Archive for February, 2008

Oscar Night!

Posted in Movie News with tags on February 25, 2008 by Brandon

Well, ladies and germs, the big night is finally here. This is the first year that I’ve really paidd attention to the Oscar race, so I’m gonna post up the results and my thoughts as they happen. And it’s already begun, so without further ado…

Achievement in Costume Design:
Elizabeth the Golden Age. Hmm. Interesting. I would have thought no, considering the original Elizabeth was probably very similar. I didn’t see all the nominees, though, so I can’t speak to it as much as I would like to. I would have said either Atonement or Sweeney Todd. Next one!

Haha, good job George Clooney. One thing that is always constant: it’s long. No, it’s unpredictable. Well, that’s partly true. And now we’re treated to “Academies Past” or whatever. Enjoyable, I guess. Actually, I take that back. It’s pretty fun. So sue me. I’m a sucker for montages.

Jon Stewart – you go dude. His irreverance is awesome. He’s doing pretty well with a script that was written barely a few weeks ago.

Best Animated Feature
Come on, Ratatouille!! Hahahahaha. Steve Carell is awesome. Woooo!!!!!!! Ratatouille won!! Yessss!! Haha, Brad Bird is kind of a cool guy. I’m glad it won. It really deserved it. Persepolis was fairly deserving, too, but Ratatouille was absolutely stellar. Nothing will ever come around like Ratatouille for a long time.

Achievement in Makeup
La Vie en Rose. To be expected. Norbit was a terrible film and there had already been two previous Pirates films.

Amy Adams really is charming. As much as I’m resentful of the Academy choosing three songs to be nominated and practically ignoring “Once,” this really was a fun movie, mostly due to her. A nice little diversion.

Achievement in Visual Effects
Transformers will probably win. It better. Gah!! Golden Compass. No. No. Transformers was superior. Far superior. There wasn’t a scene in Transformers that wasn’t eye-popping. The Golden Compass was kind of bland throughout. Bah. Thus begins a long line of frustrations.

Achievement in Art Direction
Hmmm….can’t choose. Sweeney Todd. Nice. Very deserving. The art direction was incredible. It was a good category overall, so I’m happy with this one. Now move on.

Best Supporting Actor
Casey Affleck should win, hands down. Javier Bardem will win, though. And he did. Big surprise. He was incredibly good. Redefined the psychopathic killer to an entirely different dimension. I guess you gotta honor that.

Haha you go Jon Stewart. This is some excellent hosting so far. Oscar’s salute to binoculars and periscopes? Haha that’s pretty classic. Random, but classic. “Thank God we didn’t have to show that.” Bad dreams. Lol. Amazing.

Best Live Action Short Film
I don’t know why I’m even commenting on this. I don’t know anything about it. Lol. Just killing time. Loop dee doop. Blooh blah blooh. Oh, there’s some dude up there who I don’t even know who it is. Oh, he’s French. Awesome.

Oh, dear. Leave, Jerry Seinfeld. Your Bee Movie did not live up to expectations at all. It was a C movie. Gah. Did they have to put him up there? I mean, really? Why honor mediocre movies with little blurbs like that? Bring Chris Rock’s character up there. It was infinitely more entertaining.

Best Animated Short Film
Whoa, these look interesting. And a lot of them are stop-motion. Peter and the Wolfe. Well done, Peter. Now, please leave, Mr. Bee. NOW.

Best Supporting Actress
Hmmm…..I have to confess to not having seen many of these. I’ve heard both good and bad things about Cate Blanchett. Ruby Dee was good, but it was a glorified cameo. The only reason she’ll be honored is because she’s old. Saoirse Ronan was pretty interesting, but she was kind of annoying to me. I hope she doesn’t win. Young actresses usually don’t win. Amy Ryan!! You go, girl. I hope she wins. I really do. She was the second best part of that movie, aside from Casey Affleck. She took a one dimensional role and made it astounding. Tilda Swinton was severe and riveting, but I don’t know if she deserves to win – her role seems a little typical. Oooooooh!!! Tilda Swinton!!! Wow. Nice one. Very deserving. It’s about time she won something. I would have preferred Amy Ryan, but Tilda Swinton really did deserve it. Good choice, voters. Maybe not the best, but still good.

Oh, yay. Jessica Alba. Wooot. Kill me now. Gah, that woman is brainless. Why does she still have a career? She’s gorgeous, but who in the world cares? Give me quality in filmmaking over looks any day of the week.

Best Adapted Screenplay
I heard Atonement was well done. All these are excellent. No Country will probably win. Yup. They did do a good job. If you count adapted screenplay as keeping it kind of faithful to the book. There Will Be Blood was good, but it probably didn’t have much to do with “Oil!” What an awkward acceptance speech. Lol.

What’s with all the videos? I don’t remember there being this many in recent years. I guess this is kind of interesting, to see how the Academy votes. Still doesn’t explain why they suck so often at it. NONE of the Best Foreign Language films were the best ones to come out in 2007. I guess this is the Oscar’s excuse video for this year on why so many of their categories were seriously lacking in what was actually good in 2007. Anything about Zodiac in that video? Nope. Didn’t think so. Idiots.

Oooooh, I liked this song. I’m excited for it. “That’s How You Know.” Yay. 🙂 Here we go. What???? Get off the stage!! I want Amy Adams. Gah. Only she can make this overly cheesy song acceptable. Come on. Gah. I was actually excited to watch this song. If they don’t let the people from “Once” perform their song, I am going to be royally pissed.

Achievement in Sound Editing
Hahahah Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill. Awesome. Classic. Ratatouille should win, just because I love it. But all these nominees were fantastic. Transformers should win, but it probably won’t. Bourne Ultimatum. Hm. I guess it deserved to win. It was an excellent film that deserved more recognition. Clap clap. Poor Transformers, though. Shafted in two categories. Jeez.

Best Sound Mixing
I can never tell the difference between these two categories. Is that bad? They’re usually the same winners, too. Ultimatum again? NO, please give me Transformers. Please. Please. Just one win, come on. It was a triumph of pure escapism, even if the script sucked. Sigh. Ultimatum. Again. Big surprise. Okay, time to move on.

Best Actress
Once again, I have to confess to not having seen many of these performances. Oooh, Forest Whitaker. He’s an excellent actor. He has a way of making any role, no matter how minor, into a completely three dimensional and likeable (or hateable) character. Not Cate Blanchett. Please. Please. Please. No. I didn’t see it, but wasn’t she nominated for the original? And isn’t it a sequel? Yeah, she can’t win. I’ll be pissed if she does. Didn’t see “Away From Her.” Didn’t see “La Vie En Rose.”Looks good, heard good things about it. Good makeup. Looks like it deserved. Gah. Didn’t see the Savages either. I heard she’s the best, though. I’ll root for her. Ellen Page was excellent, but it’s not her year. There are so many better performances. Marion Cotillard, nice. I approve.

Wii Tennis!!! Best part of the night so far. Excellent. Genius.

