Monday, January 29, 2007

Now if only the film was as good

by Nick

Why is it that, nine times out of ten, the poster for a horror movie is much better than the film itself?

Friday, January 26, 2007

Opening in Dallas, 01/26

by Brian
Venus (trailer): Hey, it’s about time. I know that if I had a little-known movie with a lead performance that allegedly deserved an Oscar, I’d make sure that it didn’t arrive in major markets until after the nominations were announced. Way to build up the word, guys.

Sweet Land (trailer): I’ve heard a lot of good about this, and I’m quite pleased to have a genuine quality indie release in town.

Seraphim Falls (trailer at official site): Looks interesting, but I think I’ve warned against movies with a great cast yet no advance buzz before.

Smokin’ Aces (trailer): Perhaps the loudest trailer ever. Looks far too eager to please.

Catch and Release (trailer): I would guess that two things are true here: 1) This is the most charming, down-to-earth performance that Jennifer Garner has given, and 2) the movie sucks anyway.

Blood and Chocolate (trailer): A teenage werewolf movie, but serious this time. Awesome.

Epic Movie (trailer): Lots of problems here. One, none of the movies spoofed, as far as I can tell, are what I’d call “epics”. I mean, Nacho Libre? Second, none of the jokes in the TV ads are even really jokes. Third - they’re making fun of Paris Hilton, really? And fourth, how exactly does one spoof Borat? And fifth, why are Borat and Paris Hilton in a spoof of “epics” anyway?


Thursday, January 25, 2007

Letters From Iwo Jima

by jaydro
Three words: Japanese Hamburger Hill. That's probably an unfair assessment, given that Letters from Iwo Jima is a far superior film to that late '80's Viet Nam War film, but once the battle action started I was having much the same feelings that I recall from when I saw Hamburger in a theater (and haven't seen it since, btw)--this disquieting feeling as the bloodshed grinds on and on and we see characters fall away one by one.

Letters is an astonishing film: an American film with an almost exclusively Japanese cast speaking Japanese and retelling the story of one of the bloodiest battles of World War II in sympathy with the Japanese, when previous narratives have at worst demonized them and at best made them faceless automatons (even so in the companion film Flags of Our Fathers). It is a straightforward story well-told and well-acted, and that sums up its power. There may even seem to be a few war-movie clichés, but watching this film you just accept them without question.

While there were nods to John Ford in Flags, the pre-battle scenes on Iwo in Letters seemed so eerily like some Japanese films of the '50's and '60's that I thought director Clint Eastwood must have been channeling Akira Kurosawa (and that makes for some kind of going beyond full-circle doesn't it?). The film has even more color drained from it than Flags did, and when situations get especially grim it seemed to go almost completely black-and-white.

Letters is asking the question: what is it like to be the "bad" guys on the losing side? What happens when you prize honor and dignity and know you are in a situation where you are going to be killed? Letters provides some explanation for some of the more extreme actions taken by the defenders of Iwo.

The cast is uniformly excellent in their roles, and I thought Ken Watanabe's tightrope-walking portrayal of a decent commander who is also dedicated to his country was as complex and nuanced as one could hope for (too bad he wasn't as larger-than-life as Idi Amin).

However, I think Flags of Our Fathers was a better film, and it puzzles me why Letters should be receiving more accolades. Those I saw it with, who also thought Flags was excellent, thought Letters was better, but admitted that part of it was the novelty of the Japanese point-of-view--if it had been a similar story told with Americans then it wouldn't have been as good (is this why Japanese critics might prefer Flags?). I thought Flags was a more complex and deceptively subversive story, told in a way that makes one question American culture, but perhaps its unsettling nature and/or the way it was so entwined with aspects of patriotism that some viewers seemed to take at face value has been its downfall. Let me put it this way: I knew the concept of Letters and came away with pretty much what I expected, but Flags was a great surprise to me even though I had been clued in to how it was going to critically examine celebrity and heroism. I can see watching Letters one or two more times, but I would like to see Flags several more times. I can't wait for the DVD boxed set.


Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Oscar reaction

by Jackrabbit Slim
A few thoughts on this morning's nominations...

Obviously the biggest news is that Dreamgirls, despite leading the pack with 8 noms, got shut out of Picture, Director and Screenplay. This will reverberate throughout the Oscar-blogging world, and certainly will get some publicists fired. I would hope this teaches David Poland a lesson.

Cinematography, for the first time since 1967, when there were two awards given (for B&W and color) does not have a best picture nominee in its midst.

Judi Dench now has six nominations, all coming past the age of sixty.

Kevin O'Connell, nominated for Sound Editing for Apocalypto, now has 19 nominations. He has never won.

Thomas Newman, composer of The Good German, now has ten nominations, he has never won.

Dreamgirls is the second film to get three song nominations, the first was Lion King.

All five films in the Original Screenplay category are written by first-time nominees.

Lots of categories are wide open, including picture. I'll post my predictions and thoughts here along the way.

Monday, January 22, 2007


by Count Olaf
Why didn't you guys tells me about this? I've been looking for a way to consolidate IMs forever....

You can also embed the direct chat on your webpage, if you want visitors to bother you, like thus:

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DVD Announcement of the Day

by Brian
Here's a DVD announcement to be happy about - the very nice folks at Criterion are putting out Mathieu Kassovitz's Hate (La Haine).

I've never actually seen the film, but just by coincidence, I was browsing the IMDb's Top 250 this morning and noticed it there. I also noticed that there was no US DVD available. Well, problem solved.

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Notes on a Scandal

by Jackrabbit Slim

Notes on a Scandal is based on a novel called What Was She Thinking, by Zoe Heller, and that certainly is the question you will ask during much of this film, which is crisply directed by Richard Eyre and masterfully spun by screenwriter Patrick Marber, but ultimately crumbles, like an expertly made sand castle. At the heart of this story is a conflict which tends to sag with the weight of melodrama, without being important enough to sit up and take notice.

The story concerns two women, teachers at a school in London. The elder, and narrator of our story, is played by Judi Dench. She is a bitter, lonely old woman, who jots down in her diary how superior she is to everyone. Like Richard III, she tells us about the treachery she's about to commit. The other woman is played by Cate Blanchett as a novice art teacher who seems to be constantly at odds with the world around her. She is unsure of herself in the classroom, and quickly bonds with Dench as one might to a mentor. She is completely unaware of the insidious manner Dench has about forming a friendship.

Soon enough it is clear that Dench is actually a frustrated lesbian, but unwilling to accept her inclinations, instead longing to have a friendship with Blanchett. However Blanchett seems happily married to an older man, Bill Nighy, and is the mother to two children, including a boy with Downs Syndrome. It is only when Dench discovers that Blanchett is having an affair with a 15-year-old student does she realize she has the upper hand.

This affair is the "Scandal" in question, and I'm never completely convinced why Blanchett undertakes it. Yes, her character is a bit of flibberty-gibbet, or perhaps simply someone with an "artistic" temperament, but there just isn't enough there to explain why she carries it out. Nothing on screen about her relationship with Nighy suggests a reason for it, nor is the boy, played by Andrew Simpson, a freckle-faced lad with a Scottish burr, so incredibly charismatic that he is irresistible.

The titillation of such an affair is fueled by the many instances of it in the news. A similar relationship between an older man and a teenage girl is rightly seen as nothing but creepy and reprehensible, but when the genders are reversed, though the law deals with it just as severely, public opinion seems to judge it differently, with a wink and a nod. This film does the same.

The performances are excellent. Dench sinks her teeth into this role like a lioness into an antelope. She puts a lie to the claim that there are no roles for women of a certain age. If she is Oscar-nominated for this role, as I expect her to be, it will be her sixth, all past the age of sixty, astonishingly unprecedented. Blanchett, also one of the finest actresses in film, is good, but again she has less to work with. We hear Dench's every thought in the frequent voice-over narration of her diary entries, and we see Blanchett through her eyes. As for Bill Nighy, he's fast becoming one of my favorite character actors. If he is in a film, his part is sure to be interesting.

