Saturday, 31 January 2009

'Sugar' Trailer

Not really a fan of the sports movie unless you count "The Cutting Edge" but this does look like it is going to be one of those really well appreciated films that could pull off a screenplay nomination come 2010. Just saying.

Friday, 30 January 2009

'Push' - Read, read, and read again.

That it right folks. Sapphire's first novel is in the middle of being read for the third time through. I first opened the pages on Monday evening and have since read this amazing, haunting and courageous novel two and a half times.

Through limited vocabulary and slang speech, Claireece "Precious" Jones tells her story of survival. Sapphire proves that you do not need long sentences and an extensive vocabulary to paint the world around you. Through her broken writing, Precious grasps the reader and plunges them into her world so extensively you feel you lived it with her.

Had I read this book before I knew of the film being made from it I would say this story is unfilmable.
It is just too harsh.
But now that it has, I cannot wait to see what these brave film makers have done.

Throughout all the abuse inflicted on this girl, the most disturbing thing to me is the fact that the author taught girls like this, and perhaps heard stories much worse than those of Precious Jones.

35 days y'all!

Thursday, 29 January 2009

Mini Review – ‘Frozen River’

Courtney Hunts feature debut is stronger than most of the veteran directors films this year, which may not seem like much of a compliment considering the offerings from them, but is it.
The film is not just about the struggles of a single mother, or human trafficking, but rather a look at some of the other things that are going horrible wrong with America. The brilliant screenplay touches on terrorism, the sex industry, homeland security the plight of the Native American and an underclass in American that is struggling to survive.
Melissa Leo has garnered a majority of praise for her performance of Ray Eddy, and indeed it is deserved. She never makes Ray sympathetic, and indeed some of the choices she makes, are outright shocking and disgusting. What makes it such a fantastic performance though is how fully realised the character is. Small scenes where a grand emotional outpouring could take place, barely a tear falls down her face. This is a woman who has been through so much, it would take much more that a fight to make her break down.
Misty Upman, who plays Lila, gives an honest and beautiful performance. Slowly stripping away the layers off this thick skinned woman to reveal a soul at odds with her path and ultimately seeking redemption.
The true star though writer director Courtney Hunt who has directed and written a film that is gripping, intelligent and more importantly, honest.

Grade: A-

How out of touch are the Oscars?

OK, I am going to get all graphy on your arse.

People have been going on and on about how out of touch the Oscars are, not only from the public but also the critics. While I think this is true, I was finding it hard to see a pattern.
More often then not the AMPAS side more with the critics. Last year was a brilliant example of that. Every film in the final top 5 scored 80 or more on metacritic.
If you break it down by year, and take the average of the metacritic scores of all five best picture nominees, you will get something that looks like this:

As you can see the average of the quality of the 5 films up for best picture this year are the worst in a long time according to film critics.
But if you take into account the difference between the highest rated Best Picture nominee and the lowest in a given year you will see that the difference remains more or less the same:

It would seem that the Academy is more or less on par with the critics, give or take a few glaring omissions (usually a Pixar film which are usually the highest rated films of the year). But they seem to like what they like, which is shown by the fact that almost every year there is a film that is considered to be very weak.
What they like no one really knows for sure, we can figure out what they don't like though.

But what of the public? Does the Academy represent the public opinion?
How about if we take into account the amount each film has made domestically?
If we take the average gross of all five Best Picture nominees per year we see something like this:

If we take the highest grossing nominee and then the lowest grossing we can see how the divide between popular blockbuster and small indie is declining:

What is the reason?
Is this simply a case where the Academy is out of touch?
Is it a case where the public at large no longer care to see quality films, indie or otherwise?
Is it simply a case that the big studios are not producing films that the majority of the public wish to see, yet alone love?