Oooooh! Once! Yessss! Awesome!!!!!! Yes! It’s them! This song almost makes me cry. All the glitz and glamour surrounding them takes away from the impact a little, but it’s still spectacular. I swear, if Enchanted wins over this….well, it probably will. But I will kill every single Academy member who voted for Enchanted. No, seriously. Just kidding. Or am I?

Hi, Jack. Whatever you do in your movies, you’re an entertaining kind of guy. Unique. Damn, he is such a movie star. Such class, too. People like him don’t come around every day. Ooh, the Dragonheart soundtrack. I love that soundtrack. Oooh, best picture nominees! Nice. I love this soundtrack so much. Ooooh! Nostalgia! Return of the King winning. That was a landmark moment. Unfortunately, five years later and there’s no sign of fantasy or science fiction in best picture. Well, once was fun.

Achievement in Film Editing
Difficult category. All of them are excellent. The Bourne Ultimatum, good. That really was fantastic editing. All those quick cuts, so seamlessly done, were exceptional

Back to Jon Stewart. He’s wonderful! Damn, such a good host.

Honorary Nominee
Nice. I don’t know anything about this dude (man, I have some catching up to do after I graduate (graduation – gah!)), but nice.

And now some thoughts – it’s been a decent night so far. The only big problem I have with what happened was Golden Compass taking home best special effects. Transformers was easily the superior one. Come on. Seriously. Come on. Back off, cheeky Lyra. Go complain to someone who cares. Gah. Anyways, on with the show.

Best Foreign Language
This category is a joke this year. I didn’t see any of them. I saw the good ones. Persepolis. Diving Bell and the Butterfly. I still need to see 4 months 3 Weeks 2 Days. Gah, I don’t even care that Austria won. Terrible category. The worst of the night, but we knew it was coming, so it wasn’t so bad, I guess. Still pretty sad, though.

Best Original Song
Gah, it’s going to be Enchanted, and I’m going to be pissed. Crossing fingers…YEESSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! What a wonderful surprise!!! Hahahaha!! That is excellent! Take THAT, Alan Menken. Yess!! What? Start playing before she gets to thank people? That is sad. Pot shot, Jon Stewart, not okay. Anyways….sigh. That makes me happy. The best surprise so far. Excellent. Wonderful. The best decision of the night. I’m rejuvenated for now. 🙂 But it is really terrible that they cut her off like that. That’s just not okay. It’s her moment, and they took it away. Lame, Oscar. Lame.

Gooood! Very classy, Jon Stewart. He brought back the woman from “Once” so she could thank people properly. Very nice. Excellent. Oh, that makes me so much more happy. This would have been a big stain on the evening if it went uncorrected. Yay. 🙂 Okay, NOW I’m happy. Good job, Stewart. I really respect him for that.

Achievement in Cinematography
Diving Bell and Butterfly should probably win. I really want There Will Be Blood to win, though. That was simply astounding. Oooooh! Good choice. There Will Be Blood. Nice. Very cool. I was blown away by that film. It was wonderful. I like that he’s thanking PT Anderson.

Ah, the memorials. This part is always kind of cool and sad. I wonder if Heath Ledger will be on here. Was he in January? Ingmar Bergman, wow. Heath Ledger, there you are. Sigh. Brad Renfro wasn’t on there. He was excellent in The Client. That’s kind of not okay. I mean, I know he wasn’t a massive star, but if you’re going to show random people like agents and stunt men, then you need to put him.

Best Original Score
Atonement. Ooooh, that was fantastic. Kite Runner, no. Michael Clayton, no. Ratatouille, yes. 3:10 to Yuma, no. Atonement won. Good choice. The score of that film was such an integral part of the story, you couldn’t have done without it. The way it integrated the typewriter into score was genius and maximized emotions and character development. Excellent. For my part, though, I loved Ratatouille, so I’m partial to that. And it was more subtle, so maybe it should have won. Atonement was deserving, though.

Best Documentary Short Subject
Tom Hanks is a great guy. He’s just so naturally personable. I don’t know anything about this category, so I’m just going to pretend I do and talk about stuff. Not. It’s cool they’re honoring people over in Iraq. Nice gesture. Cynthia Wade and Vanessa Ross. Cool, I guess.

Best Documentary Feature
I nominate King of Kong and give it the Oscar. I also nominate God Grew Tired of Us. It’s a shame the Academy thinks that nominees have either be super serious or made my Michael Moore. Boooo. King of Kong was the single best documentary this year, hands down. No contest, even. No End in Sight was exceptional, but come on. And I can’t speak to the others. I heard Taxi to the Dark Side was good. Ah, it won. Lovely. I’m just glad the manipulative Moore didn’t win. He disgusts me with his blind manipulation of facts, using people to get what he wants, and blatant disregard for anything relating to what makes a good documentary. Next!

Best Original Screenplay
Wow, Harrison Ford’s old. Juno’s good, but there’s better. I didn’t see Lars. Michael Clayton was good, but not Oscar worthy. Ratatouille was excellent. I didn’t see Savages. Oh. Juno. Hmmm. Well, it was good….but kind of a flub. From what I’ve heard of Savages, it might have deserved it better. But Juno was too contrived and a little too unrealistic to deserve a nomination. Ellen Page made the script, not the other way around.

Best Actor
Oooooh…..here we go. George Clooney. Good. Daniel Day-Lewis. Fantastic. He deserves it. Take it, Daniel. Please. Johnny Depp. The Dark horse. He’s been nominated thrice now, will he win….? Here’s hoping no. There are more deserving this year. Not Tommy Lee. I didn’t see it. But both Clooney and Day-Lewis deserve it more. Viggo Mortensen. First nomination. More deserving behind him. He won’t win. But it was an excellent role. Okay, here we go…YES!!! Good job. Go Daniel Day-Lewis. You really deserved it. Excellent. Wonderful. Such a mind-blowing performance. I’m happy with this one. Sorry, Clooney. It’s not your year, but you get a very very close second.

Best Director
Haha, nice flashback. Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon. Excellent. Okay, here we go. PT Anderson deserves it. The Coens a close second, but There Will Be Blood is such a monumentally better movie than the already spectacular movies Anderson was making. Who else is there? Oh yeah, that’s right. Nobody. Well, technically, yes, but theres’ no chance. Julian Schnabel, yeah, fantastic. Jason Reitman, competent, but not a winner. Tony Gilroy? Nah. Sigh. The Coens. Of course. Sorry, PT Anderson. Twenty years down the road, though, we’ll be laughing at how the Academy misfired. Anyways, which means No Country practically has a lock on best picture. But I’m still crossing my fingers. There Will Be Blood should win. It needs to. Please…..

Best Motion Picture
Not Atonement. Not Juno. Not Michael Clayton. No No country. Please Blood. Please…..upset upset upset….sigh. No Country. Oh well. Exactly what was expected. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, shoulda kept my hopes down. But nope. Fifty years down the road people will be wondering what the Academy was thinking, but that’s okay. No Country was deserving.

And that’s the night. A mere three hours and fifteen minutes. Short. Ah well. I was really hoping for There Will Be Blood, but I guess not.