Also worth mentioning is the gripping music score, by Philip Glass.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Lotta Love Up On Those Mountains

by Nick
The NY Times 'Carpetbagger' David Carr has a video up on his blog from Sundance, with appearances by two by now well known figures.

Poland just before he started wailing "And I Am Telling You".

While Jeff will always have Brokeback Mountain.

Opening in Dallas, 01/19

by Brian
Not much happening this week:

Flannel Pajamas (trailer at official site): Got mixed reviews at Sundance last year, although a rave by Ebert is featured in the (good) trailer. I’ll go see it, what the hell.

The Hitcher (trailer): I’ve always thought that Sean Bean is a very good actor, but if there was ever a warning against the perils of being typecast, he’s it. I don’t think this is going to help him much, but someday I’d like to see him break out of the villain rut that he’s been in since Patriot Games.

That’s it!


Oscar Nomination Predictions

by Jackrabbit Slim
Okay, here goes. These are my predictions for the Oscar nominations, which will be announced on Tuesday.


The Departed
Little Miss Sunshine
The Queen

Same five as I had in December. Only question is whether Letters from Iwo Jima dislodges LMS.


Bill Condon, Dreamgirls
Stephen Frears, The Queen
Clint Eastwood, Letters from Iwo Jima
Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu, Babel
Martin Scorsese, The Departed

I’ve bumped Pedro for Clint. Paul Greengrass could get in, I’m more doubtful of the Little Miss Sunshine duo, even though they got a DGA.


Leonardo DiCaprio, The Departed
Ryan Gosling, Half-Nelson
Peter O'Toole, Venus
Will Smith, Pursuit of Happyness
Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland

Same five as before. Four are locks, Gosling is still my choice, but this is a very weak year for this category and could allow for an oddball nomination like Baron Cohen, Craig, or Eckhart


Penelope Cruz, Volver
Judi Dench, Notes on a Scandal
Helen Mirren, The Queen
Meryl Streep, The Devil Wears Prada
Kate Winslet, Little Children

No changes. The entire world is picking these five. Very surprised if someone else breaks in.


Alan Arkin, Little Miss Sunshine
Eddie Murphy, Dreamgirls
Jack Nicholson, The Departed
Brad Pitt, Babel
Michael Sheen, The Queen

The most wide-open acting category. Anyone of ten guys could in, and Murphy is the only lock. Haley, Walhberg, Hounsou, shit even Ben Affleck stands a chance.


Adrianna Barraza, Babel
Cate Blanchett, Notes on a Scandal
Abigail Breslin, Little Miss Sunshine
Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls
Rinko Kikuchi, Babel

I’ve bumped Emma Thompson for the nanny from Babel. Feel pretty confident with these five.


Little Miss Sunshine
The Queen
Letters from Iwo Jima
United 93

Identical to WGA except Letters instead of Stranger Than Fiction, Volver and Pan’s Labyrinth also possibilities


Children of Men
The Departed
Little Children
Notes on a Scandal

Children might be wishing. Dreamgirls doesn’t deserve it, and sometimes the writers spot bullshit (like Titanic). Borat probably left out.


Canada, Water
Denmark, After the Wedding
Germany, The Lives of Others
Mexico, Pan’s Labyrinth
Spain, Volver

The Academy was helpful and whittled a list of 61 down to 9. Hard to imagine a Paul Verhoeven film getting in here (Black Book).


Deliver Us From Evil
An Inconvenient Truth
Iraq in Fragments
Jesus Camp
The War Tapes

The Dixie Chicks get left out.


