Archive for May, 2008
Tuesday, May 27th, 2008
Sydney Pollack, one of the great directors in movie history, passed away yesterday from cancer at the age of 73. Also a great producer and actor, you can see him on the big screen right now performing in Made of Honor and on DVD giving a fantastic performance in Michael Clayton. Cynical Cinema pays tribute to Sydney Pollack with a list of his must-watch films.
1. The Interpreter (2005) – Sean Penn and Nicole Kidman both give exemplary performances in this espionnage story about a U.N. interpreter (Kidman) who overhears an assassination plot. The must-see moment: The scene on the bus, when many of the characters, including a terrorist bomber, come together on the same bus at the same time. One of the most tense (and intense) moments in recent cinema, worthy of Hitchcock. Pollack produced and directed this terrific movie.
2. The Firm (1993) – Say what you will about Tom Cruise (and I will agree with much of what you say), this is one of his finest films, and one of the only decent John Grisham book adaptations. Also great in this movie are Jeanne Tripplehorn, Ed Harris, Gary Busey and of course Gene Hackman. That scene between Hackman and Tripplehorn near the end is great. Pollack produced and directed.
3. Out of Africa (1985) – Robert Redford and Meryl Streep, both close to their best, in a sweeping epic romance. Pollack won Best Director for this one, and it also took Best Pictuer honours, among the 11 Oscars for which it was nominated. David Watkin aids Pollack considerably here with some of the best cinematography you will ever see in a film.
4. Three Days of the Condor (1975) – Pollack directs this political espionnage thriller which opens with one of the most memorable film openings of all time, as Robert Redford, a CIA operative, returns from lunch to find his entire office assassinated. An intensely political film, Three Days of the Condor took on the CIA, Watergate, the press and the Pentagon Papers. Often overlooked, but still a great film.
5. Jeremiah Johnston (1972) – Robert Redford again, in this Pollack-directed wilderness western. Many comparisons have been made between this and Dances With Wolves,as Redford is a man alone in the wilderness, befriending the native people in the area, until a horrific final act sees him exact brutal vengeance against the same people, leading to a final moment of questionable redemption. A magnificent movie.
6. They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? (1969) – The movie that put Pollack on the map, he wrote, directed and produced this tale of a bizarre dance marathon gone awry. Jane Fonda also found her star on the rise with the film, as it put her on the map as an actress as well. She is terrific as Gloria, a woman who finds the worst in her being brought out by the prospect of $1,500.00 in prize money in this two-month-plus dance marathon. Strange, but pretty darn good. Gig Young is terrific too as Rocky, the irritating emcee of the contest. This was nominated for nine Oscars.
7. The Way We Were (1973) – More Redford, this time with Barbra Streisand. Cynical Cinema must admit that this is one we haven’t seen, but from all accounts it is an all-time classic. Streisand won a Best Actress Oscar.
8. Tootsie (1982) – Pollack’s tour de force, and his best movie. Dustin Hoffman gives yet another defining performance as a struggling actor who finds that the best roles are being given to women, and so he dresses up as one in order to land a dream role. Funny, sharp, and incredibly perceptive, Tootsie was one of the first, and still the best, of it’s kind. Men dressing up like women for laughs is now commonplace, but usually in movies like Big Momma’s House and Norbit. Which indicates how great Pollack had to be to prevent this movie from falling into that sinkhole. Only Mrs. Doubtbfire since then has even come close to capturing the tone and the intelligence of this film.
Sydney Pollack was the Scotty Bowman of the film world. Always working with a star-studded cast, just as Bowman always worked with star-studded teams. And the knock on Bowman has always been that anyone could win with those players. In movies, not anyone can craft a great movie simply by casting great actors. Pollack was a genius in that he not only got the best out of those actors, he made sure that they had something to do that could elevate the films from decent to memorable to classic. On top of that, he was a fantastic actor as well – just look at his incredible performance in last year’s Michael Clayton. He will be missed.
Monday, May 26th, 2008
Rambo (7/10): The fourth installment in the muscles-and-big-guns series that got worse with each of the first three episodes. You won’t know you missed this crap until you watch this crap again. And then you will wonder how you went 20 years without it.
Grace Is Gone (8/10): A poweful, heartfelt movie about a family torn apart by the death of their mother in Iraq. John Cusack is terrific as the father, and so is Shelan O’Keefe as his 12-year-old daughter who becomes something of a caretaker to her father as the embark on a road trip.
Cleaner (2/10): Samuel L. Jackson and Eva Mendes star along with Ed Harris and Luis Guzman in a cop movie that is garbage. Never trust Ed Harris or Eva Mendes! And Luis Guzman and Sam Jackson will star in anything. This movie is…anything.
All Hat (3/10): A Canadian film that fails in many ways. It’s heart is in the right place, but it’s too simple, too boring, and too all-over-the-place.
Darfur Now (8/10): A star-studded cast, including Don Cheadle, George Clooney, Arnold Schwarzennegger, Hilary Clinton, and John McCain, among many others, talk about the most pressing human rights situation in the world right now, Darfur. This documentary is getting rave reviews.
Jackass Presents: Mat Hoffman’s Tribute To Evel Knievel (5/10): Johnny Knoxville yammers on for thirty minutes while fifteen minutes worth of stunts actually take place. The connection to Evel Knievel himself is…tenuous. But it’s worth it just for the no-parachute sky diving stunt.
Simon Says: Horror movie starring the always-creepy Crispin Glover, as a bunch of teens get knocked off by some demented brothers in the woods. This does not at all sound familiar.
Flashpoint (7/10): Donnie Yen and a bunch of other solid Asian actors for some seriously bad-ass kung-fu, UFC fighting and hockey fighting, along with a ton of gunplay and something of a decent story.
Shelter: A surfer begins to discover he is gay in this indie drama. No actors I have ever heard of star in it.
Nightmare Detective (7/10): Japanese horror movie that is very effective, particularly in atmosphere and mood. Scary, creepy and very very dark. It all takes place in people’s nightmares, and even bikes and bridges become frightening.
Waiter: A waiter is dissatisfied with his job and his home life, and again I haven’t heard of any of these actors.
The Fall of the Roman Empire Special Edition (8/10): Three-disc special edition of one of the better epic films from the 1960s. Alec Guinness, Sophia Loren and Stephen Boyd star in this massive, impressive spectacle.
Holocaust (10/10): The famous 1978 TV miniseries starring Meryl Streep and James Woods is as powerful and devastating as ever. Requires a commitment – it is seven and a half hours of video – but this is as important a document about the holocaust as Schindler’s List. A true classic.
Degrassi: The Next Generation Season 6 (6/10): A surprisingly watchable season of this TV show. It seems watered down from that original Degrassi that was so famous and popular, mostly because there are way more hot chicks in this version. But solid writing and decent acting in places.
Gunsmoke Season 2 Volume 2 (8/10): One of the longest-running TV shows in history, still a Western classic. Guns and bullets and frontier justice and Marshall Matt Dillon and barstool wisdom equals good times.
The Invaders Season One (5/10): Sci-fi series from the 60s starring Roy Thinnes as the only man on Earth who is aware of an alien invasion. It lasted only a season and a half, so you get pretty much the entire thing on this disc.
Rawhide Season Three (7/10): Clint Eastwood as Rowdy Yates, when he was a young, young man. Cattle-driving and gunfights and frontier justice and Clint Eastwood. It all spells awesome!
Monday, May 19th, 2008
National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets: If you liked the first one, you are likely a poor judge of quality in movies. And if you are a poor judge of quality in movies, then perhaps you will like this sequel as well. Look for Nicholas Cage to continue sucking.
Strange Wilderness (2/10): All of Adam Sandler’s friends get together, yet again, to make yet another movie based on a script written by seven-year-olds. Poop and fart jokes, and animals attacking people. Garbage.
The Air I Breathe: Forest Whitaker, Kevin Bacon, Emile Hirsch and Andy Garcia are cool. Sarah Michelle Gellar and Brendan Fraser are not. Which means that based on the cast, there are 2/3rds of a reason to watch.
Diary of the Dead (7/10): For all the zombie fanatics who couldn’t get enough of the Romero movies (Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead, Land of the Dead…noticing a theme here?) This one stands up with the rest.
