Random Factoid #520

30 12 2010

With 2011 in our sights, many of 2010’s finest moments and achievements are being recapped (see my “10 for ’10” series).  The year’s reigning box office champ was not even a 2010 release but rather James Cameron’s “Avatar,” which made more this calendar year than “Toy Story 3” did in its entire run.

There are probably plenty of other milestones that “Avatar” piled up this year, but shockingly, one it didn’t receive was the biggest selling on-demand movie.  In case you hadn’t guessed it by looking at the picture, it was fellow Best Picture nominee (gag) “The Blind Side!”

Perhaps it might have emerged victorious had it been available on demand the day of its video release.  Comcast stated that “movies available the same day as DVD release are consistently among the top-performing content On Demand.”  And, as Cinematical pointed out, “Folks who loved it couldn’t wait to own it, even in a stripped-down edition, which explains the broken sales records for DVD and Blu-ray.”

In too many factoids to link back to, I have championed streaming and on-demand as the new frontier of movie rentals.  I’ve totally embraced it as I have 70+ movies in my Netflix instant queue and 3 movies waiting to watch on iTunes.  I always love it when movies are available day and date because I’m not too eager to leave my couch/bed to rent a movie.  If I hear that a movie is coming out on video (which I always do), I get upset when I can’t just hit a button and have it ready to watch on my Apple TV.

Lesson learned, Fox?  You couldn’t do much to keep “Avatar” from losing Best Picture, but you could have helped it win this award to add to a superfluous stack.

“Alice in Wonderland” Poll Results

21 12 2010

Best Picture nominee “Alice in Wonderland.” Only at the Golden Globes, right?  But could it happen at the Oscars?

As a major dark horse, it could happen. I think the nomination for “The Blind Side” last year was just a perfect storm of events – the money, the publicity, the truth, and the heart. But what if it was just the money after all? What if Academy voters slipped in “The Blind Side” just to balance out a movie like “An Education” which hadn’t made $10 million?

It’s likely that “127 Hours” will barely clear that same mark, and what better than the second-highest grossing movie of the year to cancel it out? (I’m only playing devil’s advocate, of course).

I don’t think this will actually happen, and judging by the poll, you don’t either. 3 out of the 4 voters in the poll said they didn’t think “Alice in Wonderland” had a shot at a Best Picture nomination.  One brave voter dared to say it would. Good luck with that prediction, and I pray to a high power that you are wrong at the sake of the Academy’s credibility as a voting organization.

REVIEW: All About Steve

25 01 2010

Sandra Bullock got a lot of press for her movies in 2009, and it has followed us into 2010 as well.  She chose three distinctly different films: a romantic comedy (“The Proposal”), an inspirational sports drama (“The Blind Side”), and a more off-beat comedy (“All About Steve”).  And in each of these movies, she portrayed a wide range of women.  In “The Proposal,” she played a woman who discovers that she needs more than corporate success to fill the void that a family leaves.  In “The Blind Side,” she has received acclaim for her performance as Leigh Anne Tuohy, the mother on a mission to give opportunity to a deserving child.  Most people are so enamored by those two that they are willing to turn a blind eye to the scorned “All About Steve,” where Bullock enters more familiar territory by playing a bumbling klutz who falls madly and hopelessly head-over-heels for a guy who couldn’t care less about her.

Despite what you may think the movie “All About Steve,” it’s hard to take great fault with Bullock’s performance.  She makes the best of a horrifically written character, refusing to lay down and die.  By no stretch of the imagination am I saying that the goofy crossword puzzle crafter Mary belongs in the same league as Gracie Hart (“Miss Congeniality”) or Lucy Kelson (“Two Weeks Notice”) – and it shouldn’t be mentioned in the same sentence as the racist Los Angeles housewive Jean Cabot from “Crash.”  We can wonder all we want about why she chose this movie, but it’s total face plant is not her fault.

Blame unimaginative writing.  Blame pretty much everyone else in the cast who is in this movie to collect a nice paycheck – I’m talking to you, Thomas Haden Church and Bradley Cooper.  When even Ken Jeong, the highlight of “The Hangover” with his hilarious Leslie Chow, can’t invigorate a movie, you know that things are pretty darn bad.  D /

Oscar Moment: “The Blind Side”

2 01 2010

How do you solve a problem like “The Blind Side?”

Today, the crowd-pleasing movie crossed $200 million at the box office.  This is a number that cannot be ignored – people love this movie.  Only 17% of its take has come from opening weekend, a towering statistic which shows that the movie has survived on repeat business and word of mouth.  The movie has inspired and excited Americans, and the buzz even led to a full-hour special on “20/20” last night.  So, we have to wonder, is this a dark horse Best Picture candidate?

The movie could be buoyed to the top by Sandra Bullock.  Her year, which also included the smash hit “The Proposal,” has earned her attention and raves.  Her performance in “The Blind Side” has brought nominations from major groups such as the Golden Globes (who also cited her for “The Proposal” in comedy), the Broadcast Film Critics Association, and the Screen Actors Guild.  But is Bullock enough?