Happy Feet
Monster House

Edited to reflect only three nominees. Thanks for the info, Nick


Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest
Superman Returns

Also eligible: Casino Royale, Eragon, Night at the Museum, X-Men


Pan’s Labyrinth
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest

Also eligible: Click, The Prestige, Santa Clause 3 (!) X-Men


Curse of the Golden Flower
The Illusionist
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest


Children of Men
The Departed
The Illusionist

The ASC nominated The Black Dahlia and The Good Shepherd, but I figure bigger films will bounce them.


The Departed
The Queen
United 93


Children of Men
Curse of the Golden Flower
The Departed
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest


Blood Diamond
The Departed
Flags of Our Fathers
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest

Always the toughest category, because every friggin’ movie has sound!


Flags of Our Fathers
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest

The Academy usually announces a short list of seven for the bakeoff, but haven’t heard anything yet.


The DaVinci Code
Notes on a Scandal
The Painted Veil


Bobby, “Never Gonna Break My Faith”
Dreamgirls, “Listen”
Dreamgirls, “Patience”
Happy Feet, “Song of My Heart”
An Inconvenient Truth, “I Need to Wake Up”

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Song of Ice & Fire to become HBO series

by Nick
Variety reports that David Benioff (writer of Troy and 25th Hour) and D.B. Weiss (screen adaptations for Halo and Pattern Recognition) are to write and produce a series on HBO of George R.R. Martin's fantasy series.

For those who have read the series, of which four out of seven have been written, this is pretty big news. Rome proves that HBO can do high budget bloody spectacle, which this undoubtedly will be. But will it be any good?

Benioff involved is mostly good news. Troy was boring, but his novel the 25th Hour, and the film, are very good, and a friend said his recently published collection of short stories had some excellent stuff in it. Don't know about Weiss, but if Weir approved of his adaptation of Gibson's Pattern Recognition he has to have plenty going for him.

But doing this right is going to be pretty difficult. Martin himself has said that he wrote the series to come away from the budgetary restrictions of writing for television (he co-wrote and produced the Beauty & the Beast series with Ron Perlman and Linda Hamilton). And each book requires dozens of pages at the end to go through lineages and alliances. Each book has a cast of hundreds, taking place in dozens of widely removed locations. The writers and producers have their work cut out for them.

It will probably take a few years for this come out anyway, so by that time they will probably have done it half-right, at least. And maybe the fifth part will be out, as well.

And if you haven't read the series you should definitely give it a shot. Frankly, some of the most riveting stuff you can read anywhere, and some of my favorite novels ever.

Pan's Labyrinth

by Jackrabbit Slim

Pan's Labyrinth, from director Guillermo Del Toro, is a sumptuous feast of a film, building on the archetypal story elements of fairy tales, but set in a very real, very scary modern time period. The story concerns a young girl, Ofelia, in Spain in 1944. Her father has been killed in the war, and her mother has remarried to an officer, Captain Vidal, in Franco's military. He is stationed at a remote rural outpost, hunting resistance fighters in the woods. Since Ofelia's mother is pregnant with the officer's child, he wants her there when the baby is born, despite the hardship of the travel.

Ofelia loves books, particularly fairy tales. When her mother tells her she has a surprise for her, Ofelia immediately wonders, "Is it a book?" Her vivid imagination allows her to remove herself from the misery of her current situation, but when a large winged insect starts following her around and then leads her to a stone maze on the grounds of the house where she is staying, the stories from her picture books seems to be all too real.

Ofelia meets a faun (in English he is called Pan) who, in a marvel of movie creativity, manages to be both cuddly and menacing. He tells Ofelia that she is the long lost princess of his world, and that if she can complete three tasks, she will resume her rightful place on the throne. In the meantime, the insanities of the conflict around her continue. Her mother is in very bad health. The guerrillas in the woods are being aided by a kindly woman who works for the Captain, and she must remain vigilant that she won't get found out, because the Captain has a fetish for torture.

Del Toro does a wonderful job of taking us back and forth between the bleak reality of war to the surreal world of Ofelia's fairy tale, parts of which are quite scary (the scene involving an eyeless creature who seems to like skewering babies is particularly frightening), but are also quite beautiful. The Captain is one of the more awful villains in recent memory, a man who is devoted to military discipline and the ghost of his father, a general who was killed in battle.

