Random Factoid #509

19 12 2010

We’re getting to that point of 2010 where we can look back in retrospect at things.  Most critics are issuing their top 10 lists (or call them “The Social Network” and others given the unanimity this year), but Cinematical made a very different list this week: the most boring titles of 2010.

I had never really thought of it, but a good title really does make a difference.  If “Inception” had been called “The World of the Dream,” I probably wouldn’t be nearly as excited about it as I was.  If “How to Train Your Dragon” had been called “Vikings and Dragons,” I would have easily written it off.  Those are some of the best of 2010, but what about the worst?

The bland and the irrelevant usually make the worst titles.  For example, as much as I loved “Michael Clayton,” that title told me NOTHING about the movie.  As for 2010, we had plenty of culprits: “I’m Still Here,” the Joaquin Phoenix documentary, would have sent up no flags for the average moviegoer.  “The Lost Year of Joaquin Phoenix” would have been a significantly better choice.  “The Bounty Hunter” sounds like an action movie, not a revolting Jennifer Aniston rom-com.  “The Joneses” is a family name, not the title for a very perceptive social commentary.

There are many more of 2010 (see a much more complete list at the link above), but that’s just a sampling of how a movie’s title can have a significant impact on moviewatching.  Did it make a difference for you at all this year?

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Oscar Moment: December 10, 2010 Awards Round-Up

10 12 2010

Welcome back to another exciting awards round-up post!  It’s been a whole week since I’ve said anything about the Oscars, which is the longest I’ve gone since September!  It’s a good thing this week has been pretty stagnant aside from a few minor critics groups and some top 10 lists out in the mix.

Please remember to take the poll at the end of the discussion!  It will help to make these posts more community-driven – it’s fun just reading it and writing about it, but I sure do enjoy it more when I get your feedback!  You don’t have to live and breath Oscars like I do to take part!

As for last week’s poll, you all think that “The Social Network” will beat “The King’s Speech” for Best Picture.  And by you all, I mean all one voter that took the poll.  So let’s shoot for higher this week!

(And another reminder: I spent a lot of time linking the titles of movies in this post to their respective Oscar Moments/reviews if you want to know more about them.  So don’t hesitate to click!)

Awards

Washington, D.C. Film Critics announce. Generally not a very exciting bunch; Kris Tapley of In Contention said their picks are usually just guessing what the Oscars will nominated in about 7 weeks.  Like myself and several others, they think “The Social Network” is going to be the cup that the Academy sips from when picking their awards.

Their Best Picture line-up was absolutely stellar though: “Black Swan,” “Inception,” “127 Hours,” “The Social Network,” and “Toy Story 3.”  If those were Oscar’s five (way back when they only nominated that many movies for Best Picture), I would be a very happy man.  Since many are already boiling the race down to a horserace, it’s curious not to see “The King’s Speech,” but it got plenty of love, including a win for Best Actor for Colin Firth and Best Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, and Original Screenplay nominations.

Jennifer Lawrence took Best Actress for “Winter’s Bone,” which definitely showed some strength from the win as well as nominations for Supporting Actor (John Hawkes) and Adapted Screenplay.  I think we could definitely be looking at a critical favorite in Lawrence, although this is a very similar trajectory to Carey Mulligan last year who wound up not taking home any major prizes.

Predictable wins for Christian Bale and Melissa Leo in “The Fighter” in the supporting categories, with the former looking more and more like a lock with each passing day.  “The Social Network” also won Best Director and Adapted Screenplay, neither of which was surprising given the group’s love for the film.

Interestingly, “Inception” won Best Original Screenplay over the field of “The King’s Speech,” “The Kids Are All Right,” “Another Year,” and “Black Swan.”  This category has played out interestingly at the Oscars over the past two years.  2009 brought us “The Hurt Locker” ultimately triumphing over “Inglourious Basterds” with “Up” as a dark horse looming in the background.  2008 was the horse race between two totally different types of movies, “Milk” and the almost non-verbal “Wall-E.”  Given what’s been going on recently, “Inception” makes a fascinating wild card.  “The King’s Speech” is like past winner “Milk,” and “The Kids Are All Right” gives off “Juno” vibes.  There hasn’t been a movie like “Inception” in the race in a long time (unless you want to compare it to the mind maze of “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”).

