Thursday, January 31, 2008

Oscar Predictions: Best Animated Feature

This was posted on the LAMB website today as part of the series of movie bloggers predicting the Oscars.

The Oscar nominations came out last week, and I for one was pleasantly surprised about most of the actor nominations and movies. I'll probably be disappointed by the actual winners because they won't be the ones I want, but I doubt I'd be surprised. Anyway, one category I was particularly surprised to see such a small selection and relatively odd choices was best animated feature, which I was assigned to discuss for the LAMB Oscar Event. As expected Ratatouille was there. However, I was not expecting the other two, because other awards events hadn't included either of them. First, Persepolis was probably just not quite on the radar of the other awards, but the buzz and importance of it obviously penetrated the Oscar voters. The second one was Surf's Up, which I thought was just another penguin movie that had missed the year of the penguins (I loved March of the Penguins and thought Happy Feet was good, but I think penguins have been done now). The movies I expected to be there beyond Ratatouille were not, including The Simpsons Movie, Bee Movie, and Shrek the Third, which had all been nominated for other awards.

Since I do not live in a major metropolitan area, Persepolis will not be coming to my theater before the Oscars. However, a fellow movie blogger (Ferdy on Films)has written an extremely thorough review of the movie, which I draw on for my description. Persepolis follows the story of a woman reminiscing about her childhood in Iran and then in Europe. She wants to be modern and likes many things from outside Iran - Bruce Lee, punk music, ABBA, etc., all of which are forbidden after the rise of Islamic law. She is sent to live with family in Vienna, which doesn't work out. She grows up and still feels like an outsider, so she returns to Iran, but still doesn't find what she's looking for. It's described as a coming of age tale of an outsider who can't find a home to belong. It's based on graphic novels and the animation is obviously derived from the feel of graphic novels, being mostly black and white with a comic-feel of the animation. I think it's a remarkable story, and a new kind of animated movie to be made, but I'm not sure it's worthy of the Oscar. The animation is not spectacular or particularly nuanced, and holds on to the graphic novel and never really leaves the 2-dimensional space.

I was very pleasantly surprised watching Surf's Up. First, it's not a traditional cartoon story about penguins. It's an animated, (obviously) fictional, documentary about surfing penguins. There are interviews about the main character, a surfer named Z who died in a tournament a while ago. The main interviewee, Cody (voiced by Shia LeBoeuf), idolized the lost Z and is coming to compete in the tournament. He comes from Antarctica and has never been able to prove how good a surfer he is. The documentary people follow his journey to get to the Z memorial tournament. Cody arrives, gets hurt on the big waves on Pen Gu Island. Luckily there is a life guard, Lani (Zooey Deschanel) around to save him and then take care of him with the help of a washed up surfer (Jeff Bridges - perfectly channeling "The Dude" from time to time). The washed up surfer shows him how to make a new surf board that will help win the whole thing. Of course the washed up surfer turns out to be Z, who faked his death so as not to lose to the younger Tank. Cody and Tank compete, along with Chicken Joe (perfectly voiced by Napoleon Dynamite's Jon Heder), and of course I won't tell you who wins. Cody and Lani fall for each other and Z re-emerges to save the day. The reason this movie really struck me is both the style and the animation. The mockumentary could easily have been done by Christopher Guest and his recurring cast of kooky characters, but it happened to be animated penguins. So the script is really sharp with lots of funny bits, though most of it being as predictable as a Christopher Guest mockumentary. They did a good job creating a diverse cast of characters using many different species of penguins. It was the animation that really awed me - it was animated such that it was a camera capturing the images - with only one thing being in focus at a time. The person talking would be in focus, but the background would be blurry. It really came into a 3-D perspective and kept the idea that it was a documentary going throughout. Excellent choice by the Oscar committee, and probably overlooked by many in the theaters. However, I don't think it will win either.