Ofelia is played by Ivana Baquero, who is quite good. She is imaginative, without being precocious, and rightly plays her scenes around the Captain is a kind of permanent clench of fear. When she is in her fantasy world, though, she knows she is the heroine of her own story.

Interestingly, it is left ambiguous as to whether her fantasies are real or not, and I think a definitive answer to that is irrelevant, as the world is certainly real to Ofelia, which is what matters most.

This Year I Look Forward To...

by Nick
Global Warming!
It's mid-January and there's no snow or ice outside, at all! Hasn't been any practically all year. Summer was amazing, too. All sun, all the time. Sure, there's been some hurricane winds and some warnings of floods (Skåne is quite flat), but there's a price to everything these days.

Having a proper summer vacation
Don't know where yet. Suggestions have been Ghana, Kenya, London, New York and renting a Croatian lighthouse in the Adriatic. Probably end up in Stockholm again.

Going to more concerts
I like going to concerts. Don't know why I don't do it more often.

Fixing up those last pieces of my apartment
That damn Billy shelf is going to hang on the wall like a rock. They will be like one. Along with all those picture frames.

Reading Tolstoy's War & Peace
This summer's literary project. If completed in good time to be followed by Dostoyevsky's The Brothers Karamazov.

Seeing some TV-series conclude
Rome, Sopranos, and my new favorite Death Note promise to do so this year.

Seeing the Wells and Poland fight escalate
I've read both of them for some time now, and they've never been as vicious and odious as the past year. Last time it led to Poland breaking up, but they reconciled. Now they're getting riled up more than usual. Maybe they figure it gives more page hits. None the less, very fun.

Click here to read the rest of it

Seeing Some Films:

The Films I Haven't Seen Yet
Children of Men, Pan's Labyrinth, Harsh Times, Letters From Iwo Jima/Flags of Our Fathers, Little Children, The Conformist, Army of Shadows, The History Boys, Fast Food Nation,

Crazy CGI-epics
300 (I mean, you've seen the trailer, right? It's going to be humongous), Stardust (Neil Gaiman wrote the book. Loved the book. Recommend it highly), Beowulf (Neil Gaiman co-wrote the screenplay, Zemeckis is directing and great cast), Golden Compass (the trilogy is one of the finest fantasy epics released. Good casting so far, Kidman & Craig, but Weitz directing is worrying, and production looks too bright), Harry Potter & The Order of the Phoenix

3:10 to Yuma (Christian Bale hunting Russell Crowe), Seraphim Falls (Liam Neeson hunting Pierce Brosnan)

Spy Films!
The Bourne Ultimatum (this is near the top of most expected), Lust, Caution (Ang Lee's latest set in WWII Shanghai with Tony Leung and Joan Chen), The Kingdom (Peter Berg is a very good director and the story is written by Michael Mann), Rendition (Tsotsi director makes American debut with Jake Gyllenhaal and Reese Witherspoon)

Zodiac (March 2, folks), Eastern Promises (David Cronenberg directs what seems like a History of Violence continuation with Viggo Mortensen as a hitman in London), American Gangster (Ridley Scott with Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe. Bada bing), Gone Baby Gone (book is great, casting is amazing, and director is Ben Affleck? Strangely look very much forward to this), No Country For Old Men, Red Road (Scottish low-budget a la Caché. Big hit at Cannes)

Being passively forced by the market powers to go to this summer's CGI-sequel-fests
You know the ones.