One could say it is a combination of all of the above, but looking at the top 20 grossing films since 2001 we can see that there are critically acclaimed films that were not nominated for Best Picture. These include: 'Oceans Eleven', 'Shrek', 'Monsters Inc', 'Catch Me If You Can', 'Minority Report', 'Finding Nemo', 'Pirates of the Carribean', 'The Passion of the Christ', 'The Incredibles', 'X2 - X-Men United', 'Spider Man 2', 'The Bourne Identity/Supremacy/Ultimatum', 'Fahrenheit 9/11', 'King Kong', 'Batman Begins', 'Walk the Line', 'The 40 Year Old Virgin', 'Dreamgirls', 'Ratatouille', 'Knocked Up', 'American Gangster', 'WALL-E', 'Iron Man', 'The Dark Knight'.

Hmmm. See the pattern?
The Academy do not think genre films are quality films, no matter how highly acclaimed they are.
These include animated films, super hero films, action films and comedies (for a comedy to be nominated for the big prize it really should be a sub genre ie: musical/comedy or comedy/drama - 'Juno' and 'Little Miss Sunshine' had plenty of dramatic moments).
In fact if a genre film is lucky enough to cross over it either has to be a fantasy film adapted from a beloved work (Lord of the Rings) or a genre film that blurs the lines ('The Silence of the Lambs', 'Exorsist') or just far too big to ignore (LOTR again and 'Star Wars'). If you take the information from the above graphs, what you can see is that 2004 was probably the best cross over of indie film, critical darling and public popularity. Those films were: 'The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King', 'Lost in Translation', 'Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World', 'Mystic River' and 'Seabiscuit'.

People say the Academy do not really matter anymore, but in a way it does (we film bloggers alone would have nothing to predict and bitch about if they didn't exist). For a film to hold the title of Oscars 'Best Picture of the year' means greater box office and DVD revenues - so it is financially important. Plus winners in their various categories hold prestige, and usually find it easier to climb up the Hollywood ladder.
However, what is clear, is that this organization is loosing grip with the changing world. They have succumbed to an 'Animated Film' category which gives them a chance to award films they love, but are too embarrassed to lump into 'Best Picture'. To do so would be to admit that the craft they love is changing.

Movie making IS changing. Actors no longer have to appear on screen, cinematographers can almost be digitally replaced, and directing is ending up being much more collaborative. We are now living in a world of movies where animated films can tell us more about being alive than non animated films, where some of the best and most complex stories are coming from comic books and some of the most heartbreaking and world view changing things are not in the latest holocaust/war film, but in documentaries.
Yet none of these genres of film ever compete for the big prize (only 'Beauty and the Beast' has crossed over). Perhaps the Academy will come up with 'Best Action Film' and 'Best Comedy Film' categories to further segregate something as universal as film.

If we lived in a world where genre did not matter, only the excellence in film, then the 2009 Academy Award Best Picture Nominees would be: 'The Class', 'Man on a Wire', 'Slumdog Millionaire', 'WALL-E', 'Waltz With Bashir'.

Heck if the best films of the year were the ones getting the highest votes on IMDB the nominees would be 'The Dark Knight', 'Gran Torino', Slumdog Millionaire', 'WALL-E', 'The Wrestler'.

Since it is obvious that Oscar has no business saying what something so personal as 'Best' is, perhaps we should just move on. I mean awards are great, and we all want to see our favourites win something, but do they really matter? I mean she doesn't have an Oscar, BAFTA, Emmy, Golden Globe, not even a Satellite award, but is there anyone out there who does not think that Toni Collette is one of the most talented actresses working today?
Awards are hardly a measure of talent, and the Oscars are completely out of touch.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Early Hype

I am not one to get all hyped up about a movie, especially if said movie is not being released until 2012. I also roll my eyes when magazines start advertising films on their covers that are months and months away from release, but f*ck me sideways with a chainsaw if I am not getting hyped up about this.

Then I realize I have 3 years and 10 months to wait. Am sad again.

'The Damned United' trailer

This here is a British film directed by Tom Hooper and adapted by Peter Morgan from David Peace's bestselling novel The Damned Utd....phew.
It stars Michael Sheen, that Oscar nomination repellant of a man, as Brian Clough, the new manager of Leeds United soccer team. He was fired after only 44 days. Clough was as a deeply flawed hero; foul mouthed, vengeful and beset with inner demons and alcoholism - which could give Sheen a lot to chew on!

