contraire. I *really hope* Lincoln *isn't "Tintin 2". @NickAlexCath

○ Spielberg's Lincoln Trailer Looks OK But Could Use a Horse That Touches Our Hearts and Brings Out the Best in Humanity @pajiba

○ The new LINCOLN trailer does a masterful job of not spoiling the second-act twist where Bill & Ted arrive. @MattDentler

○ Saw the trailer for "Lincoln." "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" just came out. Seems to soon to reboot the franchise. @dkhamiltoncomic

○ Love that Spielberg does show any vampires in the new #Lincoln trailer. Save it for the movie! @ComedyCentral

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Is it about "Innocence of Muslims?"

Photo from International Business Times, protester at US Consolate in back ground.
As soon as I heard about the attack at U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, the first 30 second news story mentioned an outrage over an American movie.

What movie are they talking about? I asked. I Google searched like the best of them and even top papers were just a saying "a movie" as if facts didn't matter.

And now the story has come out that it's this 14 "film trailer" is for a film called the "Innocence of Muslim" that is understandably inflammatory toward's Muslims, that plays off the most negative theories, facts, rumors, and details of Muhammad, including a physical portrayal of Muhammad which has caused problems before (just ask that Dutch paper who ran into problems in 2005).

Without details of the film, I think it's important from a political perspective that America (and American politicians) firmly support the right to free speech in America.

From a religious perspective, I think it's perfectly appropriate for Muslims (or any other religious group) to express anger/outrage of portrayals of their religion (or religious leaders, prophets, etc) who are misrepresented.

But, I think that the protest (which the White House representatives like to remind us were done by a small group of people) represent a tension in the region between American politics/values and the political/religious climate in North African and Middle Eastern nations.

I think tying the outrage to the YouTube video "The Innocence of Muslims" is a false connection to make, and gives too much emphasis on the YouTube video.

You won't find the movie listed on IMDb, as YouTube videos (no matter how long) typically don't get a legitimate "film credit." In fact, the Washington Post did a nice job breaking down the details of the director, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, a 55 year old financial criminal in California banned from using the computers or the Internet. Najoula apparently claims he did not do the video but it is connected to one of his many alias Sam Bacile (just one of his aliases, others include Nicola Bacily, Robert Bacily and Erwin Salameh).

I feel like what began in Libya just days ago is something big, that we will continue to talk about and be in the news for days, weeks, and maybe even years to come. And this powder keg of a YouTube video may be given more credit that it deserves.

I will continue to contend that freedom of speech is of value. I will also suggest that this is just another example of a situation in recent history where there is a meaningful conversation behind the impact of art on culture, and human lives, including Chris Stevens who was unnecessarily killed, potentially in part to a YouTube video.