The (Fingers Crossed) Well-Made Comedies
Knocked Up (Judd Apatow and Seth Rogen reunite), Margot at the Wedding (Noah Baumbach with Nicole Kidman and Jennifer Jason Leigh), Boss of It All (Lars Von Trier latest), Ratatouille, Hot Fuzz (seems funny enough), The Simpsons Movie (it will probably be good. But I don't know, something feels off), Cassandra's Dream (Woody Allens latest London project with Ewan McGregor and Colin Farrell)

The Presumptive Oscar Dramas
There Will Be Blood (PTA's oil epic with Daniel Day Lewis), Atonement (the book is very good, wonder how it will translate, though. But Wright's Pride & Prejudice was, I agree, first class craftmanship), Margaret (Kenneth Lonergan with Matt Damon and Anna Paquin), Charlie Wilson's War (Mike Nichols with Tom Hanks and Philip Seymour Hoffman), The Golden Age (Elizabeth was as historically inaccurate as a historical drama can get, but highly entertaining nonetheless), Reign Over Me (I look forward to an Adam Sandler movie? Check pulse..), Lions for Lambs (strange title, Robert Redford directing, meh, Tom Cruise starring, more meh)

The I-Don't-Know-Where-To-Put-These
Black Snake Moan, Grindhouse, Behind the Mask: The Rise of Lesley Vernon (premise is promising, and word is very good), Sunshine (Danny Boyle sun sci-fi with a helluva cast), I Am Legend (great book vs. Will Smith), The Lookout (Scott Frank's directorial debut. Wrote Out of Sight and Minority Report), Angel-a (Luc Besson first live-action in years. But Invisibles looks like shit, so), The Invasion (very delayed, but director deserves benefit of doubt. Second Craig & Kidman pairing of the year), Rescue Dawn (Herzog's crazy Vietnam film with Bale and Steve Zahn), Talk to Me (Cheadle plays 60's radio host with Chiwetel Eijofor)

(List of films found at LA Times)

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Poets Corner Demolished?

by Nick
Seems like our old hangout has been wiped out. Can't find it on Google even. It's like it never even existed.


by Brian
Been watching a few more DVDs than usual lately.

M: I keep telling myself that I’m going to start up a Netflix account one of these days, and when I do, the Fritz Lang titles will flow like a rushing river. I loved M, and I loved Metropolis when I was lucky enough to catch in during a theatrical reissue a few years ago. Originally released in 1931, it plays like it was made a good 20 years later. It’s well beyond any American movie I’ve seen from the same time period, whether in terms of direction, acting, sound … you name it. And all praise and glory be to the Criterion Collection for their wonderful DVD.

Blue Velvet: Obviously compelling, but I can completely understand why Ebert hated it. I don’t feel as strongly as he does (did?) about it, but I think it’s a little bit too cartoonish to be taken seriously and a little too serious to be taken cartoonishly, and Lynch wasn’t really able to get those ends to meet.

Amores perros: I basically feel the same way about this as I do 21 Grams and Babel: impressed but not enamored. All told, it worked better than those two, but there’s something frustrating about González Iñárritu that I can’t quite put my finger on. His characters always feel just the slightest bit prop-like, and it’s hard to feel too engaged with what happens to them.

The Devil’s Backbone: Pretty fantastic, but in a surprisingly low-key kind of way. I seem to recall it being marketed as a horror movie, and the current DVD cover makes it look like a Rob Zombie movie. Much like the very awesome Pan’s Labyrinth, however, director Guillermo del Toro regards his heroes very warmly, and finds apprehension and dread in the outside world around them, while eschewing horror movie conventions. I’d retroactively add it to the list of 2001’s best, if I had such a list in the first place.

3-Iron: Kim Ki-Duk films will also be forthcoming when I open the fabled Netflix account. I enjoyed his Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter … and Spring a few years back, but missed 3-Iron during its theatrical run in 2005. Based on a recommendation from Nick, I picked it up in the video store, and loved it so much that I didn’t even mind that a key image from the movie was spoiled on the DVD cover (and theatrical poster). Thanks, Nick.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Japanese Film Magazine's Top Ten Surprises

by Nick
Kinema Junbo, one of Japan's leading film magazines, released it's top ten best foreign films list a few days ago, and one thing grabbed me; they gave their top spot to Flags of Our Fathers. Second came Letters From Iwo Jima and third The Host.