The Walker: Cool cast including Ned Beatty, Lauren Bacall, Woody Harrelson, Willem Dafoe, and Kristen Scott Thomas. Political thriller, could be very good.
Penn and Teller: Bullshit! Season Five (7/10): A fairly decent TV show that takes on some of the most cherished myths in the world with the humour and insight of Penn and Teller, who are famous magicians.
National Lampoon presents: Cattle Call: Another franchise that can seemingly churn out movies at will, just like Adam Sandler’s Happy Madison company. I guess anyone could make forty movies a year if you didn’t care whether any of them were good.
Exes and Ohs Complete First Season (5/10): Lesbian sit-com starring lots of hot chicks. Yeah…but it sounds a lot better than it is. Smacks of Canadian, and pushes no envelopes.
Who’s Your Monkey: Over the course of a single night, four childhood friends kill a drug dealer, rescue animals, dispose of a dead body and discover the unbreakable bonds of friendship. This film is a hilarious, irreverent, heartfelt comedy full of laughs, surprises and a lot of monkey business! And…it stars Newman from Seinfeld. Whee.
Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. Season Four (4/10): Not only did this show exist, it apparently had at least four seasons! What is your major malfunction, Private Pyle?!
Grindstone Road: The inimitable Fairuza Balk stars in a movie where she is either haunted by ghosts, or she is losing her mind! Uh-oh!
Short Circuit: That 1986 movie, with the cute little robot that does cute little stuff with cute little Steve Gutenberg. Finally released onto DVD! After SUCH a long wait!
Hannah Takes The Stairs
And now, some dots I can’t seem to get rid of.
Monday, May 12th, 2008
Untraceable (3/10): Diane Lane is a front-line FBI operative in the war on cyber crime. Remember Sandra Bullock in The Net? Yeah, me either. This one will be forgotten in a week or so, it’s terrible.
Mad Money (3/10): Queen Latifah, Katie Holmes and Diane Keaton star in an absolutely putrid crmie caper. Ted Danson and a few others up the suck factor.
Walk All Over Me (3/10): Leelee Sobieski is a dominatrix caught in a crime ring. Dominatrix – good. Crime ring – good. Leelee Sobieski -good. Tricia Helfer – also good. This could be good. But it isn’t.
The Great Debaters (8/10): Denzel Washington and Forrest Whitaker and Denzel Whitaker are all terrific in this movie about the Jim Crow south, race relations, and debate teams. Formulaic, but very good.
Youth Without Youth (4/10): Francis Ford Coppola directs this movie about Tim Roth, who is struck by a bolt of lightning and begins to age backwards. Which means he gets pursued by the Nazis.
I’m Not There (9/10): The best movie released this week. Bob Dylan is re-imagined as six different people, including a young black kid, a woman, and an aging western outlaw. For hardcore Dylan fans, mostly. Check out my review for a guide to watching this.
The Cottage: Brothers are holed up in a cottage, with their kidnap victim, when horror takes place. Axe-wielding neighbours and gore.
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade Special Edition (8/10): Still amazing after all these years. Connery and Ford are terrific together. Also some excellent special features.
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom Special Edition (6/10): The worst of the original trilogy, but still worth purchasing as part of the box set.
Raiders of the Lost Ark Special Edition (10/10): The all-time classic on DVD again, this time with more great special features. Worth revisiting, especially if you have kids who have yet to see it.
Numb: Matthew Perry meets a perfect girl and goes to a therapist to help him work out his anxiety problems. Sounds…awful.
Backyardigans High Flying Adventures (4/10): The Backyardigans are a cow, a moose, a hippo, and some other animals that don’t live in my backyard sing some songs and entertain some small children.
Alien Agent: A lawman from another galaxy must stop an invading force from building a gateway to planet Earth. Stars Billy Zane. YES! Billy Zane…
Drawn Together Season 3 (7/10): Ignore what you may have seen on the TV trailers. This series is actually quite intelligent, and hilarious.
The Land Before Time: Through the Eyes of a Spiketail: Yet another entry in this interminable series for children. With a spiketail!
Mission: Impossible Season 4 (6/10): The terrific original series which is way better than any of those incredibly lousy Tom Cruise movie remakes.
The Ten Commandments (3/10): A virtually shot-for-shot remake of the Heston 1956 epic, with gigantic parts cut out and cheap animation, dumbed down for kids and starring Christian Slater as the voice of Moses.
Inside (4/10): A French splatter-horror film with buckets of blood and a hottie who uses scissors to cut a baby out of a pregnant woman.
Long Day’s Journey Into Night (6/10): Well-acted, well-staged Canadian filming of the Eugene O’Neill play about family bonds and dysfunction. But three hours of dialogue in just one room can be…pretty boring.
Monday, May 12th, 2008
Genre: TV series, Spy, Drama
Country: United States
Starring: Greg Morris, Peter Lupus, Bob Johnson, Peter Graves, Leonard Nimoy, Sam Elliott, Lee Meriwether
Guest stars: Barry Williams, Barry Atwater, John Aniston, Diane Baker, Sid Haig
Creator: Bruce Geller
Run time: 20 hours plus
DVD distributor: Paramount Home Entertainment
Related reviews: TV sets: Action Packed, Mission: Impossible Season Six, Mission: Impossible Season Five
When I was a kid, after a long game of tennis, I saw an episode of Mission: Impossible at my friend Oliver’s house. I loved this show! It was one of the best things I had ever seen on TV! It had everything – espionage, international bad guys, gadgets, and missions! And that theme music! So distinctive, so cool! However, Oliver had some channels that I did not, and I never saw the show again until today. When I grabbed Season Four of Mission: Impossible from Paramount Home Entertainment on May 13th, I wondered if it would be as good as I remembered. After all, my favourite programs growing up were MacGyver and The A-Team, and I can’t watch those now without laughing at what an idiot I must have been to have enjoyed such crap.
As it turns out, however, Mission: Impossible really does hold up over the years. Of course, over those years it has been the source of some of the worst pop culture has to offer. Those three horrible movies with Tom Cruise. The music has been used as background for the irritating Scientology video, also starring Tom Cruise. The phrase “your mission, should you choose to accept it” has been overused ad nauseum, and the self-destructing message has been a concept taken to asinine proportions. By the way, I DID watch Inspector Gadget as a child, and I could never understand the self-destructing message. The chief would always pop up in a garbage can, a dryer, a potted plant, and hand Inspector Gadget the message. Then, he would be told that the message would self-destruct. And Gadget would throw the message right into where the chief was hiding, and it would blow up the chief. Every time. Every time, it happened! And I would always wonder, as a child – if the chief was so adept at finding these hiding places for himself, in order to give Gadget his mission, why wouldn’t he just pop out of the dishwasher and tell Gadget the message, rather than having to hand him paper and wait while he read it? That always bothered me.
Season 4 of Mission Impossible is yet another example of when network TV used to be good. It’s like the A-Team, only without the terrible writing, the ridiculous gunfights and the lame acting. It’s like Counterstrike, only less slick and less Canadian. And it is far, far better than those absolutely idiotic Tom Cruise-John Woo movies.
Saturday, May 10th, 2008
ThinkFilm is prepping an appeal to the MPAA, but this one doesn’t concern a film’s rating. It’s about a poster. The poster art for Taxi to the Dark Side — a documentary about the pattern of torture practice that is on the short list for Academy Award consideration — is causing a stir due to its depiction of a hooded man being led by American soldiers. The original news photo was taken by photographer Shaun Schwarz, and had been censored before — when the military erased it from Schwarz’ camera. (He later retrieved it from his hard drive.) Variety magazine is reporting that the MPAA has officially rejected the poster, and if ThinkFilm goes forward with the marketing, they could have their “R” rating revoked. Taxi to the Dark Side is due for release on January 11th. Here is the poster. For more hilarious information on the MPAA, check out the DVD This Film Is Not Yet Rated. It is awesome.
