Random Factoid #238

23 03 2010

This is seriously not a joke.

I was texting someone yesterday tehehehe to imply a more mischievous giggle than the normal hahahaha.  But when I tried to type it, my iPhone auto-corrected tehehehe to thehurtlocker.

Could it be from all the texting I was doing during the Oscars?  Either way, it’s pretty amazing that even my phone knows how obsessed I am.

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Random Factoid #194

7 02 2010

The Los Angeles Times, you are simply amazing!  Literally, you are taking fanning the flames of my obsession to a whole new level and I love it!

It’s like the stock market, except you put your money on Oscar candidates!  It’s so much fun to play the strategy game, especially knowing that you aren’t losing any real money.  I’m putting big money on potential underdogs (such as “Inglourious Basterds” in Best Picture and “The Hurt Locker” in Best Screenplay) and significantly less on the locked winners (such as Mo’Nique).

I just downloaded this today, and it is already the most fun app I have on my iPhone.  Search “The Envelope” and download the one from the Los Angeles Times.  Even if you aren’t as obsessed as I am, it’s still a good time.





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!





Marshall and the Movies – A Month in Retrospect

28 08 2009

You know what your problem is, it’s that you haven’t seen enough movies – all of life’s riddles are answered in the movies.

– Steve Martin

31 days ago, I sat on my bed with my computer and a dream.  Never did I think it would reach where it is today.  I had feared that the blog would just be a new outlet for my obsession, but it would really end up being me talking to myself.  Yet as I am writing this post, the blog has just passed 1,700 views.  Not too shabby.  So, I think that thanks are in order.  THANK YOU, READERS!  This blog has become somewhat of a success because of you.  And I especially commend those of you have commented, whether on your own will or as a result of my constant prodding.

Usually anniversaries are a good time to sit down and reflect since the original event.  And I intend to do just that.  In my first post, I laid out a very rough mission, if you will: “What I do hope to do is to inspire a deeper appreciation of movies, foster a desire to discuss movies, and connect with people through the glorious medium of film.”

Have I reached the goals that I set out?  Overall, I think I have made good progress towards them, but my work is by no means finished.  Of those three categories, I think I have done the best job of connecting with people through movies.  I have several movie blogs that I now check because they stumbled upon my blog and commented, and I felt the need to pay it forward and read their blog as well.  Some of these excellent blogs include Joel the teen critic and James the Central Florida film critic. The blog has served as a great conversation piece among friends and acquaintances at school, allowing me to talk without being reticent about my obsession.  One post even inspired an hour long debate with a friend.

I can obviously work on fostering a desire to discuss movies, seeing as I have 1,707 views and 43 comments.  For those of you who don’t have a calculator within reach to do the math, that is a meager 2.5% of all viewers who have left a comment.  I hope I am not nagging about commenting, but the blog becomes a project in vain if I can’t get your input.  And as for inspiring a deeper inspiration of movies, hopefully that will come with some of my guided projects that will be starting soon … I PROMISE!

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FEATURE: Mindless Moviegoing?

11 08 2009

I’ve heard a fair few jokes that start with “There are only two kinds of people in this world.” Many people think there are two kinds of moviegoers in the world: those who rush to go see the latest blockbuster just because of its stars or because it has stuff blowing up, and those who prefer what they perceive to be more substantive and tasteful filmmaking, usually independent or art house films. I say, why can’t you be both? I most certainly am. I love little indies like “The Hurt Locker” and “(500) Days of Summer,” but I also enjoy movies like “The Hangover” and “Star Trek.” I live for November and December when the majority of the movies nominated at the Oscars are released, but I also get excited for May and June when the summer puts forth movies for all tastes.

But, alas, I am one of very few people my age that can make such a claim. I can guarantee you most of my friends haven’t even heard of “The Hurt Locker;” heck, some of you all reading this probably haven’t. And that’s alright, but we won’t be seeing any movies like it in the future if Americans consciously choose senseless entertainment like “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” over higher-brow movies. On occasion, the two have been able to blend successfully, in movies like “The Dark Knight.” Yet few will dispute that movies with such a plot might not have been so commercially viable if they had not worn the front of your typical blockbuster.

The legendary movie critic Roger Ebert has some harsh words for my generation, saying that we may be headed for a “Dark Age” in cinema, mainly due in part to teens who throw their money mindlessly at the big-budget studio movies. He thinks that because we don’t read reviews from critics regularly, we are more prone to drink the blockbuster Kool-Aid. He even goes as far as to suggest that we don’t even care about reviews and that we don’t even have the brainpower to go see the movie that isn’t showing on the most screens at the multiplex. The root of this mindset is “the dumbing-down of America” that has sprung from our worthless education, failing to provide us any sort of curiosity in anything beyond what we see constantly advertised.