Well, I have homework now. It was a decent night, so I’m kinda happy. Not too many mistakes, and at least they didn’t do something stupid like make Juno or Michael Clayton win. No Country is the second best I could hope for.

Until next time….

My Picks for 2007

Posted in Uncategorized on February 25, 2008 by Brandon
Well, the moment is finally here, where I unveil what my favorites and not-so-favorites of 2007 were. I’m sure you were all waiting with baited breath for this list, so before I go into it, I’m gonna say a few things. I try to make this list objective, but as any critic knows, taste comes into play when reviewing movies. I truly believe that there are good and bad movies, but when making a top 15, I’m more likely to pick a film I liked than admired. What ended up making the top 15 made it because of a combination of quality and how memorable it was. For example, IMO, Dragon Wars: D-War was pretty dang memorable, but that will never in a million years make my best of the year, simply because it’s absolute crap. Here’s a preliminary explanation of the categories.
The Moments: This is a new category in addition to 2006’s, designed to honor the moments in film in 2007 that made my heart leap, stop, cry, break, or cheer. They’re the kind of moments that you keep thinking about even after you’ve left the theater. These may contain spoilers, but if they do, it won’t be anything big.
The Disappointments: For some reason or another, whether it be an idiotic studio exec, a cocky director, or just plain bad acting, a movie often sinks under its own weight and doesn’t even come close to living up to its reputation. Some of these films may actually be quite good in their own right, but when compared to other factors surrounding its inception, fall short.
The Underdogs: This category is to honor those films that may not necessarily have been excellent from a purely objective standpoint, but deserve to be honored for how well they trumped expectations and gave us something that was actually good. No, you will not find “Underdog” in here.The Bad: This category is pretty self-explanatory. Films that make it in here have to be pretty awful. The films in the list are seriously lacking anything good or worthwhile in terms of filmmaking.The Honorable Mentions: Films that make it in here are ones that I could not bring myself to put in my top fifteen, either because they didn’t mean that much to me personally or because I don’t believe they’re good enough to be in the top fifteen. But they’re still excellent films and every single one that made this list should, I believe, be required viewing for anyone who went to the movies in 2007.

The Best: Once again, self-explanatory. These films are just plain awesome. They impressed and moved me more than any other films in 2007, and I believed they demonstrated best what makes good filmmaking, and in some cases, controversial filmmaking.

I saw 103 films that came out this year, so let’s get to it. Without further ado, the awards go to….

The Moments

5. Shoot ‘Em Up: Carrot In The Head

Though the rest of the film did not live up to this gloriously bloody opener, it nonetheless certainly stuck in my head as one of the most memorable moments of 2007 (pun intended). It’s the perfect combination of violence, gross-out, and bad ass-ness. In the scene, Clive Owen uses a carrot to kill somebody by shoving it into his mouth and through the back of his skull. The implausibility of the scenario only adds to its charm.
4. Live Free or Die Hard: Car Crash

If there was any doubt left that John McClane was truly back and just as BA as when he left, the doubt collapsed in on itself when he crashed that car into the helicopter. It was a glorious moment, for several reasons, the most obvious of which was that stunt work was back. CGI had been quickly gaining ground, but this film helped to show studios that audiences still love a good old fashioned stunt show, and this moment in movie history was instrumental in providing that.

3. Superbad: McLovin

Teen movies now have a new phrase. Ten years down the road, when high school movies are being made for teens, it would not surprise me at all that a regular cliché will become the name “McLovin.” It rings true from the moment Michael Cera’s character reads it off Fogel’s new driver’s license. “McLovin’?” he blubbers. “Who are you, Seal?” The name carries the movie, drawing laughs at every turn and never growing old. It’s hard to believe we once lived in a world without McLovin’. That’s how you know it’s an instant classic.