Saturday, May 10th, 2008
This is not a top-fourteen list. It is just fourteen movies that are well worth checking out. I have not seen all the best movies of 2008, because I tend to wait for DVD, and therefore I have yet to see No Country For Old Men, Sweeny Todd or There Will Be Blood. But I don’t know of a single film critic who doesn’t have a bunch of year-end lists, I have decided to do a couple myself, since I have been pretending to be a film critic for some time now. These are not in order, they are just fourteen movies well worth renting on DVD this year.
Ratatouille: A rat with an incredible palate and cooking ability becomes the top chef in Paris. The best animated movie in years, this one courtesy of Brad Bird, the genius behind such quality films as The Incredibles. The brilliance of Ratatouille comes from two things. First of all, the movie does not dumb itself down for the benefit for the children at whom it’s aimed. The dialogue, while not “adult” dialogue, and not filled with those clever double entendres that fly over the head of children while adults snicker in the audience. It assumes children are capable of understanding multi-syllabic words and actual realistic sentences. The second thing it does extremely well is the animation itself. The rat is cute, like all main characters in animated movies, but it is also very rat-like. You always get the sense that people would indeed be freaked out to see this animal in their kitchen, and therefore everything else falls into place in ringing true. Well, as true as a rat-chef can be.
The City Of Violence: A Korean action movie by Seung-Wan Ryoo. A cop, Tae-Su, assigned to the organized crime unit returns to his hometown for the funeral of a high school friend. There, he reunites with some old friends, but something feels wrong about his friend’s death. Tae-Su begins to investigate, which leads him through several bloody conflicts and, of course, to one final bloody battle. There is nothing new in City of Violence. Several themes are very central to Asian cinema, and one of them is the idea of childhood friends who went their separate ways but who are united by a certain bond. Another is one man against an entire gang fight scenes. The City of Violence is no exception, and it even tips it’s hat to an older movie, The Warrior, during one of these epic fight scenes. What sets this film apart is it’s acting and it’s atmosphere. In American cinema for the most part, the best actors do dramas and serious movies, and leave the action films to the flavour-of-the-month actor. In Asian cinema, the best actors are the ones who do action flicks, because for the most part those are the best movies. This is one of them.
Eastern Promises: Viggo Mortensen and David Cronenberg are the best actor-director tandem working today. Mortensen is fantastic as usual, as is Naomi Watts and Armin Mueller-Stahl. This is the best movie I saw on DVD this year. Russian mob. Tattoos. Violence and terrific acting. What more do you need?
Knocked Up: A fat, lazy guy who resembles me in many many ways gets an unreasonably hot Katherine Heigl pregnant. Hilarity ensues. The best kind of chick flick in that it will make chicks who watch it irritated, while it will make guys split their sides with laughter.
Superbad: The same guys who made Knocked Up made the funniest high-school-loser-teenage-sex movie of the last fifteen years. Maybe ever. Some of the funniest performances and best dialogue in a movie this year. McLovin rules!
Rescue Dawn: Vietnam prisoner-of-war camp drama starring Christian Bale and Steve Zahn, directed by Werner Herzog. Bale is one of the best actors working today, Herzog has made some seriously classic films, but Steve Zahn? Bandidas, Saving Silverman Steve Zahn? His performance is the surprise of the year.
The Bourne Ultimatum: Best of the Bourne series, and that’s saying a lot. The most intense scene in a movie lately was the one where Matt Damon guides a reporter through a crowd via cell phone as the bad guys close in on him. Heart-racing, tremendously fun and exciting.
The Host: Coolest monster movie in a long time. Korean as well, this one is excellent, creepy, and yet still has time to wink at the audience and put in some terrible monster-movie bad moments, like the one where the monster appears for the first time at a beach and eats everyone. Hilarious. And awesome.
Away From Her: Sarah Polley has always been a great actress – yes, even in Road To Avonlea, which my mom watched religiously, but which made me angry as a child. Now she proves she is a very good director as well, with this film about Alzheimers. Julie Christie just won a Golden Globe for her role as the Alzheimers-stricken elderly lady, and deservedly so. Gordon Pinsent, for some reason, has not been mentioned in any critic’s circles for his protrayal of her suffering husband, but he certainly deserves very high praise for his performance as well.
Hot Fuzz: The funniest movie of the year. Only people (the Shaun of the Dead people) who absolutely love all movies, especially brainless action flicks, could have made a movie that seems so familiar, yet so new at the same time. The scene at the end when Nick Frost fires his gun into the air and yells “aaaarrrrghhh!” made me laugh harder than any other movie moment this past year.
3:10 To Yuma: A fantastic adaptation of an old, forgotten western is bang on. Not a perfect movie, by any means, but terrifically entertaining. Christian Bale and especially Russell Crowe are electrifying, both deserve award consideration for this one.
Sicko: Michael Moore’s look at the American health care system is funny, eye-opening, and devastatingly tragic. Say what you will about Michael Moore, this man knows how to make an audience laugh, knows how to tug at their heart strings, and the fact that he lobbies for change while doing so makes him all the more important as a filmmaker.
Grindhouse: This is actually two movies. Which adds up to fourteen overall. Death Proof is just more Quentin Tarantino being in love with making movies, and that is just blissful to watch. Kurt Russell is wonderful, and that stunt girl who rides the car is fantastic. The second movie, Planet Terror, is not as great, but is still an awfully fun ride through the world of zombie attacks and machine-gun legs. Bruce Willis makes an appearance. That makes it well worth while.
Saturday, May 10th, 2008
I went into Rogers near my house yesterday to pick up this week’s new releases, only to find out they were shutting down that store. Everything was off the shelves, and being sold off cheap. So I took advantage of the opportunity to beef up my terrible-monster-movie collection. I picked up Boa vs. Python, Frankenfish, and Attack of the Sabretooth (which is not to be confused with the “superior” movie, Sabretooth, released some years before). I then sat down to be entertained by ridiculous badness and aggressive mediocrity. I watched Frankenfish first, which hit all of the gnre buttons dead on. Topless female nudity, mostly gratuitous (and none involving the stars, of course). A pointless romance between the only two characters who could possibly get together, the bad-ass local guy who knows the swamp and can kill the evil fish by himself…it was all there. The awesome badness of the movie was sealed when the attractive black guy and the Chinese girl were clearly not going to get together, and they meet up with a very attractive black girl whose white boyfriend was an obnoxious sissy…these movies still think that only people of the same race can hook up properly. Otherwise, the audience has too much to think about.
Of course, this girl (and those around her) is unrealistically hot for someone who has been brought up on a houseboat deep in the swamp, and somehow has perfect hair and makeup the whole time. Of course, there are also the customary bad guys too – cowboy-type rich executives, the people who genetically created these mutant Frankenfish to begin with, who will swoop down to the swamp, attempt to capture it alive, and get their just deserts for being so evil. Of course, when the heroes finally finish the job, they laugh and kiss each other as though forty-three other people have not just died in the carnage. And, of course, there is one final SCARE at the end. This is the monster movie formula, and it is fantastic. The only thing they were missing was a group of sorority girls and fraternity boys who happen to get caught up in the chaos. Which brings me to the next movie…
Attack of the Sabretooth involves sorority girls and fraternity boys who have been thrown together and dumped on an island for the purposes of completing some sort of scavenger hunt. Why this island, why a scaveneger hunt, dropped off by whom, why only five of them, we will never know. Every ethnicity and stereotype is represented. The black girl who is good with guns. The oriental guy who is good with computers. The ditzy blonde big-chested cheerleader and the muscle-bound jock she secretly lusts after. (Despite her assertions that she hates him.) And, of course, the goth chick who so desperately insists on not being judged. At the same time, the evil bad guys who genetically created the monster sabretooth tigers and want to recapture them alive are hosting a meeting of investors on this same island to show them the sabretooth menaces. When people start dying, the evil bad guy in charge of course tries to keep that quiet, so it does not scare off the investors, while the tough-chick security guard who’s been there and seen it all goes renegade to bring down the big cats herself.