I do think the Oscar will go to Ratatouille, and for a change, I think it also deserves it. The animated offering from Pixar, Ratatouille, was notoriously hard to sell - it's about a rat and the title is a stew that most people have never heard of. There are a hundred titles that would have made the movie easier to sell - "Underground in Paris", or "The Little Chef" (a phrase even used in the film). However, people flocked to this movie and loved it. Basically, it's a terrific story about being true to yourself, but trying to realistically find yourself at the intersection of different worlds. It's everything the Disney/Pixar movies have always been about - with the addition of pretty exceptional animation. This is the first CGI-animated movie I've ever seen that creates people with realistic facial expressions and twitches. Unfortunately, that skill extends to creating too-realistic shots of a very nice family of rats swarming out of a man-hole, or across a floor. That's where the heebie jeebies came in - I actually had to look away twice. It's the story of a young rat, Remy, who knows he could make better food than the garbage his kind are stuck with. He seeks out the restaurant of his favorite chef in Paris, the deceased Gusteau (who comes to him in hallucinations to tell him what to do). Of course a rat is not allowed in a restaurant kitchen, so he teams up with a lowly garbage boy and they start creating magnificent dishes that raise the declining status of the restaurant, making everyone happy. Ultimately, Remy's family accepts him for his "foodie nature" and Remy and the garbage boy create wonderful food in a kitchen no one is allowed to see. It doesn't cater too much to any one demographic, and is easy to enjoy by all - particularly if rats don't give you the heebie jeebies. I think it has spectacular animation, a fun storyline, and will win the Oscar.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

10 Best "Friends"

It's been a while since new Friends went off the air, but thanks to the wonder of re-runs it might never be gone. Being snowed in today, I watched a few of my favorite episodes and thought I'd share them. There's very little in Season 1 or Season 9 that ranks high, but both seasons do a good job to set up the others. Here are my favorites:

10. Season 5, Episode 24: The One in Vegas: Part 2
The whole group has arrived in Vegas to see Joey. Rachel has ink drawn on her face and refuses to leave the hotel room, so she and Ross get drunk, and they draw on Ross's face too. They get REALLY drunk, and leave the room to get married. Monica and Chandler think they should get married, but are stopped when Ross and Rachel come out of the chapel.
"Hello, Mrs. Ross. Hell-ooo Mr. Rachel"

9. Season 7, Episode 10: The One with the Holiday Armadillo
Ross wants to introduce Ben to Chanukah, but all the Santa costumes are rented, so he arrives dressed as the Holiday Armadillo. Joey arrives as Superman, and finally Chandler is Santa. They all sit down to discuss Chanukah.
"Can I talk to Superman and the Holiday Armadillo over here? Now there's a sentence I never thought I'd say."

8. Season 8, Episode 4: The One with the Videotape
Ross and Rachel tell the friends about the night they were together when she got pregnant. Ross tells that he has a tape from that night and proves that Rachel hit on him, with lines she got from Joey.
"I went backpacking through Europe..."

7. Season 10, Episode 12: The One with Phoebe's Wedding
Monica plans Phoebe's wedding, which all falls apart when NYC is snowed in. Joey marries Phoebe and Mike, and Chandler gets to walk her down the aisle. It's just a pretty episode where everyone fights about how to do everything (best man, etc.)
"Joey, Chappy's heart rate has slowed way down" - as Mike's dog dies in the cold.

6. Season 2, Episode 7: The One Where Ross Finds Out
Rachel claims to be over Ross, but goes on a date and gets really drunk Rachel then calls Ross and leaves him a message saying she is over him. Of course it works out and they kiss for the first time.
"When were you, when were you...under me?"

5. Season 8, Episode 13: The One Where Chandler Takes a Bath
Considering baby names, parents to be Ross and Rachel had no word in common except 'veto!'. Chandler was unable to understand why Monica loves taking an elaborate bath, but falls for them and keeps stealing hers (but with his boat). They all end up in the bathroom with Chandler when Rachel and Ross find out they're going to have a baby girl.
"Little baby Ruth"

4. Season 4, Episode 8: The One with Chandler in a Box
Joey won't forgive Chandler for kissing his girlfriend Cathy. To make up for it, Chandler spends Thanksgiving Day in a box. Monica gets ice in her eye and goes to see the eye doctor - Richard's son (hot Michael Vartan) who she invites to Thanksgiving Dinner.
"Fine! Judge all you want to but, [points to Ross] married a lesbian, [points to Rachel] left a man at the altar, [points to Phoebe] fell in love with a gay ice dancer, [points to Joey] threw a girl's wooden leg in a fire, [points to the box Chandler's in] live in a box!"

