Random Factoid #373

5 08 2010

I’ve left out a pretty significant part of my summer experience on the blog.  Sure, I’ve seen plenty of movies, but there’s something much more important going on at my house.

At the end of June, my dog (a miniature schnauzer) had six adorable little puppies.  So my family has been very busy taking care of them, spending much of our day – and night – making sure that they get enough food, that they have fresh paper, and what not.

Cinematic connection – I promise.  I’m a huge sucker for dog movies, and so is America ($144 million for “Marley & Me” doesn’t lie).  Even though I know that the dog will always die at the end, I still watch and usually cry, given that the movie is good enough.

I know why it is that we love these movies.  Dogs teach us so many lessons, such as how to be unconditionally faithful to someone. (I’ve been watching “Mad Men” recently and everyone on that show could watch a few dog movies.)  They also teach us responsibility and how to take care of someone (something everyone in “Precious” could have used).  And they also teach us that life is temporary, so we must appreciate it while it lasts.

That being said, I am going to enjoy these puppies for the three weeks until they go to their permanent homes.





Random Factoid #303

27 05 2010

What’s in a name?  (And no, the answer is not “that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” all you Shakespearean scholars.)

I was browsing the web as usual and reading some interesting articles.  One particularly grabbed me from the New York Times website, an article by Brooks Barnes called “Invasion of the Big, Scary, Long Film Titles.”  Here are some interesting excerpts:

Pity the high school students whose summer jobs involve changing movie theater marquees. Hollywood has come down with a serious case of title elongation. That is, if you can figure out the title at all.

Consider the latest “Shrek” movie, which DreamWorks Animation and Paramount Pictures released on Friday. Just what is its title, anyway?  “Shrek Forever After.” But billboards and newspaper ads seem to use another name: “Shrek: The Final Chapter.” More than a few theaters have just listed it as “Shrek 4,” perhaps running low on patience, or just colons … add in simultaneous 3-D offerings, and splice that into subcategories — “Shrek Forever After 3-D,” “Shrek Forever After: An Imax 3-D Experience” — and the listings become even more confusing.

Elaborate titles can bring danger. “The more a title describes the story, the less effective it generally is,” said Dennis Rice, a marketing consultant who has held top positions at Miramax, United Artists and Disney. “You want people to know what they’re getting. But you also want to leave them wanting to learn more.”

And in a very practical sense, wordy titles take up a lot of time in a 15-second television ad and a lot of space on a poster … none of these titles are selected without debate by studio executives and, in some cases, they are determined by focus group testing. With sequels, the strategy is generally to avoid adding a numeral, and to come up with a subtitle that makes the movie seem less of a rehash and more worthy of standing on its own … in some instances, long titles result from an eagerness of studios to piggyback on a brand that already has currency in the marketplace.

I can’t stand long titles, and if a movie has a long title, I try to find a way around saying the whole thing.  “Shrek Forever After” is “Shrek 4” in my jargon.  “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time” is just plain old “Prince of Persia” to me.  And you won’t ever catch me even writing the unwieldy post-colon addition to “Precious.”





Random Factoid #291

15 05 2010

Watched “Requiem for a Dream” last night – wow.  Not going out and doing any drugs anytime soon.  Talk about a movie that tests your ability to stomach a movie.

I pride myself on being a fairly tolerant moviegoer.  I can sit through most movies that most people can’t stomach.  Most horror movies don’t disturb me, mainly because they are too far-fetched to have any impact.  I can barely watch movies like “Requiem for a Dream” or “Precious” because I can’t fall back on thinking that it’s not real.  The fact is, people do face drug addictions or abuse.

However, there are some movies that I won’t subject myself to watching.  Mainly, “Antichrist.”





LISTFUL THINKING: The Top 10 Movies of 2009

31 12 2009

As strange as it is to say, 2009 is over.

As the bookend of the first decade of the new millennium, this year has come to represent the changing scope of the 2000s.  Technology, as it always seems to, has reached soaring heights.  But as the man who created the most revolutionary of these advancements this year, James Cameron, said in an interview with Newsweek, “Filmmaking is not going to ever fundamentally change. It’s about storytelling. It’s about humans playing humans. It’s about close-ups of actors. It’s about those actors somehow saying the words and playing the moment in a way that gets in contact with the audience’s hearts. I don’t think that changes.”