Ebert does bring up some good points. It is the teens who swarm the theater every weekend and never fail to go see the hit movie of the week. It is the teens who demand more action, more star power, and bigger explosions. It is the teens who line the pockets of Michael Bay and the studios that let him put such garbage on the screen.

But I don’t think he is entirely right. There is hope for this generation, and I have seen it. Back in December, I was among the first to see “Slumdog Millionaire.” Before it was the sensation that it became, I couldn’t get anyone to go see it. I had a friend who ridiculed me for seeing it instead of “The Day the Earth Stood Still.” That same friend is now one of the movie’s biggest fans. I also convinced him to go see movies like “Frost/Nixon” and “The Reader” before they were nominated for Best Picture over movies like “The Unborn” and “Paul Blart: Mall Cop.” I spread the word about these movies and I got my friends to see them, and I think they were pleasantly surprise when they not only knew, but had seen many of the nominated films at the Oscars.

That hope is extending past Oscar season, when it is easy to support indies. Many of my friends are discovering “(500) Days of Summer” and “The Hurt Locker” without a huge media push (or even my own push). These are the same people who saw movies like “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” and demanded more for their money and their time. I think what Ebert fails to comprehend is that although many of us go see these movies, that doesn’t mean we love every one we see. We are a curious bunch: curious to find the next “The Dark Knight” in a heap of blockbusters and curious to find the next “Slumdog Millionaire” in a mass of indies. Critics and parents often have different tastes from ours, and how will we know unless we take a look for ourselves? One man’s “G.I. Joe” may be another man’s “Citizen Kane.”

It is easy to look at all the terrible movies that have been released recently and think that American cinema is in a bad state. And yes, my generation has been the driving force behind the spawning of so many of them. But give us a break. We want to be enthralled by movies just as much as any adult. We seek out good entertainment too, but blockbusters are usually the first place we look. We teens are the target audience of comic-book movies, and that has produced beloved critical darlings like “The Dark Knight” and “Star Trek.” We love raunchy comedies, and that genre brought “Knocked Up” and “The Hangover,” both of which were lauded more than Best Picture nominee “The Reader” (according to Metacritic). We are not the root of the problematic dearth of great entertainment at the movies, but we are the easiest to blame. Even if you were to eliminate the types of movies that give critics such a headache, such as comic book adaptations and frenetic action movies, there would still be bad movies. But whether you prefer blockbusters or indies, we can all do our share to demand better quality from the movies that we watch.

Until the next reel,
Marshall





REVIEW: The Hurt Locker

4 08 2009

My heart is still pounding from seeing “The Hurt Locker” last night, the most riveting movie to hit theaters this year. The movie takes a unique approach, using a bomb squad in Iraq to show that for some, war is not hell but an addiction. Dynamite performances from Jeremy Renner as the fearless bomb disarmer & Anthony Mackie and Brian Geraghty as his comrades who have to deal with him putting them so close to death every day in the field are what propel the movie. Equally stunning though is director Kathryn Bigelow’s vision for the film, and it is refreshing to see war from a different and distinct vantage point.

The movie isn’t very plot driven, and I think that works to its advantage. It plays out almost like a documentary, which gives it a very authentic feel. And with that comes a very natural suspense, and the uncertainty of every situation makes your heart pound. Bigelow makes a wise decision not to score the film’s most chilling moments, taking a tip from the Coens “No Country for Old Men,” and Iraq’s natural sounds are infinitely more gripping than hearing a soundtrack.

The movie mainly concerns itself with developing its three main characters, and it does so extraordinarily well. It is a marvel to peel back the layers of Staff Sergeant James (Renner). We find a man addicted the adrenaline rush of being in the face of death but is profoundly afraid of life back home with his family. Specialist Eldridge (Geraghty) is the polar opposite of James, constantly fearing his end and petrified in the face of death. He always resents James’ daring ways. Sergeant Sanborn (Mackie) is somewhere in between the two, never petrified by the thought of death but knows the stakes and wants to be cautious.

Renner gives an absolute tour de force performance as James. He strips James down until he is emotionally raw, although the script backs down from getting to the core of who his character really is. Renner also plays James with a striking charisma and humor. He makes his character real, and if the Oscars do not recognize him with at least a nomination, there is truly no justice in the world. Mackie is also sensational, playing his qualms with James’ behavior in the field with quiet strength. Geraghty often plays Eldridge like the clichéd troubled soldier, but he has some great moments where his character really comes alive.

“The Hurt Locker” is truly an exceptional film in that is driven by human drama rather than combat. And because it is set in Iraq in 2004 before the more recent successful troop surge, the triumph or failure of the bomb team is never certain. This lends the movie a sense of unpredictability and thus makes it all the more compelling and unnerving. If there is a more suspenseful and forceful movie in 2009, then we have a really special year ahead of us.  A / 4stars