3. Season 6, Episode 9: The One Where Ross Got High
The Gellars come over for Christmas and Rachel makes trifle but accidentally adds beef with peas and onions. Phoebe dreams about Jack Gellar fighting Jacques Cousteau. And Ross and Monica out each other on all the secrets of their childhood.
"What's not to like, Jam:good, Custard: Good, Beef: Gooo-od"

2. Season 3, Episode 2: The One Where No One's Ready
Ross becomes very frustrated with his friends when they fail to be ready on time for a speech that he is giving at the museum. Joey and Chandler fight over the chair and end up putting on all kinds of each other clothes.
"You hide my underwear, I'm wearing everything you own"

1. Season 4, Episode 12: The One with the Embryos OR the one where they play a game to win the apartment.
Phoebe is being impregnated with her brother and his wife's embryos. She chats with them in one of the cutest scenes from friends. But the best part of the episode is the game Rachel and Monica play against Joey and Chandler to prove who knows who better. Ross makes up the questions and Joey and Chandler win the apartment. I LOVE this episode.
"That's Miss Chanandeler Bong"

Monday, January 28, 2008

Lambs Dissect the Oscars

With the first red-carpet awards show (SAG) out of the way and good intentions to end the writer's strike on the horizon, I'm allowing myself to get excited about the Oscars. The Large Association of Movie Bloggers has decided to give excellent advice about how to win your office/friend/family pool for the Oscars. Check it out weekdays until the Oscars. Personally I will be critiquing Best Animated Feature. Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Two best picture nominees

I know I'm probably the last person to review these two movies, but I still wanted to write it down. They were both nominated for Oscars today, and both definitely rank high on my list of best movies. First, Atonement, was a beautifully-shot romantic, tragic drama. This was the first movie I saw with Keira Knightly where I actually wanted to see more of her on the screen. She's really becoming an actress that makes the story come together, and she's still really young. Her interactions with James McAvoy were just electric. They were really in love, though fighting in a very middle school kind of way for the first third of the movie. Knightly's little sister, Saorise Ronan - nominated for an Oscar!, is a scary little girl with a mean streak who is crazy jealous of McAvoy's attention to Knightly (even though she's just 11) and ultimately accuses McAvoy of assaulting their cousin (she was young, it was dark and she was angry at him). He gets out of prison to fight in the war - which was my only major problem with the movie, too much time looking at the thousands of soldiers trapped on the beaches at Dunkirk. I know I'm just an ignorant American, but I really didn't find the significance that our hero was trapped on a beach with thousands of others. Back at home was much more interesting, as Knightly and her sister are nurses in London and we find out Knightly split with her family over all the accusations against her love. Her sister (now grown up and played by Romola Garai perfectly) is trying to "atone" for the lies she told that ruined people's lives by being a nurse too. There's a big twist at the end, that blew me away and made me rethink the rest of the movie, but overall, I loved it. It's beautifully romantic, sad, and hopeful. 5 of 5 stars.

I have very little to add to all the other reviews of No Country for Old Men. You've been living under a rock if you haven't heard all the amazing acclaim it's been getting, and I agree with all of it. It's a unique movie, with incredibly odd characters, telling a very simple story with flair. I do have a confession though - I wasn't sure I could handle all the violence that's even in the previews, so I read a full description of what happens, who gets killed, by whom, etc. I actually think that made me like the movie even MORE because I wasn't dragged down by fear. It was still very suspenseful, and you're never quite sure who are going to be accessory bodies to the main killing. It made it easy to look away when something really gross was going on, but I still got to really enjoy the movie. Javier Bardem, with a very strange haircut, was the star of the movie - a hired assassin who takes it very seriously because he bargains with no one and kills anyone who sees him. I do have to give him (and the Coen brothers) a lot of credit, he's not crazy, just totally insane. He carries around a cattle gun, including compressed air canister, that he uses to both kill people and break down doors. I really liked the entire supporting cast too. Tommy Lee Jones is perfect as the "Marge Gunderson" of Texas. He's the sheriff who is sick and tired of being overwhelmed with the evil coming through his area - drugs, guns, money, just out of control. He's just terrific narrating as well as acting throughout the movie. James Brolin is good as the guy hunted by Bardem, but I didn't quite understand his motivation behind stealing $2million from drug dealers. He seems to be street-wise and knows how bad it's going to get, but yet he's not arrogant in general, but is making a really stupid mistake to get involved like he does. That was my only problem with the movie. I liked the end - all kinds of people get away with surprising things. 5 of 5 stars