With that in mind, I celebrate 2009 for all the incredible stories that enchanted me as only cinema can with my top 10 list.

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Oscar Moment: Predictions As The Ballots Go Out

28 12 2009

Oscar nomination ballots have now been sent out to the Academy!  Thus, I felt it was time to issue a new set of Oscar Predictions.  Since I last went on record, we have heard from a multitude of critics groups, the National Board of Review, and have received nominations from the Golden Globes and the Screen Actors Guild.  What conclusion can we draw from them?  I draw mine here.

Best Picture

  1. Up in the Air
  2. The Hurt Locker
  3. Avatar
  4. Precious
  5. Inglourious Basterds
  6. Up
  7. An Education
  8. Invictus
  9. Nine
  10. A Serious Man

Big changes this week, though nothing changes at the top.  I still think “Up in the Air” is going to win – and not just because I love it so much.  It is slowly picking up steam at the box office, and it is a movie that pretty much everybody really likes.  It is powerful storytelling with commanding performances, the recipe for usual Oscar success.

But its two biggest threats have changed since the last set of predictions.  “The Hurt Locker” has clearly established itself as the critical favorite, the movie that scores the most with the various critics groups from New York to Oklahoma.  This can be good and bad, but the good critical favorites are usually the ones that are mixed with audience support.  With only $12 million in the bank, it is clear that “The Hurt Locker” does not have this.  If people a more populist pick for Best Picture with the expansion of the field, this would most likely send a message of adherence to pretentiousness.

The opposite message would be sent with the selection of “Avatar.”  I resisted for as long as I could, but now it is virtually undeniable.  With critics clearly behind it and box office standing at a formidable $213 million, this has a lot going for it.  Yet it has a gender prejudice going against it.  Only rarely do action movies fly with the Academy; just look at how they snubbed “The Dark Knight” last year for “The Reader.”  I think many will see it as little more than a visual spectacle and technological innovator.

“Inglourious Basterds” has really jumped on the scene, getting top nominations from the Golden Globes and the SAG.  I didn’t think this was possible in August, but I guess I was wrong.

“An Education” didn’t really fall; everything else just went up.  Same goes for “Invictus,” but I think we are looking at this year’s “Frost/Nixon” or “Good Night, and Good Luck” here.  By that, I mean the movie that gets a bunch of nominations with no real chance at winning any of them.

“Nine” actually dropped, though.  Audiences didn’t receive it well as shown by the lackluster $5.4 million it posted Christmas weekend.  Critics aren’t digging it, and its Rotten Tomatoes score is now sitting at a dreadful 37% fresh.  On the other hand, we can’t forget that it did get a SAG Best Ensemble nomination over high-flying “Up in the Air,” among others.  This is a movie that the actors seem to like, and they make up a large portion of the voting body.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see it slip off the charts completely, but don’t count it out just yet.  (“Precious” dropped too, but I offer some explanation on that in the Best Director section.)

The tenth slot continues to puzzle me.  Now, I have it going to the Coen’s “A Serious Man,” but this is another big question mark.  It failed to get a nomination for Best Picture at the Golden Globes (where “It’s Complicated” did, so “ha!” to all my detractors on that one), which is pretty big considering that “Burn After Reading” made it last year despite being met with a slightly chillier reception.  And it pains me to pick this while so many of my favorite movies sit in the cellar.

Best Director

  1. Kathryn Bigelow, “The Hurt Locker”
  2. Jason Reitman, “Up in the Air”
  3. James Cameron, “Avatar”
  4. Quentin Tarantino, “Inglourious Basterds”
  5. Clint Eastwood, “Invictus”

Bigelow has gained a lot of strength with most of the critics groups on her side, and I can now see a Best Picture-Director split between “Up in the Air” and her.  The momentum for her to become the first female director to win the Oscar may just be too big to deny.  Not to mention the fact that if “Up in the Air” takes screenplay and picture, Reitman will walk away with two statues.

