Archive for the ‘Administrative stuff’ Category
Monday, October 4th, 2010
The Exorcist is obviously the greatest horror movie ever made. And it will be in theatres, one night only, on Hallowe’en, to raise funds for Operation Come Home. OCH gets the money only if you buy the tickets in advance, so please do! October 31st, Bytowne theatre downtown, 10 bucks in advance. The deadline is October 27th to buy advance tickets, just call Karine at 613-230-4663 or email email@example.com Thanks!
Thursday, July 9th, 2009
In honour of CHEZ 106 declaring Wednesday, July 15th to be Shannon Tweed Day, Cynical Cinema felt as though a tribute may well be in order. For a tribute with pictures, click here. For the official proclamation click here. And for a genuine cinematic tribute to one of the most familiar faces and figures in movie history, please scroll down.
Shannon Tweed was a revelation in the softcore movie business more for her longevity than for anything else. Admittedly, her flawless face and formidable figure contributed greatly to her success, but there have been thousands of Playboy models who have shown up in a movie or two, taken their kit off and then disappeared into the ether, never to be heard from again. Tweed lasted (and is still lasting) a very long time in a business that does not see people last a very long time. Here’s why:
Meatballs III (1987): An utterly stupid soft-core film that was the first chance most people had to see Shannon Tweed in all her glory as The Love Goddess. Which was a fitting title. The movie was about porn stars, St. Peter and naked Sally Kellerman. Remember Sally Kellerman? No. Me either. That’s why Shannon Tweed is remarkable.
Cannibal Women In The Avocado Jungle of Death (1989): Actually a pretty good, fun, tongue in cheek film about an avocado shortage and a bunch of naked hotties. Also stars Karen Mistal and Bill Maher. We remember Bill Maher. Not Karen Mistal. And we remember Shannon Tweed most of all, in this case for her ability not to take herself seriously at all.
Hot Dog! The Movie (1983): One of her earliest appearances, I remember catching this one on late-night TV when I was about 12. She seduced a young ski-hotshot in a hot tub to the sounds of Duran Duran’s Hungry Like The Wolf. For about three weeks after that, it was my favourite song. I have moved past my Duran Duran phase since then, but not my Shannon Tweed phase.
Possessed By The Night (1994): An above average sex-thriller that introduced me to the notion that – wait! Shannon Tweed can act? Maybe that’s why she’s lasted so long.
Detroit Rock City (1999): Of course, she appeared in this movie because she’s with Gene Simmons, and it’s all about KISS, but it was a lot of fun. And the scene where she takes the virginity of a young KISS fan is, really, a dream come true for just about any young KISS fan, isn’t it?
Dead Sexy (2000): The last really big movie of Tweed’s career, she executive produced it and acted in it as well. Not a great film, but pretty representative of the genre – and she is still one of the hottest women alive.
Thursday, July 2nd, 2009
This is me typing stuff along the side of the screen because for some reason I can’t put a picture up here and hit “enter” and move the rest of the text down.
A lot of superstars and celebrities have died lately. Some have been huge (Michael Jackson, Ed McMahon), some have been decidedly minor (Billy Mays). None of the passings have been such that Cynical Cinema would do a tribute – even Farrah Fawcett really did only one truly worthwhile movie, and The Burning Bed was really just one in a pretty forgettable string of made-for-TV movies. But the passing of Karl Malden today at the age of 97 bears more than just a passing mention. One of my all time favourite actors, Malden was one of the most underrated and unsung actors in Hollywood history.
The reason for this is mostly that he was constantly playing the second banana. Not just in his biggest movies (Patton, A Streetcar Named Desire), but also in many more forgettable movies. He acted opposite Steve McQueen in Nevada Smith and The Cincinnati Kid. He was billed, like, fortieth, for How The West Was Won after the likes of John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, Spencer Tracy, Debbie Reynolds, Gregory Peck, Richard Widmark, Henry Fonda and dozens of others. He was second banana to Marlon Brando in On The Waterfront and One-Eyed Jacks, and to Burt Lancaster in Birdman of Alcatraz.
Malden starred in many of the greatest movies of all time, went on to a career in television, and then became a TV pitchman for American Express, among other things…celebrity deaths do always come in threes, and so Malden actually completes the McMahon-Mays-Malden trifecta. But I certainly hope he is remembered for more than being a pitchman. I hope he is remembered for the following performances:
Streets of San Francisco: Malden, as he so often did, played second-fiddle in this 1970s TV crime series, this time to Michael Douglas. One of the classic television programs, Malden is terrific, and this show was one of the last truly great things he did.
Kiss of Death: Starring Victor Mature and Richard Widmark, and featuring one of the creepiest scenes in movies where Widmark, giggling, pushes a wheelchair-bound old lady down a flight of stairs. The best performance of Mature’s career, Widmark’s screen debut, and oh yeah - Malden was in there too, doing a great job as Sgt. William Cullen.
A Streetcar Named Desire: Malden won an Oscar (supporting actor, of course) for his performance opposite Marlon Brando as Stanley Kowalski’s best friend Mitch. Of course, Brando’s performance as Stanley has gone down in movie history as one of the greatest of all time. But he didn’t win the Oscar. Malden did.
The Cincinnati Kid: Malden is wonderful as Steve McQueen’s mentor, the same basic role George C. Scott played opposite Paul Newman in The Hustler. The best poker movie ever, and one of Malden’s most underrated performances.
Patton: Once again, Malden is easily forgotten because once again, he was in a movie that featured one of the greatest acting performances in movie history. In this case, it was George C. Scott with his career-defining performance as General George Patton. One of my favourite movies of all time, and also I think Malden’s best performance. As General Omar Bradley, the level-headed yin to Patton’s firey yang, Malden is a big part of what makes Scott’s performance so great.
On The Waterfront: Malden’s performance in this movie is actually not quite as good as the others. His character, Father Barry, is actually a little bit heavy-handed and sometimes the whole thing seems silly because of it. However, this is without a doubt the best movie in which Malden ever appeared, and features the greatest acting performance of all time, that of Marlon Brando as ex-boxer Terry Malloy.
There are other movies well worth checking out. One-Eyed Jacks, where Malden starred, once again, opposite Brando is an underrated classic western (directed by Brando himself). How The West Was Won has perhaps the greatest overall massive cast of any movie ever made. Birdman of Alcatraz remains a powerful true story on film, and Fear Strikes Out is worthwhile as well. In every movie and TV show he made, Malden was able to disappear into his role to a degree rarely seen in other actors. Unfortunately, this sometimes made it seem as though he disappeared altogether, in the eyes of critics and the public. Here’s hoping people will check out his work again.
Malden had a career that would be the envy of just about any actor who ever lived. He was never a superstar, but he was always magnificent. He died of natural causes, at the age of 97. He will be missed.
Tuesday, April 14th, 2009
Today saw the tragic passing, at the age of 56, of iconic actress Marilyn Chambers. A Cynical Cinema tribute:
Genie results, a rundown, comparisons with my predictions, and things that make me angry. A very long article.
Sunday, April 5th, 2009
I have just returned from the Genie awards at the Canadian Aviation Museum. I did a very foolish thing yesterday, and in working out with far too much weight for my sadly puny muscles, I threw out my back rather badly. And running to the Genies after standing for four hours doing a live commercial at Gearhead for work was painful, to say the least. By the time I had a chance to interview a few people on the red carpet before the show began, I was in excruciating pain. So the two interviews I got were weak at best. One of those interviews was more for the radio station (George Strombolopolous about the Tragically Hip), so I won’t post it here.
The one I will post (once I can when I get into work on Monday) is a brief one with Sarah Polley, who is magnificent in person. I spoke to her for about sixty seconds. You see, there was a massive lineup of reporters and media people waiting to talk to each celeb, and I was pretty much the last person in line. I was standing next to a lovely lady named Penny from the Manor Park Chronicle. She was calling people over and talking their ears off – some of them were very funny, and very interesting, but I didn’t know, for the most part, who they were. There was a media liason woman coming down the line in front of the celebrities and honorees telling us who they were and what they were doing there. But sometimes she would forget, and we would have to ask people “who are you?” Which is always a little embarassing.
Richie Mehta, director of Amal, was terrific. He is a very young guy (no relation to Deepa) who created his first feature film almost entirely in India. It is technically Canadian, in that Mehta works out of Toronto, but many of the best Canadian movies of the past few years (thanks to the two unrelated Mehtas) have come from India as much as they have from our fair country. But I haven’t seen Amal. So I had little to discuss with him. I also have not seen The Necessities of Life. So there was little to say to the people from that movie other than that garbage “who dressed you this morning” and “what’s next for you” kind of crap that would make me want to punch myself.