Even if I haven't seen either of them, I can understand the respect for Letters, it's their side of the story told for once, but this accolade for Flags?

Is it a political statement? "You understood our side, now we understand yours?" Or is it really a genuine respect for the film? According to most American critics Letters is the better film, but perhaps that's a political and moral statement as well?

Only A Matter of Time

by Nick
Continuing on from Olaf's casting of Day-Lewis as Zidane I'll offer my own casting suggestion.

Not sure how many are familiar with Pete Doherty of Kate Moss/multiple drug offence-fame, but whenever the man inevitably croaks of an overdose I know just the guy who can use it as Serious Actor springboard.

Bound to happen, unless Doherty somehow survives past 30.

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Friday, January 12, 2007

Opening in Dallas, 01/12

by Brian
Pan’s Labyrinth (trailer): I’ve grown progressively more excited for this in the past few weeks. So, I decided to rent The Devil’s Backbone, which I had missed during its theatrical run. Very good show - in fact, quite beautiful in its way - and now I’m more excited than ever.

Letters from Iwo Jima (trailer): On the other hand, my anticipation for this has been steadily waning since I saw the trailer. Hope I’m wrong.

Alpha Dog (trailer): Surprisingly mixed reviews for this; I should maybe check it out if I have the time.

Stomp the Yard (trailer): I assume “Truth University” is fictional, but it has me wondering. What would their athletic teams be named? What would their mascot look like? These things are really important if a movie wants to be credible.

Arthur and the Invisibles (trailer): So much I could write about this, even without seeing it. But I’ll just say this: there was a time - 1995-1996, I guess - when I would have gone to see any movie that Luc Besson made. But The Fifth Element was disappointing, and The Messenger was offensively bad. And when I watched The Professional lately, I realized that, despite my earlier enthusiasm, it had never been any good either. So long story short, this looks awful - really and truly awful - and I can happily skip it without feeling guilty.

Primeval (trailer): After reading some of the real story behind Gustave, I’m convinced that a great movie could be made from it. Basically, you have the story about a giant killer croc, with political overtones given the ongoing civil war in Burundi. Somehow, though, I’m pretty sure that Primeval is not that movie.

Release dates and the Oscars

by Jackrabbit Slim
Brian, I saw your response to Jeff Wells' item about Mark Harris' column,,20008261,00.html, that says that the Oscar dates being moved up have screwed late releases. I can't agree with you more, that's bullshit. For years we heard complaints that movies released early in the year were forgotten, now the Oscars shift four weeks earlier and it's the splashy Christmas releases we're supposed to boo-hoo over? Please.

The Oscars can happen anytime they want to, it's their ball. If the studios want to play the craven game of marketing for awards, they'll have to adjust.

As for the examples of Day-Lewis, Brody, and Harden, I think in each case they won the Oscar because they were the only alternative. Voters didn't want to annoint Tom Cruise at such a young age, so they went with DDL. Brody won because (ironically enough) they didn't want to give DDL another Oscar for Gangs of New York, nor could they bring themselves to give Nicholson a fourth. And Kate Hudson was the front-runner the year Harden won, and the voters came to their senses and realized Hudson's role was mostly fluff. I'll bet a lot of people who voted for Harden didn't even see Pollack.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

ZZ's Top

by Count Olaf
Completely off topic and irrelevant, but should they decide to make a movie about Zinedine Zidane:

I found out who should play him:

There was something on about celebrity trivia and I saw a picture of DDL akin to the one above and thought "What the heck is Zidane doing in this trivia section?"

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Friday, January 05, 2007

Opening in Dallas, 01/05

by Brian
Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (trailer: Tom Twyker question - did anyone see The Princess and the Warrior? Was it any good?

Notes on a Scandal (trailer): Daytime soaps come to the big screen, only inexplicably with a great cast and loads of other prestige factors. OK, maybe that’s not really fair, but could they have cut this trailer to be any more overwrought? I mean, it was overwrought by the time the streaked makeup shows up, and by the time the Dench-Blanchett catfight arrives, I wanted everyone to just take a quaalude and chill the fuck out.