2. Juno: Feeling the Baby Kicking
A more touching moment did not exist in all of 2007. When Juno randomly meets the person who’s going to be the mother of her child in the mall, it’s a character whom the audience is as yet uncertain about. But when you see the pure joy wash over her face as the baby kicks deep inside Juno’s swollen belly, it’s difficult not to cry along with her. I’ve never seen such a single moment define a movie. It shatters what we thought about that character beforehand, overturns our expectations, and sets them on a new course. Jennifer Garner deserves major kudos for that scene. It is fantastic.
1. 300: This is Sparta!
To leave the fanboy favorite of 300 completely off this list would be something akin to a tragedy, so here is its appearance. When the messenger from Persia came to give Leonidas the message (that’s what messengers do, I suppose), there was a second of terror on his face as he mumbled, “This is madness!” Then Leonidas, played by the charismatic Gerard Butler, spoke THE cultural catchphrase of 2007: “This is Sparta!” A shove of the foot in slow motion sent the poor old messenger dude into the black pit, and from his death rose a chorus of “This is Sparta!!” from around the US by fanboys and just plain old moviegoers alike. There’s little doubt this takes the cake as the top moment of 2007. “This is madness!” you say. “Madness?” I reply. “This is SPARTA!”
The Disappointments
5. The Kite Runner
The novel was a blockbuster success, so of course you knew it was going to get turned into a movie. Even though Marc Forster’s vision of the novel wasn’t a complete flop, it failed to capture all the cultural subtleties of the novel and gave us a generic “inspiro-pic” that far too often didn’t explain itself and whose characters and story were cookie-cutter perfect. Even the violence wasn’t shocking – it was boring.
4. Bee Movie
This movie can be summed up in just a couple of words. “Haha, bees!” With little else to say except, “Look at me!”, Seinfeld’s latest outing was not only a disappointment, it was just kind of dull. Yes, it’s full of trademark Seinfeldian humor, and if that’s your thing, you’ll probably laugh your butt off. But this doesn’t necessarily make it a good movie. The characters were all bland, the animation was competent but unimaginative, and the tension between kiddie film and adult commentary did not work at all. Seinfeld should have taken lessons from Brad Bird.
3. 28 Weeks Later
This film is still better than most other horror movies out there, but that doesn’t keep it from falling far short of the greatness of the original. Danny Boyle’s vision of a futuristic bloody London was actually good because it revamped the zombie genre and gave us real characters instead of horror archetypes. In this stylish sequel, we’re back to the old horror standby of people doing unbelievably stupid things and causing chaos. It keeps on happening throughout the movie, these people are so unbelievably stupid. The film also never seems to know where to to go with itself, so it almost literally runs around in circles, and by the end I didn’t really care who lived or died. I am curious to see what they’ll do with 28 Months Later, though.
2. Shrek the Third
The reason Shrek was so brilliant when it first came out was because it skewered the mass marketing advertising culture of Disney, saying, “Hey, look, your films are crap lately! Make them good!” Years down the line, it’s almost tragic to see the green ogre stand as the very symbol of the consumer culture he was satirizing. Though it was hilarious in places, the franchise has become bloated with its own import. Puss in Boots has become a, well, you know, and Eddie Murphy was probably filming Norbit when he phoned in this voice work.
1. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
I’ve heard some critics call this the most adroit of the series in interpreting the book, but when you look at the pure facts, this received the worst critical ratings of all five movies, and for good reason. Director David Yates’s take on the story eliminated all the subtleties that made the otherwise overly long book bearable. The finale is a ridiculous clash with meaningless spells flying around in the dark, important characters are disposed of with nary an explanation to where they went, and a lot of the acting is disappointing and cliched, though thankfully Daniel Radcliffe turns in his best performance yet. Here’s hoping that Yates is NOT chosen to direct Deathly Hallows, and that he does a better job with Half-Blood Prince.
The Underdogs
5. Music & Lyrics
This syrupy sweet sap fest had all the makings of a crappy early year by-the-numbers romantic comedy, and it was, but the surprising thing was that it ended up actually being fun. Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore’s chemistry is excellent, and the songs are the perfect combination of pop cheese and self-importance. This is a romantic comedy that knows how to make a romantic comedy.
4. Disturbia
For the first hour of Disturbia, it’s difficult to look away from the screen. This stylish update and homage to Hitchock’s “Rear Window” and voyeurism knew how to up the tension without copping out with cheap scares, which is why it’s so sad when the last half hour devolves into predictable slasher mania. Nevertheless, despite the fall from grandeur, it’s riveting and much better than expected, and Shia LeBoeuf shows he knows how to act incredibly well, effortlessly carrying that elusive everyman persona that Tom Hanks has perfected.
3. Bridge to Terabithia
The silly little trailers made it look like it would be some cheesy fairy tale land adventure with nary a regard to the source or what made it so powerful. The movie, however, thankfully skimped on the fantasy and focused on the tragedy and warmth and reality of the characters. What emerged was a surprisingly compelling story and an elegantly faithful adaptation of the novel.
2. Enchanted
Amy Adams captures the title in a wonderful performance that perfectly channels the classic Disney princesses. The story is surprisingly good, the songs are scene-stealing excellence, even though the Academy has favored them too much in their nominations, and the special effects are first rate. But the best part about it all is how much it played with the genre and ideas of happy endings. It’s one of the most delightful pictures of the year.
1. Live Free or Die Hard
John McClane is back and as bad a motherf***er as ever in this excellent update of the series that’s the best since the first. This one, in a similar way to “Rocky Balboa” last year, overturned all expectations and proceeded to soundly smack them in the face with an exploding helicopter. Towards the end of the movie they get too preoccupied with CGI, and one wonders why he didn’t say his famous line, as according to MPAA rules, PG-13 films can still get away with saying the F-word once. Eh, there’s an unrated version of DVD, though, so it’s all good. 🙂
The Bad
5. Happily N’Ever After
“From the producers of Shrek!” the posters proudly proclaimed. Well, based on this film, choosing Shrek was a complete fluke on their part, because no trace of hilarity can be found anywhere in the entire picture. It’s another fractured fairy tale, only with none of the wit, imagination or satire that made Shrek such a household name. The animation is bland, the characters are boring, and Andy Dick is one of the voices. Yeah. It’s bad. I think the producers of Shrek should be put down.
4. Epic Movie
You know it’s a year for bad films when Epic Movie is only fourth on the list. This film was made by the guys who did “Date Movie” and “Meet the Spartans,” and it seems like they’re getting progressively worse. Soon they may even overtake Uwe Boll as the worst filmmakers in Hollywood. They seem to believe that all that you need for humor is to stick random pop culture references in wherever you can. It never, EVER works. This film is a bore, a dull chore from beginning to end. I was prepared to simply laugh at stupid humor, but this is beyond even that. It’s boring. The absolute worst kind of humor there is.
3. The Number 23
In the original poster for this film, it shows Jim Carrey with random crap scribbled all over his face. Next to his mouth is a speech bubble that says, “Help!” I’m convinced he’s pleading for his career. This film was a contrived mess. Movies being psychological do not make them good. Movies being stylish do not make them good. Right combinations of these two, and other elements, can really help a film, but the Number 23 is confusing, pointless, and idiotic. The ending can’t decide what to do with itself, Carrey’s acting is schizophrenic even by the rules of his own character, and the whole “Number 23” thing is a gimmick. And I can’t take it as a joke, because of all the ads with Jim Carrey ominously telling us how evil The Number 23 is. There’s nothing evil or mysterious about the number 23. You can literally pick any number in the world and find it everywhere. The number 23 is third place in my worst movies list, and it came out in february which is the second month of the year! Two and three is 23! Gaaah!
2. Good Luck Chuck
I’m sorry, but this movie wasn’t funny. Not even close. You just kind of sit there, stunned that anyone, ANYONE would actually find this funny. It’s gross, crude, pointless, idiotic, and Dane Cook is just so dang creepy. Jessica Alba is her usual vapid self, and HAHAHA SHE’S A KLUTZ HAHA OMGZ SO FUNNY. There’s no depth to these characters, the portrayal of women is offensive and stupid, and I don’t need to see a shot of sixteen different screens of Dane Cook having sex with sixteen different women. Now my brain is half scarred because of Dane Cook’s buttocks.
1. The Heartbreak Kid
When I first saw the trailer for this, five or six months before it came out, I said to myself the basic plotline of the movie, from beginning to end. I did not miss a beat. This, in itself, though, is not necessarily a horrible thing. But when combined with the putrid mess of the film, it’s hard to imagine worse. I’m not easily offended by movies. I’m one of the few who liked Chuck & Larry, and Borat was one of my top five last year. But I was offended by this. Ben Stiller is a complete douchebag, yet we’re supposed to sympathize with him. They make the wife completely hateable just so it seems okay that he doesn’t want to be with her anymore, and much of the storyline feels like it belongs in a sitcom. And some of the humor is simply unspeakably crude. As if that weren’t enough, the ending drags on and on and on and on for thirty or forty minutes to give us closure to characters WE DON’T EVEN GIVE A DAMN ABOUT. Maybe the Farrelly Brothers should be executed along with those Shrek producer dudes.
The Honorable Mentions
5. Gone Baby Gone