James Cameron is the real star of “Avatar,” and the Academy will no doubt want to honor his work.  This is a project that he has had in his head for over 15 years, and his patience while the technology caught up with the idea should be rewarded.

Tarantino takes over the fifth spot from Rob Marshall because of the lack of love for “Nine” (which is mostly because of him).  The “Inglourious Basterds” love the critics, Golden Globes, and SAG have displayed is enough to get its director a nomination.  After all, it really is his movie.

Lee Daniels drops off the chart because of his Golden Globes snub when “Precious” was clearly well received by the group.  “Precious” has lost a ton of momentum from its release in November, mainly due to bumbling Lionsgate who refused to capitalize on the limited release success by taking it nationwide then.

People see the Academy as Clint’s cronies, which isn’t necessarily true.  Maybe they just set out to make a statement last year with their “Gran Torino” shutout, but I think that the financial success came too late to make an impact.  “Invictus” hasn’t exactly lit the box office on fire; however, I just get the sinking feeling that he is still going to get nominated here.  Call me crazy.

Best Actor

  1. George Clooney, “Up in the Air”
  2. Colin Firth, “A Single Man
  3. Morgan Freeman, “Invictus”
  4. Jeff Bridges, “Crazy Heart
  5. Jeremy Renner, “The Hurt Locker”

The only change here is Bridges falling to number 4.  He has only won awards from critics whose awards truly mean something like the Los Angeles Film Critics Circle;  Clooney and Firth have been taking all the others.  I’m getting a vibe that this a performance that is being honored for honor, not because people really love it.  I am getting the latter vibe from Clooney, who has been taking the prizes from a lot of the smaller, less renowned critics circles.

This is the standard top 5 now among almost everyone.  I can’t help but feel like there has to be some kind of shake-up here, some surprise nominee.  But who?  Maybe Daniel Day-Lewis will find his way in like always, or perhaps Matt Damon will surprise for his turn in “The Informant!”  He had a heck of a year, and the Academy could see fit to honor that with two nominations.  Just spitballing here.

Best Actress

  1. Carey Mulligan, “An Education”
  2. Meryl Streep, “Julie & Julia
  3. Gabourey Sidibe, “Precious” 
  4. Helen Mirren, “The Last Station
  5. Marion Cotillard, “Nine”

I’m sorry, but I cannot pick Sandra Bullock here.  I keep seeing all these raves for her and wonder if I saw the same movie and performance as they did.

I moved Sidibe back a spot because the critics awards seem to be hinting that this race will be a duel between Streep and Mulligan, the veteran and the fresh face.  However, I could see a possible vote split propelling the novice to victory.

With Abbie Cornish showing up nowhere and “Bright Star” seemingly forgotten, she falls off the list.  I replaced her with Marion Cotillard because the Academy loved her enough to give her an Oscar when no one knew who she was.  Even though the buzz on “Nine” is down, I have a feeling there will be plenty of love for the ladies.  Cotillard does have two emotionally wrenching numbers in the movie going for her.

And I’ll use this post to congratulate Meryl Streep on receiving her 25th Golden Globe nomination.

Best Supporting Actor

  1. Christoph Waltz, “Inglourious Basterds”
  2. Stanley Tucci, “The Lovely Bones
  3. Christopher Plummer, “The Last Station”
  4. Alfred Molina, “An Education”
  5. Matt Damon, “Invictus”

This is the category with the big shake-up this week.

Christoph Waltz is winning almost everything, so I can still place him in the number one slot.

Stanley Tucci jumps from off the list all the way to number 2.  I think its a mix of career achievement and a very good year (despite the apparent “The Lovely Bones” flop).  Christopher Plummer shares the former of these; Matt Damon, the latter.  I think the fact that Plummer is 80 years old, well-respected, and has no nominations is enough to get him into the field.

Woody Harrelson, Alfred Molina, and Matt Damon were the three men vying for my last three slots.  Despite Globes and SAG snubs for Molina, I still feel confident that he can make it.  Damon and Harrelson got the two nominations that Molina missed, so logic would probably say that they would be the two to fill the spots.  But I just get the feeling that Damon will get in because of the one-two punch of “Invictus” and “The Informant!”