So I bided my time, waiting for the few people I wanted to interview. I really wanted to meet and talk to Yves-Christian Fournier, who directed my favourite Canadian movie of the year, Tout Est Parfait. I was hoping to talk to Paul Gross, even though I didn’t like Passchendaele, simply because he appeared to care so much about the movie and I am glad he made it. Even though it sucked. I also wanted to talk to people who were involved in Maman Est Chez Le Coiffeur, Fugitive Pieces, and My Winnipeg. However, no one involved with any of those movies came by. No one from Tout Est Parfait. No one from My Winnipeg. No Paul Gross. No Fugitive Pieces or Maman Est Chez Le Coiffeur.
And in the end, the only person in whom I had any interest at all was Sarah Polley. In terms of an interview, that is. I shook Gordon Pinsent’s hand, because he is a wonderful man and a terrific actor, but he’s a presenter this year. I have nothing to talk to him about. I shook Callum Keith Rennie’s hand, and I actually had some things to ask him, but he breathed booze in my face, irritatedly posed for a picture from some woman who pushed me aside, then said “I’m out” and walked off. Dave Foley was funny as he came by, but again I have no real questions to ask him. Other than “did you just agree to do the Genies on Tuesday? Because otherwise, why was this such a big secret? Are the Genies hiding from the world?”
Kristin Booth was a breath of fresh air, clearly having a blast on the carpet, and I thought I would talk to her, but she was quickly whisked away and I missed my chance. Sarah Polley was last, and I was the very last person on the carpet, so I tried to talk to her. I began an interview in which I had about four minutes worth of questions, but the guy in charge came up and waved his arms at me behind her, telling me to wrap it up after about thirty seconds. So I got one quarter of one interview with Sarah Polley. Super. Then I went backstage with the rest of the media, where we could watch the whole thing in real time on television.
The idea there is that the winners come out and we get to interview them fresh off their wins. But I already had the list of the winners in front of me, and other than Kristen Booth and Dr. Shiva, I didn’t much care about any of them. After now six hours of standing with a destroyed back, I couldn’t handle it any more and I went home. Watched the show on TV, already knowing who the winners were.
Sidebar – watching on TV made me really annoyed at one point, as Chloe Bourgeois, one of the stars of Tout Est Parfait, went up on stage to present an award. I recognized her! From the red carpet! She had been there, and I missed my chance to talk to her! See, here’s what happened. First of all, when these actors and actresses are dressed up and made up for the awards, they don’t really look like they do on the screen. So you don’t recognize them immediately, or in the case of Bourgeois, at all. See, she showed up to the awards with a friend. This Quebecois rapper named Biz. He came in wearing a giant fur coat, and dressed in a ludicrous manner that made him the center of attention. Everyone flocked to him, although I had no idea who he was. And we all assumed that he was the star walking down the carpet, and that she was his date. Nope. Turns out they aren’t together at all, they are just friends, and she was the attraction. While he was getting his picture taken with a series of weirdos, like Ottawa mayor Larry O’Brien (picture coming soon, I hope), she stood meekly off to the side. I had no interest in this Biz guy, and so I was standing off to the side with her. I even said a few words to her, in broken French as best I could. And only three hours later did I realize that she was in fact one of the people I really, really wanted to talk to. In fact, maybe the only one on the red carpet.
At any rate. Back to the winners. Here is a list, complete with my original predictions, and how well I did. Here goes:
Art Direction: Passchendaele. My prediction: Passchendaele. I’m right! I figured this movie would clean up on all the minnor awards (like this one) for which it was nominated. So far so good…
Cinematography: Fugitive Pieces. My prediction: Fugitive Pieces. This movie really deserved this award. Every frame is stunning. OK, two-for-two!
Costume Design: Passchendaele. My prediction: Passchendaele. Again, it was almost a guarantee that it would sweep the minor awards for which it was nominated. After all, it’s the only Canadian movie the world has heard of this year. Three-for-three!
Direction: The Necessities of Life, Benoit Pilon. My prediction: Tout Est Parfait, Yves-Christian Fournier. OK. First one I got wrong. I think the biggest mistake I made this year was not seeking out The Necessities of Life at all costs. I have not seen the movie, but it’s about time that I do. Three-for-four!
Editing: The Necessities of Life. My prediction: Maman Est Chez Le Coiffeur. Although this is a category that no one cares about, and my prediction was made just to give some love to Maman Est Chez Le Coiffeur, I was still wrong. Three-for five…I’m losing it a little now…
Music, original score: The Stone Angel. My prediction: Emotional Arithmetic. Well, I’m evened out now. Of course, all these awards would have gone to Passchendaele had it been nominated…frankly, I really don’t remember the score from The Stone Angel. Which means it probably wasn’t specifically bad, at least…three-for-six.
Music, original song: Amal, Rahi Nagufta, Dr. Shiva. My prediction: Tout Est Parfait, M’Accrocher. I remembered the song from Tout Est Parfait, so I picked it, but I had not seen Amal. Still haven’t. This one makes me happy though – I talked to Dr. Shiva on the red carpet, and he was the chillest dude in the world. An Indian musician, he was there with his wife, who is a professional singer, and they were about the most charming couple in the whole place. I’m three-for-seven, or 3-4 now.
Overall sound: Passchendaele. My prediction: Passchendaele. Why not? All the minor awards, of course…what does “overall sound” mean anyway? There is already a score, and a song…does this go to the movie with the best crickets-in-the-background sound effect? Come on. Anyway, I am back to .500, at 4-4.
Sound editing: Passchendaele. My prediction: Passchendaele. Like shooting fish in a barrel…I’m now above .500! 5-4!
Adapted screenplay: Borderline, Marie-Sissi Labreche, Lyne Charlebois. My prediction: Fugitive Pieces. I have not seen Borderline. But it must have been good if it was better than Fugitive Pieces. Well, then again, it’s the Genies, and I have little confidence in the process. Read on to find out why…I’m back to .500. 5-5.
Best animated short: Sleeping Betty. I made no prediction here, since I had seen none of the three nominees. I remain at .500.
Best documentary: Up the Yangtze. My prediction: My Winnipeg. Well, My Winnipeg wasn’t really a documentary. So, whatever. On the plus side, this was presented by Kevin Newman, and I had the best time talking to him on the red carpet. He has appeared on the Doc & Woody show before, and we had a solid conversation about the fun times going on at the Elmdale Tavern. I am now 5-6. Come on, big awards! Help me out!
Best live action short drama: Next Floor. I, once again, didn’t make a prediction here. I had not seen the three nominees.
Best picture: Passchendaele. My prediction: Tout Est Parfait. Frankly, I am stunned. Passchendaele just wasn’t very good at all. And Tout Est Parfait was magnificent in comparison. I would have picked any of the other four movies in the category over this one. What’s going on? Well, it’s the only movie people watching the show are likely to have watched, and I assume that the Genie people assumed Paul Gross would be there to pick it up in person…but it’s the Genies, so he wasn’t…I am now 5-7.
Original screenplay: The Necessities of Life. My prediction: Tout Est Parfait. Tout Est Parfait had a great screenplay. I really should have watched The Necessities of Life. 5-8.
Best actor: The Necessities of Life, Natar Ungalaaq. My prediction: Emotional Arithmetic, Christopher Plummer. I figured the Genie folk would want to reward a Canadian acting icon late in his life, as they did last year with Gordon Pinsent. Then again, Pinsent deserved it more last year. And I still haven’t seen this movie. 5-9.
Supporting actor: Normal, Callum Keith Rennie. My prediction: Fugitive Pieces, Rade Sherbedgia. Sherbedgia was terrific, but perhaps the Genie folk knew he wouldn’t be there. Maybe they were hoping Rennie would make some news with his half-in-the-bag acceptance speech. Instead, he was just boring. 5-10.
Best actress: The Stone Angel, Ellen Burstyn. My prediction: The Stone Angel, Ellen Burstyn. Someone came up on stage to accept the award on behalf of Burstyn. She said “Ellen would have liked to have been here…” what she didn’t say was “but it’s the Genies…” Burstyn really was phenomenal. 6-10.
Best supporting actress: Young People Fucking, Kristin Booth. My prediction: Tout Est Parfait, Anie Pascale. Booth gave the best acceptance speech of the night, she was the best star on the red carpet, and she is totally hot. I’m just upset that Tout Est Parfait was totally shut out. Or, just about. Director Yves-Christian Fournier received a “special award”, the Claude Jutra Award. Whatever that is.
So I finished at 6-11. A .352 average. Well, I could win a batting title with that…I don’t know what stunned me more. The fact that Tout Est Parfait, what I felt was the best Canadian movie of the year, was totally shut out, or that the Genies totally sold out and gave the Best Picture award to Passchendaele, that piece of crap. I expect that from the Junos. I expect them to give big awards to Nickelback because they are a lousy, silly, sellout organization that doesn’t care about quality nearly as much as they care about exposure.