This film is for anyone who completely lost faith in Ben Affleck after Gigli, Paycheck, and Jersey Girl. Oh wait, that was all of us. Well, all the more reason you should see “Gone Baby Gone”, which is actually a fairly straightforward crime thriller, but director Affleck proves he learned a lot being in front of the camera over the course of his career, and he knows how to make a solid cop drama. His brother Casey Affleck also turns in a performance that floors anything poor old Ben ever did.
4. No End in Sight
The more documentaries I see like this, the more I realize how much Michael Moore is an idiot. For one, because the films he makes aren’t so much a balanced and even-sided exploration of the subject, but more contrived and made-up screaming without much attention to stupid little things like facts, for another, because there’s enough evidence against the Bush administration without him making stuff up, and finally, because his hate for Bush clouds everything and very often gets in the way of him being unbiased on a subject. “No End in Sight” is a riveting and important documentary that Michael Moore should be required to sit and watch like that dude in “A Clockwork Orange” who had his eyes forced open so he could not blink or look away. It’s never embellishing, reporting the facts in a cold hard manner and driving the point straight home to our hearts. Sobering, smart, and moving, it is excellent.
3. The Host
It’s doubtful you’ll see a more weirdly unique film all year, or for that matter, it’s doubtful you’ve EVER seen a film quite like it. Never have I watched a film that was so daring in combining so many different elements, from horror drama to family drama to melodrama to political intrigue, to science fiction shlock, to comedy, and many many many others. It’s a twisted, bold, and unique weird-out fest that will have you shaking your head in amazement by the time it’s over. A must for any fan of Asian cinema, or even horror cinema. In fact, this may be the only film I saw all year that everybody needs to see to believe.
2. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
The best thing about this movie how much it refuses to be your typical sob story. Director Julian Schnabel never asks us to feel sorry for the main character. He simply presents the story in a spectacularly moving way, and the pitch-perfect cinematography and deeply nuanced voice of the main actor all serve to make us really feel as if we are trapped inside Jean-Do’s body with him. The fact that it’s based on a true story, as well, makes it all the more fascinating.
1. God Grew Tired of Us
In the same vein of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, this is not one of those films that’s designed to make us feel depressed and guilty over the tragedy of the Lost Boys. It’s a tale of culture shock, integration, loneliness, companionship, brotherhood, as well as a none-too-subtle jab at America’s loner consumer culture. The film is hilarious at times, tragic at others, and always powerful. It’s one of the best movies of its kind.
The Best
15. Sweeney Todd: the Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Since the disastrous Planet of the Apes remake, which soundly failed with critics, it seems Burton had moved to the backstage of Hollywood. “Big Fish” was overlooked, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” was over-hyped, and the recent “Corpse Bride” drew positive reviews, but most of them acknowledged that it was fairly predictable. With Sweeney Todd, though, Burton returns to glorious bloody form in a wickedly dark story where Johnny Depp sizzles in his role as the murderous barber. The music is haunting and perfect, the production design is cleverly dark, and the entire film flows like an excellent somber melody. It’s one of the more unique films of 2007.
14. Persepolis
This story was powerful, emotionally charged, and culturally aware, something that “Kite Runner” was severely lacking. It throws into harsh relief how much most American filmmakers suck at making movies about that area of the world, and it’s a perfect translation of the graphic novel, the kind that uses the medium of film to transform it appropriately, while also remaining faithful and elegant in relation to its source. The storyline is compelling, the protagonist is smart and interesting without being annoyingly arrogant (er-hem, Lyra in The Golden Compass), and the whole movie works so well weaving all the different stories of the revolutionary war in Iran, her coming of age, her exile in in Europe, her displacement, and so on. It’s a marvelous little gem of the film. Shame on the Academy for ignoring it in the Best Foreign Language category.
13. Sunshine
When Danny Boyle revamped the zombie genre, it revolutionized the entire thing. It was a near work of genius, with excellently done social commentary, a gripping storyline, and terror that rose from human interaction and evil and not cheap scares and blood. Sunshine does for space movies what Boyle did for zombie ones. Admittedly it’s not as revolutionary, but that’s okay. Besides, right now science fiction seems to be in a kind of decline and it’s probably why this movie was overlooked and under-advertised. It’s gloriously haunting, the acting is good, and the special effects are the most dazzling I saw all year. It’s an homage to all those space films, while remaining a great one in its own right. The social commentary in this one isn’t as well thought out as it was in 28 Days Later, but it’s still a very fascinating story.
12. The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters
Who would have thought watching people playing a game that’s over twenty years old could be so entertaining and enlightening? King of Kong overturns our expectations of what a documentary should be like, while at the same time providing an illuminating look into the lives of extreme gamers. It’s a film that works on many different levels, from the praise of good sportsmanship to the cautionary tale of what obsession can do to a person, in any form. People who look at this movie on the surface will probably hate it, but once you dig just slightly deeper you’ll find a surprisingly compelling story. It’s also flat-out hilarious, because everyone in this world takes these things so seriously. Even if you’re not part of video game culture at all, which I am, though not so much retro games, chances are you’ll find this interesting.
11. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
The acting in this film is unparalleled with anything else I saw this year. Brad Pitt gives the best performance he’s given in a long, long, long time, and Casey Affleck, who for years has been living undeservedly in his brother Ben’s shadow, finally breaks out with a role so nuanced, intricate, and complex that it’s really difficult to see any acting going on. That’s not Casey Affleck in the scene, that’s Robert Ford. The film explores the cost of fame, hero worship, the death of both, the acquisition of knowledge, and the danger of pride. It’s not a film to sit through right before bed; chances are you’ll fall asleep, as the dialogue is very sparse and very specific. But it’s so dang good. The cinematography is also glorious and breathtakingly beautiful, perfectly capturing the Old West. None of these characters ever seem like celebrities; they’re all very real, and very, very interesting.
10. No Country for Old Men
I’ve never seen a Coen Brothers film, and perhaps that makes me unqualified to judge this movie, but it doesn’t change the fact that this is one of the most riveting and intense movies of the year, and it has me salivating for more of their films. The atmosphere, mood, characters, plot, setting, and dialogue all work in tandem to bring about the conclusion. There’s barely a second of wasted space in the whole thing. Tommy Lee Jones is superb as the old sheriff, Josh Brolin is excellent as the poor man who happened to stumble onto 2 million dollars, and, of course, Javier Bardem is truly frightening as the ruthless killer who embodies everything that is wrong with “young people” today, as Jones puts it. It’s a terrifying performance, to say the least, and all the actors complement themselves in a whole that is about as seamless as I’ve ever seen. The Texas cinematography is sweeping, epic, oxymoronically claustrophobic, and deadly. There are also some of the most breathless chase scenes that you’ll ever see in a movie. It’s a terrific film.
9. Juno
You’d be hard pressed to find another film this year that has had such a wide gap between its lovers and its haters. Try to find someone who’s seen it who doesn’t either love it or hate it. They exist, but they’re very rare. Why did this film have audiences so divided? It all depends on who you ask, but for my vote, Juno is one of the best movies of the year. No other movie this year had me change my mind so completely about it thirty minutes in. We are presented with an array of characters, and like most moviegoers, we peg them for who we think they are. Over the course of the last hour of the film, every single one of those expectations is turned on their heads, as the script and acting flesh out these characters beautifully. Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner as the couple dazzle the most; their characters are the most deep and the most complex, and when they’re first introduced they seem like the most shallow. None of the characters are easy reads; many of Juno’s detractors have simply stamped them as one-dimensional blobs, but that’s because, just like in real life, you have to LOOK for the details, you have to get to know them YOURSELF, and the movie refuses to do it for you. Yeah, sure, Juno wisecracks a little bit too much, but that doesn’t change that this movie is one of the most surprising and best films of the year.
8. Paris, Je T’aime
Translated literally as “Paris, I Love You,” this homage to the city of love, composed of eighteen different shorts from twenty one directors, is as excellent a collection of short films as I’ve ever seen. Another collection of shorts that came out earlier in the year, “The Ten,” was dull, boring, unimaginative, and, at the heart, really had nothing to do with the Ten Commandments at all, which was supposedly its subject. THIS film, though, is an excellent tribute to one of the most famous and romantic cities in the world. Though there are a few misfires, taken as a whole, they all beautifully encompass the theme, and each vignette is a perfect glimpse into the life of a Parisian (or two). It never feels disjointed or contrived. It’s also pretty cool that they got such a variety of names as the Coen Brothers, Wes Craven, Alfonso Cuaron, and Gerard Depardieu on board to direct. No two shorts are alike, as we see everything from a gay love story, to a vampire one, to a mother and child, all the way to a couple of mimes. It’s enchanting and creative filmmaking at its best, and you can tell every single one of the directors is having a fantastic time. Elijah Wood, Bob Hoskins, Natalie Portman, and others, all make appearances too, and they each bring their own brand of acting into play seamlessly with the short they’re in. It’s charming, sweet, not too long, not too short, and it ends on just exactly the right note.