Overall, I liked Atonement more than No Country, but really agree with all the nominations given to both throughout the whole awards season.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

27 Dresses

I really liked Katherine Heigl's newest flick. As the people behind me at the theater reminded me, "she was in that pregnant movie" last summer. She even came out in Vanity Fair and said the character she played in Knocked Up was a bit shrill and a little anti-feminist. The character she plays in 27 Dresses is not shrill, but rather a pushover. She's an assistant to a magazine/clothing company boss and has taken that assisting thing to every element of her life. Because she's at an age when everyone around her is getting married (I can relate), she's the wedding assistant to all her friends and seems to enjoy doing it. She doesn't hate the bridezillas she's friends with, she's just their friend on their big day. The movie starts with her running back and forth between two weddings on the same night, changing dresses in the cab. It's funny and cute, and more importantly she meets James Marsden, a "commitments" writer for a NY paper, who is covering one of the weddings. Marsden is cute and unlike the cliche in other romantic comedies, actually seems to like her as a person, more than how he can exploit her to get out of the "commitments" gig. However, she is in love with her boss, a very sweet and un-smarmy Edward Burns. Burns of course falls for Heigl's sister and Heigl ends up planning her dream wedding for her sister, who is a self-absorbed twit that I would have pushed down the stairs as a child. Heigl eventually learns to stand up for herself after sabotaging her sister's rehearsal dinner. There's a wonderfully cute scene with Heigl and Marsden getting drunk and singing "Benny and the Jets" with all the wrong words. Overall, very cute movie, high entertainment value, and if you're of the right age, you'll recognize the insanity that is the wedding circuit these days. 4 of 5 stars.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Ellen Page was robbed...

I just watched Sarah Polley's directorial debut, Away from Her. Julie Christie is an articulate, vibrant, Alzheimer's sufferer going into a long-term care facility. However, the star of the movie is her husband, Gorden Pinsent, a well-known Canadian actor. He has to watch his wife of 45 years deteriorate and forget him. When she gets lost one day and can't find her way home, she decides to go into the facility. To allow her to settle in, Pinsent isn't allowed to visit for a month. When he finally does, she has befriended another man and has seemingly forgotten her husband. In a moment of clarity, she explains to her husband that this new man doesn't confuse her, and that's why she likes him. Christie's performance is good, but she spends a lot of time sitting still and looking confused. Pinsent is suffering with the loss of his wife, partner, and friend, and is trying to make sense of what the rest of his life will be. When Christie's friend is taken from the facility, she starts to go downhill, and Pinsent seeks out the man and convinces his wife (Olympia Dukakis) to send him back to the facility. The love Pinsent has for Christie and his fight to keep her sane and healthy as long as possible (even if she no longer remembers or loves him) is heartbreakingly beautiful. Sarah Polley's direction is terrific, the slow-moving shots are excellent at setting the pace and makes it easy to see the slow decline. Overall, it's a great movie, but Christie's performance is good, but not terrific. Mr. Pinsent should not be overlooked (though I'm sure he will be) and Polley's direction is awesome. 3.5 stars out of 5.

Monday, January 14, 2008

New DVDs I liked

I've enjoyed two newer DVD recently that I wanted to mention. One I liked very much, and the other I appreciated, but wasn't really my taste. Once is being talked about as one of the top 10 movies of 2007 on several lists, so I felt like I should at least be aware of it. Here's the description from "A modern-day musical about a busker and an immigrant and their eventful week, as they write, rehearse and record songs that tell their love story". I don't think they're quite right - most musicals (and I have a bit of experience with this) have songs that develop the story OR tell something interesting about the characters. The music in Once are just great songs (though I'll admit I couldn't always tell when they were just rehearsing a song again, or playing a new one). The story is really interesting - an Irish man who plays his songs on the street when he's not working for his dad, meets a Czech immigrant who helps him record some of the songs. They meet and in what's pretty realistic, don't fall in love in a week, but really start to care for each other. I found Once to be a lot like the HBO show, Flight of the Conchords, where music videos interrupt the story repeatedly, but for too long to maintain my interest. So, Once is beautiful, but not my style - 3 of 5 stars, but if it's your style, it's probably closer to 4 or 5.