And there’s the thing that mystifies me most about the Genies. Obviously, they don’t care at all about exposure. Here’s a show that is televised nationally, that is taking place IN my hometown of Ottawa, and only because I am the movie guy on a radio station do I even know it’s taking place. The only commercials for the broadcast of the Genies I have seen came on the television during the broadcast of the Genies. The films, although not all are terrific, are clearly more concerned with being quality films than with distribution or with box office or with promotion and success. And the Genies obviously celebrate that quality by nominating those films.
However, they then give the Best Picture award to what was clearly the worst of the five nominees, because it is the only one that was successful. They even have a category for Most Successful movie – the Golden Reel award goes to the movie with the best box office, which this year was Passchendaele at $4.4 million. Of course, this takes some of the drama out of the award. Like the Art Ross trophy in hockey, we clearly know who has already won. So Passchendaele has already had it’s moment…it seems clear to me it won Best Picture just because it would be the one that made the best television.
And yet, much like Canadian film itself, the Genies seem not to really be interested in attracting viewers. I interviewed the CEO of the Genies last week. She wouldn’t tell me who was going to be appearing. She wouldn’t tell me who would be presenting. She wouldn’t tell me who was hosting. And she wouldn’t say anything about the movies themselves either, except to say “they are all good, and we’ll see who wins”. OK…so what did I get out of that interview? Nothing. How can I run any of that on the air, in order to drum up awareness of the event? I can’t. No commercials, no advertising, and they are keeping the host secret too! The host was Dave Foley. Now, I like Dave Foley, but he isn’t exactly a Huge Name that can drum up interest when he is Finally Revealed a few days before the event.
So the Genies really go out of their way NOT to be accessible to ordinary Canadians. Much like, in many ways, Canadian movies themselves. Foley put it very well in his opening statement, when he suggested that aiming to have successful Canadian movies might be a good idea. Being good isn’t enough. The movies have to be good, but they also ought to be stuff that people want to watch. This year, the Genies nominated Emotional Arithmetic and Fugitive Pieces. Both were movies about survivors of the holocaust who have trouble, later in their lives, coming to grips with their experiences. That’s two Canadian movies about the same subject. This year, in Quebec, there were three French language coming-of-age movies starring kids and set in the early 1960s.
We just do too much of the same. We make the same movies, over and over. And none of them will make money or be widely seen. They might be terrific, but the best, most successful “Canadian” movies of the past few years (with the exception of Away From Her) have been Indian with subtitles! Foley suggested that perhaps comedies might be nice. You know, if Canadian film makers wanted to do that. And you know, that is a great idea. Canadians are funny. We have quirky, funny shows that really work, like Corner Gas and Foley’s own Kids in the Hall. But then we make Juno and it’s American.
Anyway, back to the awards themselves. Clearly (I think this is clear, anyway), the Genies nominated Max Von Sydow, Susan Sarandon and Christopher Plummer for the sub-par Emotional Arithmetic, because they wanted Von Sydow, Sarandon and Plummer to show up at the awards and lend some star power. My stars! Imagine if Sarandon brought her equally famous husband, Tim Robbins! But why bother having star power if no one is watching? And no one will watch as long as you treat the awards like a small-time industry insider back-scratching party. The star power in terms of people who might have turned up and won an award this year, really, began and ended with Paul Gross. And he wasn’t there.
Ellen Burstyn was the other fairly big star who might have showed. She wasn’t there. The biggest names at the ceremony were Sarah Polley, Gordon Pinsent, Kevin Newman and George Strombolopolous. And they were just presenters! Canada needs to amp up their promotion of Canadian movies in a big way – star power! Sell the stars! Follow the example of the NBA, or the NHL! We need our own homegrown LeBron James or Alex Ovechkin! Of course, as soon as a Canadian actor gets big, they go do American stuff. Like Californication, like Callum Keith Rennie. At that point, the best we can hope for is that they will deign to grace the Genies with their presence and get four more people to watch. Which may well double the audience for an event that deserves much better.
Thursday, March 26th, 2009
I just interviewed Genie Awards CEO Sara Morton a few minutes ago. I was told she would be able to make some movie predictions, let me know who she thought had a good chance of winning several major awards, and what big-time stars we might gte to see here in Ottawa for the Genies, taking place April 4th. She would not, however, make any predictions. Or tell me what stars might show up for the awards. She wouldn’t even tell me who was hosting. I guess I’ll find out when I get there, and so will the eleven people who watch the show on Global.
Here is the interview: http://blog.rogersbroadcasting.com/cynicalcinema/interviews/
And here are MY predictions for the Genies, since someone has to make them!
Art Direction / Production Design: Passchendaele. The biggest Canadian movie of the year will win this one, because it needs to win something and it doesn’t deserve the Best Picture award. Also, you can tell how much effort went into those terrific First World War battle scenes.
Achievement in Cinematography: Fugitive Pieces. The early scenes in Poland and throughout Europe as the young boy hides out on a gorgeous estate are magnificently shot. This is a wonderful looking movie (review coming soon).
Achievement in Costume Design: Passchendaele. Again, because it won’t win any of the major awards. I would like to see Maman Est Chez Le Coiffeur pick up some love here, because the 1960s clothes really set the tone for the time, but Passchendaele captured the First World War era with their cosutmes as well.
Achievement in Direction: Yves-Christian Fournier – Tout Est Parfait. I really think this was the best of the Canadian movies this year, and it was due in large part to Fournier’s subtle, Gus Van Sant style direction.
Achievement in Editing: Maman Est Chez Le Coiffeur. I really liked this movie, so I’m giving it some love here. (Review coming soon.) Really, who cares about “Achievement in Editing”? The only time anyone notices editing is when it sucks. There were some very well put together scenes between the little girl and the deaf fisherman that stood out, however.
Achievemnt in Music – Original Score: Emotional Arithmetic. While I really liked the music in Maman Est Chez Le Coiffeur, it was really 1960s standards with French words, and the score didn’t exactly stand out. And The Stone Angel just wasn’t a very good movie. The music tying together the three elderly stars of Emotional Arithmetic with their past really worked.
Achievement in Music – Original Song: M’Accrocher? – Tout Est Parfait. The only song that actually stood out for me such that I can remember it. So it goes to this fine film.
Achievement in Overall Sound: Passchendaele. Again, who cares? But Passchendaele will win this one, because it will win all the throwaway awards.
Achievement in Sound Editing: Passchendaele. Not to sound like a broken record, but…see above reasoning.
Adapted Screenplay: Fugitive Pieces. The dialogue scintillates in spots, especially that between the old man and his neighbour in the early scenes, and the now-elderly young boy with his new girlfriend in the later ones. A very well-written work.
Best Documentary: My Winnipeg. Although it isn’t really a documentary at all, it’s almost impossible to categorize this movie, and it is very good. So they stuck it into the documentary category, figuring it would win there. I hope it does.
Best Motion Picture: Tout Est Parfait. This was the best Canadian movie made this year. Emotionally striking, powerful, well-acted and with a terrific script. Smart money, however, should be on The Necessiteies of Life, the kind of movie every Genie type seems to enjoy.
Original Screenplay: Tout Est Parfait. Again, same reason. Best Canadian movie of the year, best screenplay of the year, best movie capturing teenage confusion, rebellion, apathy, angst, and self-consciousness in a while.
Performance By An Actor in a Leading Role: Christopher Plummer, Emotional Arithmetic. The movie wasn’t great, but Plummer was wonderful as the husband of a woman who he’ll never really understand, no matter how smart he is.
Performance by an actor in a Supporting Role: Rade Sherbedgia, Fugitive Pieces. Much love for Normand D’Amour in Tout Est Parfait and for Max Von Sydow in Emotional Arithmetic, but Sherbedgia was magnificent.
Performance by an actress in a Leading Role: Ellen Burstyn, The Stone Angel. This was not a good movie. In fact, it bordered on awful. It was a book that was going to be difficult as a film, and it turned out that in fact it WAS difficult to film. Too difficult. However, Burstyn rose so far above the drudgery and boredom of the rest of the film that she really deserves this award.
Performance by an actress in a Supporting Role: Anie Pascale, Tout Est Parfait. I really liked Rosamund Pike in Fugitive PIeces. I also enjoyed Kristin Booth in Young People Fucking, and Celine Bonnier in Maman Est Chez Le Coiffeur. But Pascale’s role in the best Canadian movie of the year was more important, more essential, and done better.