7. Once
Before I saw this movie, I had heard of the critical ratings, but I was still pretty skeptical. Because I don’t know much about music, I didn’t expect to really get anything out of this film other than an appreciation for how well it was made. Though I did end up getting the latter, I got so much more on top of that. Once is the most purely emotional movie of 2007. The love story between the two protagonists is never easily pegged, the music is enriching, soulful, and true, the camera-work is harsh and real, and the characters themselves are so likeable while remaining so true that you never really think of them as two actors, even though the actors do a superb job. The songs can’t be described here, you’ll have to see it to really understand, but suffice it to say that you probably won’t leave Once without feeling some of the pain and joy that these characters went through. It’s the perfect movie about the way music can bring two people together in a close personal bond that is part friendship and part lover. A superb film.
6. Southland Tales
Warning: watching this movie may cause you to want rip your eyes out in frustration. It almost made me do it. You could be next! Richard Kelly’s follow-up to the mega surprise hit of Donnie Darko had critics very divided. Most everybody called it an incoherent mess, and they’re absolutely right, but the genius of this film is that it needs to be a mess to communicate its message. Kelly is an ambitious and visionary filmmaker, and his vision of the future is hilarious and terrifying at the same time. The actors all turn in excellent work, from the surprisingly comedically talented Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, all the way to the perfectly portrayed self-important soul-dier boy Justin Timberlake, whose scene in a brief music video with the Killers’ “I’ve Got Soul but I’m not a Soldier” steals the entire show. It’s a pop culture-infused, motion-sickness-medication-necessary, mind-blowing apocalyptically and visionarily stunning and hilarious, chaotic meta narrative mish-mash-mess of a thrill ride film that will leave you with your head spinning and either loving it or hating it. Kelly puts in so many layers to his film that it will rack your brain like few other films have ever done, and it speaks to his uncompromising cinematic anarchy. It’s a work of powerful genius that many people may be right in hating, but sometimes that’s what genius does.
5. Hot Fuzz
Comedy does not get nearly enough recognition in the critical world. People realize that it’s one of the most difficult genres to get right, but for some reason when great films like Hot Fuzz come along they’re overlooked because they don’t deal with “important” stuff like the war in Iran or teen pregnancy. It’s a shame, because Hot Fuzz is one of the best movies of 2007. Satirizing a genre that probably needs it the most, action and cop movies, it never misses a beat or a laugh. The filmmakers watched more than one hundred cop movies before creating the film, and it shows, as the entire film is sprinkled with dozens of references to other movies, with two being mentioned by name: Bad Boys II and Point Break. You would think that this would lend itself to heavy-handed and obvious parody, but it’s handled in such a way that it’s hard to imagine the film without these movies mentioned. The acting is superbly done, and it’s a joy to see famous British actors peppering the mix liberally, from an old Bond villain Timothy Dalton, to the respected British actor Jim Broadbent, all the way to a small almost unbelievable cameo by a certain female British star that I won’t spoil simply because spotting it is half the joy. It’s a fun-fueled romp through the world of cop movies, while maintaining a perfectly respectable and interesting story on its own. A lot of satires don’t create characters – they just use the ones that were in the originals. Parts of “Hot Fuzz’s” genius is that it creates an entire believable world whose characters are ones you actually care about. And the final half hour is one of the most jaw-droppingly hilarious bits that I’ve ever seen in a movie. I’ve seen this movie about five times now, and it never gets old. You constantly find new things hidden here and there, and the jokes are so well written and the targets so brilliantly skewered that it’s hard to imagine them ever getting old. But the best part about Hot Fuzz is how much its makers love the genre they’re parodying. You can’t create good parody without loving what you’re doing, and these guys certainly do. It’s easily the funniest movie of the year.
4. Into the Wild
Based on the true story of Chris McCandless, what gives “Into the Wild” its power is easily Emile Hirsch, who plays him. There is such exuberance for life in his eyes that you never really question his decision to get up and go off and actually live the life that so many of us dream of doing but never actually do. I love my little creature comforts, but sometimes it’s easy to get swept away in the wonderful vision or really roughing it, making your own way, creating your own reality, all by yourself, away from all these pesky people. But then reality sets in and you never do it. Chris did, and it’s an awe-inspiring journey as we go across the untouched parts of North America that are so easy to forget. We’re reacquainted with the beauty of the Grand Canyon, the vastness of the deserts, the lushness of the Alaskan wilderness. All the supporting actors do marvelous jobs here too. And by the end of the movie, you’ve been so invested in Chris’s journey that you’re emotionally exhausted. It’s a powerful film about the triumph of the human spirit and the lessons that one learns along the way.
3. There Will Be Blood
Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest is a disturbing and masterful work, a terrifying look into how far down a blackened well the human soul can go. It’s ambitious, grotesque, deeply powerful, at times schizophrenic, manic, calm, quiet, and gritty as all get out. This is only Anderson’s fifth film, but you can bet he’s going to be one of the greatest filmmakers of the 21st century. There are so many layers to this film and so many different possible ways that they can interact that you could watch it about a dozen times and still come away with something new, wondering, “How the HELL did I miss that?” Daniel Day-Lewis as the oil tycoon Daniel Plainview is terrifyingly intense, carrying a deep baritone voice that makes you believe HE sincerely believes in everything he says and does, and it’s a performance that boasts what may be the best performance of the year. He’s a villain through and through, a dark and scary monster of a man with ambition, greed, and power. The film is a deeply religious and philosophical work, too, and all these seemingly disparate elements work together to give us a screechingly twisted epic that must be seen to be believed. It’s awe-inspiring stuff, on the level with some of the greatest films of all time. Grippingly good.
2. Zodiac
This is David Fincher’s best work yet. He directed both the grotesque and compelling “Se7en” and the weird-out metaphysical-fest “Fight Club,” but here he gives us a much more real story anchored in the truth of the infamous Zodiac killings. The film spans several decades, and Fincher has a keen eye for the cultural subtleties of each decade and the various styles, fashions, and fads that come and go. Because of this delicious attention to minute detail, the film is that much more terrifying, a true and cautionary tale about the monsters that haunt our time and the near absurd effect they have. Everybody turns in stellar performances, from the always entertaining Robert Downey Jr, to the skeptic detective Mark Ruffalo, and most notably, the intense newspaper cartoonist Jake Gyllenhall. It’s the best performance of Gyllenhall’s career, as he plays his character true to life and never once acts like he’s in a movie. When he is scared, you can see it deep in his eyes, and you feel that fear too, down to the very marrow of your bone. The clinical precision with which Fincher approaches the story is near-perfect in its execution, making Zodiac a tour-de-force, a chilling and deeply unsettling film that will probably scare you more than any other movie in 2007.
1. Ratatouille
No film impressed me more this year than Ratatouille. It’s the closest to perfect that I saw a movie come this year. The pacing is perfect, the animation is perfect, the story is perfect, the characters are near-perfect, and the whole thing just carries such a delicious aroma that it’s hard to find something I should recommend more. I know many people who are part of the “cartoons are just for kids” department, but I encourage them, and you, if you’re a part of that, to look beyond the superficial and to the true themes that resonate and make Ratatouille so compelling. It’s a tale of the pursuit of excellence, the following of one’s dream, the reconciliation of family, finding one’s place in the world, the refusal to settle for garbage (er-hem, direct-to-DVD-Disney), and much much more. The animation is the best Pixar has ever done, and the best I’ve ever seen period. Everything is so beautifully rendered that each frame of each second of each minute is like a painting by a grand artist, shining with intricacies, a delicate touch, and a soft, warm glow. And what’s probably most impressive about this movie is that it managed to take the idea of a rat in a kitchen and transform it into something beautiful and compelling. Once again, I know many people who said, “Ew, a rat in a kitchen! Gross!” and decided flat-out there that they would not see the movie. Well, don’t be fooled. This is the best reviewed movie of the year for a reason, because it IS the best movie of the year. The voices are all top notch, too, especially Patton Oswalt, who voiced Remy, the main rat. I was very skeptical of Oswalt, but he turned out to be the perfect choice, expertly putting all the nuances into his character necessary to make him into something real. Not to mention Peter O’Toole as the excellently evil Anton Ego, the best cartoon villain to come along since…well, possibly ever. And the food….oh my gosh, the food. You will salivate just looking at the screen. The love for food is conveyed in every single second of this movie, and the beautiful way that it is portrayed makes it all the more mouth-watering. “Ratatouille” is directed by Brad Bird, who also did “The Incredibles” and “The Iron Giant.” When he did both of these excellent films and “Ratatouille” is his masterwork, you know it’s good. Simply divine.