The next movie I saw and LOVED is Paris, Je t'aime (Paris, I love you). It's a series of 5 minute stories over 2 hours, that are shot by different directors with different actors telling totally different stories. A few directors shoot more than one story, but the best part is that the overall feel of the film is cohesive and travels around Paris, so there are VERY few moments you don't want to see more of the short story. There are stories of strangers meeting, couples divorcing, couples solving problems, working people struggling, rich people partying and everyone finding some humanity (or becoming a vampire!). All kinds of actors are in it: Bob Hoskins, Fanny Ardent, Natalie Portman, Juliette Binoche, Willem Defoe (as a cowboy), Gena Rowlands, Elijah Wood, Maggie Gyllanhaal, and Emily Mortimer stick out in my memory. Some of the dialogue is in French and some is in English, depending on the actor and story they're telling, and it's mixed in such a way that you wouldn't necessarily remember it as a foreign film or English. What makes this movie different than just a series of short films is that each story feels more like part of a larger work, because not everything is explained and each ends with you wanting a little more, rather than being complete and just strung together. 4.5 of 5 stars, it's terrific.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Best Female Characters

A fellow movie blogger put together an awesome list of the 20 best movie characters of the past 20 years. However, there were not enough female characters to make the list, perhaps because the authors were predominantly male, or because a lot of the best characters have lines best suited to men (just theorizing). So I decided to put together a list of best female characters. I thought of them as characters that can be identified by name and movie and actress, with lines or actions that were immediately brought to mind. I used the same model for describing them as appears on Blog Cabins (thanks Fletch!). So in no particular order here are the top 15 female characters:

Character: Cher

Movie: “Clueless"

Year Released: 1993

Catch Phrases: "Whatever", "She's a full on Monet. From far away, it's OK, but up close, it's a big old mess."

Significance: Alicia Silverstone was terrific (and never really topped this performance) and the movie put a whole new set of catch phrases into the lexicon.

Character: Juno

Movie: “Juno"

Year Released: 2007

Catch Phrases: "I mean, I'm already pregnant, so what other kind of shenanigans could I get into?", "Dream Big"

Significance: I think she'll have significance for years to come. It's a great story and she's a new kind of teenager, both vulnerable and willing to acknowledge her vulnerability at the same time, while working to make her own decisions.

Character: Clementine

Movie: “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”

Year Released: 2004

Catch Phrases: "I'm Clementine... No jokes about my name."

Significance: Her hair is memorable, but she was an insane character with a lot of heart and cruelty.

Character: Dorrie

Movie: “Finding Nemo"

Year Released: 2003

Catch Phrases: "Just Keep Swimming, Swimming, Swimming."

Significance: This is the best performance by an actor in an animated movie, and raised the bar for all future performances. I'm just going with Dorrie being a girl cause Ellen is.

Character:Lisa Rowe

Movie: “Girl, Interrupted”

Year Released: 1999

Catch Phrases: "Take one more step and I'll jam this in my aorta"

Significance: It launched Angelina Jolie's career and won her an Oscar, and gave some suspicious notes to her real life behavior at the time.

Character: Marge Gunderson,

Movie: “Fargo”

Year Released: 1996

Catch Phrases: "And I guess that was your accomplice in the woodchipper", "You betcha."

Significance: She was just terrific and really came to the forefront of movies with "Fargo" and this character. The accent is just so perfect without being overdone.

Character: Miss Daisy,

Movie: “Driving Miss Daisy”

Year Released: 1989

Catch Phrases: "Hoke, you're my best friend"

Significance: This was just a terrific movie that gave an older woman and an older man a great story line that others will always try to emulate.

Taken from Blog Cabins since I totally agree:

Character: Tracy Flick

Movie: "Election"

Year Released: 1999

Catch Phrases:"It's like my mom says, "The weak are always trying to sabotage the strong."

Character: Bridget Jones

Movie: "Bridget Jones’ Diary”, "Bridge Jones: Edge of Reason"

Year released: 2001, 2004

Catch Phrases: "Bridget Jones, wanton sex goddess, with a very bad man between her thighs","Oy,"

Significance: She gave voice to all the crazy thoughts all women have, and her embarrassing moments outweigh any in reality.