Wednesday, February 11th, 2009
I attended the press conference to announce the Genie Award nominees at the Aviation museum here in Ottawa yesterday. I was there for about eight minutes – I didn’t realize it was such a black-tie affair, and I was decidedly underdressed. I got what I wanted though – I got to see Gordon Pinsent announce the nominees with the gorgeous Caroline Neron, and I got the press kit. Then I took off. Not because I was underdressed, but there appeared to be a long photo opportunity afterward, one which had a long lineup, and that was pointless to me. So I slipped out the back and came home to write this article.
Some of these movies are available on DVD, and I recommend finding them and watching them. Most of them. More on that later. The Stone Angel, Passchendaele, Tout Est Parfait, Normal, Fugitive Pieces, Emotional Arithmetic and a few others are all available right now. The Genies are not like the Oscars, where everything gets released all at once in a quest for the awards, which is a good thing. Here’s the rundown:
Best Motion Picture:
Ce Qu’il Faut Pour Vivre
Tout Est Parfait
Best Performance by an actor in a leading role:
Paul Gross – Passchendaele
Rupinder Nagra – Amal
Christopher Plummer – Emotional Arithmetic
Aaron Poole – This Beautiful City
Natar Ungalaaq – Ce Qu’il Faut Pour Vivre
Performance by an actress in a leading role:
Isabelle Blais – Borderline
Ellen Burstyn – The Stone Angel
Marianne Fortier – Maman Est Chez Le Coiffeur
Susan Sarandon – Emotional Arithmetic
Preity Zinta – Heaven on Earth
Performance by an actor in a supporting role:
Normand D’Amour – Tout Est Parfait
Benoit McGinnis – Le Banquet
Callum Keith Rennie – Normal
Rade Sherbedgia – Fugitive Pieces
Max Von Sydow – Emotional Arithmetic
Performance by an actress in a supporting role:
Celine Bonnier – Maman Est Chez Le Coiffeur
Kristin Booth – Young People Fucking
Eveline Gelinas – Ce Qu’il Faut Pour Vivre
Anie Pascale – Tout Est Parfait
Rosamund Pike – Fugitive Pieces
Achievement in direction:
Richie Mehta – Amal
Lyne Charlebois – Borderline
Benoit Pilon – Ce Qu’il Faut Pour Vivre
Carl Bessai – Normal
Yves-Christian Fournier – Tout Est Parfait
Up the Yangtze
Ce Qu’il Faut Pour Vivre
Heaven on Earth
Tout Est Parfait
Achievement in Art Direction:
Maman Est Chez le Coiffeur
The Stone Angel
Le Piege Americain
Achievement in Cinematography:
The Stone Angel
Le Piege Americain
Tout Est Parfait
Achievement in Costume Design:
Ce Qu’il Faut Pour Vivre
Who is KK Downey?
Le Piege Americain
Maman Est Chez le Coiffeur
Achievement in Editing:
C’est Pas Moi, Je Le Jure!
Ce Qu’il Faut Pour Vivre
Maman Est Chez le Coiffeur
Achievement in Music – Original Score:
Maman Est Chez le Coiffeur
Ce Qu’il Faut Pour Vivre
The Stone Angel
Achievement in Music – original song:
M’Accrocher? – Tout Est Parfait
Rahi Nagufta – Amal
Big Smoke – This Beautiful City
Achievement in overall sound:
Le Piege Americain
This Beautiful City
Achievement in Sound Editing:
Le Piege Americain
This Beautiful City
The Broken Line
Best Live Action Short Drama:
The Answer Key
Can You Wave Bye-Bye?
Mon Nom Est Victor Gazon
Best Animated Short:
The Facts in the Case of Mister Hollow
That’s all of ‘em. Here are some links to reviews of a few of these movies.
Tuesday, February 10th, 2009
Because MTV seems to be one of the more popular movie-information locales in the world of late…lord knows, they no longer know anything about music…they decided to come up with a list of the biggest and best movie badasses of all time. It’s a pretty standard list, with a couple of exceptions, and they want people to vote. Here it is, so far:
Dirty Harry Harry Callaghan
Ellen Ripley in Alien
John McLane in Die Hard
Mad Max in Mad Max
Walker in Point Blank
Sarah Connor in Terminator
Pike Bishop in The Wild Bunch
Khan in Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan
Boba Fett in Star Wars
John Rambo in First Blood
Some of this makes sense. Harry Callaghan belongs on this list. The scene where he’s shooting people while still eating his hot dog alone makes him worthy. Ripley is worthy – she is definitely badass. Sarah Connor belongs, but only for Terminator 2. In the first Terminator she’s kind of just along for the ride, and does few badass things. Rambo, I get it. Sure. And Pike in The Wild Bunch probably belongs more than anyone else. That final scene where he leads the boys to certain death as they massacre an army is amazing, one of the most badass scenes in movie history.
But Khan does not belong. He’s basically a bad guy, which makes him sort of badass by extension, but he’s not a movie badass. John McLane has moments of self-doubt in Die Hard. No full-on movie badass has even a moment of doubt. And Boba Fett? Well, I suppose they just needed to get some Star Wars reference in. Here is, I feel, a better list:
Josey Wales, The Outlaw Josey Wales. No self-doubt for this man. Tough as nails, looks everyone straight in the eye, and totally unflinching when it comes to pulling out the six-guns and throwing down with any number of bounty hunters and soldiers and generally bad dudes. Like the old man says, “hell is coming to breakfast”. Josey Wales brings hell with him wherever he goes. Dirty Harry was certainly badass, as was the Man With No Name and more recently Walt Kowalski, but Josey Wales remains the most badass Clint Eastwood role of all time.
John Wayne. In Everything John Wayne Has Ever Done. How badass was John Wayne? Well, the most badass actor of all time, in just about every role he played. I was trying to pick just one of his roles. Rooster Cogburn in True Grit? The Shootist, Rio Bravo, Stagecoach, McClintock, Red River. The list is endless. In the end, I will take him as the title character in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, simply because Lee Marvin was terrifically badass in that movie. And he paled in comparison to the Duke.
Porter in Payback. Although I do love Lee Marvin’s performance in Point Blank, which was basically (OK, entirely) the same movie, the look on Mel Gibson’s face – complete apathy and calm – right before he yanks out that drug delivery kid’s nose ring seals the deal. Porter is marginally more badass than Walker. Marginally.
Mark Lee in A Better Tomorrow. Chow Yun-Fat gets high marks for being consistently badass. And many might consider him to be even more badass in Hard Boiled or The Killer. But the scenes he has in this movie are superior to either of those movies in terms of sheer badass persona, and he created the trenchcoat and sunglasses badass action hero that populated Hong Kong movies for years afterward. One of John Woo’s best.
Jet Li in Hero. Well, he plays a character who, like Eastwood before him in those Spaghetti westerns, is “nameless”. So I had to say it was Jet Li. And he has created some other, truly badass characters in his time. But in this one, he tops them all. What makes Li so vcvery badass in just about any movie is the fact that he has the face of a nine-year-old boy. He shouldn’t be dangerous. He shouldn’t be able to kill you six tmies before you hit the ground. But he can. And that’s as badass as it gets.
Casey Ryback in Under Siege. I had to get Seagal in here at least once. The king of all that is badass, he has managed to find mostly movies that are laughably bad, surrounded by badassery that becomes laughable as well. Under Siege narrowly beats out Out For Justice here, because in Under Siege he does not hold his gun like a sissy, and he does not run. And any movie in which he runs, he looks like a sissy. Also, he has his best badass foil of any movie ever, Tommy Lee Jones.
And then, to round out my Top Ten, I will include a couple from that MTV list. Ellen Ripley, Sarah Connor (in Terminator 2), John Rambo in First Blood, and I would expand that Wild Bunch bit to include the entire Wild Bunch, not just William Holden. Honourable mention to Alec Guiness and William Holden in Bridge on the River Kwai.
Thursday, January 22nd, 2009
I like the Razzies, even more than I like the Oscars. The Golden Raspberry awards don’t have a season, you see. So while you need to scramble to the theatres to watch Milk, Benjamin Button, The Wrestler and so many others before the Oscars come and go, there is a much better chance that I will have seen several, if not all, of the worst movies of the year when the nominations are announced. So here are my thoughts, the nominations having been announced yesterday.
Disaster Movie / Meet the Spartans: They get crammed together because for all intents and purposes, they are the same movie. I avoided both of these, having learned my lesson very quickly from Epic Movie and Date Movie. As such I have no rating. But I have no doubt that they are both giant turds.
The Happening (2/10): An absolutely abysmal movie from one of the people who must be considered one of the worst directors working today. Mark Wahlberg is terrible, and wind blowing through barley is not scary. This movie is awful.