The Beginning of Something Extraordinary

Posted in Movie Discussion with tags , , , on February 22, 2008 by Brandon

Check out these two links.
Salon.com
Shaviro.com
Thanks to Overstreet’s blog for alerting me to this.

They each offer different perspectives on Daniel Day-Lewis’s performance in “There Will Be Blood.” The latter offers a rebuttal to the former, and as I read through each of their commentaries, my heart began to swell with the sense that I was witnessing history in the making. The next time I see “Blood” in theatres (and I will see it again – I’ve already seen it twice) I have a feeling I’m going to be looking at it in a whole new light.

THIS is the Citizen Kane of the 21st Century. I don’t care who you talk to or ask, this film will be talked about for decades to come. And when I compare it to Kane, I’m not saying they explore similar themes or are similar inherently (though in some ways they obviously are), but what I am saying is that it is already having a revolutionary effect. People, very smart people, disagree passionately about the movie. It’s not the kind of thing where people bicker about small differences like plot inconsistencies or too much CGI, but the deeper kind of disagreement, the kind that ignites critics all over the country and spreads like wildfire. Whenever I read an analysis of the film or one of the performances, I see something new, and I’m astounded that I didn’t notice it before.

This film is astounding, amazing, groundbreaking, and truly, truly great. I cannot wait to see it again. Twenty or thirty years from now, when I’m talking to friends, or my children, or just some random kids, I’m going to be able to say, “I was there. I was in the heat of it all.”

To see the birth of such a masterpiece, to be liberally swimming in its glorious oil, is a feeling like none other. If I live to be one hundred years old, I don’t think I’ll ever forget There Will Be Blood or even when I first saw it.

When you go to this film, the reactions of the crowd are fascinating to watch. Parts that are not funny in the least, that are meant to be terrifying and psychologically mysterious, are parts that the audience that I was with roared with laughter at. This film unseats people. They don’t know what to think of it. The insanity and wild abandon and complete incomprehensibility of what goes on onscreen is so terrifying, so mind-boggling that defense mechanisms shoot up all around the theatre and people try to laugh it off. And then when there’s that final moment of terribly bloody smashing surprise, the theatre goes instantly quiet, the credits roll, and many people are left feeling dumbfounded, frustrated, and in my case, amazed and astounded.

When audiences and critics encounter something truly new, the reaction is almost always negative. As much as some critics may like to champion that they would love to see something new, when they actually do, they don’t know what to think. It’s baffling.

Mind you, I’m not saying I’m smarter or more educated than most critics. The movie baffled me too. It’s one of the reasons I liked “Southland Tales” more than most. (And that movie a lot more people hated.) Just because I had never seen anything like it in my entire life. But “There Will Be Blood” is an entirely different kind of monster. It displays some truly masterful directorial swishes and signatures, and PT Anderson is an unequivocal genius. It’s mind-blowing.

If you haven’t seen “There Will Be Blood,” go to fandango.com, look up movie times, and leave your house right now.  You will be amazed.

I love film.

David Yates to (possibly) direct final HP film

Posted in Movie Buzz with tags , , , , , on February 22, 2008 by Brandon

No no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no!!!!! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!

DAMN YOU, DAVID YATES!!

Why does he have to keep hogging this series? Why can’t he just back the f-off? I would rather see Michael Bay direct Harry Potter 7 than this douchebag. Okay, maybe not that extreme, but still, you get my sentiment. I hope Warner Brothers doesn’t actually let him do this. The fifth Harry Potter wasn’t a complete disaster, but it was definitely the worst of the five so far. Damn him. Give another director a chance, Yates. We WANT CUARON!!!!!!! Gaaaah!!

This has practically ruined a fairly good day. I’m still crossing my fingers that he won’t end up actually directing it. Maybe when the critical ratings are even lower for the sixth adaptation, WB will realize that maybe they don’t want Yates directing. Of course, they probably don’t care – the last one raked in over 900 million dollars, the highest of all five. Damn you, Yates. Making money means nothing at the expense of quality. Although, all this will be moot if Yates wows me with the sixth HP film.  And if they end up turning the seventh book into two films like they’ve been talking about, will he get greedy and direct those too?

Sigh. Anyone with me on this?

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (9/10)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on February 5, 2008 by Brandon

 

What would you do if a stroke caused you to become completely paralyzed except in the use of your eyes? Many people might be fine for the first few weeks, but after that my guess would be that the suicide rate would skyrocket. So, when you go to a movie about a man to whom this has happened, and it’s based on a true story, you’re probably expecting something along the lines of a Lifetime channel special, depressing and sobering and generally not a very fun experience. And here’s what makes “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” so good – it’s NOT. The bravest part about this film is making it into a funny and touching story and not a depressing “cripple of the week” one.

