Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Oscar Blowout! Everything Must Go!


Best Actor
N&DP: George Clooney - MICHAEL CLAYTON

Best Supporting Actor

Best Actress
N&DP: I've only seen Ellen Page in JUNO
CGTA: Keri Russell - WAITRESS

Best Supporting Actress
N&DP: Saorise Ronan - ATONEMENT

Best Original Screenplay


Best Adapted Screenplay

N&DP: Christopher Hampton - ATONEMENT
CGTA: James Vanderbilt - ZODIAC

Best Director
N&DP: Joel and Ethan Coen - NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN

Best Cinematography

N&DP: Seamus McGarvey - ATONEMENT
CGTA: Seamus McGarvey - ATONEMENT

Best Picture

Top 15 Favorite Films for 2007
1. Atonement
2. Zodiac
3. Lars and the Real Girl
4. The Wind that Shakes the Barley
5. Michael Clayton
6. No Country for Old Men
7. Sunshine
8. The Bourne Ultimatum
9. The King of Kong
10. Once
11. American Gangster
12. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
13. The Darjeeling Limited
14. Dan in Real Life
15. Waitress

Haven't but want to see:

Gone Baby Gone
I'm Not There
The Savages
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
In the Valley of Elah
In the Wild
4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 days
Margot at the Wedding

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Catch up Time...Dec - Feb 8


This movie genuinely freaked me out. I watched it with my dog in the room late at night in dark. I've never been so afraid of a familiar friend. The special effects seem especially dated, but are quite effective at times. I enjoyed the psychological aspects of the film, but was more than happy to let the freaky alien freak me out. This may be the only movie in which I genuinely love the usually over-the-top Kurt Russell in. The Thing has all the makings of a horror classic, but also has the skill and talent to be a very good film across the board.



I was quite taken by this film at first. It has some amazing scenes, and shows some great promise from writer Diablo Cody and actress Ellen Page and actor Michael Cera. But I have to say I'm beginning to buy into the backlash surrounding what is simultaneously its greatest asset and weakness: that script. These are generally unbelievable characters spouting unbelievable words (particularly from Juno herself), but it's those same unbelievable words that create the film's unique charm and humor. It can be too precious (maybe precocious is the right word) at times, but I did have a good time watching it. Great ending. Heart swells. I read this screenplay for class and saw how much the actors really added to this film. The script has the hype, but it's the cast that adds nuance and emotion to Cody's dialogue and characters. This script might have failed with a lesser cast. They're that important. The timing and pacing and reactions and so forth have to be just right. And they are.



Daniel Day Lewis gets the hype. He's obviously adept at creating larger than life characters complete with where'd-that-come-from accents and blazing eyes (His Daniel Plainview is a kin to Bill the Butcher from Gangs of New York). He was my biggest problem with the movie. Too big, too out of control. He has some amazing scenes, but I can't help but be utterly aware of how manufactured his performance is. I was more impressed with Paul Dano. His pastor made me ashamed of those similar to the manipulative, power-and-respect hungry Christians who claim my faith. But he's spellbinding. His sermon in the church was disgusting, jaw dropping, and truly captivating. To see that knowing performance come from the preacher in contrast to the sly and quiet demeanor he shows usually was telling. This is an excellently made film. Gorgeous cinematography, good writing, and assured directing. But I'm going to give this a relatively low rating because of Lewis. He was that distracting. His zaniness in the last 10-20 minutes knocked me out of the reality of the movie. I asked myself as the credits rolled, "What am I supposed to take from this?"



It's been quite a long time since I cried in a movie. I can't actually remember the last time. But tears were drawn out of me by this movie. I think I was just so involved with the title character that I would have bawled even if I just heard his voice from behind a black curtain. I struggled not to pity the man and to realize that sympathy is a completely different emotion. He's so richly created by John Hurt (under all that makeup) and writer/director David Lynch that I believed in the film's reality. Even when dialogue rises over that line of reality ("I am not an animal! I am a human being! I am a man!") , I cherished it because it was earned. There are truly beautiful scenes. The Elephant tore my heart out and I relished the feeling. Cliched but true: I am not the same person now after seen the film as I was before. I prayed to God thanking him for the film on the way back to my apartment. I cannot say that it can live up to that first viewing again, but I hope all of you get a first viewing like that of any film.



I loved this movie. To just see the power behind Casey Affleck's performance is worth the time. It's such a complicated character. He's meek, weak, a weasel, quick to anger, sensitive, proud, insecure...and so forth. Jesse James is frightening, truly frightening, and creates such tangible dramatic tension, but Brad Pitt cannot carry the persona consistently throughout the entire film. It's a good performance, don't get me wrong. It's his best in years, but he seems the most uncomfortable in the film. When his anger is quiet, I was tense in my bones. When he shouted, I didn't believe it. He looks amazing though. The entire film looks amazing. The script also does wonderful work with the vernacular of the time by not making it a distraction. The real thrill of the film is that it is surprising. Not jump out of your seat or twist ending surprises, just that there are moments and characters that are always surprising me throughout the film. Says a lot about American celebrity. I remember hearing Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune saying Ford was annoying, but I never tired of the guy or the performance. I think his character is more interesting than Jesse James', both the real man and the myth. I felt for the guy.