There are a few variations on the cliches in Attack of the Sabretooth. There are TWO evil bad guys, scheming against each other, and…oh! They’re brothers! Who hate each other! Even though one is clearly American and the other clearly British, they are brothers. There are three sabretooth tigers who get loose, a male a female, and, bizarrely, a genetic freak. In most monster movies, the freakish genetic abnormality is three times the size, three times the fury, and shows up only at the end…blah blah blah. In Attack of the Sabretooth, this weird cat does indeed show up at the end, but it’s special freakish nature is such that it doesn’t have back legs, only a pile of jelly coming out of it’s butt. So it drags itself around with it’s front legs, and kills no one. Oh, and no boobs at all. Another cliche of these movies remains intact, however. The one that says that there must be dozens of rooms in the building, each with generically labeled items like “flammable gas” canisters, which can all be used in clever ways to kill the predators. Then the movie ends, with one big FINAL SCARE, but this time, it is in what would appear to be the middle of the movie.
Attack of the Sabretooth is a Jurassic Park rip-off with hilariously bad animation and even worse acting. It is terrifically indicative of the genre. However, Boa vs. Python is something else entirely. Oh, sure, it has it’s share of totally gratuitous boobs, it has unrealistic creatures attacking unrealistic humans, and various attractive young people who band together to fight the good fight against the bad beast. But this time, it takes place in a CITY! And the epic final battle is not between the beast and the two surviving characters who are meant to hook up, but between two of the monsters themselves! The boa and the python, of course. This time there are government agents involved, and the animation is slightly better than usual. Jamie Bergman shows up as a marine biologist. The least convincing scientist since Denise Richards played Christmas Jones in that Bond movie. And the boa apparently eats in a bird-like motion and growls like a…sabretooth tiger.
If you want a really good monster movie, rent Jaws, or The Host, or…ummm…something else. These are the bottom-of-the-barrel, worst-movies-ever type of monster flicks, the kind where they purposely insert breaks in the film where commercials could go, knowing it will likely appear only on late-night TV, and that way they don’t have to re-edit the movie once for TV and once for video. They are staggeringly awful, and the only thing that could make me enjoy them more would be the inclusion of Steven Seagal.
Saturday, May 10th, 2008
I just wrote a blog about fourteen great movies. I have decided to include an extra bad movie here, because I want to make the point that Hollywood makes far more bad movies than good ones. I really wanted to write about twenty-eight bad movies, but I wasn’t feeling nearly masochistic enough. Two things – much like the great movies I talked about, the bad movies list will not be complete. There are many bad movies I have yet to see. License to Wed, I assume, is awful. Likewise Good Luck Chuck. But I have not seen them, and so I will not comment. Also, films like Boa vs. Python and Mammoth do not count, since they are not movies that big studios attempt to force on the general public. In order to rent and watch these films, one has to be a specific kind of masochist. The following films are the kind that real people may well have watched, hoping for something good, but then they were insulted and assaulted with crap. In no particular order, here goes.
Norbit: Eddie Murphy plays three characters, which worked in The Nutty Professor. This time, every character is an offensive and racist stereotype, not one of the characters is funny, and the movie is painful. A hint to filmmakers. If you can’t find a real fat lady to be in your movie, and you have to dress up one of your actors to be a fat lady, it is likely because the jokes about fat ladies are so offensive and in such poor taste that no real fat lady would ever subject herself to the movie. Neither should the audience.
I Know Who Killed Me: The worst performance of the year was turned in by Lindsay Lohan as a bad-girl stripper. The second-worst performance of the year was turned in by Lindsay Lohan as a goody-two-shoes high school girl. Both were in this movie.
The Number 23: Well…at least it made me laugh. This was one of the worst-thought-out, horribly done “thriller” movies of the year. The best thing about it is that it was so incredibly awful, but the people making it really didn’t know how bad it was. That can make something cross over from just a disaster into crappy camp. Think Showgirls.
The Reaping: Hilary Swank either wins an Oscar or she is in a terrible movie. This is a terrible movie, and she got no Oscar. The biblical plagues should really have ended in the destruction of the print of this movie.
Because I Said So: Diane Keaton, what happened? Mandy Moore, I think someday you could be good, but what happened? Mandy Moore likely IS good. But she has never in her life appeared in a good movie. I know for a fact that Diane Keaton is good. I saw Annie Hall. Watching Because I Said So for me was like walking into a theatre hoping for Annie Hall. Then, before I got to my seat, someone kicked me in the nuts and stole my popcorn.
Wild Hogs: There is nothing remotely funny about Wild Hogs. But it made a lot of money at the box office this year, because the names bring people in. Travolta, Macy, Tim Allen. No, I’m serious. Tim Allen is a box-office draw. No, really. I mean it. People like watching him! This is a high-school after school special with big name actors and motorcycles. Insipid.
I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry: A long, running gay joke, that is never funny, and offensive, and then tries not to be offensive by preaching the gospel of love thy neighbour and don’t be homophobic. Ridiculous, stupid, and boring as hell.
Rush Hour 3: Chris Tucker just opening his mouth is not funny. Jackie Chan punching him in the mouth to shut him up WOULD be funny. This does not happen in Rush Hour 3. Therefore, Rush Hour 3 is not funny.
Georgia Rule: Lindsay Lohan flashes her privates at some mean girls. She tries to run someone down with her truck. She sleeps with everyone. The makers of this movie read about all of this in the tabloids, and thought Lohan would be perfect for this role, since the girl she plays does ALL of that. But they were wrong. Lindsay Lohan is perfect for nothing. Except being in tabloids.
Epic Movie: The worst movie of the year. Maybe, just maybe, the worst of any year. Gross-out humour that finds the gross but forgets the humour. Just being disgusting isn’t funny. It is disgusting. And just recreating a scene or character from a famous movie does not spoof that movie. You have to actually do something funny with it. Epic movie does nothing funny. With anything.
Spiderman 3: Peter Parker and Mary Jane Whatsherface spend the third consecutive movie carefully avoiding communication with each other, and making sure they did not say the one thing that would have solved all their problems. Like, “that Harry guy is trying to kill me”. That would have made things easier, complicated the movie much less, and spared us all that cheesy and lame romantic intrigue garbage. Which would have left us with still one, possibly two, too many villains, and a boring story with great special effects.
Happily N’Ever After: There are (I hope) producers in Hollywood who don’t think that kids are essentially stupid. Witness Ratatouille, which was smart and funny and charming. Happily N’Ever After proves that some producers really think kids will be entertained by absolutely anything. All the intelligence and charm of a third-rate grade-four class clown.
Pirates of the Carribean 3: Enough already! I believe this movie may have been eleven hours long. Any movie that has Chow Yun-Fat, Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush and a cameo by Keith Richards, and yet can still put an audience to sleep, must really have had some bad writers with absolutely nothing to say. For eleven hours.
Premonition: Sandra Bullock lives her own, scary, Groundhog Day. This movie is so desperate to make sense that it cares more about that than about being entertaining. Therefore, we are so un-entertained, that we no longer care if it makes sense. The smarter folk among us might even turn off the film before the end, not even caring about the ending. I was not that smart.
Resident Evil: Extinction: The third, and probably not final, installment in what may someday be known as the worst trilogy in history. But probably not. It will have a fourth installment, and therefore not be a trilogy, and therefore have to settle for being the second-worst movie series of all time, behind Friday the 13th.
Honorable mention to Evan Almighty, The Hallowe’en remake, Underdog, and Mr. Woodcock. I have mercifully been spared watching such fare as Hostel II, Captivity, Delta Farce and Who’s Your Caddy, at least thus far.
Saturday, May 10th, 2008
The Oscars are more hype than substance. The best picture winner is rarely the best picture of the year, the best actor and actress are rarely the most deserving, and the whole thing is more based on marketing and promotion than it is on straight-up merit. That being said, it is far better than say, the Grammys, in that at the very least Oscar winners are good movies with good performances and less attention is paid to box-office receipts than is paid to critical acclaim. Whereas the Grammys and other award shows of a similiar nature pay more attention to sales than they do to quality. Which is why Nickelback cleans up at the Junos. So I would certainly give the Oscars more credit than that. But the only awards you can truly count on for being bang-on are the Razzies. The annual awards for the absolute worst in movies are great, for a few reasons – they get to be as mean and politically incorrect as they want to be, they don’t have to take into account the pedigree of an actor, and they have way more movies to choose from than do the Oscars.