For a historical reference point, last year the group picked “Up in the Air” as their Best Picture.  Aside from the slam dunk supporting categories, the only Oscar winner they selected was Kathryn Bigelow as Best Director for “The Hurt Locker.”  Since 2002, they haven’t been a very reliable predictor at all of the ultimate selections of the Oscars.

For a full list of nominees, see the official press release from the WAFCA.

The British Independent Film Awards. Predictably, “The King’s Speech” cleaned house at the British Independent Film Awards, the equivalent of the Independent Spirit Awards across the pond.  The very British story of King George VI took home Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Screenplay.  Curiously, director Tom Hooper lost Best Director to Gareth Edwards for his work on the ultra-low budget “Monsters.”  Mike Leigh was also nominated for “Another Year” in this category.

These awards don’t really show us much other than that the British are firmly allied over their love of this movie.  Last year, “Moon” triumphed over eventual Best Picture nominee “An Education,” the movie considered to have the “British vote” going into the Oscars.  This faction will be crucial to “The King’s Speech” if it is to prevail in the Best Picture category, and this is a very reassuring ceremony for the movie.

Also worth noting: “Never Let Me Go” may be almost entirely forgotten, but apparently Carey Mulligan isn’t.  She won Best Actress for her performance, and I still wouldn’t count her out as a dark horse Oscar nominee.  I don’t think a Golden Globe nomination is entirely out of the question (a la Tobey Maguire in last year’s “Brothers“).

The European Film Awards. Not much to report here as the only awards contender really in play was “The Ghost Writer,” and it capitalized on its seven nominations by winning a stunning six categories.  Lesley Manville was in contention for “Another Year” but lost Best European Actress to an actress I’ve never heard of in a movie I’ve never heard of.

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First Poll Results Post!

28 05 2010

I’m trying out some restructuring of the site, particularly in the sidebar and in the categories column.  In respect to the former, I’m working on reordering the boxes.  I moved the subscription box to the bottom of the sidebar and the LAMB logo to the middle.  As always, feedback is appreciated.

But this post concerns itself with the latter of my concerns, the categories.  I’ve made the first big move already; I took the “Marshall and the Movies” category and removed it as a sub-category of “About Me.”  Now, I’m using the category as an umbrella for all the activity on the site that pertains to the blogosphere as a whole.

One sub-category of “Marshall and the Movies” is dedicated to polls.  I run them fairly often but don’t post the results (with the exception of the monthly most anticipated poll).  Since they are a fairly big part of gauging the opinion of my readers, I decided it was time for me to start sharing them more often.

So here goes nothing!  The first polls ran during the Oscar Moment about “Toy Story 3.”  Using the success of last year’s “Up” as a talking point, I posed two poll questions wondering if Pixar could carve a niche for themselves in the Best Picture race.  The results were fairly definitive.

The polls show that most people think “Toy Story 3” will be nominated for Best Picture, and most people think Pixar’s movies always deserve a Best Picture spot (although by a smaller margin).

Onto the next poll, which was on the Oscar Moment for “How to Train Your Dragon.”  After the unexpected box office and critical success, I wanted to see if people thought it had a chance at winning Pixar’s category.  The results gave little to work with.

As you can see, the same amount of people think that it can win Best Animated Picture as think that it can’t.

The next poll ran with the Oscar Moment on “Robin Hood.”  At the time the post ran, a Ridley Scott-Rusell Crowe combination and a Cannes opening seemed to bode well for its Oscar chances.  Clearly you all weren’t fooled by my writing and saw the writing on the wall.

And you all are 99.9% right, barring some sort of a miracle.

You fell for it in the next poll.  In the poll on the “Iron Man 2” Oscar Moment, I suggested that Mickey Rourke could be a contender for Best Supporting Actor.