The Curious Link of Linkity Link

Yet another reason why I love Samantha Morton

Even though I was not a hug fan of Tin Tin, I cannot help but be pleased by the latest news concerning the project. takes a look at the big Sundance winner, and personal campaign subject "Push' and some 'hopefully' good news on distribution.

And talking about Sundance. Two fellow bloggers were there and took some time to write up some reviews. Nice to see some non-professional critics looking at these films. Give a brand new perspective. Check out some great reviews at feelingsoblahg and recycled film.

Living in Cinema has the trailer for 'Mary & Max' (pictured) a stop motion animated film that was well received at Sundance and features the voice work of my favourite actress: Toni Collette. Some other trailers from the festival are here: Blaxploitation pic 'Black Dynamite' and straight guys doing gay porn comedy 'Humpday'.

Sasha Baron Cohen's latest controversial film 'Bruno' may be delayed. could he be in talks come next awards season? Who knows.

The BF talks about the best advertising placement for a hair removal cream ever!

A blog next door celebrates that amazing actor Dustin Hoffman.

Jose at Movies Kick Ass takes a look at Waltz With Bashir' and likes it more than me and is so persuasive that I almost re-think my stance.

The Academy of Motion Pcture arts and Sciences really want viewers to tune in (ratings rating ratings) so they have enlisted some experts. The Carpetbagger has the news! (wouldn't it have been simpler for them to have just nominated the most popular movie of the year?)

The LA Times have the first official buzzmeter! Yay!

And Finally, the best thing about the SAG awards, aside from Meryl's speech is what those fug girls have to say. Firstly I thought I may pee myself over the Rosario/Teri take down until I read what they had to say about Nicolette Sheridan

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

And for something non-Oscar related

So, I never watch American Idol. I haven't since J-Hud was voted off, however I love to watch the auditions of the people who make the top spots.
I gave been doing this all night, and most of them were fantastic, however one was just above and beyond. Haven't heard anything from this contestant, but this has to be the best idol audition ever!

Best Original Score

Here is the Oscar nominated score for "WALL-E," by Thomas Newman.

This track is called 'Define Dancing'

Probably the best score of the year.

Best Original Score

Here is the Oscar nominated score for "Slumdog Millionaire," by A.R. Rahman;
This track is called 'Latika's Theme'

You know what, I do really like this score. I would not be upset to see it win at all.

Best Original Score

Here is the Oscar nominated score for "Milk," by Danny Elfman;
This track is called 'Give'Em' Hope'

Actual on a re-listen this is pretty damn good as well. I do like Danny Elfman, and this is very unlike him.

Best Original Score

Here is the Oscar nominated score for "Defiance," by James Newton Howard.
This track is called 'Definace Main Titles'

hyhyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy.....ooops sorry. Fell asleep

Best Original Score

Here is the Oscar nominated score for "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," by Alexandre Desplat.
This track is called 'Mr. Button'

Lovely score. That is all I can come up with

Monday, 26 January 2009

Seeing the good in SAG

With all the ranting and raving at how 'Slumdog Millionaire' does not deserve the awards it has won, especially the SAG ensemble, I have to look on the bright side of the situation.
Irrfan Khan is a SAG award winner. Heeeeeeeeee!

Mini Review - 'Changeling'

Not so much a review as random babblings.
The story depicted in the film 'Changeling' is one so fascinating and horrific that you most likely wouldn't believe it. In 1928 Walter Collins disappeared. His mother Christine, frantically searched for him until the LAPD found and returned him to his mother. However, the boy was not her son, and she was locked away in an insane asylum because she dared to publicly say that the police has made a mistake. It was only until the partial bodies of many children were found in Wineville California, and one of the killers identified Walter as being a victim, that she was let out.