This year, I have already made my own list of the worst movies out there. While I would never bother comparing my list of the best to the Oscar nominees, I would certainly do so for the Razzies, since I feel they have more credibility. I chose Norbit, The Reaping, I Know Who Killed Me, the Number 23, Because I Said So, Wild Hogs, I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, Rush Hour 3, Epic Movie, Georgia Rule, Spiderman 3, Happily N’Ever After, Pirates of the Carribean 3, Premonition and Resident Evil as the worst of the worst. Having recently watched Good Luck Chuck, I would gladly add that one to the list as well. So here is the Razzie list:
Category: Worst leading actor.
Nominees: Eddie Murphy as Norbit in Norbit. Cuba Gooding Jr. in Daddy Day Camp. Nicholas Cage in Ghost Rider. Jim Carrey in The Number 23. And Adam Sandler in I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry.
Who should win: Nicholas Cage. Eddie Murphy was awful as Norbit, but we’ll get to him later. Adam Sandler was certainly bad in Chuck and Larry, but not Ghost Rider bad. Jim Carrey took a chance with the Number 23, and it failed miserably. And Gooding is just a bad actor. Always. He will never be good. But Nicholas Cage in blockbuster, big-budget movies, is the worst actor alive. He is fantastic in little, small-budget flicks (Leaving Las Vegas, Matchstick Men), but the bigger the budget, the more he sucks. Add to that the fact that he was especially bad in Ghost Rider, and you’ve got one of the worst of all time.
Who they missed: Seann William Scott in Mr. Woodcock.
Category: Worst leading actress.
Nominees: Lindsay Lohan as the stripper in I Know Who Killed Me. Lindsay Lohan as the clean-cut high school student in I Know Who Killed Me. The four female leads in Bratz. Jessica Alba in Good Luck Chuck, Awake and Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. Elisha Cuthbert in Captivity. And Diane Keaton in Because I Said So.
Who should win: Lindsay Lohan. For either role, but really the clean-cut student role is even more bizarre than the stripper one. One of the worst performances in movie history. Elisha Cuthbert was just in a bad movie, Diane Keaton had absolutely nothing to work with in Because I Said So, and Jessica Alba has always been useless as an actress. I was mercifully spared Bratz, but I can only assume that it had four of the worst-written female roles of the past decade. No matter how bad they were, they could not be Lindsay-Lohan-in-I-Know-Who-Killed-Me bad.
Who they missed: Ironically, they missed another Lindsay Lohan performance, this time in Georgia Rule.
Category: Worst supporting actor.
Nominees: Eddie Murphy as the old Chinese man in Norbit. Eddie Murphy as the fat lady in Norbit. Orlando Bloom in Pirates of the Carribean 3. Rob Schneider in I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry. And Jon Voight in Transformers, September Dawn, and National Treasure 2.
Who should win: Eddie Murphy. Although Orlando Bloom has been consistently awful in the Pirates movies, and I have not been able to understand how he gets cast in the roles he does, because he is so awful, it is more a mis-casting issue than it is a bad acting issue. Eddie Murphy cast himself, therefore he should know better. Both these roles are heinous and offensive, but the fat lady role is on the screen most often, therefore it is most offensive, therefore it is the worst. Jon Voight was irrelevant in his movies, and Rob Schneider is just bad always.
Who they missed: Dan Fogler in Good Luck Chuck.
Category: Worst supporting actress.
Nominees: Jessica Biel in Next and I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry. Carmen Electra in Epic Movie. Julia Ormond in I Know Who Killed Me. And Nicolette Sheridan in Code Name: The Cleaner.
Who should win: Jessica Biel. She is truly awful in I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry. In Next, she just has to deal with bad dialogue and a badly written character. In Chuck and Larry, her supposedly smart lawyer would have to be staggeringly stupid to do what she does. Carmen Electra is merely a passing character in Epic Movie, which makes her fairly irrelevant as a supporting actress.
Who they missed: Eva Mendes in Ghost Rider.
Category: Worst screen couple.
Nominees: Jessica Alba and Dane Cook in Good Luck Chuck. Jessica Alba and Hayden Christensen in Awake. Jessica Alba and Ioan Gruffudd in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. Any combination of Bratz characters. Lindsay Lohan and Lindsay Lohan as twins in I Know Who Killed Me. Eddie Murphy and Chinese Eddie Murphy in Norbit. Eddie Murphy and fat Eddie Murphy in Norbit. Adam Sandler and Kevin James in I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry. Adam Sandler and Jessica Biel in I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry.
Who should win: Jessica Alba and Ioan Gruffudd in the Fantastic Four are the most boring, irritating, and terribly unconvincing couple since Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom in Pirates of the Carribean.
Who they missed: Kiera Knightley and Orlando Bloom in Pirates of the Carribean 3. Also, Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst in Spiderman 3.
Category: Worst remake and/or rip-off.
Nominees: Are We Done Yet? (Rip-off of Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House.) Bratz (Remake of the TV show…I guess). Epic Movie (Rip-off of…everything). I Know Who Killed Me (rip-off of Saw, The Patty Duke Show, and Hostel). Who’s Your Caddy (rip-off of Caddyshack).
Who should win: Epic Movie. This movie does not just directly quote every movie it is supposedly spoofing, but it also offends every movie they even mention. Beginning to end, extremely horrible.
What they missed: Underdog.
Category: Worst prequel or sequel.
Nominees: Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem. Daddy Day Camp. Evan Almighty. Hannibal Rising. Hostel Part III.
Who should win: I’m so happy this category exists. In a lot of ways, the category honours the worst films that are sequels in what was already a fairly horrible series. Like Alien vs. Predator, Daddy Day Care, Hostel…In this case, Evan Almighty should win. Even though Bruce Almighty wasn’t the giant bomb that the others were, the sequel is a colossal waste of time. Yet it still had the temerity to call itself an “epic movie”. Garbage.
What they missed: Spiderman 3, Pirates of the Carribean 3…
Category: Worst director.
Nominees: Dennis Dugan (I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry). Roland Joffe (Captivity). Brian Robbins (Norbit). Fred Savage (Daddy Day Camp). Chris Siverston (I Know Who Killed Me).
Who should win: Chris Siverston. Roland Joffe just picked a genre that is almost impossible to do well. Brian Robbins I give the benefit of the doubt, and assume that Eddie Murphy was forcing all the action to suck. Dennis Dugan was given a dreadful script and a ridiculous concept. Chris Siverston could have done something with the crap he was given. Something. He could at the very least have coaxed a passible performance out of Lindsay Lohan. But he didn’t. He sucks.
Who they missed: Whoever directed Epic Movie. And frankly, I don’t care enough to look up who it was.
Category: Worst Screenplay.
Nominees: Daddy Day Camp, I Know Who Killed Me, I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, Epic Movie, Norbit.
Who should win: Epic Movie. The others were bad, sure, but Epic Movie didn’t even try to be funny. I could have written that screenplay in less than an hour. All you needed for this one was to have watched twenty movies. Ever. Then you just copy them. And add puke jokes. Sorry, not jokes. Just add puke.
What was missed: Good Luck Chuck.
Category: Worst excuse for a horror movie.
Nominees: Captivity. I Know Who Killed Me. Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem. Hannibal Rising. Hostel Part III.
Who should win: I Know Who Killed Me. It’s just so bad.
What they missed: Hallowe’en, the Rob Zombie remake.
Category: Worst picture.
Nominees: Bratz. Daddy Day Camp. Norbit. I Know Who Killed Me. I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry.
Who should win: Norbit comes awfully close, but I Know Who Killed Me is the worst movie in ten years.
Who they missed: Epic Movie.
There we go. That’s the most honest, complete list you will find at award season. The Oscar nominations are out today. I will do the same for the Oscars, although there will be more movies they missed and more performances that need to be acknowledged. Until then, avoid these movies!