I was let down by this movie, but found enough to recommend a viewing. The first half is rather piss poor. The acting is clunky. Nothing is real. Farrell and McGregor's characters are brothers and good friends, but they seem so uncomfortable being together. They're not believable. I think much of the middle of the film is repetitive. Farrell - I don't want to kill him. McGregor - I think we oughtta. Farrell - I still don't want to kill him. McGregor - Come on, mate. We oughtta. Once they plot, once they go after the guy, I thought the film grew stronger. That's the kind of movie I wanted to see - confident, natural, conflicting. The actors had to grow into their roles. Woody Allen is one of the more interesting moralist filmmakers I've ever seen. It's a common theme in all the films I've seen him do. He's done it better than this before, but it was okay as a mild diversion. With all the stars in the film, I was actually much more impressed by the actresses and relative unknowns that played McGregor and Farrell's girlfriends. Natural and intriguing. Good performances that enriched the film.



I think this is my favorite film of last year. We'll see. Let me direct you to two of my friend's reviews on

And my comments in response: Regarding this batch of reviews, I must say I whole-heartedly agree with Dan and wonder what movie Stephen was watching. Now, let me preface the following comments with this: it's much easier and cowardly for me to argue via blog comments on the other side of the country.

I was never lost in this film. In fact, the jumping back and forth actually increased my interest. The flashback of Briony almost drowning and subsequent rescue fleshed out the young Briony's stake in Robbie. Clearer relationship. So when the 18 year reflects on her crush to her friend, we become all the more aware of the shock she felt as a child reading the letter and the pain and regret she now feels is more compelling. She loves her sister. But she had feelings for Robbie that anyone who had a crush at 13 can relate to. So close to them at 13, but at 18 so far away.
But that's just one instance.

Even though the film has those flashbacks, I think the plot is clear. It moves linearly throughout Briony's life. And how does she reveal her loved one's fates? Through story. Making the flashbacks and voice over fit perfectly.

I saw There Will be Blood and Atonement in the same week with different levels of anticipation for each, but the surprising thing was how personal Atonement was to me. I can't claim to have experienced such tragedy and turmoil, but the characters were so rich that they got under my skin (in a good way). I cared about the love story. I liked the characters and the themes. And with There Will be Blood, I spent so much time with such horrible people that I too felt horrible leaving the movie. That was a well made, excellent movie, but I don't really ever need to see it again. Atonement demands multiple viewings. It's that good and rewarding.



Not as much of a lark as the trailers would have you believe. It goes by too quickly to really register in my memory. Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts (where'd that accent come from?) are having fun, but their performances don't really give me any sense of who these people really are. This is a movie about events masquerading as a character piece. That's good, though, because I didn't really care for Charlie Wilson. I did like Philip Seymour Hoffman, mostly because he was able to keep me involved in the story even when my interests were waning. It's the kind of performance where the actor is given maybe a bit too much leadway, but he was very entertaining nonetheless. My biggest complaint is that maybe it ends too quick. It's a big build up to the war, then it's shown in montage. Surely something interesting happened during those many years. And surely Charlie Wilson was involved.



I've been on a Woody Allen kick lately. I talked to Annaliese Dykstra at length about Allen movies and the man. Talk to her. She's speaks very intelligently about the man.

I've wanted to see this movie for a while. Jeff Daniels in a Allen movie = cool. The film has a lot to say about fantasy versus real life and does so in a heightened world, one where a movie character walks off the screen to pursue a fan. Woody Allen seems to have a such a cynical view of life and romance, but it's hard to argue with the guy because he tells his stories very well. This is a comedy with little laughs, but its thematical execution and performances are all wonderful. I've discovered Mia Farrow who's such a delightful actress. She plays a naive woman here, but I've seen her have a sharp wit that is very attractive. She's not just Sinatra's ex. It seems that when fantasy faces the real world, Woody is rooting for fantasy to win out. I know how he feels. It won't, though, and we both know it.



Another Woody Allen movie, very much the superior of most. It's probably Annie Hall then C&M then Hannah and her Sisters for me right now. You know, so much is said about Woody Allen essentially playing himself whenever he's in his movies, but I couldn't be more pleased. He's much more interesting and entertaining that 90% of the other characters in comedies. In this film he deftly balances humor and dark drama by telling two thematically linked stories. Each serves its purpose wonderfully. We see yet again that Allen is convinced that the world is shit and love doesn't last. Again, it's hard to argue when he takes you through his stories. Thematically, Allen is strong again - the films has interesting and challenging things to say about God, sin, punishment, love, fidelity, guilt, and morality. It's a loaded movie, but never caves in under the weight of it's message. One story will pull you into the depths of your soul and the other will make you laugh and fall in love with Mia Farrow. All good things. When the stories come together, so does the message. The film can talk about all these things and still maintain a sense of entertainment. Martin Landau, Mia Farrow, Woody Allen and even Mister I've Got a One-Liner For Every Death on LAW AND ORDER Jerry Orbach are wonderful. Great movie.



Love to Woody Allen seems to all be about timing, meeting the right woman at the right time and hoping that you're not seeing someone you can't get away from and likewise in regards to Ms. Right. And praying that Ms. Right doesn't tire of you and go into the arms of another man. He dates a 17 year old in the similar to real life. Infidelity is a theme again like always, so simlar to real life. Woody is obviously trying to say something about how he views the world, and it occupies his time immensely for years. Woody writes female characters very well - witty and strong women that are easy to fall in love with. It's a good movie, but not superior Woody. Diane Keaton, Mariel Hemmingway, and Woody Allen are all wonderful.