Miss Potter (trailer): From the Unoriginal Thought Dept: I wish costar Emily Watson was playing Beatrix Potter in this movie, instead of Renée Zellweger.

Thr3e (trailer at official site): So, FoxFaith gets around to releasing a Christian-themed serial killer movie, called Thr3e no less. Gee, no ripoff there. I swear, this is true. “From a producer of X-Men”, just in case you doubted the pedigree of such a production.

Freedom Writers (trailer): Judging by the trailer - admittedly a bad habit - Hilary Swank is an early nominee for the Most Painfully Awkward Performance of the Year award for 2007. Jennifer Connelly narrowly beat out everyone else in the Blood Diamond cast to win last year’s award.

Code Name: The Cleaner (trailer): It seems like an odd thing for me to say, but I kind of like Cedric the Entertainer. I don’t know why; as far as I know he’s never done anything that I enjoyed. But it seems like he could be funny, in the right situation. Which this movie is almost certainly not.

Happily N’Ever After (trailer): No chance in hell.

Also, as an addendum, The Painted Veil (trailer) was the only movie to open last Friday, but I never got around to mentioning that then.

My first films of 2007--Dreamgirls and Children of Men

by Jackrabbit Slim
Dreamgirls is, if I had to choose one adjective, obvious. Toward the end of the film there's a scene where the record company depicted in the film, Rainbow Records (a stand-in for Motown) has a TV special celebrating their tenth anniversary. The production design gets it just right, capturing the cheesiness of 70's TV variety shows. Unfortunately, that's kind of the tone of the whole film. No matter how much glitter and pizzazz this film tries to create, I was left mostly bored and uninterested.

The key problem is the script. As with most musicals, the plot is thin and the characters two-dimensional. Jamie Foxx is the Barry Gordy figure, who discovers three girls at an amateur night in Detroit and turns them into stars, betraying two of them on the way up. Foxx does everything but twirl his mustache, a standard cardboard heel. Of the three girls, only Anika Noni Rose is an actual actress and comes off well. Beyonce Knowles, to me, is a competent singer and actress, but lacks star quality, and I am mystified by her popularity. She plays the Diana Ross figure, and the script lets her off easy, apologizing as she makes her way to the top over the back of her former friend, played by Jennifer Hudson.

As for Hudson, the presumptive Oscar-winner, well, again I'm mystified. She has a marvelous singing voice, but it's in the style of many of the American Idol contestants--a constant belting. There's not much phrasing or shading to it. And her acting is again, just competent. If this was community theater it would be great, but this is the big stage. The script, though, doesn't help. She's supposed to be a proud woman, but comes off as merely petulant. Her show-stopping number, I Am Telling You I'm Not Going, is indeed a thrilling moment, but Armond White is right--if you listen to the lyrics, you realize it's a stalker's anthem.

The Children of Men should be the film getting Oscar buzz. It's a classic of dystopian literature, and the production designers deserve a great deal of credit for filling every nook and cranny of this film with remarkable detail, evoking a future of harrowing despair. It's 2029, and for over eighteen years there have been no births. No one knows why, but mankind realizes that in sixty or seventy years there will be no people left, and a collective depression has settled over Earth. A glimmer of hope surfaces, and a former radical, Clive Owen, finds himself protecting that hope.

The plot is rather simple, a standard getting from point A to point B with various obstacles in-between, but it is what this plot is decorated with that makes the film so thrilling, from the photography to the set design to the sound. This is a very loud film at times, but it is very appropriate, because I'm sure real combat situations are even louder. Owen gives a very solid performance, and the script is smart. My viewing companion mentioned that she appreciated that no one really does anything stupid in this film, which is how lesser films further their plots.

Dreamgirls does not deserve a boat-load of Oscar nominations, Children of Men does.