Saturday, May 10th, 2008
I must say first, that this post is being created for more of an informative reason than for anything else. Although I have managed to suffer through just about every film nominated for a Golden Raspberry award, I have yet to see several of the Oscar nominees. Since my movie reviewing is confined largely to DVD viewing in the comfort of my own home, I have not yet seen Juno, No Country For Old Men, There Will Be Blood, Sweeny Todd, Michael Clayton, In The Valley of Elah, Into the Wild, Gone Baby Gone…and several others. Therefore, I am not qualified to comment on most of the categories. I have about two cents worth of opinions to add, but that’s it for now. Maybe in a few weeks, when I have seen everything, I will add to this post. Until then, for informative purposes, here are the nominees:
Category: Performance by an actor in a leading role.
Nominees: George Clooney in “Michael Clayton”. Daniel Day-Lewis in “There Will Be Blood”. Johnny Depp in “Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber of Fleet Street”. Tommy Lee Jones in “In the Valley of Elah”. Viggo Mortensen in “Eastern Promises”.
Who should win: I have seen only one of these performances. But I find it hard to believe anyone could have done a better job than Mortensen in Eastern Promises. The only one I could see beating this one is Daniel Day-Lewis, since he is always the best actor going, whenever he decides to work every five years.
Who was missed: I really think Russell Crowe deserved a spot here. Sure, 3:10 To Yuma was an action movie, a popcorn western, but he was absolutely electric. Also, his co-star in that movie, Christian Bale, certainly merited some consideration for Rescue Dawn. And Gordon Pinsent was fantastic in Away From Her.
Category: Performance by an actor in a supporting role.
Nominees: Casey Affleck in “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford”. Javier Bardem in “No Country for Old Men”. Philip Seymour Hoffman in “Charlie Wilson’s War”. Hal Holbrook in “Into the Wild”. Tom Wilkinson in “Michael Clayton”.
Who should win: Unfortunately, I haven’t seen any of these movies. I have no idea who should win. I do, however, have a sense that Javier Bardem will win, since he has the most hype on him and his movie is getting the most hype at the right time.
Who was missed: Steve Zahn in Rescue Dawn.
Category: Performance by an actress in a leading role.
Nominees: Cate Blanchett in “Elizabeth: The Golden Age”. Julie Christie in “Away from Her”. Marion Cotillard in “La Vie en Rose”. Laura Linney in “The Savages”. Ellen Page in “Juno”.
Who should win: Julie Christie. Her performance as an elderly lady afflicted with Alzheimers was both heartbreaking and realistic. The best acting role of her career.
Who was missed: Naomi Watts in Eastern Promises. Somehow, this sensational acting job got overlooked.
Category: Performance by an actress in a supporting role.
Nominees: Cate Blanchett in “I’m Not There”. Ruby Dee in “American Gangster”. Saoirse Ronan in “Atonement”. Amy Ryan in “Gone Baby Gone”. Tilda Swinton in “Michael Clayton”.
Who should win: Again, I don’t know. I have not yet seen any of these. Based on the buzz and the nature of the role, I would put my money on Saoirse Ronan.
Who was missed: Christina Ricci…Black Snake Moan…yeah. OK, she wasn’t a supporting actress, I just wanted to mention her. This is a pretty thin category this year.
Category: Best animated feature film of the year.
Nominees: “Persepolis”. “Ratatouille”. “Surf’s Up”.
Who should win: Ratatouille is the best kids’ animated movie of the last five years. Surf’s Up was cute, but not that good, and Persepolis is fantastic but won’t appeal to enough voters. Why only three nominees each year in this category? Maybe because there are only six movies that qualify every year. And if you didn’t cut it off somewhere, you would have to include huge bombs like Happily N’Ever After.
Who was missed: Well…nothing. There were only two great animated movies made this year.
Category: Achievement in art direction.
Nominees: “American Gangster”. “Atonement”. “The Golden Compass”. “Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber of Fleet Street”. “There Will Be Blood”.
Who should win: Ummm…who cares? When was the last time you rented a movie because it had “Oscar Winner – Best Art Direction” on the DVD case?
Who was missed: Again, who cares?
Category: Achievement in cinematography.
Nominees: “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford”. “Atonement”. “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”. “No Country for Old Men”. “There Will Be Blood”.
Who should win: I don’t know. Still haven’t seen any of them.
Who was missed: Rescue Dawn.
Category: Achievement in costume design.
Nominees: “Across the Universe”. “Atonement”. “Elizabeth: The Golden Age”. “La Vie en Rose”. “Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber of Fleet Street”
Who should win: I don’t know.
Who was missed: No one, really. This is a category that really honours “best period piece”, and there haven’t been that many great ones this year.
Category: Achievement in directing.
Nominees: “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”, Julian Schnabel. “Juno”, Jason Reitman. “Michael Clayton”, Tony Gilroy. “No Country for Old Men”, Joel Coen and Ethan Coen. “There Will Be Blood”, Paul Thomas Anderson.
Who should win: It seems likely that the Coen Brothers will win this one. Hollywood loves them, and they were pretty well shut out for their previous masterpiece, Fargo. (They did get a screenwriting Oscar for it, but no direction or best picture or anything else it deserved.)
Who was missed: David Cronenberg. For the second straight year he was not even nominated for yet another masterpiece. Mortensen got his best actor nomination as a “sorry we missed you last year”, why not Cronenberg too? I would also have liked to see Sarah Polley get a nomination for Away From Her.
Category: Best documentary feature.
Nominees: “No End in Sight”. “Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience”. “Sicko”. “Taxi to the Dark Side”. “War/Dance”.
Who should win: No End in Sight was a fantastic look at the mismanagement of the war in Iraq. It would be ironic if Oscar didn’t honour Michael Moore this year, because he is “too political”. And this one won instead. But it shouldn’t. Sicko was the best documentary of the year, and Moore will always be able to make the most informative and entertaining documentaries out there.
Who was missed: The Ralph Nader doc, An Unreasonable Man.
Category: Best documentary short subject.
Nominees: “Freeheld”. “La Corona (The Crown)”. “Salim Baba”. “Sari’s Mother”.
Who should win: Has anyone seen any of these? Will anyone see them? If a tree falls in the forest…and a movie wins an Oscar but no one ever sees it, do you still get a trophy?
Who was missed: How would anyone know?
Category: Achievement in film editing.
Nominees: “The Bourne Ultimatum”. “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”. “Into the Wild”. “No Country for Old Men”. “There Will Be Blood”.
Who should win: This is a category only other film editors will care about. I should leave the choice up to them, because I assume the rest of us won’t care.
Who was missed: I’ll leave this up to the film editors as well.
Category: Best foreign language film of the year.
Nominees: “Beaufort” Israel, “The Counterfeiters” Austria, “Katyn” Poland, “Mongol” Kazakhstan, “12″ Russia.
Who should win: No idea. I have seen none of these films, and I have rented every foregin film to come through my local video store.
Who was missed: The Host (Korea).
Category: Achievement in makeup.
Nominees: “La Vie en Rose” (Picturehouse) Didier Lavergne and Jan Archibald “Norbit” (DreamWorks, Distributed by Paramount): Rick Baker and Kazuhiro Tsuji “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” (Walt Disney): Ve Neill and Martin Samuel.
Who should win: I’m sure we’ll all be huddled around our TVs on Oscar night with bated breath waiting on the results of this one. Norbit? Pirates 3? Oh God, who cares?
Who was missed: La Vie En Rose was a good movie. What’s it doing in the “worst of the year” category?
Category: Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original score).
Nominees: “Atonement” (Focus Features) Dario Marianelli “The Kite Runner” (DreamWorks, Sidney Kimmel Entertainment and Participant Productions, Distributed by Paramount Classics): Alberto Iglesias “Michael Clayton” (Warner Bros.) James Newton Howard “Ratatouille” (Walt Disney) Michael Giacchino “3:10 to Yuma” (Lionsgate) Marco Beltrami.
Who should win: 3:10 to Yuma. The score was perfect – a throwback to the old western Morricone-style soundtracks, never invasive, and always moving the action forward.
What was missed: Sunshine.
Category: Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song).
Nominees: “Falling Slowly” from “Once” (Fox Searchlight) Music and Lyric by Glen Hansard and: Marketa Irglova “Happy Working Song” from “Enchanted” (Walt Disney): Music by Alan Menken; Lyric by Stephen Schwartz “Raise It Up” from “August Rush” (Warner Bros.): Nominees to be determined “So Close” from “Enchanted” (Walt Disney): Music by Alan Menken; Lyric by Stephen Schwartz “That’s How You Know” from “Enchanted” (Walt Disney): Music by Alan Menken; Lyric by Stephen Schwartz.