The film begins by placing us in the exact kind of spot our protagonist, Jean-Dominique Bauby, is in – disoriented, confused, worried, as we find ourselves in a hospital room surrounded by doctors. Apparently Bauby suffers from an extremely rare condition called “locked-in syndrome”, meaning he is able to move nothing but his left eye. About ten minutes into the film his left eye must be sewn shut to prevent it from drying up, and the scene contains no blood, no sound, no scary music, but it’s more scary and carries more emotion than all of “The Eye” put together. Bauby sits there horrified as a doctor calmly tells him he’s going to sew his eye shut and then proceeds to do it, immediately, and there’s absolutely nothing Bauby can do about it. This early scene serves to anchor us in the scary but true notion of being trapped in one’s own body.

We soon learn that Jean-Dominique Bauby is an editor on the magazine “Elle”, in the prime of his life. Once he becomes paralyzed, he must deal with this new reality without giving up. The film plays through all the stages of grief, with a delicately human touch to them. Never once do we feel like we’re being made to cry. Director Julian Schnabel doesn’t insult his audience like that. Liberal doses of humor are sprinkled throughout, as we’re privy to “Jean-Do’s” thoughts and laugh along with them as he’s helped by two attractive nurses and can’t do anything about it, lamenting, “It’s not fair!” It’s the best kind of humor, rooted in the universal experience of human tragedy while being hilarious at the same time.

Over the course of the film he must come to terms with what has happened, and I was with him every step of the way. When he finally decides to not sit around pitying himself and chooses to use his imagination to “journey to other lands” I expected something along the lines of him prancing through a field of lilies without a catatonic care in the world. But, once again, the film isn’t that pedestrian or that obvious – it conveys how he frees himself in a much more powerful way. Mathieu Almaric plays Bauby, and his ability to convey absolutely everything he needs to solely through his voice is astounding. And it’s not like in “V for Vendetta,” because Hugo Weaving could use his body to express things. Almaric has nothing but his left eye, but what he does with both that and his voice create one of the most complete characters you’ll ever see. The rest of the actors are visibly less impressive, but that’s not their fault. The only one who compares is Max von Sydow, who plays his father, and their scenes together are so incredibly touching it’s hard not to believe that they took place between a real father and son.

The cinematography should also be given credit for making Bauby’s situation come alive. For much of the movie, we merely see out from his eye, aided by voice-over work of Almaric giving us Bauby’s thoughts. Thankfully, though, we are not consistently trapped in Bauby’s head, which, though it may have been powerful, would have been very depressing and claustrophobic. When we are in his head, the camera-work is exquisite, but it’s also beautiful when we’re outside, too. We see the ocean, a large green field, an endless back country road. It’s all gorgeous and breathtaking and moving and wonderful.

On a simple level, “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” is about the triumph of the human spirit over great adversity. But to boil down the film to this level would be doing a great wrong to it, because it is so much more, and uncovering the layers in this wonderfully woven tapestry is part of the joy of embarking on Jean-Do’s life with him. Yes, at times it may seem like the film drags; you wonder why this or that scene wasn’t cut, as some don’t seem to serve much purpose other than to drive home the already-obvious sadness of the situation. By the end of the film you may also feel exhausted, after having been taken on such a wearying journey with this individual. But the innate power behind the story, aided all the more because it’s true, propels you forward. You WANT to know how it ends. You WANT to stick with Jean-Do and not give up. You WANT him to not give up. This is one of the most unique moviegoing experiences you’ll ever have. It is simply gorgeous.

My Analysis of the Lost Season Premiere (Spoilers!)

Posted in TV Review with tags , , on February 5, 2008 by Brandon

Okay, normally I’m not a big TV freak, I’m more of a movie guy. But I still do enjoy the good shows, and Lost is one of them. Personally, I’m more of a Heroes guy, because I guess I think it is less based on surprises and “oh!” moments and more on character development and the integration of comic book mythology into the real world. But Lost is a close second (of course, The Office trumps both of them effortlessly), and in the spirit of that, here’s my analysis of the episode that transpired last week.

Lost Season 4 Premiere

Basically, I think I can sum it up like this:”Haha yay we’re all getting off the island, woohoo! Oh crap. Dang it. Guess we’re not.”

So, yeah, I was kind of disappointed, so let’s go into detail on why. First of all, um, I’m not sure anything of significance happened. They had a couple of random flashforwards of Hugo talking with the ghost of Charlie. People argued a lot. They separated into two groups. Then at the end a dude dropped from a helicopter. Even the climactic ending was anti-climactic. The last five minutes were very fascinating and actually told us something about the characters and the action, but everything that came before that seemed to drag itself on. I suppose a lot of what was shown will probably become important in later seasons, but it still dragged.

The characters are all themselves still. Hugo’s getting some dark personality, which I liked, but the rest of them are the exact same. Kate just stands side with an astonished and horrified look on her face the entire episode; Jack looks consistently pissed off at Ben; Ben is the same old jerk he’s always been, and Sawyer is back to being the flip-floppity character he’s always been. At one point he completely breaks out of character in a tender sappy moment that I could hardly believe.

But the worst part about the episode? The melodrama. The horrible horrible dialogue. This episode felt like a soap opera. Slow, insistent close-ups on people’s faces. Dramatic music overlaying practically the whole thing. There was one scene where Hugo does a cannonball for the pure joy of it, and he actually runs toward the water in slow motion with sappy music playing. I had a hard time figuring out whether they intended that to be funny or not. The worst line of the episode, though, was when Sawyer said to Kate, “What I’ve always done, Kate. Survivin.” Spoken like a true wavery character. Every person seemed so completely invested in their role, as if they were acting to compensate for the lack of episodes this season (only 8, I believe.)

So, yeah, it’s good to have Lost back, and I can’t negate that feeling of nostalgia that washed over me as I watched it. But there’s nothing to live up to the big reveal at the end of last season, or even the beginning of last season, where we saw the Others’ camp and TWO islands. Both those episodes were incredible, taking what we thought we knew and ripping it apart. Only two significant things happened in this episode: They separated into two groups, and somebody finally dropped from the sky at the end.

Disappointing. This episode could easy have been about half an hour shorter and conveyed just as much without all the pointless melodrama. I give it a C. Here’s hoping that the last five minutes are a sign of how good the next episodes are gonna be.

Hobbit director! And a trailer…

Posted in Movie News with tags , , , , , on February 1, 2008 by Brandon

Well, it is official. Guillermo del Toro, one of the best fantasy directors working today, is going to direct the Hobbit and its sequel. Yesss! He would be my second choice after Peter Jackson – he has such a talent, and I’m really looking forward to his vision of Middle Earth. Plus, Peter Jackson is executive producer, so he’ll be able to make sure the world of the Hobbit isn’t completely incongruous with the world of Lord of the Rings. Here’s hoping it smashes more box-office records and draws more critical attention…

And, here’s the trailer for the new movie by the creators of Scary Movie and Airplane!, appropriately called “Superhero Movie!”  It looks like it will be okay, though I’m worried because it didn’t make me laugh as much as the trailer for Scary Movie 4 did. In any case, it looks light years better than Meet the Spartans, Epic Movie, and Date Movie, so I’ll probably go see it in theatres.