The Hottie And the Nottie (0/10): I reviewed this one in conjuction with Jessica Simpson’s Blonde Ambition, because I couldn’t stand to devote an entire review to either piece of crap. Of the two, this one was worse. And that is really saying something.
In The Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale (2/10): Jason Statham made fifty-eight movies this year. Three were great, fifty-five were absolutely dreadful. This was the worst of the bunch. Uwe Boll continues to prove that he is deserving of his “Worst Director Alive” title. This movie cost $60 million, and made $5 million at the box office. Twelve of those dollars, sadly, were mine.
The Love Guru (2/10): Not quite as awful as the others on the list…but it’s pretty bad. In fact, it is downright abysmal.
Who Should Win: Really, this category comes down to “what do you consider to be a movie”. If you consider The Hottie And The Nottie to actually be a movie, then that’s your winner. If you consider it to be a half-assed attempt at nothing, then you go for the movie that was actually trying to be a movie, and that is In The Name Of The King.
What was left out: Postal (1/10).
Worst Actor nominees:
Larry The Cable Guy: Witless Protection: Haven’t seen it. Thank God.
Eddie Murphy: Meet Dave: Haven’t seen it. Thank God.
Mike Myers: The Love Guru: Yes, yes yes. Just putting on an accent doesn’t make you funny. This was one of the worst, most irritating acting performances I have ever seen from someone who is supposed to be good.
Al Pacino: 88 Minutes/Righteous Kill: Yes, for 88 Minutes more so than for Righteous Kill. In Righteous Kill, he was phoning it in, sure. But in 88 Minutes, he gave one of the worst acting performances I have ever seen from someone who is supposed to be great.
Mark Wahlberg: The Happening and Max Payne: I haven’t seen Max Payne. But Wahlberg is absolutely dreadful in The Happening, one of the worst performances in one of the worst movies of the year.
Who should win: Few characters and actors in any movie in the last few years have approached the irritation factor that Mike Myers achieves in The Love Guru.
Who was missed: Ray Liotta in In The Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale
Worst actress nominees:
Jessica Alba: The Eye and The Love Guru: Certainly deserving for The Love Guru, although she isn’t in it enough to be specifically irritating. And the rest of the cast is bad enough that her performance doesn’t specifically stand out as terrible. I haven’t see The Eye.
The entire cast of The Women: Annette Bening, who is normally great, Eva Mendes, Debra Messing, Jada Pinkett-Smith, and Meg Ryan had me longing for the cast of Sex And The City. And that, in itself, is quite a sad accomplishment.
Cameron Diaz: What Happens in Vegas: Haven’t seen it. But I believe it.
Paris Hilton: The Hottie and the Nottie: A gimme. Slam dunk. Imagine she hadn’t got a nomination?
Kate Hudson: Fool’s Gold / My Best Friend’s Girl: Haven’t seen either. Thankfully.
Who should win: Paris Hilton wasn’t hired as an “actress”, nor is she supposed to be one. Therefore she is disqualified, as far as I’m concerned. However, the cast of The Women are all supposed to be actresses. And they come off as cackling, ludicrous caricatures of First Wives Club knock-off imitators. Garbage.
Who was left out: Sigourney Weaver in Vantage Point.
Worst Supporting actor nominees:
Uwe Boll (as himself) in Postal: This one shouldn’t count, because at the very least he’s making fun of himself. He knows he’s awful, and he is somhow able to revel in it. I actually give him props for this god-awful performance.
Pierce Brosnan: Mamma Mia!: Haven’t seen it. But I believe it.
Ben Kingsley: The Love Guru, War, Inc and The Wackness: I have yet to see the Wackness. But Kingsley is AS irritating as Mike Myers in The Love Guru, and he is pretty annoying in War, Inc. as well.
Burt Reynolds: Deal / In The Name of the King: Haven’t seen Deal. But he certainly qualifies for In The Name of the King, since everyone in that movie appears to be competing for Who Can Suck The Most.
Verne Troyer: The Love Guru / Postal: Again, not really fair. All he is being asked to do in both films is play a really little guy. And that’s supposed to be really funny in and of itself. The fact that it isn’t says more about the film makers than it does about Troyer. The fact that he is, actually, a rotten actor is irrelevant here.
Who should win: Ben Kingsley. Mostly because he should be so much better than this.
Who was left out: The rest of the cast of In The Name of the King.
Worst supporting actress nominees:
Carmen Electra: Meet the Spartans and Disaster Movie: Give her a break, these are the only movies in which she can find work. Just because she’s a generally terrible actress, we like to dump on her. And that’s fine. But I assume she was in each of these movies for a total of nine sucky seconds.
Paris Hilton: Repo, the Genetic Opera: Again, she isn’t an actress. Shouldn’t count.
Kim Kardashian: Disaster Movie: Still…not an actress. But I am certain that she is awful a la Paris Hilton.
Leelee Sobieski: In The Name of the King / 88 Minutes: Everyone in In The Name of the King was truly horrible. But next to Pacino in 88 Minutes, how could anyone do a good job?
Jenny McCarthy: Witless Protection: Shouldn’t really be considered an actress either, but she is, so she counts.
Who should win: Jenny McCarthy.
Who was left out: Bette Midler, in The Women.
Worst screen couple nominees:
Uwe Boll and any actor in any movie
Cameron Diaz and Ashton Kutcher, What Happens in Vegas
Paris Hilton and either Christine Lakin or Joel David Moore in The Hottie And the Nottie
Larry the Cable Guy and Jenny McCarthy in Witless Protection
Eddie Murphy, inside Eddie Murphy, in Meet Dave
Who should win: Paris Hilton and anyone else, for The Hottie And the Nottie. The others are supposedly real actors.
Who was left out: Pacino and DeNiro in Righteous Kill.
Worst prequel, remake, rip-off, or sequel nominees:
The Day the Eartth Stood Still (5/10)
Disaster Movie / Meet the Spartans
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (6/10)
Star Wars: Clone Wars (5/10)
Who Should win: It’s about time someone gives a little love at this year’s razzies for what are probably the worst movies of the year – Disaster Movie and Meet the Spartans.
What was missed: The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor.
Worst director nominees:
Uwe Boll: Postal, In The Name of the King, 1968: Tunnel Rats: Well, you know he had to make it in here. He IS, after all, receiving a Lifetime Achievement Golden Raspberry Award this year from the Razzies.
Jason Friedberg & Aaron Seltzer: Disaster Movie and Meet the Spartans: Two of the worst movies ever, in the Epic Movie and Date Movie mold, surely deserve Worst Director nominations.
Tom Putnam: The Hottie and the Nottie: The guy was asked to helm a Paris Hilton starring vehicle. Even Scorcese couldn’t have made this watchable. It isn’t the director’s fault that he is so low on the Hollywood totem pole that he was asked to do this.
Marco Schnabel: The Love Guru: A truly dreadful directorial effort, but much of the blame for this turd has to fall on the shoulders of Mike Myers.
M. Night Shyamalan: The Happening: This guy is really heading for enshrinement in the Lifetime Achievement Razzie awards if he keeps making movies like his last few.
Who should win: Shyamalan. He really deserves to be considered, alongside Boll, as one of the Worst Directors alive. It has been a long time since The Sixth Sense.
Who was left out: Jon Avnet, Righteous Kill. Anyone who has DeNiro and Pacino to work with had better come up with something better than that.
Worst Screenplay nominees:
The Hottie and the Nottie (Heidi Ferrer)
The Happening (M. Night Shyamalan)
Disaster Movie / Meet the Spartans (Friedberg & Seltzer)
In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale (Doug Taylor)
The Love Guru (Mike Myers & Graham Gordy)
Who should win: In The Name of the King owes most of the blame for it’s suckiness to Uwe Boll. The Hottie and the Nottie owes much of it’s suckiness to Paris Hilton. Really, this comes down to a two-way race between The Love Guru and The Happening, since the people behind the movies are also the ones who wrote them. I will give the edge to The Love Guru, because by now Mike Myers ought to know how to play to his strengths. And he sure doesn’t.
That’s it for the Razzies, still the most accurate and best awards of the year. The Oscar nominees were announced while I was typing this – but I think I will wait until right before the awards to discuss them, because I still haven’t seen half the movies on the lists.
Saturday, January 3rd, 2009
Ordinarily, I am all over these lists at the end of the year. I love reading peoples’ selections for the best and worst movies, whether that person be Roger Ebert or Peter Travers or Jim From Spokane. I was going to skip out on it entirely this year, however, because I haven’t seen some of the movies considered to be the best. I have yet to take in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and Milk, and Slumdog Millionaire, and countless others. But I will go ahead with my own list anyway, and once I see those films, I will come back and edit this list if need be. Here goes, with the best of the year:
1. The Dark Knight. The best acting, the best cast, the best story, the best action, and far and away the best villain of the year. Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker was in no way enhanced in my perception because of his death. Rather, his death loomed larger, and became more tragic, because of the power of this performance. He looks, talks, and even walks like an absolute lunatic, one who exudes danger, lunacy and an incredible menace all at once. This is the best comic book movie ever made, and Ledger’s Joker is perhaps the best movie villain of all time. I’ll let him fight it out with Hannibal Lecter and Norman Bates.