Best Supporting Actress

  1. Mo’Nique, “Precious”
  2. Anna Kendrick, “Up in the Air”
  3. Julianne Moore, “A Single Man”
  4. Vera Farmiga, “Up in the Air”
  5. Penelope Cruz, “Nine”

No large change here.  Mo’Nique is becoming quite the juggernaut, and unless she goes full Eddie Murphy, there’s no chance she loses it.

If she does go full Eddie, Anna Kendrick takes it.  Her “Up in the Air” co-star, Vera Farmiga, takes over the fourth slot from Penelope Cruz.  “Nine” love isn’t very strong, but she is the scene stealer.  And she gets her picture here because she was too stunning not to feature.

Best Original Screenplay

  1. Inglourious Basterds
  2. Up
  3. The Hurt Locker
  4. A Serious Man 
  5. (500) Days of Summer

Tarantino’s dialogue has won over the Academy once before, and I think he may do it again this year.  He could be the new Woody Allen (for the Oscar voters) – just don’t tell him that I said that.

“A Serious Man” moves into the the nominees mainly because I can’t ponder hearing “Winner of One Oscar Nomination – BEST PICTURE.”  I know it will happen eventually, but I don’t think it can the first year.

If “(500) Days of Summer” doesn’t get nominated here, I will hit something.  It is too creative and brilliant to be ignored.

Best Adapted Screenplay

  1. Up in the Air
  2. An Education
  3. Precious
  4. Invictus
  5. District 9

“Up in the Air” is still king here.  Even if it doesn’t take Best Picture, I have a hard time seeing it losing this category.

“An Education” moves up despite missing out at the Golden Globes.  There is a sizable British faction of the Academy, and they will see to it that he gets his just reward for this great screenplay.  “Precious” moves down not only because of the Globes screenplay snub, but also because of a general loss of momentum.

“Invictus” gets a bump up mainly because “District 9” moves into the field as a wild-card contender.  “Avatar” has probably dashed its hopes in the Best Picture field, so the Academy could reward it here.  This was a well-scripted movie that scored with audiences and critics alike, and it deserves more than technical nominations that it is bound to lose to “Avatar.”

So, what are your thoughts?  Am I crazy to still think “Up in the Air” will win Best Picture?  Or that Jeff Bridges won’t win Best Actor?  I’m dying to know what you think, so don’t hesitate to tell me!





Random Factoid #141

16 12 2009

I probably could have milked a whole post out of this, but I needed a factoid today.

I did something this month that I hadn’t done in over 6 years: after seeing a movie based on a book, I went to the roots and read the book.  I read “Push” by Sapphire after seeing “Precious,” and I must say, I actually liked the book better.  I don’t agree with the statement, “The book is always better than the movie.”  Usually whatever you experience first, you like better, although it was not the case here.

Here’s a small bit of commentary: Sapphire’s novel gives us so much more insight into the fascinating character Precious.  Lee Daniels turns her into such a passive figure that we think little is going on inside her head, but in the book, she is quite the opposite.  We are able to feel how she feels during some incredibly despicable acts committed against her, and the movie did not quite get those sentiments across.





Oscar Moment: National Board of Review Winners

3 12 2009

The first big awards of the season are here!  Below are the winners of the National Board of Review’s 2009 awards.

Best Picture: Up in the Air

Top 10 List (does not include the winner of Best Picture):

An Education
(500) Days of Summer
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
Invictus
The Messenger
A Serious Man
Star Trek
Up
Where the Wild Things Are

Best Director: Clint Eastwood, Invictus

Best Actor: (tie) George Clooney, Up in the Air and Morgan Freeman, Invictus

Best Actress: Carey Mulligan, An Education

Best Supporting Actor: Woody Harrelson, The Messenger

Best Supporting Actress: Anna Kendrick, Up in the Air

Best Adapted Screenplay: Up in the Air

Best Original Screenplay: A Serious Man

Best Animated Film: Up

Best Documentary Film: The Cove

Best Ensemble: It’s Complicated

Breakthrough Male Performance: Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker

Breakthrough Female Performance: Gabourey Sidibe, Precious

(For a full list of winners, see the National Board of Review’s release on their official website.)

Now here’s some more in-depth analysis on the results.

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