And you are very, very wrong.  If Mickey Rourke is nominated for an Oscar for this role, the world will come to an end.

I’ll save the “Get Low” results for another post, but in the meantime, vote on the June poll!  2 votes are unacceptable, people!





Random Factoid #281

5 05 2010

Following a series of linked posts the other day, I wound up at this interesting USA Today article: “What happens to those 3D glasses after Avatar?”

Here’s an excerpt, featuring some pretty astounding statistics:

Laid end-to-end, the 3-D glasses worn by avid Avatar-goers since the blockbuster movie opened 46 days ago would reach from Los Angeles to Angmagssalik, Greenland — about 3,987 miles.

That’s a whole lot of plastic. With about 75% of people who see Avatar seeing it in 3-D, it works out to about 42.1 million pairs of glasses worn, or 935,834 a day.

Four companies provide 3-D systems for showing the wildly popular sci-fi epic in the USA: Dolby Laboratories, IMAX, Real-D and XpanD.

Each has a recycling program in place, for hygiene and to keep what would otherwise be a mountain of plastic out of landfill.

Real-D has the lion’s share of 3-D projection systems in the USA, accounting for at least 700,000 3-D glasses used a day. It distributes cardboard containers so movie-goers can recycle their glasses. According to Real-D’s Rick Heineman, the glasses are shipped to a cleaning facility near Los Angeles, where they’re sanitized, checked for defects, repackaged and shipped out.

Real-D provides the glasses for most of (if not all of) the 3D movies I see.  I must say, their cleaning facility is slacking.  When I went to see “How to Train Your Dragon,” there was a humongous scratch on my lens!  If you know me or have read any factoids, then you can probably guess this did not make me happy.  Eventually, I was able to get past the scratch and enjoy the movie.  But if that scratch had been on the lens during “Clash of the Titans,” I might not have been so kind.

I have a good pair of 3D glasses hanging from the karaoke machine in my room.  Maybe I ought to keep them in my car and take them to all 3D movies I see.  Can’t trust Real-D anymore.





Oscar Moment: “How to Train Your Dragon”

7 04 2010

Yesterday, “How to Train Your Dragon” passed $100 million at the box office, a reliable milestone signifying success finding an audience.  Naturally, I think this calls for an Oscar Moment discussing its chances in the Best Animated Feature.

Being a crowd favorite is something that helps when it comes to the Best Animated Feature category.  6 out of the 9 winners were the highest grossers in the field, and two of the others were $200 million grossers (the odd man out is “Spirited Away” which made only $10 million).  Although it’s unlikely to reach the bucks of a Pixar flick, “How to Train Your Dragon” still has the bucks to gain serious consideration in the category.

But can it topple a Pixar movie in the category that they practically own?

Based on the reviews, we know the critics aren’t against it.  The 98% critical approval rating of “How to Train Your Dragon” is equivalent to last year’s winner “Up” and bests all other winners.  Being well-reviewed is essential to win Best Animated Feature, which has scored an average of four percentage points higher than Best Picture winners since the category’s inception.  (The average would be a 96% – up seven percentage points – if you omit 2006, which really didn’t offer any good animated movies.)

The circumstances beyond the movie’s control will either kill it or give a giant boost.  Much depends on Pixar’s “Toy Story 3,” which is the obvious favorite to win and will open with massive expectations.  I see two scenarios working out: either “Toy Story 3” is a massive success and it takes the category like most are predicting, OR the tiniest thing is wrong and the movie is considered a disappointment.  Knowing Pixar, it’s best not to bet against the first scenario, but the latter is a definite possibility.  If Pixar doesn’t topple its own standards, voters might feel reluctant to give the studio another trophy.  Denying it to them would send a message that the lamp logo before a movie doesn’t ensure Oscar victory, and the beneficiary could very well be “How to Train Your Dragon.”