The movie stands at a decent 72% on Rotten Tomatoes, but there is a wide discrepancy between top critics (58%) and average moviegoers (93%).  Critics don’t decided a movie’s awards success; however, they do have a very large impact.  The critical champions of “The Blind Side” don’t seem to be incredibly passionate or fervent about it.  In fact, most of them that do like it simply cite that it made them feel good and not much else.

Here’s where it gets tough: trying to decipher voter mentality.  It’s hard to tell what the Oscar voters are thinking about their ballots this year.  We haven’t seen a year with ten Best Picture nominees in decades, so no one can be sure what to expect.  Are we looking at one of the most unconventional lineups in memory?  Or are we just going to be getting the same humdrum Oscar bait movies filling out the field?

If the voters want to choose something that made them feel good, “The Blind Side” might find their way onto some ballots.  I might not have been as inspired as some, but what better testament to the power of cinema is there than a film that has the ability to move you?  In addition, if the voters want to dispel accusations that their selections are pretentious and removed from the general feeling of the American populace in general, “The Blind Side” might seem a natural beneficiary.  It is a movie that shows how far a random act of kindness can go, and Americans love these heartwarming stories.



REVIEW: The Blind Side

6 12 2009

The Blind Side” might as well be a Lifetime or Hallmark movie.  It trades the sports movie cliches (coach’s speech, dramatic championship game) for the inspirational movie cliches (the moment that changes a life, small choice that signifies acceptance).  It is able to excel beyond a made-for-TV movie because it has its heart in the right place, yet it still feels like one because the focus doesn’t hit similarly.  The story should be about Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron) and how he rose from poverty to play in the NFL.  However, the filmmakers felt it necessary to shift the paramount concern of the movie to Leigh Anne Touhy (Sandra Bullock), the wealthy woman who made it all possible.  It takes the achievement out of the inspiration, and a movie that aims to be heartwarming winds up radiating nothing but lukewarm feelings.

Call it post-“Precious” syndrome, but the scenes that attempted to show Michael’s roots in poverty had remarkably little effect.  I think the failure comes from a fundamental misunderstanding about films about triumph: in order for us to truly feel something when the hero comes out on top, we have to comprehend how terrible his situation really was.  The film puts itself at an immediate disadvantage by giving us only fleeting glimpses of the neighborhood where Michael grew up, and even in those few scenes, it glosses over how truly dreadful it is to live there.  The poverty is almost candy-coated; no real grit is assigned to it.  Worst of all was the handling of Michael’s mother, a freewheeling drug addict who is deprived of her children by the government.  Her brief appearance is so dazed that it hits with no impact, especially for those who have seen Mo’Nique’s character dish out abuse her daughter Precious.

Sandra Bullock’s spirited and spunky performance (which was good enough to overcome her dreadful accent) atones for some of the errors the film makes with her story.  The reason that Michael is able to succeed is because of a random act of kindness Leigh Anne makes after observing him walking the lonely streets with a plastic bag of laundry.  But for some reason, the filmmakers don’t buy that as a viable reason for her to make all the sacrifices that she does, so they turn into an episode of white guilt.  That emotion doesn’t really work well with inspiration, and the film nearly turns Michael’s biggest struggle that overcoming his race, not his past.  The story should have been how one woman selflessly sacrificed her own resources to empower an underprivileged boy who then used that encouragement to succeed in ways he could not imagine.  But by shining the spotlight on Leigh Anne, it is seemingly demeaning to the accomplishments of Michael.  No doubt she was responsible for the opportunities, but it was him who seized them.

“The Blind Side” wants to hit on a gut level, but comes rushing at you like a middle school football player instead of an NFL linebacker.  Aside from Bullock and her plucky younger son S.J. (Jae Head), the performances really aren’t there, especially not from Quinton Aaron, who makes Michael reticent to a point where it becomes frustratingly difficult to sympathize with him.  The movie falls a rung below inspirational, but still manages to provide a nice boost of happiness and an overall pleasant, if not wholly satisfying, experience.  B /

Oscar Moment: Screenplays

22 11 2009

NOTE: This “Oscar Moment” is a tad different from any of the prior ones.  Rather than focusing on a specific movie, this post focuses on a particular category – in this case, screenplays.

A part of the Oscar season that I particularly love is watching the studios promote their movies.  Thankfully, my friends over at Awards Daily do a fantastic job of monitoring the “For Your Consideration” ads that are placed in Variety and other indudstry magazines.  But as the Internet becomes bigger and more present in our lives, the studios have adjusted campaigns slightly over the past years.  Now, they have set up “For Your Consideration” websites designed to promote their movies to the voters but also provide a place for average moviegoers to learn more about the movies simultaneously.

A recent feature that most studios have graciously included on these sites is access to the screenplay of that movie in its entirety.  Personally, I find these a great way to learn about the different styles of moviemaking in the race.  Some movies draw heavily from their screenplay, others use it as merely a guideline.