It was harrowing stuff to read. It could have been two films in one.
However watching the film, and overly dramatic and sloppy telling of this true life crime, makes you think the story is nothing but second rate fiction.
I can forgive the film for leaving out certain details, such as the children were kidnapped and rented out to wealthy Southern California pedophiles. Or that the killer was aided by his own mother. Audiences would hate pedo's and child killing mothers, I mean how very unlike Clint to show that.
However there are certain elaborations taken in regards to the fate of Walter that firstly, are not true, and secondly have no purpose than to give the central character in the film hope. Leave out fact sure, but don't introduce fiction to a true story.
And as for the central character, well Angelina Jolie tried her best, but simpering and crying and shouting 'he's not my son' over and over again does not a performance make. And boy does she cry, and cry and cry and cry. Yes, it is emotional and overwhelming stuff for a mother to go through, but having to watch a constantly glassy eyed Jolie takes its toll. I mean her eyes wee so glassy she looked like Puss-n-Boots.
The rest of the cast is uneven and forgettable, much like the movie.
I was thinking after watching it, how good it would have been had the cast Mary Louise Parker and had David Fincher direct. If only eh?
It seems Jolie get Oscar nominated only when she doesn't really deserve it. when she does, she is snubbed. Go figure!
For a better review that is much more though out and a lot nicer go here.

Grade: D+

The Curious Case of Distribution

Ok, so my promise not to talk about 'Push' is already broken. I said I was not going to talk about the big winner of Sundance until I had to.
However even though it won three awards, the film is still without distribution.
There has been talk that this is simply due to the economy.
Somehow I think this is not simply the case. Not only has the film already had 'awards talk' for its two actresses (Mo'Nique and Gabby Sidibe) but it won the Audience Dramatic award and the grand jury Dramatic award. Only one other film has ever done that in the festivals history and that was 'QuinceaƱera' in 2005 (also about a pregnant teenager - but that one got distribution).
I am pretty sure this film will eventually get seen, however I can also imagine white studio heads thinking "black obese illiterate pregnant teen pregnant by father and living in poverty? No thank about a terrible but lucrative rom-com with Kate Hudson?"
Sure the film will be a marketing challenge, but enough people loved the book, and with those two high(ish) profile wins it should definitely boost interest. 'Maria Full of Grace' and 'Hustle & Flow' were Audience award winners and both did well in terms of gross and awards buzz. Perhaps they need to sell the "Mariah Carey is great in this" angel which sucks, but if it gets people to see it then great!
Perhaps if 'Push' featured pretty white people it would been bought very quickly.

Since I haven't seen the film, or read the book (it arrived today peeps so you know I will be glued - currently reading 'The Cement Garden', but may have to put that one down) people may ask why I care so much?
A gay black man has made a film about an incredibly overweight and sexually abused black teenage girl trying to better herself. He has made a film that he probably knew would be a struggle to get seen. So, regardless of quality, that courage and belief in the story needs to be celebrated.
You may say sexual orientation and race shouldn't matter, and you are right, it shouldn't. Sadly though, to many people, it does.

SAG Winners

Here they are. For an in depth look go over to Nat at The Film Experience who did some fabulous live blogging. Here is part 1 and here is part 2.

Ensemble Cast: Slumdog Millionaire
Lead Actress: Meryl Streep, Doubt
Lead Actor: Sean Penn, Milk
Supporting Actress: Kate Winslet, The Reader
Supporting Actor: Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight

Quick! Before it is taken down!

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Documentary Watch

From Variety:
"The Mouse House's first production under its Paris-based Disneynature label, "The Crimson Wing: Mystery of the Flamingos" offers up a visually captivating flight through a little-known realm of the animal kingdom. Freshman effort from docu lensers Matthew Aeberhard and Leander Ward follows the lead of Luc Jacquet's smash hit, "March of the Penguins," using striking imagery, soothing narration and stirring music to depict the heroic migratory habits of flamingos perched in northern Tanzania's Lake Natron."

Watch the stunning trailer here.