Character: Amelie Poulain

Movie: "Amelie”

Year Released: 2001

Catch Phrases: "At least you'll never be a vegetable - even artichokes have hearts."

Significance: She's just awesome, and a totally different archetype than previous existed.

Character: Clarice Starling

Movie: “Silence of the Lambs”,

Year Released: 1991

Catch Phrases: "Your anagrams are showing, Doctor."

Siginficance: A lot of her power came as she reacted and forced reaction from Hannibal, but she is still powerful on her own.

Characters: Thelma & Louise

Movie: "Thelma & Louise”
Year Released: 1991

Catch Phrases: "Thelma: OK, then listen; let's not get caught. Louise: What're you talkin' about? Thelma: Let's keep goin'! Louise: What d'you mean? Thelma:...Go. [Thelma nods ahead of them] Louise: You sure? Thelma: Yeah.

Significance: It was the best female buddy movie ever. Still is actually. Two women who go away for the weekend, become criminals and then drive off into the sunset precluding any sequels, what more could you ask for?

Character: Penny Lane

Movie: “Almost Famous”

Year Released: 2000

Catch Phrases: "You're too sweet for rock and roll"

Significance: She was awesome, almost holding it together to be mysterious and flirtatious and the perfect object for William Miller's affection, but then couldn't keep it going.

Character: Stifler’s Mom

Movie: “American Pie” series

Year Released: 1999, 2001, 2003

Catch Phrases: "I got some scotch. Finch: Single malt? Stifler's Mom: Aged eighteen years. The way I like it. "

Significance: Launched the MILF concept without being cliched.

Character: Elle Woods

Movie: “Legally Blonde” series

Year Released: 2001, 2003

Catch Phrases: "The rules of hair care are simple and finite. Any Cosmo girl would have known"

Significance: The first movie was awesome, and the second dreadful, but the character stayed strong. In a totally tongue-in-cheek way proved that blondes can be smart.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Golden Globes predictions

While I support the writer's strike to gain their fair share, I'm sad that the Golden Globes won't be on TV. I like watching awards shows, they're often funny (thank you writers) and offer unique views of actors. So here are my predictions for the Golden Globes, both who I think will win, and who I'd pick if it were the IiE awards, starting with TV.

Best TV Series - Drama
Will win - "Mad Men"
Should win - either "Mad Men" or "The Tudors". Both are unique shows with exceptional characters and reveal a new side to what were thought to be well-explored stories.

Best TV Series - Comedy
Will win - "Extras"
Should win - "30 Rock"
I haven't actually seen "Extras", but the critics love it and the Hollywood Foreign Press would likely be one of them.

Mini-Series or MFTV movie
Will win - "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee"
Should win - "The Company"
I really liked "The Company", but "Wounded Knee" has won just about everything it's been nominated for.

Actor in TV Comedy
Will win - Ricky Gervais, "Extras"
Should win - Alec Baldwin, "30 Rock"

Actress in a TV Comedy
Will win - America Ferrera, "Ugly Betty"
Should win - any of them, Mary Louise Parker is unlikely, but was still terrific even in a bad recent season of "Weeds", Christina Applegate only had a few episodes of "Samantha Who?" to show off her skills, and Tina Fey and Anna Friel were good, but perhaps not stand-outs yet.

Actor in a TV Drama
Will win - Hugh Laurie, "House, M.D." or Michael C. Hall, "Dexter"
Should win - Jon Hamm, "Mad Men"

Actress in TV Drama
Will win - Glenn Close, "Damages"
Should win - Kyra Sedgwick, "The Closer"
I just liked "The Closer" better.

Actor in TV supporting role
Will win - Donald Sutherland, "Dirty, Sexy, Money"
Should win - Jeremy Piven, "Entourage

Actress in TV supporting role
Will win - Katherine Heigl, "Grey's Anatomy"
Should win - Rose Byrne, "Damages"
Rose was terrific figuring out the story behind "Damages" and how to play along, but Heigl has won everything so far this year.

On to movies:

Best Picture - Drama
Will win - "No Country for Old Men"
Should win - I haven't actually been able to see ANY of these seven movies yet.

Best Picture - Comedy
Will win - "Juno" or "Charlie Wilson's War"
Should win - "Juno"

Best Actor - Drama
Will win - Daniel Day-Lewis, "There Will be Blood"
Should win - James McAvoy, "Atonement"
Day-Lewis has won most of the awards so far, but I think McAvoy would get a bigger boost from winning.