But as for other factors, the movie also has to contend with another DreamWorks Animation release in November, “Megamind.”  I’m not predicting this to be a critical hit just based on the fact that it stars Will Ferrell, but I could be wrong.  In the unlikely case that it does score critically, the studio will have a handful promoting two deserving movies for Best Animated Feature.  Depending on how many animated movies are released that year, there may not be five slots like there were this year.  If it does come down to three nominees in the category, the votes could easily cancel each other out.

The release date could hurt it as well.  Since it is being released about 11 months away from voting, it will have to really have staying power.  Voters will have to remember how the movie made them feel and how exhilarated they felt in 3D, because by the time DreamWorks starts screening the movie, it will most likely be out on DVD.

At the moment, it’s safe to say that “How to Train Your Dragon” is no longer a dark horse because it has a good outside shot at winning.  It will need some help, and we will see in a matter of months if that aid will pan out.  And in case you were wondering, I don’t think we are looking at a potential Best Picture nominee here.  “Up” was a deeply sentimental movie, and it was a reward for all the good work Pixar has done in the last 15 years.

BEST BETS FOR NOMINATIONS: Best Animated Feature





Random Factoid #251

5 04 2010

Today’s factoid inspiration comes from NPR blogger Linda Holmes’ article “The Shusher and the Shushed.”  I read the article a few weeks ago, and it was one of those perfect reads where a very intelligent writer strings together all the thoughts you have floating around in your head.  Here, she connects all my angers and frustrations about people talking at movies.

Unfortunately, out of the past three times I have shelled out the big bucks at the theater, I have had to use my voice to “shh” some very rude patrons in the theater.

Yesterday, at “How to Train Your Dragon,” there were a few whiny crying babies.  I have written many times about this being a pet peeve (Random Factoid #32, for instance), but I’m more inclined to forgive it during a kids movie than in a movie like “Funny People.”  But these kids were screaming at the screen!  I gave one forceful “shh,” but I knew it wouldn’t do much.  Eventually, I managed to drown out the kids.

But two weeks ago, when I went to see “Avatar” again, I was appalled at the talking going on in the theater.  A grown man was having a phone conversation on the row in front of me.  Correction, MULTIPLE phone conversations.  Everyone in my family gave him a “shh,” but I must have given over a dozen.  By the time you are that age, moviegoing etiquette is common sense.  You just don’t take a phone call in the middle of a movie.  Step out into the lobby at the very least.

I’m not afraid to “shh.”  If I pay $10 to see a movie, I’m going to enjoy the experience being presented to me in the theater.  Your phone call isn’t going to ruin that for me.  Phone calls don’t just interrupt a movie, like the ads say.  They interrupt me, and the movie isn’t going to stop and snap at you.  I am.

Any fellow bold souls out there willing to stand up and say that you have fought for your right to enjoy a movie?





REVIEW: How to Train Your Dragon

4 04 2010

Ever since the dawn of full-length computer animated movies, Pixar has been the most reliable brand name in the business.  But in the past few years, DreamWorks Animation has been slowly gaining ground and clipping at their heels.  With each movie, they move closer and closer towards raising their game to the Pixar standard.

Their latest output, “How to Train Your Dragon,” isn’t quite at that level.  But the bright side is that it is one of Dreamworks’ best animated movies so far.

The story or the morals aren’t highly original, yet the movie still works and delights.  The hero, Hiccup (voice of Jay Baruchel), is a plucky youngster with a tiny frame.  In his Viking society, where bigger is better, that isn’t exactly a positive.  His father (a heavily accented Gerard Butler) has little faith in him, and the village doesn’t either as a result.

But this tiny little village has a big problem.  We like to think termites and ants are bad; they have to put up with dragons who terrorize their town, killing people and destroying houses.  The Vikings fight and kill the dragons, training the youth of the village to do the same.  But Hiccup has a different approach: he learns how to tame and train dragons after he rehabilitates one of the most dangerous species, which he affectionately names Toothless.  He then learns in a very Jake Sully-ian fashion that the creatures they had been treating with hostility could become great friends if they are treated with respect.

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