2. WALL-E. An absolutely breathtaking achievement. I have seen a few movie critics who believe that this movie signals the end of the need for actual actors in movies. I wouldn’t go that far. I will only go so far as to say that this is the best, most brilliant movie ever made for children. It is also one of the top-five science fiction movies in history, up there with one of it’s clear inspirations, 2001: A Space Odyssey. Absolutely stunning, charming, and magnificent.
3. In Bruges. An absolutely perfect movie. It’s little, it’s modest, but it’s staggeringly offensive, and by far the funniest movie of the year. Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson are magnificent as hitmen sent to cool their heels in Bruges, a quaint and picturesque town in Europe. Ralph Fiennes is side-splittingly funny as their brutal, murderous boss, and the dialogue is spot-on. I haven’t laughed this hard in a long time. In Bruges is one of the great black comedies. Ever.
4. Gran Torino. Clint Eastwood still has it. And Gran Torino continues his impressive streak of impressive movies. This is the last hurrah for Dirty Harry, the Man With No Name, William Munny, and Josey Wales. This is how Eastwood sees all the characters he has played over his career, now, through the lens of history and the filter of age. Another incredible, powerful, movieng (but decidedly UN-sappy) achievement from perhaps the best director working today.
5. Iron Man. It’s a good thing this movie came out when it did, before The Dark Knight took over the movie world. That way, Iron Man managed to get some praise as “the best movie of the year” before it was supplanted. And deservedly so. Robert Downey Jr. is fantastic as Tony Stark. The special effects are terrific. The story is fantastic. And everything else about this movie is totally engrossing. It’s as close to perfect as movies get without being The Dark Knight.
Honourable mention to Kung Fu Panda, Burn After Reading, Shine A Light, and The Bank Job.
Constantine’s Sword. A fascinating, incredible documentary about the history of Christianity, and the evils that have been done in the name of the religion throughout history. The movie is based on a book by James Carroll, and Carroll takes us through the crusades, the emperor Constantine, and the rise of anti-semitism. A tragic, but illuminating movie that is the best documentary of 2008.
A Hole In A Fence. Yes, it’s a movie about a hole in a fence. And yes, it’s less than 45 minutes in length. But the way it’s shot is remarkable, and the story is compelling, and this little gem is worth seeking out.
American Teen. A really interesting look at five real-life teenagers and their high school trials and tribulations. At times it comes off like an after-school special, but the fact that real lives are like this adds credence to after-school specials, and doesn’t detract from this documentary. Very interesting.
Passion And Power. A truly fascinating, educational and funny look at the history of female orgasms and vibrators. Terrific stuff!
Saturday, January 3rd, 2009
Again, just like the “best” list, this “worst” list will omit several movies. Really, truly, terrible movies that I have yet to see. And should I need to do so, I will return and edit this list as well. But in this case, several of the worst movies of 2008 are those I have intentionally skipped. Who, really, wanted to watch Disaster Movie? So I can’t discuss some of these crapfests, because I skipped them, knowing they would be crapfests. So for now, these are the worst movies I have seen this year:
1. The Hottie And The Nottie. Paris Hilton. Is not a movie star. She is not a movie actress. She is barely qualified to play the “girl serving coffee” in a restaurant. And yet, movies are made that insist she is leading-lady material. This is one of them. Paris Hilton is not hot enough to be a “hottie” in a movie like this. And she is not good enough to be in any movie, ever. Aside from Paris Hilton, though, this movie is dreadful.
2. Blonde Ambition. A remarkable movie, in the sense that no one watching will be able to figure out why it was made. Obviously intended to be a starring vehicle for Jessica Simpson, this movie goes through the motions so painfully that it barely even registers as a movie. Just about every single actor in the film is phoning it in. Luke Wilson is phoning it in, I think – but with him, a phoned-in performance is similar to his regular performance. And Jessica Simpson is trying. Really, really hard. And that is the saddest thing of all.
3. Legacy. In a movie that almost screams “written for Paris Hilton”, Haylie Duff struggles through her role as the “hot girl” without being hot enough to play one. I think this movie is supposed to be tongue in cheek. I think. But it isn’t smart enough, either way, to make that clear. Oh, and it involves Tom Green. And a scene that is truly offensive and disgusting where a girl wipes semen on the face of another girl. Nothing about this movie is pleasant, and nothing about it is good.
4. The Love Guru. Michael Myers having an accent does not make everything he says funny. Jessica Alba can be eye candy in a movie, but as soon as she starts acting, the movie becomes bad. Justin Timberlake can be very funny, and very good, but not when he has an accent. And Verne Troyer is not funny just because he’s a dwarf. Had Mike Myers realized any of these things, he would not have made this god-awful movie. But Mike Myers still thinks accents alone are enough to carry movie. And this is what we get.
5. Pulse 3. The worst in what was already a pretty bad series of movies. An absolutely atrocious “horror movie” that assumes that even had she been locked in a cage without light or books or external stimulus for fifteen years, a sixteen-year-old girl would automatically know internet language. And that although electronic devices like cell phones and computers can’t be used, electronic devices like Stealth bombers and nuclear bombs can. There is nothing scary about this film, nothing interesting about it, and watching it could drop your IQ by ten to twelve points.
6. Prom Night. I am not among those who consider the original Prom Night to be a horror classic. But I still feel bad for those people who made that first movie and then saw their concept totally sullied and disparaged by this silly and obvious piece of shit. Absolutely nothing interesting happens, at all, during this entire “film”. This one is as bad as movies get.
7. The Transporter 3. Another third installment in a useless series. This time, the standard Transporter stuff is decent, but the female lead, played by Natalya Rudakova, is one of the most annoying, painful-to-watch characters in recent memory. And we have to put up with her throughout the whole movie, and then she is a heroine at the end, and doesn’t even get killed. And when Jason Statham ends up her boyfriend, all that cool stuff he did earlier - jumping his car onto a moving train, stunt-driving on two wheels between 18-wheelers – goes out the window. He ended up with her? He’s a sissy.
8. Drillbit Taylor. There is real promise for this movie. Owen Wilson is good, the kids involved are good, the writers are good. Which means that the film makes this list not so much because of the quality of it, but rather because it was so very, very disappointing.
9. Vantage Point. Also disappointing in the sense that a movie with all these big stars can suck so very much. Also disappointing in the sense that a movie about an assassination of a president can suck so very much. Or a movie based on a concept from the 1950 classic Rashomon could…suck so…very very much. But it does. This movie sucks very very much. Oh, Matthew Fox from Lost? You know what’s interesting about him? Nothing.
10. Journey To The Centre Of The Earth. When a movie stars Brendan Fraser, you know almost automatically that it will be for kids, it will involve cheesy dialogue, it will have silly action set pieces, and it will likely suck. Journey To the Center of the Earth is no exception. The 3-D stuff was kinda cool, but that seemed to be all the film makers cared about. The story and dialogue and acting was awful.
11. The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. Brendan Fraser and his silliness aside, the rest of this film is even worse. Two of the greatest martial arts movie actors ever, Michelle Yeoh and Jet Li, have one of the worst sword fights I’ve ever seen. And don’t get me started on the abominable snowmen.
Honourable mention to Superhero Movie, Death Race, The Ruins, In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale, 10,000 B.C., Strange Wilderness, Mad Money, Hero Wanted, and the glorious Steven Seagal tandem of Kill Switch and Pistol Whipped. Would you believe that this means Jason Statham is in three of the worst movies of the year, and also one of the best? (He’s also in 38 others that didn’t make either cut.)
Tuesday, December 9th, 2008
I was waiting for today in order to come out with this list. Because I wanted to make sure that the Dark Knight Blu-Ray was as incredible as I hoped it would be. And I bought it on the way home, and I watched it today, and it IS that good. So if you’re doing some Christmas shopping (especially for someone with a Blu-Ray player), you can do no better than the following movies:
11. The Bank Job (Blu-Ray): This is Jason Statham’s best movie. And his only really good one since Snatch. Rarely have I ever seen a heist movie done so well, with crackling suspense, a genuine feel, great actors and a tight, fast-moving script. Great film.
10. The Visitor: Just an unbelievably great movie. Richard Jenkins is absolutely mezmerizing, and so is the rest of the cast, in a movie about a lonely man who befriends an illegal immigrant couple. Wonderful.