Who should win: Once. The song is great, the movie is terrific. The others I haven’t seen.
What was missed: I don’t know. Can’t be much, if Enchanted has eleven songs in here.
Category: Best motion picture of the year.
Nominees: “Atonement”. “Juno”. “Michael Clayton”. “No Country for Old Men”. “There Will Be Blood”.
Who should win: According to most, No Country For Old Men ought to be the favourite. Juno is this year’s Little Miss Sunshine, and those rarely get real consideration for best picture. Michael Clayton will go the way of the other George Clooney movies of recent years – Syriana, Good Night and Good Luck, and it will not be a winner.
What was missed: Eastern Promises and The Hunting Party.
Category: Best animated short film.
Nominees: “I Met the Walrus”. “Madame Tutli-Putli”. “Même Les Pigeons Vont au Paradis (Even Pigeons Go to Heaven)”. “My Love (Moya Lyubov)”. “Peter & the Wolf”.
Who should win: Again, who has seen these? And therefore, who cares?
What was missed: Umm…same question.
Category: Best live action short film.
Nominees: “At Night”. “Il Supplente (The Substitute)”. “Le Mozart des Pickpockets (The Mozart of Pickpockets)”. “Tanghi Argentini”. “The Tonto Woman”.
Who should win: Again, who cares?
What was missed: An opportunity to create the category “best films seen only by friends and family”.
Category: Achievement in sound editing.
Nominees: “The Bourne Ultimatum”. “No Country for Old Men”. “Ratatouille”. “There Will Be Blood”. “Transformers”.
Who should win: Let’s give it to the Bourne Ultimatum. They deserve something for making a really good movie. And four, maybe five more people will rent the movie if it has this Oscar.
What was missed: Another twenty minutes of our life that we could have spent reading instead of watching an insipid Oscar telecast.
Category: Achievement in sound mixing.
Nominees: “The Bourne Ultimatum”. “No Country for Old Men”. “Ratatouille”. “3:10 to Yuma”. “Transformers”.
Who should win: Apparently, this is not the same category as sound editing. For some reason. Let’s give this one to 3:10 to Yuma. They deserve some Oscars too.
What was missed: The difference between sound mixing and sound editing.
Category: Achievement in visual effects.
Nominees: “The Golden Compass”. “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End”. “Transformers”.
Who should win: This is really an award for “biggest budget”. So, Pirates, I guess.
What was missed: Other crap. Like Ghost Rider.
Category: Adapted screenplay.
Nominees: “Atonement”. “Away from Her”. “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”. “No Country for Old Men”. “There Will Be Blood”.
Who should win: Sarah Polley for Away From Her. No Country For Old Men (I just read the book) is already pretty easily set up for the screen. Away From Her would have taken an enormous effort and a lot of intelligence to adapt to a screen version.
What was missed: Eastern Promises.
Category: Original screenplay.
Nominees: “Juno”. “Lars and the Real Girl”. “Michael Clayton”. “Ratatouille”. “The Savages”.
Who should win: Ratatouille. Writing a screenplay that is both intelligent AND appeals to kids might be the toughest thing to do, especially when you can make a kids’ movie with no intelligence and almost no effort at all. Ratatouille deserves serious credit here.
What was overlooked: The Lookout.
That’s it, in alphabetical order. I will revisit this a few times as I actually watch the movies that have been nominated. This is more than I can say for many of the Academy voters, which is why I still consider the Golden Raspberries to be more honest and accurate representations of moviedom.
Saturday, May 10th, 2008
It took me a while to warm up to Heath Ledger. He threw me off early as the latest Hollywood pretty-boy, with films like Ten Things I Hate About You and A Knight’s tale, but over time I grew to appreciate his talents. It’s awfully sad that, at age 28, he died in his prime, as he was making a case for being one of the best new actors in the world. Here are five Heath Ledger movies that are well worth watching:
5. The Patriot. Ledger plays Mel Gibson’s son, in this civil war version of Braveheart. Not a great movie, but there are some seriously great scenes, like the one where the cannonball takes that guy’s head off (best seen in HD) and the scene where Gibson rescues Ledger from a group of soldiers as though he were Rambo.
4. The Brothers Grimm. Ledger and Matt Damon play the title characters in a bizarre but often entertaining take on the fables that made the Brothers Grimm popular. They go from town to town as hucksters, pretending to rid towns of evil spirits and ogres and goblins and so forth, until of course they run into a real evil spirit. Again, not a great movie, but some solid moments.
3. A Knight’s Tale. Mostly lame movie with a fine performance by Ledger as a young, poor nobody who wants to ascend to the top of the world through jousting. A fine classic rock soundtrack and the gorgeous Shannyn Sossamon make the movie more bearable, but Ledger somehow rises above most of the cheesy teen-movie type dialogue and scenarios to show that he is a fine actor.
2. Candy. A harsh, freaky story about two junkies who are addicted to heroin. Abby Cornish is also great in this one, and Ledger gives the finest performance of his career as Dan, a poet who can’t separate his love for heroin from his love for Candy (Cornish). Geoffrey Rush is terrific as the man who both enables the couple by providing them with the drugs, and then tries to help them when it is obviously too late.
1. Monster’s Ball. Not Ledger’s best performance, but the best movie he in which he appeared. Halle Berry’s best performance, however, and Billy Bob Thornton does some excellent work as well. Ledger plays his son, and the hatred between the two causes some serious tension and great dramatic moments.
Not included are Brokeback Mountain, which was overrated, and Ten Things I Hate About You, Ledger’s first starring role, because it was dreadful. Also good: Ned Kelly and Lords of Dogtown.
Saturday, May 10th, 2008
The Screen Actors Guild, or SAG, is very often a more accurate representation of true acting prowess than are the Oscars, and they have announced the recipients of their annual awards. The reason they tend to be more accurate is that it is actors nominating and voting on actors. And who should know better than your contemporaries and peers? Although one wonders if it is only serious actors who are allowed to vote, and whether Rob Schneider and his ilk have a part to play here as well. Which would be kind of like Eddie “1/8″ Gaedel being asked to pick the greatest baseball player of his era. I assume many of you are unfamiliar with Eddie Gaedel. If you really want to look up my obscure reference, check it out here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eddie_Gaedel . Anyway, I have culled the list down to only those categories I care about. Because otherwise I will spend a lot of time irritating myself.
Category: Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role
Nominees: GEORGE CLOONEY / Michael Clayton – “Michael Clayton”, DANIEL DAY-LEWIS / Daniel Plainview – “There Will Be Blood”, RYAN GOSLING / Lars Lindstrom – “Lars And The Real Girl”, EMILE HIRSCH / Christopher McCandless– “Into The Wild”, VIGGO MORTENSEN / Nikolai – “Eastern Promises”
Winner: Daniel Day Lewis.
Verdict: The more I hear about There Will Be Blood, the more I want to see it. Daniel Day Lewis is like the modern Marlon Brando – he takes a movie once every five years, and every time he does, he’s the best actor on Earth. Apparently for his role as Bill The Butcher in the Scorcese flick Gangs of New York, he actually spent time learning how to butcher meat with a real butcher. That’s dedication to one’s craft, especially once you see the movie and you think “why would he bother doing that for such a small part of his role?” I think he’s likely a shoo-in for the Oscar and whatever else there is to grab this year.
Category: Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role
Nominees: CATE BLANCHETT / Queen Elizabeth I – “Elizabeth: The Golden Age”, JULIE CHRISTIE / Fiona – “Away From Her”, MARION COTILLARD / Edith Piaf – “La Vie En Rose”, ANGELINA JOLIE / Mariane Pearl – “A Mighty Heart”, ELLEN PAGE / Juno MacGuff – “Juno”.
Winner: Julie Christie.
Verdict: Well deserved. Julie Christie really did give the best performance of the year as an alzheimer’s patient in Away From Her. Gordon Pinsent seems to have been shut out of all the best actor categories in all the award shows though, and I thought he did as good a job as Christie in this film. I would have liked to see Naomi Watts nominated here also, for Eastern Promises. She was fantastic.