The Cove

For those of you who visit this blog from time to tie you will know that I am not only a nature lover, but am deeply concerned with the way the general public turn a blind eye to to what goes on. I understand that to take all this on board would cause major life style changes (where you buy food, what you eat, what you throw away) and lets face it, most people just do not want to be inconvenienced.

Sad but very very true. Even I, up here on my high horse, sometimes cannot be bothered and buy prawns knowing how destructive the methods in which they are caught are on the ocean simply because I want them.

I had posted on Sharkwater a while ago, as well as the extra Hero's activities of Hayden Panettiere trying to save the lives of trapped dolphins before they are butchered by Japanese fishermen, and now Sundance brings us another film. The Cove.
Variety reviewed it and had this to say:
"Eco-activist documentaries don't get much more compelling than "The Cove," an impassioned piece of advocacy filmmaking that follows "Flipper" trainer-turned-marine crusader Richard O'Barry in his efforts to end dolphin slaughter in Taiji, Japan. Casting a very wide net, this powerful polemic is simultaneously a love letter to a beloved species, an eye-opening primer on worldwide dolphin captivity, a playful paranoid thriller and a work of deep-seated (if sometimes hot-headed) moral outrage. The devastating final images demand to be seen on the bigscreen, though cable exposure won't blunt their impact."

Tackling dolphins and their slaughter in Japan, the film makers risk their lives to record footage to show the world. Of course this is going to be upsetting and no doubt I will be unable to watch a majority of the footage, but with enough people going to see this, maybe we will be on our way to stopping this cruelty. The sad thing is, unless they are cute and cuddly penguins, people do not really rate documentaries about nature. They are usually reserved to being viewed on PPS.
This is such a shame because as fascinating as walking on a high wire is, and how horrendous the holocaust was, the future of our planet is in critical condition now. Unless people are willing to wait a few years to go and see documentaries about all the creatures that are no longer with us.

Oscar Prospects:
Best Documentary

'Push' wins BIG

Lee Daniels’ 'Push: Based on the novel by Sapphire' earned the Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic and the Dramatic Audience Award. Check out the video here.
In addition to those two awards...Mo'Nique picked up the acting award. Take that haters!

Here is the full list of winners:
2009 Sundance Film Festival Award Winners

Grand Jury Prize: U.S. Documentary We Live in Public
Grand Jury Prize: U.S. Dramatic Push: Based on the novel by Sapphire
World Cinema Jury Prize: Documentary Rough Aunties
World Cinema Jury Prize: Dramatic The Maid (La Nana)
Audience Award: U.S. Documentary The Cove
Audience Award: U.S. Dramatic Push: Based on the novel by Sapphire
World Cinema Audience Award: Documentary Afghan Star
World Cinema Audience Award: Dramatic An Education
Directing Award: U.S. Documentary El General, director Natalia Almada
Directing Award: U.S. Dramatic Sin Nombre, written and directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga
World Cinema Directing Award: Documentary Afghan Star, directed by Havana Marking
World Cinema Directing Award: Dramatic Five Minutes of Heaven, directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel
Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award Nicholas Jasenovec and Charlyne Yi, Paper Heart
World Cinema Screenwriting Award Guy Hibbert, Five Minutes of Heaven
U.S. Documentary Editing Award Sergio
World Cinema Documentary Editing Award Burma VJ
Excellence in Cinematography Award: U.S. Documentary The September Issue, cinematographer Bob Richman
Excellence in Cinematography Award: U.S. Dramatic Sin Nombre, cinematographer Adriano Goldman
World Cinema Cinematography Award: Documentary Big River Man, director/cinematographer John Maringouin
World Cinema Cinematography Award: Dramatic An Education, cinematographer John De Borman
World Cinema Special Jury Prize for Originality Louise-Michel
World Cinema Special Jury Prize: Documentary Tibet in Song
World Cinema Special Jury Prize for Acting Catalina Saavedra, The Maid (La Nana)
Special Jury Prize: U.S. Documentary Good Hair
Special Jury Prize for Spirit of Independence Humpday
Special Jury Prize for Acting Mo'Nique, Push: Based on the novel by Sapphire