9. In Bruges: An absolutely perfect little movie about a perfect little town – Bruges. Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, and especially Ralph Fiennes are absoultely side-splittingly hilarious.
8. Holocaust: Amazing three-disc set of this amazing mini-series from the 70s, starring Meryl Streep, Michael Moriarty and James Woods. One of the all-time great television events came to DVD this year, and the Paramount edition does this epic achievement great justice.
7. Iron Man, Blu-Ray: If it weren’t for The Dark Knight, this would be in contention for “Greatest Comic Book Movie Ever Made”. As it stands, it’s just really, really awesome. Robert Downey Jr. is fantastic, and watching the high-definition battle scenes is incredibly impressive. Worth getting on regular DVD too, of course. Hell, this one’s worth getting on poorly-bootlegged Betamax, so long as you get a chance to watch it.
6. Sunset Boulevard, Paramount Centennial Collection: A fantastic double-disc set reissue of one of the all-time classic movies, the second disc is packed with bonus features and there is a terrific commentary track (one of the few commentary tracks on a DVD that is actually worthwhile). One of the great all time movies in it’s best DVD package ever. Also great are the Audrey Hepburn Centennial Collection DVDs – Sabrina and Roman Holiday.
5. Kung Fu Panda, Dreamworks Secrets of the Furious Five edition: One of the great kids’ movies of the year has an excellent second disc, touching on the history of kung fu and kung fu cinema in a very entertaining, informative, and kid-friendly way. Awesome movie, awesome DVD edition.
4. Into The Wild, Blu-Ray: This one actually doesn’t come out until next week. So wait until next week. But the picture definition of this incredibly picturesque movie is exquisite, and so is the movie. A lyrical, brilliant tale of a young man who sets off to do his own thing in the world. A must-see movie, this is the best way to see it.
3. WALL-E, Blu-Ray: The amazing picture quality of Blu-Ray is ideal for a brilliant, almost entirely visual kids’ movie, the second-best film of the year. Unbelievable, and hilarious, and you better get your kids to watch it, Blu-Ray or not. Great special features too – that short film, Presto, that was shown in the theatres, is available as a special feature, and so are a few other great and hilarious short Pixar films.
2. The Dark Knight, Blu-Ray: The best movie of 2008 in an absolutely incredible visual format. Christopher Nolan, the director, knew that CGI often looks very fake on hig-definition formats. So the chases, the stunts, the flipping trucks and the explosions – for the most part, they are real. And they look amazing. The Joker is not only Heath Ledger’s best performance, and the best performance by any actor this year, but it ranks up there with Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter in terms os greatest movie villain protrayals of all time.
1. The Godfather Trilogy, Blu-Ray: THIS is the best DVD released this year. Two of the ten greatest movies ever made, and another pretty good one, in their greatest release and best edition ever. They can stop making Godfather DVD sets altogether now, because they have now attained perfection. The Godfather and The Godfather Part II are already, basically, perfect movies. But you haven’t lived until you see James Caan gunned down at a tollboth in high-def. OK, well, you’ve probably lived. But not as well as you could have.
Honourable mention to the Lone Ranger 75th Anniversary box set, because of it’s nostalgic value and packaging, and to the Scream trilogy, both from Alliance Films. Scream didn’t make it onto the list because of the lack of special features, and chances are that fans already have the discs. And the Lone Ranger didn’t make it because the best thing to recommend it is the extras that don’t include the DVDs themselves.
Monday, November 24th, 2008
I have recently had some links sent to me from various sources, really cool lists of stuff, like all the comic book movies currently in production, or the best lost-in-translation movie titles of all time. Most of the links have come from this website:
Check it out. I have included a link to it on the right-hand side of my page, because it’s awesome. First, check out the lost-in-translation movie titles. A couple of my personal favourites – Army Of Darkness, the great Bruce Campbell third installment in the Evil Dead series, was released in Japan as Captain Supermarket. And the movie with the most fitting title, Lost In Translation, was released in Portugal as Meetings And Failures In Meetings. Here is the direct link to the lost-in-translation titles:
Friday, November 21st, 2008
Recently, on the Doc and Woody show, we started talking about music in movies. Which songs appeared most often in movies, and so forth. We didn’t count classical music pieces (Orff’s “O Fortuna” from Carmina Burana is one of the most-used pieces of music) and we ignored Christmas music (Silent Night would beat anything else). Frankly, any Christmas music would likely outpace almost any other song, because it was all written before 1920, and as such it is all considered public domain. This means a movie can put in a recording of a song like Silent Night without paying songwriting royalties.
Anyway, the number one song we came up with was Walking On Sunshine by Katrina And the Waves. This, we believe, has been in more movies than any other song. For me, the most memorable use of this song was in the movie High Fidelity, where Jack Black’s character, ostensibly the most snobbish music nerd in the world, puts on that song to rock out. (Also great in that movie – the scene where the band Sonic Death Monkey launch into Let’s Get It On.) High Fidelity has one of the greatest soundtracks of any movie, ever – The Kinks, the 13th Floor Elevators, the Velvet Underground – and yet the two songs I remember in context are those two. Oh, and one more. That one goes on Today’s List.
Here is Today’s List: The best use of music in movies. When you remember the scene because of the music, or the music because of the scene. This excludes certain songs in movies, like “Iron Man” in Iron Man, because the tune plays only over the credits. My criteria here – the song itself has to be good. Not necessarily a great song, but a good one. So, Celine Dion might have had a memorable song in Titanic, but that does not make the list because it’s Celine Dion. Also, the movie itself has to be good. Not necessarily great, but good. Which means that although “Sweet Home Alabama” is used memorably in Con Air, it doesn’t qualify, because Con Air sucks. So no Celine Dion music, no Rob Schneider movies. Here goes:
15. High Fidelity – The Beta Band – Dry The Rain: As someone who once worked in a record store, this movie spoke to me in many, many ways throughout. The best use of music, however, was the scene where John Cusack, as the record store owner, said “I will now sell five copies of the Beta Band’s 3 eps” or something like that. He says it in a confidential, secretive-type whisper to one of his music-nerd employees, played by Todd Louiso. Rather than asking, as most of us would, why Cusack is whispering, or making fun of him for acting like a secret agent when putting on a tune, Louiso buys right in. “Do it,” he says, in a conspiratory whisper of his own. This is Cusack’s way of relating to his weirdo employee, as though they are the only people alive who have heard of the Beta Band, and now they are going to spring “Dry The Rain” on unsuspecting customers, who will fall all over themselves to pick up the album. Also, it’s just a wicked song.
14. Grosse Pointe Blank – Queen & David Bowie – Under Pressure: John Cusack again. This time, “Under Pressure” is playing while Cusack, a hit-man going to his 10-year high school reunion, is holding a baby. As he holds the baby, he has something of an epiphany. His life could have been far different had he taken a different path out of high school. Or if he had stayed with his high school girlfriend. The baby is part of that realization, but so too is the song, which triggers the decade-old memories.
13. O Brother, Where Art Thou? – Soggy Bottom Boys – I Am A Man Of Constant Sorrow: Although this song is used many times in the film, I am referring specifically to the last time it’s used. In a chaotic town hall environment, with George Clooney wearing his bizarre fake beard, the joy in this song comes through amazingly. A great bluegrass soundtrack throughout the movie is punctuated by this song, which is fantastic. And yes, it’s Clooney and John Turturro and the guys singing it, but that makes it even better. This really is a magnificent tune.
12. Goodfellas – Derek & The Dominoes – Layla: I never really liked that long, drawn-out instrumental piano part at the end of “Layla” until I saw Goodfellas. The instrumental part is not long and drawn-out when used in this movie. In fact, it’s just long enough for Robert DeNiro to wipe out all of his enemies, hanging their bodies in meat lockers or dumping them in dumpsters. And then Joe Pesci gets whacked.
11. Reservoir Dogs – Stealer’s Wheel – Stuck In The Middle With You: On the Tarantino Connection CD, which came out about 10 years ago, Tarantino is interviewed a few times about the use of music in his movies, which is generally very brilliant. (Honorable mention here to “Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon” and “You Never Can Tell” from Pulp Fiction.) In one of those interviews, he says “I don’t know if Gerry Rafferty appreciated the connotations I brought to ‘Stuck In The Middle With You’. There’s a good chance he didn’t.” Then the CD launches into the song. Which is about the most perfect introduction to a song you can get. Especially when that song was used in Reservoir Dogs as the soundtrack to the brutal sawing off of a cop’s ear.