Therefore, I feel it to be my duty to impart the knowledge of this treasure trove of movie gold to any interest moviegoer reading this blog.  Click on the links below and they will take you to the screenplay for that movie (I will update this page periodically with new screenplays when they become available).  Enjoy, because the race is just beginning!

NOMINEES for Best Screenpalay:

Click here to read the screenplay for “Precious.”

Click here to read the screenplay for “An Education.”

Click here to read the screenplay for “The Hurt Locker.”

Click here to read the screenplay for “Inglourious Basterds.”

Click here to read the screenplay for “A Serious Man.”

Other Screenplays:

Click here to read the screenplay for “A Single Man.”

Click here to read the screenplay for “Nine.”

Click here to read the screenplay for “It’s Complicated.”

Click here to read the screenplay for “Where the Wild Things Are.”

Click here to read the screenplay for “The Informant!”

Click here to read the screenplay for “The Road.”

Click here to read the screenplay for “The Blind Side.”

What To Look Forward To In … November 2009

7 10 2009

The holiday movie season begins to kick into high gear in the month of November, as does exciting Oscar season.  Accordingly, this post is longer than the previous monthly preview posts.  Brace yourself for movie mania coming your way in a few weeks.  Sit back, relax, and let Marshall guide you through the coming attractions.

November 6

From the mainstream movie perspective, the hot movie of this weekend will be Robert Zemeckis’ adaptation of “A Christmas Carol.”  Shot with the same motion capture technology that Zemeckis used to make “The Polar Express,” the movie will cash in on premium ticket prices from 3D and IMAX 3D screenings.  My main concern about the quality of the movie itself lies with its principal actor, Jim Carrey, who will act as Scrooge and all three ghosts.  I doubt Zemeckis will permit it, but I fear that Carrey will make a mockery of Dickens’ classic novel much in the fashion of Mike Meyers with “The Cat in the Hat.”  Regardless of what critics say, I will probably end up seeing this with the family for some good old-fashioned family fun at the movies.

“The Men Who Stare at Goats” is the first movie of the holiday season to which George Clooney lends his talents.  Here, he plays a a military man in charge of a secret unit that attempts to use psychic powers for military purpose.  One such activity is to attempt to kill goats just by staring at them.  The movie also stars Ewan MacGregor as the reporter who discovers it all; the cast also includes Jeff Bridges and Kevin Spacey.  The movie is directed and adapted by Grant Heslov, previously nominated for an Academy Award for his work on “Good Night, and Good Luck.”  The trailer seems to show Heslov’s approach as similar to the Coen Brothers who usually provide a fun-filled romp.  Maybe the film will be a bona-fide indie hit, and Overture Films will be able to claim their first movie to gross over $50 million.  But we’ll have to see.

I’ve already written about the Oscar favorite, “Precious,” in a previous Oscar Moment.  I’ll post the trailer here just for the sake of promoting it, but if you want to hear my thoughts, read the post.

Two thrilling movies also open this week.  First, “The Box” with Cameron Diaz and James Marsden, seems to have an intriguing premise: if you push the button on the box, you will get a million dollars, but someone you don’t know will die.  However, it looks to be more interested in cheap thrills than exploring moral issues.  The other, “The Fourth Kind,” looks downright scary.  If horror is your thing, this looks like the movie for you.  I saw the trailer at “District 9,” and even if you don’t want to see it, you have to ponder the validity of the “true story” behind the movie.

November 13

Disaster porn reaches its pinnacle this weekend.  “2012,” Roland Emmerich’s apocalyptic film, will have some of the biggest destruction and explosions the world has ever seen.  The trailer was so mind-blowing that I am willing to overlook all vices in the plot to see the world’s greatest landmarks get wiped off the earth.  My only comment is that if John Cusack somehow finds a way to stop the end of the world, I will be enraged.

The other major wide release of the week is “Pirate Radio,” a movie that Focus Features so desperately wants you to see that they changed the title from “The Boat that Rocked” just a few weeks ago to appeal to you. Are you flattered? You shouldn’t be. The movie seems like comedic Oscar Bait, but it didn’t do well Britain, the country of production. Focus scrambled to change their focus from awards movie to popular movie. So whenever this pops into a theater near you, be armed with the knowledge that “Pirate Radio” is merely a washed-up Oscars wannabe. But make the decision to see it for yourself.

New York and Los Angeles get the treat of watching Wes Anderson’s adaptation Roald Dahl’s “Fantastic Mr. Fox.”  I have the utmost respect for Anderson for not conforming to the growing trend to do all animation through computers.  Anderson’s film uses the stop motion technique, moving an object gradually to give the illusion that it is moving.  Even more exciting that Anderson’s eccentric style in an eccentric medium is the voice cast.  Clooney voices the titular character, the cunning Mr. Fox.  The cast also features Meryl Streep, Jason Schwartzman, Owen Wilson, and Bill Murray.  What’s not to like?  (NOTE: The movie expands on November 20 and enters wide release on November 25.)

For those who like very obscure indies, “That Evening Sun” with 87-year-old Oscar bridesmaid Hal Halbrook has his latest shot at the gold.

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