Best Actress - Drama
Will win - Julie Christie, "Away from Her"
Should win - Angelina Jolie, "A Mighty Heart", she worked really hard and was really convincing in a terrible story.

Best actor - Comedy
Will win - Tom Hanks, "Charlie Wilson's War"
Should win - Tom Hanks

Best Actress - Comedy
Will win - Marion Cotillard, "La Mome"
Should win - Ellen Page, "Juno"

Best Actor - Supporting Role
Will win - Javier Bardem, "No Country for Old Men"
Should win - John Travolta, "Hairspray"

Best Actress - Supporting Role
Will win - Amy Ryan, "Gone Baby Gone"
Should win - Julia Roberts, "Charlie Wilson's War"
Amy Ryan is getting lots of great reviews for her performance, but I really liked Roberts character and performance.

That's all I'm going to predict, comment on. Enjoy

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Excellent Commentary

I love this comment in New York Magazine. I totally agree with her comments on using Philip Seymore Hoffman instead of Will Smith. Here's my I Am Legend, and Charlie Wilson's War. This might have been why I didn't like Legend as much as it's box office would suggest I should.

Monday, January 7, 2008


Have you ever had the moment with a TV show or movie where you're sad that those are characters and you can't be part of it in real life? I totally wanted to be the president's assistant on The West Wing (yeah, I'd be taking Charlie's job), and I want to live in "Stars Hollow" and have coffee at Luke's. Now I want to be Juno's friend. It was a terrific movie about a 16-year-old getting pregnant, taking a little time to think about her options and being more mature than any other 16yrold I have ever met, while still maintaining her optimism. She's wonderful, witty, smart, and definitely not ready to be a mother. The supporting cast is terrific all around. Each of the characters has enough that I could describe each of them really well, which is unusual for supporting cast. J.K. Simmons and Alison Janney are her dad and step-mom and really like Juno but know she's going to do what she wants. They're actually smart enough to pick up on her digs and throw them right back (Juno walks in the room and her dad asks "how is my incredibly inflated version of Juno?" mocking her pregnancy, but showing his love). The other fun couple is the adoptive parents, Jason Bateman as a man-child being raised by his wife, Jennifer Garner. She's trying to nest and get ready for the baby, and her husband is still trying to reinvent his rock band career. The movie is terrific, with all kinds of unexpected twists and is without all the cliches you'd expect. Also, the music is terrific. This is my favorite song.

Friday, January 4, 2008

DVD Update

I've gotten a little behind in my DVD blogging, but fear not, I've still been watching lots. Here are 4 that I've seen lately, from best to worst, and one is the worst.

The most recent Hairspray is based on a movie I didn't like very much. I've seen a lot of theater, and really wanted to like the original 1988 John Waters version (as a cinemaphile I feel like I'm going to get kicked out of some club for disliking it, but I found it trite and not very funny, and wishy washy on its themes of outsiders). So I resisted seeing the movie of the musical version with John Travolta and Niki Blonski, even though it got great reviews. However, I caved, and LOVED it. It was everything I wanted the original to be, in addition to being a terrific musical, the acting talents of all the actors were extremely well used to tell a good story about why being different in 1960s Baltimore was so hard. Of course, it's mostly a cotton-candy version of that story, but they still stick to the core of what they're doing rather than getting dragged (pun intended) into the gimmicks they have going. Nikki Blonsky was terrific as Tracy Turnblad, with her radiant smile, you actually believed she was more interested in dancing than in being popular. Her singing is wonderful and she actually carries the movie mostly on her own. John Travolta does a good job really making you believe he's a woman and not a man in drag. He and Christopher Walken have actual chemistry and make sense as a couple. All the supporting characters are terrific, and it's good entertainment that is expertly carried off. 5 of 5 stars. Also, I'm assuming from all the reviews that Juno will win the Golden Globe, but both Travolta and Blonsky deserved their nominations.