10. Apocalypse Now – The Doors – The End: I am discounting classical and orchestral music here, which is why I am not picking the amazing helicopter scene set to Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries. But the rest of the music in this film, especially the Doors songs, is brilliant as well. And “The End” is so chilling, and so appropriate in context in Apocalypse Now, that it stands with Ride of the Valkyries as a memorable musical moment. As Martin Sheen gets mentally prepared to assassinate Marlon Brando, he becomes a different person. He will butcher Kurtz, not just take him out. This is not just the end of Brando, it is the end of Sheen as well.
9. Shaun of the Dead – Queen – Don’t Stop Me Now: There are a lot of great musical references in Shaun of the Dead. The scene where Shaun and Ed are going through Shaun’s record crate and deciding which LPs are bad enough that they can justifiably be thrown at zombies is terrific. Also great are the songs in the movie, and none are better than “Don’t Stop Me Now”. With strobe lights in the background, and in time to the music, the little group of survivors beats a zombie bartender with pool cues from the bar. Of course, the fact that the strobe lights are on and the music is blaring is only attracting more zombies…what a great movie!
8. Pulp Fiction – Dick Dale and the Del-Tones – Misirlou: Like I said earlier, there are many candidates for best song from Pulp Fiction. Chuck Berry’s “You Never Can Tell” is a magnificent choice for the dance-contest song at that 50s-style diner. “Girl, You’ll Be A Woman Soon” is a perfect tune for the Uma Thurman character. But “Misirlou” is the best music in the movie, since it is the best opening tune in a movie, ever. After Honey Bunny (Amanda Plummer) stands up to rob the restaurant, delivering that great line – “any of you f- pricks move, and I’ll execute every m-f- last one of you” a surf tune kicks in. And it sounds BADASS. No one hears Misirlou any more without instantly thinking of Pulp Fiction. Well, I don’t, anyway.
7. Wayne’s World – Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody: I realize that this is the third Queen song I have put on the list. And no, I am not some kind of rabid Queen fan where I need to mention them as often as possible. In fact, I am fairly indifferent to Queen. And by the way, Queen was responsible for one of the worst movie soundtracks ever made – the cheesy, horribly 80s, painfully silly soundtrack to Highlander. However, the fact that Wayne’s World managed to resurrect this great tune and put it back on the charts so many years after it’s release is a testament to the popularity of the movie, which is pretty decent, and the quality of the song, which is awesome.
6. The Ladykillers (2004) - Rose Stone with the Venice Four and the Abbott Kinney Lighthouse Choir – Let The Light From the Lighthouse Shine On Me: This will be the worst movie on this list. Guaranteed. Not that it’s awful, because it isn’t. It’s just a pretty amazingly weak effort from the Coen brothers, and Tom Hanks. A bunch of guys, including the irritatingly loquacious Hanks, have rented out rooms in the house of an old, fat, bible-thumping woman in order to break into a riverboat casino from her basement. The bible, and the thumping thereof, is a central theme in this movie, which leads to an absolutely killer soundtrack full of fantastic gospel tunes, co-ordinated by T-Bone Burnett. And this one is the best of the bunch. An absoultely mesmerizing gospel song by a tremendous group of singers.
5. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid – Burt Bacharach – Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head: I would never suggest that this is a heavy movie, or one that needs to have the mood lightened in any way. But at the same time, it IS an absolutely brilliant movie in nearly every way, and this song might provide the best single moment in the film until that freeze-frame ending. It functions almost as the soundtrack of a musical “montage”, but really accentuates the true nature of the relationship between Butch, Sundance, and the woman they both love. There is no real animosity, no true hurt feelings, but rather this is just the way it is. And for each person it is by turns blissful or melancholy. And this song fucntions both ways.
4. Forrest Gump - Buffalo Springfield – For What It’s Worth: This song has been used in dozens of movies. Most of those movies have been great, and this song has always been brilliant. Recently used in Tropic Thunder, before that it was the opening theme of Lord of War, and before that it was re-done by Public Enemy with Stephen Stills to become the theme of the movie He Got Game. But of course it’s most associated with the Vietnam movies of the 70s and 80s. Just hearing that opening note can send a chill up your spine, and nowhere is this more true than in Forrest Gump. I’m no huge fan of Forrest Gump, I think it’s pretty good but no amazing classic. But this song, in this movie, is indeed classic.
3. Children Of Men – King Crimson – The Court of the Crimson King: This movie is totally under-rated when it comes to music. Not only are there a ton of great uses of the Rolling Stones’ “Ruby Tuesday”, but they reach deep into the vault of psychedelia for this incredible tune, used as Clive Owen approaches the gate of what is basically a fortress. The song creates, on it’s own, an atmosphere of apocalyptic foreboding. Not only is this one of the best movies of the past ten years, this is one of the best songs of the past fifty.
2. The Harder They Come – Toots And The Maytals – Pressure Drop: This movie has the greatest soundtrack of any movie, ever. And there are so many songs that could have made this list. The scene where Toots and the Maytals are in the studio singing “Sweet and Dandy”, exuding the joy that a group can have recording great music. The use of the Jimmy Cliff tunes “Sitting In Limbo”, “Many Rivers to Cross”, and “You Can Get It If You Really Want”. And the title track, Jimmy Cliff’s “The Harder They Come”, is likely the greatest reggae song ever recorded. Also amazing – the Slickers’ tune “Johnny Too Bad”, a song which reflects the movie as though it was written specifically for it. But I am going with the scene where Jimmy Cliff chases a drug dealer down a reservoir tunnel, shooting at him to the sounds of “Pressure Drop”. The most incongruous, yet the most effective, chase music you will ever hear.
1. Office Space – Ghetto Boys – Still: Again, a candidate for Best Soundtrack Ever. A movie about cubicle-bound office workers set to some of the most hardcore gangsta rap in the world. Seems strange, but boy, does it ever work. And this song is the best one of them all, used as Peter, Michael and Samir take a photocopier out to a deserted field for a gangland-style beatdown. As the hardcore, badass tune plays, they set to work destroying the copier. Like so many gangland movies, where a character is getting beat down, the two reasonable guys at one point have to physically restrain their friend, who has lost it and goes after the copier with his bare hands. There is a moment where Samir makes a subtle gesture with the baseball bat to stop Peter and Michael from attacking – Samir is basically saying “I got first here”. A brilliant scene all around (recently spoofed in Family Guy, where Peter and Stewie recreate that entire scene as they destroy Peter’s “Surfin’ Bird” record – possibly the best use of music in a sitcom as well).
There are many others, and those are simply my personal favourites. I welcome any other songs people might want to throw in here. Movies and music go together so well, and it’s a thing of beauty when they come together this well. My honourable mentions – “Okie From Muskogee” by Merle Haggard, from Platoon. “White Rabbit” by the Jefferson Airplane from Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas, “These Days” by Nico from The Royal Tenenbaums, and “The Pusher” by Steppenwolf from Easy Rider.
Friday, October 31st, 2008
I couldn’t believe it. I had a giant box full of DVDs, and I was handing them out to the first 50 people who came to the Operation Go Home Ghostbusters event last night. And I was letting people pick and choose their own movies as they went through the box. I had a ton of films from Paramount, Peace Arch, First Run, and Alliance that I had requested because they were my favourite DVD releases of the year. And then I had about six really crappy TV series to make sure I made it to 50. An elderly lady came to look through my box, and she warned me ahead of time that I was dealing with someone who really, really knew her movies. Then she asked me what No Country For Old Men was about. She wasn’t familiar with Sunset Boulevard or Sabrina or Roman Holiday. In her defense, she was very, very familiar with Ghostbusters. And, I’m sure, Star Wars and Back To The Future.
Here’s the part I couldn’t believe. A young girl, probably about 16 years old, gravitated instantly to the box set of Season One of A Shot At Love With Tila Tequila. She went on and on and gushed about the show, and how totallyawesome Tila Tequila really was, while I looked at her in dumbfounded amazement. And then, she threw the Tila Tequila DVD back in the box. She had spotted something EVEN MORE totallyawesome. The three-disc box set of El Cid, the 1961 epic film starring Charlton Heston and Sophia Loren. And believe me when I say I’m not making this up – she says “oh, I love Anthony Mann!” and chooses El Cid over A Shot At Love With Tila Tequila. This little exchange made my whole day. And, in some way, ruined my whole life.
In the end, I would guess that we got a little more than a hundred people to come see Ghostbusters at the Bytowne last night, which should be a nice boost for Operation Go Home. The DVDs went over well – the few people who didn’t know it was going on were rather flabbergasted – “are you serious? I can just take one? Free?” And then they picked up No Country For Old Men or In Bruges and went home happy. Toward the end, people picked up Caroline in the City. And went home less happy. I think that good money was raised last night, and I will hopefully have a total by Monday. Big thanks, also, to Paramount Home Entertainment and Peace Arch Entertainment, both of whom provided some excellent DVDs for the giveaway.