Category: Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role
Nominees: CASEY AFFLECK / Robert Ford – “The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford”, JAVIER BARDEM / Anton Chigurh – “No Country For Old Men”, HAL HOLBROOK / Ron Franz – “Into The Wild”, TOMMY LEE JONES / Ed Tom Bell – “No Country For Old Men”, TOM WILKINSON / Arthur Edens – “Michael Clayton”.
Winner: Javier Bardem.
Verdict: I would really have liked to see Armin Mueller-Stahl nominated for Eastern Promises, and I would also have liked to see him win. Javier Bardem seems to have all the buzz around him, and I expect he will win at Oscar time also. I will hold off judgement until I see No Countr For Old Men. Which is next on my to-do list.
Category: Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role
Nominees: CATE BLANCHETT / Jude – “I’m Not There”, RUBY DEE / Mama Lucas – “American Gangster”, CATHERINE KEENER / Jan Burres – “Into The Wild”, AMY RYAN / Helene McCready – “Gone Baby Gone”, TILDA SWINTON / Karen Crowder – “Michael Clayton”.
Winner: Ruby Dee.
Verdict: Once again, comedies are under-represented in the major acting awards. You just can’t be funny AND really good. Although I would have liked to see some love for McLovin, or for Paul Rudd in Knocked Up. Even Katherine Heigl could have merited consideration for that one. Oh, right. This category. Ruby Dee was terrific in American Gangster, but she was so overshadower by Denzel, and he was not nominated anywhere. Maybe because he already got his gangster Oscar for Training Day. I think this was a pretty weak category this year.
Category: Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
Nominees: 3:10 to Yuma, American Gangster, Hairspray, Into the Wild, No Country For Old Men.
Winner: No Country For Old Men.
Verdict: No quibbles with the choice of the winner, but these nominations? Come on. Hairspray? John Travolta in a fat suit? No. 3:10 to Yuma? No. There were two great actors in that movie, Crowe and Bale, and that’s it. Even Peter Fonda was a little cartoonish. American Gangster yes. Fantastic cast. But where was Eastern Promises? I don’t think I have seen such a solid cast in a long time.
That’s it for the movie stuff. The rest was all TV, and I just didn’t watch enough TV to care. But I had to add these next two categories in, just for sheer amazement factor:
Best stunt ensemble for a TV series: 24. Here are the stunt men and women:
* Stunt Coordinator
Best stunt ensemble for a motion picture: The Bourne Ultimatum. Here are the stunt men and women:
My Rachid Abbad
Brian Keith Allen
Roy T. Anderson
Luis Miguel Arranz
George Colucci, Jr.
Benito Benitez Crespo
Eugenio Jimenez Cubillo
J. Patrick Daily
Juan Carlos Delgado
George R. Doering Iii
Cort Hessler Iii
Donald J. Hewitt
Don Hewitt, Sr.
John E. Mack
Milesy (Peter) Miles
Brian Sonny Nickels
Jesus Silva Pascasio
Ignacio Garcia J. Sanchis
Craig “Frosty” Silva
Tony Van Silva
Peter B. Simpson
Alberto Zapata Tatje
Donna C. Williams
Saturday, May 10th, 2008
The Genie Awards celebrate what is best in this year’s Canadian film. Much like Canadian music regulations, a lot of criteria must be met in order to consider a film “Canadian”. Juno, the surprise hit of this year, was directed by a Canadian, starred Canadians, and was, for the most part, filmed in Canada. However, the financing came from an American company, and therefore it would likely not be eligible for any Genie awards. It was not submitted this year, most likely because it was known that it would have been turned down. But there were still some major films who were allowed in. Eastern Promises, Away From Her, Shake Hands With The Devil, and so forth. But here is the biggest problem I have. If we are celebrating all that is Canadian, why don’t we simply do…that? For example:
Best director nominees: David Cronenberg (Eastern Promises), Denys Arcand (Days of Darkness), Roger Spottiswoode (Shake Hands With The Devil), Sarah Polley (Away From Her), and Bruce McDonald (The Tracey Fragments). OK. All great Canadians, all great nominees. But wouldn’t this list look better were Jason Reitman, son of Canadian legend Ivan Reitman, on it for Juno? Best actor nominees: Claude Legauly (3 Little Pigs), Gordon Pinsent (Away From Her), Marc Labreche (Days of Darkness), Roy Dupuis (Shake Hands With The Devil), and Viggo Mortensen (Eastern Promises). Wait! Viggo Mortensen is American. So…how did he get in there? Well, he was in a film (about the Russian mafia in London) that qualified as Canadian. To take nothing away from Mortensen – his was the best performance I have seen all year – where is Ryan Gosling in Lars and the Real Girl? Well, that FILM wasn’t Canadian, even though Gosling is. So, you get an American actor nominated in the Canadian film awards, and he will likely win, taking away a richly deserved Genie from Gordon Pinsent.
Supporting actor nominees include Armin Mueller Stahl (who I think should get the Oscar) and Danny Glover. Mueller-Stahl is German, Glover is from San Francisco. And here is the problem. Frankly, I don’t care who is from Canada and who isn’t. I just want to watch the best performances by the best actors and best directors, regardless of their origins. But if the Genies want to be so fiercely pro-Canadian, why not do away with the rules, for the most part, and honour the Goslings, Reitmans, and James Camerons of the world when they do somthing great? Sure, keep your rules in place for the best picture award. That’s an overall award, and I can understand some sort of regulation there. But why leave out fine directors, fine actors, fine cinematographers simply because they worked on a film that was financed by, say, MGM or Fox, and not Rogers or Jean Coutu? Then the Genies would go to the truly deserving. Like Jim Carrey in the Number 23…or Pamela Anderson in Borat…or…never mind.
Saturday, May 10th, 2008
Once is a film I watched yesterday, as my girlfriend lay around sick after she got home from work. I wanted to watch 12:08 East Of Bucharest, but she was not awake or feeling well enough to pay attention to subtitles. Which was fine. Once was in English. Only, once it began, I still needed to put on subtitles until I got used to the accents and the Irish brogue. Since most of the movie is music, the subtitles became fairly funny. There would be instrumental parts that still, apparently, needed subtitles, so the screen would say “note note”. Well, it would have little pictures of musical notes, but I can’t find that emoticon. I suppose this was for the hearing impaired who may watch the film. My advice here is that this film is NOT good for the hearing impaired. Most of it is music, and it’s the music that carries the movie. The main character is played by Glen Hansard, the vocalist and guitarist for the Irish rock group, The Flames.
The Flames must be very good, and I plan to pick up one of their albums to find out, because Hansard is fantastic in this movie. Not just as a musician and singer and songwriter, but as an actor as well. He is effortlessly charming, and totally believable as a man hurt by a former lover. His co-star, Marketa Irglova, is terrific also, and the chemistry between the two is palpable. Once is as simple as movies get. There is a connection between two people, they come together through music, and they do some stuff. That’s it. There really is nothing more to the film, and the songs aren’t Bob Dylan-earth-shattering material. But the songs are perfect for the film in that they are simple, they drive the story on their own, and the movie gives them plenty of time to be felt. Each of the songs in Once is very good, and each one is given it’s full three minutes of screen time, in what could easily have been cheesy Patrick-Swayze-on-the-beach-type 80s montages. But they aren’t. It’s the simplicity of the shots along with the simplicity of the music that works. There is one long tracking shot of Iglova walking down the street for four minutes while the song plays. And it really works.
The ending frustrated my girlfriend a bit, but then, so did the rest of the movie. I give her a pass on that one, she’s sick. The film is so full of goodwill, it’s so charming and heartwarming, that no healthy person could really hate it. For those of you who have seen Lost in Translation, Once is as close to that film in tone as any other. It is not as good, but few films are. It is funny, it’s sweet, and it’s immensely enjoyable without resorting to the big finale where they record an album and land a gig, and then the screen fades out as they play Wembley Stadium or anything pretentious like that. There is also none of that irritating will-they-or-won’t-they get together garbage that comes from sitcoms like Friends and such. It just is what it is, and what it is is terrific.