Next, The Namesake is a wonderful story of a father and son raised in different cultures trying to understand each other. I read the book before I saw the movie and the movie is very faithful to the spirit of the book, if taking a few things out of order for increased clarity. The father is a native-born Indian getting his degree in the U.S. The movie starts when he's returned to India to marry and bring his wife to the U.S. They advance in the world of academia struggling to maintain their familiar foods and customs while blending into the U.S. environment. They have a son, played very well by Kal Penn (from Harold and Kumar go to White Castle and the most recent season of House, M.D.), who really wants to blend into American culture, and doesn't understand why his parents cling to their roots. It's a great story about the culture clash of generations and geography, and how sometimes the best things about someone can't be communicated across these boundaries. Also, the relationship between the parents is wonderful. They were raised in a culture of arranged marriages, so trying to have an "American marriage" is foreign to them, but they work on it, and in trying to have a better more modern marriage, they fall in love. It's a beautifully crafted film, by Mira Nair, of Monsoon Wedding and Vanity Fair). 4 of 5 stars.

The next movie I liked is also out of the mainstream, but still a fun, well crafted movie. I'm Reed Fish is about a young man who has a morning radio show that basically provides all news to a very small town, from trimming the town halls hedges to helping a guy with a flat tire just outside town. The main character, Reed Fish (a wonderfully geeky Jay Baruchel - the Led Zeppelin fan in Almost Famous), lives in the shadow of his deceased father and continues to the show in his memory. He's engaged to a girl he's known forever, Alexis Bledel (formerly Rory Gilmore), but his high school crush returns to town just before their wedding. Of course chaos ensues and he cancels his wedding, but because he's never had the chance to live his own life, he doesn't know how to commit to either woman or even to the radio show anymore. There are lots of fun twists and turns, and you find out the whole first part of the movie is actually a film of the story they're trying to tell, which continues both in film and in the movie within the film. It's quirky and fun, and definitely worth watching. 3.5 of 5 stars.

Finally, a movie I will not recommend because it doesn't actually add anything new that It's a Wonderful Life didn't already cover, Adam Sandler's Click. Sandler's character is given a remote control by Christopher Walken (who only appears as if he's on drugs, and makes no sense as the guide to Sandler's journey - Don Knotts was better in Pleasantville). The remote allows Sandler to view his life as if it's TiVo'ed. He can pause, rewind, fast forward, etc. However, the remote takes over and starts fast forwarding on its own once it learns what Sandler dislikes - so it fast forwards sex, being sick, traffic, etc. Within just a few minutes Sandler is on his death bed. He finally realizes you must take the bad in order to experience the good. It's a really trite movie, and Sandler never reaches the point where you like him enough to care that he screwed up his silly life. Kate Beckinsale plays his wife and it's a dreadful role, sucking up and being a good non-complaining wife. Overall, boring and not worth watching 2 of 5 stars.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Charlie Wilson is great!

I went to see Charlie Wilson's War on New Year's eve, but with the new year starting, I forgot to post. As expected, given that Aaron Sorkin wrote it, I really liked it. I've seen several of the "war-themed" movies this fall, The Kingdom and Lions for Lambs, and CWW is by far the most fun and entertaining while dealing with important and timely topics. Charlie Wilson was a representative from a small district in Texas in the 1970s and 80s, that in his words "wants nothing", and gives him the opportunity to become a major power and influence peddler in Washington. He sits on the committee that authorizes funding for the CIA, which is at the height of fighting the cold war. Russians have just invaded Afghanistan and Wilson is starting to get involved. His foray into making a difference is aided by a rich, super-right wing Texas socialite, Joanne Herring (Julia Roberts), who is convinced that fighting the communists is the christian thing to do. Ultimately, Wilson and CIA agent, Philip Seymore Hoffman in all his scruffiness, find ways to convince the armed services subcommittee to fund a covert war against the Soviets by supplying the Afghans with weapons that will destroy the Soviet helicopters that are murdering the people of Afghanistan. Overall, the movie is very fast paced, with lots of quick jokes and tons of prophetic irony. Each of the characters has a pretty strong accent, and with Sorkin's words, some were lost, which will only make it more fun to watch again later. All of the acting performances are very strong, and you actually are drawn into the story enough to forget the huge celebrities acting on screen. There are lots of small nods to the future - Rudy Giuliani is the prosecutor investigating Wilson's alleged drug use - but they don't mention any specific terrorist threats to come, it's left to the audience to make the connections to the future. 4 of 5 stars for fun and explosive entertainment.